Bay Journal

March 2002 - Volume 12 - Number 1

Invaders cropping up in watershed

The greatest enemy to Eastern Shore wetlands today may not be a bulldozer blade, but the sharp teeth of a small rodent.

The muskratlike nutria was brought to the region in the 1930s in a failed attempt to prop up the fur industry. Today, it is on the loose, chewing up marsh grasses, allowing hundreds of acres of wetlands to erode away a year.

The nutria’s voracious appetite — along with its ability to rapidly reproduce — has earned it a place on a new Bay Program list of “least wanted” plants and animals. ...

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network adds 16 sites, trails

The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network has added 16 more sites and trails where people can experience and learn about the Bay. The new Gateways bring the total number of parks, refuges, historic ports, museums and trails in the network to 106.

The Gateways Network, coordinated by the National Park Service, is a system of historical, cultural and natural sites and trails, each of which tells a unique Chesapeake story. Together, the network offers a chance to experience and understand the Bay as a whole. ...

Groups want EPA to regulate ballast water

A federal judge has ordered the EPA to respond to a petition by three environmental groups seeking to force the agency to regulate ballast water discharges as pollution under the Clean Water Act.

The groups, which originally filed their petition three years ago, want the EPA to withdraw a regulation that exempts ships’ ballast water from the Clean Water Act.

Ballast water is routinely drawn into ships to help stabilize them during voyages and then released when the ship reaches its destination. It is the number one source of new aquatic species in U.S. coastal waters. ...

Ruling protects Bay’s mute swans

Efforts to control the exploding population of mute swans around the Bay have been put on hold after a court ruling that the foreign swans are protected by federal law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Dec. 29 that the mute swan is covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, even though it is not a native species.

In its ruling, the court noted that the act specifically protects “wild ducks, geese and swans.” Although the mute swan may be a nonnative, it was clearly a swan and therefore protected by the act, the court said. ...

Administration budget a mixed bag for Bay restoration efforts

The Bush administration called for an increase for the EPA’s Bay Program Office in it budget for next year, although it offered no funding for the popular Small Watershed Grants Program.

The proposed spending plan for the 2003 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, calls for spending $20.6 million on the Bay Program, an increase from the $19.5 million actually appropriated by Congress for this year.

But Congress had also approved $1.75 million in the EPA’s budget for the Small Watershed Grants Program this year. The administration’s budget includes no money for the program, which provides grants to local governments and organizations for community-based restoration and education efforts. ...

Proposed Sea Grant transfer could set back Bay science research

A Bush administration budget proposal to transfer some research programs to the National Science Foundation could hurt Bay-related research, scientists say.

In its proposed 2003 budget, the administration called for removing the 35-year-old Sea Grant program from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and transferring it to the NSF.

The budget also said the administration is considering a shift of funds from the Smithsonian Institution’s research facilities, including one heavily involved in Bay research, to the NSF beginning in 2004. ...

Murphy selected as VA secretary of natural resources

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner chose longtime Bay advocate W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. as his secretary of natural resources.

Murphy, before retiring in 1999 after 18 years in the House of Delegates, was the champion of many key pieces of environmental legislation, and a longtime advocate of controlling sprawl in the state.

As natural resources secretary, he will oversee all of the state’s environmental agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Conservation and Recreation, Marine Resources Commission, Department of Game and Inland Fisheri8s, and the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Department. ...

VA comes up with cost for cleanup; now it must come up with money

The cost of meeting new clean water goals for the Chesapeake Bay could run between $1.7 billion and $2.7 billion in Virginia, according to a recent estimate by the Department of Environmental Quality.

Alan Pollock, the DEQ’s director of water quality programs, cautioned that the numbers were only a “back of the envelope” estimate prepared at the request of journalists in Richmond. But he said they framed a realistic cost range for meeting the Chesapeake 2000 agreement’s goal of cleaning the Bay by 2010. ...

Army Corps of Engineers will regulate use of ariakensis in aquaculture

The Army Corps of Engineers has determined that no future in-water aquaculture tests may take place with the Suminoe oyster without a permit from the Corps.

After a review of the situation, Corps officials determined that the oyster aquaculture projects that have taken place in Virginia the past two years should have had a permit because they required placing permanent structures in the water to hold the oysters.

Under Section 10 of the River and Harbors Act of 1899, the Corps must authorize the placement of in-water structures, such as piers. ...

Academy of Sciences considering review of ariakensis risks, benefits

With rapidly growing interest in rearing foreign oysters in the Bay, the National Academy of Sciences, in an unusual move, is considering a review of the risks and benefits of using the Southeast Asian bivalve in the Chesapeake.

The study which would be overseen by the Academy’s Ocean Studies Board could begin this spring and conclude about a year later, with a final report not only about risks and benefits, but also a summary of research needed to make informed decisions about the future of the foreign oyster, Crassostrea ariakensis, in the Bay. ...

Incentives in Senate farm bill would bolster Bay cleanup effort

A farm bill approved by the Senate would sharply increase financial support for farmers who take actions to protect the Bay and other waterways. It would also create a pilot program in the Bay watershed that would pay farmers to use less fertilizer.

If the conservation provisions of the bill, which cleared the Senate on a 58-40 vote Feb. 13, become law, regional officials say the measures would provide a major boost for efforts to clean the Bay by 2010, as agriculture is the largest single source of nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake. ...

Don’t Be a Drip, Help to Save a Drop

Ways to conserve water:

Do not water lawns; only water recently seeded or planted landscapes or year-old vegetation.

Limit vehicle-washing activities; if you are washing, use a bucket, not a hose, and use car washes that reuse the water.

Take short showers instead of baths (collect water with a bucket while waiting for the shower to warm up). Consider bathing young children together.

Don’t run water while shaving, brushing teeth or washing dishes by hand.

Run dishwasher and washing machine only when filled to capacity. ...

Drought’s effects already hitting Bay, watershed

A potentially harmful algae bloom popped up in the Potomac River in February, prompting state officials to temporarily close oyster harvests in the lower part of the river and its tributaries.

The reason behind the bloom, scientists say, is the drought that has lingered over the area: Rainfall has been so scarce that the freshwater flows into the Chesapeake last year were the lowest since 1941, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The lack of freshwater has sent salinity levels soaring to record-high levels in parts of the Bay and its tributaries. Which is why a bloom of Dinophysis acuminata — a marine algae species — turned up in the Potomac. ...

Least Wanted Species

Mute Swan: A native to Eurasia, the mute swan has long been cherished for its beauty and was imported to this region in the late 1800s to grace private ponds. In the early 1960s, five escaped into the wild, and their population has since mushroomed to more than 4,000 on the Bay.

The large birds, measuring up to 62 inches in length, have no natural predators and have been a menace to some native species, trampling nests and killing chicks of least terns and skimmers, both threatened species in Maryland. They are also major consumers of underwater grasses, which are important food for native waterfowl as well as habitat for fish and crabs. Flocks of mute swans have overgrazed grass beds in some areas, and it’s estimated the population as a whole consumes about 9 million pounds of underwater grasses annually. ...

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