Bay Journal

May 2019 - Volume 29 - Number 3
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New National Heritage Area to highlight Susquehanna

The majestic Lower Susquehanna River, its vistas, wooded hills, sculpted potholes — in the river rocks, not roads — and its place in shaping U.S. history will get more attention now that it has earned a seat among the nation’s other 54 national heritage areas.

The Susquehanna National Heritage Area was recently created by Congress and President Donald Trump, after 11 sometimes frustrating years in the making. It includes 53 miles of the river at its widest and deepest point and all of Lancaster and York counties to the Maryland line.

New state plans reveal tough path to 2025 cleanup goals

In April, states submitted yet another round of roadmaps outlining how they intend to reach Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals by 2025. But, 36 years after the region committed to cleaning up the nation’s largest estuary, the latest draft plans still won’t get them over the finish line.

That’s largely because of Pennsylvania, which submitted a draft plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that falls far short of its cleanup goal. New York submitted a plan, but suggested it did not intend to fully implement it.

Other states drafted plans that meet their goals on paper. But in many cases, they require a nearly unprecedented increase in the amount of on-the-ground actions that reduce polluted runoff from farms and developed lands.

Recent large rafts of canvasbacks a feast for birders’ eyes, not gourmets’ tables

On a cold morning last February, Bob Schutsky looked out the dining room window of his home along the Susquehanna River in southern Lancaster County, PA, and spied a raft of tightly packed ducks that made his heart race.

Four days before, 36 miles south at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, Rick Bouchelle glanced outside the Upper Bay Museum in North East, MD, and stared in disbelief at a floating flock of ducks.

Livestock fencing needs to pick up pace in Shenandoah Valley

Time seems to slow down in the Shenandoah Valley, where the pastoral act of raising livestock for a living appears as unchanged by the years as the emerald-green hills on either side of Interstate 81. But almost a decade has passed since Virginia first set a goal to have farmers build fences along nearly every Chesapeake Bay-bound stream that livestock could otherwise access in the state.

As much as animals like to wade in and drink from the streams that cut across countless pastures here, their hooves and feces wreak havoc on local and regional water quality. For two decades, federal and state governments have provided varying levels of funding to reimburse farmers who install fences and alternative watering sources.

Pipeline proposal may undermine Delmarva forestry industry, critics say

​A proposal to shut down a Maryland prison’s wood-fueled boiler is generating worries about the economic future of private forests that help keep the Chesapeake Bay clean.

State officials are seeking to extend natural gas service to the Eastern Correctional Institution south of Princess Anne, replacing a more than 30-year-old woodchip-burning system as the prison’s source of heat and electricity.

About one-third of the pulpwood produced on the Eastern Shore finds its way to the prison, home to the state’s only biomass energy plant. If it goes offline, forestry leaders fear it would undercut an industry that is already shrinking in the region and possibly force some landowners to switch their acreage to other uses, such as planting crops or building homes.

Hampton Roads wastewater-to-aquifer recharge project showing results

One year after the highly anticipated SWIFT project came online in Virginia, its trickle of activity continues to swell.

The Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow is an innovative solution to two problems that plague the Hampton Roads region: the need to cut down on pollution that flows into local waterways and the shrinking of the Potomac aquifer, the main source of water for eastern portions of the state.

In April 2018, instead of simply discharging the treated wastewater back into the rivers, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District began giving it an even greater level of treatment and then injecting it 2,000 feet into the ground to help recharge the aquifer’s increasingly dwindling stores.

MD, VA legislatures tackle oyster issues with mixed reactions

Oysters got attention from lawmakers this year in both Maryland and Virginia, but the issue sparked bitter debates in Annapolis.

Maryland lawmakers overcame Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto to forbid future commercial harvests from five oyster sanctuaries undergoing restoration. They also passed another bill that at least temporarily bars opening any of the state’s 46 other sanctuaries to harvest. Watermen are urging Hogan to veto it as well.

In Richmond, there was less at stake and more harmony — which may stem from the fact that the Old Dominion’s wild oyster harvests have been increasing, while Maryland’s have been slipping.

MD bans plastic foam containers, VA passes plan for coal ash

The third time’s the charm, it seems. After balking twice before, Maryland lawmakers this year adopted the nation’s first statewide ban on polystyrene foam food and drink containers.

In Virginia, legislators agreed after two years of debate and study on a plan for dealing with coal ash impoundments that threaten to contaminate groundwater and Chesapeake Bay tributaries.

Highlights of the Chesapeake Bay watershed implementation plans

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established a cleanup plan for the Chesapeake Bay known as the Total Maximum Daily Load or “pollution diet.” It established the maximum about of nitrogen and phosphorus “loads” that could reach the Chesapeake Bay each year while allowing it to maintain water quality safe for aquatic life. Specific goals were assigned to each state and major river in the watershed. 

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