Bay Journal

September 2010 - Volume 20 - Number 6

Bivalve’s dramatic demise is as ‘quiet as a clam’

It seems a familiar Chesapeake Bay story: A shellfish racked by disease, preyed upon by cownose rays, is at historic lows, depriving watermen of a valuable fishery and removing a key filter feeder from the ecosystem. Biologists describe its loss as "catastrophic."

"It's amazing," biologist Mark Homer said of their dramatic decline. "You feel sorry for the animal."

Homer wasn't talking about the Bay's best known beleaguered bivalve, the oyster, but rather the soft-shell clam. And his worry goes beyond this one species of clam. Scientists and watermen are witnessing a collapse of several key clam species all around the Bay. ...

EPA gives watershed states draft sediment limits for TMDL

The EPA in August took fresh steps to clean up the Bay by proposing new limits on the amount of dirt that can enter the estuary.

After issuing draft nitrogen and phosphorus limits July 1, the agency on Aug. 13 sent letters to watershed states targeting sediment—the third pollutant it is regulating under a cleanup plan known as a Total Maximum Daily Load.

But unlike the sharp reductions the EPA required for nitrogen and phosphorus, which will cost billions of dollars to achieve, the sediment goals are generally expected to require minimal actions beyond those already needed to control phosphorus in most rivers. Because phosphorus typically binds to soil particles, efforts to limit phosphorus, such as controlling erosion from farm fields, also reduce sediment pollution. ...

Bay ‘treasure hunt’ raises awareness of trust projects

The Chesapeake Bay Trust has launched a "Hooray for the Bay" contest aimed at raising awareness about "Treasure the Chesapeake" license plates.

While most Marylanders recognize the plates, most don't know that the money raised through the plates is used for environmental education and on-the-ground restoration projects, according to the trust.

To participate in the contest, look for a Bay Trust "factoid" sign placed near a park, school or community center in Maryland. ...

Smart buoy deployed near Little Choptank

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deployed its ninth Chesapeake Bay smart buoy in late July, just west of the Little Choptank River.

The new buoy, launched in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is located near the Dominion Reef at the Gooses, an 80-acre artificial reef constructed with materials from the old Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

It is the latest deployment in NOAA's Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System, a network that provides scientists, boaters and educators with real-time data about the Bay. ...

House Bay cleanup bill easier on farmers than Senate’s version

A House committee in July approved a farmer-friendly Bay cleanup bill, setting the stage for difficult negotiations with proponents of tougher legislation that cleared a Senate committee a month earlier.

But the clock is running out for any chance to move legislation forward, as Congress is not returning until mid-September, and members want to finish their work early because midterm elections loom.

The House Agriculture Committee on July 28 approved H.R. 5509, introduced by Reps. Tim Holden, D-PA, and Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, which would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture a stronger role in overseeing the Bay cleanup when it comes to setting pollution control standards for farms in the watershed. ...

Recent EPA enforcement actions intended to send message to polluters

For nearly two decades, Bay restoration efforts have been built on voluntary efforts and cooperation, the cornerstones of the Chesapeake Bay Program. But as the pace of cleanup progress has been slower than what was once hoped, the regulatory reach of state and federal programs has increased.

But federal officials believe the full impact of regulations has never been realized, as programs that sound good on paper are often not enforced in the field.

Suddenly that's changing. Farmers in Lancaster County, PA, and the Shenandoah Valley recently had their operations inspected; wastewater treatment plants have been cited; stormwater managers got warning letters; homebuilders were fined; and air polluters were forced to make improvements. ...

New angle for stream efforts: If it’s good for trout, it’s good for Bay

Native brook trout are disappearing throughout the Chesapeake region. However, they have recently made a welcome appearance in a surprising place: the new federal strategy to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

As it turns out, brook trout need protecting, too.

Brook trout are the region's only native trout species, but healthy populations are hard to find. According to a recent study, brook trout in the Chesapeake region have vanished from nearly half of the watersheds that once supported them. ...

Ship’s experiments look for ways to prevent foreign stowaways

Most days, the Cape Washington sits in Baltimore's harbor, looking majestic as the sun hits its gunmetal-gray exterior. Inside, the 700-foot ship resembles a giant parking garage, although the ramps built to withstand the weight of Humvees and tanks are empty. A drill rumbles in the background, and the faint smell of fresh paint wafts from the walls. The Cape Washington feels like what it is: a ship, temporarily in port and undergoing repairs, waiting for its orders.

In short, it's not the sort of place where one would expect to find an active scientific experiment. And yet, just a few feet from the engine room, that's exactly what is taking place: a dozen scientists from several institutions poring over tubes, mixing in solutions and testing for various chemicals. ...

Boaters asked to look out for zebra mussels below Conowingo Dam

Maryland Department of Natural Resource biologists say that a zebra mussel population has become established in the lower Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam.

The exotic clams, which has caused billions of dollars in damages and economic losses elsewhere, were detected just upstream of the Conowingo Dam in November 2008, but biologists this summer for the first time found several adults below the dam while doing survey work.

"Most of the specimens were the largest I've ever seen, ranging up to 38 mm (almost 1 to 1.5 inches) in shell length, and they were probably 3- to 4 years old," said Ron Klauda, a DNR biologist. ...

Some worry new CAFO rules will put smaller farmers out of business

Ross Orner's 530-acre dairy farm in Pennsylvania is so far from the Chesapeake Bay that it straddles the Eastern Continental Divide.The closest water is a reservoir that feeds the city of DuBois, just a few miles south in the Allegheny foothills. It would take nearly four hours to drive from Orner Farms to the head of the Bay in Havre de Grace; nearly eight to get to Virginia's Eastern Shore.But that hasn't stopped the Orner family from its nearly century-long tradition of putting in conservation practices to protect local water quality. ...

Penn State project’s goal is for pollution-free dairy farms to crop up in landscape

What if scientists could create a farm that hardly produced any pollution?

If agronomists could engineer a system where every possible source of pollution was converted into a fuel or food source, farms could substantially reduce their nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads to the Chesapeake Bay. And if they could do that while maximizing yield, they just might be able to keep the landscape rural, the economy humming and the countryside supplied with locally grown products.

Researchers at Penn State University are trying to make that idea a reality for the state's nearly 9,000 dairy farms, most of which are small, family operations. ...

New CAFO regs apply to hundreds more small farms in Bay watershed

In the world of Big Agriculture, Virgil Shockley is one of the little guys.

He and his wife own 84 acres in a rural hamlet in Maryland's Worcester County that is so small it doesn't even have a name. In a county synonymous with the bright lights of the Ocean City boardwalk, the road to Shockley's farm wends through forests and fields named for the families that have been working the land for generations.

Aside from a small Tyson logo affixed to the Boondock Farm sign along Shockley Road, there are no indications that a chicken house lies ahead. No telltale smells. No piles of manure outside. Just rows of neat gardens with wildflowers and melons and two long chicken houses, where the 45,000 birds who call this place home look clean, well-fed and even happy. ...

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


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