Bay Journal

November 1996 - Volume 6 - Number 8

Air, Bay cleanups

Research has increasingly suggested that much of the Bay's pollution problems begin at smokestacks and tailpipes, some of which may be hundreds of miles outside the watershed.

Computer models indicate that about 27 percent of the nitrogen deposited in the Bay originates from air pollution, raising the question of whether that source of pollution could be economically controlled to help the Bay.

A new report hints that the answer may be "yes."

That opens the door for additional work to determine the economic and technical feasibility of controlling air pollution in places like Ohio, New York, West Virginia and Tennessee. ...

Program gets down to business in reducing toxics in Bay

The Bay Program has launched a new "Businesses for the Bay" program to recognize businesses that participate in voluntary pollution prevention programs aimed at reducing toxic pollution to the Chesapeake.

The program encourages businesses to establish measurable reductions in their use or generation of toxic chemicals, which are to be met through pollution prevention techniques, such as substituting the use of a toxic chemical with a nontoxic one.

The Bay Program hopes to have 75 percent of all businesses in the Bay watershed participating in pollution reduction efforts by the turn of the century. ...

Virginia Tech scientist receives Mathias Medal

Dr. Clifford W. Randall, an environmental and civil engineer, was recognized for his outstanding contributions to the Bay restoration effort at the annual Executive Council meeting.

EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner, chair of the council, presented Randall with the Mathias Medal, which recognizes researchers for both excellence in marine science and fundamental contributions to the overall understanding of the Chesapeake.

Browner praised Randall for his research and education efforts, singling out his contributions in the area of biological nutrient reduction for wastewater treatment plants. ...

Browner to serve 2nd year as Executive Council chair

EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner was chosen to serve another year as chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council at its Oct. 10 meeting.

Browner was chosen by the other members of the council, which also includes the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the mayor of the District of Columbia; and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which represents the legislatures of the three Bay states. The Executive Council is the top policy-making body for the Bay cleanup effort. ...

Priorities set for stewardship

With another 3 million people expected in the Bay watershed by the year 2020, state and local governments in the region face the challenge of maintaining economic prosperity while protecting natural and cultural resources.

To address that issue, the Executive Council adopted a report suggesting priorities for land, growth and stewardship activities at its Oct. 10 meeting.

Through local-level stewardship activities, the report said the ultimate Bay Program goal for dealing with future growth is to "encourage sustainable development patterns which integrate resource protection, community participation and economic health." ...

Local governments key to Bay cleanup

The Bay Program will make new efforts to incorporate local governments into Chesapeake restoration efforts, both through improved outreach, and by recognizing outstanding local initiatives that can help the Bay and its tributaries.

The adoption of a new Local Government Participation Plan by the Executive Council at its Oct. 10 meeting recognizes that many decisions that ultimately affect the health of the Bay are made at the local - not the state or federal - level.

"We have to make sure that local governments are involved ... in the entire Bay restoration," said Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, a former county executive, at the meeting. "As a local official of almost 20 years, I understand that local governments deal with the environment every single day. When you think about it, who pays for wastewater treatment upgrades? ... Who develops master plans? ... And who enforces many of our toughest environmental regulations? It is local government." ...

Fund ensures cash flow for Great Lakes cleanup projects

Stung by the impact of zebra mussels, a European native accidentally brought to the Great Lakes in ship ballast water during the 1980s, the Great Lakes states didn't want to wait for federal research money to find ways ships could be modified to stop future aquatic invasions.

Instead, the governors used money from the Great Lakes Protection Fund, created in 1989 as the nation's first multistate environmental endowment.

To jump-start research on the issue, the governors of the Great Lakes states funded a $1 million experiment that will filter water going into a ship's ballast tank to see if it keeps out stowaway species. While the recently passed National Invasive Species Act of 1996 will fund similar research, that money won't be available for at least another year. ...

Arsenal of weapons needed to halt ballast invaders

This fall, a cargo ship equipped with a device that may one day help protect the Chesapeake and other coastal areas from sea invasions will set sail on the Great Lakes.

As part of a pilot project, the intake to a ballast tank on the Algonorth, a ship owned by Canadian Central Marine Co., will be fitted with a filters to keep fish and other organisms from being sucked into the ballast tanks.

Ships routinely take in water as ballast to stabilize the vessel at sea, then release the ballast at the destination port as cargo is loaded or unloaded. ...

Pennsylvania DEP agrees to narrow scope of wetlands permit

A controversy over a new Pennsylvania "general permit" that allows residential development in wetlands has been resolved, with the state Department of Environmental Protection agreeing to narrow the scope of the permit.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation earlier this year filed a complaint with the state Environmental Hearing Board over the department's General Permit 15, which allows as much as one-half acre of wetlands to be filled for home construction in residential subdivisions approved in November 1991 or before. ...

Near record flows may reverse Bay’s nutrient trends: Earlier action credited with reducing amount of floods’ damage

Freshwater flows into the Chesapeake Bay this year averaged 84 billion gallons a day through September, almost 1.6 times higher than average, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The only higher year was 1972, when flows averaged 85 billion gallons a day, largely as the result of floods resulting from Hurricane Agnes.

The high flows have dramatically increased the amount of sediment and nutrients flushed into the Bay, according to the USGS.

About 263 million pounds of nitrogen and 18 million pounds of phosphorus have accompanied the high flows that have dominated the Chesapeake from the January floods through Hurricane Fran in September. ...

USDA aims to save farms from sprawl

A new federal program aimed at protecting farmland from development is sending $3.2 million to the Bay states - nearly 20 percent of the money available nationwide - to save farms from urban sprawl, which also threatens the Bay.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's new Farmland Protection Program is providing $14.5 million to purchase development rights from farmers who want to keep their land in production but are threatened by encroaching development.

"Much of America's farmland is near major cities," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, "and as our cities sprawl into neighboring rural areas, our farms are in danger of becoming subdivisions or shopping malls. We can't sit back and take our farms - and the food they supply for our families - for granted." ...

Farm conservation plan targets streams, wetlands

Bay Program efforts to protect streambanks and wetlands will get a boost from a major overhaul of the Conservation Reserve Program recently announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The program makes annual rental payments to farmers who sign contracts to take environmentally sensitive agricultural lands out of production for 10 to 15 years. In the past, the program had been used primarily to protect large amounts of erodible farmland.

Under proposed changes, only the most highly erodible land would remain eligible for the program, which has a 36-million-acre cap nationwide. Instead, much of the emphasis is being switched to encourage the protection of streambanks, wetlands and wildlife habitat. ...

Get ready to electronically navigate the Bay

The Chesapeake Executive Council took steps to "hot wire" Bay Program partners for the information age by adopting a "Strategy for Increasing Basinwide Public Access to Chesapeake Bay Information" at its Oct. 10 meeting.

The strategy calls for the Bay Program partners to develop the Chesapeake Information Management System (CIMS). CIMS will electronically link a variety of information about the Bay and its tributaries and make it available to anyone - from students to scientists to citizen groups - through the Internet and the World Wide Web. The information targeted by CIMS includes technical and public information, educational material, environmental indicators, policy documents and scientific data. ...

Riparian Forest Buffer Panel Recommendations

The Riparian Forest Buffer Panel stated that maintaining existing buffers along all streams and shorelines will not be an easily achieved goal. Restoring buffers where they are most needed will also be difficult. The Executive Council adopted five policy recommendations to help the signatories develop implementation strategies:

Enhance Program Coordination and Accountability

  • Establish teams to address how riparian forest buffer retention and restoration goals are being achieved. These teams should report annually to the Chesapeake Bay Program Implementation Committee.


2,010 miles by the year 2010

The path to a cleaner Chesapeake may look like ribbons of green that line the more than 110,000 miles of streams and rivers that feed the Bay.

The Chesapeake Executive Council adopted a long-term goal of ensuring that all those miles of tributaries be protected with some kind of vegetated buffers. And more specifically, the Council at its Oct. 10 meeting adopted a goal of planting 2,010 miles of forest buffers along streambanks and shorelines by the year 2010.

EPA Administrator Carol Browner, who chairs the Executive Council, said the goal was "bold" and that buffers were a "common sense, cost-effective way to keep pollution out of the rivers that flow into the Bay." ...

Putting air pollution control into a Bay cleanup perspective

How important is controlling air pollution to the Bay cleanup effort?
It's a matter of perspective.

In 1987, the Bay States agreed to reduce the amount of the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen entering the Bay 40 percent by the turn of the century to improve the Chesapeake's water quality. Those nutrients spur excess algae production in the Bay. When t he algae die and sink to the bottom, they decompose in a process that depletes the water of oxygen needed by aquatic organisms, thereby limiting habitat. Computer models in 1987 indicated that a 40 percent nutrient reduction would decrease algae productio n enough to end low-oxygen conditions in the Bay. ...

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