Bay Journal

October 2001 - Volume 11 - Number 7

Flanigan kept Bay cleanup effort on course

The year was 1983, and the EPA had recently wrapped up a seven-year study which found the Chesapeake to be in an alarming condition.

Its report spelled out in detail what was wrong with the Bay. It said very little about what was going to be done about it.

With its work completed, the agency — and the federal government as a whole — was ready to walk away from the nation’s largest estuary.

Worried that the cleanup would end before it started, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a relatively new organization representing the legislatures of Virginia and Maryland, hired Fran Flanigan and her organization to host a conference to plan the road ahead. ...

Potomac flows to Bay surpass Susquehanna’s

The Susquehanna River normally supplies half of the freshwater that flows into the Chesapeake, but in August, it accounted for less than a quarter of the water in the Bay, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The lack of rainfall in the Susquehanna basin caused the river flow to fall to 3.6 billion gallons a day, less than half of the normal 8.2 bgd for the month.

As a result, the Susquehanna accounted for only about 23 percent of the freshwater entering the Bay.

The Potomac flow surpassed the Susquehanna for the month, contributing about 33 percent of total flow entering the Chesapeake Bay. ...

DEQ creates office to show Virginians how to protect environment

A new education office has been established at Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to teach children and adults how to take care of natural surroundings.

Gov. Jim Gilmore announced the creation of the Office for Environmental Education while visiting First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach.

“With this new office, we’re creating a nucleus for environmental education in Virginia,” Gilmore said. “This office will promote environmental education statewide and identify and leverage resources needed to strengthen environmental information and programs.” ...

Baltimore, SRBC settle dispute over water

The city of Baltimore and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission have settled their decade-long dispute over the city’s use of the river’s water. The settlement allows the city to withdraw up to 250 million gallons of water per day from the river, but that allotment would decline to 64 million gallons daily during times of severe drought.

The agreement requires the city to meet certain water conservation requirements, establish drought period restrictions and participate in the development of a management plan for the reservoir behind the Conowingo Dam from which it draws water. ...

Proposed agriculture pilot programs would help Bay cleanup

The Bay region, under proposals being made to Congress, would receive millions of dollars to serve as a national pilot for new agricultural programs that could slash nutrient runoff to the Chesapeake and other coastal waters.

The proposals back pilot programs that would pay farmers to reduce fertilizer applications on corn and promote the use of some farmland to grow crops aimed at carbon sequestration to counteract global warming. Both actions could greatly reduce nutrient runoff.

If enacted in the next Farm Bill, those and other proposals would annually steer tens of millions of additional dollars to the Bay watershed to help stem agricultural runoff, which accounts for more than two-fifths of the nutrients reaching the Chesapeake. ...

Report says Farm Bill programs are key to restoring U.S. coasts

Bolstering federal support for agricultural conservation programs is critical if the nation wants to bring its coastal “dead zones” back to life, a coalition of environmental groups said in a recent report.

The report said agricultural pollution is the leading threat to 13 of the nation’s 17 most polluted coastal bays, including the Chesapeake and the northern Gulf of Mexico. It called for increased spending on conservation programs as Congress begins updating the nation’s agricultural policy — something the Bush administration also signaled it would support. ...

Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ hits record size, now bigger than NJ

It used to be that the low-oxygen “dead zone” in the northern Gulf of Mexico was described as being the size of New Jersey.

But no more. This summer, scientists said the dead zone off the Louisiana Coast surpassed 8,000 square miles.

“Now it’s approaching the size of Massachusetts,” said Nancy Rabalais, chief scientist with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, who has been monitoring the dead zone for years.

The previous record was 7,728 square miles in 1999. ...

MD, citing smart growth, intervenes in 3 local development cases

The state of Maryland is intervening in three local development projects, as part of Gov. Parris Glendening’s effort to curb sprawl in the state.

The state Department of Planning is opposing plans for a new Wal-Mart store near Chestertown in Kent County and is supporting plans for new residential developments in Gaithersburg and downtown Annapolis.

Although state officials cannot approve or reject the projects, under a rarely employed state law they can participate in local projects by lending their expertise in planning and legal issues. Glendening announced in May that the state would begin using the 1974 law to intervene in some projects. ...

Glendening vows to close loopholes in law limiting Bay development

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening has vowed to close loopholes “big enough to drive development tractors through” in a law limiting construction along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

“I do think it is essential we strengthen the legislation,” Glendening told members of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Commission, which administers the law, during the group’s September meeting.

The critical areas law was adopted in the 1980s to regulate construction within a 1,000-foot buffer zone around the Chesapeake Bay and the tidal waterways that feed into the Bay. Buffers reduce erosion and filter pollutants from rainwater runoff, scientists say. ...

VA, MD develop 100-mile water trail from Great Falls to Bay

The Potomac is often seen as the boundary that divides Maryland and Virginia, but both states have come together to develop a new 100-mile water trail that runs from Great Falls upstream of Washington to the Chesapeake Bay.

The two states have teamed up to produce a packaged set of six maps that will guide boaters down the river and provide information about attractions along the way, such as the homes of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, wildlife refuges, state parks and other natural, historical and cultural sites. ...

Virginia to work with land trusts to help preserve open spaces

The state of Virginia and a new coalition of land trusts are joining forces to help speed the rate at which land is protected in the commonwealth.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the newly created Virginia United Land Trusts — or VaULT — signed an agreement pledging to work closely to help nonprofits protect open spaces across the state.

The two will promote public and private partnerships to step up the pace of land preservation in Virginia; create new land organizations; provide them with the tools to protect local resources; and better coordinate activities of those groups. ...

Pennsylvania unveils plan to create state greenways system

A network of “greenways” may soon reach across Pennsylvania, connecting large blocks of public park and forest land, and linking urban areas with outlying suburbs.

The 80-page report calling for a statewide greenways network was issued in September by the 23-member Greenways Partnership Commission which spent nearly two years putting together the outline for what officials say will eventually be one of the nation’s most expansive systems of forested corridors and waterways.

The report does not say where the greenways will be. Rather, it sets a broad framework for how that network will be developed, and sets a timeline in which key actions will take place. ...

Migratory Canada geese on the rebound

In a dramatic turnaround, an annual survey of migratory Canada geese indicates the number of breeding pairs has grown fivefold since it bottomed out in 1995, and forced an unprecedented closure of the hunting season.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Chuck Fox called the recovery “a classic conservation success story” and announced that the state — home to the most important wintering ground for the birds — would resume its hunting season this fall.

Migratory Canada geese — which are different from the “resident” geese that have become pests in many areas — are the waterfowl most closely identified with the Chesapeake Bay. But they suffered a severe population decline in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the result of bad weather on their Canadian breeding grounds, and overhunting on their wintering grounds. ...

Scientists dispute idea that loss of oysters is root of Bay’s ills

A high-profile article in the journal Science has sparked a debate with Chesapeake region scientists over the role overfishing played in the decline of the Bay and other coastal areas.

The widely publicized article by a team of international researchers contends that the overfishing of certain key species, including oysters in the Chesapeake, preceded other significant forms of human disturbance to coastal ecosystems.

The article in the July 27 issue argues that the historical removal of whales, manatees, dugongs, sea cows, monk seals, crocodiles, codfish, sharks, rays and other large marine animals fundamentally altered various coastal systems, making them more susceptible to ecosystem collapse. ...

Executive Council postpones meeting in wake of attacks

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Chesapeake Executive Council meeting that had been scheduled to take place Sept. 17 at the Washington Naval Yard in Washington, D.C. was postponed.

The meeting is expected to be rescheduled for later this year, probably in either November or December.

It’s not certain whether the location will change.

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

Alliance service connects questions, Bay experts

To better inform the public about efforts to help the Bay and its watershed, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has launched an internet-based Chesapeake Regional Information Service that connects the public to scientists and resource professionals working on restoration activities.

“This new service allows people from across the watershed to tap the knowledge of experts working to restore this great body of water,” said Executive Director David Bancroft. “Citizens will be able to pose questions to restoration leaders without leaving the comfort of their workplace, home or classroom.” ...

Pictures worth 1,000 acres

Sitting next to his desk, Mike Naylor has a time capsule. It’s a cardboard box filled with black and white pictures.

Every time the Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist peers at the images, he sees photographic evidence of what might be called the lost grass beds of the Chesapeake.

They reveal an ecological treasure: a Bay filled with thick, underwater meadows that extended hundreds — even thousands — of feet from the shore, providing almost unimaginable amounts of habitat for fish, crabs, ducks and other water-dwellers. ...

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