Bay Journal

March 2000 - Volume 10 - Number 1

Bay partners split on policy for land conversion…

When Capt. John Smith sailed into the Chesapeake Bay in 1607, he reported that the land was filled with “clear rivers and brooks” which fed a “faire Bay.”

But many of the region’s streams don’t run anywhere near that clean anymore. In fact, the Chesapeake and its tidal tributaries are so polluted with nutrients that the EPA considers them to be legally “impaired” — quite a change from Smith’s “faire Bay.”

Part of the reason is that much of the surrounding landscape has changed, too. The watershed of John Smith’s day was almost entirely forested. ...

Norfolk Rotary Club, activist win CBF Conservationtionist of Year

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation named Mary Kilbourne, an environmentalist from Upper Marlboro, MD and the Norfolk Rotary Club its 1999 Conservationists of the Year.

Meanwhile, Gary Heath, chief of instruction for the Maryland Department of Education, and Catherine Roberts, a teacher at W.E. Waters Middle School in Portsmouth, VA will receive the Foundation’s Environmental Educators of the Year Award.

  • Mary Kilbourne, a naturalist at Patuxent River Park, has been involved with CBF efforts for more than 16 years. She has led such restoration projects as oyster gardening and forested buffer plantings. Gov. Parris Glendening named Kilbourne to the Patuxent River Commission and she is also a member of the Prince George’s County Commission 2000.


2001 budget includes more funds for conservation

President Clinton’s proposed 2001 budget calls for a dramatic increase in funding for land protection and acquisition programs that would save open lands, sensitive areas and control sprawl.

In his plan for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, Clinton proposed $1.4 billion for the second year of his “Lands Legacy Program” — a 93 percent increase over the amount secured this year — to help federal agencies, as well as state and local governments, protect land and improve planning. ...

Corps delays statement on Site 104 until summer

Maryland plans to use waters near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge as a placement site for sediment from channel dredging projects suffered another setback in January when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a delay in its environmental impact statement.

The Corps had planned to publish a draft of the report by the end of January, but has extended the deadline until July, said Col. Bruce Berwick, district engineer in charge of the Baltimore office. That will delay a final decision on whether the site can be used until April 2001. ...

Reorganized panel will review menhaden plan

A rewrite of the controversial fishery management plan for Atlantic menhaden could go out for public comment in late spring or early summer, with final approval this fall.

And, the Atlantic States Management Fisheries Commission took action at its February meeting to clear one of the biggest concerns about the new plan: who would approve it.

The Menhaden Management Board is the ASMFC’s only fishery management panel that includes commercial fishing representatives, and some people had expressed concern about having a board, with half its members coming from industry, approve a new fishery plan. ...

Fisheries panel cuts Atlantic horseshoe crab harvest 25%

Trying to weigh the needs of migrating birds, the demands of fishermen and the well-being of an ancient sea creature, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has decided to slash the coastal harvest of horseshoe crabs 25 percent.

The Feb. 9 action had split the Bay states, with Maryland calling for a 50 percent cut and Virginia calling for no harvest reduction.

A number of states, including Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, had already imposed sharper reductions. ASMFC, a panel of East Coast states that manages coastal fisheries, encouraged them to maintain their lower catch limits. ...

MD Agro-Ecology Center formed to bring farmers, environmentalists together

A new nonprofit organization headed by former Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes has been created to bridge the gap between farmers and environmentalists, two groups that have frequently been at odds over state regulations and programs in recent years.

The Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology Inc. will serve as a forum to bring the two sides together and conduct research into ways that make farming profitable while protecting the Chesapeake Bay.

A major focus of the new group will be a common concern: preserving the land needed by agriculture, forestry and other natural resource-based industries that collectively rely upon more than half of the state’s 6.2 million acres. ...

Agricultural program to reap benefits for PA farmers, Bay

Pennsylvania farmers will be eligible for $210 million in federal and state assistance over the next 15 years to preserve farmland, curb runoff and improve wildlife habitat in the Chesapeake watershed under a new program.

The state-federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is also expected to reduce nutrient pollution in the Bay watershed by about 1.6 million pounds per year.

“Pennsylvania is committed to doing its share to prevent pollution, and this agreement will help ensure that up to 100,000 acres of prime Pennsylvania farmland will be preserved at the same time,” said Gov. Tom Ridge, who announced the agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 26. ...

1999 flows lowest in 33 years; dry conditions likely to continue

Despite the fall flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd, last year produced the lowest streamflow into the Chesapeake Bay since the drought of the early 1960s, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

And, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says drier-than-normal conditions could continue through at least the early part of 2000. While that might be bad for oysters, it could be good news for other resources such as underwater grasses.

Last year, freshwater flows into the Chesapeake averaged 34.6 billion gallons a day, or about 31 percent below the long-term average of 50.2 bgd since the USGS began monitoring streamflow in 1951. ...

Many Bay oysters prove resistant to diseases during drought

Last year was tough for Chesapeake oysters, with drought conditions spurring high salinities that allowed diseases to spread throughout the Bay.

Still, biologists think they may be seeing a glimmer of good news. While diseases have taken a toll, oyster survival in many places was higher than expected given the intensity of the diseases.

That could be a sign that some oysters are developing a tolerance to the parasites that have hampered efforts to restore one of the Chesapeake’s most ecologically and economically important species. ...

The Background Behind EPA’s Proposed New Rules for TMDLs

When Congress approved the Clean Water Act in 1972, it required states to monitor their waterways and “from time to time” submit lists of areas that did not meet water quality standards to the EPA. For those “impaired” waterways, the states were to identify the pollutant (or pollutants) that caused the impairment and determine the Total Maximum Daily Load.

A TMDL is a calculation of how much pollution a given area of water can receive and still meet its water quality goal with a margin of safety factored in. A TMDL is required for each pollutant that contributes to the impairment in a given body of water. Therefore, while 20,000 water bodies, or segments of water bodies, are impaired nationwide, about 40,000 TMDLs are needed to address the pollutants. ...

Debate rages over new rules for TMDLs

To some, the EPA — at long last — is on the verge of cleaning up the lengthy list of rivers, lakes and streams which, nearly three decades after the Clean Water Act was passed, remain polluted.

To others, the EPA is on the verge of illegally inflicting massive land use controls over vast areas of the nation at a cost of billions of dollars.

Those are strikingly different verdicts about the agency’s proposed new rules to guide the cleanups of “impaired” waterbodies, including the Chesapeake Bay. But the rules, which some describe as the most sweeping ever put forth by the EPA, are at the center of what could become one of the biggest environmental fights of the year. ...

…While Virginia legislators reject anti-sprawl measures

In a setback for anti-sprawl groups, Virginia legislative committees have rejected anti-growth measures that would have given local officials power to limit home construction and charge developers fees to finance schools and roads.

House and Senate committees rejected the proposals in February despite pleas from suburban localities in northern Virginia and elsewhere where authorities want to curb and manage the pace of growth. The measures were backed by a coalition of 24 high-growth communities around the state. ...

Ridge would give communities to fight sprawl …

Launching a new “growing smarter” program, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said he will seek legislative approval for changes in land use planning rules to give communities more power to combat sprawling development.

The revisions would allow municipalities to contain growth within previously developed areas, to jointly plan development on a regional basis and allow development rights to be redistributed between neighboring communities.

As part of the program, Ridge has also proposed funds in his new budget for grants and technical assistance to aid local land use planning. Ridge also said he was ordering a review of state government to ensure that department programs support local land use decisions. ...

It may be necessary to sacrifice some waterways to preserve others

Managing sprawl creates a troublesome paradox for managers. Consolidating development can help protect rivers and streams across the countryside, but it comes at a price — waterways in densely developed areas must, in effect, be sacrificed for the greater good.

One could call it the paradox of imperviousness.

Imperviousness refers to all the solid surfaces in a watershed that cover the ground — mainly roofs, parking lots and roads.

Imperviousness can quickly make nearly irreversible impacts to streams, according to Tom Schueler, director of the nonprofit Center for Watershed Protection, who spelled out the issue in a highly regarded 1994 study, “The Importance of Imperviousness.” The study, reviewing a variety of work, concluded that “it is extremely difficult to maintain predevelopment stream quality when watershed development exceeds 10 to 15 percent impervious cover.” ...

No concrete solution to almost impervious land use dilemma

The draft Chesapeake 2000 Agreement notes that “accommodating growth will frequently involve difficult choices.” One difficult thing is determining what land uses are “best” for streams and the Bay, and where they should fit on the landscape.

Heavily developed urban areas produce large amounts of nutrient-laden runoff from atmospheric deposition, fertilizers and even pet wastes — all of which are collected by a network of gutters and storm drains and promptly whisked into the nearest stream. ...

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