Bay Journal

October 2005 - Volume 15 - Number 7

Sampling of Bay’s rivers yields surprises

For days, weeks—perhaps even years—water had flowed down the Susquehanna River to turn into the white, foamy liquid being churned out from underneath the Conowingo Dam. Most of it was finally about to reach its destination, the Chesapeake Bay, which was only a few more miles downstream. Except, that is, for about four liters, which Dave Brower was about to pull from the river.

Brower, a hydrologic technician with the U.S. Geological Survey, braced his stomach against the metal railing of a catwalk and leaned out over the water churning 30 feet below. The railing, Brower noted, was frequently a roosting place for pigeons, and he wanted to avoid any contact between it and his gloved hands. “You’re sampling nutrients,” he said. “You can’t have bird droppings.” ...

John Smith water trail study put on fast track

The National Park Service has agreed to make the study of a watertrail retracing John Smith’s Chesapeake Bay explorations a “top priority,” and hopes to have a preliminary report next summer, its director told regional lawmakers.

Congress instructed the service to study the potential Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Watertrail this summer when it passed the Interior Department’s appropriations bill.

But the Park Service has a backlog of about 30 park studies—each of which take about two years and costs $250,000 to complete—and Congress cut funding for river and trail study programs from $899,000 to $394,000 in the same appropriations bill. ...

Species protection act may itself be endangered

A powerful House chairman introduced legislation in September that would sharply limit the federal government’s ability to regulate landowners who impact endangered species or their habitat.

H.R. 3824, the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005, would no longer require that the federal government take steps to protect species which are merely “threatened,” rather than “endangered,” with extinction.

The bill would also set a “best available science” standard for the science used by federal agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would delay steps to protect currently protected species and frustrate efforts to protect new species. And, the bill would end the designation of the “critical habitat” used by federally protected species—a designation that has had little practical impact but has been hotly opposed by many farmers and developers. ...

3 Bay animals under consideration for endangered species listing

When Dieter Busch, a career fisheries manager, heard colleagues describe the native Bay oyster as being “commercially extinct” and say that populations were at record lows, he began investigating the matter for himself.

He concluded they were right.

So, earlier this year, Busch filed a petition with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service suggesting that the eastern oyster be considered for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. “Not realizing,” he added, “that it was going to cause me a little stress afterward.” ...

Report calls threats to region’s farms threats to Chesapeake

Sprawl development is consuming the region’s best cropland, while farmers reap a diminishing portion of consumer food spending—and less than their fair share of federal farm spending.

Those and other factors pose a mounting threat to the region’s farmers, which also spells trouble for the Bay, according to a new report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The report, “Vital Signs: Assessing the State of Chesapeake Agriculture in 2005,” which examined 12 key indicators of agricultural health with the input of farmers and other agricultural experts came up with a bleak picture. Of the 12 indicators, 10 rated weak or unhealthy, while one was fair, one was rated good. None were scored at healthy. ...

Targeted watershed grants program to fund efforts to control nonpoint nutrient sources

Look for the upcoming announcement of the new Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watersheds Grant Program. Earlier this year, Congress appropriated nearly $8 million to establish a pilot program in the Bay watershed to demonstrate innovative, sustainable and cost-effective approaches to control nonpoint sources of nutrients in the watershed.

In May, the EPA selected the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to apply under a cooperative agreement to manage the new Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watersheds Grant Program. ...

Water quality standards approved for MD’s part of Bay

The EPA in late August approved new water quality standards for Maryland’s portion of the Bay, triggering what the agency said was the largest regulatory action in the nation aimed at stemming the flow of nutrients into waterways.

The action will first be felt by large wastewater treatment plants and industry plants that discharge nutrients. The EPA immediately notified all states in the watershed that all new permits for those facilities must contain discharge limits for the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus. EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin Grumbles called the standards “a pivotal piece in our multistate effort to increase nutrient controls across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.” ...

Bay experiences largest recorded anoxic zone this summer

Scientists had predicted a bad year for oxygen in the Bay, but it turned out to be even worse than they imagined. Monitoring showed the largest-ever area of anoxia—water void of oxygen—reported in the Bay.

Averaged over the summer, an estimated 5.1 percent of the Chesapeake’s deepest water was a true anoxic “dead zone,” according to Bay Program data.

Scientists had expected the anoxic water to disappear, as it normally does, in late summer. Instead, September monitoring found 1.66 cubic kilometers of anoxic water in the Bay in September. ...

Alliance booklet outlines forest -friendly development

About 100 acres of forests are lost daily in the Bay watershed, threatening both the Chesapeake and local waterways because woodlands play an important role in filtering pollution, storing rainwater and buffering streams and rivers.

“Forest friendly” development techniques can provide a way to manage growth while protecting an important natural resource. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has produced a 32-page booklet, “Forest Friendly Development-Chesapeake Bay Watershed Case Studies,” which describes techniques used at 10 developments in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia to preserve natural forest corridors, conserve large tracts of trees or create new forests while developing the land. ...

Seed-collecting effort is for those who are nuts about the Bay

Thousands of volunteers in the Potomac watershed will turn out to “get nuts for clean water!” this October as the Potomac Watershed Partnership conducts its fifth annual “Growing Native” project aimed at gathering seeds for future streamside forests.

Since 2001, thousands of Growing Native volunteers have helped state nurseries meet a growing demand for hardwood tress for stream buffer plantings. Volunteers have collected enough seeds to generate nearly 4 million seedlings—enough to reforest almost 35,000 acres. These seedlings are planted along streams, thereby protecting water quality by filtering polluted runoff and preventing erosion. ...

USF&WS drops objection to Newport News reservoir project

The last permit needed for the controversial King William Reservoir was set to go forward in September after the latest in a series of reversals by agencies with oversight of the project.

In August, the regional office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—a part of the Interior Department—sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers objecting to a permit that would result in the destruction of more than 400 acres of wetlands, the most ever allowed in the region under the Clean Water Act, to allow the construction of a 1,500-acre reservoir by the city of Newport News. ...

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

Wayne McCollough teaches biology in Lock Haven, PA, near the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, a rural area with abundant forests and farmland. Each year, he spends about two weeks studying watershed science with his students. The study peaks with every ninth-grader—about 350 students—enjoying daylong field studies at their nearby “wonderful, underused nature center.”

There, students explore the living dimensions of classroom concepts such as water quality testing and wetlands ecology. But there are other first-time experiences as well. ...

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