Bay Journal

December 2001 - Volume 11 - Number 9

Native grass could help fuel Bay cleanup

Golden stems of grass, with droplets of dew shining like diamonds in the morning sun, towered above Ken Staver’s head as he showed off this year’s crop.

The grass was harvested in early April. Now, in mid-November, the new growth was standing 8 feet tall. The only time the field was fertilized was 1998, two years after it was planted.

“Since then, literally, all we do is harvest it every spring,” said Staver, a research associate at the University of Maryland’s Wye Research and Education Center on the Eastern Shore. “Once you get it established, it takes care of itself.” ...

Treaty to stem global warming near approval, would help Bay

The first global effort to stem the emissions of greenhouse gases appears ready to be ratified by more than 160 nations, including all the of major industrialized countries except the United States.

The agreement, reached at a November meeting in Morocco, finalized details for implementing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and commits the participating industrial countries to cut — as a group — emissions 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Although the Bush administration refused to sign onto the agreement, it has increasingly signaled an interest in taking action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. ...

Small Watershed Grants Program, oysters get large funding boost

Small Watershed Grants, oysters and education appear to be getting the biggest increase in federal Bay-related funds next year under a series of spending bills that cleared Congress in November. Congress earmarked $1.75 million for the Small Watershed Grants program in the EPA’s budget for next year, a $500,000 increase over this year.

In addition, money that could be set aside in the Bay budgets for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could add another half-million dollars to that total. ...

Nitrogen caps at Little Patuxent plant viewed as model for future

In a precedent-setting agreement, the state of Maryland has agreed to cap the nitrogen discharges for a wastewater plant in fast-growing Howard County.

That, in effect, means the county’s Little Patuxent Wastewater Treatment Plant will have to find ways to keep its nitrogen discharges from increasing, even as new people pour into the area.

It is the first time in the Bay watershed that a plant has been given a cap on the amount of a nutrient that it can discharge. But it likely won’t be the last. ...

Public asked to be on lookout for migrating trumpeter swans

The Trumpeter Swan Migration Project is seeking the public’s help in tracking the movement of the big birds when they begin their migration from western New York to the Bay in late fall or early winter.

Last year, the swans were caught as newly hatched cygnets in Alaska and then trained to follow an ultralight aircraft. In the fall, biologists used the ultralight to show the swans a migration route from western New York to the Bay.

Æ dozen of the swans were returned to New York’s Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area near Buffalo in May, and biologists hope they will initiate a migration back to the Bay on their own this year. ...

Budget woes could hinder VA governor elect’s support for Bay

Virginia Governor-elect Mark Warner has promised to bolster spending on open space preservation, work to fight sprawl, and be “actively involved” in cleaning up the Chesapeake.

Environmental groups are hoping the new governor, who had been endorsed by both the Sierra Club and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, follows through on campaign promises to step up support for the Bay and other conservation programs.

But Warner is entering a budget crisis that could hinder his ability to support any new programs. ...

Proposed Designated Uses & Criteria

State water quality standards consist of numeric criteria that measure a critical parameter and a designated use that applies that criteria. The Bay Program is developing a set of criteria and designated uses to apply in different parts of the Bay and its tidal tributaries.

Designated Uses:

Migratory Spawning & Nursery: designed to protect egg, larval and early juvenile states of shad, striped bass and other anadromous and semi-anadromous fish species. The areas extend from the upper extent of tidal waters to the lower reach of existing spawning and nursery habitats, and from the water surface to the bottom or to the pycnocline where it exists. ...

New criteria for Bay cleanup goals down to nitty-gritty

The Bay Program recently got its first look at how today’s Chesapeake stacks up against what might be defined as a “clean” Bay. How did it look? Not great.

Large areas of deep water in the Bay and many of its tidal rivers don’t have enough oxygen during the summer to keep clams, certain fish and other bottom dwellers from suffocating.

The picture was worse for Bay grasses. The majority of the Bay’s shoreline does not have water clear enough to support underwater grasses at a depth of 6 feet — something that was common in many places only a few decades ago. ...

Chesapeake-friendly milk test learns tough market lessons

In a test of idealism and the marketplace that placed cartons of Bay-friendly milk on the shelf alongside conventional dairy products, idealism came up short.

After disappointing sales, a yearlong market test of “Chesapeake Milk” ended with its sponsoring organizations learning tough lessons about getting a product on the shelf. But they also showed that some consumers will pay more for a product if it helps farmers protect the environment.

The so-called “green milk” cost more than regular milk, but returned a financial premium to farmers who undertook extra measures to protect waterways in the Bay watershed. ...

Bay states planted more than 625 miles of riparian buffers in 2001

The Bay states planted more than 625 miles of riparian forest buffers this year, making it the most ambitious year since the Bay Program set a goal of planting 2010 additional miles of stream buffers in 1996.

This year’s plantings helped to put the region ahead of schedule to meet that goal, which was to be achieved in 2010. So far, Bay Program partners have planted 1,298 miles of buffers throughout the watershed, achieving 65 percent of the goal.

“We are pleased to see Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia taking great strides to protect local waterways by planting riparian buffers,” said Diana Esher, acting director of the EPA’s Bay Program Office. ...

Volunteers, nuts about native trees, gather new stock for nurseries

More than 2,500 people took to farm fields, parks and other outdoor sites in October looking for native nuts that someday would grow into native trees.

The acorns and walnuts they collected, mostly in the Potomac watershed, will be planted at state nurseries where, in two or three years, they will become seedlings that can be transplanted in buffer strips along streams.

In all, volunteers surprised organizers by gathering nearly 4 tons of seeds.

ÃIt’s really been incredible,” said Christine Rodick, of the Potomac Conservancy, which coordinated the effort. “Most of that was walnuts; this was a low-yield year for acorns. We literally had pickup loads of walnuts going to the nurseries.” ...

Planning under way for 2002 sojourn on the James River

More than 30 river enthusiasts gathered Nov. 16 at the Dutch Gap Conservation Area in Henricus Historical Park near Richmond, VA to enjoy a day on the James River and begin planning the 2002 James River Sojourn.

The James Sojourn will be the third in the Alliance’s collection of sojourns that celebrate the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay watershed while completing much-needed restoration projects, raising awareness and providing great family fun and recreation.

Paddlers and guests heard about the history of the area from Walt Heyer of the park’s staff, saw a slide show on past sojourns, and then enjoyed an afternoon paddle on the James with interpretive guides from the Friends of Chesterfield Riverfronts. The group also began preliminary planning for the inaugural weeklong sojourn next year. ...

Bill would help farmers clean up Bay

Efforts to clean up the Chesapeake could get a huge boost from legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate that would give a sevenfold funding increase to agricultural programs in the Bay states to help farmers control polluted runoff and implement other conservation programs.

The bill would create a pilot program that would pay farmers in the watershed to use less fertilizer on their crops. It would also increase support for programs that allow farmers to install nutrient control practices, take sensitive land out of production and preserve farms from development. ...

Grass of the past may help to shore up future for Iowa lake

In the rolling hills of south central Iowa, where tall prairie grasses once sustained passing herds of bison, a growing number of people believe the region’s ecological and economic future may tied to the grass of the past.

Over the years, the land was converted to crops that took a toll on some of region’s poor, highly erodible, soils. This has also taken a toll on one of the area’s key resources: Rathbun Lake, which has become increasingly silted and fouled with runoff.

To help protect the 11,000-acre lake, the region has undertaken the nation’s most aggressive effort to find ways to shore up the soil with switchgrass — and make it pay for farmers. ...

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