Bay Journal

April 2006 - Volume 16 - Number 2

EPA report indicates 2010 cleanup deadline will not be met

A five-year strategic plan being drafted by the EPA indicates what many officials have privately acknowledged for years—the region will miss its goal of cleaning the Chesapeake by 2010, and likely by a wide margin.

The draft plan anticipates that the Bay will meet only 40 percent of its dissolved oxygen goal, and just 45 percent of its underwater grass goal by the end of the decade only slight improvements over conditions seen today.

Those poor water quality conditions reflect the agency’s expectation that jurisdictions within the watershed will fall well short of their nutrient and sediment reduction goals. The EPA predicts the states will achieve just 59 percent of their nitrogen reduction goals (measured from a 1985 baseline), 74 percent of their phosphorus goals and 74 percent of their sediment goals by 2010. ...

Virginia to allow fishermen to keep, sell some shad bycatch

A change in Virginia regulations that allows commercial fishermen to keep some of the shad they accidentally catch has raised concern about its potential impact on efforts to rebuild populations of the migratory fish.

In January, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted to allow commercial fishermen targeting striped bass to keep and sell up to 10 shad a day which become entangled in their gill nets.

That action was limited to areas between the mouths of the James, York and Rappahannock rivers, and the lower limit of the spawning grounds in each river. The action recognized the spawning grounds as a sanctuary. ...

Bay Program to release draft reports on restoration efforts, ecosystem health

The Bay Program plans to release draft reports on the health of the Chesapeake and the status of the Bay cleanup effort for public comment during April and May.

The reports are part of the new “Chesapeake Bay 2005 Health and Restoration Assessment,” which replaces the Bay Program’s previous “State of the Bay” reports.

The first part, Ecosystem Health, uses the most current data available to provide a scientifically based, integrated assessment of the health of the Bay. The second part, Restoration Efforts, measures actions taken to restore the Bay against long-term restoration goals. ...

Potomac pact wants residents to come clean

In 1989, a group of volunteers gathered at Piscataway Park to remove refuse that had washed up along 3 miles of Potomac River shoreline.

They did it again the next year, but expanded the effort to four sites. By 1996, they had 2,000 volunteers cleaning up 60 sites along the river, from its headwaters to the Bay, collecting 137.5 tons of trash.

By last year, the cleanup—coordinated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation—consisted of 5,875 volunteers who removed 217.8 tons of trash from 309 sites. ...

Supreme Court considers extent of Clean Water Act

Supreme Court justices raised questions in February about the limits of government regulation of wetlands, canals and seasonal streams as the they heard oral arguments in two cases that test the scope of the Clean Water Act.

In both cases, landowners challenged the extent to which Congress intended to define “navigable waters.”

The Clean Water Act uses “navigable waters” to accommodate the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause and identify wetlands under the purview of the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA. ...

PA seeks tougher-than-federal mercury limits for power plants

Pennsylvania’s coal-fired power plants would have to cut mercury emissions 90 percent within a decade under tougher-than-federal mercury regulations proposed for the fourth-largest coal-producing state. The plan was called overzealous by a power industry group.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said last year that it would try to write a mercury rule that would be tougher than the new federal rule, which projects a 70 percent average reduction in mercury emissions by 2018, at the earliest. ...

Made in the shade: Wild ginseng could be a cure for Bay’s woods

A recent report suggests that a small herb may help save the Bay—by saving forests. The study found that ginseng, a plant prized for its medicinal value for centuries, can be a profitable crop in woodlands that could otherwise be developed.

The study, funded by the Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology, suggested that the plant, which grows naturally in heavily shaded forests in the western part of the Bay watershed, could even be grown in Eastern Shore woodlands, which face greater development threats. It also suggested that the plant holds the promise of an economic return for people who plant forested buffers along streams. ...

Fish project could give a lift to power production at Susquehanna dam

Power turbines and migrating fish usually mix with poor results, but that may soon change on the Susquehanna River.

PPL Corp. is proposing to add two generating units at its Holtwood Hydroelectric Plant as part of a plan to boost the passage of American shad over the dam.

It and other utilities have invested tens of millions of dollars to build fish passages at four hydroelectric dams that have blocked the first 55 miles of the river to fish migration for nearly a century.

Elevators known as fishlifts were built over Conowingo Dam—the first one encountered by migrating fish—in 1991. That was followed by lifts at the next two dams, Holtwood and Safe Harbor, in 1997, and a fish ladder York Haven in 2000. ...

Officials ponder ways to ramp up public access sites to Bay

Midway to a 2010 goal, officials say it’s unlikely that states will achieve the Bay Program’s commitment to sharply increase the number of public access sites on or near the Chesapeake.

The main obstacle, officials say, is the high price of waterfront land.

“It has just become incredibly expensive to try to buy waterfront property,” said John Davy, of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and chair of the Bay Program’s Public Access Workgroup.

“It’s in high demand. The best sites for public access are also the same best sites that people want to find to buy for houses and things of that nature. So that is obviously a huge concern.” ...

Biological woodsmen give watershed’s forests a helping hoof

In the woods of northern Virginia, Jason Rutledge is working on changing human behavior—with horses.

He and his crew work their way through woodlots, selecting the worst trees they can find, then cutting them down and hauling them away with a team of horses.

What’s left behind, Rutledge says, is a healthier forest and—thanks to the careful step of his horses—little sign of disturbance. Not only do many of the trees remain, but there are no ruts and tire tracks associated with traditional logging operations. ...

The World is their Classroom

At Sparks Elementary School in Baltimore County, MD, Pokey Fair was teaching math, science, reading, writing and research skills—and environmental stewardship—to a small team of fifth-grade students. All at the same time.

The students clustered around their teacher as she spoke.

“You’re writing to ask for grant money, but you’ll each be working on different things,” Fair told her students. “You need to do some research first.”

She nodded toward one rapt listener. “Your job is to cover the tree planting. To start, we’ll need to figure out how many trees we’ll need, and what kinds.” ...

Failure to meet 2010 cleanup deadline will likely result in TMDLs

Failure to meet the Bay Program’s 2010 cleanup goal will likely trigger exactly what the goal was intended to avoid.

In 1999, a judge set a timetable that would require a regulatory cleanup plan, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load, for the Bay by May 2011 at the latest.

At the time, many state and federal officials feared that writing such a plan for the entire 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed would inspire a spate of lawsuits that could bog down efforts to clean up the Chesapeake. ...

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy



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