Bay Journal

November 2005 - Volume 15 - Number 8

Let’s Make a Deal: Draft PA nutrient policy would let wastewater plants, farmers trade credits

Pennsylvania is setting the groundwork for farmers to sell a new commodity at the market: nutrient reductions. The state Department of Environmental Protection has released a draft nutrient trading policy that would let wastewater treatment plants and industries meet their Bay-related pollution control obligations by purchasing “credits” from other facilities or farmers who have done more than is required.

While nutrient trading programs have been gaining interest across the watershed and the nation, Pennsylvania’s— by clearly encouraging trades involving farmers—could be the most sweeping to be proposed in the United States. Proponents are banking on it as a way to shave the cost of a the state’s multibillion Bay cleanup effort. ...

It’s clear that controlling sediment is critical to Bay’s water clarity

Since the glaciers of the last ice age began retreating more than 10,000 years ago—flooding part of the ancient Susquehanna River valley and creating the Chesapeake—water has been slowly eating away the edges of the Bay.

Sometimes, that’s a good thing. Sediment from erosion builds beaches, which provide important habitat for diamondback terrapins, horseshoe crabs, nesting shorebirds and the endangered tiger beetle.

Sometimes, that’s a bad thing. Eroding sediment can cloud the water, blocking sunlight to underwater grass beds; smother oyster bars and other bottom habitats; and carry pollutants that bind to particles. ...

Now you can drink to the health of the Bay

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich recently announced the formation the Chesapeake Bay Recovery Partnership, a new public-private partnership between the Oyster Recovery Partnership and the state of Maryland.

The new partnership was created to raise funds from public and private sources and to facilitate and oversee large-scale, integrated Chesapeake Bay restoration projects, including oyster restoration, Bay grass replenishment, planting of forest buffers and cover crops, and the implementation of nutrient and sediment reduction techniques. ...

Coalition pulls out all the stops to restore Corsica’s water quality

Launching what Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich called a “grand experiment,” a coalition of state and federal agencies is teaming with nonprofit organizations and local landowners to make a tangible water quality difference in one small watershed.

The grand plan for the Corsica River watershed calls for the widespread use of nutrient-absorbing cover crops on farms, planting oysters and grass beds in the water, and even getting homeowners to plant rain-absorbing gardens on their lawns to slow runoff. ...

Executive Council annual meeting set for Nov. 29

The Chesapeake Executive Council’s annual meeting will take place Nov. 29 at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Council, which is the top policy-making body for the state-federal Bay cleanup partnership, includes the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the administrator of the EPA; the mayor of the District of Columbia; and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which represents the legislatures of the three states.

The council is expected to set a new wetlands goal, discuss funding for the Bay cleanup effort, adopt a management strategy for animal manure, adopt a fisheries ecosystem management plan and discuss the role of education in the Bay cleanup. ...

International team seeks ancient fiery origins of Chesapeake Bay

Amid fields of soybeans just outside Eyreville on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, geologists are closing in on an ancient cataclysm.

Since September, an international team of scientists have been boring a 7,200-foot hole through the clay and silt that sits atop a 53-mile-wide crater buried below the Chesapeake Bay.

The farm is just off-center from where geologists say a 2-mile-wide, fiery space rock exploded more than 35 million years ago, creating an inverted sombrero-shaped crater that quickly filled with tons of water and debris. ...

4 VA environmental groups unite efforts to seek funds for waterways

Four Virginia environmental groups plan to band together to urge the General Assembly to establish a long-term source of funding to help clean up the state’s degraded waterways.

The Friends of the Rivers of Virginia, the Friends of the Rappahannock, the James River Association and the Potomac Conservancy said they were forming the Virginia Healthy Rivers Initiative. which will urge the 2006 General Assembly to dedicate as much as $2.3 billion to river cleanups over the next 10 to 15 years. ...

Supreme Court will take up wetlands cases

The Supreme Court set the stage in October for what could be a landmark ruling on government authority to regulate wetlands and control pollution, giving new Chief Justice John Roberts his first chance to limit the federal regulation of property rights.

The justices agreed to take up claims that regulators have gone too far by restricting the development of property that is miles away from any river or waterway.

With more than 100 million acres of wetlands in the contiguous United States, a total as big as California, the stakes are high, the justices were told. ...

Bay oyster seasons off to early start because of hurricanes

The effects of Gulf Coast hurricanes reached the Chesapeake Bay as Virginia and Maryland management agencies both acted to expand their oyster harvest seasons because oyster production in the Gulf Coast was crippled by the storms.

A bushel of oysters from the Chesapeake could fetch more than $40 this winter—up from about $30 a bushel last season—because of the sharply reduced supply from Louisiana, which typically produces 40 percent of the nation’s oysters, and other Gulf Coast states. ...

Chesapeake Bay region leads nation in dam removals

For more than a century, the Octoraro Creek dam had stretched across 100-foot-wide stretch of the Maryland river; a pile of rocks and boulders above wooden cribbing that was just enough of an obstruction to block fish from moving upstream.

Then, over the course of three days, workers and heavy equipment ripped out the dam. Water moved freely downsteam, and fish could suddenly swim unimpeded upstream.

“It was very exciting,” said Jim Thompson, a fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resoruces. “It went very well. Even better than we expected.” ...

Shoring up coasts against erosion

Some ideas get tested by fire, but a new idea about how to protect Bay shorelines with more natural buffering systems has been tested by water and hurricane-force winds and is helping to stem erosion and preserve nearby habitats.

“Living shorelines” is an increasingly popular approach to erosion control that uses strategically placed plants, stone and sand to deflect wave action, conserve soil and simultaneously provide critical shoreline habitat. Living shorelines often stand up to wave energy better than solid bulkheads or revetments, which add to the problem by amplifying waves on neighboring shores. ...

Incentives for Trading

The real incentive for trading programs, some say, may come when farmers get financial benefits not just for nutrient reductions, but also for other benefits that a best management practice may provide.

For instance, a streamside buffer of trees or switchgrass not only reduces nutrient and sediment pollution, but also absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Right now, effective trading programs do not exist for farmers or others to earn credits to sequester carbon to offset greenhouse gas emissions, but that could change in the future. ...

Reverse Auction

As a first step to familiarize farmers with the concept of trading, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council this summer conducted a “reverse auction” in which farmers made bids to install runoff control practices. The bids that provided the most benefit at the least cost were then funded.

Technicians from the Lancaster County Conservation District solicited bids from farmers in the Conestoga River watershed. They worked with farmers to outline projects, calculate the baseline loadings and estimate annual phosphorus reductions using the NutrientNet online tool. ...

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