Bay Journal

December 2010 - Volume 20 - Number 9

Public, in comments, weighs pros and cons of TMDL for Bay

After a quarter century of voluntary measures, most people who commented on the EPA's draft cleanup plan said they were ready for a tougher approach.

Of the 7,980 submitted comments, about 90 percent supported EPA plans that would cast a broader regulatory net over pollution sources and force states to establish stronger pollution control programs.

"People want clean water, they want strong accountability, they want the job done," said Jon Capacasa, director of water protection for EPA Region III, "That message was heard loud and clear." ...

Aquaculture offers watermen new lease on their traditions

Hooper's Island - In small watermen's villages like this one, the rhythm of life rarely changes. Come fall, the first of the dredgers set out to scrape for what's left of the Chesapeake Bay's legendary oysters. They're done by early spring, when fading buoys begin to dot the Bay's mainstem from Kent Island to Tangier Sound to signal the start of the still-prosperous crabbing season. As the days become longer, women - most of them from Mexico - will pick that crab meat and help ship it all over the country. Then, once in early summer and again just before school starts, the soft crabs run, and the watermen begin all-night vigils to make sure the soft-shelled crabs, their biggest moneymakers, don't harden into worthless paper shells. When the leaves change, the crabbers come in, the dredgers go out and the cycle begins again. ...


Bay conservation corps aims to protect environment, create jobs

The fight to clean up the Chesapeake Bay just got a new army.

Sixteen fresh-faced young men and women clad in white polo shirts took the stage in Annapolis last month as the inaugural class of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. The program, which is funded by the state of Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the U.S. Department of Labor, provides a year of funding for each class member to help in a restoration project in the state.

The project's backers hope the young people, many of whom are college graduates, will decide to embark on careers in restoration and environmental work. In some cases, their work could lead to more grant funding that would create permanent positions. ...

New wave of preservation targets Chesapeake’s underwater history

Traditionally, marine archaeology has little to do with the restoration of the Bay's troubled ecosystem. But the new federal action plan to restore the Bay may change that.

The plan gives fresh focus to places of historic and cultural value, including those that rest on the Bay's bottom.

As a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to see new protected areas in Chesapeake waters selected for their historic or cultural value rather than ecology. The federal action plan specifically tasks the agency with finding candidate sites in the Bay region. ...

Early reviewers cite improvements in states’ water cleanup plans

EPA officials in early December were reviewing final state Watershed Implementation Plans, which offer new details about how each jurisdiction intends to achieve nutrient and sediment reduction goals needed to restore Chesapeake Bay water quality.

EPA officials had only begun to look at the lengthy documents as the Bay Journal went to press. Two states, Maryland and New York, missed the Nov. 29 deadline but indicated they would file their plans shortly.

Virginia submitted its plan on time, but said last-minute computer model runs unexpectedly revealed a nitrogen shortfall of more than 1 million pounds, and that state officials were working with EPA representatives to close the gap. ...

Summer conditions better than average in most of Chesapeake

Chesapeake Bay conditions were better than average this summer, with fewer fish kills and sea nettles, and a smaller than average area of low-oxygen water, scientists report.

They said water quality conditions were influenced by above-average river flows into the Bay during the winter, but lower than average flows in the late spring and summer.

High flows during the winter and spring wash nutrients off the land and into the Bay, which can fuel large plankton blooms. When the plankton die, they sink to the bottom and are decomposed by bacteria in a process that depletes oxygen from the water. ...

Link between striped bass, weather suggests stormy times ahead for fish

More than two months before biologists threw their first net into the water to gauge the success of this year's striped bass reproduction, Ed Martino had the answer, and he never had to leave his desk.

Rockfish reproduction, Martino determined in May, would be "well below average."

The researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Cooperative Oxford Laboratory came up with his conclusion by going online and looking at March though May river flows monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey and temperature data from Baltimore- ...

PA commission approves tougher regulations for drilling Marcellus shale

New state regulations requiring stronger cement casings in gas wells and better reporting requirements about wastes generated by drilling will likely become law in Pennsylvania in a few weeks.

The state's Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted 15 - 1 to approve the new regulations, which are expected to take affect in early January after the attorney general's office reviews them.

The rules came after the IRRC received nearly 2,000 public comments on the matter, according to Pennsylvania Environment Digest. ...

Small watershed grants go to 34 projects in Bay region

The Small Watershed Grants program has awarded more than $3.4 million to 34 projects across the watershed to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

The grants, recently announced by EPA Region III Administrator Shawn Garvin, include funding for projects in all six states and the District of Columbia. Funds went to local governments, watershed organizations and community groups.

The grants fund work to improve water quality and habitat, conserve land, prevent new pollution from entering the Bay and plan for the future. Since the program began 10 years ago, it has distributed more than $27 million to 626 projects in the watershed. It is largely funded by the EPA and the funds are distributed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In some cases, additional funds are provided by local governments and other agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ...

Project collects 4,000 bushels to build oyster nurseries

The Oyster Recovery Partnership collected 4,000 bushels of shells from restaurants, caterers and wholesalers in the Chesapeake Bay region in 2010 - shells that will create the foundation for the next generation of oysters.

The 2 million individual shells were used to plant more than 20 million baby oysters at the University of Maryland's Horn Point Hatchery, which has been involved in a Marylandwide restoration effort of oysters. It's a drop in the bucket compared to what's needed - ORP in total processed, cleaned and transported more than 60,000 bushels of shell that helped to produce 450 million oysters. But every little bit helps. The state is currently unable to dredge for shells in the Chesapeake because a habitat conservation group challenged their permit to do so. Meanwhile, the cost of shell from the Gulf Coast is increasing. So, Maryland needs all the help it can get in acquiring shell. Without it, hatcheries can't set and grow oysters. ...

Removal of Simkins Dam will help to open 175 miles of Patapsco to fish

This holiday season, the fish that call the Patapsco River home will receive a gift for which they can truly be thankful - the removal of a dam that has restricted their movements for more than a century.

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have breached the Simkins Dam, a structure across the Patapsco in the Ellicott City, MD, area that is 10 feet high and 200 feet long. The dam was built to provide power to the Simkins Mill, which recycled cardboard, but hasn't been used in decades, according to NOAA engineer Mary Andrews. ...

Bay states preserve a fifth of their open space, meet goal

The Bay region may have fallen short of its nutrient reduction goal, but a new report says the states have surpassed another decade-old commitment: They have permanently preserved more than a fifth of the watershed as open space.

Through last year, 21.3 percent of the Bay watershed portions of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia had been permanently protected through either outright purchase or, more commonly, through conservation easements that prevent development.

Altogether, the three states protected 1.24 million acres between 2000 and 2009, according to a report by the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Chesapeake Conservancy. Put another way, that's more than 1,900 square miles, or an area 27 times the size of the District of Columbia. ...

Regional permit streamlines application process for VA oyster growers

On the road to creating a sustainable aquaculture industry in Maryland, state officials have hit a big stumbling block.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires that Maryland oyster growers get an individual permit if they want to put oyster shells on the bottom of their lease - something nearly every oyster farmer must do to ensure the animals will grow.

The process of issuing those permits usually takes 120 days but can take more than a year, frustrating both the growers and the state officials who have tried to pave the way for a farm-raised oyster industry in Maryland's end of the Chesapeake Bay. ...

Restaurant customers shelling out big bucks for Bay’s oysters

When John Shields returned from the West Coast 12 years ago to open Gertrude's, he wanted to feature fresh coastal food cooked with local ingredients in the Baltimore restaurant. He bought Chesapeake Bay crabmeat, vegetables from the city farmer's markets - even shrimp farm-raised on the Eastern Shore.

But the oysters were often from elsewhere. Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia. Connecticut. Occasionally, Shields did serve the wild-caught Bay oysters, but the availability and the quality were inconsistent. Shields, who is also a television show host and has written cookbooks, asked the watermen he knew why no one was farming oysters in the Chesapeake, like it is done in California. They told him it wouldn't work. ...

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


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