Bay Journal

July-August 2004 - Volume 14 - Number 5

It’s a hard road ahead for meeting new sprawl goal

The Chesapeake drainage, it appears, is suffering from a hardening of the watershed.

The sign of the malady is a rapidly increasing amount of impervious surfaces—solid areas such as roads and rooftops which prevent rain from soaking into the ground and instead quickly shunt it, along with any accumulated pollutants, into nearby streams.

According to new figures from the Bay Program, the amount of impervious surfaces in the watershed increased by nearly 250,000 acres between 1990 and 2000, an area more than five times the size of the District of Columbia. ...

Model suggests reduced harvest could help MD oyster stock

When Maryland’s oyster season came to a an end a year ago, it produced a dismal total: 50,000 bushels pulled from a Bay that once produced millions of bushels.

It was the worst harvest ever seen in Maryland—until this year’s landings brought in just 23,000 bushels—prompting the state to propose introducing nonnative oysters to bolster the population.

But a recent paper co-authored by a former Department of Natural Resources oyster expert provides an alternative scenario. ...

Goals Intended to Protect Bay’s Aquatic Life

Officials from the EPA and seven jurisdictions in the Bay watershed (Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Delaware and New York) last year agreed to make sharp nutrient reductions in the amount of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as sediment, that enters the Bay.

The nutrient goals were based on computer models that estimated the levels of reductions needed to attain new water quality criteria in the Bay. The new criteria are intended to protect the broad range of habitats for fish, shellfish and other aquatic life in the Bay. ...

States working to refine cost estimates for tributary strategies

The cost of implementing Maryland’s tributary strategies has gone down, but the costs for other jurisdictions may be on the rise, as the Bay states work to bring some consistency among their cost estimates for the Bay cleanup.

Early estimates of the costs of meeting the region’s nutrient and sediment reduction goals came in with widely varying costs attached to them—Maryland’s $13.6 billion costs were more than four times than the initial $3.2 billion estimate from Virginia. Pennsylvania’s estimate was still under development but was expected to top $3 billion as well. ...

Raystown farmers to be conservation pioneers

Farmers in south-central Pennsylvania will be the first in the region to participate, starting in July, in a new conservation program designed to reward increasing levels of environmental performance.

The Raystown watershed was one of 18 watersheds selected by the U.S Department Agriculture for the first enrollment into the Conservation Security Program, which was created as part of the 2002 Farm Bill. The Raystown watershed suffers from high levels of nitrogen—a problem created primarily by polluted runoff from neighboring farms. ...

Chesapeake’s problems piling up on its benthic organisms

Learn to love the worm. And, for that matter, clams barnacles and sponges. Because as they go, so goes the Chesapeake.

These spineless creatures are unlikely to find a place on anyone’s wall poster anytime soon but they—and other bottom-dwelling creatures collectively known as benthos—have become leading indicators for the health of the Bay.

“These animals are the thermometer of the quality of the bottom,” said Dan Dauer, a professor of biological sciences at Old Dominion University. “Benthos are used extensively worldwide as indicators of overall environmental health.” ...

Les Lanyon dies, advocated balancing nutrients to, from farms

Les E. Lanyon, 55, a professor of soil science and management at the Pennsylvania State University and a member of the Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, died May 26, 2004, of a blood clot while recovering from a recent surgery.

Lanyon was known for his work exploring nutrient inputs and exports for both individual farms and entire regions, as well as their impact on water quality, especially the Chesapeake.

That work led him to realize that nutrient-related water pollution problems on individual farms—and larger regions—result when far greater amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus are imported—either as animal feed or fertilizer—than is exported as meat, milk or even manure. ...

Fowler wade-in: 31.5 inches down, 29.5 to go

After 17 years of wading into the Patuxent River, Bernie Fowler still can’t get where he wants.

As the 80-year-old Fowler walked out of the river after his annual “wade-in,” U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer measured the high water mark on Fowler’s pants, and read of the verdict: 31.5 inches. And that was likely an overestimate. “The wave level was a little high,” the congressman acknowledged.”

“It’s not where we want to be,” Fowler said after the June 13 event. “We’re still looking for that 61 inches.” ...

VIMS recommends postponing intake pipe on Mattaponi until shad study

Any decision to allow a water intake permit in a critical shad spawning area of the Mattaponi River should be postponed for years until new studies can assess the project’s impact, according to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

VIMS said a recent proposal by Newport News to construct the intake but not pump water during the critical shad spawning period has “intuitive appeal” but questioned whether the city could meet its water needs if adequate pumping restrictions were imposed. ...

10% oyster sanctuary goal dropped from management plan

A commitment to set aside 10 percent of the Bay’s historic oyster habitat, a goal recommended by a panel of scientists five years ago, is being dropped from a draft Bay Program oyster management plan.

The change was made after Maryland officials said they would not support the creation of any additional sanctuaries pending the completion of an environmental impact statement exploring the potential of introducing the foreign oyster, Crassostrea ariakensis, in the Bay.

The review is also examining the potential for restoring native oysters in the Bay, and state officials say it should provide new information about the use of sanctuaries. ...

Scientists call blue crabs’ outlook unclear

The Bay’s blue crab stock doesn’t appear to be getting any worse, but more than three years after states acted to control harvest pressure, scientists say there’s still no clear evidence the population has shown signs of recovery.

While some indicators of the crab stock appear to have improved slightly—multiple surveys suggest more baby crabs were found in the Bay during the past year—another key survey shows that the number of females that survive to spawn may be declining.

“At best, the blue crab may have stabilized, but it’s still well below the long-term average, so no one should relax,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. “It clearly warrants our long-term attention.” ...

Citizens Committee Says Strategies Lack Details

A key advisory committee said it is “disappointed and frustrated” with the status of tributary strategies being written to reduce pollution for major rivers in the watershed.

In a letter to senior state and federal officials overseeing the Chesapeake cleanup effort, the Bay Program’s Citizens Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from various stakeholder groups around the watershed, said the strategies completed so far provide too little detail about how they will be funded and implemented. ...

They’ve got it covered

The green grasses sprouting in some fields in late autumn may not look like anything special to the casual observer.

To a growing number of Bay advocates, though, those fall cover crops look like the most effective line of defense between nutrients leaking from farm soils and the nutrient-drenched Chesapeake.

Cover crops are planted to improve soil production and reduce sediment and nutrient losses with no intention of harvest for sale, unlike crops such as winter wheat, which requires fertilizer applications to produce a harvestable commodity. ...

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