Bay Journal

February 2010 - Volume 20 - Number 11

Atlantic sturgeon under consideration for endangered species list

More than 400 years ago, Atlantic sturgeon helped to save the starving colonists at Jamestown, who discovered that the giant fish were a reliable food source much of the year. The James River, Capt. John Smith wrote, "had more sturgeon than could be devoured by dog and man."

Archaeologists, in fact, commonly find parts of sturgeon at the earliest settlement's site.

"I call it the foundation fish of America, because without sturgeon, we may be speaking Spanish now, or French," said Albert Spells, Virginia fisheries coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ...

Patuxent Research refuge seeks public input on conservation plan

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public input on developing its Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Patuxent Research Refuge.

The CCP is a 15-year plan designed to provide strategic management direction that best achieves the refuge's purposes; attains the vision and goals developed for the refuge; contributes to the National Wildlife Refuge System mission; addresses key challenges, issues and relevant mandates; and is consistent with sound principles of fish and wildlife management. ...

Late VIMS professors were leading researchers in their fields

Dr. Willard A. Van Engel, a pioneer in blue crab research and professor emeritus, of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science died Dec. 25. He was 94.

Van Engel, known as "Van," laid the foundation of blue crab research in the Chesapeake Bay during the 1940s and was among those who created VIMS, one of the region's premier research organizations.

Born in 1915, Van Engel was a native of Milwaukee, WI. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in the late 1930s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ...

Biofuel industry touted for region

Energy from farms and forests could provide more than 18,000 jobs in the region, reduce water pollution and help clean the air, according to a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

The report, released this month, concludes that the farms, forests and landfills in the watershed could produce 500 million gallons of fuel-enough, the report said, to meet the gas needs of the Washington, D.C., metro area for six weeks.

Biofuels has become a buzzword as of late, with policy-makers talking about burning everything from algae to poultry manure in pursuit of alternative energy. ...

Backpack website sets watershed’s teachers on the right path for Chesapeake adventures

Teachers throughout the Bay watershed will have to hike no farther than the nearest computer to learn how to integrate the Chesapeake, and the rivers and streams that feed it, into their lessons.

The Bay Program recently launched a new "baybackpack" website, which provides information about education resources and where they can take students for field studies, as well as teacher training and funding opportunities.

The website was designed to help educators meet a goal set in the Chesapeake 2000 agreement that every student in the watershed have a "meaningful watershed experience" before graduating from high school. ...

Rendell proposes 5% tax on natural gas industry in PA

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell announced this month that he will introduce a plan to tax the fast-growing natural gas industry this year-a move that could put hundreds of millions of dollars back in the cash-strapped state budget.

At a recent news conference in Harrisburg, Rendell called the tax "appropriate" and "necessary." Although the tax has broad support from environmentalists and citizens, it's not yet clear if most of the state's legislators will support it.

The tax has become a hot button issue in recent years as companies have converged upon the Keystone State to extract the natural gas buried deep below the Marcellus Shale, a gas-rich formation stretching across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. ...

Longtime Bay advocates say draft strategy falls short

A group of 38 longtime Bay policy makers, scientists and other advocates say "bold, new and aggressive actions" are needed to restore the Bay, and expressed skepticism that plans recently outlined by the EPA could accomplish the job.

In a joint statement, they called for two dozen actions that would increase the regulation of farmers, development, wastewater treatment plants, new development and septic systems.

"We must act quickly to transition from the voluntary collaborative approach that has failed, to a comprehensive regulatory program that addresses the prime sources of nutrient and sediment pollution, especially from farm and development pollution, or watch the Bay die a death of 1,000 cuts," said William Dennison, vice president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "Drastic change is called for." ...

EPA: States will face ‘consequences’ for failing to meet cleanup deadlines

If the Bay states do not write, fund and implement adequate Bay cleanup plans in coming months and years, the EPA is ready to crack down on air and water permits, make new development meet tougher requirements, and further ratchet down on water dischargers.

The EPA, in a Dec. 29 letter to state environmental agencies, spelled out those and other "consequences" that states will face if they miss deadlines for writing adequate cleanup plans or miss pollution reduction goals.

"EPA sees these potential actions as necessary for ensuring accountability but intends that they be viewed as a 'backstop,' with successful and timely state and district implementation the much preferred alternative," EPA Region III Administrator Shawn Garvin stated in the letter. ...

VA puts new rules for stormwater runoff on hold

The Virginia Board of Soil and Water Conservation has again tabled new statewide regulations designed to reduce the amount of nutrients entering the Chesapeake Bay from polluted stormwater runoff.

The regulations, as written, would require a more aggressive use of techniques that capture and reuse stormwater on new development sites. They would also require all Virginia cities, towns and counties to create stormwater management programs, or have the state do it for them.

The regulations have been passed and tabled twice within the last four months in response to continuing objections from the development community. Developers and builders say that the regulations are complex and the costs to meet the requirements would be passed on to consumers during a trying economic time. ...

Clean water forum unites efforts at all levels

The first annual conference of the Choose Clean Water Coalition did not lack for big names.

First came U.S. Rep. Frank Kratovil, who represents Maryland's Eastern Shore and is in one of the nation's tightest re-election races, talking about the economic challenges for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Then came his colleague, Rep. Elijah Cummings, with a rousing call to action to protect the Bay for generations yet unborn. Much of the rest of the Congressional delegation followed: Maryland's Rep. John Sarbanes, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Donna Edwards; Virginia's Rep. Rob Wittman and Rep. Gerry Connolly, and the District of Columbia's Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton. ...

VA legislators propose bills to give VMRC authority to manage menhaden

Two bills offered on the first day of the 2010 Virginia General Assembly session would take away the assembly's authority to manage menhaden and give it to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The commission manages all other saltwater fisheries in the state, such as blue crabs, striped bass and oysters. But the legislature has long maintained authority to regulate catches of menhaden, which supports a major commercial fishery that provides about 250 jobs in Reedville, on Virginia's Northern Neck peninsula. ...

Groups ask EPA to dedicate funding for Treasured Landscapes

Representatives of more than two dozen state agencies and environmental and land-conservation organizations wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in January endorsing the concept of a Baywide Treasured Landscapes initiative and asking for a dedicated funding source to implement it.

The organizations, which include state resource agencies as well as regional groups such as the James River Association and national land conservation powerhouses such as the Nature Conservancy, are asking the federal government to set ambitious goals for preserving land in the Bay watershed. ...

Proposed national standard for phosphorus derailed by critics

Last summer, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials floated a nationwide standard to limit the amount of phosphorus farmers could apply to fields. But by December, they had pulled it back in the face of stiff opposition from a group of agriculture scientists.

Their decision disappointed many of the scientists and advocates working on Chesapeake Bay restoration. The short-lived proposal and the hot debate it generated also illuminates the complexity of establishing an agriculture pollution-control policy to protect the nation's waters. ...

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