Bay Journal

January 2004 - Volume 13 - Number 10

Scientists diving into secrets of elusive seaducks

Last summer, a group of ducks led some Bay scientists on a wild goose chase. Tipped off that a group of surf scoters were nesting on a lake in Labrador, Canada, a research team headed north.

They searched the area with a helicopter, they hired a guide with trained dogs—they even got help from people at a nearby NATO base.

They crawled through forest underbrush in densely vegetated roadless areas, swatting mosquitoes every foot of the way. But in the end, the team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center never found a nest. ...

Bay’s health drops 1 point in CBF index

Combined heavy rains and high nutrient loads in 2003 caused the Bay’s health to drop one point from the previous year in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s sixth annual State of the Bay Report.

Overall, the group rated the Bay’s health at 27 on a 100-point scale. That was the same score the Bay got when the CBF started the index six years ago, but a bit better than the 23 that the CBF has said the Chesapeake would have scored during its worst condition in the early 1980s.

The poor showing for 2003 was driven largely by poor water quality conditions which were the result of high loads of nitrogen and phosphorus washed into the Chesapeake by near-record rainfall in the watershed. ...

Corps set to begin study on proposed ariakensis introduction

The formal study that will likely determine whether a foreign oyster will be introduced into the Chesapeake is being launched in January, with public hearings scheduled in both Maryland and Virginia.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk district, after lengthy meetings with officials from state and federal agencies, scientists and others, in December drafted the formal notice of its intent to develop a federal Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed introduction of Crassostrea ariakensis into the Bay, and possible alternatives. The notice is expected to be published in the Federal Register in early January. ...

Newly discovered pathogen in NC waters fatal to ariakensis

The Asian oyster which some have hoped could withstand the Bay’s oyster diseases has turned out to succumb to a disease previously unknown in the region.

In a surprise development, researchers from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science found that large numbers of the sterile foreign oysters they had sent for experiments to Bogue Sound in North Carolina became infected with deadly parasites.

They strongly suspect it caused two large die-offs among Crassostrea ariakensis oysters which took place in North Carolina last summer. ...

Farm Bureau endorses changes to Maryland clean water law

An influential farmers group gave its support on Dec. 10 to changes in Maryland’s Water Quality Improvement Act to make it easier for farmers to report how they use fertilizers.

About 280 farmers, all voting members of the Maryland Farm Bureau, unanimously decided to endorse a plan proposed by the state Department of Agriculture. State officials made their pitch to the bureau two days earlier and asked for its support.

Farmers, who initially responded negatively to the presentation, decided to support the changes after two days of discussion at their annual meeting in Ocean City. Some farmers had said they hoped the changes, some of which need legislative approval, would be more drastic and eliminate the need for paperwork. ...

EPA announces rules to combat smog, soot from power plants

The Bush administration in December proposed tougher rules to cut smog– and soot-forming chemicals from power plants in 30 states, hoping to improve air quality across the eastern half of the country.

The EPA proposal would cap emissions of sulfur dioxide and smog-causing nitrogen oxide at power plants from New England to the Midwest and reduce the amount of pollution that often drifts hundreds of miles across state lines. Nitrogen oxides are a major source of the Bay’s nitrogen pollution. ...

New USDA program to target ‘priority’ watersheds

Farmers in “priority” watersheds will be the first to receive funding from an innovative new conservation incentives program that links federal farm conservation payments to environmental performance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in December released the rules for the Conservation Security Program, which pays farmers $20,000 to $45,000 annually for greater levels of conservation on their farms. Payments could be in several forms, including payments for new practices, maintenance of existing practices and exceptional conservation efforts. ...

VA, PA to set enforceable nutrient limits in wastewater plant permits

Virginia and Pennsylvania plan to move toward setting enforceable nutrient discharge limits in permits for wastewater treatment plants, officials announced at the December Executive Council meeting.

Demand for such limits has been increasing, as the Bay states face the need to achieve huge new nutrient reductions by the end of the decade. Before the meeting, dozens of people rallied, chanting “EC, we want three.”

That was a reference to a limit of 3 milligrams of nitrogen per liter of water that they wanted placed in all treatment plant permits, a figure that generally represents the limit of current technology. ...

10,000-mile riparian buffer goal set for watershed

The Executive Council approved a new goal of restoring 10,000 miles of forest buffers along streams throughout the watershed by 2010.

The new goal counts the 2,870 miles of forest buffer planted since 1996, which means another 7,130 miles must be planted by the end of the decade. That amounts to an average of about 900 miles in each of the next seven years, or roughly the pace set in 2002, when 936 miles were planted.

The new goal also calls for long-term conservation and restoration efforts to establish forest buffers along at least 70 percent of all streams and shorelines in the watershed. That translates into 26,000 additional miles of buffers. (A mile on one side of a stream counts as a buffer mile; a mile on two sides counts as two miles.) ...

CBF files petition challenging EPA on Bay cleanup effort

Citing a lack of progress in reducing nutrient pollution to the Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has taken legal action seeking to force dramatic changes in the way the Chesapeake cleanup program is conducted.

The group filed a petition with the EPA, charging that the agency has failed to enforce the Clean Water Act by not requiring nutrient limits on wastewater treatment plants within the Bay watershed.

The group also said the EPA is required by law to develop a regulatory document, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load, that would set legally enforceable limits on the amount of nutrient pollution entering the Bay. ...

Alliance report says Bay cleanup possible with right leadership

At a time when many are worried that the cost of cleaning the Chesapeake could bust the bank, a new report suggests that the vast majority of the Bay’s needed nutrient reductions are affordable with technology available today.

The report, from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, contends that all major wastewater treatment plants in the watershed can be upgraded with state-of-the-art nutrient control technology for 5 cents per customer per day.

Those upgrades, combined with the widespread use of currently available practices to control agricultural runoff, could accomplish nearly 90 percent of the Bay Program’s nutrient reduction goal, according to the report, Chesapeake 2004: A Blueprint for Success. ...

Tudor Davies dies, efforts led to Bay Program

Tudor Thomas Davies, a senior EPA scientist and executive whose work led to protections for the Chesapeake Bay, has died.

Davies died of pancreatic cancer Nov. 27 at his home in suburban Washington. He was 65.

Davies joined the then-nascent environmental agency in 1972. For the next three decades, he served as director of the water and science program offices and as acting assistant administrator.

His water-quality research would form the basis for efforts to protect local, national and international waters from pollutants. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he led the EPA’s multiyear study of the Chesapeake which led to the creation of the Chesapeake Bay Program in in 1983. ...

Feds drop plans to curtail Clean Water Act

The Bush administration, amid sharp criticism from environmental groups and members of Congress, announced in December that it would drop plans to remove federal protection for isolated wetlands.

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers last January had said it was considering new rules that would “clarify” federal jurisdiction over isolated wetlands, as well as many small streams, because of questions raised in a 2001 Supreme Court ruling.

Although the agencies received more than 115,000 comments on the issue, overwhelmingly opposed to the change, a draft rule was circulated in the fall which would have sharply curtailed federal oversight for wetlands and headwater streams. ...

November flow 2nd highest on record

November streamflow into the Chesapeake Bay was the second highest on record for the month, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

With data for the first 11 months of the year, the USGS said 2003 was already assured of being one of the three wettest years recorded since the agency began monitoring streamflows into the Bay in 1937.

With a normal flow in December, calendar year 2003 would have the third highest annual flow into the Chesapeake. But if flows are above normal, it’s possible 2003 could end up having the highest freshwater flows on record, according to the USGS. ...

Governors seek federal dollars for Bay cleanup

Saying the Bay should be designated as a “national treasure,” the governors of Maryland and Virginia vowed to lead a campaign to persuade the federal government to spend billions of dollars on the cleanup effort.

In making the announcement, Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia and Gov. Robert Ehrlich of Maryland warned that it was unlikely that the Chesapeake would be cleaned up by the 2010 deadline—if at all—without stepped-up federal funding.

“Even in good times, the dollars would not be there,” Ehrlich said. “The federal government has to play more of a dominant role if we are not going to just save this Bay, but protect and restore this Bay.” ...

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