Bay Journal

July-August 2002 - Volume 12 - Number 5

Sediment Happens

Bill Weihbrecht stood atop a 5-foot dirt cliff that served as a bank to the South Branch of the Codorus Creek, and peered into the chocolate brown water.

Months earlier, he had sought to measure how rapidly the bank of the 10-foot-wide Pennsylvania stream was eroding. So Weihbrecht, an environmental consultant, pounded 3-foot “pins” into the streambank. As more dirt eroded away, more of the pin would be exposed, allowing him to measure how fast the dirt cliff was collapsing into the water. ...

New York releases American shad larvae on Susquehanna

For the first time in 172 years, American shad returned to the Susquehanna River’s headwaters in New York this spring. They didn’t come by river:

The larvae came by truck from a Pennsylvania hatchery.

Nonetheless, biologists hope the 250,000 larvae released this spring will remember where they came from after they migrate to the Atlantic Ocean this fall, then swim back on their own to spawn in four or five years.

“It’s a start,” said Richard St. Pierre, Susquehanna River coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “These are the first larval shad to see the New York part of the river since about 1829.”

Land conservancy seeks to unite Eastern Shore in land use vision

An Eastern Shore conservancy is taking the lead in trying to get area counties to work together on land use planning — including the adoption of an ambitious goal to protect half of their rural land from development by 2010.

If successful, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s proposal would create one of the largest multicounty planning agreements in the region.

The group hopes to convince the six counties to sign a vision document, “Eastern Shore 2010: A Regional Vision,” later this summer.

Pfiesteria show wins film awards

The “Pfiesteria Files,” a one-hour documentary on toxic blooms in the Bay, won two major film prizes: an Emmy for best documentary from the Washington Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and a first place ECO award in the wildlife division of environmental films from the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

The documentary, co-produced by Maryland Sea Grant College and Maryland Public Television, examined the origins and end results of the “pfiesteria hysteria” that swept through the mid-Atlantic region in 1997 after the toxic microbe was blamed for sick or dead fish and human ailments along three Maryland rivers.

Patuxent ‘Wade-In’ reaches deepest point in recent years

When he waded into the Patuxent River this spring, Bernie Fowler was able to go deeper and still see his feet than he had in years.

But when he — along with 75 others — could no longer see the bottom, they were in just 42 inches of water. That was still far short of Fowler’s goal: clearly seeing his feet when he is chest-deep in the river.

“It looks to me like it has kind of leveled off,” the retired state senator said of the river’s water clarity. “I don’t believe it’s getting any worse, but I don’t think it’s getting any better, either.”

West Virginia joins Bay cleanup effort

West Virginia recently became the sixth — and final state in the watershed — to sign an agreement pledging to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Gov. Bob Wise in June signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bay Program committing his state to “work cooperatively to achieve the nutrient and sediment reduction targets that we agree are necessary to achieve the goals of a clean Chesapeake Bay by 2010.”

Both Delaware and New York had already signed the agreement. The agreement does not make the three “headwater states” members of the Bay Program, but it does commit them to work toward achieving nutrient and sediment goals that will be set for the Bay later this year.

Skipjack fleet named to list of historic places that are most endangered

The sea takes its toll on a wooden ship and the dwindling fleet of skipjacks on the Chesapeake Bay is no exception.

Their lot has gone the way of their primary quarry. First built in the 1880s, the utilitarian and majestic single-masted sailboats were widely used in the early 20th century to dredge oysters on the Bay. But the oyster harvest began to plummet because of overharvesting, pollution and disease, and the skipjacks disappeared with them. Once numbering more than 1,000, the fleet stands now at 13 — the only U.S. commercial fleet still propelled by the winds.

Blue crab abundance continues to decline, near record low

The Bay’s blue crabs stock has not shown any sign of recovering from the near record lows that have persisted in recent years, according to the latest stock analysis.

The annual blue crab advisory report of the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee concluded that “blue crab abundance is close to the record low and in decline in recent years.”

It further cautioned that the “level of risk to the stock and fishery … remains high.” It also said that recent actions to curb fishing pressure should remain in place until results are observed.

VMRC greatly expands deepwater sanctuary for blue crabs

Pregnant blue crabs that survive a gauntlet of crab pots, scrapes, trotlines and dredges will now get a bigger break as they prepare to launch their eggs into the water.

The Virginia Marine Resource Commission in May voted to greatly expand its deepwater spawning sanctuary for blue crabs, the Bay’s most valuable fishery.

The action, which places all areas more than 30 feet deep in Virginia’s portion of the Bay off-limits during the summer, is expected to protect up to 75 percent of the spawning females that live long enough to make it to the sanctuary.

MD Port Administration seeks ‘green’ options for dredge materials

After years of fighting over where millions of tons of dredged muck should be dumped to do the least harm, Maryland port officials are racing to meet a year-end deadline to identify places where that material will do the most good.

If successful, the effort aimed at finding environmentally beneficial and innovative uses for the more than 100 million cubic yards of sediment that will be dredged from shipping channels during the next two decades could make Baltimore one of the “greenest” ports in the nation.

Efforts seek to speed up phase-out of two-stroke engines

The simple but dirty two-stroke engine, the primary source of power for recreational watercraft for decades, is being phased out to help clean up the nation’s air and water.

The engines, known for their smelly trail of blue smoke, not only pollute the air, but are a major source of oil pollution in the nation’s waters.

Although the EPA is requiring that the engines no longer be sold starting in 2006, states around the nation are working with the marine industry to promote an even faster phase-out of the engines.

Bay’s first ‘no discharge’ zone established

For a small place, Herring Bay has a lot of users. Its beaches are used by terrapin turtles and horseshoe crabs for nesting. Four public beaches are also popular with people.

Offshore, the shallow water holds underwater grasses that are used as nursery grounds by blue crabs. Oysters use the bay, located in southern Anne Arundel County, for reefs. Bald eagles and osprey hunt fish and nest along its shores.

The bay is also used by boaters: It is home to 16 marinas, with more than 2,000 slips.

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


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