Bay Journal

January 2011 - Volume 20 - Number 10

EPA, in announcing new TMDL, says it will finally clean up the Chesapeake Bay

Calling it a "historic moment" for the Bay, EPA officials on Dec. 29 unveiled a new Chesapeake cleanup plan that emphasizes regulation and accountability, a forceful approach that they said will finally deliver the elusive goal of a clean Bay.

The plan would affect almost everyone in the Bay's 64,000-square-mile watershed. It will impact how much fertilizer homeowners put on their yards and how farmers manage chickens and cows. In many areas, people will face new fees to upgrade sewage treatment plants or stormwater systems. ...

Kingman & Heritage Islands Park joins Chesapeake Bay Gateways / Watertrails Network

The National Park Service recently announced the addition of Kingman and Heritage Islands Park in the District of Columbia as the 171st site in the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network.

The network includes parks, refuges, museums, historic communities, vessels and trails that offer a connection to cultural and natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Kingman and Heritage Islands Park, a project of the District of Columbia Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development in coordination with Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, offers trails for walking and bicycling through 50 acres of natural island habitat. ...

Chuck Fox to head new international oceans organization

After nearly two years as the "Bay czar" during which the EPA developed a rigorous new cleanup plan and the Obama administration pledged hundreds of actions to bring "a new era of federal leadership" to the Bay and its watershed, J. Charles "Chuck" Fox is moving on, his eyes set on saving the world's oceans.

At the end of December, he announced his departure to head a new organization, Oceans 5, which will pursue international initiatives aimed at protecting the waters that cover three-quarters of the globe. The organization will focus on international projects that are "highly impactful, results-oriented," Fox said. The exact areas for emphasis are still being developed, he said, but "they will tend to be focused on establishing large marine reserves, improving fishing management or more specifically, constraining overfishing." ...

Loudoun defers vote on preservation act until spring

Loudoun County's Board of Supervisors deferred a vote on a new ordinance designed to protect the streams of the fast-growing Virginia county and asked the county staff for more information on the contested legislation, called the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.

The board likely won't vote on the legislation until spring.

After two raucous public hearings in which some residents advocated killing the law, the board's action on Jan. 19 was a welcome reprieve, said the county's environmental engineer, Laura Edmonds. ...

Jamie King, coordinator of ariakensis environmental impact study, dies

Jamie Lynn King, an oyster biologist with the Chesapeake Bay Program, died Jan. 1 after a long battle with cancer.

King, 44, became known throughout the watershed when she took on the role of coordinating the Asian oyster environmental impact study, a five-year, $15 million effort to assess the ramifications of bringing a foreign species into the Chesapeake. The battle was frequently contentious, with Maryland pushing for a reproducing population of the species, C. ariakensis, while neighboring states worried about the unintended consequences of such a move. ...

VMRC to set aside 1,000 acres of prime water bottom for aquaculture

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission will set aside more than 1,000 acres of prime, state-owned water bottoms for the farming of shellfish in cages to further promote aquaculture in the commonwealth.

Under a plan expected to be approved at its Jan. 25 meeting, the commission would create 15 new Aquaculture Opportunity Zones.

The zones-identified through extensive, on-site commission inspections-are located on hard bottom, in clean shallow waters without underwater grasses that must be protected to preserve their value as nurseries for fish and crabs. These zones also are sufficiently sheltered, within reasonable distance of off-loading sites and are not within the riparian areas of waterfront property owners. ...

Would-be MD oyster farmers drowning in permit paperwork

Maryland's top government officials are working hard to plant the seeds of a robust oyster aquaculture industry. But the bureaucratic hurdles applicants need to clear when applying for permits to lease the Chesapeake's bottom seem to be multiplying faster than the shellfish.


Senior Maryland Department of Natural resources officials had a meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers the last week in January and agreed that a draft general permit would go out for public comment on Valentine's Day. The ideal is that the permit will be in place by May 1, according to DNR assistant secretary Frank Dawson. Bob Orth, of VIMS, was at the meeting as well, and Dawson said the National Marine Fisheries Service has a "significantly greater appreciation" for Orth's work than before, when they questioned how comprehensive it was. ...

Some worry support for Bay efforts may lag in new Congress

At the end of last September, federal agencies were touting a federal Bay action plan that called for a record $491 million in spending on a host of Chesapeake activities this year.

And just a few months ago, many Bay advocates were still hopeful Congress would pass legislation that would strengthen federal authority over the Bay cleanup and pledge to provide billions of dollars more to control pollution from stormwater and other sources of pollution in future years.

Ultimately, Congress failed to pass any Bay legislation and has not yet passed final appropriations for 2011. Instead of new authority or more money, budget cuts and oversight hearings on existing regulations are more likely. ...

Bay states considering bills to reduce nutrients in fertilizers

Bills that would restrict the nutrient content of fertilizer applied to lawns will be considered in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania legislatures this year as part of strategies aimed at reigning in all sources of nutrient pollution.

The measures are being championed by members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. They would restrict the display of fertilizer containing phosphorous, which could only be sold for newly established lawns, or lawns where soil tests showed phosphorus was needed. Nitrogen concentrations in fertilizers would also be limited and no de-icing agents containing fertilizer could be sold. ...

Fish kill in MD area of Chesapeake blamed on sudden drop in temperature

Plunging temperatures seem to have triggered the deaths of about 2 million fish in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay in an unusually large winter fish kill.

Fish kills were reported in late December and early January from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Tangier Sound, including sites along Poplar and Kent Islands, Calvert County and the Honga River in Dorchester County.

Most of the dead were juvenile spot, 3-6 inches in length.

Spokesman Jay Apperson of the Maryland Department of the Environment said that cold water was the likely cause of the kill. Preliminary study shows that water quality data in the area was acceptable. Further analysis of water quality data and fish tissue is expected in February. ...

New law requires federal government to pay stormwater fees

President Obama signed a new law in January that will require federal agencies to pay stormwater fees set by local governments. The law will provide an additional $2.6 million per year for reducing polluted stormwater runoff in the District of Columbia.

The federal government had refused to pay the District's fee even as federally driven mandates to clean up the Chesapeake Bay have spurred hotly contested rate hikes for sewage and stormwater management elsewhere in the region.

The bipartisan bill that passed in December ends a debate that U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-MD, called "a fundamental issue of equity." ...

Watershed groups unite to form Blue Water Baltimore

Baltimore City has one of the highest homicide rates in the country, widespread poverty, a record number of abandoned homes and a shrinking tax base. With so many stresses, it's no wonder the city's environmental woes have long gotten short shrift.

For decades, sewage spills have dumped millions of gallons of sewage into the Jones Falls, Herring Run and the Gwynns Falls. So much trash floods the Patapsco River's branches that the streams can look like landfills after a rain. Even the Inner Harbor ...

It wasn’t long before the discussions at the second annual Choose Clean Water Conference turned to TMDLs

More than 250 scientists, environmentalists, activists and policy makers attended the Washington, DC, event, and they wanted to hear how the EPA planned to withstand the legal challenges that are surely coming in the face of the most comprehensive Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan ever attempted.

Environmental activists have long anticipated the Total Maximum Daily Load, also known as the "pollution diet." They have maintained that states need clear limits on how much pollution can enter each of the Bay's 92 designated waterways and should face clear consequences if they exceed their limits. ...

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