Bay Journal

April 2005 - Volume 15 - Number 2

Huge wetland restoration touted for Blackwater

Standing near the water’s edge at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, John Gill pointed to a small island far offshore, in the middle of what appeared to be a large lake. A lake, he says shouldn’t be there, and which he wants to make go away.

Gill has a grand vision that is increasingly shared by others: He would like to see the water between the shore and the distant island filled with millions of cubic yards of muck dredged from the Chesapeake Bay’s shipping channels, then topped with millions of wetland plants. ...

EPA seeks partner to distribute watershed grants

The Chesapeake Bay Program is looking for an organization to help it award and administer nearly $8 million in watershed grants to reduce nonpoint source nutrient pollution in the Bay watershed.

“These regional watershed efforts can yield dual benefits, both for the local watershed and for the Chesapeake Bay as a whole,” said Rebecca Hanmer, director of the Bay Program Office. “The EPA is seeking an organization that will help us maximize the nutrient and sediment reductions that these important efforts can achieve.” ...

Massive oyster restoration heartens Bay coalition

Work has begun on what will be the largest restocking effort with disease-resistant shellfish in the Chesapeake Bay.

Officials think their latest idea may hold the key to restoring the ecologically and economically important bivalve.

“We‘re very optimistic,” said Doug Martin, project coordinator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is leading a coalition of federal, state and private partners to jump-start the oyster population in Virginia’s Great Wicomico River.

In mid-March, Martin hosted a boat tour of the oyster grounds as an initial 339,000 specially bred native oysters were dumped into the river. Plans call for releasing a total of 15 million oysters by the end of April. ...

Compromise reached on restrictions for non-native oyster

A bill that would impose restrictions on the state's plans to introduce nonnative oysters into the Chesapeake Bay passed the Maryland Senate unanimously March 17 after the Ehrlich administration negotiated a compromise with legislative environmental leaders who had feared the administration would make a rash decision that could damage the Bay.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich believes nonnative Crassostrea ariakensis oysters may be the best hope of reviving the Bay’s oyster population, which has been severely depleted by disease. ...

VA approves $50 million to reduce nutrients

The Virginia General Assembly approved a budget earmarking $50 million for reducing nutrient pollution entering the Bay, before adjourning in late February.

The lawmakers also called for establishing a permanent funding source to pay for the Bay’s restoration and other water quality problems. A study group is to make recommendations of funding options by next year’s legislative session.

The bipartisan action drew praise from environmentalists, who had made securing a permanent Bay cleanup funding source one of their highest priorities for the legislative session. “This is a major first step toward providing clean water for Virginians,” said Ann Jennings, executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Virginia office. ...

State officials make case for Bay in D.C.

Governors took their pitch for Chesapeake-related cash to Congress—and at least one congressman took the issue to the White House—as leaders continued their scramble in March to secure federal support for the Bay cleanup.

But they increasingly acknowledged that the region is unlikely to be able to do anything more than maintain existing funding levels—or get incremental increases—for Bay-related programs.

Governors from the Bay states, as well as many lawmakers from the region, had hoped to secure $1 billion or more in new funding for the Bay in the 2006 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. ...

Winning Efforts Around the Watershed

A number of awards were given for efforts in 2004.  They include the following:

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation in January named former Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles its 2004 Conservationist of the Year. Eric Fitzgerald, a Rockingham County, VA, teacher, was named the 2004 Educator of the Year. The environmental group recognized the two for their extraordinary contributions to help the Chesapeake. “These two individuals embody the leadership necessary to save the Bay,” said CBF President William Baker. “Governor Baliles is recognized for his longtime devotion to the Chesapeake Bay, and Mr. Fitzgerald for his dedication to environmental education and his work to bridge the perspectives of the farming and environmental communities.” ...

Security, birders, bridging gap over access to islands

Treasured bird sightings on the islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel will continue while a committee studies how to reconcile security concerns with birders’ pursuit of their hobby.

The commission that oversees Virginia’s link to the Eastern Shore voted Tuesday to form a study panel that will make its report by May 4. In the meantime, bird watching can continue unimpeded until June 1.

The commission suspended an administrative decision last week to close three of four islands to birders as of April 1. ...

Scientists study potential for marine protected areas in Bay

Fisheries in the Bay and elsewhere historically have been managed through regulations on how much fish people can catch, when they can catch them and what type of gear they use, such as crab pots, nets and fishing lines.

In the future, though, such activities may increasingly be governed by lines on the map.

Over the last two decades, many scientists, environmental groups and others have increasingly advocated setting aside areas where catches or certain fishing practices would be sharply curtailed—if allowed at all. ...

Bay region already looking for opportunities in next farm bill

The next federal farm bill is still two years away, but officials from around the region are already eyeing the massive legislation as one of the brightest opportunities to help pay for the Bay cleanup.

If successful, their lobby effort could reap huge benefits for the Chesapeake: Agriculture is the largest single source of nutrients to the Bay, and is also the most cost-effective source to control.

“The farm bill represents our best federal funding opportunity,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which represents state legislatures in the cleanup effort. “It’s the hope for restoring water quality in the Bay.” ...

Farm subsidy battle cropping up in as budget cuts intensify

Food fight! That’s one way to describe the battle brewing over farm spending as Congress struggles to balance the soaring federal deficit this spring and summer.

For months, farm and food advocates pressured Congress to spare farm programs from major cuts.

But, last month, the House and Senate budget committees called for cuts of $5.3 billion and $2.8 billion over five years, respectively.

In the coming weeks, the battle lines will be drawn.

And, the early skirmishes have not been pleasant. When an Iowa senator said an army travels on its stomach and “can’t eat cotton,” a Georgia senator replied that most soldiers are wearing cotton underwear, sock and T-shirts. ...

Myriad reasons behind delays in cleanup results after actions are taken

For anyone who expects a clean Chesapeake at the end of the decade, a new report from a team of scientists offers a word of advice: patience.

The report says that even if billions of dollars become available to upgrade wastewater treatment plants, control farm runoff and undertake myriad other cleanup actions that have been proposed to meet cleanup goals, the Bay may not look significantly different in 2010.

The reason is that most actions will take longer to show results, for a host of reasons, than most people realize. ...

EPA orders power plant mercury pollution cut by nearly 50 percent

The EPA in March ordered power plants to cut mercury pollution from smokestacks by nearly half within 15 years but left an out for the worst polluters.

The EPA said the cuts would help protect pregnant women, women of childbearing age and young children from a toxic metal that causes nerve damage.

But critics said the arrangement fell far short of what was needed and promised to fight it. Among the Bay states, Pennsylvania immediately announced plans to challenge the rule in court. ...

New clean air rules to lighten load for water pollution efforts

Efforts to clean up the Bay’s water is about to get some help—from the region’s air.

The EPA in March announced new air regulations that will require industries and power plants in 28 Eastern states to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 1.7 million tons annually by 2009, and and 2 million tons by 2015, a reduction of 61 percent from today's levels.

According to estimates made by the EPA’s Bay Program Office, the Clean Air Interstate Rule should result in a 10 million pound per year reduction in the amount of nitrogen reaching the Bay by 2010, and a 13 million pound reduction by 2015. ...

B-WET helps students take Bay’s message to the streets

For 20 years, the Living Classrooms Foundation has given many of Baltimore’s young people their first direct experience with the Bay and its rivers. They clamber aboard boats for their first view of Baltimore from the water. They study the Bay’s creatures, plant trees and Bay grasses, and explore the marshes of the Eastern Shore.

“For many of them, it’s like going to the moon and back,” said Christine Truett, director of education at Living Classrooms. “They have these wonderful experiences, but then we’d send them home to a concrete, asphalt, and brick-laden environment.” ...

Seafood group seeks new tests with ariakensis

Buoyed by test results it called an “eye-opener,” the Virginia Seafood Council hopes to place 1 million sterile Asian oysters in the Bay this summer to see if they can be harvested within a year.

The industry trade group said results from its deployment of 800,000 oysters in the fall of 2003 were a “complete success” and offered a tantalizing hint that a profitable aquaculture industry might be based on sterile foreign oysters.

The test showed that the oysters were profitable not only for the high value—though limited—half shell market, but also for use by seafood processors, which shuck larger numbers of oysters for their meat. ...

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