Bay Journal

September 1996 - Volume 6 - Number 6

Bay water flow 2nd only to 1972

Freshwater flow into the Chesapeake Bay was about 43 percent more than normal during the first seven months of this year, making it the second wettest year on record.

In fact, in the period from January through July, only the first seven months of 1972 – which included the pounding from Hurricane Agnes – sent more fresh water into the Bay than this year, according to figures from the U.S. Geological Survey, which date back to 1952.

The 90 billion gallons of water a day entering the Bay compares with a long-term average of 63.4 billion gallons a day, according to the USGS. In 1972, Agnes pushed the average flow for the period to 103.5 billion gallons per day. ...

Action plan urges greater role for local governments

The 1,650 local governments in the Bay watershed are on the front lines of the Chesapeake restoration effort, but they need more support – both financial and technical – if they are to become major players in the cleanup.

A draft local government action plan being prepared for the Oct. 10 Executive Council meeting states that a new Bay Program “culture” has emerged that recognizes the major role local governments must play if the restoration objectives are to be met.

That’s because local governments are responsible for land use decisions that ultimately determine whether forests are maintained along streambanks, whether runoff is controlled, and whether new development is done in ways that protect natural resources – all major factors in guarding the Bay and its tributaries. ...

Forest buffer panel supports more state control over policy

A forest buffer policy expected to be sent to the Chesapeake Executive Council for action at its Oct. 10 meeting may not include specific goals for restoring forests along streambanks throughout the watershed.

A draft policy released for comment in May had suggested that the Bay Program establish a goal of restoring 1,200 miles of buffer by the year 2010, and have a long-term goal of restoring forested buffers to 75 percent of the watershed’s more than 100,000 miles of streams.

But the Riparian Forest Buffer Task Force, which is charged with writing the policy, agreed at its August meeting that the individual Bay states should set their own “benchmarks” for restoration, with the intent that efforts should be accelerated beyond the current level. ...

VA announces ‘Fall River Renaissance’

Gov. George Allen recently announced the creation of Fall River Renaissance, a campaign to further volunteer efforts to conserve and improve Virginia’s waterways.

The campaign’s theme, “Keeping Virginia’s rivers a way of life” is a reminder that the state’s rivers and waterways provide a multitude of benefits. They are critical to fish and wildlife and their habitat; they provide recreational opportunities such as boating, swimming and fishing; and they add to the quality of life and prosperity for citizens, their businesses and communities. ...

Chessie? Is that you?

A group along the Elizabeth River may have spotted Chessie, the manatee who likes to head north during the summer.

Crabbers said they saw a large sea animal on Aug. 18 that was wearing a radio-tag harness. Chessie is probably the only tagged manatee north of Georgia, according to the Sirenia Project, which monitors manatees.

Staff from the National Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue team searching for Chessie by air and water were unable to confirm the sighting. Chessie lost a radio transmitter used to track him by satellite on July 10. At that time he was near Beaufort, N.C. There have been other unconfirmed sightings recently in the Bay ...

Nest of eggs cracks Kemps Ridley migratory mystery

Chessie take note. While the wandering Florida manatee has made headlines the past three summers for his unusually long swims to the Bay and beyond, a sea turtle is drawing scientific attention for a much longer voyage – one that links the Chesapeake and a deserted Mexican beach.

A Kemps Ridley sea turtle – unnamed except for her tag, No. PPX858 – this year completed a journey that disproved what was once conventional wisdom about the turtles’ migratory ability.

Seven years after being tagged in the Bay, the turtle turned up 2,500 miles away at Rancho Nuevo, a Gulf Coast beach about 200 miles south of Brownsville, Texas. (Chessie had to swim less than 1,000 miles to reach the Bay.) ...

Congress urged to stem foreign invasion at U.S. ports

Congress should act – and soon – on legislation to stem the flow of foreign invaders that threaten the Chesapeake Bay and other areas of the U.S. coast, witnesses testified at a pair of recent congressional hearings.

The invaders, in this case, are organisms ranging from fish and sea slugs to pathogens, such as cholera, that hitch rides from one part of the world to another in the massive ballast holds of cargo ships.

In any given 24-hour period, it has been estimated that about 3,000 species of aquatic organisms are in transit around the world in ballast tanks, which are filled and emptied to steady a ship as it moves from port to port, loading and unloading cargo. ...

Bay web site to be revamped

The Bay Program’s World Wide Web site is attracting “visitors” at the rate of 150,000 “hits” a year. But it may soon become the nerve center for Chesapeake information exchange throughout the watershed.

Nearly 100 scientists, managers, consultants and others who rely heavily on Bay-related information attended a workshop this summer to decide how best to exchange data in the Internet age.

They want to turn the Bay Program web site into a gateway to information that would include everything from the latest survey for bottom-dwelling “benthic” organisms to model ordinances that local governments might use to protect streams. ...

Late spring chills goose recovery effort

After closing the migratory Canada geese hunting season for the first time in history last year, biologists this spring got the result they wanted.

Flying over the northern Quebec breeding grounds in mid-June, they counted 46,000 pairs of geese – a sharp increase from the record low of 29,000 last spring.

But their other observation dashed hopes for a speedy population rebound.

Instead of having large open patches in the tundra and open ponds as is typical by mid-June, the area remained snow-covered and frozen. ...

DNA library would give investigators inside poop on pollution sources

Criminologists use DNA fingerprinting from blood, pieces of hair, bones and other body parts to link suspects to a crime scene. So why not use DNA to identify the source of fecal material entering waterways? As unsavory as that may sound, it is something that researchers are beginning to do.

Such technologies could help pinpoint some sources of pollution that in the past have been written off as unidentifiable “nonpoint” sources.

George Simmons, a scientist with Virginia Tech, and colleagues are working at developing a “DNA library” that catalogs the kinds of Escherichia coli associated with wastes from humans and animals. ...

Masked bandit uncovered in water quality theft

When the creeks that surround Roger Buyrn’s farm developed a pollution problem, the bad news came knocking on his door, almost literally. The Virginia Division of Shellfish Sanitation warned him that the clam beds in those areas were close to being condemned.

Buyrn was shocked. The creeks drained a sparsely populated portion of Virginia’s Eastern Shore that was home to only a few dozen people. There were no obvious sources of pollution.

But the threat of closing the shellfish beds was real — and urgent. Buyrn’s 1,200-acre farm is bounded by more than 6 miles of creeks, marshes and rivers. The land is used for crops, the waterways for growing clams. Both are critical to the farm’s survival. ...

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