Bay Journal

January 1996 - Volume 5 - Number 10

Something to chew on

Much of the Bay cleanup effort has focused on figuring out what to do with nutrient-laden animal manure that comes out of the growing number of dairy cows and other farm animals in the region.

But, some scientists, farmers and animal experts now believe, the nutrient problem is more effectively addressed by managing what goes in the animal.

"The concept is simple," explained Maryland Del. Michael Weir, chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. "Fewer excess nutrients going into the animal, and the more efficiently the nutrients are digested, the less coming out." ...

Oliver to lead Pennsylvania conservation agency

Longtime conservationist John Oliver recently became the first secretary of Pennsylvania's new Department of Conservation and Natural Resources after being confirmed by the state Senate Nov. 13. He had been acting secretary since Aug. 1.

While the Department of Environmental Protection is the state's lead agency for dealing with Chesapeake Bay issues, Gov. Tom Ridge said he had asked Oliver to be a "cooperating partner" in the Bay cleanup because "conservation and land management issues also are important to the Bay effort." ...

Federal spending battle will be felt by Bay cleanup

The ability of the EPA and other federal agencies to support Chesapeake Bay-related activities will decrease because of anticipated budget cuts, a senior EPA official warned.

Robert Perciasepe, EPA assistant administrator for water, called the Bay Program a "shining light" which serves as a model for other environmental restoration efforts, and said that the EPA would do what it could to shelter the cleanup effort from budget cuts.

"The Chesapeake Bay Program is a high priority" of EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Perciasepe told the Chesapeake Bay Commission at its Jan. 5 meeting. The Bay Program is a state-federal partnership, involving more than 20 federal agencies, as well as the states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The EPA is the lead federal partner in the cleanup effort. ...

Va., Md. budgets shift environmental programs

Proposed budgets in Virginia and Maryland would reorganize a number of programs related to the Bay cleanup.

The biggest switch would come in Virginia, where Gov. George Allen's proposed budget would consolidate all Bay- related programs into the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Department. That agency, created in 1988 to administer the state's Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, assists local governments in developing land use policies that protect the Bay and its tributaries.

Because the area covered by the Bay act -- roughly the area east of Interstate 95 -- corresponds with the region covered by the state Coastal Zone Management Program, the budget proposes moving that program to CBLAD from the Department of Environmental Quality. ...

Susquehanna, Potomac commissions face funding cuts

In a move that could impact the amount -- and quality -- of water flowing into the Chesapeake, Congress has vowed to halt funding for the interstate commissions responsible for managing the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers, the Bay's two largest tributaries.

Although Congress agreed to fund the commissions this year -- the House had earlier voted to kill federal support -- the House-Senate conference committee that produced the final bill said this would be the last money appropriated for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, both of which are key players in the Bay Program. ...

New Pennsylvania nutrient strategy closer to goal

Pennsylvania has completed a new tributary strategy to guide the nutrient reduction efforts in its portion of the Susquehanna and Potomac river basins. But like the initial strategy released in spring 1994, it falls short of achieving its 40 percent nutrient reduction goal.

State officials say they will ultimately make the full reduction -- the question is when.

"We're committed to that goal," said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge at the Nov. 30 Executive Council meeting. "We've come a long way. We know we have a long way to go. And we won't give up until we get there." ...

300 Marylanders selected for tributary teams

More than 300 Marylanders have been selected to serve on 10 recently established "tributary teams" which are intended to take nutrient reduction strategies for each of the state's major rivers from paper to reality.

Drawn from a list of more than 1,200 volunteers, team members include representatives of state and local governments, federal agencies, academia, business, environmental groups, farmers and interested citizens.

"These people are really the local stakeholders who will work within the watersheds to help implement the tributary strategies and to ensure that these strategies are responsive to local needs," said Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening. "They will help educate their fellow citizens about what they must do to help preserve this great resource." ...

Bi-state panel formed to aid blue crab management

To improve blue crab management, a special bi-state panel is being created by the Chesapeake Bay Commission so representatives from Virginia and Maryland can develop more comprehensive strategies for the Bay's most valuable fishery.

The commission, a tri-state legislative advisory panel, formed the special committee at its January meeting to help smooth conflicts that often arise as the two states strive to manage a single species.

The commission -- which along with the governors, District of Columbia mayor and EPA administrator is a member of the policy-making Chesapeake Executive Council -- has a long history of involvement with fisheries issues. It was viewed by members as a logical forum to deal with the sensitive blue crab issue because its membership represents both the administrative and legislative branches of state governments. ...

Review panel finds no evidence blue crab is over-fished

The Chesapeake's blue crab population is neither over fished nor appears to be undergoing a significant long-term population decline, according to a panel of scientists who undertook an exhaustive review of the stock's health.

While adult blue crab numbers have dropped in recent years, that decline is not dramatic when viewed in the long-term context of the crab population levels, concluded the first-ever "stock assessment" of the Bay's crab population.

Still, the panel cautioned that blue crabs are short lived so managers need to take a "risk averse" -- or conservative -- approach toward management because they would have little time to take protective actions in the event of a sudden, sharp decline. ...

Managing manure could put lid on excess nutrients

One thing is becoming clear about dealing with all the sources of nitrogen that find their way into the Bay: You have to think BIG.

Recent evidence has shown that large amounts of the nitrogen damaging the Chesapeake's water quality stem from air pollution that originates far outside the Bay's watershed.

And now, a Penn State researcher says that policy-makers who are adjusting their thoughts to dealing with a 350,000 square mile "airshed" -- which covers an area 5.5 times larger than the watershed -- may not be thinking big enough. ...

Netherlands a pioneer in manure management

Managing animal wastes in the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed may seem like a huge problem, but it is small when compared to the Netherlands -- a country that is pioneering methods to reduce environmental problems associated with animal wastes.

The Netherlands has about 15 million people living in an area about a third the size of Pennsylvania. They share that land with 4.7 million cattle, 13.4 million pigs, 44 million laying hens, 41 million broilers, and 1.7 million sheep.

Altogether, those animals produce three to four times more manure than is needed for fertilizer use in the country. A single 500-sow farm producing 20 piglets per sow each year produces the same effluent as a town of 25,000 people -- but on a much smaller tract of land. ...

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