Bay Journal

December 2005 - Volume 15 - Number 9

Feed plan takes a bite out of farm nutrients

Here’s a thought worth chewing on: By better managing what goes in an animal’s mouth, scientists say they can reduce—sometimes dramatically—the amount of nutrients coming out the other end.

The potential nutrient reductions are not small potatoes, either.

Chickens, cows, cattle, hogs and turkeys in the Bay watershed churn out about 44 million tons of manure each year. Altogether, they are responsible for about a fifth of the nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Bay.

Researchers, farm advisers and water quality managers increasingly believe the best way to deal with those nutrients is to keep them from coming out of the animal to begin with. ...

Small Watershed Grants Program accepting proposals

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Program, is accepting applications for the 2006 Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program.

The program provides grants to organizations working on a local level to protect and improve watersheds in the Chesapeake basin, while building citizen-based resource stewardship. The purpose of the grants program is to address the water quality and living resource needs of the Bay’s ecosystem.

In 2005, the program awarded 88 grants, totaling more than $3.06 million. ...

New MD rules would require 6 coal-fired power plants to slash emissions

Maryland may require billions of dollars in improvements to coal-fired power plants in metropolitan Baltimore and the District of Columbia in what’s described as the most sweeping air pollution control measure ever enacted in the state. Power plants would have to sharply reduce pollutants such as nitrogen oxide—a major Bay pollutant—and sulfur dioxide by 2010, changes that authorities said could slash some harmful power plant emissions by up to 85 percent.

The proposed change, announced by Gov. Robert Ehrlich, comes after the legislature last year considered, but could not agree on, similar air pollution efforts. Ehrlich’s version would not affect carbon dioxide emissions from the six power plants, a feature of the bill he opposed last session. He said his version would make huge strides in air quality without putting an undue burden on power suppliers. ...

Bay still failing to make the grade in annual CBF report

The health of the Chesapeake received a failing “D” grade from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, as the group said the estuary showed no improvement since last year in its annual “State of the Bay” report.

The health rating index of 27, on a scale of 100, is unchanged since last year, and is 1 point less than the 28 point ranking the CBF gave the Bay in 2000, when regional leaders signed the sweeping Chesapeake 2000 agreement that called for cleaning up the Bay by 2010.

“Today, more than halfway to the 2010 target date, instead of seeing significantly improved water quality we have a Bay that is dangerously out of balance and in critical condition,” said CBF President William Baker. ...

Bay’s oxygen levels for year slightly better than thought

This summer turns out not to have been quite as dismal for Bay oxygen levels as previously thought. After monitoring during the month of September, scientists concluded that this summer had the largest volume of anoxic water—areas void of oxygen—observed since Baywide monitoring began 21 years ago.

But a re-examination showed this was actually the third worse summer for anoxia.

After taking a look at the numbers, scientists realized they had defined anoxia this year as water with dissolved oxygen concentrations that were less than, or equal to, 0.2 milligrams per liter of water. That is about the limit of detection for the monitoring equipment used in the surveys. ...

Massive eelgrass die-off may hurt blue crab recovery

Scientists are worried that a massive die-off of eelgrass in the lower Bay could hurt the recovery of the fragile blue crab population and have catastrophic consequences for high-salinity areas of the Chesapeake if there is no rebound next year.

The die-off, which scientists began to notice in August, may have been caused by warmer than normal water temperatures in the summer, combined with poor water clarity earlier in the year, which blocked sunlight from reaching the plants.

“It’s possible that when you couple those things together, it was just a fatal blow to eelgrass,” said Bob Orth, a seagrass expert with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “We are really concerned about it.” ...

NEMO to show officials how local decisions affect regional resources

A new network designed to help local officials with natural resource planning will get a test flight in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, thanks to a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Chesapeake Bay Office.

NOAA awarded the Center for Watershed Protection a grant of $99,500 to launch a regional component of the federal program, NEMO—Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials.

“NEMO sets up an opportunity to do something we must do, and haven’t done successfully yet: relate land use decisions to the things people really identify with,” said Peyton Robertson, deputy director at the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. ...

VA governor-elect pledges support for Bay, will work to control sprawl

Virginia Gov.-Elect Tim Kaine, who swept to victory in part by campaigning against sprawl development in the state, pledged support for Bay restoration activities during the campaign.

In position papers issued during the campaign, the lieutenant governor said he would uphold Virginia’s commitments under the Chesapeake Bay agreements and seek to pursue additional federal funding for the cleanup effort.

Kaine also told the Virginia Environmental Assembly in September that he would ask the General Assembly for at least $50 millon next year to support the state’s efforts to clean up the Bay. ...

Volunteers collect 15,000 pounds of seeds for Growing Native

At least 1 million future seedlings recently made their way to state nurseries in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia through “Growing Native,” an increasingly popular seed collection program.

Volunteers collected 15,000 pounds of native hardwood seeds, such as acorns, persimmons and a bumper crop of black walnuts, from locations throughout the Potomac River watershed. The seeds will sprout trees used to create streamside forest buffers throughout the Potomac River watershed. ...

Bay-related programs’ funding stable for 2006; some see increases

Funding for several Bay-related programs remained relatively stable or got slight increases in appropriations bills for the 2006 fiscal year that Congress approved in November.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Office will get $3.5 million to support its core fisheries, toxics and coastal prediction activities, the same as this year.

But the office’s Bay Watersheds Education and Training Program, which promotes Bay stewardship and education among teachers and students, will get $3.5 million, up from $2.5 million this year. ...

Petition to list Eastern oyster as endangered withdrawn

The U.S. government is no longer considering whether it should declare Eastern oysters endangered, which would have affected people who make their living off the shellfish, although it still plans to finish a study on the species’ health.

The man who filed the request that the federal government list oysters as an endangered species has taken it back.

Dieter Busch, a consultant, suggested the listing because the Chesapeake Bay population on the Atlantic coast has collapsed. He withdrew his request because “there was so much misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding was being successfully channeled into complaints” by people who might be affected. ...

Panel advises against ariakensis test in Piankatank

A proposal to place unconfined nonnative oysters on a Piankatank River oyster bar should be rejected because the plan lacks sufficient detail and could result in the unintentional introduction of a breeding population, a special Bay Program panel has concluded.

The Virginia Seafood Council has proposed placing 10,000 sterile Crassostrea ariakensis seed on clean shell in a 20-foot-square area of the Piankatank.

The intent of the industry trade group is to test for the potential of a future commercial-scale, on-bottom deployment and harvest of the nonnative oysters, which have shown to be resistant to the diseases that have plagued native oysters. ...

Blue crabs remain at low levels despite decline in fishing pressure

Fishing pressure on blue crabs has declined in recent years, but the abundance of the Bay’s most commercially valuable species remains at one of the lowest levels on record, according to the most comprehensive look at the Bay’s blue crabs in nearly a decade.

The first Chesapeake Bay blue crab stock assessment completed since 1997 concluded that the crustaceans were being overfished from 1998 through 2002, which contributed to the current low population levels. “There is yet to be convincing signs of recovery from this period of low abundance,” the assessment said. ...

House Bill would give local governments larger role in Bay cleanup

The EPA would be required to make timely reports to the public about the status of Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, and local governments would gain a larger role in the job—and more funding—under legislation introduced in the House.

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-MD, introduced the Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Enhancement Act of 2005 after meetings with federal, state and local officials about how to improve the restoration efforts.

“The two themes we heard during our meetings were clear,” Gilchrest said. “Increase accountability for the Bay Program, and let local governments play a bigger role in Bay cleanup efforts.” ...

GAO report faults the way Bay Program presents its data

Federal auditors have concluded that the Bay Program has not answered the most fundamental question about the Chesapeake: How is the Bay doing?

Although the Bay Program has scores of indicators and measurements about everything from the status of crabs and ducks to dissolved oxygen and forest buffers, the investigators said it has failed to integrate those into a comprehensive picture of the Bay’s current health, or the status of restoration efforts.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, also said the Bay Program’s “State of the Chesapeake Bay” reports fail to clarify that picture because they mix computer projections of future Chesapeake conditions with the monitoring of current conditions. As a result, the reports make it difficult for the public to determine whether the Bay is improving or not and sometimes depict a “rosier picture” than may be warranted, the GAO said. ...

Grass-based dairy operation profits by going against the grain

The first time Ron Holter turned his cows loose in the pasture, he knew it was the right thing to do. His father thought he was turning back the clock on farm management. And some of the neighbors thought he was so financially desperate that he could no longer afford to buy feed.

But a decade after deciding to allow his cows to be reared on pasture grass rather than grain and other imported feeds, Holter works less, earns more, and his farm pollutes less.

Instead of confining his cows mainly to barnyards and feeding them a prescribed diet, Holter rotates the 130 cows through three-acre paddocks during the course of the year, allowing the animals to pick and choose for themselves what they want to eat. ...

Bay Program unveils strategy to find uses for, reduce manure

Farmers will be encouraged to reduce nutrients going in the front end of farm animals while state and federal agencies plan to purchase more of what comes out the other end under a new Bay Program strategy designed to deal with animal waste.

The strategy, in the works for a year, seeks to reduce the impact inflicted on the Bay from the 44 million tons of manure produced annually by the cows, chickens, cattle, swine and turkeys in the watershed.

The magnitude of the manure problem not only threatens the Bay, but agriculture itself. Some regions of the watershed have more manure than can be applied to the land, especially as rules governing the application of animal waste have become more strict over time. ...

Report outlines regional issues for next Farm Bill

Recognizing that the next federal Farm Bill could dramatically boost—or break—Bay restoration efforts, regional leaders sent Congress a 16-page report outlining areas of concern for the Chesapeake in the hope that their voices will be heard when discussions on the multibillion-dollar legislation begin next year.

The report not only calls for stepped-up conservation funding, but also proposes creating regional programs to coordinate the spending of farm conservation money, hiring more people to provide technical assistance to help farmers implement runoff control practices, and more effectively targeting existing programs to make them better. ...

Federal farm spending bypasses Bay states for the most part

Farmers in just 47 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts collected 70 percent of all farm payments during the last decade.

And, none of those congressional districts are located in the Chesapeake watershed.

That’s according to the Environmental Working Group, an environmental think tank that analyzes farm subsidy data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group released new data in November.

Only one local congressman – Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-MD– managed to bring home more than $300 million in farm spending between 1995 and 2004, according to the analysis. ...

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy



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