Bay Journal

April 2009 - Volume 19 - Number 2

Bay only 38% of the way toward meeting water, habitat goals

Measured on a 100-point scale, the Chesapeake Bay is only 38 percent of the way toward meeting its water quality and habitat goals, according to latest annual assessment from the state-federal Bay Program partnership.

Overall, the 2008 report found very little change from 2007 conditions.

"Despite small successes in certain parts of the ecosystem and specific geographic areas, the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay did not improve in 2008," summed up the report. "The Bay continues to have poor water quality, degraded habitats and low populations of many species of fish and shellfish." ...

Executive Council to meet May 12

The Chesapeake Executive Council, the top policy-making body for Bay restoration, is scheduled to meet at Mount Vernon on May 12.

Details of the meeting are still being determined, but council members, who have acknowledged that the 2010 goal to restore Chesapeake Bay water quality will not be met, are expected to consider a new cleanup deadline.

The council is also expected to set the first in a series of two-year goals that would outline what each jurisdiction expects to accomplish through the end of 2011. Council members committed to the establishment of interim two-year milestones at their meeting last November. The intent is to improve accountability and keep restoration progress on track. ...

Eagle population exploding in the James River area, thus the rocket nets

On a cold morning before dawn, Libby Mojica worked by headlamp to wire up explosives in a farm field. If all went well, the explosives would launch three rockets to carry a 60-foot net over a bald eagle.

Biologists Mojica and Bryan Watts are trapping and studying eagles along the James River, which runs beside the field at Weyanoke Point in Virginia's Charles City County.

The research should allow experts to help the majestic birds, perhaps by pointing out territories in need of protection. ...

Casting for Recovery throws a lifeline to female cancer patients

Catherine Guzman blames the Irish Sea for her breast cancer, so it is only fitting that water is playing a role in her recovery

"In Ireland, anywhere there is water, there is cancer," she said. "Our waters are so polluted that we have 60 percent more radiation in our country than what is healthy and acceptable."

When she was 24, Guzman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At 37, she had cancerous tumors and cysts removed from her body. At 39, she had cancer in both breasts-two different cancers. Now, she is recovering from brain surgery. ...

Driven by widgeon grass, underwater grass beds grew 18% in 2008

Underwater grass beds expanded by nearly 18 percent in the Chesapeake and its tidal tributaries last year, driven largely by a burst of widgeon grass in the middle and lower sections of the Bay.

But the annual Baywide aerial survey also showed a continued expansion of the Susquehanna Flats, the largest grass bed in the Chesapeake, which now covers more than 15,000 acres.

"The success story continues at the Susquehanna Flats," said Bob Orth, a scientist with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who oversees the annual Baywide survey. "But you still have to look at the big picture. There are still areas of the Bay that are not doing very well." ...

Spending bill removes limits on toxic reports

The $410 billion spending bill that President Obama signed will reinstate detailed toxic chemical reporting at more than 3,500 facilities nationwide.

The Bush administration in 2006 reduced the amount of information that facilities storing and releasing smaller amounts of toxic chemicals had to submit to the federal government. Companies using less than 5,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, or releasing less than 2,000 pounds, could use shorter, less-detailed forms.

Congressional auditors said the change would have cut by a quarter the number of emissions reports the government receives each year. ...

Appropriations bill includes millions for Bay programs

Oyster restoration programs around the Bay will get a significant boost in federal support this year from legislation approved by Congress in March that funds most federal operations this year.

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill provides a total of $6.6 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers to help rebuild habitats and restore native oyster populations in the Bay.

That is an increase of nearly $3 million over last year for those programs. ...

Nutrient, sediment goals to be set at smaller, local levels

For nearly two decades, Bay cleanup advocates have worked to convince people throughout the Chesapeake's 64,000-square-mile watershed that "the Bay starts here."

This year, that message may hit closer to home than ever.

After new Chesapeake cleanup goals are set later this spring, state and federal officials are also expected to establish nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment limits for individual counties or even smaller geographic areas-at least in some regions.

In the past, those goals were assigned to large watershed areas, which often covered a dozen counties or more. By bringing them closer to home, officials hope to ensure that Bay water quality needs are considered when local decisions are made. ...

Large sanctuaries urged for recovery of wild oyster population

One of the biggest problems for the Chesapeake Bay oyster is that too many people expect too much from the filter-feeding bivalve.

Watermen want to harvest them to make a living; biologists want their reefs, which serve as habitat for a host of other species; and cleanup advocates want a return of their water-filtering abilities.

"This is the image I have," said Bill Eichbaum, vice-president of the World Wildlife Fund. "I've got one oyster. Some people want me to take that one oyster and make it be an economic force. Others want to make it be an ecological force. It's impossible, even it you multiply them by a million." ...

EPA’s naming of Bay adviser seen as greater commitment to cleanup efforts

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signaled that the Bay will likely get a higher priority on the agency's agenda by naming a former EPA and Maryland official as her senior adviser on the Chesapeake Bay and Anacostia River.

J. Charles "Chuck" Fox, who headed EPA water programs during the Clinton administration and was later the Maryland secretary of natural resources, will report directly to Jackson with advice regarding Bay restoration efforts.

Although EPA administrators typically have senior advisers who deal with specific issues, this is the first time one has been named to deal with Bay issues. ...

Healing Waters

Elvind Forseth was a second lieutenant with the 82nd Airborne Division when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in January 2005 in Mosul, Iraq.

The explosion left his right hand paralyzed and restricted the movement of his right elbow.

He returned to the United States for rehabilitation at the Walter Reed Hospital outside the District of Columbia. But the injury left him depressed, with little interest in rehabilitation.

"Traditional physical therapy is just plain boring," Forseth said. "To get your grip back, they make you move marbles from one spot on a table to the other. When you're finished, you say to yourself, 'I just blew my day, This sucks.'" ...

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