Bay Journal

January 2003 - Volume 12 - Number 10

Scientists can see Bay’s past in its future

If a group of scientists is right, the Chesapeake of the future could have a tinge of nostalgia about it.

A team of leading Bay researchers says the estuary could look much like it did in the 1950s — with clearer water, vast underwater grass beds, and healthier, more plentiful populations of fish and shellfish — if feasible pollution control, land management and habitat restoration efforts are pursued.

The scientists say that emerging technologies — and those expected within the foreseeable future — will make it possible to slash by half the amount of nutrients entering the Bay by 2030. ...

Wind farms in Eastern Highlands planned, panned

From some of the thickest West Virginia wilderness and the highest peak in Maryland, people may soon see wind turbines spinning and blinking on the horizon.

South of three established Pennsylvania wind farms, Somerset, Mill Run and Garrett, which combined generate enough emission-free electricity to power approximately 8,000 homes, a half-dozen more wind turbine sites are under construction or consideration.

Should they all gain approval, more than 500 individual turbines, each four-fifths the height of the Washington Monument, soon will rise from the ridges. ...

Wind turbine proposals for Atlantic Coast face challenges

A New York-based company hopes to receive federal permits to build thousands of hulking steel and fiberglass wind turbines at several sites off the Atlantic shoreline, from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia to New England.

But plans for the non-polluting power source are running into opposition in many places from environmentalists, who contend the towers — each standing hundreds of feet above the water — will mar the natural beauty of the coastline and threaten fisheries, migratory birds and other resources. ...

Report says Bay cleanup could cost more than $1 billion annually

The Bay Program, in its first-ever attempt to calculate the cost of cleaning up the Chesapeake, says the job could cost $1.1 billion a year.

That would translate to about $178 a year per household, or less than the $250 spent annually per household on soft drinks, according to the Bay Program analysis.

But in documents recently released for review, officials labeled that as a “near worst case” estimate, saying more cost-effective means are probably available to do the job.

“These are conservative, worst case estimates on cost,” said Allison Wiedeman, of the EPA’s Bay Program Office. “I think we will find cheaper ways of doing it than we actually estimated.” ...

MD approves deal to approve 25,000 acres in Eastern Shore, south

Maryland officials in December approved the purchase of more than 25,000 acres, the second-largest land preservation effort in the state’s history.

The $15.4 million deal approved by the Board of Public Works, was hailed by environmentalists as a historic opportunity to protect wetlands, forests and jobs across seven counties on the Eastern Shore and in southern Maryland.

The 25,000-acre purchase was negotiated by The Conservation Fund, a national environmental group, with the owner of the property, York, PA-based Glatfelter Corp. To cover the purchase, the state will use $12 million in bonds and $3.4 million in cash from Program Open Space funds. ...

New MD, PA governors pick department head

New governors in Maryland and Pennsylvania have filled most of the top environmental posts in their states.

In Maryland, Republic Gov. Bob Ehrlich named dentist C. Ronald Franks as Secretary of Natural Resources. Franks, who owns a fly-fishing shop on the Eastern Shore, is a former Republican member of the General Assembly, where he served from 1991 to 1997.

Ehrlich also named Lewis Riley, an Eastern Shore chicken farmer, to head the state Department of Agriculture. Riley earlier held that position during parts of the administrations of both William Donald Schaefer and Parris Glendening. ...

Millions of acres of isolated wetlands losing federal protection

Seeking to bring federal regulations in line with a 2001 Supreme Court ruling, the Bush administration in January took the first step toward removing federal protection from millions of acres of wetlands.

The federal action, jointly announced Jan. 10 by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, directs field staff not to assert federal jurisdiction over isolated wetlands that are intrastate and nonnavigable unless first getting approval from agency headquarters.

In addition to offering the new guidance to staff, the agencies announced they were soliciting comments for new rules that will formally define what wetlands are exempt from regulations. ...

Plans moving right along for 2003 sojourns on Bay’s rivers

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s plans for its 2003 sojourns on four of the watershed’s rivers have shifted into full gear thanks in large part to a sponsorship by Toyota.

Sojourns are weeklong educational paddling expeditions where participants canoe or kayak by day and enjoy riverside camping at night. Programs that help to forge partnerships and stimulate an appreciation for the rivers and their natural resources are part of every evening’s activities.

Anyone is invited to join a sojourn for all or part of the voyage. Whether coming along for one day or seven days, sojourns offer an intimate opportunity to explore and appreciate the majesty and mystery of the Chesapeake Bay’s rivers. ...

Environmentalists push to halt further cuts in Virginia budget

A new study shows that environmental spending in Virginia is at its lowest rate since 1984, if calculated as a percentage of the overall state budget.

The environmental study, prepared by a consultant for the League of Conservation Voters, found that Virginia in fiscal 2004 will spend about one-sixth of 1 percent of the state budget on the environment. That equates to about $244 million, more than half of which comes from user fees and federal grants, not state tax dollars.

Environmental spending by neighboring states in fiscal year 2000 showed West Virginia at 2 percent of its overall budget; Tennessee at 1.36 percent; Maryland, 2.26 percent; North Carolina, 1.92 percent; and Pennsylvania, 1.31 percent. ...

Nutrient monitoring trends find improvements in Susquehanna

For the first time, nutrient monitoring in major rivers has detected a declining trend in the amount of nitrogen reaching the Chesapeake from its largest tributary, the Susquehanna River.

The annual river analysis, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, also detected a declining trend in the James for the second year in a row, while the Patuxent River continued its downward slope.

At the same time, loads appear to be increasing in some heavily agricultural areas, including the Choptank basin on the Eastern Shore and the Shenandoah River. Other rivers did not show a noticeable trend in nitrogen, according to the USGS analysis. ...

Officials press Congress to address stormwater runoff in roads bill

Some officials and experts hope that Congress will finally recognize the impact that road projects have on the Chesapeake and other rivers, lakes and bays when members take up new federal transportation legislation this spring.

Each year, Congress provides about $27 billion nationwide for road projects, but little of that is used to address the environmental impacts of stormwater washed off roads and parking lots.

With the cost of cleaning up the Bay expected to reach billions of dollars by the end of the decade, many state officials and environmentalists see the next version of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century as a vehicle to steer some needed cleanup money toward the Chesapeake. ...

CBF honors Noonan’s efforts for Bay, names conservationist, educators of year

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has named Patrick Noonan, founder and chairman of The Conservation Fund, the first recipient of its highest honor, the Edmund A. Stanley, Jr. Environmental Medal.

The medal is awarded at the CBF’s discretion to environmental visionaries who distinguish themselves in their service to the Bay’s restoration and protection. Noonan was recognized for efforts that not only preserved more than 195,000 acres of the watershed, but also his work to build successful partnerships between individuals, organizations, corporations and the government. ...

Revised areakensis plan would rear 1 million oysters this year

Warning that the native Chesapeake oyster population is in a “downward spiral,” the Virginia Seafood Council has issued a new request to rear 1 million fast-growing, disease-resistant, foreign oysters in the Bay and along the Atlantic Coast.

The council, an industry trade group, is hoping to win approval for the project after a Feb. 25 public hearing before the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. If approved, the sterile, hatchery-reared oysters could be in the water by late spring. ...

New rules seek to curb runoff from animal farms

A gricultural animals produce about 500 million tons of manure annually in the United States — more than three times as much as humans — but the disposal of that waste has gone largely unregulated for decades.

The result is a nutrient buildup that is a major contributor to water quality problems in the Bay and other waterways.

In December, the EPA unveiled new regulations that will require about 15,500 livestock operations nationwide to get discharge permits and implement plans governing how manure is used as fertilizer. ...

Future of Chesapeake Bay depends on a number of ‘ifs’

The Chesapeake Bay faces an uncertain future. Despite considerable effort and millions of public and private dollars, the Bay has seen only incremental improvement during the past decade, and considerable concern remains about emerging trends in water quality.

Fish advisories that set safe consumption levels have called public attention to the almost ubiquitous presence of chemical compounds in our waters, but in terms of the ecosystem as a whole, nutrients and sediments remain the primary threat to the Chesapeake. ...

  • Donald F. Boesch & L. Donelson Wright

Picturing a Future Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Futures report tries to imagine what the Bay would look like in 30 years under three alternative scenarios.

Recent Trends

Projections for this scenario are based on the assumption that recent trends observed in the last decade will continue into the future, without additional progress in restoring the Bay ecosystem.

What’s Expected

  • Sediment loads into the Bay increase from land development, the filling of Susquehanna River dams and shoreline erosion. Coupled with increased nutrient loads, water clarity in many areas is likely to decrease.
  • Significant areas of tidal wetlands will be lost to sea level rise.
  • As nitrogen loads creep back toward 1985 levels from population growth and development, excessive phytoplankton production will continue to lead to persistent low-oxygen conditions during the summer months.
  • Bay grass acreage will contract except for tributaries with little sediment and nutrient increases.
  • Much of the phytoplankton production will continue to fuel bacteria growth rather than fish and crabs.
  • The biological diversity and resiliency of the Bay ecosystem will remain compromised and outbreaks of harmful algal blooms could increase.
  • Fisheries crises will continue as a result of management operating in a reactive mode and the limited capacity of the ecosystem to produce valued resources.

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