Bay Journal

May 1995 - Volume 5 - Number 3

President marks Earth Day on the Bay

To mark the 25th anniversary of Earth Day, President Clinton visited the Chesapeake Bay and issued a warning that legislation in Congress would roll back laws that have helped to clean up the environment - and the Bay - during the past quarter century.

"This Earth Day may be the most important Earth Day since the beginning because there is such a great debate going on now that threatens to break apart the bipartisan alliance to save this country," he said.

Using the Bay as a backdrop, he praised the longstanding, and bipartisan, cooperation among states, federal agencies, citizens and politicians that has worked to restore the nation's largest estuary.

"If you ever doubt what we can do together to preserve our heritage, all you have to do is look at this Bay," he said. "The beauty you see is God-given, but it was defended and rescued by human beings." ...

Virginia Restocks Bumper Crop of Shad to James and Pamunkey

Mother Nature provided perfect conditions this spring for a spectacular run of American shad on Virginia's Pamunkey River -- a run that will likely result in a record-setting number of shad fry released into the James and Pamunkey rivers by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).

April's warm water and weather -- combined with a smooth-running egg collection program -- resulted in a tremendous number of shad eggs collected, raised and released by VDGIF. By April 24, almost 3.7 million young shad had been placed into the James and Pamunkey rivers. But the numbers don't stop there. According to VDGIF, there were another 500,000 fry waiting to be stocked and almost 1.9 million more shad eggs developing in the King and Queen Fish Cultural Station and the Harrison Lake Hatchery as of that date. ...

Top Regional EPA Official Dismissed

The head of the mid-Atlantic region of the Environmental Protection Agency has been dismissed because of a conflict with EPA Administrator Carol Browner, the agency said.

EPA spokesman David Cohen said that Peter Kostmayer, a former Pennsylvania congressman, would leave his post as administrator of the EPA's Region III on June 1.

The region's headquarters is in Philadelphia. It covers Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Environmentalists accused Browner of forcing the dismissal because of Kostmayer's aggressive scrutiny of a proposed $1 billion pulp and paper mill being planned in West Virginia and a proposed four-lane highway between Elkins, W.Va., and Strasburg, Va. ...

Marines to Launch $19-million Wastewater Plant Upgrade at Quantico

The U.S. Marine Corps is leading the charge on behalf of a healthier Bay. Marine Corps officials, flanked by federal officials from the Chesapeake Bay Program, presented plans April 21 for a $19 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

With the announcement, Quantico - located on the Potomac River just south of Washington in Northern Virginia - became the first federal facility in the Chesapeake Bay region to begin a major treatment plant upgrade under a federal agreement to restore and protect the Bay signed last July. ...

USDA Wetland Restoration Program Spreads Through Bay Region

Farmers in Maryland and Pennsylvania this year will, for the first time, be allowed to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wetland Reserve Program, the largest national effort aimed at wetland restoration.

The WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners a chance to receive payments if they sign long-term easements to take agricultural lands out of production and restore them to wetlands.

The program is administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service which was created last fall in a reorganization of the department. Previously, the WRP was run by the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. ...

House to Consider Rewrite of the Clean Water Act

The House in May is expected to take up revisions to the Clean Water Act that supporters promise will ease costly regulatory burdens on industry, agriculture and local communities but opponents label a "polluter's bill of rights."

The bill, which was passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on a 42-16 vote April 6, would overhaul wetlands regulations, eliminate mandatory nonpoint source pollution controls in coastal areas and require that regulators prove that their actions will produce more benefits to society than they cost. ...

Ridge Proposes Breakup of Pennsylvania DER

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources will be split into two agencies under legislation recently presented by Gov. Tom Ridge. The change would create a Department of Environmental Protection that would focus on environmental regulation and enforcement, and a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that would oversee the state's parks and forest lands.

"Today, we begin to think anew about environmental protection," Ridge said in announcing the plan March 22. "First, my new Department of Environmental Protection will work with people as partners, in a spirit of cooperation to protect our precious environment. Secondly, and for the first time, the unique needs of our state parks and forests will be addressed by elevating their concerns to cabinet-level status." ...

1995 Legislative Highlights from Virginia and Maryland

Environmental legislation in Virginia and Maryland this year was largely overshadowed by other issues and circumstances. Tax proposals took center stage in Virginia, while Maryland lawmakers, working with a newly elected governor, took a cautious approach on almost all major legislation.

Still, several significant bills were passed in Virginia, including a measure that will allow the state to drop out of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which jointly manages migratory fish [see related article], and controversial measures intended to encourage companies to perform environmental assessments on their operations. A bill seeking to better coordinate state agency actions that affect land use was defeated. ...

Virginia Assembly Votes to Quit Coastal Fish Commission

Under a bill overwhelmingly approved by the state General Assembly and signed by Gov. George Allen, Virginia next year will withdraw from the commission that jointly manages fish species that migrate along the Atlantic coast.

The action targets legislation passed by Congress in 1993 that gave the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the federal government more powerful roles in managing migratory fish species.

The bill was sponsored by Del. W. Tayloe Murphy Jr., D-Westmoreland County, who has raised constitutional objections to the federal law. The legislation calls for the state to withdraw from the commission July 1, 1996, allowing the General Assembly a chance to review its action next winter. ...

Poultry Companies Agree on Environmental Protection Plan

The four major poultry processers in Virginia announced an agreement April 21 to protect water quality by getting their contract turkey and chicken farmers to limit manure and fertilizer use.

The policy adopted by WLR Foods, Rocco, Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms is unprecedented in the industry, said Virginia Poultry Federation President John Johnson.

"I don't know anywhere in the country where the major agribusinesses have come together to implement a water quality policy like this," Johnson said. ...

Volunteers Sought for Horseshoe Crab Survey

Unlike striped bass, the blue crab or canvasback duck, the horseshoe crab is not the first species that comes to mind when people think about the Chesapeake Bay.

It is not even a true crab; a survivor of a largely extinct fossil class dating back more than 360 million years, it is more closely related to spiders and mites.

Historically, the best use people could think of for the horseshoe crab was to grind it up for fertilizer.

In the late 1800s, as many as 4 million horseshoe crabs a year were pulled from the Bay and coastal waters. For decades, they were chopped up and put on fields as fertilizers or fed to chickens and cows. That stopped when people complained about the stench and synthetic fertilizers were developed. ...

Bay Grasses Declined 10 Percent in 1994—First Drop Since 1986

The amount of grasses in the Chesapeake declined 10 percent last year, reversing a decade-long trend toward increasing amounts of submerged aquatic vegetation, which is considered a key benchmark of the Bay's health.

The Bay Program's annual aerial survey found about 64,000 acres of grass beds last year, down from about 73,000 acres in 1993, according to a recently completed analysis by Bob Orth, a scientist with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The survey also found that grass beds in the upper Bay generally expanded while those in the lower Bay shrunk - in some cases dramatically. ...

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