Bay Journal

March 2020 - Volume 30 - Number 1

Climate study predicts extent of heavier rains on Eastern Shore

Climate change will fuel heavier downpours and deeper floodwaters on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, according to one of the first detailed looks at changing rainfall patterns at the local level in the mid-Atlantic.

The new report estimates rainfall totals and intensity for five towns on the Mid and Upper shores. It predicts that by the 2040s, a 100-year storm will dump an additional 0.5-inch to 1.5-inches of rainfall over 24 hours, depending on the location.

That might not sound like much of a difference. But when it comes to planning for new roads, drainage ditches and other types of infrastructure, it is.

In-river pool idea floated to encourage swimming in Anacostia

An idea to make the Anacostia River swimmable — by putting a pool in it — is far from dead in the water. But that doesn’t mean residents will be diving in right away, either.

A 78-page feasibility study, completed by the consultant SmithGroup in 2018, demonstrated the in-river pool concept could be a fit for a number of locations along the nearly 9-mile stretch of the Anacostia in the District of Columbia, where government workers and river advocates first started huddling over the idea a few years ago. A protected swim area in the river could be set off by floating docks or enclosed with a lined bottom to protect swimmers from sediment and detritus.

Dedicated effort turns James River from trashed to treasured

For a generation, when Richmond residents said they were going “to the river,” they weren’t talking about the James River that bisects the heart of Virginia’s capital city, roaring over hulking rocks and under bridges. They were planning a drive to the Rappahannock or Potomac, rivers that through much of the ’60s and ’70s were less beset by pollution than their local waterway.

But, after decades of work and regulation to clean up “America’s Founding River,” the stigma has begun to fade. In 2012, when Outside magazine named Richmond America’s best river town, it referenced residents’ relationships with the James. And, late last year, the James River received its biggest accolade yet: the top Riverprize from the International River Foundation at a gala in Australia.

VA moves to replace site for nesting seabirds, but will it fly?

When black skimmers, royal terns and other migrating seabirds return to South Island this spring, they will be greeted by a fresh layer of pavement.

The Virginia Department of Transportation recently paved over the island to discourage the flock — more than 25,000 birds, most representing species in decline — from making their nests there. The state is claiming the space for a five-year, nearly $4 billion widening of the Interstate 64 Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, where the James River meets the Chesapeake Bay. The project is expected to begin later this year.

Under a new Trump administration interpretation of a century-old law, that could have been the end of the road for Virginia’s largest colony of nesting seabirds. In a reversal involving one of the oldest environmental laws in the country, the federal government is no longer penalizing those who take actions that lead to the unintentional killing of birds or destruction of their nests.

New wetlands rule imperils Bay cleanup, groups say

The Trump administration’s plans to remove federal oversight from some streams and wetlands will leave those waterways without protection in some of the Bay watershed states, while increasing the regulatory burden on others, officials and conservationists say.

The net result of the rule change, they say, will be another setback for the multi-state and federal effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay and the vast watershed it drains.

“When you take away the federal standard and leave that to the states to decide, then you’re going to get dramatically different protection in the states, and the Chesapeake is going to suffer,” said Geoff Gisler, attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

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