Bay Journal

September 2003 - Volume 13 - Number 6

Most streams, many wetlands could lose protection

The Bush administration is considering actions that could remove federal protection for nearly two-fifths of the mid-Atlantic’s wetlands and more than half of the region’s streams, according to an EPA analysis.

Those areas provide drinking water for roughly 3 million people in the region, but under such a sweeping rule change, industries, farms and other polluters would be free to discharge into those waterways without federal oversight.

Although states can regulate those activities, it would add a strain on their resources, and some states lack the authority to fill the regulatory gap that could be created, according to an analysis by EPA’s Region III, which includes all of the states in the Bay watershed except New York. ...

MD summit aims to bring farmers, environmentalists to common ground

Saying “everyone contributes to the problem” of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, Gov. Robert Ehrlich recently told a Maryland summit that he wants to hear all views before deciding how to better regulate nutrient runoff.

Ehrlich followed through on a campaign promise by holding the forum of 300 farmers, poultry growers, environmentalists, agricultural consultants, researchers, extension agents and state officials. All of the seats were sold out at the one-day summit Aug. 5 at Chesapeake College, in Wye City. ...

States seek $500 million for Delmarva Conservation Plan

State officials in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund an ambitious five-year, $500 million program to protect the farmland and natural resources of the Delmarva Peninsula while reducing pollution to the Chesapeake.

The Delmarva Conservation Corridor initiative would provide unprecedented funding to farmers who voluntarily restore corridors of forests and wetlands, help to prevent sprawl, manage manure and fertilizer with greater care, and undertake new business ventures to boost farm profitability. ...

$2.7 million in watershed grants go to 75 projects

Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants totaling $2.7 million were awarded to 75 community groups and local governments in the Bay watershed to help restore the Chesapeake Bay, federal officials said.

The groups in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York will get an additional $9 million in matching money from nonprofit groups, as well as state and local governments, officials said.

“These small grants make a tremendous difference in promoting citizen-based stewardship and helping to repair the degraded watershed of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-MD. ...

MD officials to appeal ruling to weaken tidal buffer zones

Maryland officials expect to ask the Court of Appeals to reconsider a split decision in August that would weaken the regulation of the buffer zone around tidal waters, a key to efforts to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

The 4-3 ruling by the state’s highest court “has the potential to be the legal equivalent of Tropical Storm Agnes hitting the Chesapeake Bay,” said Martin Madden, chairman of the Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays. That storm caused major pollution problems throughout the Bay watershed in the summer of 1972. ...

Lack of funding from VA dooms bi-state crab committee

The bi-state advisory panel created to help manage the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population came to an end in July because of a lack of funding.

The Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee, composed of legislators, fishery managers, and watermen from Maryland and Virginia conducted its final formal meeting July 8 in Annapolis after a seven-year effort to coordinate Baywide management of the most valuable Chesapeake fishery.

The panel’s demise ”is going against all we have been working toward in terms of Baywide cooperation,“ said Rom Lipcius, a Virginia Institute of Marine Science crab expert who belonged to a work group of scientists that reported to the committee. ...

Bay Program to recognize efforts of local governments to help rivers, Bay

As part of an expanded effort to rally local governments around the need to protect and restore the 110,000 streams and rivers that flow into the Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Program would like to recognize local governments throughout the watershed for taking steps to make their communities river– and Bay-friendly.

The Chesapeake Bay Partner Communities Program works with towns and cities to implement measures that will improve the quality of waterways in the watershed. Once these efforts are completed, roadside signs will tell residents and visitors that a particular town or county is doing its part to help restore the Bay. ...

32 Gateway sites awarded grants totaling $1.3 million

The National Park Service recently announced 32 new grants providing more than $1.3 million to help Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network sites throughout the watershed improve their ability to engage visitors in the Bay story, provide additional public access to the water, or involve people in conservation and restoration efforts.

The National Park Service grant funds are matched by at least an equal share of funds and services provided by the recipient from other sources.

Grants will help build trails, create new outdoor interpretive panels and expand water trail routes, as well as develop new exhibits on oysters, decoys and recreation on the Bay. ...

Bay Program identifies 10 most key restoration goals to meet

The Chesapeake 2000 agreement created a massive “to do” for the Bay region: more than 100 specific items, from achieving a tenfold increase in oysters to promoting the expansion of contiguous forests through easements. Many had specific deadlines.

With so many obligations—and so little time—the Bay Program has whittled the “to do” list to a smaller “top 10” list.

The smaller list is dubbed the “Keystone Commitments” because they are considered the most critical elements for restoring the Chesapeake. ...

CBF seeks hearing on renewal of Philip Morris permit for James River

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation wants Virginia to conduct a public hearing before renewing a wastewater-discharge permit that allows Philip Morris USA to discharge unlimited amounts of nitrogen into the James River.

“Without such limits, the state is disregarding its regional commitments to Bay restoration,” said Roy A. Hoagland, executive director of the environmental group’s Virginia office.

Philip Morris dumps about 2.3 million gallons of treated wastewater a day into the James from its cigarette factory in Chesterfield County. The releases are approved under a permit issued five years ago by the Department of Environmental Quality and State Water Control Board. The permit, which is up for renewal, does not limit the amount of nitrogen the company can release. ...

CBF calls for better enforcement, funding of Bay cleanup

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has called on government leaders in the Bay Region to form a new compact that would bring new enforcement, and funding, to the Chesapeake cleanup effort.

Such a compact would replace the voluntary state-federal Bay Program which has overseen cleanup activities for the past two decades.

“We’ve got a structure that keeps setting goals and doesn’t meet them,” said CBF President Will Baker. “We’re calling for some discussion—and hopefully some decision making—on a structure that has some accountability to the Chesapeake 2000 agreement.” ...

High flows hammer Bay’s water quality; ‘dead zone’ largest ever

After being teased last year by a glimpse of what a clean Chesapeake might look like, 2003 provided a jolt of reality to the region as higher than average river flows delivered the Bay some of its worst-ever water quality.

In July, the Bay’s low-oxygen “dead zone”covered the greatest area observed since Baywide monitoring began nearly 20 years ago. The area of oxygen-starved water stretched more than 100 miles down the Bay, from north of the Bay Bridge in Maryland to the York River in Virginia. ...

Taste of the Chesapeake set for Nov. 15

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s annual gala, Taste of the Chesapeake, takes place 7–11 p.m. Nov. 15 at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The evening will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, with Torrey Brown, former secretary of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, serving as master of ceremonies, and former Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb giving the keynote speech.

In addition, the Frances H. Flanigan Environmental Leadership Award will be presented to Judith Stribling, executive director of the Friends of the Nanticoke River and founder of the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance. ...

It’s a Myth to Stake Bay’s Recovery on Oyster’s Return

In evaluating potential risks and benefits of introducing nonnative oysters into the Bay, the National Academy of Sciences committee said it found relatively little scientific support for many common assumptions about oysters in the Bay.

These five “myths” need to be treated with more scientific scrutiny if progress is to be made resolving the oyster problem, the committee said. They may not be the only “myths” about oysters in the Bay, the committee said, but they do reveal major gaps in knowledge that add to the uncertainty about whether a nonnative oyster should be introduced. ...

Panel supports aquaculture, but warns against ariakensis in wild

A team of scientists offered cautious support for rearing sterile Asian oysters in aquaculture in the Chesapeake, but warned against any effort to establish a wild population without years of additional research.

The much-anticipated report from the National Academy of Sciences also recommended against a “do nothing” option that placed all hopes on restoring the Bay’s native oyster. “Do nothing is not a good option, either for the industry, or the ecology,” said said James Anderson, chair of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Rhode Island, who co-chaired the committee that wrote the report. ...

Interior Department ditches Fish & Wildlife Service’s comments

Exempting headwater streams and isolated wetlands from federal protection would have “significant impacts” on fish, wildlife and water quality throughout the nation, according to an analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The service, the main part of the U.S. Department of Interior which deals with wetlands, said rule making being considered to reduce Clean Water Act jurisdiction was “more broad than necessary” to comply with a recent Supreme Court decisions.

The service said that protecting all wetlands was essential to the Act’s goal to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.” And it suggested that loosening the protections could result in the additional loss of more than 100,000 acres of wetlands per year. ...

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