Bay Journal

October 1994 - Volume 4 - Number 7

New view of Bay comes from high above the Earth

A new image of the Chesapeake watershed has been pieced together; taken from hundreds of miles in the sky and computer enhanced, it identifies all major land uses in the 64,000-square-mile drainage basin down to a fraction of an acre in size.

It is not a photograph, but a mass of more than 250 million color-coded squares. Each depicts the dominant land use in a 25.8- by-25.8 meter area (roughly one-sixth of an acre).

Stored on a computer at the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office, users can look at the entire watershed, or smaller chunks to locate wetlands, forests, and suburban developments in a specific area. ...

Splat! Geologists believe meteor crater helped form the Chesapeake Bay

The same type of disaster blamed for the demise of dinosaurs is now being credited as the possible creator of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Bay may have been formed 35 million years ago when a mountain-sized meteorite hit what is now the coast of Virginia, according to a team of geologists.

There is also evidence that a smaller object hit the ocean 90 miles off Atlantic City, N.J., 35 million years ago, forming a 10-mile-wide crater.

Both the Chesapeake and Atlantic City craters may have been caused by fragments of the same object or a train of objects, the scientists speculated. ...

Alliance, other groups benefit through MD Environmental Fund

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is an affiliate of the Environmental Fund for Maryland, a federation of 21 non-profit environmental organizations that is dedicated to raising funds for its member organizations through workplace giving campaigns. Last year, in its first campaign season, EFM raised in excess of $300,000 for its members.

To date, EFM has been accepted into nine campaigns for the fall representing more than 600,000 employees: the Combined Federal Campaigns of the National Capital Area, Central Maryland, Eastern Shore Area, Frederick County and St. Mary’s County; the Maryland State Employees Charity Campaign; the Baltimore City Combined Charity Campaign; the Montgomery County Employees Charity Campaign; and on a limited basis, the Howard County Campaign. ...

Virginia closes most of its water to oyster harvesting this season

Virginia, once famous for the Chesapeake Bay oysters that came from its waters, has closed the Bay and all but one tributary to oystering because there are too few left.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted 7-1 on Sept. 27 to close all public waters except for the James River and Atlantic Ocean to oystering. The decision does not affect 100,000 acres of private oyster bottom which are owned by the state but leased to individuals.

The hope is that the population may recover if adult oysters are allowed to reproduce instead of being harvested. “We need every single large oyster out there,” said James Wesson, VMRC’s oyster manager. He called 1993 reproduction “dismal” and said preliminary surveys for 1994 look even worse. ...

Discovery of new oyster disease prompts policy change

Oysters that had been exposed to a new disease were brought into the Chesapeake Bay this year, spurring the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to adopt new restrictions on the importation of shellfish into the state.

The affected oysters are believed to have been raised at hatcheries in New York and New England which have been infected by “juvenile oyster disease” in the past few years and have, in some cases, suffered large mortalities among young oysters.

Scientists studying the disease don’t know whether conditions exist in the Bay to allow its spread. Nonetheless, state officials responded with a new policy that prohibits bringing shellfish from some places and requires those from other areas to be screened. ...

CEES tells Gore of coastal degradation

Coastal environments around the world face “unprecedented change” in the coming years as increased coastal population growth degrades water resources, a Chesapeake Bay expert said in a recent seminar held for Vice President Al Gore and other top administration officials.

Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies, cited case studies where actions taken by people in upstream watersheds had reduced the fresh water flows into coastal areas and/or severely degraded water quality, causing “large scale alteration of coastal ecosystems.” ...

Virginia survey to gauge voluntary nutrient control efforts

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has initiated a survey to determine whether the state is undercounting nutrient reduction efforts being carried out by the state’s roughly 41,000 farmers.

At present, the state only counts reductions achieved through cost-share programs that help subsidize the installation of various runoff control devices. That’s because those are the only nutrient control practices the state has data on.

But farmers, who are often targeted in nutrient reduction efforts aimed at cleaning up the Bay, often say they are doing more to reduce runoff pollution than they get credit for. Many say they install some runoff control devices — such as vegetated buffer strips between fields and streams — without any state aid. ...

Strong Virginia striped bass recovery continues

Virginia’s tidal waters are teeming with the fourth-largest population of baby striped bass in 27 years of record-keeping, according to surveys by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The findings follow the record-breaking spawn of 1993.

“This reinforces the whole stock’s status,” said Rob O’Riley, assistant chief of fisheries management for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

VIMS scientists, who recently finished taking samples of small rockfish, fixed the index used to gauge reproductive success at 10.5. That is more than double the 4.9 average since the surveys began in 1967. The only years that showed higher index numbers were 1987, 1989 and 1993, when the record index of 18.12 was posted. ...

Rockfish rack up another good spawn in the Bay

The 1994 Chesapeake Bay striped bass spawn was the third best in the past 24 years, providing new evidence that rockfish stocks recovered during more than a decade of fishing restrictions.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ annual “young-of-year” survey — a widely watched barometer of reproductive success — was 16.1. Though lower than last year’s index of 39.6 — the highest ever recorded — it far surpassed the historical average of 9.6.

And 1993 and 1994 are the best back-to-back spawning years since the annual survey began 40 years ago. Only a decade ago, overfishing drove rockfish populations so low that some wondered whether the stocks could recover. ...

Rising from the depths: Plan would use dredged sediment to rebuild island for Bay wildlife

The remains of what was once Poplar Island today rise above the waters of the Chesapeake Bay only in fragmented bits and pieces. Some remnants are mounds of nearly barren soil less than an acre in size.

Only a century ago, it was an active farming community. The island was more than 700 acres in size. By the 1940s, it had shrunk to a third of that, but it still served as a retreat for presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. What’s left totals less than 100 acres.

Gone with the land are the farms and the settlers. But while the remnant islands have lost much of their value to humans, the same can’t be said of the wildlife that inherited them. ...

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