Bay Journal

December 1999 - Volume 9 - Number 9

‘Gateways’ to offer new ways to visit Bay

A series of new “gateways” may soon give Bay watershed residents and visitors new ways — both physically and intellectually — to visit the Chesapeake.

This fall, the National Park Service is working to lay the foundation for a network of natural, recreational, cultural and historic sites that people can visit to learn various stories about the nation’s largest estuary.

Officials from local governments, states, nonprofit organizations and others are meeting with the park service to outline what types of things may be considered gateways — places where people can experience some aspect the Chesapeake. ...

Congressmen seek restrictions for use of personal watercraft; Two groups sue government over Great Lakes pollution standards and more…

Congressmen seek restrictions for use of personal watercraft

Personal watercraft, such as Jet Skis, would be banned from parts of coastal waters under legislation proposed in Congress.

“As a colleague of mine said, we shouldn’t let Yamaha or Polaris dictate policy,” said Bruce Vento, R-MN, referring to two well-known personal watercraft manufacturers.

Legislation co-sponsored by Reps. Vento, Jim Saxton, R-N., and Wayne Gilchrest, R-MD, would ban personal watercraft from coastal waters — oceans, Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico — that are: ...

Austin Williams, 1919-1999: a class act in the field of systematics

About 12,000 years ago in the fertile crescent embracing the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, hunter-gathering tribes discovered that seeds harvested in one year could be saved and planted the next year to produce food on a chosen parcel of land. This “birth of agriculture” enabled, nay created, villages. The process probably happened at many places and at many times on this planet, but in this region of the Middle East, it helped Mesopotamia to become a cradle for civilization. ...

Government suit accuses utilities of dodging pollution control measures

Seeking quick repairs and millions of dollars in penalties, the federal government filed lawsuits in November accusing utility companies of releasing huge amounts of air pollution at coal-fired electricity plants throughout the Midwest and South.

Targeted are 32 aging, coal-fired power plants in 10 states from Florida to Ohio. The government argues that the companies made illegal repairs rather than employing more modern pollution-controlling technology.

“Every American should be able to breathe clean air. This administration is committed to pursuing the polluters that are to blame,” Attorney General Janet Reno said. ...

Total funding for Bay restoration projects up from last year

The EPA will spend about the same amount of money on the Bay cleanup in 2000 as it did this year, but National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service spending on the Bay will get a boost under appropriations bills approved by Congress.

In addition, Congress will support for a third year the popular Small Watershed Grants Program, which makes small grants to local governments and organizations to demonstrate various water improvement techniques.

The largest chunk of money, $18.9 million, goes to the EPA’s Bay Program Office — the same amount as last year. The EPA serves as the lead federal agency in the Chesapeake restoration effort. ...

Funding for the Bay States


Coastal restoration: $15.5 million

Land and Water Conservation Fund: $10.4 million

Wildlife: $5 million

Urban Parks: $2.4 million

Historic Preservation: $2.4 million

Federal and Indian lands restoration: $176,000

Endangered Species: $406,000

Payment in Lieu of Taxes: $560,000.


Coastal restoration: $6.7 million

Land and Water Conservation Fund: $19.6 million

Wildlife: $13 million ...

Bill could mean millions for regional conservation programs

Legislation that could give the Bay states nearly $150 million a year for habitat restoration, land acquisition and other conservation programs cleared a key House committee in November, setting the stage for potential passage next year of what supporters call a “historic” environmental measure.

Nationwide, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act would earmark nearly $3 billion a year, mostly to states, to support historically underfunded programs covering everything from wildlife conservation to urban park restoration. ...

Gulf of Mexico faces Baylike nutrient issues on a grand scale

Concerns over an oxygen-depleted “dead zone” that covers roughly 350 square miles of the Chesapeake in a typical year launched efforts more than a decade ago to control nutrient pollution throughout its 64,000-square-mile watershed.

So, will a dead zone the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico spur nutrient control efforts throughout the Mississippi River’s 1.2-million-square mile watershed?

It’s a question federal officials are seeking to answer. A group of agency officials and scientists recently released a report laying out the gulf’s oxygen problem and potential solutions. ...

Menhaden board to be reorganized

Fishing industry representatives will be removed from the committee that oversees the East Coast menhaden fishery when a new plan is written next year to manage the small fish.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Menhaden Manage-ment Board, at its November meeting, directed the commission’s staff to draft changes to the fishery management plan that would reorganize the menhaden board to resemble other ASMFC committees.

ASMFC — a compact including all East Coast states that manages migratory fish — has a separate board for each species it is responsible for. But its menhaden board is the only body that includes industry representatives, who account for half of the membership. ...

Environmental groups seek end to mixing zones in watershed

A coalition of environmental groups is calling on the EPA and the Bay Program to severely cut back on the discharges of some of the most toxic chemicals entering the Chesapeake and its tributaries.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner, the 12 groups called for a phase out in the Bay watershed of “mixing zones” — areas commonly used to dilute pollution at the end of discharge pipes — for any contaminant that bioaccumulates in the food chain or persists in the environment. ...

Wastewater officials ‘encouraged’ after TMDL meeting

Operators of Virginia’s wastewater treatment plants say they were “encouraged” after a meeting with EPA regional officials and will not proceed with a suit against the agency, at least for now.

The Virginia Association of Municipal Wastewater Agencies in September had threatened to sue the EPA over its decision to list the Chesapeake Bay as an “impaired” waterbody — an action that could force sharp, and potentially costly, nutrient reductions at wastewater treatment plants. ...

Clinton nominates Region III’s McCabe to be EPA’s deputy administrator

President Clinton, in November, nominated W. Michael McCabe, administrator of EPA’s Region III, as the agency’s deputy administrator.

While waiting for the Senate to act on his nomination, McCabe, of Chadds Ford, PA, will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the nation’s environmental watchdog and will serve as the top policy adviser to EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

“Michael McCabe has done an outstanding job as regional administrator for the mid-Atlantic states, tackling some of the toughest environmental and public health problems in the nation,” Browner said. ...

Conservation group buys, and sells, MD farm to rebuild habitat

A Maryland conservation group has devised a new way to protect streams and rebuild lost habitat: Buy it. Restore it. Then, sell it.

Earlier this year, Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, a nonprofit organization based on the Eastern Shore, viewed the forests, streambanks and farmed wetlands on a 190-acre Kent County tract as having prime habitat restoration potential.

But there was a problem.

The owner, though sympathetic to restoration, decided against having the restoration work done because it would have locked up the valuable land with conservation easements preventing future development. ...

Virginia only Bay state to implement septic system pumpout law

In Virginia, one city manager expressed concern about accepting a $24,000 state grant to implement a law requiring septic systems to be pumped every five years.

The money was to be used to help educate the public and set up a computerized system to track septic pumping. But the manager thought the notion that people should pump septic systems was “just silly.”

“I will not be a party to a project that defies common sense and forces people to pump out their septic tanks,” he told the local newspaper. ...

Septic systems offer promise, perils for Bay

More than 1.3 million homes in the Bay watershed have something of a nutrient bomb in their yards. It’s the septic system.

The systems are largely a success in dealing with their intended purpose — moving effluent away from homes and protecting people’s health. They’re also cheap, and — unlike public sewer systems — provide benefits such as recharging aquifers.

But they often do little to protect local groundwater, or the Bay, from nitrogen; they were never intended to do that. ...

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