Bay Journal

July-August 1996 - Volume 6 - Number 5

Poplar choice for disposal

Sometime next fall, barges loaded with sediment dredged from shipping channels will begin putting back something the Bay has taken away: an island.

During the next 24 years, if all goes according to plan, 38 million cubic yards of sediment will be used to rebuild a 1,110-acre complex of uplands and marshes off Maryland's Eastern Shore that will eventually provide habitat for birds, fish, shellfish and other Bay creatures.

And within a few months, work crews are expected to literally lay the groundwork for the project when they begin building the dikes that will shelter the new island. ...

Pa. coalition aims to foster better land use

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council, working with a number of other groups, has taken the lead in convening and building a statewide coalition of organizations to press for legislation and education to foster better land use decisions in the state.

The council will expand its "10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania" initiative to seek a more consistent and effective framework for planning and zoning in the state and across jurisdictions.

The guiding principles of the alliance of organizations include: promoting economic development to revitalize existing communities as well as central and neighborhood business districts; protecting farms, forests, streams, and historic, recreational and natural areas; concentrating development around existing infrastructure; pursuing social equity in community planning; providing a mix of affordable housing alternatives; coordinating state and federal policies with local policies; and providing funds to achieve these goals. ...

Md. tightens regulations to protect blue crabs

Maryland has enacted new blue crab regulations, including a shorter season and requiring fishermen to take one day off a week, which officials say will help protect the Bay's most valuable species from overfishing.

"These regulations are a conservative response to concerns raised by a number of studies, as well as changes in fishing practices," said Maryland Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. "They will provide protection for the crab fishery with as little impact on recreational and commercial crabbers as possible." ...

Shipyard’s permit called too laz on TBT

The EPA has approved a water pollution permit for Newport News Shipbuilding but criticized the state for not doing enough to limit the discharge of the toxic boat paint TBT.

The permit had been in the works since 1991 and was redrafted several times to satisfy new regulations and EPA objections. The final version, approved by the state Water Control Board in late May, is technically sound and will protect human and aquatic life, the EPA said.

But the permit allows too many years to pass before it places specific restrictions on the shipyard's discharge of TBT, or tributyltin, EPA Regional Administrator Michael McCabe said in a letter this week to state regulators. ...

Babbitt signs habitat pact for Susquehanna

U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt visited Harrisburg June 5 for a brief paddle down part of the Susquehanna River before signing a habitat restoration agreement for the river's watershed.

The agreement, between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Pennsylvania Field Office, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the EPA, will help pick up the pace of habitat restoration activities which benefit Bay-related species throughout the Susquehanna basin.

Through the agreement, the Alliance will work with other organizations to build a "pool" of volunteers available for restoration work and to identify potential restoration sites. The USF&WS would provide technical expertise for the restoration projects. ...

Striped bass deaths tied to fishing

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Department of the Environment have linked the majority of floating, dead striped bass recently sighted to fishing mortality and are urging anglers to be more careful.

Surveys conducted by the DNR and MDE found that the majority of fish recovered had hook marks or hooks still embedded. Anglers can help reduce the mortality of striped bass by carefully practicing catch and release, particularly with the methods requiring the use of bait. Chumming and bait fishing sometimes result in fish being deep hooked. ...

Chessie heading our way

Chessie the manatee, who winters in the waters off Florida but has spent much of the past two summers frolicking in and around the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, is heading north again.

The manatee, which first gained fame when he had to be airlifted back to Florida with fall approaching in 1994, was traveling north at about 25 miles per day in mid-June, according to satellite readings from his radio transmitter.

Last year, Chessie's legend grew when he became the first known Florida manatee to swim to New England and back. ...

New refuge created along Rappahannock

The newest wildlife refuge in the Bay region moved from plan to reality in June as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gave seven miles of waterfront land along Cat Point Creek in Richmond County, Va., to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We are pleased to receive this property and to see the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge become a reality," said Ron Lambertson, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The lower Rappahannock River region is one of our top 10 national priorities for protection, and is among the least developed of the Chesapeake tributaries and hosts numerous migratory birds." ...

Foreign oyster tests may start next spring

A new technique to render oysters sterile may allow Virginia Institute of Marine Science researchers to begin testing foreign oysters in the York River as early as next spring.

The field testing is part of a multiyear VIMS study to determine whether nonnative oysters are resistant to the diseases that have devastated native oysters, especially in Virginia.

If any of the four Asian strains being tested are able to survive under Bay conditions, it could spur a policy debate over whether foreign species should be a part of rebuilding the Chesapeake's population of oysters, which historically played important ecological and economic roles. ...

$3 million fine in Charles Co. wetland case is highest ever

A developer who illegally filled 50 acres of wetlands in Maryland was sentenced June 17 to 21 months in prison and fined $1 million personally and $3 million through two companies he controls.

The case against James J. Wilson, 63, of Middleburg, Va., marks the sixth time nationally that an individual has been convicted on a criminal violation of a wetlands law, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Barrett. The $3 million fine marks the largest fine ever imposed on a corporation in a federal wetlands violation case, she said. ...

Corps agrees to faster Md. wetland review process

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a new Maryland wetlands program intended to speed up the review of permits for activities affecting less than five acres of nontidal wetlands or three acres of tidal wetlands.

The corps announced June 18 that it had approved a "programmatic general permit" which will give the state the principal responsibility for handling most permit applications in Maryland.

Previously, anyone planning activities that would fill or alter small wetland tracts had to get permits approved by separate federal and state agencies. ...

Little is known about Bay’s bottlenose dolphins

In late July 1884, a bottlenose dolphin popped above the waves of the Potomac River near Washington. It was a bad move, on the dolphin's part.

For two days, according to reports at the time, boats pursued the creature, as men repeatedly tried to shoot it. For all their effort, they failed to capture the dolphin, and it appears to have escaped.

That historical record, though, is testimony to just how far dolphins will swim up the Bay and its tributaries. In fact, there are reports of dolphins as far up the Chesapeake as Havre de Grace, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. ...

Utilities told not to add to air pollution

The Clinton administration has instructed three federal agencies to make sure that increased utility competition - a potential economic boon to consumers - does not increase air pollution.

The June 14 statement by the White House Council on Environmental Quality sought to head off worries that utility deregulation efforts by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would increase emissions of nitrogen oxides and other pollutants, adding to the pollution problems of East Coast cities, the Bay and other coastal waters. ...

EPA cited for missing water protection deadlines

A coalition of environmental groups plans to file suit against the EPA this summer for failing to enact air pollution control measures that protect the Chesapeake Bay and other major water bodies from the impacts of air pollution.

The suit, to be filed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club, will claim that the EPA missed a Nov. 15, 1993 deadline set in the Clean Air Act for determining whether existing Clean Air Act programs were adequately protecting major water bodies. ...

EPA sued for failing to enforce ozone reductions

Saying that the EPA and the states had failed to protect the health of their citizens, environmental groups filed suit against the federal agency in June for missing deadlines to improve air quality in the Clean Air Act.

In suits filed in Washington, D.C., the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and others said the EPA had failed to force Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia to do more to reduce ozone pollution.

The suits specifically cite the EPA's failure to make the states develop and implement plans to reduce smog-causing emissions by 15 percent. The plans were to be completed in 1993 and implemented by this November. The SCLDF, which is leading the court challenge, called on the EPA to develop a 15 percent reduction plan for the states. ...

EPA expected to lower ozone standard in effort to raise air quality

Ozone is a toxic gas that is formed in the atmosphere when nitrogen oxides (from fuel-burning sources such as utilities and automobiles) and volatile organic compounds (from paints, inks, solvents and gasoline) react in the presence of intense sunlight.

Various factors affect the production of ozone. These include the quantity of reactive gases present, the volume of air available for dilution, air temperature and the amount of sunlight.

Because ozone is not directly emitted into the atmosphere - it is the byproduct of other pollutants mixing together under the right atmospheric conditions - it has been particularly difficult to control. ...

Clearing the air, cleaning the Bay

On some days in parts of the Northeast, things can only get worse.

So much pollution drifts in - some of it from hundreds of miles away - that certain localities would exceed federal clean air standards even if corks were stuck in every smokestack and tailpipe in the area.

Nearly a quarter century after the passage of the nation's first Clean Air Act, summertime ozone remains an elusive problem for many areas, despite tougher regulations and threats of federal sanctions.

While improvements have been made, more than 30 states - and localities that are home to 90 million people nationwide - fail to meet the standard. Outside California, the worst region is the Northeast, stretching from the Virginia suburbs of Washington through Maine. ...

Sturgeon stocked in Nanticoke

One morning in early July, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources truck loaded with large fish tanks backed up to a boat landing along the Nanticoke River. Some fish from the tanks were dipped by net and released. Large hoses were then hooked to the tanks, sending a flood of additional fish into the river.  In a matter or minutes, there were more Atlantic sturgeon - a relic of the age of dinosaurs - in the Nanticoke than anyone had seen in decades.

"We'll see how it goes," said Jorgen Skjeveland, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Fisheries Resource Office in Annapolis, as the fish poured into the river. "Hopefully, something good will come if it." ...

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