Bay Journal

March 2019 - Volume 29 - Number 1
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ASMFC expected to set stricter regs for harvesting striped bass

A new status review has found the striped bass population to be in worse shape than previously thought, a result that will almost certainly trigger new catch restrictions for the prized species next year in the Chesapeake Bay and along the East Coast.

A preview of a soon-to-be-released stock assessment presented in February to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission indicates that the striped bass population is overfished and has been for several years.

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New ‘air force’ joins ranks of campaign to protect Chesapeake

Riverkeepers, researchers and volunteer monitors have long kept an eye on water quality from the ground and from the river. But, with the help of technology that’s suddenly far more accessible, they’re taking to the skies, too.

Once reserved for military operations or tech-savvy hobby flyers, unmanned aerial vehicles, also called UAVs or drones, have recently become so affordable and easy to fly that they are winding up in the hands of more environmentalists.

Saltwater intrusion laying waste to Delmarva farms as sea level rises

Bob Fitzgerald and his ancestors have farmed the same land on Maryland’s Eastern Shore off and on since 1666. He will be the last.

Dubbed “Waller’s Adventure,” the 160-acre farm has begun sinking at an alarming rate. What started as a “little wet spot” has swollen in just the last few years into a bowl-shaped, 2-acre void, Fitzgerald said.

“You can see where it’s dead soil,” he said, pointing to a bare swath of sand in the middle of the depression. “This is how you lose it,” the 79-year-old added with rising concern in his voice. “This is how it starts.”

Ospreys, their fate once up in the air, soar again over Chesapeake

Ospreys are a familiar sight on the edges of the Chesapeake Bay and in the tidal reaches of its tributaries, as abundant as sailboats on a sunny weekend afternoon in spring.

Drawn by warming weather, the promise of plentiful food and shallow water in which to hunt, they return to the Bay watershed every March. As remarkably adaptable birds of prey, ospreys can be found on every continent except Antarctica, but they have a special affinity for the Chesapeake. Nowhere else on the planet is there a larger breeding population.

Academy prepares citizens to lead the way in Bay cleanup

Maya Alexander wants to help a school in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County gain its “green” certification. She is committed to volunteering for months, training students how to save energy, recycle classroom waste and collect rainwater to water plants.

A 24-year-old with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Alexander said she hopes to dedicate her career — whatever that turns out to be — to changing the way people think about the environment, as well as the way they treat the Chesapeake Bay in their own backyards.

James River grants to pay for riparian buffers, precision ag techniques

The Virginia Environmental Endowment is handing out the first round of grant funds in a multiyear program to benefit the James River — and “precision” is its key watchword.

“We were very deliberate about the way we were going to spend the money,” said VEE Executive Director Joseph Maroon. “We were hoping right from the beginning that the projects we would be able to select would help to fill a critical gap or really make a substantial improvement in the water quality of the James.”

Exelon, MD spar over who is responsible for nutrients passing over dam

A Maryland official called the pending relicensing of Conowingo Dam a “once in a generation” chance to hold its owners accountable for the environmental impacts the 94-foot-high structure has on the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay.

But a representative of Exelon, the utility that owns the hydroelectric facility, said it had already pledged more than $300 million to mitigate the dam’s impacts over the coming decades and the state was trying to force it to pay billions more to fix problems it didn’t cause.

Chicken-rendering plant expansion draws critics on Eastern Shore

Carlton Nabb measures the health of the Transquaking River by the fish he catches in it.

When he was young, he could hook perch, catfish, crappies, bass and more in the waterway, which winds through Dorchester County’s farm country on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In recent years, the 73-year-old said, its waters have been furnishing mostly mud shad, snakehead and other species with unappealing names.

“I’ve lived there all my life, and I’ve seen a drastic change in the fish habitat and the kind of fish in there,” Nabb said.

VA won’t be penalized over menhaden regs if it stays under cap

Virginia will not face penalties for failing to formally adopt new catch limits on Atlantic menhaden — as long as harvests stay within limits established by East Coast fishery managers.

The decision by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in February headed off a potential legal showdown as to whether it had scientific justification for slashing the commercial menhaden harvest in the Bay in 2017, even as it raised catch limits along most of the coast.

Tracking life in DC’s urban streams has its ups — and downs

Regular visitors to the 1,800-acre national park surrounding Rock Creek in Washington, DC, might be surprised to learn what’s living — and what’s struggling to live — just below the water’s surface.

For starters, American eels have been spotted in Rock Creek tributaries often enough — once in 2010 and three times last year — that the long, slithery sightings are no longer considered a fluke.

Their presence was the highlight of a 28-page report recently released by the Audubon Naturalist Society, whose staff members and volunteers have been counting species in three Rock Creek tributaries for nearly a decade.

Solar facility planned for Southern MD forest comes under fire

Standing in a clearing surrounded by trees, with the sun peeking through clouds, Edwin Moses looked around and declared the mostly wooded site in Southern Maryland a “fantastic” spot to install thousands of photovoltaic panels.

Therein lies an apparent clash of environmental ideals. The solar energy company that Moses works for wants to build a pair of renewable energy projects that would help fight climate change — but in the process, they would clear approximately 400 acres of trees from the heavily forested Nanjemoy Peninsula in Charles County.

Maryland oysters take a hit from a year of extreme rain

Last year’s unrelenting rains apparently killed off significant numbers of Maryland oysters in parts of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and generally impaired their reproduction — but the deluge helped survivors fend off disease.

Preliminary results from last fall’s annual oyster survey by the state Department of Natural Resources found high freshwater-related mortalities in the upper Potomac River and to a lesser extent in the Upper Bay. The survey also found that the number of new oysters produced last year fell below the long-term average.

Cleaner coal ash disposal gets bipartisan support in Virginia

Virginia’s toxic legacy of storing coal ash in unlined pits near Chesapeake Bay rivers could be put to rest by a bill that now has bipartisan support.

Under legislation backed Thursday by a bipartisan group of legislators, Gov. Ralph Northam and Dominion Energy, the utility would have to fully excavate at least four coal ash impoundments around Virginia where the ash is currently stored. The ash would need to be recycled into concrete-making materials or safely landfilled within 15 years, according to the legislation.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline on shakier ground as legal challenges add up

A string of recent court decisions has left the future uncertain for a sprawling natural gas pipeline project cutting its way across some Chesapeake Bay states.

Judges have reversed three federal permits that would have allowed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross national parks and trails or to impact invasive species, halting construction while Dominion Energy, the project’s backer, regroups to appeal.

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