Bay Journal

April 2008 - Volume 18 - Number 2

Put out to Pasture

On a pleasant evening last September, more than 100 people gathered on Steven Weaver's New York farm to see how his grass was growing. Quite well, it turned out, despite a drought that persisted much of the summer.


Clover, orchard grass, alfalfa, rye and other forage grew so thick it required effort to wade through them on the stroll up the hill to see the Amish farmer's dairy herd contentedly chewing away.


Unlike most dairy farms, Weaver's 50 cows spend almost all of their time in the pasture, which is also where they get almost all of their food. Less than an hour a day is spent in the milking parlor. ...


Organizations seek ‘endangered’ status for red knot

A migratory bird that environmentalists say is threatened because of horseshoe crab fishing along the mid-Atlantic coast should be listed under the Endangered Species Act, a coalition of environmental groups said in a letter to federal officials.

The letter was sent by the American Bird Conservancy, American Littoral Society, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Defenders of Wildlife, Delaware Audubon, Delaware Nature Society, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, National Audubon Society, and New Jersey Audubon Society. The groups ask Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall to list two subspecies of red knot under the act. ...

Patricia Nielsen, Chester River activist

Patricia Herold Nielsen, an environmental activist who was a founding member of the Chester River Association, died Feb. 28 at her home in Brooklyn, NY, after a 10-year battle with breast cancer. She was 59.

Nielson, an Emmy Award-winning television writer, director and producer in New York, and her husband Ed Nielson, who also worked in television, split their time between Brooklyn and a farm outside Centreville. MD.

In Maryland, she worked to advance the protection and restoration of the Bay and served for more than two decades on the Chester River Association Board of Directors, and was its president from 1990-1993. The association is regarded as one the most effective river groups in the Bay watershed. She was also the creator and a frequent contributing writer to Currents, the association's annual journal. ...

Trade group pushes large aquaculture plan using sterile Asian oysters

A trade group is proposing its largest experiment to revive the Chesapeake Bay's oyster industry, seeking to grow 1.3 million sterile nonnative oysters.

The Virginia Seafood Council proposal would "plant" the Asian oysters in the Bay and on the Eastern Shore, starting June 1. "We are very determined to continue forward with this," said Frances Porter, executive director of the Virginia Seafood Council. "It's good for our industry as we continue to develop our markets for the Asian oyster." ...

Ocean health threatened by lack of federal funds, says report card

The United States earned an overall grade of a C for its ocean and coastal restoration efforts in 2007, inching up from a C- in 2006, according to an annual report by the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative released in February.

The report card assessed the nation's progress in 2007 toward implementing the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission, as well as the actions described in the Bush administration's U.S. Ocean Action Plan.

Both commissions said oceans and coastal areas were at risk from myriad problems, from pollution resulting from increased population pressures to climate change. They called for a more coordinated national policy to address the problems. ...

Environmental, health experts say new ozone standard isn’t strong enough

New federal actions to clean the air should also help to clean up the Chesapeake, although environmentalists and health advocates say the EPA's new standard for ozone pollution doesn't go far enough.

The EPA in March announced that it would lower the allowable concentration of ozone-commonly known as smog-in the air to no more than 75 parts per billion, compared with the old standard of 80.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson called the new limits "the most stringent standards ever," and said they will require 345 counties-out of more than 700 that are monitored-to make air quality improvements because they now have dirtier air than is healthy to breathe. ...

VA tightens blue crab harvest rules; more restrictions may be ahead

Virginia officials tightened rules on harvesting blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay to try to restore the dwindling crab population-and signaled that even more dramatic changes may be coming this season, which started March 17.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted unanimously Feb. 26 for a spate of rule changes during a meeting packed with angry commercial crabbers.

"We're not going to survive this," said Charles Pruitt, a waterman from Tangier Island. "You might as well throw us out now; we've been regulated to death already." ...

Bacterium from Bay could help to develop cellulosic ethanol

A type of bacteria taken from the Chesapeake may eventually help prevent pollution from reaching the Bay.

Researchers at the University of Maryland in March said they had developed a new process to convert biomass material into ethanol using a bacteria discovered two decades ago that decomposes marsh grasses in the Bay.

The bacterium, Saccharophagus degradans, creates a mixture of enzymes that break down almost any source of biomass into sugars, which can then be converted into ethanol. ...

Shallop continues to serve as ambassador for Smith water trail

The shallop that re-enacted Capt. John Smith's 1608 travels on the Chesapeake Bay will enjoy a more restful summer this year without straying far from the public eye.

"The shallop will continue to travel the Bay with a new crew of volunteers, telling the story of the John Smith voyage and the Bay 400 years ago, and introducing the John Smith water trail," said Drew McMullen, president of Sultana Projects.

Sultana Projects built the recreated shallop and organized its 2007 tour of the Bay. A crew of 12 spent 120 days sailing the small open vessel to more than 20 ports of call to commemorate Smith's exploration of the Bay and draw attention to the region's human and environmental history. ...

Rendell creates task force to review PA’s water, wastewater infrastructure

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Feb. 27 issued an executive order establishing a high-level task force that will review water and wastewater infrastructure needs throughout the state.

"Our water and wastewater infrastructure is aging," he said in a statement. "Pennsylvania is facing nearly $20 billion in unmet water-related infrastructure needs, and that doesn't even take into account ongoing capital costs and expenses associated with operations and maintenance responsibilities."

Rendell said the state needs a comprehensive plan "that supports a sustainable network of systems to protect public health, and ensure citizens and businesses don't lose out on the quality and dependable services they have come to expect." ...

PA municipalities’ suit calls DEP nutrient strategy ‘unlawful’

More than 70 Pennsylvania local governments have united in a lawsuit seeking to block the state from enforcing nutrient limits placed in wastewater discharge permits as part of the state's effort to reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.

The municipalities contend the Department of Environmental Protection lacked the legislative and regulatory authority to require the nitrogen and phosphorus reductions from wastewater treatment plants.

They also say the permit requirements are unfair because they would cost sewer rate payers more than $1 billion, but the state has not required farms-the largest source of nutrients-to make reductions that would achieve the state's 2010 Bay cleanup goal. ...

Wave bye-bye to wavyleaf basketgrass

Three summers ago, when Marc Imlay and a small band of volunteers were yanking unwanted plants in a local park, they stumbled across something they had never seen before: a deep green grass with rippling waves across its blades.

In later visits to Little Paint Branch Park in Maryland's Prince George's County, they noticed the grass was quickly blanketing the area. "We knew there was something wrong," said Imlay, conservation biologist with the Anacostia Watershed Society, who gathered samples for botanists to identify. ...

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