Bay Journal

November 2009 - Volume 19 - Number 8

Target nutrient load figures released for Bay’s rivers, states

State and federal agencies in October took the first step toward setting what they hope will be the final nutrient reduction targets for the Chesapeake Bay.


If they achieve the goals, huge areas of water will again be clear enough for underwater grasses to grow, oxygen-starved dead zones should largely disappear and algal blooms will be a thing of the past.


While states have missed past goals, the EPA said it would impose stinging consequences if they fail to keep on track with their new goals. ...


Towns hope that John Smith trail will lead to prosperity

For Capt. John Smith, Port Deposit in 1608 was the end of the line. But for Erika Quesenbery, the explorer's stopping place just might mark a new beginning.


Instead of "for rent" signs on forlorn buildings downtown, she envisions shops full of historic memorabilia commemorating the captain's epic journey through the Chesapeake Bay. On the waterfront, where a sewage treatment plant now sits, she'd like to see a pavilion for waterfront concerts, a place to rent canoes and kayaks, and open space for visitors to take in a view similar to the one Smith's crew might have seen. ...


Budget cuts force VA to end bounty on invasive veined rapa whelk

Virginia natural resources officials have ended an 11-year-old program aimed at ridding the Chesapeake Bay of the veined rapa whelk, an invasive species that devours shellfish.

Since 1998, scientists have been paying watermen for turning in the whelks-large snail-like creatures that often turn up in dredges and nets as bycatch. About 18,000 rapa whelks have been captured as part of the program, said Juliana Harding, a senior marine scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences who runs the program. ...

CBF uses Clean Water Act to challenge air pollution permit

The operators of a proposed coal-fired power plant in Virginia are planning to use a state-of-the-art system to control its emissions, in compliance with air pollution laws.

But in an unusual twist, an environmental group warns that it will challenge permits for the plant-not for polluting the air, but because the plant's emissions will contribute to water pollution when they fall back to Earth.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation contends that the power plant, proposed for construction in Surry County by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, would violate the law because its emissions would contribute mercury to nearby waterways, many of which are listed as "impaired" by state and federal agencies because of mercury concentrations. ...

Clams reveal toxic hot spots in Anacostia, D.C. creeks

During a recent rush hour near the District of Columbia's northeastern corner, a scientist stood along the water's edge trying to be heard above the urban din. Cars merged onto the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and day laborers flashed past, heading home with lunch coolers strapped to the handlebars of their bikes. In the background, a small cement valley constructed more than 50 years ago burbled with water.

"This is one spot where I leave my clams," Harriette Phelps said, pointing toward the unnamed creek at the bottom of that cement valley in Riverdale. The retired biology professor from the University of the District of Columbia pulled out an industrial-strength shellfish bag, which was soon to be filled with Asiatic clams (Corbicula fluminea). ...

Independent review panel selected to advise Bay Program

In recent years, the state-federal Bay Program partnership has undergone reviews from the EPA's Inspector General, the Congressional Governmental Accountability Office and several other organizations - more than two dozen in all.

Now, it's getting a review it asked for itself.

The Executive Council-the top policy-making panel for the Bay cleanup effort-last November announced that it would hire an independent evaluator to provide the Bay Program with ongoing external reviews. ...

Coast Guard wants to toughen ballast water controls

More than 20 years after the first zebra mussels hitched a ride into the Great Lakes, the United States still doesn't have a requirement to treat ballast water coming into the nation's ports from ships.

Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard are thinking about changing that. The agency has proposed a rule that would require ship owners to install treatment systems to reduce the number of organisms released into the water.

The current proposal calls for an initial phase that would match the International Maritime Organization standard, which has been in place since 2004, limiting the number of organisms allowed in the ballast tanks to 10 per cubic meter. But, beginning in 2012, the Coast Guard is calling for the phase-in of a new standard that would be 1,000 times stricter, allowing for only one organism per 100 cubic meters of water for all ships. ...

Living shoreline project protects prime waterfowl habitat

Hail Creek, a tiny waterway at the tip of a peninsula that is separated by a narrow swath of land from the Chester River, isn't more than a half-mile long.

Despite its diminutive size, it plays a big role for waterfowl. The creek and its surrounding marshes, part of the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, are one of the top five waterfowl habitats in the state, with huge concentrations of bufflehead and scaup, as well as black ducks, Canada geese and other species.

The creek also holds, fairly consistently, about 100 acres of underwater grasses, in contrast with nearby areas where grasses have been declining. ...

VA plan to update stormwater put on hold to get more input

A Virginia regulatory panel approved, then suspended, a sweeping overhaul of the state's stormwater program aimed at reducing the amount of polluted runoff flowing into its rivers, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

The controversial regulations require more aggressive use of techniques that capture and reuse stormwater on new development sites. And, for the first time, they require all cities, towns and counties to create their own stormwater management programs, or ask the state to do it for them. ...

Environmental programs slashed in new PA budget

Environmental programs, including those that benefit the Bay, suffered sharp cuts when Pennsylvania lawmakers finally approved a budget, 101 days into the new fiscal year.

PennEnvironment called the budget "disastrous," the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said it "rolls back years of progress" and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council called the cuts "unprecedented" and said they threatened the ability of agencies to do their jobs.

The Department of Environmental Protection was hit with a 25.7 percent budget cut, reducing it to spending levels of 13 years ago. The department is expected to lose more than 400 employees. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was cut by 18 percent, and is expected to lose about 160 employees. ...

Bill revisits past to protect Potomac lands’ future

Several environmental and Congressional leaders are moving to preserve Potomac River lands for the future by reaching into the past-reviving a long-dormant partnership that helped make the Capital Beltway region green.

The bill, called the National Capital Region Land Preservation Act, seeks to secure up to $50 million a year for five years in federal funding for preserving land in the Greater Washington metropolitan region, much of it along the Potomac.

That money would be used with funds from Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia and West Virginia to buy land and keep it in green space. The National Park Service would administer the grant program, but local governments would hold title to the land. ...

Bill would put law behind Bay cleanup, provide new funding

State and federal agencies have broken their promises to meet past deadlines to cleanup the Bay, but if they don't do the job by 2025, they may be breaking the law.

Legislation introduced in Congress in October would require states to implement all actions needed to restore Bay water quality by 2025, but would also authorize significantly increased federal spending to help do the job.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-MD, lead sponsor of the bill, called it a "robust plan that will put us on a realistic, but aggressive path to restoring the Bay to a healthy state that can sustain native fish, wildlife, farmland and our regional economy." ...

UMCES rears record number of oyster spat

Maryland planted nearly 750 million hatchery-reared oysters in the Bay this year, marking a new record in the state's oyster restoration efforts.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science produced the spat at the hatchery at its Horn Point Laboratory on the Eastern Shore, which was expanded in 2004 to boost oyster restoration efforts.

Donald "Mutt" Meritt, who oversees the hatchery, said the record number was made possible by the increasing experience of the hatchery staff and improved Choptank River water quality used in the hatchery last year. ...

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