Bay Journal

May 1996 - Volume 6 - Number 3

Signs of the Chesapeake

Interpretive signs telling visitors about the Chesapeake Bay, its history and resources popped up this spring at Fort McHenry and George Washington's Birthplace national monuments.

It was a sign of the Park Service's growing involvement in the Bay Program and the Chesapeake restoration effort. The Park Service, with more than 286,000 acres, is the third largest federal landowner in the Bay watershed - after the Department of Defense and the U.S. Forest Service. ...

Va. 1996 legislative highlights

Below are the highlights from the 1996 Virginia legislative session:

Land Use: A bill to expand the geographic area covered by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act to include all counties, cities, and towns in the Bay watershed was carried over for further study. Debates will likely focus on expanding the governing Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board to include additional representatives from outside the tidewater area and the applicability of current regulations to the geographic features and major land uses of the enlarged region. ...

Va. farm law to weed out violators for cleanup action

Virginia rivers and streams may soon be getting cleaner without additional regulations under a law backed by an unusual coalition of agricultural and environmental groups that targets farms causing pollution problems.

The Agricultural Stewardship Act, which was overwhelmingly approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. George Allen, allows anyone to file complaints about farms that cause pollution problems. If the complaint is borne out by an on-site investigation, the violator will have to take action or face fines. ...

Md. 1996 legislative highlights

Below are the legislative highlights for the 1996 Maryland session:

Fisheries management: A bill supported by the Maryland delegation to the Chesapeake Bay Commission that would have required certain non-commercial crabbers to obtain a license failed to pass. It is likely that the proposal will be raised in next year's legislative session.

Dredge Material: The General Assembly approved budget bill language calling for state and federal agencies to work with representatives of the shipping industry to find long-term, environmentally sound strategies for the disposal of dredge material from the shipping channels serving the Port of Baltimore. Existing upper Bay sites are near capacity, spurring the need for other options, including one to dispose of dredge material in the Bay's "deep trough," or center channel. This option is considered controversial because of the unknown impacts on the Bay's living resources. ...

Md. environmentalists divert flood of reform bills

Maryland's environmental advocates measure the success of the 1996 General Assembly session not by what legislation was passed, but by what got stopped.

With Gov. Parris Glendening and legislative officials poised to ease current regulations at the request of business leaders, environmental lobbyists with such groups as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Clean Water Action approached this year's 90-day session with dread.

Those advocates had to wait until the session ended at midnight April 8 to see exactly how they had fared. ...

Volunteers pull 137 tons of trash from the Potomac

Nearly 2,000 volunteers pulled everything from a cannonball to an old orange Volkswagen Beetle out of the Potomac River and some of its tributaries during a basinwide cleanup this spring.

Participants in the Eighth Annual Watershed Cleanup found a river filled with debris after January floods sent near-record amounts of water down the Potomac.

The 137.5 tons of trash collected March 30 was more than twice the 53 tons pulled out of the Potomac during last year's cleanup. It included a toilet found at Great Falls Park, a bathroom sink in the Potomac and at least one real treasure - a hand-carved mahogany smoking stand made in Honduras. ...

Long road to recovery for towpath

The good news is that nearly 113 miles of the C&O Canal towpath are open to pedestrians. The bad news is that most open sections are less than 10 miles long.

The National Park Service has been putting volunteers to work on the 184.5-mile pathway that runs along the Potomac River and which suffered extensive damage during the January flood.

Flood waters left 141 miles of the towpath strewn with branches, boulders and rubble, and damaged 166 structures, including 40 bridges, 40 locks, 14 lock houses and nine stone aqueducts, according to the National Park Service. ...

Branching out with bioengineering

The banks of Elk Lick Run are dirt walls cut deep into the ground, denuded of the vegetation that once held the soil in place. The exposed dirt is continually eaten away by rushing water until whole sections of the bank collapse into the stream.

"This whole watershed is just raw," said Elmer Dengler, district conservationist with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. "When you start walking the banks, it's just incredible to see what happened around here." ...

Bay rode out storm with minimal impact from nutrient surge

The January floods that sent the greatest surge of fresh water into the Bay since Tropical Storm Agnes also delivered about half as much nitrogen to the Chesapeake as the Bay typically gets in an entire year.

Despite that, signs of the flood had largely vanished from the Bay by early spring, except for the huge amount of logs and debris in the water and along the shores.

In terms of water quality, right now "It's almost like there wasn't much of a flood out there," said Sherm Garrison, an environmental specialist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Division. ...

Creativity flows on Anacostia canoe trip

For a week in April, the Anacostia River shed its image of trash-strewn shores and oil-poisoned creeks and took on a new attitude.

It became a "River of Words" as some of this nation's most famous poets and nature writers - including Poet Laureate Robert Hass - teamed up with local students during a unique national environmental conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, "Watershed: Writers, Nature, and Community," was sponsored by the Poet Laureate Office of the Library of Congress and the New York-based Orion Society. ...

3 shortnose sturgeon caught in Bay

A fisherman accidentally netted three endangered shortnose sturgeon, a species rarely seen in the Chesapeake, near Aberdeen, Md., on April 2. Two of the fish weighed 3 pounds each while a third weighed 6 pounds. The fish ranging from 27 to 32 inches in length, were released into Little Northeast Creek after they were identified by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists.

Shortnose sturgeon have been listed as a federally endangered species since 1967. Overfishing, damming of rivers and degraded water quality are the primary causes of their decline. ...

Atlantic sturgeon stocking

Scientists and fisheries officials are cautiously optimistic that sometime soon - perhaps as early as June - they will begin an ambitious project to return the Chesapeake's largest and longest-lived native fish, the Atlantic sturgeon, to the Bay.

Sturgeon were once one of the Bay's most valuable fish, but scientists believe the Chesapeake's native spawning stock has been wiped out. Unless something is done to "jump start" the species here, they say, it could take centuries for sturgeon from other coastal areas to colonize the Bay. ...

Va. wastewater permits under fire

The EPA has begun pressing Virginia to start incorporating potentially costly nitrogen reduction requirements into wastewater treatment plant discharge permits in the Potomac watershed.

The action reflects frustration by officials over the failure of Washington area municipalities to fully implement a voluntary regional commitment to reduce discharges of nitrogen, which is thought to be one of the most critical pollutants in the Bay. ...

National parks in the Bay watershed

Below is a listing of National Park Sites in Chesapeake Watershed:

District of Columbia

  • Constitution Gardens
  • Ford's Theater
  • Frederick Douglas Site
  • JFK Center for the Performing Arts
  • Kenilworth Gardens
  • Korean Veterans Memorial
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • National Mall
  • Rock Creek Park
  • Theodore Roosevelt Island
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial/Tidal Basin
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Washington Monument
  • White House

Maryland ...

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