Bay Journal

December 2017 - Volume 27 - Number 9

Oysters starting to show signs of resistance to Dermo, MSX

Oysters come to the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory for a checkup. But they never go home, even if they’re in peak health. They’ve sacrificed their goopy gray bodies to science.

The federal-state lab in the former fishing village of Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is where government scientists examine oysters and other fish for parasites, diseases and any other maladies that may be afflicting populations in the wild.

Fall wild oyster survey: ‘It’s been a nutty year’

A waterman tonged for oysters nearby as the diesel-powered Miss Kay chugged out from Oxford to join him in searching for shellfish in Maryland’s Tred Avon River. The first drag of the vessel’s dredge across the bottom came up brimming with shells, which the crew quickly began picking through.

These oysters weren’t destined for a raw bar, though, or a shucking house — the entire catch was part of an annual oyster “bed check” by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. In the course of the morning, 30 bivalves would be kept as a sacrifice to science back on shore. The rest, after being counted, measured and recorded, would go back in the water.

VA farmer raising row crops, cattle, turkeys – and fuel

Glenn Rodes was born and raised on an 860-acre turkey farm in Port Republic, VA, just south of Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley. Four generations of his family live there still, raising turkeys, cattle and row crops. With the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance; some of the trees look as old as the state itself.

But while Riverhill Farms may seem unchanged by time, Rodes and his family are looking to the future. They have been experimenting with turning manure into energy for several years. Rodes even calls himself a “fuel farmer” in his email address.

The Rodes farm has a Bio-Burner, a biomass heating system that uses a portion of the manure from the 280,000 turkeys they raise each year to produce heat for their poultry houses and save thousands of dollars annually in propane costs.

If you see a sea turtle in the Chesapeake, consider yourself very lucky

Sea turtles, large and lovable to their fans, have endured a long decline around the world and in the Chesapeake Bay. But a team of international scientists has delivered a bit of good news, at least on a global scale.

The results of their study, published in the September issue of Science Advances, show that some species of sea turtles, after years of decline from harvesting practices and lost habitat, are beginning a modest rebound on a global basis.

Whether or not that rebound extends to the Chesapeake remains to be seen.

MD trailer park sewage facility’s zoning violation upheld

A Maryland mobile home park operator whose wastewater discharge is causing problems for a farmer downstream violated local zoning laws by building his sewage treatment facility too close to the stream, an appeals board has ruled. It’s not clear, though, what the remedy is — or if there is to be one at all.

The Caroline County Board of Zoning Appeals has upheld a local official’s ruling that Frank Prettyman built the wastewater treatment plant for Prettyman Manor in the wrong location.

But the unanimous decision doesn’t get the Eastern Shore county any closer to declaring what to do about the problem created in 2016 when Prettyman constructed the treatment plant by Little Creek, a tributary to the Choptank River.

Biologist fighting uphill battle to get eelways built on Potomac dams

Decades ago, as Ed Enamait and other biologists surveyed the Potomac River for walleye, smallmouth bass, muskie and other freshwater game fish, they discovered a disturbing trend.

Every year during the 1980s and ’90s, their electroshocking gear brought fewer stunned eels to the surface. “It was troubling,” said Enamait, then a fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “And it just kept going down.”

Enamait voiced his concern about the decline within the department, and when two small hydroelectric dams on the Potomac were up for relicensing in 2002, the DNR weighed in to help the eels. They asked that special passages be built for them at Dams No. 4 and No. 5, which are, respectively, about 23 and 45 miles northwest of the river’s confluence with the Shenandoah River at Harper's Ferry.

MD pays steep price for Hallowing Point site with access to the Patuxent

A one-time mobile home park in such poor condition that many of its dwellings violated livability codes is slated to be transformed into one of Maryland’s newest waterfront parks as well as offices for the Department of Natural Resources.

But some are questioning whether the state paid too much for a tract with marginal ecological value that had little chance of ever being developed.

Over the last three years, the DNR has used Program Open Space funding to buy three Calvert County parcels totaling nine acres at Hallowing Point on the Patuxent River. State and county officials plan to turn it into a waterfront park with a boat ramp, fulfilling a long-neglected need for more public access to the water.

Hurry up & wait: Farms seeking help with pollution plans put on hold

When Maryland farmer Jason Scott wanted to create a grassy swale along Marshyhope Creek to keep runoff from his fields out of the water, he called his local conservation district.

“My grandfather would do things like this without assistance,” said Scott, who raises corn, soybeans and vegetables on 1,400 acres in Dorchester County. “But I would never have been able to navigate all the regulations without help, and the engineering for just one swale would probably cost about $30,000 to $40,000.”

Scott is fortunate — he has several such water pollution-prevention practices on the land he manages, put in with help from county conservation district staff. But many farmers throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia must wait months and even years to get similar help. A new report by the Chesapeake Bay Commission says there isn’t enough of that kind of assistance in the Bay watershed to help farmers meet 2025 goals to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff from their fields and pastures.

‘I’ll never leave this place, and I hope this place will never leave me’

Like most high school seniors, Cameron Evans is at the edge of change. He’s anxious about whether to major in photography or politics, annoyed about having to go to the dentist, animated when talking about the Yankees, his favorite team.

But most seniors don’t worry if they’ll be able to go home after leaving for college; or if they’ll have a home at all after the next hurricane. Evans does; he lives on Tangier Island, or what’s left of it, in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.

With no organized after-school sports to play at the Virginia island’s small combined school, and no girls to date because he’s known them all since kindergarten, Evans heads out most afternoons in a small skiff toward what remains of the Uppards, part of the Tangier settlement that was abandoned in the 1920s.

Industrial runoff in MD fouls Bay, threatens communities, report says

Unbeknownst to most Marylanders, many industrial facilities are polluting state waters and the Chesapeake Bay with their stormwater runoff, while also threatening the health of neighboring communities, says a new report by a pair of environmental groups. The groups blame weak state controls and lax enforcement.

More than one-third of the Maryland facilities that reported their stormwater discharges from 2014 to March of this year exceeded pollution limits for potentially harmful chemicals, according to records reviewed by the Center for Progressive Reform and the Environmental Integrity Project, both Washington-based nonprofits.

MD’s veteran sprawl fighter leaves the ring

Dru Schmidt-Perkins figured she’d put two years into launching a new nonprofit in Maryland dedicated to fighting suburban sprawl.

Nineteen years later, she’s finally left the helm of 1000 Friends of Maryland. Sprawl hasn’t been defeated, by any means, but it’s been slowed and even halted for the time being in some places.

Schmidt-Perkins doesn’t claim sole credit for that — the Great Recession that began a decade ago dampened development pressure considerably — but she does believe her group has played a key role in steering Maryland’s growth.

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