Bay Journal

July-August 2008 - Volume 18 - Number 5

Crossing The Bay’s Threshold

For decades, Gunston Cove, a small tidal embayment off the Potomac River, was simply a mess. Its summertime water was painted green by algae blooms that long ago had smothered the last blade of underwater grass.

Amid campaigns to clean up the Potomac during the 1970s, phosphorus discharges from nearby treatment plants, which fueled the blooms, were slashed. By 1980, the amount of the nutrient entering Gunston Cove had been cut by 90 percent.

Not much happened in the cove, which is located on the Virginia side of the river near Mason Neck. In fact, by some measures, the mess got worse, as dense algae blooms continued to coat the summertime water. ...

Grave shape of Bay resurrects Capt. John Smith’s political ambitions

It has been 400 years since he last held elected office, but Capt. John Smith is coming out of his political retirement and throwing his feather-adorned hat into the presidential campaign.

Smith was last elected to head the troubled Jamestown colony in 1607 and is credited with helping to save it from disaster. Though at first glance he seems disqualified because he was last known to be a legal resident of England-not to mention dead-the Chesapeake Bay Foundation thinks he's just the man for the top job. ...

Park Service adds 5 sites to Gateways Network

The National Park Service recently announced that five new sites joined its Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertails Network.They include:

  • The Nanticoke River Water Trail in Delaware, which will be developed through the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. The trail is also a segment of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Portions of the Nanticoke are virtually unchanged from Captain Smith's explorations 400 years ago.
  • The Skipjack Martha Lewis, which is owned and operated by the nonprofit Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy in Havre de Grace, MD, provides educational programs on the water as well as public sailings. The Martha Lewis is one of the few remaining working dredge boats that make up the Chesapeake Bay oyster fleet-and the last to fish commercially, under sail, in the United States.
  • The Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, which preserves and interprets the maritime history of the Susquehanna River and its connection to the Chesapeake Bay. It is home to the Chesapeake Wooden Boat Builders School, preserving and teaching the tradition of wooden boat building, and the Susquehanna Flats Environmental Center, which explores the natural diversity of the Upper Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Star-Spangled Banner Trail, a Maryland Scenic Byway which connects several Gateways. The 100-mile scenic and historic driving tour follows the route taken by British marines as they invaded the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.
  • The Tangier Island History Museum and Interpretive Culture Center on Tangier Island in Virginia. Capt. John Smith discovered the island, which he named "Russel's Isles" on his 1607 voyage. Since that time, many of the island's day-to-day activities are centered on boats and access to the water.
  • ...

House votes to maintain Gateways Network

The House overwhelming approved a measure that would help secure the future of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails Network, which links Bay-related historic, cultural and natural sites throughout the watershed.

On a vote of 321-86, members in June voted to permanently authorize the National Park Service's role in coordinating the program and providing grants and technical advice for sites to help teach people about the Bay, provide public access and promote stewardship.

Congress originally authorized the network in 1998, and it was officially launched by the Park Service in 2000. Its current authorization was set to expire this year. ...

VA adds 1,100 miles of rivers to polluted list

About 1,100 miles of Virginia's rivers and streams have been added to the state's list of polluted waters in the last two years, bringing the total to 10,600 miles, state environmental regulators said in June.

The state Department of Environmental Quality released its 2008 water quality report, which listed about 40 percent of the state's waters as polluted. All of the major rivers, as well as the Chesapeake Bay, had "some impairment," DEQ spokesman Bill Hayden said.

"That number keeps getting larger, mainly because as we look around the state more thoroughly, we find more," he said. ...

Books On The Bay

Bring a Book to the Beach, or Bring the Bay into Your Home with these Books

Anacostia River On My Mind

By John R. Wennersten

Anacostia's waters flow through Washington, D.C., the nation's capital; and after a heavy rain the river becomes a garbage and trash-laden waterway. Our political leaders can observe the tragedy of our rivers and watersheds by merely gazing through their windows. The fact that a polluted junk-strewn river runs through one of the world's wealthiest capitals and coincidentally through the underprivileged black neighborhoods in the region, only adds to the poignancy of the Anacostia's impairment. The Anacostia River from the colonial period to the present has been a manipulated environment; one altered, transformed or planned by agricultural and corporate elites, politicians, and real estate developers. Historically the Anacostia has been a dumping ground for dispossessed populations, rubbish, sewage and toxins. The Anacostia has not figured largely in the public thinking of either the United States Congress or the State of Maryland, and in the District of Columbia, the Anacostia has always been a problematic afterthought. Yet the Anacostia River gives us a point of entry for thinking about Washington, the watershed and regional and local networks of power. It also enables us to think about the environmental and cultural facts that help people make sense out of the place in which they live. The Anacostia is a river story of colonial and federal power that involves people still waiting for political and environmental redemption. ...

Bay stakeholders taking first steps to offset ‘nutrient footprints’

When some corporations fly executives to meetings across the nation, they calculate the amount of carbon expended for the trip and buy "offsets" to erase the impact.

The offsets could, for instance, pay for tree plantings that would absorb as much carbon as was emitted by fossil fuels burned for the trip. The goal is to make the trip "carbon neutral."

Now, some are wondering whether such an initiative could happen with nutrients and the Bay. Could a mechanism be created allowing a company-or individual-to purchase offsets that erase the "nitrogen footprint" of operating their vehicles, heating their homes or fertilizing their lawns? ...

States seek to accelerate development of TMDLs, want 2010 deadline

Senior state officials signaled in June that they would like to accelerate the development of a new cleanup plan for the Bay.

The Bay Program's Principals Staff Committee, which includes state agency heads and senior federal officials, approved a motion directing that a new cleanup plan, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load, be completed by the end of 2010.

They also said the new plan should have better assurances that it will be fully implemented.

State and federal agency officials have been working on a schedule that would complete the plan in May 2011, the date required in a 1999 court agreement. ...

Scientists predict widespread low-oxygen conditions in Bay’s mainstem

It's likely to be another summer of poor Bay water quality, according to the prediction by a team of scientists, who expect widespread low-oxygen conditions in the Bay's mainstem.

The scientists said that the high nutrient loads accompanying higher-than-average river flows, especially in late winter, are to blame for the conditions.

"Simply put, we're predicting that it's not going to be a good summer out there for the rockfish, crabs and oysters that call the Bay home," said Bill Dennison, of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and leader of the forecast project. ...

Ecological report cards getting good marks for attracting public’s attention

Most kids with a bad grade on their report card are happy to avoid notice. But when rivers in the Chesapeake Bay region fail to make the grade, they often become front page news-and river advocates couldn't be happier.

Ecological report cards are not new to the region. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation began issuing an annual "State of the Bay" report in 1998, and began including letter grades in 2004. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Chesapeake Bay Office started issuing an annual report card for the Bay in 2006. ...

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