Bay Journal

November 2018 - Volume 28 - Number 8
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Gone with the waves: Storms, rising waters threaten pieces of past

Climate change and erosion are taking steady punches at shorelines in the Chesapeake Bay region, slashing away soil and threatening the structures that stand on it. But resources buried within the land are at risk, too. Archaeologists in Maryland and Virginia are racing to recover artifacts from Bay area shorelines before they are gone for good.

The archaeologists worry that centuries of the history they’re hunting can disappear with the next big storm. And, more often, places rich with records of the region’s American Indian and colonial past are slipping away one inch at a time, lost to the gradual but quickening impact of erosion and rising seas.

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Toxics, long-ignored, once again on cleanup radar

Fred Pinkney went fishing this fall on the Anacostia River, but fish weren’t the real quarry.

One drippy morning in October, Pinkney and his helper, Tanner Stoker, seined the shallows off a sandbar near Bladensburg, MD. Then they boated downriver into the District of Columbia and put wire mesh traps in a cove near the site of a demolished Pepco power plant. They baited the traps with open tins of salmon-flavored cat food.

Biochar could be the hot new thing in addressing Bay’s poultry litter

West Virginia farmer Josh Frye raises chickens for a meat processor and sells most of their manure to nearby crop growers for use as fertilizer. But what he does with the rest of the manure could help tackle two big environmental problems: cutting back nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and reducing carbon emissions that accelerate global warming.

A bus-size contraption next to Frye’s three chicken houses bakes mounds of chicken litter — the mixture of manure, feathers and bedding materials that cover the houses’ floors — at temperatures up to 1,300 degrees. The result is biochar, a black powdery substance that Frye said can serve many purposes, from improving soil health to sponging up nutrients from stormwater runoff.

Pocomoke River ‘replumbing’ to ditch 20th-century ag channels

As far as local farmers were concerned during the early 1900s, the sluggish and meandering Pocomoke River was a threat to their way of life.

“The flat farmland in this area must be drained by ditches which empty into the Pocomoke River,” a newspaper announcement proclaimed at the time. “After hard rains the water backed up into the drainage ditches, and fields were sodden for days, making the ground barren and unprofitable as farmland.”

In 1939, 200 workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps began converting the upper end of the river on Maryland’s Eastern Shore from sinuous to straight. 

To save farmland in Cumberland County, PA, officials look to Lancaster

Farmland preservation has become an increasing priority in Cumberland County, PA, where residential and commercial development — especially for large warehouses — is putting steady pressure on what’s left of the rural landscape. The drive to pick up the pace of farmland preservation has led to a budding partnership between the Cumberland County Department of Planning and the neighboring county’s Lancaster Farmland Trust to see if the nonprofit organization might extend its work into Cumberland County.

“There is definitely a need,” said Jeff Swinehart, deputy director of the trust.

Bay scientists: Stream restoration benefits not clear cut

Erik Michelsen stopped his county-issued white Jeep Cherokee on the side of the road in a leafy neighborhood south of Annapolis, then plodded down into a ravine. He followed a trail through a tunnel of oak trees and rare Atlantic white cedars. The air was heavy with the scent of dew. At the bottom, Michelsen emerged in a picturesque scene: a babbling stream slightly too wide to leap across that was strewn with rocks, ranging in size from golf balls to microwaves.

If it seemed too natural to be natural, it was. In 2005, the state of Maryland and Anne Arundel County collaborated on a nearly $1 million project that transformed two failing stormwater ponds into “Wilelinor Stream,” named after the adjoining subdivision.

Lafayette River oyster reefs reach habitat restoration milestone

Once among the Chesapeake Bay’s filthiest tributaries, the Lafayette River has become the first Virginia waterway to have its oyster habitat declared fully restored.

“We’ve done it. Feel proud,” Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, executive director of the Elizabeth River Project, told a cheering crowd during an October ceremony celebrating the milestone. The Lafayette flows into the Elizabeth River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay near its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean.

Striped bass reproduction above average in MD, VA

This year’s heavy rainfall did not seem to hurt spawning striped bass, as scientists in both Maryland and Virginia reported that reproduction for the prized fish was bit above average.

It was the second straight year when the closely watched striped bass index was above average in Maryland. It was also the sixth straight year when reproduction was at, or above, average in Virginia.

Tangier Island prepares for long-awaited jetty construction

Tangier Island is getting some state and federal help in its long-running battle against the Chesapeake Bay’s punishing waves. But officials said that it won’t be much help with a larger problem: sea level rise.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Virginia Marine Resources Commission announced in late September an agreement to construct a nearly 500-foot-long stone jetty just off the island’s western shore.

The $2.6 million project is designed to keep the community’s navigational channel open and protect its commercial harbor from waves and future storm surges, said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler.

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