Bay Journal

November 2001 - Volume 11 - Number 8

Expanded use of nonnative oyster seems likely in Bay

Interest in bolstering the Bay’s flagging oyster harvests by using a nonnative species is accelerating among watermen in both Virginia and Maryland, greatly increasing the likelihood that a foreign oyster will ultimately be introduced into the Chesapeake.

Whether that is good or bad, no one can say for certain.

But a recent symposium on the issue that brought together scientists, policy makers and watermen from both states suggested that the time has come to begin evaluating what could happen if a nonnative oyster population takes hold and begins expanding in the Bay. ...

Gateways Network gets funding boost

Funding for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network will get a 50 percent boost in the coming year, clearing the way for another round of grants to existing and potential new participants in the network of special Bay places.

Congress approved an increase for the program from the $800,000 it received this year to $1.2 million for the 2002 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

The Gateways Network, which is coordinated by the National Park Service, is a linked system of museums, wildlife refuges, parks and other sites that highlight the Bay’s natural, historical and cultural heritage. ...

Army celebrated Public Lands Day with plantings, trail proje

The U.S. Army celebrated National Public Lands Day in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed with several events in September and October.

Four Army installations and an Army Corps of Engineers Lake Project were the sites of plantings and trail renovation projects, although volunteer involvement was curtailed because of heightened security.

Organizers took the sudden change in plans philosophically. “We were disappointed at having to curtail public involvement in our National Public Lands Day projects this year,” said the Army’s Chesapeake Bay Program coordinator, Janmichael Graine. “However, we decided that it was important for us to go ahead with our planned projects, both to keep the momentum of Army participation in National Public Lands Day going and to avoid conceding any further disruption to the Army’s daily life.” ...

Maryland striped bass index hits 2nd highest mark in 48 years

Maryland’s juvenile striped bass index, historically the best predictor of future rockfish populations, reached its second-highest mark in the 48 years the survey has been conducted.

The 2001 index was 50.8, second only to the index of 59.3 in 1996, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The young-of-year index is the average number of juvenile fish collected in 100-foot seine net surveys at 22 sites that are sampled from July through September. During this year’s survey, DNR biologists collected 6,699 young-of-year striped bass. ...

Highlights of CBF’s 2001 State of the Chesapeake Report


Wetlands 42 [no change from 2000]

Despite a new law and regulations governing wetlands in Virginia, losses continue to occur, offsetting promising gains from increasingly widespread restoration projects. Virginia’s regulations implementing its state law governing nontidal wetlands went fully into effect in October 2001. Despite the law, local court decisions have allowed the continued destruction of wetlands, and large projects such as the King William reservoir threaten hundreds of additional acres. ...

State of Bay fell slightly in CBF 2001 index

Driven by accelerated sprawl and blue crab declines, the Bay dropped one point this year in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s annual assessment of the estuary’s health.

Declines in those two categories outweighed restoration progress with shad and forested stream buffer plantings to drop the Bay’s 2001 score to 27 on the CBF’s 100-point scale.

The score of 27 is worse than the score of 28 in 1999 and 2000, and the same as what the CBF rated the Chesapeake in 1998, the first year of its annual “State of the Bay” report. ...

USGS refines long-term flow estimates for Chesapeake

A new look at old data has revealed a new low for the Chesapeake Bay — for waterflow.

Until recently, the lowest known annual streamflow into the Bay occurred in 1966, during a multiyear drought that spread across the watershed.

But a new analysis of older streamflow information by the U.S. Geological Survey has revealed that the amount of freshwater entering the Chesapeake in 1941 was about 10 percent less than that of 1966.

That discovery came as the USGS recently pieced together a new, longer-term look at the range of freshwater flows that have entered the Chesapeake over the past 64 years. ...

New monitoring data find no nutrient trends in major rivers

Despite computer models which suggest nutrient levels should be going down, recently compiled figures from water quality monitoring in the Bay’s largest tributaries have failed to show any discernible nutrient trends.

The real-world data, officials say, suggests that some nutrient reduction efforts in the watershed have either not taken effect, or are being overcounted.

“Even though we’re modeling predicted source reductions, the monitoring doesn’t actually show that is taking place,” said Scott Phillips, Chesapeake Bay coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey, which, along with the states of Maryland and Virginia, develops the trend estimates. ...

Pontoon-tractor could help pick up pace of grass restoration

The heavy equipment has been hauled out as part of the campaign to restore one of the Bay’s most delicate resources.

A custom-designed boat, akin to an aquatic tractor, was used in October to plant two acres of underwater grasses in Virginia rivers — one of the largest grass bed plantings ever in the Bay.

Planting submerged aquatic vegetation is normally a painstakingly slow job, with plants carefully handled by scuba divers who place them, one at a time, into the sediment.

But in a few hours, the aquatic tractor planted an acre of eelgrass — 20,000 plants in all — in the Rappahannock River. The next day, it planted another acre in the James. The same job would have taken teams of trained divers several times as long to complete. ...

Scientists hoping to sow seeds of eel grass recovery

When it comes to restoring some Bay grasses, the secret to success may rest in learning from Mother Nature.

Finding an effective way to plant eel grass beds, the dominant form of submerged aquatic vegetation in high salinity portions of the Bay, has been a problem for restoration efforts. Unlike other species, eel grass hasn’t been propagated in the laboratory, which means pulling plants from healthy beds — something people want to avoid.

In recent years, Bob Orth, a seagrass expert at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and his colleagues have been trying to plant eel grass beds the way Mother Nature does it — by spreading seeds. “I’m trying to get away from digging plants and am using seeds instead,” he said. “You can’t dig that many plants if you want to get eel grass to come back over large areas.” ...

‘Donor’ beds may alleviate SAV shortfall

When the state of Delaware wanted to restore underwater grass beds in the Indian River, officials eyed some lush grass beds to the south as a potential source.

Perhaps, they thought, Virginia would be willing to give up some of its lush grasses in Chincoteague Bay. But they dropped their request after talking to Virginia officials, who were in the process of strengthening protections for the very same grass beds.

“We have been very active with protection in Chincoteague because we have had grasses coming back in areas that have been vacant for a long time,” explained Wilford Kale, a spokesman for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Virginia is not alone; Maryland was also unwilling to provide grass. ...

Small Watershed Grants program prepares for next year’s projects

Barren Island has for years has been slowly eroding into the Chesapeake, but a cadre of volunteers this summer went to work to hold back the tides.

After dredged material was placed on the eroding shore, teams of volunteers, organized by the National Aquarium in Baltimore, planted salt marsh vegetation to help hold the newly placed sediment in place.

The end result not only helped to save the island, but restored 11 acres of valuable wetland habitat where the wildlife is largely protected from predator and human impacts. ...

Chesapeake Executive Council meeting rescheduled for December

After being postponed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Chesapeake Executive Council’s annual meeting has been rescheduled for Dec. 3. No location had been set when the Bay Journal went to press, but the meeting was expected to take place in the Washington, D.C. area.

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 District to improve stormwater management on their properties and roadways within the Bay watershed. ...

Chessie returns to Bay during summer trek

Chessie the manatee this summer made his first confirmed trip to the Chesapeake Bay in five years.

The well-traveled mammal, which has been seen as far north as Rhode Island in past years, was sighted in the upper Bay in August, then along the Virginia coast in early September.

Acting on a tip from a pair of water skiers, marine animal rescue coordinator David Schofield of the National Aquarium in Baltimore said he saw a manatee Aug. 23 in Cornfield Creek, a tributary of the Sassafras River, which divides Kent and Cecil counties on the upper Eastern Shore. ...

Flanigan honored at ‘Taste of the Chesapeake’

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay celebrated 30 years of leadership on Bay issues at the “Taste of the Chesapeake” this October.

The event provided an opportunity for the Alliance to look back on its prestigious history and to look forward at its promising future.

Kicking off the evening was Alliance President Terry Harwood, who said, “We are here tonight to celebrate 30 years of work by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to restore and protect the Bay watershed. What began in 1971 as a small group of concerned citizens dedicated to marshaling public and political support for this crucial ecosystem, has matured into an organization that is recognized today as the major force for collaboration and partnerships in the Bay restoration effort.” ...

Study finds pervasive mercury levels in household wastes

Toothpaste and toilet paper may not seem like the source of highly toxic chemicals, but a recent report suggests they are among a wide range of household products that put mercury into wastewater.

The study, by the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, looked at discharges from four wastewater treatment plants across the nation — including one in the Bay watershed — to determine what levels of mercury were in wastewater discharges, and how much of that could be controlled. ...

Bay Program admits plan to phase out mixing zones will be a hard sell

The Bay Program has a new message for dischargers across the watershed: Dilution is no longer an acceptable solution to pollution, at least when it comes to potentially harmful chemicals.

On October, it approved a new strategy aimed at convincing industries and wastewater treatment plants to voluntarily phase out “mixing zones” by 2010. Almost everyone agrees the goal, part of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, will be a hard sell.

“It’s not going to save them money,” said Bob Steidel, of the Hopewell Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility in Virginia, who co-chaired the Bay Program group that wrote the strategy. “It is going to cost them money initially.” ...

Bay Program to form task force to look into ariakensis introduction

The Bay Program plans to form a special task force to make policy recommendations about the potential introduction of the nonnative oyster, Crassostrea ariakensis, into the Bay.

The action stems from the Bay Program’s 1993 policy on the introduction of nonindigenous aquatic species.

That policy says the Bay jurisdictions would “oppose the first-time introduction of any nonindigenous aquatic species into the unconfined waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries for any reason unless environmental and economic evaluations are conducted and reviewed in order to ensure that risks associated with the first-time introduction are acceptably low.” ...

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