Bay Journal

January 2019 - Volume 28 - Number 10
Lead story image

Scientists waiting to see if record 2018 rainfall dampens Bay recovery

For the Chesapeake, 2018 was a year of mud, trash and sewage as unrelenting rainfall washed across its vast watershed, sending unusually high amounts of freshwater runoff into the Bay month after month.

The water-fouling nutrients and sediment that were also flushed into the Bay by record-setting rainfall throughout the region will test the staying power of recent water quality improvements to the nation’s largest estuary.

At risk are improving trends for the Chesapeake’s fish-stressing “dead zone” and the restoration of its vital underwater grass beds and oyster populations.

Middle Susquehanna mascot noses around when pollution is suspected

Carol Parenzan became the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper in July 2015 and was charged with protecting and improving the health of the river’s watershed between its north and west branches. Shortly afterward, her first staff member came on board: a rusty-colored fluff ball of energy named “Little Keeper” Susquehanna, or Sussey for short.

The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is 3 years old and is in training to sniff out leaking septic systems, illegal discharges into waterways and broken sewer pipes — all of which can contaminate local streams and the Susquehanna River.

After millions spent, MD’s solution for excess manure still elusive

For the last few years, Jason Lambertson’s farm near Pocomoke City, MD, has been home to an expensive experiment.

The third-generation farmer received nearly $1 million in state funding to build a giant poultry waste converter and distribute its main product: fertilizer. Inside two-story-tall gray tanks, bacteria eat tons of manure collected from four of his chicken houses. At the end of a month, Lambertson is left with nutrient-rich fertilizer products and a type of gas that powers the entire system.

Small parcels could mean a lot for green space in urban DC

Protecting the District of Columbia’s tree canopy — and its City of Trees reputation — is “always a moving target,” said Mark Buscaino, executive director of the nonprofit that leads the local effort. So, in addition to feverishly planting and defending urban trees, Casey Trees is taking a new tack: conserving a handful of small lots where more of them could take root in the future.

This fall, the nonprofit partnered with the District government to place four small, undeveloped properties the city owns into conservation easements. The voluntary agreements permanently limit how the properties can be used, in this case protecting them as green, “plant-able” spaces.

Climate change poses a challenge for Bay cleanup goals

This year’s persistent high river flows into the Bay prompted many of those working on Chesapeake issues to ask the question: “Is this the new normal?”

The good news is that this year’s extreme precipitation is not likely to become “normal” anytime soon. But it does highlight an inconvenient truth: When it comes to the weather, the future won’t be like the past.

It most likely will continue a trend that’s been going on for decades: wetter weather in general and heavier rain in extreme storms.

Preserve fish or history? VA dam removal churns up debate

The Maury River appears tranquil as its glides past Lexington, VA. But the debate over its future has been anything but smooth.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is working with the city to tear down a hole-ridden dam that critics say poses a drowning hazard and blocks fish and mussel movements in the Chesapeake Bay tributary.

But opponents are mounting a last-ditch effort to preserve the stone and mortar structure. They argue that the century-old dam’s historic value outweighs the environmental benefits of its removal.

Norfolk counting on flood-resiliency project to offset wetter future

A landmark U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report in 2017 called for $1.8 billion in projects to protect Virginia’s second-largest city from sea level rise and stronger coastal storms.

That’s because Norfolk is in the crosshairs of sea level rise. It’s a low-lying city at the confluence of the James River and Chesapeake Bay, just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean. With a large population, key military installations and water problems already occurring, Norfolk has begun grappling with how it will prepare for a wetter future.

MD sea level to increase dramatically, report says

A new report warns that Maryland will face a dramatic increase in the rate of sea level rise later this century, with nuisance flooding becoming a daily occurrence in many waterfront areas if nations fail to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

If emissions continue to rise, sea level in Maryland would likely increase 2.0 to 4.2 feet by 2100, which is two to four times the rate seen during the last century, according to the report from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Alexandria tunneling its way out of sewage overflow problems

This time two years ago, officials from the historic city of Alexandria, VA, were jockeying with state legislators for more time to curb the sewage overflows that wash 140 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Potomac River and its tributaries each year. But since then, in an effort to meet the General Assembly’s 2025 deadline to complete the work, the city has found a way.

Farm Bill could increase funding to control ag runoff to Chesapeake

Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed stand to get more financial help from the federal government to reduce polluted runoff from fields and feedlots under the new Farm Bill passed by Congress in December.

The legislation, which replaces the 2014 Farm Bill, tweaked funding for farm conservation programs in a way that significantly increases the pot of federal money for which Bay watershed farmers and partnering organizations can compete.

Science foundation cuts 20-year-old Baltimore ecological study’s funds

For two decades, scientists have been monitoring the streams that flow from Baltimore’s outer suburbs through some of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods on their way to the harbor.

With data painstakingly compiled from stream-sampling field trips and a network of continuously operating stream gauges, researchers involved in the Baltimore Ecosystem Study have new insights on the pollution in urban waters.

They’ve also found that urban streams are surprisingly resilient — and that addressing their ills can help the long-running effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay while also improving the quality of life for city dwellers.

Now, though, the future of that research is in doubt.

Restoring the Native Balance
ERNST SEED
ernstseed.com

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