Bay Journal

June 2005 - Volume 15 - Number 4

Solutions sought for excess manure piling up on farms

In the 1700s and 1800s, farmers sometimes couldn’t figure out what to do with all of the manure coming out of their animals. The waste would build up in barns until farmers would invite neighbors — usually with the inducement of plentiful alcohol — to a “dung frolic” to help clear the mess.

Others resorted to more drastic means. In 1825, one Pennsylvanian reported that “the dung has accumulated around some barns in such great quantities as to render access to them so difficult that they have been burned and new ones built.” ...

Options For Managing Manure Nutrients

A number of ideas for handling manure have emerged during recent meetings to develop a strategy for the watershed.

Adjust Animal Diets: Optimizing feed so that animals use, rather than excrete, more nutrients is one of the most promising and cost-effective options. The addition of the enzyme phytase to chicken feed has been highly effective at reducing phosphorus levels in poultry waste. A July 2002 report of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology indicated that nitrogen reductions of 30–50 percent and phosphorus reductions of 40–60 percent are achievable by modifying diets without impacting animal health. ...

Backers explore options for John Smith historic water trail

Plans for a water trail retracing Capt. John Smith’s explorations through the Chesapeake four centuries ago appear to be gaining momentum, with the National Park Service and others expressing support for the concept during a Senate hearing in April.

The National Geographic Society, which is supporting the trail, highlighted Smith’s 1607-08 Bay explorations in the June issue of its magazine, and the governors of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware have signed a letter endorsing the project, along with the District of Columbia mayor and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. ...

Support for Gateways Network grows; 7 new sites added

The National Park Service director, during a recent trip to Annapolis, indicated that there is continued support for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network but stopped short of endorsing a new National Park focused on the Bay.

The remarks appeared to reflect the recommendations of a Park Service study completed last year that called for incorporating the Gateways Network as a unit in the National Park system.

But the report, by Park Service staff, stopped short of calling for an all-new park focused on the Bay or its watershed after examining numerous alternatives, in part because no suitable area or community stepped forward as a host site. ...

Virginia grapples with cost of cleaning all state waterways

While the cost of cleaning the Chesapeake Bay has gotten increased scrutiny in recent months, Virginia officials recently tabulated a related—and even more challenging—price tag: the cost of cleaning up all state waters.

The $12.5 billion tab goes beyond the nutrient reductions needed to achieve Chesapeake Bay water quality standards by also including the costs for meeting water quality standards in rivers, lakes and streams statewide.

Assistant Secretary of Natural Resources Russ Baxter recently presented the estimates to a legislative panel that was charged by the General Assembly to find ways to pay for the cleanups. ...

Pennsylvania voters saw green on environmental bond issue

Pennsylvania voters in May overwhelmingly approved $625 million in state borrowing to boost environmental protection, including the cleanup of rivers and streams, and to support farm and open space preservation.

“Voters made it absolutely clear that they want this investment to address some of the state’s most pressing environmental problems and help us win the race for new development and job creation,” said Gov. Ed Rendell.

Rendell had pushed for the bond measure, known as Growing Greener II, for more than a year, arguing that improving the state’s environment was critical to its quality of life and future growth. ...

Critical tool to protect farmland, open spaces in jeopardy

Congressional tax policy experts have proposed to sharply limit tax deductions for farmland easements, eliminating a powerful tool to curb the conversion of farmland into development.

If enacted, the recommendations of the professional staff of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation would stymie efforts to reach a goal set by Bay watershed officials and advocates—to protect one-fifth of the farmland and other open spaces in the Bay watershed from development by 2010.

The report of the little-known Joint Committee, one of four Congressional committees made up of both senators and representatives, would prohibit farmers from deducting the value of their conservation easements from their taxable income if they planned to use their farms as personal residences. Conservation easements allow the farmer to continue planting and harvesting crops but typically prohibit development. ...

Petition seeking federal protection for native oyster advances

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it would conduct a full review of the status of the eastern oyster along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to determine if it warrants protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The May 24 decision by the NOAA Fisheries Service followed an initial 90-day review which concluded that a Maryland resident had presented “substantial scientific information” that action may be warranted. This will trigger a more detailed review by the service, which is expected to make a decision in January. ...

Early ariakensis research findings reveal mixed results, surprises

Preliminary findings from research projects taking place throughout the region show that the nonnative Asian oyster grows during more of the year than the native oyster species.

But research continues to raise questions about the suitability of the oyster in the Bay, as some studies hint that it may not survive in water with low dissolved oxygen or build reefs—an important Bay habitat—as well as the native oyster.

Those are among the preliminary findings mentioned in the first of a series of quarterly reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Office that update ongoing research with the nonnative species Crassostrea ariakensis. ...

MD considers reeling in use of ‘nuclear’ worms

A nuke on a hook is OK for now, but its days may be numbered as state regulators consider banning certain nonnative live bait from Maryland waters.

The nuclear worm, a bright pink Vietnamese import up to 6 feet long, is among the species fishery managers consider potentially harmful, along with certain crayfish and the tiny organisms hidden in the packing material in which live baits are shipped.

No restrictions have been proposed, but the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been talking with anglers about the issue at meetings across the state in the past two weeks. “The basic Maryland regulation is, if you can get something into the state, you can put it on a hook and use it as bait,” said Steve Early, an assistant director of the DNR Fisheries Service. ...

ASMFC taking comments on menhaden cap

Faced with concerns that the Bay’s menhaden population may suffer from “localized depletion,” the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is moving forward with a proposal that may cap the commercial catch of the oily fish.

The commission, which manages migratory species along the East Coast, will decide in August whether to place restrictions on the industry after it takes public comments on a range of options this summer.

In May, it agreed to seek public comments on the possibility of setting a first-ever commercial catch limit in the Bay, whether the cap should apply only in the Bay or coastwide, and whether restrictions should apply only to the commercial fishery or cover the smaller bait fishery as well. ...

Scientists working to unravel mysteries of rockfish mycobacteriosis

These days, it seems that Andy Kane can find mycobacteria in fish just about everywhere he looks in the Chesapeake Bay.

It has turned up in many menhaden. And white perch. Even goldfish. And, Kane suspects, it may turn up in a good number of other fish species pulled out of the Bay.

“A lot of the data we are collecting are novel, in part, because no one has looked for it,” said Kane, who is the director of the University of Maryland’s Aquatic Pathobiology Center. “No one says that if you start looking, you may find it almost everywhere.” ...

SAV beds expanded in 2004, especially in Upper Chesapeake

Underwater grass beds last year rebounded from their losses of 2003, led by a strong recovery in the Upper Bay, which contained more of the vital habitat than anytime since annual surveys began two decades ago.

But the good news was not Baywide. The lower Bay suffered losses—thought to be caused by Hurricane Isabel, which hit in late 2003—and contained the lowest amount of grasses observed since 1987.

Overall, the annual aerial survey found 72,935 acres of grass beds in the Bay and its tidal tributaries during 2004, a 14 percent improvement over the previous year. ...

Chesapeake’s summer outlook: algae, low oxygen, more grass

By taking a look back at the past two decades, Bay scientists believe they may be able to see the future of the Chesapeake—at least for the summer.

But the outlook in their first ever “ecological forecast” isn’t a pretty picture.

They predict the fourth largest area volume of anoxia—water with no oxygen—seen in the past two decades.

They also predict a harmful algae bloom on the Potomac River that will cover at least 10 miles starting in June and last about two and a half months. ...

Branching out

Every time she looked at her cows standing in Little Beaver Creek, Ruann Newcomer George knew she ought to do something to get the animals out of the water.

But the timing never seemed quite right. Whenever the Washington County, MD, farmer contemplated the costs and details of making the creek off-limits to cows, questions were raised that repeatedly took a back seat to daily tasks at hand

To her surprise, the answers came by way of a family doctor—Michael Saylor—who, as president of the Beaver Creek Watershed Association, also keeps tabs on the health of the creek. ...

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


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