Bay Journal

April 2017 - Volume 27 - Number 2
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New catfish reg threatens watermen’s livelihood, Bay

Richard Turner Jr. maneuvered his Carolina Skiff around Gunston Cove in the Potomac River, then hoisted a hoop net out of the water that he’d left there hours ago.

Inside wriggled a 12-pound blue catfish. These mustachioed menaces have been eating their way through the Potomac River and the rest of the Chesapeake Bay for the last decade. They can grow to 5 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds while gobbling up other commercially valuable fish, such as menhaden and blue crabs.

Turner and a growing number of fishermen are turning the tables on these invasive predators. Spurred on by a burgeoning market and the lack of any harvest limits, the blue catfish commercial fishery has taken off.

VA group buys land to ensure carnivorous plant stays in the picture

One would think that the purple pitcher, a bug-eating, water-collecting plant — like the Venus flytrap but without its reflexes — could fend for itself.

But the carnivorous Sarracenia purpurea, which is native to portions of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, has been no match for the convergence of factors altering its historic stomping grounds — rapid development, reforestation and re-engineering beavers among them. The plant needed something of a savior or, at the very least, some protected places to call home.

Parking lot project catches the eye as well as stormwater

An earthquake, and then a flood, forced officials to repair a parking lot retaining wall in hilly Ellicott City, MD. The wall, already weakened by the magnitude 5.8 quake that shook the East Coast in 2011, was damaged a month later when Tropical Storm Lee took its toll on the historic business district of shops and restaurants.

Howard County’s innovative repair job did more than restore the wall — it netted the community an architecturally designed staircase, showy native gardens, a waterfall, less stormwater pollution of the Patapsco River and a BUBBA.

Experts trying to explain recent deaths of 5 whales off VA coast

It’s been a grim new year for whales off the coast of Virginia, with a flurry of casualties that has experts dumbfounded.

In the month of February alone, four humpback whales turned up dead. Three washed ashore — the first near Hampton Roads, the second on the Eastern Shore and the third on Cape Henry — all apparently after being struck by large ships, and two with apparent propeller wounds. A fourth badly decomposed carcass washed up near Chincoteague.

Proposed Trump budget eliminates Chesapeake Bay Program

The Trump administration would shut down the 34-year-old Chesapeake Bay Program restoration partnership in its “America First” budget blueprint released in March, while likely cuts to other initiatives would further set back efforts to restore the nation’s largest estuary, advocates say.

The 53-page budget outline would slash federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Bay Program — which guides the overall state-federal restoration effort — from $73 million to nothing in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The EPA’s overall budget was targeted for a 31 percent reduction.

Watermen oppose plans to protect historic shipwrecks

The “ghost fleet” sunk in the mud of Mallows Bay never saw action in World War I. But nearly a century later, the decaying wrecks of more than 100 wooden steamships built for that war and left to rot in the Potomac River have triggered a new conflict.

A proposal by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create a new national marine sanctuary around the skeletal remains of those vessels has riled commercial fishermen in Maryland and Virginia. Despite assurances to the contrary, they see the move as a potential threat to their livelihood.

Chandler Robbins, ‘dean of the bird conservation world,’ dies

Chandler Robbins, a research ornithologist known as the “dean of the bird conservation world” and one of the last links to Rachel Carson, died on March 20. The Laurel, MD, resident was 98.

Robbins joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1945 as a junior biologist at what is now the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, after graduating with a degree in physics from what was then Harvard College, followed by a teaching stint. He worked with Rachel Carson at Patuxent and participated in some of the first studies on the pesticide DDT’s effects on eagle and osprey reproduction.

Lynchburg takes new tack on decades-old overflow problems

Like hundreds of cities in the country, Lynchburg’s earliest sewer infrastructure was built to get the water — and whatever else might be flushed or flowing into it — out of the Virginia city and into the nearest stream or river as quickly as possible.

In 1955, the city added a wastewater treatment plant that greatly reduced the amount of raw sewage flowing into the nearby James River. But, like many wastewater treatment systems of that era, it captured both sewage and stormwater and therefore could easily be overwhelmed by heavy rains. To prevent sewage backups, the system was designed to divert the wet-weather overflows directly to the river. This has come to be known as a combined sewer overflow system.

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