Bay Journal

June 2003 - Volume 13 - Number 4

VA agency rejects permit for reservoir

In May, the shad struck back. For more than a century, dams and other obstacles have blocked the migratory fish from many of their historic spawning areas in rivers throughout the Bay watershed and along the entire East Coast.

But on May 14, concerns about the shad and their spawning grounds on the Mattaponi River may have become the insurmountable obstacle to plans for a 1,500-acre reservoir, as the Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted 6-2 to deny a permit critical for the project. ...

EPA to give lives of seniors equal weight when calculating costs

Federal environmental officials now consider the lives of senior citizens saved by cleaner air to be as valuable as those of younger people, said outgoing EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

In May, she announced that her agency would stop placing a lower dollar value on the lives of people older than 70 when calculating the cost and benefits of environmental regulations.

Critics derided the policy as a “senior death discount,” and say it’s a tool used by the Bush administration to reduce the estimated benefits of cleaning up the nation’s air. ...

Bay sediment goals adjusted

The Bay Program’s final sediment reduction goals were changed from those presented in the May Bay Journal. The final figures are presented in the chart to the right.

The sediment reduction goals, along with the nutrient reduction goals set in March, are aimed at meeting new Chesapeake Bay water quality criteria that were finalized in April.

The criteria, which were developed for dissolved oxygen, water clarity and chlorophyll a (a measure of algae), establish the water quality conditions that are needed to support healthy populations of fish, shellfish, waterfowl and underwater grass beds. ...

EPA study says new Bay criteria safe for shortnose sturgeon

The EPA has concluded that its new water quality criteria for the Chesapeake will not adversely affect the endangered shortnose sturgeon—in fact, it contends the new guidelines will make things better for the big fish.

The agency’s recently published biological evaluation is its formal position on the question—raised by other federal agencies and environmentalists—as to whether the Bay Program’s new cleanup goals would adequately protect the species.

“The EPA believes state adoption of the criteria into water quality standards will directly lead to increased levels of suitable habitat for the shortnose sturgeon,” the 55-page biological evaluation concludes. ...

U.S. Senate approves tax breaks for farmland preservation

Congress is poised to pass reforms to the federal tax code that will make farmland preservation efforts far more attractive to farmers in the Bay watershed.

If passed, the provisions would allow many farmers to avoid paying taxes for a decade or more if they choose to place development restrictions on their land. The provision would also cut the tax farmers have to pay when they sell their land if it is sold to charities or government agencies.

The Senate included the provisions in tax reform legislation designed to boost charitable giving. ...

Ariakensis oyster to be more closely scrutinized here, abroad

Sometime this year, scientists in North Carolina, Virginia and—for the first time—Maryland plan to place foreign oysters in the water as part of a stepped-up effort to garner as much information as possible about how the species behaves in the wild, and whether it can be economically grown in aquaculture.

Others are planning new lab work, and some are even planning to visit the native Southeast Asian habitats of Crassostrea ariakensis, the fast-growing oyster that has fueled huge interest in the region. ...

Scientists examine past–and future–of farm runoff

Some simple facts about agriculture in the Bay region:

  • Farming accounts for about 13 percent of all economic activity in the watershed.
  • It’s the second largest land use in the watershed after forests, covering about about 9.5 million acres, or nearly a quarter of the Bay’s drainage.
  • It’s the largest single source of nutrients to the Chesapeake, accounting for roughly two-fifths of all the nitrogen and phosphorus entering the estuary each year, according to Bay Program estimates.
  • The Bay Program will never reach its cleanup goals unless new ways are found to keep those fertilizers on the land growing crops, and out of the Chesapeake, where they grow algae.

The region’s biggest challenge in the coming years may be trying to change the last two facts without significantly altering the others. ...

National Park’s Bay study seeking public opinion

The possibility of a Chesapeake Bay National Park could take a step closer toward reality this month as the Park Service unveils a detailed set of options of what such a park might look like.

No decision has been made about whether a unique Park Service unit will be created to highlight the nation’s largest estuary—a final decision rests with the president and Congress—but initial concepts got favorable reviews during a series of public hearings last fall.

Based on those reactions, the Park Service has developed four highly detailed park options, as well as a no-action alternative, to present during a final round of public meetings this summer. ...

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