Bay Journal

April 1994 - Volume 4 - Number 2

Maryland begins statewide survey of stream health

The questions arise whenever someone examines a polluted stream: What did it used to look like? What kind of fish once lived there? What could have been done to protect it? What kind of efforts may help restore it?

In the future, people in Maryland should be in a better position to answer those and a variety of other questions about their waterways.

The Department of Natural Resources on March 7 launched the Maryland Biological Stream Survey, an ambitious three-year project which, when completed, will help gauge the ecological health of more than 90 percent of the state’s estimated 12,600 miles of rivers and streams. ...

Former PA congressman named to head EPA Region 3

Peter H. Kostmayer, a former member of Congress from Pennsylvania, has been named by the White House as administrator for EPA Region 3, which includes all of the Chesapeake Bay watershed except for a small portion in New York.

Regional administrators, who are responsible for carrying out EPA programs and activities within their boundaries, do not have to be confirmed by the Senate. In making the announcement on March 14, EPA Administrator Carol Browner praised Kostmayer, saying he “led the fight on many environmental fronts.” ...

EPA launches effort to set national environmental goals

The EPA has launched an effort to establish national environmental goals that will help guide policy and gauge whether various cleanup and protection efforts are effective. The goals are intended to help the agency “manage for results” — such as cleaner air, purer water, and healthier habitats — rather than serve as bureaucratic markers, such as counting the number of permits issued or enforcement actions taken, said EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

“One example is the Chesapeake Bay,” Browner said at a recent goals meeting in Philadelphia. “If you look at the approach that has been taken in the Chesapeake Bay, it has been to manage for results.” ...

Questions linger about role of toxics in Bay’s water

After researchers, water quality managers, and policy makers came together for a day to review information about toxics in the Bay’s water column, they had a question put to them: What level of concern should they have about the issue?

Their reply: There wasn’t enough information to answer the question. Some data presented showed evidence of toxic impacts related to water column contaminants in areas thought to be relatively “clean;” but it was unclear how serious — or widespread — such problems are. Most clear problems were focused around known “hot spots” such as Baltimore Harbor and the Elizabeth River. ...

CBF says Chesapeake Bay is at risk for oil spill

Federal regulations enacted after the Exxon Valdez oil spill do little to reduce the risk of a disastrous spill in the Chesapeake Bay, according to a report released last month by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

CBF said the Bay was a “prime risk for large, damaging oil spills,” because most vessels on the Bay don't have to meet regulations in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

The act requires tanker ships larger than 5,000 gross tons to have double hulls to prevent oil spills, phasing them in by 2015. But most of the 4 billion gallons of oil transported every year in the Chesapeake is done in barges smaller than 5,000 gross tons, said Ann Powers, vice president and chief counsel for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. ...

Bill would increase funds to restore urban waterways

Creating citizen–government partnerships that would rebuild aquatic habitats, restore riverbanks, and pull trash out of urban waterways, is the focus of legislation recently introduced in Congress to help clean up the nation’s polluted urban rivers.

The Urban Watershed Restoration Act, introduced by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., with 23 other cosponsors, would require the EPA to spend a quarter of the money earmarked for runoff control programs to fund projects in urban areas that would control runoff and improve wildlife and fish habitat. ...

‘No net loss’ proves to be an elusive wetlands goal

The United States has had a “no net loss” wetlands policy since the concept was embraced by President George Bush in 1989. That same year, the Bay Program went a step further, calling for a short-term wetlands goal of no net loss, and a long-term goal of a “net resource gain.”

These concepts stemmed from concern that four centuries of settlement and development had left huge amounts of wetlands drained, paved, flooded, or converted to other uses. Lost with them were wildlife habitat, the ability to retain flood waters, and a natural water-filtering capability. Roughly half the nation’s wetlands — and slightly more in the Bay watershed — are thought to have been lost since colonial times. ...

Bay wetland losses unabated in 1980s

The Chesapeake Bay drainage lost wetlands during the 1980s at a rate that was almost unchanged from recent decades, according to preliminary data prepared for the Bay Program. During the seven-year study period, the watershed lost nearly 2 percent of its remaining nontidal and about 0.5 percent of its remaining tidal wetlands, the figures show.

Roughly 22,000 acres of vegetated wetlands were lost between 1982 and 1989, according to the data, a number that indicates little change from the more than 2,800 acres a year that were lost during an earlier 1956-1979 study, though there were differences in the types of wetlands lost. ...

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