Bay Journal

June 2000 - Volume 10 - Number 4

Bay leaders agree to curb sprawl, protect open space

After months of debate, Bay region leaders are poised to sign a new agreement that promises to not only slow the rate of sprawl within the watershed, but also to set aside more land as “open space” over the next decade than is developed.

The new Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, expected to be signed by the Chesapeake Executive Council at a public ceremony in late June, pledges to slow the rate that “harmful sprawl” development consumes farms and forests by 30 percent by 2012.

At the same time, the Bay Program partners will agree to protect 20 percent of the watershed as permanent open space by 2010. That would include publicly owned parks and forests, as well as farms and other lands with permanent conservation easements that prohibit development. ...

Report examines climate change impacts on region, Bay

The long-range forecast for the Chesapeake region calls for slightly warmer and wetter conditions, with an increasing chance of thunderstorms. The prediction could be bleak for many types of waterfowl on the Bay. Meanwhile, up in the watershed, the fishing outlook is good for smallmouth bass, but poor for trout — brook trout in particular.

But don’t trade in the binoculars or fly fishing gear just yet. The long-range outlook, in this case, isn’t for next week or next month — it’s for the next century. It is the likely scenario for future conditions produced by Penn State scientists and others who recently completed the first detailed study of potential climate change impacts for the Mid-Atlantic region, including the entire Bay watershed. ...

Gilchrest will lead Congressional Chesapeake watershed task force

U.S. Rep Wayne Gilchrest will lead a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Congressional Task Force that will help promote federal policies benefiting the environmental and economic well-being of the Bay watershed and its residents.

“Our goal is to bring together all of the Congressional members who are in the Bay watershed and to encourage working together within the Congress for the good of the watershed,” said Gilchrest, R-MD.

“We hope to use this task force to promote stewardship of natural resources, to improve the quality of our air and water, and to enhance the lives of the millions of people who work, live and recreate in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.” ...

Shad returning to Bay rivers in record numbers

Shad swarmed back to the Susquehanna in record numbers this spring, and — for the first time in nearly a century — found almost the entire river open for their spawning run.

Maryland and Virginia officials also reported strong runs of shad, which have been the focus of major restoration efforts in the watershed.

On the Susquehanna, 131,000 American shad had moved through the fish lift at the Conowingo Dam by mid-May, and the spawning run was still in progress.

“We definitely have our new record solid in hand,” said Richard St. Pierre, Susquehanna River Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ...

EPA cracks down on drainage of wetlands in VA

The EPA has charged 10 tidewater Virginia property owners and developers with illegally destroying wetlands and, in some cases, polluting nearby waterways.

The crackdown announced May 8 is one of the largest of its kind in Virginia, according to the EPA. The agency is seeking wetland restoration of five to 45 acres in each case.

Most of the administrative orders are aimed at operations that took advantage of a 1998 court decision that created a loophole in federal programs by allowing wetlands to be drained if a certain ditching technique was used. ...

Possible Living Resource Designated Uses for Chesapeake Bay & Tributary Waters

Migratory Finfish Spawning & Nursery

Habitat: tidal fresh to low salinity habitats in upper reaches of many Bay tidal tributaries and upper mainstem Chesapeake Bay supporting an array of anadromous and semi-anadromous (resident Bay species that live in saltier waters but spawn in freshwater tributaries) fish.

Target Species / Communities: striped bass, American & hickory shad, alewife, blueback herring, white & yellow perch (spawning, larval and early juvenile life stages only). ...

Officials plan to divide Bay into water quality zones

One could think of it as a master plan for the Chesapeake Bay.

Officials from the Bay states are beginning to divide the Chesapeake into specific areas that are critical for different types of fish, crabs, grasses and other Bay dwellers.

Like local government zoning maps that identify where different land uses are appropriate, the new Bay maps detail areas suitable for use by different types of species.

There are shallow water zones where underwater grasses should be able to thrive; deep water zones used by crabs, oysters, clams, flounder and catfish; spawning zones for shad, striped bass and other anadromous fish; and so on. ...

Funding for the Bay States

Here’s the breakdown for funding to Bay jurisdictions under the different categories of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act:

  • Maryland: 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.

  • Pennsylvania: Coastal restoration: $6.7 million; Land and Water Conservation Fund: $19.6 million; Wildlife: $13 million; Urban Parks: $5.7 million; Historic Preservation: $2.8 million; Federal and Indian lands restoration: $275,000; Endangered Species: $406,000; Payment in Lieu of Taxes: $1.4 million.


House OKs bill that would give Bay states $2.2 billion for conservation

Bay jurisdictions stand to gain nearly $2.2 billion over the next 15 years to help preserve open spaces, rebuild parks, protect wildlife habitat and restore historical sites under a bill overwhelmingly approved in May by the U.S. House.

If the Senate goes along, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act could prove helpful in meeting the draft Chesapeake 2000 Agreement’s goal of permanently protecting one-fifth of the watershed as open space by 2010.

The legislation, approved 315-102, would also make money available to wildlife and fisheries programs, allowing scientists to gather more information about the health of species that have historically received little attention. ...

EPA reasserts support for TMDL proposal despite critics

Farmers, loggers, states — and perhaps most importantly, lawmakers — have rallied in opposition to proposed rules the EPA says are needed to finish the job of cleaning the nation’s waters. Many support a bill to derail the program for at least 18 months.

At the same time, support from environmentalists — who initially embraced the proposal — is waning amid concerns the agency will weaken its final water cleanup rules to soothe opponents.

Nonetheless, the EPA plans to go ahead with the controversial rules, possibly issuing the final version as early as June 30. “The administration is strongly supportive of this rule, and we intend to finalize it in this administration,” J. Charles Fox, EPA assistant administrator for water, said in a recent interview with the Bay Journal. ...

Horseshoe Crab Sanctuary Under Consideration

The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering a ban on fishing for horseshoe crabs in federal waters up to 30 miles from the mouth of Delaware Bay to provide additional protection both for the crabs and declining populations of migratory shorebirds, which rely on mid-Atlantic beaches for an abundant supply of horseshoe crab eggs during migratory stopovers.

As most coastal states have cut back on their horseshoe crab harvest in recent years, much of the fishing effort has moved beyond the 3-mile limit of state management authority and into federal waters. ...

ASMFC expected to act on Virginia’s horseshoe crab landings

Virginia appears to be headed toward a showdown with the federal government over how many horseshoe crabs can be caught along the mid-Atlantic coast, an issue that may ultimately be decided in court.

On June 8, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is expected to find Virginia out-of-compliance for failing to slash its harvest of the ancient sea creature from more than 1 million in 1998 to 152,495 this year.

The cut was to be effective May 1, but Virginia officials contend that the ASMFC lacked adequate data to set the catch limit. State officials are worried that the cut would devastate the state’s whelk fishery, which relies on horseshoe crabs for bait. Proponents of the cut are worried about the declining numbers of some migratory shorebirds that rely on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs, which are found in the spring on mid-Atlantic beaches, for food. ...

NY wastewater plant gets funds to install nutrient-removing technology

It may be hundreds of miles away from the Bay, but a second New York wastewater treatment plant is planning to curb nitrogen discharges to help the Chesapeake.

The EPA is giving the town of Owego — located 15 miles upstream from the Pennsylvania state line and nearly 400 miles from the Bay — $323,000 so improvements to its wastewater treatment plant on the Susquehanna River can include nitrogen-removing technology.

U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-NY, who helped secure the funds in this year’s federal budget, said the project would result in benefits “felt from New York to the Chesapeake Bay … This funding will result in improved public and environmental health in hundreds of communities.” ...

New toxics strategy to phase out mixing zones in watershed

Expanding on a program launched in the Great Lakes, Bay Program participants are moving to eliminate “mixing zones” for chemical discharges in the watershed.

 he measure — heavily pushed by environmental groups last year — has been added to the draft Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, which is expected to be signed shortly.

Details of the mixing zone phase-out are expected to be spelled out in a new Bay Program “Basinwide Toxics Reduction and Prevention Strategy” to be released later this year. Although toxics are but a small part of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, completing a Bay toxics strategy is actually the first commitment due under the agreement. ...

Outlook for menhaden mixed: fewer adults, more young fish

As coastal states move closer toward adopting a new management plan for Atlantic menhaden, a new assessment continues to offer a mixed outlook on the health of the stock.

Recently analyzed figures from last year’s catch data indicate that the “spawning stock” — an estimate of the adult population — has fallen sharply for the second straight year.

Doug Vaughan, a National Marine Fisheries Service biologist who makes an annual menhaden assessment, estimated the spawning stock was 32,800 metric tons last year. ...

Bay’s grass beds helped by drought, rebounded in ’99 /

The Bay’s underwater grass beds, one of the most important habitats in the Chesapeake, increased by 8 percent last year, bouncing back from the beating they took in 1998.

Results from the annual grass bed survey are one of the Bay Program’s most closely watched indicators of the Chesapeake’s health because the abundance of submerged aquatic vegetation — or SAV — is closely tied to water quality.

Scientists were particularly cheered by the rebound in and near Tangier Sound, one of the Bay’s most important areas for blue crabs. Since 1992, nearly two-thirds of the grass beds in the sound had disappeared, leaving only 6,612 acres by 1998. Last year, grass beds returned to 10,618 acres. ...

Land Conversion in the Watershed

The National Resources Inventory is a scientifically based analysis of the nation’s land use that has been conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture every five years beginning in 1982. The most recent report, based on 1997 data, was released late last year, but is under revision. The results are a statistical extrapolation from on-the-ground surveys.

The NRI defines developed land as including residential, industrial, commercial and institutional land; construction sites; railroad yards, cemeteries; airports; golf courses; parks smaller than 10 acres; and highways, railroads and other transportation facilities that are surrounded by buildings or other urban uses. ...

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