Bay Journal

July-August 2017 - Volume 27 - Number 5

Opponents of PA gas pipeline vow to continue the fight

It’s not surprising that Lancaster County residents would be suffering from pipeline fatigue. The Sunoco Mariner II project is under construction, cutting a 125-foot-wide swath across 6.5 miles of northern Lancaster. Three years ago, the Rock Springs Pipeline was built through mostly farm fields in the southern part of the county before dropping down into Cecil County, MD.

So when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held its first hearing in August 2014 on the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, Lancaster residents logged in 4.5 hours of testimony, mostly in opposition to it.

Double-crossed — or a mystery of archaeology?

Coastal geologist Darrin Lowery, among the Bay region’s premier finders of ancient artifacts, tells cautionary tales about how discoveries are not always as they seem.

There was the fork inscribed “Davy Crockett” that he found poking out of an eroding Delmarva Peninsula coastline—dating merely to a 1955 Disney commemorative production; and a 4,500-year-old spear point penetrating a castoff Frigidaire — go figure.

“Proving anything from the archaeology of a single day is virtually impossible,” Lowery said.

But then there came the blistering, buggy day Lowery and two colleagues virtually tripped over a small brass cross as they surveyed one of the Bay region’s remotest shorelines on Mockhorn Island, VA.

Programs filling growing number of jobs created by stormwater rules

Two months ago, Sean Williams and Antique Jett would have driven by the field next to a parking lot in Baltimore without a second thought to the gray structure resembling an infield parking pad, or the grate next to it.

But today, they identify instantly what’s wrong. This raised slab, covered in wire mesh and gravel, is supposed to slow down and filter rain runoff before it reaches the drain. But it’s choked by weeds, Jett said. There’s a hole around the drain, Williams added. They jotted notes on a clipboard. The library parking lot at Notre Dame of Maryland University does not have  the worst stormwater controls, they agreed, but they could use improvement.

Williams and Jett are among the 10 Baltimore City residents undergoing a stormwater training program through Civic Works, a Baltimore nonprofit, and the Center for Watershed Protection, based in Ellicott City.

While other states go along, NY says no to gas pipelines

In the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Tim and Chris Camman walk daily through a thick wood, shaded by a canopy of tall hemlocks, white pines and hardwoods. Dappled sunlight filters through, with only the sounds of birds and Carrs Creek as it bubbles and swirls around the flat rocks and wood snags of its bed.

It has been several years since surveyors came through and measured where a 100-foot wide swath of forest could be felled on their 77-acre farm in New York northeast of Binghamton to make way for a natural gas pipeline. If the project goes forward, it would ultimately take about 10 percent of the land the Cammans have owned since 1988.

Plan to put wastewater into 2 MD trout streams raises heated debate

Trout are among the most highly prized of freshwater fish; their presence in a stream is a sign that the water is clean, cold and rich in all the things fish need to survive, grow and reproduce.

So, perhaps it’s no surprise that these pollution-sensitive fish are at the center of a debate in Maryland about how best to sustain them amid the sprawling development that threatens their survival in the central part of the state.

Carroll County plans to upgrade an aging, poorly performing sewage treatment plant serving the town of Hampstead in the northwestern suburbs of Baltimore. In an effort to reduce pollution to Piney Run, a trout stream into which the plant discharges, the county wants to split the wastewater flow and pipe a portion over to another stream.

But the other stream, Deep Run, also has trout. Now there’s a dispute over how much protection each stream should receive.

VA city’s artificial wetland the real deal in slowing stormwater pollution

Historically, cities and towns relegated stormwater treatment to the unseen places: The backs of buildings, the edges of town. A pond that held runoff containing the detritus of urban life — water mixed with heavy metals and fertilizer, motor oil and animal waste — was not the prettiest town amenity.

But Waynesboro, VA is bringing stormwater treatment to the forefront. Recently, the city of 21,000 installed a 10-acre “constructed wetland” in its center. Mimicking nature as best as it can, it filters runoff from its natural drainage basin — 330 acres of mostly residential neighborhood. The beneficiary is a mile or so to the east: the South River, which flows through the city and eventually to the Shenandoah’s South Fork 15 miles away.

Easing of smallmouth bass fishing curbs on Susquehanna stirs debate

After many years of disease and depressed populations, smallmouth bass have recovered somewhat in the Susquehanna River, enough so that Pennsylvania regulators are looking to ease a spring fishing ban that has been in place since 2012.

The state Fish and Boat Commission is considering reopening the spring smallmouth spawning season, which for the last five years has been closed to anglers from May 1 to June 18 along 98 miles of the middle and lower Susquehanna and 32 miles of the lower Juniata River, a major tributary.

The proposal, to be taken up at the commission’s July 10 meeting, has sparked almost as much controversy among anglers as the original closure.

Charles County, MD, restricts development in Mattawoman watershed

After six years of heated debate, the Charles County Board of Commissioners voted to restrict development in one of Maryland’s fastest-growing counties to protect one of the state’s healthiest — and most threatened — water bodies, Mattawoman Creek.

By a vote of 3–2, the commissioners approved a Watershed Conservation District, which will reduce potential development in the Mattawoman drainage basin and the headwaters of the Port Tobacco River. The vote follows an intense, nearly yearlong debate after the county adopted a new comprehensive growth plan that called for protecting the creek, a Potomac River tributary just 20 miles from Washington, D.C.

Trump’s budget cuts wide and deep swath through Bay-related programs

A relaxing trip to the beach could instead become a step into unknown waters next year.

In its quest to squeeze dollars from environmental programs, the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 spending plan would eliminate federal support for water quality monitoring at beaches, which could warn swimmers of high bacteria levels and other pollution threats.

Trump’s budget proposal also would slash money for programs that help predict when conditions are right for harmful algae blooms and outbreaks of dangerous vibrio bacteria that may lurk in the water.

Power line across James River one step closer to approval

A new transmission line that would carry electricity across a four-mile span of the James River has received a federal agency’s long-awaited nod of approval. But the $270-million undertaking still needs to earn permits at the state and local level this summer, and it is expected to continue facing vocal opposition from environmental and historic preservation groups.

After reviewing for nearly four years Dominion Energy’s plans to run a 500-kilovolt power line on towers across the river, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a preliminary permit for the project on June 12. The Corps’ final permit is contingent on approval from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the James City County Board of Supervisors.

Feds interview Tangier watermen, look into oyster sales records in Crisfield

Officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited several watermen on Tangier Island and seafood businesses in Crisfield last week as part of an investigation they are conducting related to oysters.

The federal officials interviewed watermen on the Virginia island, asking for records related to oyster sales to Crisfield businesses. They took copies of records but did not seize any bivalves; it’s not harvest season.

Federal officials would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, saying that’s their policy. But Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, did confirm “federal law enforcement activity” in Crisfield and Tangier last Wednesday.

Smith Island losing land, population and now its shepherd

They stand in a tidy church graveyard in the main town of Ewell, adorned with U.S. flags and fresh wreaths, their shiny coatings a rebuke to the battering winds and rising tides. The headstones bear the surnames of Smith Island: Bradshaw, Somers, Evans, Corbin. Hardy stock, all. Their descendants are still there, sticking it out on Maryland’s last inhabited offshore Chesapeake Bay island, while dozens of other isles have succumbed to the seas.

Chesapeake Film Festival
Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017
Waterfowl Festival 2017
Ecotone

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