Bay Journal

February 2008 - Volume 18 - Number 11

Wastewater plants close to reaching 2010 objectives

While the Bay region may miss its overall goal to clean the Chesapeake by 2010, recent figures from the EPA suggest that one key sector will come close to meeting its objective: wastewater treatment plants.

The figures, based on information from the states, indicate that large wastewater treatment plants and industrial dischargers will achieve 95 percent of their nitrogen reduction goals-and surpass their phosphorus goals-by 2010.

But the progress comes at a price. The EPA estimated that upgrading 483 plants in the watershed with nutrient reduction technology will ultimately cost about $4 billion. ...

After decades, shellfishing returns to Lynnhaven River

Shellfishing has returned to Virginia's Lynnhaven River, where pollution has kept watermen away from some sections of the river for a generation.

The state health department has found the river clean enough to reopen 1,450 acres to oyster and clam harvesting. Some of the newly reopened waters had been closed to shellfish harvesting since the 1930s.

The Lynnhaven, which slices into Virginia Beach from the Chesapeake Bay, will be monitored to make sure test results were not related to the drought, said Bob Croonenberghs, director of the state Bureau of Shellfish Sanitation. He said the city and the community appear to have gotten together and made a difference. "I think it could be a national model." ...

O’Malley proposes poultry permits that would allow inspections

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley in January proposed new permitting requirements that would apply to about 200 large Eastern Shore poultry farms and allow regulators to inspect chicken houses and collect water samples from nearby streams.

Pollution control permits are already required for large dairy and hog farms, but poultry was exempted when the regulations were written more than a decade ago even though the industry is larger. Maryland proposed similar permits under former Gov. Robert Ehrlich in 2004, but the proposal was dropped after farmers complained it was too burdensome. ...

Upgrade at Holtwood could lead to surge of shad using fish lift

Plans to produce more renewable power at a hydroelectric dam on the Susquehanna River may also provide a boost to American shad and other migratory fish trying to swim upstream.

PPL, owner of the dam, recently asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to boost the electricity-generating capacity at its Holtwood hydroelectric plant to 233 megawatts.

As part of the expansion, the utility plans major modifications aimed at luring more migrating shad to a fish lift built in 1997 that has been performing poorly. ...

Exotic hydrilla linked to restoration of waterfowl habitat

Invasive species are often considered a bane for ecosystems, but recent research shows that some exotic species of underwater grass provide needed habitat for wildlife in the Bay.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey who have studied underwater grass beds in the Potomac River found that exotic species, especially hydrilla, which was once considered a harmful nuisance, have helped to restore key ecosystem functions such as habitat for waterfowl.

"The message is you can get ecosystem services, even from exotic submerged aquatic vegetation," said Nancy Rybicki, a scientist with the USGS who has long studied grass beds in the river. "Compared to periods when there was nothing at all, underwater grass beds dominated by exotics appear to enhance waterfowl numbers by providing suitable habitat for waterfowl feeding." ...

Report calls for more united effort to halt spread of invasive species

In 2004, the snakehead, a voracious aquatic predator, managed to make its way into the Potomac River, apparently released by an aquarium owner.

For the last two years, the spiderlike Chinese mitten crab has turned up in the Chesapeake and been reported in other places along the East Coast. The crab is suspected of having hitched a ride to the Bay in the ballast tank of a cargo ship.

And last summer, the zebra mussel-famed for wreaking havoc throughout the Great Lakes-was reported for the first time in Pennsylvania's portion of the Susquehanna River. It is believed to have been carried into a reservoir on a recreational boat. ...

Conflicting court decisions cloud waters of nutrient trading

The Bay states are moving forward to develop nutrient credit trading programs to help achieve Chesapeake cleanup goals, but a recent paper analyzing legal issues involving trades cautions that the courts have expressed differing views of such programs.

The paper, completed by the National Sea Grant Law Center, said two rulings last year split over the question whether a new or expanding discharger can offset its pollution through reductions from another source-a key element of any trading program. ...

Consensus isn’t clear on how to handle Conowingo’s trapped sediment

One of the most effective pollution control devices in the Bay watershed is the 100-foot-high Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River.

On average, the dam traps about 3.5 million pounds of phosphorus and 2 million tons of dirt every year-about a third of the phosphorus and more than half the sediment heading downstream.

But the reservoir behind the dam has slowly been filling since it was completed in 1928. Once at capacity, the amount of phosphorus and sediment reaching the Bay-just 12 miles downstream-will rise sharply. ...

Oyster farmers just scratching surface of floating hatcheries’ potential

There aren't many oysters on the floor of Maryland's Choptank River-but there are millions floating near the surface in floats owned by an oyster hatchery getting statewide attention for its success in raising oysters where they'd nearly been wiped out.

The Marinetics company has about 5 million oysters living on 3,000 floats in a river near Cambridge. The business, founded by a husband and wife team interested in oyster recovery, raises disease-free oysters-a rarity in the troubled Chesapeake Bay watershed. ...

Panel says future of Bay oyster likely to be aquaculture, large sanctuaries

Likening the effort to return a large oyster population to the Bay to that of putting a man on the moon, a Maryland advisory commission in January indicated that it would recommend a sharply different-and costly-restoration program.

The commission envisions a future in which the majority of the state's remaining oyster habitat would be set aside in large sanctuaries where oyster reefs would be built and "seeded" with billions of hatchery-reared spat.

Oyster harvests, meanwhile, will largely come from aquaculture, with oysters reared on privately held bottom land, or in floats placed in the water column. Harvests from public oyster grounds would be limited, if allowed at all. ...

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