Bay Journal

September 2005 - Volume 15 - Number 6

Hatchery spawns hope for crab stock enhancement

It was crab harvest time in downtown Baltimore. With each dip of the net, dozens of crabs were being pulled from the water. A couple of hundred yards away in Baltimore Harbor, it would have been a remarkable catch. But these crabs were being fished out of big blue tanks, each seething with anywhere from 1,500 to 7,000 small crabs.

Rather than coming out of the Bay, these crabs were headed to the Chesapeake. For the past three years, biologists at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute’s Center of Marine Biotechnology have raised tens of thousands of crabs in their basement hatchery, then turned them over to other scientists who placed the nickel-size crustaceans in small coves to see what happened. ...

Sessions seek PA farmers’ input on 2007 Farm Bill, Best Management Practices

Pennsylvania agricultural producers will have an opportunity to share their perspective of what changes should take place in the 2007 Farm Bill—as well as which conservation-related practices should be funded by the state—at 11 listening sessions scheduled across the state.

These sessions are designed to help producers discuss conservation-related issues as well as their relevance in Pennsylvania.

The object is to help U.S. officials involved with the 2007 Farm Bill to better understand which “conservation tools” it should include. ...

Panel endorses regional finance authority, but calls dedication crucial

The Bay region would greatly improve its ability to pay for the multibillion Chesapeake restoration by forming a regional finance authority that could reach across state lines to address—and fund—restoration activities, a study panel has concluded.

Such an authority would have the power to receive funds from the states and the federal government and distribute it in ways that would achieve the greatest benefits, regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.

But a committee that explored the creation of such an authority warned that it would only work if the states can assure adequate funding and cleanup leaders commit to a major effort to sell state and federal lawmakers on the concept. ...

Legislation proposed to improve accountability in the Bay Program

Legislation that would require the EPA and the Bay states to establish a cleanup timeline, complete with specific annual nutrient and sediment reduction goals—along with estimated annual costs—has been introduced by senators from the Bay region.

The legislation, which would also reauthorize the operation of the EPA’s Bay Program Office, was part of a five-bill package that would step up federal participation in the Chesapeake’s restoration.

“We cannot squander the investments we have made in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-MD, who introduced the package. “If the Bay is to be truly nursed back to health, we need to redouble our efforts and involve individual citizens and local organizations throughout the Bay watershed.” ...

Interior bill funding for Bay projects appears less than last year

Despite the escalating Bay cleanup costs, the region appears likely to net fewer, not more, federal dollars for the Chesapeake’s restoration next year.

The first major appropriations bill passed by Congress this year, covering the Interior Department and the EPA, took a big bite out of the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, which helps to pay for upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and other large infrastructure programs.

With some estimates for the Bay cleanup reaching as high as $30 billion, governors of the Bay states have pledged to make lobbying for federal funds a top priority. ...

Shore fisherman dies from saltwater-borne bacterial infection

An Eastern Shore Maryland fisherman died from a rare bacterial blood infection caused when an open wound on his body came in contact with contaminated marine life or saltwater, health authorities said.

Dr. Ann H. Webb, deputy health officer for Talbot County, refused to release details about the death caused by Vibrio vulnificus, saying that she wanted to protect the privacy of the patient’s family. But Webb did say that the fisherman was healthy until a skin abrasion became infected while he was fishing in July on the Chesapeake Bay. ...

Small Watershed Grants awarded to 88 projects

Dams will be moved, farmers will get incentives to use less fertilizer and keep livestock out of streams, while polluted runoff from some abandoned mines will be controlled under the most recent Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants announced in August.

Some of the 88 grants, totaling more than $3.06 million, will engage students in creating schoolyard habitats, while others will promote the creation of runoff- absorbing rain gardens and green roofs.

In some tidal areas, “living shorelines” will be created using natural vegetation to stem coastal erosion, while farther up in the watershed, streambanks will be stabilized and planted with trees. ...

Audiences eating up Chesapeake Club’s mass media campaign

A humor-based mass media campaign backed by the Bay Program that urged people to “save the crabs…then eat ’em” successfully raised local awareness about the Bay while drawing notice from across the country.

Further, the “Chesapeake Club” mass media campaign that was tested in the metro Washington area this spring caused some people to alter the way they use lawn fertilizers, according to a follow-up survey.

That was a surprise, given the modest $300,000 advertising budget for the seven-week campaign. ...

Rendell signs bill to spend environmental bond issue; Bay cleanup to benefit

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell in July signed a bill to distribute $625 million in voter-approved borrowing among a variety of environmental protection and land preservation programs, many of which would benefit Bay cleanup goals.

The measure will tap the $4.25-per-ton “tipping fee” that trash haulers pay to dump garbage in Pennsylvania landfills, which will generate as much as $60 million a year to pay off the bonds and interest.

The bond-issue money, which will be borrowed over six years, will be allocated as follows: ...

355-mile trip lets students see why Bay cleanup is hard row to hoe

Looking out onto Virginia’s Yeocomico River, where a pair of small workboats made lazy circles fishing a string of largely empty crab pots, 17-year-old Tara McFarland tried to sum up what her journey to that scenic spot had taught her.

About 25 days earlier, the high school senior from Turner Ashby High School in Rockingham County had left her folks, central air and all of the comforts of home.

She and 15 other members of the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter embarked on Expedition Chesapeake, a 30-day trip from their Shenandoah Valley hometown to Tangier Island in the Bay. ...

MD preservationists win in Frederick, lose in Prince George’s

Legal protections for properties of potential archaeological significance that are facing development pressures in the Chesapeake Bay watershed grew in geographic scope but lost a real-world test this summer.

In what was hailed as “a historical moment” by the city’s historical preservation planner, the Board of Aldermen in Frederick, MD, unanimously passed amendments to the city’s Land Management Code requiring many properties proposed for development to be evaluated by an archaeologist before ground is broken. ...

Federal agencies spar over Newport News’ plan to build reservoir

The fate of more than 400 acres of wetlands was left hanging in the balance of a disagreement between two federal agencies in August.

At issue is a permit needed by Newport News to construct a long-planned, but controversial, 1,500-acre reservoir on a tributary of the Pamunkey River. The city says the reservoir is essential to meet long-term water needs, but it would result in the largest loss of wetlands in the Bay watershed ever permitted under the Clean Water Act.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced in July that it would issue a permit for the project, but required extensive mitigation to make up for the loss of wetlands and other environmental impacts. ...

Illnesses plaguing fish on Susquehanna, Shenandoah rivers

It has been a tough year for fish on two of the Bay’s major tributaries, as a mystery illness killed 80 percent of adult smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish in parts of the Shenandoah River, while ugly skin lesions have turned up on large numbers of smallmouth bass on the Susquehanna River, where some fish kills have also been reported.

Starting in April—while they were spawning and their immune systems were suppressed—smallmouth bass as well as redbreast sunfish on the South Fork and mainstem Shenandoah began developing lesions. Locals described them as cigar burns or canker sores. ...

Bay’s water quality lives up - or down - to scientists’ predictions

Chesapeake Bay water quality this summer fared the way scientists had expected it to: It was poor.

In early August, about 41 percent of the mainstem of the Chesapeake was suffering from low-oxygen conditions, and almost 10 percent had virtually no oxygen at all—creating a true biological “dead zone.”

In July, about a third of the Bay suffered from low oxygen, or “hypoxic,” conditions and a bit more than 3 percent was “anoxic”—having none at all.

“Things did rocket up,” said Dave Jasinski, a University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science analyst. ...

ASMFC votes to impose cap on Bay’s menhaden fishery

A regional fish management agency moved to limit the catch of menhaden in the Chesapeake while stepping up research to determine why the Bay seems to have fewer of the small, oily fish than in the past.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted 12 to 2 in August to impose the first-ever cap on the Bay’s largest commercial fishery.

The vote divided the Bay states, with Maryland making the motion to limit the catch while Virginia—home base to the largest menhaden fleet on the coast—opposed the action. Joining Virginia in opposing the action was North Carolina, which is home to a smaller menhaden fleet. ...

Rooftops reign as effort to curb urban runoff

When it rains on the Yorktowne Square Condominiums in Falls Church, VA, one of its buildings doesn’t pour as much runoff into local waterways as it did in previous years—nor is there as much of the sediment and nutrient pollution that travels with it.

The reason is a new layer of rooftop greenery.

The roof now sports a living carpet of approximately 8,000 sedums—small, succulent plants that tolerate a wide range of temperatures and drought—on a flat expanse of 4,700 square feet. The Yorktowne “green roof” uses a lightweight design, retrofitted to a conventional rooftop on a 30-year-old residential building. ...

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