Bay Journal

October 2002 - Volume 12 - Number 7

Executive Council unlikely to set new Bay nutrient goal

The Chesapeake Executive Council will meet on Halloween, but it appears unlikely that they will treat the public to a tentative nutrient reduction goal.

State and federal officials once had promised to release river-specific nutrient reduction goals when the governors, EPA administrator, Chesapeake Bay Commission chairman and District of Columbia mayor met this fall. But the goal-setting process is behind schedule and new river figures are not expected until the end of April.

In acknowledging that delay, officials this summer indicated they would release a rough Baywide estimate for the amount of nutrient reductions needed to clean up the Chesapeake. ...

Too much of a good thing has led to Chesapeake’s nutrient woes

Reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Bay has been the cornerstone of the Bay Program’s efforts to clean up the Chesapeake since 1987. As the Executive Council prepares to lay out the need for additional action, here — in question and answer form — is a recap of where the cleanup effort has been, and where it is headed.

How did nutrients get to be a problem?

It’s largely the fault of munitions built up for World War I and modern industrialization. For centuries, the amount of nitrogen available for use was relatively stable; animal waste was the main source of fertilizer. But during World War I, the Germans needed to increase their supply of nitrate, which is needed to make munitions explode. So they learned to tap an inexhaustible source: the atmosphere.

Chesapeake Bay Partner Communities accepting nominations

As part of an expanded effort to rally local governments around the need to protect and restore local streams and rivers throughout the watershed, the Chesapeake Bay Program is expanding its Bay Partner Communities program to include additional local governments.

Now in its fifth year, the program works with towns and cities to implement Bay-friendly measures aimed at meeting the goals set forth in the most recent Bay restoration agreement, Chesapeake 2000. The agreement and its 103 commitments serve as a blueprint for the Bay’s restoration over the next 10 years.

Migratory population of Canada geese still rebounding

The region’s migratory Canada geese population continued to rebound from an all-time low hit seven years ago, according to results from the spring nesting survey.

This year’s aerial survey of arctic nesting grounds counted 165,000 pairs of geese, up from 147,000 pairs last year — an almost a sixfold increase from the 29,000 counted in 1995.

That count was so low it forced a temporary closure of the hunting season for the birds, which are the waterfowl most closely associated with the Bay, which is their most important wintering ground on the East Coast.

Comic strip hero its the trail in Chesapeake Bay region

Mark Trail, the comic strip conservationist, made a trip to the Chesapeake Bay in September, informing his 23 million readers in 175 newspapers worldwide about its resources.

The Bay-focused strip resulted when Lauren Wenzel, of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, learned that the strip’s artist, Jack Elrod, would be at an awards banquet where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was recognizing people who had helped with NOAA Weather Radio. Mark Trail is the official spokescharacter.

Getting the message out key to restoration, cleanup efforts

Chesapeake watershed residents overwhelming are concerned about the health of the Bay and their local waterways, and nearly half say that too little is being done to clean them up.

Similarly, more than nine out of 10 residents say they are interested in helping to improve water quality, but most said they don’t know what they can do.

Those were among the findings of a survey funded by the Bay Program to learn about residents’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors relating to the Chesapeake and its tributaries.

VA officials back bond referendum to create, enhance parks, natural areas

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and nearly all 140 members of the commonwealth’s General Assembly are urging voters to approve a $119 million Virginia Parks and Natural Areas bond referendum at the polls Nov. 5.

Passage of the $119 million bond referendum would provide $30 million to purchase three new parks and 10 natural areas; $6.5 million to purchase additional land near 11 existing parks and eight existing natural preserves; and $4.5 million to protect park land from severe shoreline erosion. The remaining $78 million would be for much-needed construction, improvement and repair projects such as cabins and campgrounds throughout Virginia’s 34 state parks.

Aim of flags is to raise awareness, support for D.C. water quality

From a boat in the Potomac River, a blue flag was visible over the nearby Thompson Boat Center as Masaya Maeda used a long pair of metal tongs to dip a plastic bottle into the river and “grab” a water sample.

The blue flag meant that, when analyzed, samples Maeda had grabbed from the river the day before showed the river’s water was safe for boaters.

Depending on what the lab found in the new sample, the next day’s flag might still be blue — or yellow, warning boaters of bacterial contamination. ...

‘State of the Chesapeake Bay’ report highlights restoration progress

The Chesapeake Bay Program recently released its “State of the Chesapeake Bay,” a 58-page report on the cooperative efforts working to protect and restore North America’s largest estuary.

The report is an in-depth look into current environmental conditions throughout the region and provides opportunities to involve every resident of the Bay watershed in the restoration effort.

Regularly published by the Bay Program since 1985, the report follows the framework of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, and focuses on improving water quality, protecting vital habitats, encouraging sound land use, engaging communities in restoration and protection activities, and improving and protecting the Bay’s living resources.

Devices offer fish-eye view of water quality in bays, creeks

With a glance out the window, and a quick check of the television, anyone can quickly figure out what weather — and even pollution — conditions to expect on a given day.

But when it comes to knowing what conditions might be encountered in the local water, forget it.

Even the best trained scientists historically have had only limited information about what everyday water quality was like for their aquatic neighbors.

“In many ways, the Bay and its tidal creeks are inaccessible,” said Rob Magnien, director of Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “We can’t observe them like the weather.” ...

PA to offer grants to wastewater plants using nutrient control technology

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in October plans to make its first formal grants to municipal wastewater treatment plants that incorporate nutrient control technologies in the Bay watershed.

This year, DEP Secretary David Hess announced it would use all of the $3.3 million set aside for New and Innovative Wastewater Technology Growing Greener Grants to reduce nutrient discharges in the Susquehanna and Potomac basins.

“These grants will help reduce the local cost for the nutrient-reduction portions of their projects,” Hess said.

Zebra mussels turn up in VA quarry; panel created to halt spread

Virginia biologists in September confirmed that zebra mussels were found in an abandoned quarry in Prince William County. It was the third discovery of the invasive mussel in the Bay watershed in the past two years, and the first reported within the Potomac drainage.

The discovery raises concerns that zebra mussels — which have overrun and dramatically altered the Great Lakes in the last decade — might soon wreak economic and ecological havoc within the Bay region as well.

A special Bay Program panel will begin meeting in October to work on a plan to contain further mussel expansion that can be put in place by next spring. ...

Pfiesteria may or may not be toxic, but the dispute over the issue is

When Wolfgang Vogelbein placed Pfiesteria into a container with small fish in his lab, he witnessed something startling: The so-called “cell from hell” literally ate the flesh off the fish.

“They just keep coming and coming,” said Vogelbein, a fish pathologist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, as a video showed hundreds of microscopic dots — Pfiesteria shumwayae cells — swarming to latch onto, and ultimately killing a larval fish.

More curious, though, was what Vogelbein and his colleagues didn’t see: evidence that the Pfiesteria cells used a toxin to stun or kill their prey.

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