Bay Journal

December 2008 - Volume 18 - Number 9

Executive Council, to help accountability, will set short-term goals for Bay’s restoration

Donning black T-shirts featuring a skeletal fish, about 200 activists protested the slow progress of the Bay's restoration, as regional leaders gathered Nov. 20 to discuss the next steps in the Chesapeake cleanup.

The protesters, organized by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which in October announced its intent to sue the EPA, chanted "Don't Delay, Save the Bay" as they gathered at Union Station in the District of Columbia.

Their T-shirts proclaimed, "the Bay is slowly dying." ...

Bay’s crabbers will get $20 million in federal aid

The federal government will spend up to $20 million in Virginia and Maryland to aid crabbers affected by the Chesapeake Bay's blue crab fishery failure, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced in November.

The money, which had been sought by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, will be evenly split between the two states.

Blue crab populations have hovered near historic lows for most of the last decade, with little sign of recovery. Earlier this year, Kaine and O'Malley jointly proposed a 34 percent reduction in the harvest of female crabs in an attempt to boost the number of spawning females. ...

Latest watershed model offers more accurate view of nutrient flows to Bay

It's tough to compress a 64,000-square-mile watershed into a computer that calculates the amount of nutrients a drop of water landing in the headwaters of New York can carry to the Chesapeake.

The drop will gather differing amounts of nutrients depending on whether it fell in a thunderstorm or during a gentle drizzle. It'll gain few nutrients if it runs through a forest. But a drop will gather much more if it goes through a cornfield or feedlot.

But the drop, and the associated nutrients, could get absorbed by a streamside buffer and never complete its trip to the Bay. If it makes it to a stream, some of the nutrients could be absorbed by biological processes in the water. ...

PA voters approve $400 billion to upgrade wastewater plants

Pennsylvanians in November overwhelmingly approved a $400 million bond referendum to help pay for wastewater treatment plant upgrades in the Bay watershed as well as water and sewer infrastructure improvements across the state.

The funds, which are in addition to $800 million approved by the General Assembly earlier this year, will make $1.2 million dollars available for water and sewer improvements.

The bonds were approved by 62 percent of the voters.

"Pennsylvanians from different parts of the state and from all party affiliations overwhelmingly chose to create new jobs and make an important down payment on our economic future and the quality of life in our communities," said Gov. Ed Rendell. "Our water and sewer systems-as well as other critical components of our infrastructure-are in need of substantial investments to ensure quality, dependable services that will position our economy to grow." ...

PA coalition seeking statewide streamside buffer regulations

A coalition of nonprofit organizations is pressing Pennsylvania to better protect its extensive network of waterways by requiring that a broad swath of trees be preserved-and planted if necessary-along streams and rivers that flow through construction sites.

If successful, the requirement would be one of the most sweeping protection measures for streamside buffers in the Chesapeake watershed.

Nearly 130 groups want the state Department of Environmental Protection to incorporate the proposal in a rewrite of stormwater regulations that would affect new construction projects. The proposed revisions will be debated in the spring of 2009. ...

Strong evidence found linking mycobacteriosis to striped bass mortality

A new study provides the strongest indication to date that mycobacteriosis, a disease that has plagued Chesapeake Bay striped bass for more than a decade, likely results in the death of substantial numbers of rockfish.

Mycobacteriosis is a chronic wasting disease, distantly related to tuberculosis in humans, which was first discovered in the Bay's striped bass population in 1997. It can cause extensive tumor-like growths inside the fish, and is sometimes associated with ugly external lesions on the outside. ...

UMCES’ state-of-the-art research vessel honors Rachel Carson

Scientists have a new tool to help them peek into the secrets of the Bay and the creatures that live in it. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science officially introduced its new research vessel, the Rachel Carson, in November to serve as the flagship of its research fleet.

The 81-foot, $4.6 million vessel is a state-of-the-art research platform specifically tailored to the needs of Chesapeake Bay scientists. Designed from the ground up, Rachel Carson is large enough to transport research teams up and down the Bay's entire 184-mile length, yet runs shallow enough to allow scientists access to the smallest of critical Bay tributaries. ...

Anoxia in Bay this summer better than expected; clarity worsens

Scientists say this summer was a mixed bag for the Chesapeake Bay, with dissolved oxygen levels turning out to be slightly better than expected while large areas continue to be plagued with worsening water clarity.

Overall, summer conditions for many areas assessed in the annual scientific review appeared to be near the average observed over the last two decades, although they still paint a picture of a severely degraded Bay with scattered harmful algae blooms, fish kills and increasingly murky water. ...

Proponents gushing over ‘no net runoff’ site designs

There's not a blade of grass to be found in Erik Hagen's yard. In fact, yard may not even be the right term for his Takoma Park lot - it's more like a giant sponge.

The thick layer of mulch that overlies rich topsoil can absorb just about any deluge delivered from the clouds above.

Hagen demonstrated this to a group of visitors last year by turning on a hose in front of his house and letting the water gush for a quarter of an hour while he gave a tour of his property.

"The water just soaked in and it didn't look like it left much of a wet spot at all," he said. "On a grass lawn, the water would have just run off." ...

Next Generation Biofuels

Bay leaders agreed to work together to make the Chesapeake region a national leader in developing "next generation" biofuels.

Rather than corn and other grains, these biofuels will come from cellulosic materials, such as corn stalks, fast-growing trees and perennial grasses such as switchgrass.

While technology to produce ethanol from cellulosic material is still in its infancy, it's a preferred fuel source because it can produce more ethanol per acre and requires fewer inputs, such as fertilizer, to grow. ...

Cleaning up the Bay

The primary pollutants affecting Bay water quality are nutrients-nitrogen and phosphorus-and sediment. Nutrients spur algae blooms, which block sunlight needed by underwater grasses, a key habitat for waterfowl, fish and crabs. When the algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that draws oxygen out of the water, often making huge areas off-limits to most aquatic life. Sediment clouds the water and can smother important bottom habitats, such as oyster beds.

Excess amounts of nutrients and sediments keep the Bay from meeting water quality standards. Those standards, for dissolved oxygen, water clarity and chlorophyll a (a measure of algae) are designed to protect habitats used by fish, crabs and bottom-dwelling worms and clams that form the base of the Chesapeake food web. ...

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