Bay Journal

September 2001 - Volume 11 - Number 6

Dream come true or nightmare?

Stan Allen reached into a tank and pulled out a handful of oysters. They had been growing for only about two months and, already, were larger than quarters.

And these oysters, growing in vats at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, were small compared with their cousins growing in nearby rivers where they could feed on vast crops of algae in nutrient-rich water. “We’re holding them in jails,” quipped Allen, a VIMS researcher.

In fact, the 60,000 oysters being grown in rivers are expected to reach market size of more than 3 inches in September. And, most likely, none of them will have been killed by disease. ...

Bay Program announces $1.6 million in Small Watershed Grants

The Bay Program recently unveiled $1.6 million in grants to support local restoration and education efforts throughout the watershed, from New York to Virginia, and from Delaware to West Virginia.

The Small Watershed Grants are expected to trigger at least another $3 million in activity, either through matching grants or in labor by organizations receiving money.

The money, given in 59 grants from $50,000 to $1,700, support a host of Bay-related activities ranging from underwater grass bed plantings to water quality monitoring, to community outreach. ...

Whitman praises Bay Program, calling it ‘template’ for others

EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman praised the Bay Program as a “template” for other watershed restoration programs throughout the country, and said it would likely benefit as the agency pushes watershed-oriented programs in coming years.

“I look at this program here, frankly as being a model in many ways for what we can accomplish in other areas of the country, how you approach it, how you bring people together,” Whitman said.

As EPA administrator, Whitman will serve on the Chesapeake Executive Council, the policy-making group that guides the Bay cleanup, along with the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the mayor of the District of Columbia; and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which represents state legislatures. ...

Estuaries restoration program off to slow start with minimal funding

Congress last year set a goal of restoring 1 million acres of estuary habitat over the next 10 years, but the effort is already off to a slow start.

Although the Estuary and Clean Water Act, overwhelmingly approved by Congress, called for spending $50 million on locally sponsored restoration projects next year, the Bush administration only proposed spending $2.2 million, and that money is slated for planning.

The Senate has approved the full $2.2 million, but House bills include only $200,000. ...

Congress moves to bolster spending on Chesapeake Bay

The Bay Program, as well as many Chesapeake-related activities, appear likely to win increased funding support when Congress returns in September to complete its budget work.

After the Bush administration initially proposed cutting many of those programs, bipartisan coalitions in both the House and Senate pushed appropriation bills through both chambers during the summer that would not only restore funding for almost all cut programs, but also provide increases for many of them.

Differences between House and Senate versions of the bills will have to be worked out in conference committees when Congress returns from its summer break. The 2002 fiscal year begins Oct. 1. ...

EPA to put rule to clean up impaired waters on hold for review

The Bush administration has announced plans to reopen the most sweeping — and most controversial — clean water rule developed during the Clinton administration.

In July, EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman announced the agency would put on hold the implementation of new rules guiding the development of water cleanup plans, know as Total Maximum Daily Loads, which were approved in 2000.

The EPA filed a motion in the District of Columbia Circuit Court asking it to halt action on numerous lawsuits challenging the rule for 18 months while the agency reviews and revises the rule. ...

National Academy of Sciences backs Bay approach to clean water

The Bay Program’s approach to cleaning up the Chesapeake was implicitly endorsed in a recent National Research Council report on federal clean water programs.

The council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report in June that said the nation’s water quality programs should focus on the biological health of waterways rather than on setting effluent standards for dischargers, which has been the focus of the Clean Water Act for most of the last three decades.

Although the report never mentioned the Chesapeake Bay, it laid out a conceptual model similar to that undertaken by the Bay Program to set its cleanup goals. ...

Chuck Fox named to lead MD DNR

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening has selected Charles Fox, a former senior EPA official now working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, as secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources effective Sept. 5.

He replaces Sarah Taylor-Rogers who resigned in August after serving in the post for two years.

Fox was the EPA assistant administrator for water in the Clinton administration. Earlier this year, he joined the CBF as a senior policy adviser. At the EPA, he oversaw the nation’s programs for protecting water quality, including wetlands, watershed protection, the setting of water quality criteria and the development of numerous water rules. ...

Nutrient reduction bill wins support from PA senators

Legislation offering grants to Bay region wastewater treatment plants that make upgrades using state-of-the-art nutrient control technology got a significant boost in July as both Pennsylvania senators signed onto the bill.

Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum joined their counterparts from Maryland and Virginia in sponsoring the Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Removal Assistance Act, which authorizes spending $660 million over five years to help nearly 290 wastewater treatment plants in the watershed slash nitrogen discharges. ...

Executive Council to meet in D.C.

The annual meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council takes place Sept. 17 at the Washington Naval Yard in Washington, D.C.

The Council, the top policy-making body for the Bay restoration effort, will adopt a new stormwater directive which commits the states, federal government and the District to improve stormwater management on their properties and roadways within the Bay watershed.

In addition, they are to create stormwater management demonstration projects aimed at encouraging local governments and others to adopt innovative stormwater practices that better protect local streams and the Bay. Council members will report on restoration progress during the past year as well. ...

Bay Program seeks national action on release of ballast water

The dumping of untreated ballast water from oceangoing ships poses such a risk of alien species altering the Chesapeake and other ecosystems that stepped-up federal action is warranted, according to a new Bay Program report.

The report, expected to be forwarded to Congress soon, calls for the federal government to regulate the handling of ballast water and to significantly step up monitoring programs that look for foreign fish, worms, algae and other potential coastal water invaders.

At least 150 foreign species already inhabit the Bay. While many have little obvious impact, others — like the recently arrived rapa whelk which eats shellfish — may pose major threats to native inhabitants. ...

Zebra mussels gain toehold in northern fringe of watershed

The zebra mussel, a foreign species that has ravaged the Great Lakes and spread to much of the rest of the United States, has turned up in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Scientists found the Caspian Sea native in a New York reservoir at the northern fringe of the Susquehanna basin, and some adults have been spotted moving downstream of the impoundment.

The rapidly reproducing mussels can quickly dominate systems where they become established, filtering huge amounts of algae from the water. In parts of Lake Erie, it’s possible to clearly see the bottom in 50 feet of water where little more than a decade ago, visibility was only a fraction of that. ...

Bay Journal receives RNRF’s Excellence in Journalism Award

The Bay Journal has been selected to receive the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s 2001 Excellence in Journalism Award.

The Foundation, a coalition of 14 scientific and conservation organizations, recognized the Bay Journal “for its commitment to informing the public through accurate and scientifically based reporting on issues surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.”

The group further credited the Bay Journal for covering “the full spectrum of issues related to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay” and said it has been “extremely successful in covering technical and often complex issues in a very readable and understandable way.” ...

Strong shad runs reported in Bay’s tributaries

Shad swam back to the Susquehanna River in record numbers this year, surpassing the previous high mark which had been set just last year.

Strong shad runs were also reported in Virginia and Maryland, marking a continued turnaround for a troubled species that was once the Bay’s most valuable commercial catch.

On the Susquehanna, a total of 193,574 American shad were passed over the Conowingo Dam during the spring spawning run, up from the previous record of 153,546 last year.

“We didn’t see it coming, it was a pleasant surprise,” said Richard St. Pierre, Susquehanna River Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the past, he noted, strong runs like last year’s are usually followed by poor runs. ...

Taste the Chesapeake gala set for Oct. 13

Hop aboard for an evening of fun. Dine, dance, savor and sip the evening away as the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay presents their fifth Taste of the Chesapeake gala on Oct. 13 at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.

The black tie benefit features specialties from the area’s top chefs and will mark the 30th anniversary of the Alliance’s work to restore the Bay. The program will also recognize the 23 years of inspired leadership from outgoing Executive Director Flan Flanigan, and offer a warm welcome to incoming Executive Director David Bancroft. ...

Cleanup targets for Bay rivers delayed 9 months

Rivers around the watershed won’t get new nutrient and sediment reduction targets until fall 2002, as state and federal officials agreed to hold off setting tributary-specific cleanup goals for nine months.

That would allow time to finish work on new Bay water quality standards, and to fine-tune computer models that will estimate the level of nutrient and sediment reductions needed to achieve those standards.

“We need to be very sure of what that next target is going to be because that is going to essentially drive a decade of work,” said Rich Batiuk, associate director for science with the EPA’s Bay Program Office. ...

CBF aquaculture project raises a million oysters for restoration

The largest oyster aquaculture project ever conducted in the Chesapeake yielded nearly a million oysters this year. But the oysters aren’t headed to the dinner table: They were put in Virginia rivers in the hope that they will produce even more oysters.

The project, launched by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, started last summer with 1.2 million hatchery oysters bred from several native strains that appeared to have some resistance to oyster diseases.

The results were encouraging: about 930,000 oysters were still alive this summer, said Rob Brumbaugh, a CBF fisheries scientist. “Disease mortality was rather low,” he said. ...

Virginica buries ariakensis in head-to-head competition

Tests show that the foreign oyster, Crassostrea ariakensis dramatically outperforms the native Crassostrea virginica in its own habitat. When bags of each oyster are placed separately in the Bay, ariakensis grows up to twice the size of virginica in the same amount of time.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean virginica would easily be brushed aside if ariakensis got loose in the Bay. When it comes to head-to-head competition, there is a preliminary indication that it is virginica that has the upper hand. ...

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