Bay Journal

March 1999 - Volume 9 - Number 1

Group’s review aims to turn towns into communities

It was mid afternoon, and a planned tour of Hampstead was bogged down. A critical error had been made: The driver of the van had pulled off the road to show visitors some of the challenges facing the community.

Now came a vivid example of one of the biggest problems for this northern Maryland community. With an endless line of traffic, it seemed like the van might never get back on the road.

“This,” said Jim Slater, chief of Carroll County’s Bur-eau of Environmental Services, “is actually light yet.” ...

Builders groups challenge plant to protect ‘isolated’ wetlands

The federal government’s strategy for regulating development on isolated wetlands because they may provide migratory bird habitat is being challenged in court by two home builder associations.

In January, the home builders filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, challenging the agencies’ position that “isolated” wetlands fall under federal regulatory jurisdiction if they are likely to provide habitat for waterfowl or migratory birds.

If successful, the suit could further limit the federal government’s ability to protect Mid-Atlantic wetlands that are not clearly linked to major waterways. ...

BayScapes save money, time, Bay!

Gardeners and homeowners making plans for their landscapes might want to remember that long before colonial settlers arrived in the Chesapeake watershed, native plants were thriving — content with whatever water fell from the sky, or with the nutrients already present in the soil. Because they grew without fertilizers, pesticides or sprinkler systems, they did not contribute to the excessive, nutrient runoff now threatening the Bay. They offered food and shelter for songbirds, butterflies and other wildlife. ...

CBF challenges EPA to block 10 projects

If the federal government wants to help the Bay, it should flex its regulatory muscle to block 10 projects that would destroy wetlands, threaten other habitats and spur sprawl development, says the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The environmental group in January sent a letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner urging federal agencies to use their review and approval power “to ensure that these projects are not allowed to happen.”

The letter, signed by CBF President William Baker, was a response to the federal “Chesapeake Ecosystem Unified Plan,” signed by a score of agencies last fall. The agreement contained 50 commitments to be carried out by the federal government, such as restoring 100 acres of wetlands annually and completing two habitat restoration projects a year on federal property within the watershed. ...

Modeling Virginia’s Rivers & Summaries of Model Results

The Bay Program uses powerful computer models to estimate the impact of nutrient and sediment reductions on tributaries. The models divide tributaries, such as the Rappahannock, shown here, into grids, or segments.

The model can calculate how each grid responds to various levels of nutrient and sediment reduction — from no action, to extreme “limit of technology” reductions, to more plausible scenarios in between — for a variety of factors.

For each grid, it can calculate whether grass beds would return, and how dense those grass beds would be. Generally, thicker grass beds provide better habitat and are more stable; they can better withstand periodic pulses of poor water quality. ...

VA river models reveal each has its own course to follow

The future is being charted for Virginia’s Chesapeake tributaries — and it may offer a glimpse of what’s in store for the rest of the Bay’s rivers.

Unlike rivers from the Potomac north, which have had firm nutrient reduction targets since 1992, Virginia’s “lower tributaries” — the James, York, Rappahannock and Eastern Shore — have never had official goals.

The reason: Back in 1992, computer models indicated those rivers had little impact on the Chesapeake.

At the same time, it was recognized that the large, tidal rivers each contain substantial amounts of habitat for fish, crabs and other resources. Those areas might benefit from nutrient action, but no one knew what those reductions should be. ...

Bay programs not significantly affected by federal budget

Direct federal spending on the Chesapeake restoration efforts does not appear to be significantly affected in the Clinton administration’s budget plan for 2000, with some federal Bay offices getting slight increases while others are slated for slight reductions.

The spending plan for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 calls for significant increases in some pollution control efforts, such as the Clean Water Action Plan, which should help the Chesapeake. Also, the administration’s new Lands Legacy Initiative and Livability Agenda will likely support land preservation, habitat and other programs in the watershed. ...

Livability Agenda & Lands Legacy Initiative Highlights

Livability Agenda

The stated goals of the Livability Agenda are to preserve open spaces; ease traffic congestion by improving road planning and promoting alternative transportation; restoring a sense of community by fostering citizen and private sector involvement in local planning; promoting collaboration among neighboring communities; and enhancing economic competitiveness by nurturing a high quality of life that attracts well-trained workers and cutting-edge industries. ...

2 federal programs to protect open space, support ‘smart growth’

Spurred by a growing national concern over the rapid rate of land development, the Clinton administration has proposed two programs to protect open spaces and promote “smart growth” throughout the nation.

Combined, the programs amount to an $11 billion package of financial incentives to encourage communities to improve regional land use planning, reduce highway congestion and preserve forests and farmlands.

The action is the federal government’s most significant move into the realm of land use planning — traditionally the domain of state and local governments — but the administration insisted that the program was aimed at providing people with new resources to plan, not new mandates. ...

VA lawmakers put bills to combat suburban sprawl on hold

Fast-growing Virginia localities that want more legal tools to combat suburban sprawl are going to have to wait at least another year.

Despite a strong push during the General Assembly session from environmental groups and localities, legislators quickly put off bills to encourage what proponents call “smart growth” by giving localities more say over how, and how quickly, land is developed.

Before the session began in January, 22 cities and counties announced that they were sick and tired of being unable to control growth. They said rapid growth, especially in northern Virginia, creates nasty traffic tie-ups, crowded schools, inadequate public services and higher taxes. ...

PA budget promotes watershed, open spaces, discourages sprawl

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge produced a budget plan that he says will help the Keystone State by “growing greener” as it moves into the 21st Century.

The budget revamps how money is spent in environmental programs to emphasize watershed protection and the preservation of open space while discouraging sprawl.

“Changing how we spend that money will enable us to focus like never before on cleaner water, better parks, preserving open space and farmland, and controlling sprawl,” Ridge said in his budget address. “ ‘Growing Greener’ is a new way of looking at the environment — and the role government plays in protecting it.” ...

MD, DE consider burning poultry manure at power plant

Burning chicken manure is one option Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening and Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper are studying to help dispose of the waste from numerous poultry farms on the Delmarva Peninsula.

The two governors said at a recent meeting that burning the manure at an oil-burning Conectiv power plant in Vienna, MD is an option they will explore further with company officials. Maryland already plans to burn manure to generate power and steam heat at the Eastern Shore Correctional Institution in Westover, MD. ...

High levels of metals, steroids found in Pocomoke

The Pocomoke River — the scene of fish kills two years ago — has levels of dissolved metals and steroids that in some cases are “orders of magnitude” higher than those typically seen in Chesapeake tributaries, according to a new study by investigators at the U.S. Geological Survey and George Mason University.

Concentrations of some of those compounds were found at levels high enough to stress fish, without the presence of Pfiesteria piscicida in the river, according to the scientists who took the water-quality and sediment samples. ...

MD coastal report includes no-build shoreline buffer

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program’s plan for protecting the state’s bays includes a no-build shoreline buffer along the 175-square mile watershed.

The plan should help reduce nutrient levels in the four bays the program oversees, said Steven Taylor, program director, as he unveiled the plan for the Isle of Wight, Assawoman, Sinepuxent and Chincoteague bays. “It’s one of our most significant problems,” he said.

Close to 200 people filled Harrison’s Harborwatch restaurant on Feb. 8 in Ocean City to get their first glimpse of the 120-page draft report. ...

High flows may be linked to new algae in the Bay

Last year began with a flood and ended with a drought.

The extremes played havoc with water quality, and may have set up conditions that allowed a nuisance species of algae to gain ground in part of the Chesapeake.

River flows into the Bay during the first six months of 1998 were the highest on record, but flows were below average for each of the last six months of the year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

December flows were the lowest on record and, while flows rebounded somewhat in January, the new year still started off with drier-than-normal conditions, especially for southern areas of the watershed, according to the USGS. ...

MD, VA place 2-year moratorium on new crab rules pending studies

Chesapeake watermen don’t need to worry about a new round of blue crab regulations this year or next. Maryland and Virginia officials have agreed to a two-year moratorium on any new rules while representatives from both states try to decide how the Bay’s most valuable commercial species should be managed.

While several recent studies have indicated fishing pressure on the stock is at — or slightly beyond — sustainable levels, there is little agreement about the cause of the problem, or the severity of the situation. ...

NY sewage treatment plant to install BNR, boost Bay efforts

Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts are getting a big boost from way upstream — in New York.

The Binghamton-Johnson City Joint Sewage Treatment Plant is getting a $4.35 million federal grant to install biological nutrient removal — or BNR — technology as part of an upgrade to the aging facility.

“This award will allow the Binghamton-Johnson City Sewage Treatment Plant to dramatically reduce its nitrogen discharges into the Susquehanna River,” said Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-NY, in announcing the grant. “Improvements to the plant will improve the health of the river from Binghamton to the Chesapeake Bay.” ...

VA to help farmers pay for writing plans

The state of Virginia is offering to help farmers in parts of the Shenandoah Valley, Northern Virginia and the Northern Neck pay for writing nutrient management plans.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has encouraged such plans for years, and in the past two years has increased the number of people certified to write nutrient management plans.

Now, it is offering to share up to 75 percent of the cost of plan-writing and soil sampling. Nutrient management plans are designed to optimize the application of fertilizer on soil, based on soil conditions, plant needs and other factors to minimize the potential of runoff into nearby streams. ...

VA to require phosphorus-based nutrient plans for poultry growers

Almost all Virginia poultry growers will be required, under new legislation, to take steps by 2001 to prevent huge poultry manure stockpiles from contaminating waterways.

The poultry waste measure won easy approval from the General Assembly after a compromise was reached by groups as diverse as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Farm Bureau. Gov. Jim Gilmore is expected to sign it.

It will require that all farmers with 20,000 or more chickens or turkeys to implement phosphorus-based nutrient management plans and to properly store and keep track of poultry manure. ...

Sustainable Chesapeake Summit Set for March

The Center for Chesapeake Communities is hosting a summit, “Toward a Sustainable Chesapeake,” which will take place March 21–23 in Baltimore.

Local government representatives, planners, builders, developers, environmental organizations and state and federal agencies are invited to evaluate their own contributions to the health of the Bay; reconsider growth and development goals; unite fragmented protection efforts; and raise the current standards of environmental success.

The outcome will provide local governments with the knowledge and additional capacity to move toward a sustainable Chesapeake Bay. ...

The Center for Chesapeake Communities

The Center for Chesapeake Communities is a new, nonprofit organization founded in 1997 to help provide local governments with tools, techniques and financial assistance to protect their own natural resources and the Chesapeake Bay.

The center was founded in cooperation with the Bay Program, largely out of recognition that — with more than 1,650 local governments in the Chesapeake watershed — there was more need for assistance and outreach than the Bay Program could provide.

“We know there are many out there who want some help,” said Gary Allen, executive director for the center, and the former mayor of Bowie, MD, as well as former chair of the Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee. ...

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