Bay Journal

October 2003 - Volume 13 - Number 7

Bay grasses rebound, set record in 2002

Underwater grasses expanded their coverage to almost 90,000 acres of the Chesapeake in 2002, their greatest showing since annual surveys began nearly two decades ago and almost half of the Bay Program’s restoration goal.

Much of the improvement was driven by last year’s drought, which resulted in some of the clearest water seen in the Chesapeake in decades, allowing sunlight to reach the important plants so they could thrive.

“2002 was a good year in general,” said Bob Orth, a researcher with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who oversees the annual survey. “The very rapid changes that we see on a year-to-year basis continues to reinforce how quickly these plants can rebound if they have good water quality.” ...

Alliance planting roots of urban conservation through S.E.E.D.S.

The Richmond office of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is establishing the roots of watershed stewardship in traditionally low-income neighborhoods through its S.E.E.D.S. initiative.

Established in 2000, Stewardship and Environmental Education in Digging Soils teaches participating communities about such topics as water runoff, organic gardening practices, rain barrels and other issues.

By reclaiming abandoned urban areas and creating educational green space, it is hoped that the effort will serve as a model that empowers nearby neighborhoods and inspires them to join the growing community gardening movement. ...

Migratory geese pairs decline slightly

The number of reproducing pairs of Canada geese counted in their Arctic breeding grounds declined this spring, causing game managers along the East Coast to continue strict hunting restrictions this year.

The 2003 aerial survey in northern Quebec counted 156,000 pairs, about 5 percent fewer than last year’s estimate of 164,800 pairs. That’s still significantly higher than the low of 29,000 pairs counted in 1995—spurring a five-year hunting moratorium. Migratory Canada geese are the waterfowl most closely identified with the Bay, and the Eastern Shore is their most important wintering ground on the East Coast. ...

Taste of the Chesapeake to honor 6th grade artist

Waldorf, MD 6th grader wins Sojourn art contest Karla Stevens of Waldorf, MD, will be recognized at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s annual Taste of the Chesapeake dinner Nov. 15 for her winning entry (right) in this year’s Toyota Prius River Sojourns Youth Art Contest.

The Mattawoman Middle School sixth grader’s first place illustration was selected from 375 entries this year to serve as the official logo for the Alliance’s four river sojourns. Second place went to Cody Goddard of Mifflinburg, PA, and third place to Kristen Willey of Delmar, MD. Honorable mentions were awarded to Asteri Sorenson of Chevy Chase, MD, Meagan Ferrell Beaver Dam, VA, and Shane Kirby of Waldorf, MD. ...

Northeast states commit to act on global warming

Pennsylvania recently joined nine other Northeastern states that committed to the development of a regional strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which contribute to global warming.

The initiative, proposed by New York Gov. George Pataki, would involve developing a market-based emissions trading system to require power generators to reduce emissions.

Besides Pennsylvania and New York, the states of Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island sent letters expressing interest in developing a “cap and trade” program for carbon dioxide from power plants. ...

EPA won’t require permits for discharge of ballast water

The EPA says it won’t require permits for ships discharging ballast water despite complaints that the discharges are introducing invasive species into coastal waters.

The EPA, in a decision released in September, said the U.S. Coast Guard has jurisdiction over ships that discharge ballast water.

Right now, the Coast Guard requires ships to discharge ballast water before entering U.S. ports, but compliance is voluntary.

In 1999, the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center and other environmental groups asked the EPA to regulate ballast water discharges under the Clean Water Act. But the EPA said ballast water is considered “discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel,” and therefore not subject to permits. ...

MD offers to help farmers pay for update of nutrient plans

The Maryland Department of Agriculture announced in September that it will offer money to help farmers who hire a private consultants to update their state-mandated nutrient management plans.

Farmers who attended a statewide summit in Wye Mills had told state officials that they need help keeping their nutrient plans up to date, Agriculture Secretary Lewis R. Riley said in a released statement.

The payments are designed to encourage farmers to follow nutrient management rules, which aim to limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that runs into the Chesapeake Bay. ...

Builders for the Bay completes first site design roundtable

A group of planners, engineers, environmentalists and others recently agreed upon a range of recommended code changes for Maryland’s Harford County aimed at promoting development practices that protect water quality.

The group of 32 stakeholders met over the past year as part of the first “Builders for the Bay” roundtable project, which is aimed at forging local consensus about regulatory barriers to environmentally sensitive residential and commercial site design in development codes. ...

PA farm buffer program to get additional $200 million, 23 counties

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a $200 million expansion of Pennsylvania’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program that will help to reduce runoff pollution from farmland within the Bay watershed.

This expands upon the existing program, announced in April 2000, which was funded at $210 million but restricted to 20 counties in the lower Susquehanna and Potomac river basins.

Now, CREP will be expanded to 23 additional counties in the Susquehanna drainage, and will cover an additional 100,000 acres of farmland. Of the $200 million, the USDA is expected to pay $129 million, with the state paying $71 million. ...

Low-oxygen ‘dead zones’ increasing in bays across the U.S.

The Chesapeake is not the only bay with a “dead zone” where oxygen levels are simply too low to support aquatic life.

Dozens of the United States’ best-known bays are starved for oxygen, ranging from Tampa Bay in Florida to San Francisco Bay in California.

A recent national assessment of 138 bays and the northern Gulf of Mexico found moderate high and high eutrophic conditions in 44 estuaries.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which worked with states to conduct the survey, found that these estuaries featured a variety of environmental problems caused by the introduction of excess nutrients, including low dissolved oxygen, reduced sunlight, loss of underwater grasses, growth of seaweed, harmful algal blooms and changes in the kinds of algae present. ...

USF&WS offers to withdraw permits to kill mute swans

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September offered to withdraw all permits that allow state and federal officials to kill mute swans or shake and oil eggs to prevent them from hatching.

The offer, aimed at resolving a suit by the Fund for Animals, needs the approval of U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan and will be considered by the judge at a hearing Oct. 6 in federal court in the District of Columbia.

Maryland and other states had gotten permits to kill swans and grease or addle eggs to prevent them from hatching because of damage to the environment caused by the swans, which are not native to the United States. ...

Bipartisan group of lawmakers urge Bush to halt changes in Clean Water Act

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on the Bush administration to drop any plans that would remove federal protection for many small streams and wetlands across the nation.

As of mid-September, more than 100 members of Congress had signed the letter, which warns that such a change would increase pollution into streams, lakes and coastal waterways.

The letter was expected to go to the White House around the end of September.

“Over the last 30 years, our nation has made great progress toward meeting the Clean Water Act’s goal ‘to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters,” the letter states. ...

Court upholds state, federal regulatory authority on wetlands

A federal appeals court in September overturned a lower court ruling that would have significantly limited state and federal ability to protect wetlands from development.

A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed a lower court ruling that said the Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia State Water Control Board did not have the power to stop developers from draining their land in Newport News.

Lawyers for the developers, Newdunn Associates, had argued that the federal government did not have jurisdiction over the 38 acres of wetlands because they were only connected to a stream through a manmade ditch, and that the state’s regulatory authority was linked to the federal wetland program. ...

Refinements to runoff estimates offer better view of Bay’s status

The virtual Chesapeake Bay used to evaluate cleanup progress may soon look more like its cousin, the real Chesapeake—it’s going to get dirtier.

The state-federal Bay Program has long measured nutrient reduction progress primarily through the use of a sophisticated computer model that estimates nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff from the Chesapeake’s 64,000-square-mile watershed.

The result, though, was a modeled “virtual Bay” that was getting cleaner, while the real Chesapeake was showing far less improvement. In some cases, the model showed sharp nutrient reductions in rivers where water quality monitoring showed nutrient increases. ...

Trip to observe ariakensis in Orient raises new questions about oyster

After a trip to China and Japan to learn about the Suminoe oyster in its native habitat, oyster scientist Mark Luckenbach returned to his Chesapeake Bay laboratory with as nearly as many questions as he left with.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science researcher found Crassostrea ariakensis oysters which seemed to build oyster reefs—and oysters that seemed only to grow in the mud. He found oysters that were supposed to be the same species, but went by different names—the red oyster and the white oyster. ...

State, federal roles in oyster introduction pondered

Before Virginia seafood growers could use sterilized foreign oysters in aquaculture this year, they had to clear piles of red tape placed in their way by government regulators.

In its permit for the project, the Army Corps of Engineers set specific requirements about how the oysters were to be placed in the water, when they must be taken out and required ongoing monitoring of their sterility.

The goal was to make sure that none of 1 million foreign oysters used in the experiment accidentally escaped to start a breeding population in the Bay. ...

Sowing seeds may be fastest way for seagrass beds to take root

When it comes to tedium, little can match the drudgery of planting underwater grass beds. People have to work hour after hour—often in diving gear—pushing plants one by one into the sediment and securing them so they won’t wash away in the first storm that comes by.

“It’s extremely tedious,” said Bob Orth, a seagrass expert with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve gotten out of it.”

Instead of doing plant-by-plant restoration, Orth and his colleagues have taken to riding in boats, and flinging seeds into the water by the handful. Instead of taking days to plant tracts that are measured in square meters, they cover acres in a single day. ...

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


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