Bay Journal

July-August 1998 - Volume 8 - Number 5

Water trails forging new route in Bay’s preservation

The search for high ground had come down to this: Brook Lenker and Ben Nebroski were wading through neck-high stands of poison ivy, protecting their bare hands by holding them high above their heads like prisoners of war.

The two were looking for the highest — and driest — place on the Susquehanna River island to serve as a campground for those who follow.

“I imagine,” Nebroski said, kicking the dirt with his boot, “a lot of this vine mass on the ground is poison ivy.” ...

PA group accepting nominations for rivers

The Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers is accepting nominations for the 10 rivers that will be featured in its second State of Pennsylvania Rivers Report.

A nominated river should exemplify the pressures and threats that are common to many streams, and should be the focus restoration, protection and enhancement efforts.

Nominations should include: river name; a description of the major problems it faces; a description of restoration, protection and enhancement efforts under way to address its problems; and a contact name, phone number and e-mail address. ...

Efforts are under way to expand grants program

Buoyed by the success of this year’s Small Watershed Grants Program, an effort is being made to continue the program next year and perhaps double the amount of money available.

“It has worked so well that we think we will be able to get another round of funding for it,” said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-MD, who initiated the program.

This year, the Bay Program awarded $650,000 to 37 organizations and local governments for a variety of restoration projects. An aide to Sarbanes said twice as much money is being sought in next year’s budget. ...

Sojourners get up close and personal with Susquehanna

Under bright blue skies and with a strong tail wind, a record-setting number of canoeists and kayakers were literally drummed out of Corning, NY on June 6, as the eighth annual Susquehanna Sojourn, dubbed “Run the Chemung,” started off down the Chemung River.

About 130 participants, paddling almost 70 boats, threaded their way under Corning’s flag- draped pedestrian bridge and rode the strong current quickly downriver while the Peace Weavers, a group of Native American musicians, beat out a farewell cadence on their drums. A few minutes earlier, the Black Powder Revolutionary War Reenactors also helped to mark the start of the 134-mile trip with a series of blasts from their authentic muskets. ...

Bay Links helps visitors make connection to Bay

A new program will help people visiting parks, historic sites and wild lands in Maryland this summer discover “links” to the Chesapeake that they might not have known about.

The state has identified 29 sites around the Chesapeake as “Bay Links.” The program, which includes such sites as Susquehanna State Park, the Patuxent Research Refuge, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Pemberton Historical Park, allows visitors to not only learn about sites individually, but also how they connect to the Bay. ...

Booklet bridges gap between back seat and the Bay

Travelers in Maryland this year can play a new version of the state’s “Bay Game” as they cross the Eastern Shore on their way to the beach.

The “Bay Game,” which originated last year, is designed to be played from the back seat of the car by anyone 3 years or older.

The “Bay Game” booklets have games, quizzes, pictures to color and colored stickers.

Designed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Chesapeake Bay Program staff, the game increases children’s awareness of how things they see on the trip relate to the Chesapeake as well as educating them about the Bay on their trip to the beach. ...

PA report says managing sprawl will be state’s top environmental issue

Noting that “Pennsylvanians are living on more land than ever before,” a new report warns that managing sprawl development will be the state’s top environmental issue in the next century.

In its 76-page draft report, the 21st Century Environmental Commission suggests that planning needs to be done on a regional basis; infrastructure improvements should help guide development to specific areas; and efforts should be made to revitalize existing communities, among other changes.

The 40-member commission, including cabinet members, lawmakers, environmentalists and other interest groups, was appointed by Gov. Tom Ridge last year to develop environmental priorities for the next century. The draft report is out for public comment until July 10, and a final report is expected this fall. ...

ASMFC seeks public comment as it considers shad fishing option

Public comment will be sought this summer on the future of the long-controversial ocean fishery for American shad.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Shad Management Board is seeking input on a range of alternatives that could alter both coastal and river fishing for the migratory fish.

The commission is responsible for managing migratory species along the coast.

Shad spend most of their lives in the ocean, but return to their native rivers to spawn. Historically, most of the fishing effort toward shad took place within their spawning rivers, though in recent decades an ocean-based shad fishery has emerged. ...

Record 30 million American shad fry released in Bay tributaries

The new annual ritual of shad stocking hit record levels this year, as more than 33 million tiny fish were released in Bay tributaries this spring as part of an effort to rebuild the Chesapeake’s diminished American shad population.

That far exceeds the Bay Program’s annual goal of stocking between 20 million and 25 million annually.

“We had a crackerjack year,” exclaimed Tom Gunter, a biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, who oversees the state’s restoration program. ...

ASMFC orders first-ever review of menhaden management

Questions have been growing for months about the coastal, and Bay, menhaden stocks as data have shown a conflicting picture of the population’s health.

Now, a first-ever review of Atlantic menhaden management has been ordered, and it could ultimately result in dramatic changes in how the species is managed.

Still, while ordering the review, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission decided at its June meeting not to reduce this year’s maximum catch, as some had requested. ...

June flows to Bay fall below monthly average for first time in ‘98

For the first time this year, flows into the Bay during June were below the monthly average, according to figures from the U.S. Geological Survey.

In June, the average flow into the Bay from its tributaries was 37 billion gallons a day. That was 9 percent below the 48-year average of 41 bgd, according to the USGS.

But all the other months this year were above average. And, as a result, the first six months of 1998 are the wettest six-month period on record.

The average freshwater flow into the Chesapeake from its tributaries was 113 bgd during the the first six months of this year, 60 percent more than the long-term average of 70.7 bgd, according to the USGS. It was also 14 percent higher than the 99.1 bgd average during the first six months of 1996. ...

Independent study raises questions about reservoir

A new study completed for the Army Corps of Engineers casts doubt about whether Newport News needs a huge new reservoir that would draw water from the Mattaponi River to slake its thirst in the future.

The study by Illinois-based Planning and Management Consultants Ltd. suggests that the city will have less than half of the 40 million gallon a day shortfall that it projects by the year 2040.

That’s mainly because the city’s projection of population growth is too high and the anticipated savings from conservation are too low, according to the study. ...

SRBC acts to regulate Baltimore’s withdrawal of water from river

The agency that oversees water use on the Chesapeake’s largest tributary has taken action to control the tap on the Susquehanna water used by Baltimore.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission on June 19 unanimously voted to begin regulating water diversions from the river to the City of Baltimore, which also supplies portions of five surrounding counties.

While taking the action, members of the commission, which represents Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and the federal government, expressed hope that the city would choose to work with the SRBC to develop long-range plans that would offset impacts that potential withdrawals would have on the river. ...

6 Bay states meet to discuss working on clean water plan

In the first-ever summit of its type, top environmental and agricultural officials from all six states in the Bay watershed met with their federal counterparts in late May to discuss working together to improve rivers and streams.

The summit attracted either the secretary or assistant secretary of every state environmental and agriculture agency in the watershed, except for New York, where the environmental secretary’s plane was delayed and a substitute came instead. Other states represented were Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. ...

Grasses in glasses

In his lab, Steve Ailstock has come up with a technique that may offer hope for a speedier comeback of the Bay’s submerged aquatic vegetation: growing grasses in glasses.

In rows of water-filled jars, Ailstock, an environmental scientist at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland, has a small meadow of underwater grasses under production.

These grasses were slated to be transplanted in parts of the Magothy and South rivers to jump-start the growth of grass beds in areas that have long been barren, as part of a project that is being funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office. ...

Growing SAV a real ‘class act’

A joint venture between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has taken root, literally.

Students participating in the “Bay Grasses in Classes” program learned the importance of submerged aquatic vegetation by planting wild celery seeds in their classroom that they later planted at Patuxent River Park in the Jug Bay Natural Area, south of Upper Marlboro, MD.

Different growing methods and tests conducted by students will be reviewed and used to refine the project. The students findings will be posted on the DNR’s website at: ...

Low flows helped Bay SAV increase 9% in 1997

The Chesapeake last year gained nearly 6,000 acres of the “underwater meadows” that provide the critical food and habitat for the fish, waterfowl and crabs that depend on the Bay.

In general, scientists credited the rebound with better water quality, which stemmed in large part from lower-than-normal flows into the Bay during 1997.

Overall, grass coverage increased by 5,770 acres — or 9 percent — to 69,238 acres, according to an annual aerial survey conduced for the Bay Program by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

That’s a huge increase from the record low of slightly less than 40,000 acres observed in 1984, but still only a fraction of the estimated 600,000 acres of grasses that once covered the bottom of the Bay. ...

Survey finds blue crabs ‘fully exploited’ prompting calls for closer watch

Blue crab management has less margin for error in the Chesapeake than previously thought, according to a new review of the Bay’s most economically valuable species.

While Virginia and Maryland officials say there is no immediate need for new regulations to control blue crab harvests, they say further action may be needed if current trends continue.

“We’re going to keep a close eye on this fishery for the next few years to see what goes on,” said Phil Jones of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. ...

Agencies assert their authority to regulate ‘isolated’ wetlands

Despite a December court ruling that threw out the largest wetland fine levied in the nation’s history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA have concluded that they still have ample authority to regulate “isolated” wetlands in the Bay region.

A recent memorandum advised Corps and EPA staff that they “should make it clear to members of the regulated public” that the agencies will continue to “assert jurisdiction over isolated waterbodies, including isolated wetlands.” ...

Coast to be closed to Atlantic sturgeon fishing for 40 years

When Maryland closed the Bay to striped bass fishing for five years, it seemed like an eternity to many avid anglers.

But that closure was a mere tick on the clock compared with what is in store for Atlantic sturgeon, the longest-lived and largest fish native to the Chesapeake.

Acting at its June meeting, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission closed the entire coast to Atlantic sturgeon fishing for the next four decades. It is believed to be the longest fishing closure on record. ...

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