Bay Journal

July-August 2005 - Volume 15 - Number 5

Scientists sow millions of seeds hoping to reap hundreds of acres

Warren Teets used to be a civilian employee of the Air Force until he tired of wading through 200 e-mails a day and retired, then headed to the Eastern Shore, where he got his captain’s license. One day last year he was painting his house when a friend came by and asked if he wanted to get his feet wet by mowing grass—in the water.

“Sure, why not,” Teets said, paintbrush in hand. Soon he was piloting a small, slow, but highly maneuverable boat with paddle wheels on each side that is designed to mow the underwater grasses that filled boat channels or surrounded docks. ...

2 watershed sites appear on list of endangered historical places

A desire to preserve a 175-mile corridor of historic sites may serve as a catalyst to protect open space and improve land use planning throughout a large chunk of the Bay watershed’s rapidly developing Piedmont region.

In June, the National Trust for Historic Preservation called the corridor, dubbed “The Journey Through Hallowed Ground,” as one of its 11 most endangered historic places largely because of sprawling development overtaking the countryside between Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia. ...

Elementary students having a ball participating in reef project

School may be out for the summer, but some Eastern Shore elementary students have decided that class will continue at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center.

Twenty-five students from the ecology enrichment program at Kennard and Sudlersville Elementary Schools spent the entire school year exploring the ecosystem of a newly created oyster reef just offshore CBEC in the serene waters of Prospect Bay, near the base of the Bay Bridge.

Although the ecology program officially ended with the school year, many of those students weren’t ready to quit. ...

Ariakensis oyster research to require another six months of study

Another six months are needed to study the environmental impact of introducing Asian oysters to the Chesapeake Bay, state officials said.

Maryland and Virginia natural resource officials announced in June that a draft Environmental Impact Statement covering the risks and benefits of introducing Crassostrea ariakensis oysters into the Chesapeake will not be completed until January 2005.

It was the second time officials delayed the completion date for the full report.

But officials said chapters of the document will be made available to the public as they become final, starting with an assessment of the cultural importance of oysters to the Chesapeake, which was expected in July. ...

EPA rejects bid for new cleanup rules, calls current actions adequate

The EPA has rejected a 2003 request by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to take a series of regulatory actions aimed at controlling nutrient pollution to the Bay.

After 18 months of review, the EPA in June told the environmental group that current efforts to control pollution, including a permit program for wastewater treatment plants announced in December, would achieve faster results.

“EPA has determined that existing regulations, coupled with the collaborative partnership outlined in the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, will get us results faster than developing new federal rules,” said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water. ...

The Names They Left Behind

Chesapeake Bay stems from an Algonquian word meaning “great shellfish bay,” and the rivers that feed the Chesapeake were just as important to the Native Americans who lived along their shorelines for thousands of years.

Rivers served as important highways and provided fish and animals for sustenance. Consequently, many of the region’s largest Native American settlements were found on floodplains.

From Werowocomoco on the banks of the York River—discovered by archaeologists in 2003 and is where legend has it that Pocahontas saved John Smith—to the major settlement of Tioga—a Cayuga word for “at the forks”—where the Chemung and Susquehanna Rivers met, Native American villages dotted major Bay tributaries. ...

Future of the past pits preservationists against developers

Centuries ago, when Native Americans were the principal inhabitants of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, many bands favored riparian settlement sites, owing to their fertile soils, defensible positions and proximity to food sources and transportation routes. Albeit for different reasons, many of the watershed’s contemporary inhabitants also favor waterfront dwellings.

At two such riverfront sites about 100 miles apart, one on the Susquehanna and another on the Potomac, modern development plans have landed atop remnants of Native American culture, challenging local leaders to strike a delicate balance between the past and future. ...

Farmers, environmentalists seek creative solutions for manure

When President Bush pardoned “Biscuits” shortly before Thanksgiving last year, the president thanked local turkey farmer Kevin Foltz for feeding his turkey “American corn” and “American soybeans.”

“And from the looks of it, he had a pretty healthy appetite,” the president joked at the time.

That’s only half the story, so to speak.

Turkeys, chickens and other farm animals in the Shenandoah Valley also create an enormous amount of manure—more manure than can be safely applied on nearby fields. So much manure that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation calls the Shenandoah Valley one of three manure “hot spots” in the Bay’s watershed. ...

American shad spring spawning runs disappointing

American shad defied predictions of a big spring spawning run this year and veered away from most Bay tributaries.

The Chesapeake was not alone, though. Most other river systems along the Northeast coast reported poor shad runs, with the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers tallying their worst runs ever, leading biologists to speculate that coastal conditions may have affected the annual migration into freshwater rivers.

They hope the fish that stayed away this year may come back to boost spawning runs in 2006. Past dips in spawning runs have often been followed by strong years. ...

Bay region leads nation in stream restoration but lags in monitoring

The Bay watershed leads the nation in stream restoration, with more than 4,700 projects undertaken since 1990 at a cost of more than $400 million, according to a new study.

Those projects span more than 2,200 miles of rivers and streams, and include everything from planting streamside forest buffers to driving bulldozers through streambeds to reconfigure unstable channels.

That makes the watershed valuable as a potential “testing ground” to determine what restoration approaches are most effective, said the study published in the June issue of the journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. ...

New method estimates annual nutrient, sediment loads to Chesapeake

The Bay Program is developing a new technique to estimate the amount of nutrients and sediment that enter the Bay each year.

Until now, there has been no complete picture of what goes into the Bay annually under real-world conditions.

The EPA’s Bay Program office makes annual model estimates of the amount of nutrients that enter the Bay under “normal” hydrology. Those figures, when nutrient control efforts are factored in, are used primarily to estimate nutrient and sediment control reduction progress under average conditions. But because normal rainfall years almost never happen, those estimates do not reflect what is actually entering the Bay. ...

Monitoring shows late storms sent surge of nutrients into Bay in 2004

A series of hurricanes, followed by a wetter than normal fall carried a late-season wave of nitrogen into the Bay last year, making it the third worst year for nitrogen loads since watershedwide river monitoring began in 1990, according to figures from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Such a huge dose of nitrogen would normally be bad news for the Bay, but scientists say the nutrients hit the Chesapeake so late that their impact was greatly reduced.

“Timing is everything,” said Rich Batiuk, associate director for science with the EPA’s Bay Program Office. “We sort of squeaked by.” ...

Gender bender may be enough to make a crustacean a little crabby

Sometimes nature works in mysterious ways, refusing to pigeonhole an animal into one category or another.

David Johnson and Robert Watson of Middlesex County realized that after making a remarkable discovery a few weeks back. While inspecting crab pots near the mouth of the Rappahannock River, they spotted an unusual crustacean.

Any good waterman knows that male crabs, called “jimmies,” have blue claws. Female crabs, called “sooks,” have red pinchers. Jimmies aren’t common in this part of the Chesapeake Bay in June. ...

Worries persist about health of blue crab stock

A new analysis of the Bay’s blue crab stock indicates that the species has been overfished for six of the past seven years—including 2004—despite efforts to reduce harvest pressure.

The analysis was presented in the annual blue crab advisory report of the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee, which also shows that five years after the states agreed to act together to reduce harvest pressure on the Bay’s most valuable commercial species, the blue crab stock remains low and continues to run the risk of a collapse. ...

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


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