Bay Journal

July-August 2010 - Volume 20 - Number 5

EPA announces draft allocations for Bay states to meet cleanup goals

For months, federal officials have been saying that the Bay will be going on a pollution diet.

On July 1, with the clock ticking toward an end-of-the-year deadline, the EPA told states how many pounds the Bay needs to shed to become healthy again.

It appears it will need to shed about 63 million pounds of nitrogen, and 3.1 million pounds of phosphorus.

Curbing the Bay's diet is expected to drive billions of dollars of spending between now and the 2025 deadline to get it in shape. And after two failed efforts to meet goals set in the last 23 years, the EPA plans to issue a new regulatory plan to enforce the diet by the end of the year. ...

Despite massive restoration efforts, American shad have not rebounded

This year's American shad run was more of the same for most rivers around the Chesapeake region: frustration and disappointment about the inability to rebuild large populations of the migratory fish.

Shad runs this spring ticked up a bit on the Susquehanna, Nanticoke and James rivers; dipped a bit on the Rappahannock; and seemed little changed in most other places. On the Patuxent River, though, Maryland officials decided to halt shad restoration after another year of poor returns.

Bringing back shad populations has been a priority for many states, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Program, and since the early 1990s, tens of millions of dollars have been poured into hatchery-based stocking programs, fish passage construction and dam removals. ...

Senate committee reaches compromise on Bay legislation

Senate negotiators reached a compromise over landmark Chesapeake Bay legislation in June to win enough Republican support in the Environment and Public Works Committee to allow the bill to be sent to the Senate floor.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, the Maryland Democrat who wrote the bill, S.1816, Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009, joined Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma in introducing an amendment changing several parts of the bill to clarify, and in some cases reduce, the EPA's authority in implementing a new Bay cleanup plan known as a Total Maximum Daily Load. ...

Feral swine poised to run hog wild over landscape if not stopped soon

Decades ago, an exotic menace with spores eliminated the region's most common tree, the American chestnut. Gypsy moths, a foreign species with wings, have hammered the watershed's oaks. More recently, the nonnative woolly adelgid, a tiny insect with a voracious appetite for hemlock sap, has killed huge numbers of these majestic evergreens and threatens their entire range.

Now comes an invasive species with hooves that threatens to rip up the mid-Atlantic's forests by their roots: wild hogs. ...

Wherever a diadromous fish swims, danger is always lurking

Millennia ago, long-range migrations provided benefits for many species of fish. By spawning in freshwater areas, species such as shad and river herring lessened predation on their young. And, by migrating into the ocean as adults, they were able to take advantage of the greater food resources of the marine environment.

But strategies that worked in ages past are proving a disaster for many of these travelers in the modern era.

Rather than reaping benefits, the reliance on so many habitats maximizes their exposure to human impacts, from pollution in freshwater rivers and dams that block migration routes to a gantlet of fisheries in rivers, coastal regions and the open ocean. ...

Scientists suspect decline of herring is result of bycatch in other fisheries

Herring were so common in the Potomac River in the spring of 1832 that a single seine net captured a few more than 950,000 "accurately counted," according to a report at the time. A few decades later, Spencer Baird, head of the U.S. Fish Commission, estimated that during the 1830s, the herring in the river must have numbered 3 billion fish.

Today, their numbers are only a "faint shadow" of what they were, said Jim Cummins, a biologist with the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. Like their cousin, the larger American shad, river herring numbers are thought to be at near-record lows along the East Coast. ...

Gateways, John Smith water trail groups merge to form Chesapeake Conservancy

Two Bay region nonprofit organizations recently merged under the name Chesapeake Conservancy to further their common goals of promoting public access, land conservation, education and stewardship of the Bay and its rivers.

The new organization will build on the work of the two organizations, the Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail and the Friends of the Chesapeake Gateways, to advance and implement the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network, and to create and implement a Chesapeake Treasured Landscape Initiative which seeks to preserve large landscapes of regional significance. ...

Outdoors initiative aims to conserve landscape, make it accessible

The United States has a great outdoor legacy inherited from past generations that includes national parks, forests, rivers and wild lands.

Nonetheless, many Americans today are losing touch with that inheritance, even as valuable lands continue to slip away at an alarming rate.

Now, says Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the time has come for a new 21st century strategy that will address what type of outdoor legacy the nation will leave future generations-and whether those generations will value what has been left. ...

VA to study menhaden fishery

A 26-member panel of Virginia legislators, environmentalists and watermen will study fishing pressures on menhaden, a small fish in big demand for use in health supplements and a critical food source for other Chesapeake Bay fish.

The oily, bony fish are key in the Bay's food chain, supporting striped bass, bluefish and other species. They are also processed into omega-3 fish oils sold as heart-healthy food supplements. Menhaden have also made the Northern Neck town of Reedville one of the biggest U.S. fishing ports, based on pounds landed. ...

Phone app features flora, fauna of Bay watershed

The Chesapeake Bay Trust has released a first-of-its-kind app, Field Guide to the Chesapeake Bay, that can be used to access data about the full range of plants and animals-not just a sampling-in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The free app also provides geographically targeted information so a user can be in Central Maryland or the Virginia Mountains and pull up data about plants and animals indigenous to those particular areas of the watershed.

"This Bay field guide will be a fun, educational companion for families, kids and nature-lovers on trips anywhere in the region and will provide instant, accurate and visually compelling information about the natural treasures that the Bay watershed has to offer," said Allen Hance, executive director of the trust. ...

Federal government exempts itself from DC water fees

The federal government has told the District of Columbia water and sewer authority and the city's environment department that it will not pay new fees assessed on all residents-a move that could shift the burden of paying for federally required upgrades to the sewage system to city residents who can least afford it.

In April, the Government Accountability Office declared the fee assessed on impervious surfaces a tax and that the federal government is tax-exempt.

In an April 13 letter to the DC Water and Sewer Authority, obtained by the Washington Examiner, an attorney for the GAO wrote: "[Based] upon our preliminary review, the [stormwater] charges adopted by the District appear to be a tax on property owners. Accordingly, we are instructing the Department of Treasury not to make a payment to the District from GAO's appropriations." On April 15, the paper reported, the Navy also wrote to WASA, calling the fees "an impermissible tax of the federal government." WASA received similar notification from the General Services Administration. ...

Groups target invaders lest we can’t see the forest for the weeds

A small army advances on the grounds of Little Paint Branch Park in Beltsville, MD, armed with gloves and gardening tools. They have come to defend the woods.

Today, the enemy is wavyleaf basketgrass. The grass is one of 22 invasive species that compete with native plants and threaten the forest ecosystem here in the Anacostia River watershed.

The "Basketgrass Blitz" is one of several volunteer events organized by the Anacostia Watershed Society to remove, or at least reduce, this destructive plant before it carpets the local forest. ...

The devil is in the details of Watershed Implementation Plans

The setting of draft Bay cleanup goals July 1 triggers a new, challenging task: Figuring out how to meet them.

Twice before the Bay Program has set cleanup goals and required plans, once known as tributary strategies, to attain them. But those plans never provided detail about how they would be implemented, and sometimes they literally called for the impossible-such as more runoff control practices than there was land to put them on.

To ensure that the third time is the charm, the EPA, in a series of letters and other guidance over the last two years, has outlined what it expects to see in the next generation of nutrient reduction strategies, now called Watershed Implementation Plans. ...

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


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