Bay Journal

May 2008 - Volume 18 - Number 3

VA, MD slash female blue crab harvest 34%

In a move painful for watermen but one that scientists said was essential to maintain the Bay's most valuable remaining fisheries, Virginia and Maryland in April moved to slash female blue crab harvests by 34 percent this year.

The moves follow a near-record low Baywide crab harvest of 44.2 million pounds last year, and continuing evidence that the blue crab population lingers near historic low levels.

The cuts were sought by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who reinforced the urgency of the situation by making a joint appearance along the Potomac River, where they were briefed on the latest blue crab survey results. ...

Farmers planning to significantly increase crop acreage this year

The amount of crop land in the Bay region will increase this year if farmers follow through on planting intentions reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA's Prospective Plantings report issued March 31 indicates that farmers in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New York intend to grow nearly 500,000 additional acres of corn, wheat and soybeans than they did just two years ago, an increase of more than 7 percent.

That's good news for farmers, who are responding to record high commodity prices caused by increased global food demand, crop failures in other parts of the world and a growing thirst for ethanol and other biofuels in the United States. ...

Beachfront, marshes forest preserved on VA Eastern Shore

Nearly 300 acres of beachfront, marsh and forest are being added to the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.

The $12 million preservation deal, brokered by The Nature Conservancy, expands the refuge by one-fourth, to 1,414 acres. When the refuge opened in 1984, it had just 180 acres.

Developers had in their sights the two properties-82 acres of beachfront and 210 acres of seaside marsh and forest-for the future construction of homes, condos, roads and shops.

The owners, instead, decided to sell their family lands to the federal government. ...

Restoration efforts will have to be stepped up before Bay’s health significantly improves

A small stand of trees along the bank of the Severn River is part of the solution for what ails the Bay, noted EPA Bay Program Director Jeff Lape on an overcast morning in early April.

It would likely rain soon, but the runoff from a nearby road would pass through the 10-year-old buffer, where much of the rain would be filtered and much of the pollutants it carried, trapped.

If all areas along the Bay and its tributaries had buffers, he noted, "we would see a major improvement in the health of our water resources." ...

Reports reveal a degraded Chesapeake despite restoration efforts

Two reports released in April continue to paint a picture of a Bay ecosystem that remains severely degraded despite a quarter century of restoration efforts.

For the second year in a row, the state-federal Bay Program partnership released its Health and Restoration Assessment report in tandem with the release of the Chesapeake Bay 2007 Report Card produced by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The Report Card, based on a series of indicators developed by a team of scientists, gave the Bay an overall score of a C- last year, a slight uptick from 2006. ...

Project Clean Stream gathers 80 tons of trash in Maryland

More than 2,600 volunteers gathered 80 tons of trash from 102 streamside sites throughout Maryland as part of the annual Project Clean Stream cleanup that took place April 5.

Those numbers will grow as final results are tallied from what was the largest cleanup effort in the project's 30-year history.

"Volunteers for Project Clean Stream help to make local streams and shorelines safer, cleaner and more beautiful," said Kate Dowling, who manages the project for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. "These types of restorative projects help educate volunteers and participants on the effects of human activity on the environment and local waterways." ...

5 Christmas trees, 3 auto seats, 2 fuel tanks ...and a cleaner Potomac

Thousands of volunteers marked the 20th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup by gathering a prosthetic leg, double bed, tens of thousands of beverage containers and assorted other trash from streams throughout the watershed.

Figures for the cleanup, which was scheduled to continue at roughly 300 locations during the course of the month, were still being compiled, but by mid-April more than 5,000 volunteers had gathered 133,668 tons of trash from 192 sites.

"Though it's great to have the fabulous volunteer turnout we enjoyed, the fact remains that trash is still a major problem in the Potomac River watershed-even after 20 years of these events," said Tracy Bowen, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, which organizes the cleanup. "We're making positive progress, but there is still a lot of work, a lot of education and outreach to do around this issue." ...

EPA reformulates contentious rules for restoring destroyed wetlands

The EPA in late March announced requirements that would encourage developers to compensate for the destruction of wetlands or streams by paying for the restoration or creation of new ones elsewhere, sometimes many miles away.

The approach, which emphasizes linking wetlands destruction and replacement efforts across expansive watersheds, has been a contentious issue since its proposal two years ago.

The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in announcing the regulation's final approval, said that it will help to replace wetlands and streams that are unavoidably destroyed or severely impacted by construction or other activities. ...

Bay grasses expanded 10% in 2007; low-salinity areas had greatest increase

Underwater grass beds in the Chesapeake expanded by nearly 10 percent during 2007, driven largely by the ongoing recovery of beds in the Susquehanna Flats and other low-salinity areas.

But scientists remain worried that grasses in most of the Bay continue to show little sign of recovery, and many areas have fewer beds than they did just a decade ago.

The annual Baywide aerial survey showed 64,912 acres of grass in the Chesapeake and its tidal tributaries last year, an increase of nearly 6,000 acres from 2006. Still, the underwater meadows cover only a third of the Bay Program's 185,000-acre goal. ...

Virginia’s new tourism pitch will have visitors seeing ‘green’

Environmentally friendly attractions are being promoted by Virginia tourism officials to direct visitors to destinations that are easy on the environment.

The web site,, is a guidepost to "certified green" tourism businesses such as lodging facilities, parks and other attractions.

The site also has links to outdoor adventure programs, the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, eco-friendly events and travel tips.

To be certified "green," a business must commit to waste-reducing activities, such as recycling; purchasing environmentally friendly products; and other steps that are kind to the environment. ...

Coalition calls on PA to help fund sewage upgrades, ag programs

Contending that Pennsylvania has shortchanged efforts to clean up the Chesapeake, a diverse coalition in April called for $170 million in additional spending this year to help farmers, local governments and others control nutrient pollution.

The Fair Share for Clean Water Plan calls for the General Assembly to provide $100 million for wastewater treatment plant upgrades, and $70 million for various agriculture programs in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The coalition wants similar levels of spending over the next few years to help meet Bay cleanup goals and reduce burdens on sewage ratepayers and farmers. ...

Chopped Up

Got woods? If so, you are in good company.

Officials in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia report that the number of private citizens owning forestland in the Chesapeake region has reached an all-time high.

That's because millions of average citizens now hold title to relatively small tracts of forest, often on less than 10 acres of land.

According to The State of Chesapeake Forests, the number of small forest tracts jumped by 25 percent in the last decade.

"The trend is the same everywhere," said Rob Farrell of the Virginia Department of Forestry. "More people on the same amount of land, divided into ever smaller pieces." ...

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