Bay Journal

April 1998 - Volume 8 - Number 2

New water policy shifts focus to runoff

For the past quarter century, clean water programs have sought to make the nation's waters "fishable and swimmable" mainlyby focusing on what comes out of the end of a pipe.

But what comes out of the rear ends of cows, or washes off city streets - or the condition of the streambanks that carry the water - can be as important to fish, swimmers and other water users as anything gushing from a factory or sewage treatment plant.

Recognizing that, a new federal "Clean Water Action Plan" outlines what could be a fundamental shift for the nation's water protection policies, which were originally set forth in the 1972 Clean Water Act. ...

It’s another wet winter for the Chesapeake

Here we go again.

With three of the past five years swamping the Bay with higher than average freshwater flows - including the highest on record in 1996 - this year is already off to a wetter-than-normal start.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, February flows into the Chesapeake were the highest ever for the month. January flows were the second highest for that month.

The February flow averaged 235,900 cubic feet per second, according to the USGS. That is about 2.2 times higher than average. Flows were particularly high in the Potomac, where their averages were about 3.8 times greater than normal. ...

In Bay food chain, little things can quickly add up

Anyone who ever doubted that lots of little things could add up to a big problem should take a look at how one of the Bay's smallest species - algae - affect the nation's largest estuary.

Algae, after all, are the major target of the Bay cleanup effort.  The Bay states have been working since 1987 to cut nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Chesapeake to eliminate the excess algae growth that fuels low oxygen conditions - so-called "dead zones" - in deep parts of the Bay.

But scientists and water quality managers increasingly recognize that too many nutrients can fuel a host of other ill effects tied to algae production. ...

Concern growing about health of menhaden stock

One of the Bay's most important fish species may be in the midst of a coastwide decline that some worry could have ripple effects for other species, such as striped bass.

The concern is over the Atlantic menhaden, historically one of the most abundant species in the Chesapeake and along the coast. But the number of young menhaden has declined for several years, and the adult population has started to fall as well.

"I've been picking Atlantic menhaden out of gill nets for 40 years, ever since I was a kid," said Jim Price, a retired charter boat captain and president of the Chesapeake Bay Acid Rain Foundation. "I know when they're abundant. I know when they're not abundant. And in the past six or eight years, they've steadily declined in the Maryland portion of the Bay." ...

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