Bay Journal

January 2017 - Volume 26 - Number 10
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PA farm pollution affecting drinking water

In 1945, engineers tasked with bringing clean drinking water to suburban Philadelphia discovered Octoraro Creek nestled in Amish farm country around 40 miles away and deemed it ideal to build the water treatment plant of the future.

But the pastoral landscape that sealed the deal for the Chester Water Authority 70 years ago has now become part of the problem. Nitrates from farm fertilizer seep into the groundwater and get into the creek, ultimately reaching the reservoir built to supply the treatment plant.

Eastern Shore explores fresh approaches for local farming

When we think of agriculture on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, sprawling poultry houses and the grain fields that feed them come to mind. After all, chickens have long outnumbered humans on the Delmarva Peninsula, where their abundance looms large over the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

But Bob Miller is part of a different breed of agriculture that is growing on the Shore, one that’s harder to capture in Bay models but is arguably doing as much to keep patches of farmland from becoming houses.

Climate change, development loom on Nanticoke’s horizon

Sometimes, rivers shout their troubles. They catch fire. Or change color. Other times, they whisper, degrading slowly over time. And some cry for help in a voice so small that passersby can’t hear them at all; only those who know them well recognize the signs.

The Nanticoke River falls into the third category: Beautiful to look at now, but scientists and conservationists worry that trouble may be just beneath the surface, or around the bend.

Bay cleanup efforts already feeling the heat from climate change

Rising temperatures and sea levels, as well as increased precipitation, are all expected for the Chesapeake Bay region as the Earth’s climate changes, but no one has to wait until the end of the century to feel their impacts. For Bay cleanup efforts, the future is now.

Scientists and state and federal officials are already trying to determine the extent to which climate change will affect the region’s ability to achieve its 2025 cleanup goals.

Path to improving Atlantic Flyway at Blackwater is filled with mud

On the Atlantic Flyway, it takes more than a handful of gravel or an asphalt patch to fix a pothole. It takes a giant dredge pumping an arc of slurry at rock-concert decibels for hours at a time, day after day, with funding that would make many municipal road managers envious.

But these are no ordinary potholes, and the flyway is no road. It’s a major migration route for a host of songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl. And one of its most important pit stops, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, is in jeopardy as water gobbles holes in the vast golden-brown marsh on which the birds rely, as do fish, crabs and other wildlife.

This $1.4 million “thin-layering” project, as the dredge-pumping has come to be called, is the first of its kind in the Chesapeake Bay.

Chesapeake losing its oyster reefs faster than they can be rebuilt

The Chesapeake Bay has an oyster problem — but more fundamentally, it has a shell problem.

Put simply, there aren’t enough oyster shells available to support a large-scale restoration of the Bay’s depleted bivalve population. And the way things are going, there may not even be enough to sustain the wild fishery a whole lot longer, at least in Virginia.

Voice for Bay’s menhaden, striped bass dies

James “Jim” Price, a citizen scientist who sounded the alarm for nearly four decades on the health of striped bass and menhaden, died peacefully at his home on Dec. 18. He was 73 and had been battling prostate cancer for seven years.

Born in Easton into a family of fishermen, Price grew up in the town of Choptank, in Caroline County, MD, and later settled near Oxford. After working in a state highway agency laboratory for 16 years, he opened a jewelry business, Delmarva Jewelers, which he operated for 30 years.
In the early 1980s, Price founded the Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation to study what he believed was a severe decline in the populations and relative health of striped bass, also known as rockfish or stripers, many of which spawn in the Bay, then migrate to coastal waters. Price’s effort to raise concern about rockfish helped to push for Maryland’s catch moratorium, which lasted from 1985 to 1990. The five-year hiatus is credited with helping the species rebound.

Capacasa retires from EPA, kept low-key on high-profile cleanup efforts

Fresh out of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in civil engineering in hand, Jon Capacasa made a cross-state trip in 1974 to interview for a job with a fledgling federal agency.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was not quite 4 years old, and was still staffing up to oversee sweeping new environmental laws. The Clean Air Act had been passed in 1970, the Clean Water Act came two years later. The Safe Drinking Water Act was about to become law.

Capacasa got the job, and soon found himself working on drinking water programs in the EPA Region 3 headquarters, which was then across the street from Independence Hall in Philadelphia. “It was very inspirational,” he recalled.

Earlier this month, he stepped down after 42 years at the agency. For the last 13 years, he’d been director of the region’s water protection division, overseeing all water programs in the region. His legacy includes overseeing the development of the landmark Bay “pollution diet,” as well as efforts to clean up the Anacostia River and promoting a wider use of green infrastructure to fix stormwater woes.

New plant on James River to require 1st pollution trade of its kind in VA

A $2 billion paper and fertilizer plant under construction near Richmond is more than just the first U.S. venture for a Chinese company that claims to have revolutionized the papermaking process. It’s also the first project to test Virginia’s ability to add new industrial facilities to the Chesapeake Bay watershed while maintaining pollution caps set for the James River more than a decade ago.

Shandong Tranlin Paper Co., which is operating in the United States under the name Vastly, has more than 200 patents on its process to turn wheat straw from local farms into pulp for paper products and soil amendments that could then be sold to farmers.

Plan floated for Mallows Bay national marine sanctuary

Mallows Bay on the Potomac River has been proposed as a national marine sanctuary, the first in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and now the public has a chance to comment.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a draft plan for protecting a portion of the Potomac 40 miles downriver from Washington, DC. It contains nearly 200 known historic shipwrecks, some dating to the Civil War and possibly even the Revolutionary War, plus archeological artifacts as old as 12,000 years related to the region’s American Indian cultures at the time of European settlement.

Funding common theme as Bay states confront 2017 environmental issues

Fracking, renewable energy, sewage overflows, pollution trading, oysters, cownose rays. These contentious topics, and more — some with implications for the health of the Chesapeake Bay — awaited legislators in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia as they returned to work in January.

Each state has a slightly different menu of environmental legislation to consider. But funding — or the lack thereof — for Bay restoration efforts looms as a common hurdle for lawmakers in Annapolis, Harrisburg and Richmond. The three key Bay watershed states face revenue shortfalls ranging from $400 million to $1.7 billion each, and spending cuts appear likely in the near term to close those gaps.

Sneads Farm Asparagus Festival May 27-29 in Fredericksburg, VA
Ernst Conservation Seeds: Restoring the Native Balance
Tour dem Parks, hon.

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