Bay Journal

May 2005 - Volume 15 - Number 3

Proponents say VA trading plan will speed cleanup

Virginia wastewater treatment plants may soon be able to buy and sell nitrogen and phosphorus as readily as some people buy stocks and bonds.

Legislation approved by the Virginia General Assembly this year establishes the first watershed-based nutrient trading system in the Bay region that will allow dischargers to buy and sell credits from each other to meet their 2010 nutrient reduction goals.

Eventually, the legislation envisions a system in which industries, municipal wastewater treatment plants and other point source dischargers will offset their projected growth over the long haul by helping to clean up other nutrient sources by paying farmers and others to plant streamside forest buffers, fence livestock out of streams or take other actions. ...

Feedlot ruling welcomed by environmentalists, farmers

When a federal appeals court recently struck down a federal rule governing water pollution from large feedlots, environmentalists cheered the defeat of a rule many considered to have been secretly drafted by a “lawless industry.”

“These regulations were the product of a conspiracy between a lawless industry and compliant public officials in cahoots to steal the public trust,” said Robert Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, shortly after the ruling.

But the decision was far from clear cut. Farm groups found things to praise in the February decision as well—especially the part of the ruling that said the EPA had overstepped its authority by requiring all large feedlots to have discharge permits, whether they release waste into waterways or not. ...

Susquehanna named most endangered river

Raw sewage, acid mine runoff, slashed cleanup funds and farm runoff led to the Susquehanna River listing as “America's most endangered river” by the conservation group American Rivers.

The river is responsible for half of the Chesapeake’s fresh water, and about 44 percent of the nitrogen and 21 percent of the phosphorus reaching the Bay. The primary sources of pollution are excess animal manure, agricultural runoff, urban and suburban stormwater, and raw and inadequately treated sewage from aging sewer plants that overflow during heavy rains. ...

Rain fails to dampen volunteers’ spirits at stream cleanups

Committed citizens, braving heavy rains and rising stream levels, turned out by the thousands to clean local waterways throughout much of the Bay watershed on April 2.

In Maryland, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay coordinated Project Clean Stream, which turned out 776 volunteers who gathered 39,521 pounds of trash from about 50 sites in central Maryland and part of the Eastern Shore. Among the debris was a set of golf clubs, a go cart and poached deer parts.

Another 47 sites postponed their events until later in the month in search of better weather. ...

Military bases’ refusal to pay MD flush tax raises questions

Records show three Maryland military bases have spilled about 20 million gallons of sewage into Chesapeake Bay tributaries in 10 years, raising questions about the military's refusal to pay the state’s “flush tax,” which was designed to clean up the Bay.

The military's sewage problems are not the worst in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where 50 million gallons of waste spewed from Baltimore's crumbling sewers in May. But the overflows at the bases are many times the 10,000 gallons the state classifies as a “major” spill. ...

General Assembly highlights for Maryland & Virginia

Here’s a look at highlights from the Maryland and Virginia General Assembly sessions, as compiled by the Chesapeake Bay Commission.


Nonnative Oysters: Legislation addressing the research and reporting requirements that must be met before the Maryland Department of Natural Resources can introduce a non-native oyster into state waters was passed this session. These requirements include meeting the recommendations set forth in the 2004 National Research Council report on the Asian oyster, C. ariakensis, as well as the research recommendations established by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee. An independent oyster advisory panel will review and approve specified data and assessments and identify any additional research needs. ...

Rappahannock Valley refuge learning what friends are for

Since it was established in 1996, the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia has been one of the river's best-kept secrets: thousands of acres of pristine forest and fields largely unknown to the public.

That’s about to change with a friends’ group formed recently to help care for, and promote, public use of portions of the land.

About 50 people showed up for a meeting sponsored by the refuge last summer. One of them was Ann Graziano, who lives next to the reserve’s Wilna tract in Richmond County. Graziano, a transplant from Maryland, wanted to know more about what was happening next door—and what she could do to help. ...

Builders group has designs on developing consensus for the Bay

Blair County, nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania, is closer to Lake Erie than the Chesapeake. Yet planners, engineers and environmentalists there are rolling up their sleeves in a joint effort to create a cleaner Bay.

It’s the newest undertaking by Builders for the Bay—a partnership between the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Center for Watershed Protection, and the National Association of Home Builders—which aims to make environmentally sensitive site design an easier, more attractive option at the local level. ...

Eel passage under consideration for dam on Susquehanna

American eels, whose population appears to be sharply falling along the East Coast, may get a boost on the Bay’s biggest tributary.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this spring is launching a study of eels on the Susquehanna River to help determine whether it is feasible to build an eel passage over the 100-foot-high Conowingo Dam, the largest barrier to migration in the Bay watershed.

Eels, which spawn in the ocean but live most of their lives in freshwater streams, have been a source of growing concern along the East Coast, as harvests hit an all-time low in 2003. ...

Despite advisories, study finds many still eating tainted fish

Many anglers in some of the most polluted areas around the Bay consume more fish than is safe to eat, and often share their catch with the families and others, according to a survey funded by the Bay Program.

Although many anglers—especially at Virginia sites where many fish consumption advisories were new—said they did not know the fish may pose a health risk, the survey found that others continued to eat their catch even when they knew advisories were in place.

“What we see is that the rate of awareness is relatively high, particularly in Baltimore where they had just done some good communications work,” said Greg Allen, toxics coordinator with the EPA’s Bay Program Office. ...

5 new management plans to take fish-eye view of ecosystem

Alarmed at the decline of New England fisheries more than a century ago, Congress reacted by forming the nation’s first resource management agency: the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries.

In 1871, President Ulysses Grant appointed its first commissioner, Spencer Baird, a scientist from the Smithsonian Institution. He was charged with determining the reasons and remedies for the declines.

Baird, who established what would become the Woods Hole Laboratory, quickly concluded that this was no easy task, and most of his initial management recommendations failed. Understanding fish populations, he wrote, “would not be complete without a thorough knowledge of their associates in the sea, especially of such as prey upon them or constitute their food.” ...

Chlorophyll standards a hard sell for James River

Virginia has enacted water quality standards that will force sharp nutrient and sediment reductions from most of its own rivers—and the rest of the Bay watershed—to help clean up its portion of the Bay. But the State Water Control Board, which adopted the standards at its March meeting, still faces a key decision about standards for the state’s largest Bay tributary—the James River.

The state Department of Environmental Quality has proposed a standard for chlorophyll a—a measure of algae in the water—which it contends will reduce the risk of harmful algae blooms, promote the growth of algae species preferred by fish and clear the water for underwater grasses. ...

Courts order EPA to regulate ballast water

A brew of federal-level activities is stirring that may help to batten the hatches on ship ballast holds to fish, plankton, clams and other creatures that hitch rides from foreign ports.

Courts have ruled that the EPA must regulate ballast discharges. The Coast Guard has decided it must take new efforts to control ballast after voluntary programs were widely ignored. And, new bills in Congress could take even tougher action.

It’s been 17 years since the first zebra mussel—the poster child of ballast water invaders—was first plucked out of the Great Lakes. It has spread through much of the country since then, causing billions of dollars in damages, and potentially threatening valuable fisheries by altering the food web of lakes. ...

Regional agencies join forces against exotic invaders

When Bay region officials learned four years ago that zebra mussels had been found in the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, they responded with letters to New York officials urging them to stem the spread before it was too late.

Nothing happened.

The zebra mussels have since become firmly lodged in two lakes in the Susquehanna’s headwaters, and are steadily moving downstream.

“Things could have been done early on,” said Tom Horvath, a scientist with the State University of New York’s Oneonta Biological Field Station, who has been monitoring the mussels’ progression down the river. “They no doubt came in through a boat launch that could have been better maintained or protected. You lose out when you don’t take the preemptive steps.” ...

Va’s Allocations & Trading Program At A Glance

Legislation approved by the Virginia General Assembly calls for the state to establish general permits by early next year that establish the total point source nutrient load for each watershed and assign discharge limits for each “significant” discharger (those who discharge more than 100,000 gallons a day into tidal waters, or more than 500,000 gallons a day into nontidal waters).

The general permit will also establish a date by which the watershed must meet its goal for point source discharges. Plants will have nine months to develop compliance plans, which may include trading, after the permit is finalized. ...

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