Bay Journal

January 2010 - Volume 19 - Number 10

2010 may mark key turnaround in Bay cleanup

For the Chesapeake Bay, 2010 may well go down in history as the year everything changed. Federal agencies are promising bold new actions to restrict pollution into the Bay while also protecting the region's most valuable lands and habitats.

Bay advocates, though, hope the new year doesn't turn out to be another one that began with great promise but ends with agreements that are not enforced, promises that are watered down and platitudes that sound good but don't tackle the problems at hand. ...

As talk of TMDLs turns into action, here’s what you should know

Goals set in 1987 and 2000 were missed by wide margins, leading to widespread criticism of the state and federal cleanup efforts. Instead of achieving the Chesapeake 2000 goal for cleaning up the Bay this year, state and federal agencies have vowed to create a tough, new cleanup strategy.

 

Past plans relied largely on voluntary efforts, and had no penalty for failure-except public criticism. EPA officials say that will change this year when they finalize a new plan, called a total maximum daily load, which is intended to give cleanup efforts more regulatory teeth and accountability. ...

 

Gas firm to fund monitoring of waterways in Marcellus Shale area

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission will expand its water-quality monitoring network to small rivers and creeks in the Marcellus Shale gas-drilling area, thanks to a gift from a gas company.

East Resources, Inc., a drilling company based Warrendale, PA, announced in December that it would contribute the $750,000 needed to set up the monitoring network. Initially, the commission expected it would have to raise the funds through a variety of federal and state sources.

"With this contribution, the commission has now secured a commitment of the financial resources needed to proceed with the project sooner than planned," said SRBC executive director Paul Swartz. "If winter weather cooperates, we could begin installing equipment as soon as January 2010." ...

Budget forces VIMS to cut 16 posts; leave another 10 vacant

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science will cut 16 positions in January while losing 10 additional faculty positions that won't be filled, all because of the slashing of $6.1 million in state funding over the course of two years.

The fiscal year that began in July had already seen VIMS eliminating or deferring hirings for vacant faculty and staff positions and taking other measures to reduce costs, said spokesman David Malmquist.

VIMS is the graduate school in marine science for the College of William and Mary. Faculty and staff conduct coastal ocean and Chesapeake Bay research and advise state and local agencies, industry and the public. The campus is in Gloucester Point on the banks of the York River. ...

Riverkeepers ask EPA to take away MDE’s authority to issue permits

The Chesapeake Bay's Riverkeepers are petitioning the EPA to take away Maryland's authority to issue discharge permits, claiming that the state agency isn't following the law.

Since 1989, Maryland has had the authority to issue permits for point-source discharges under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program, which came out of the Clean Water Act. Under the system, the state determines how much pollution an industry can safely discharge into the water, and is supposed to monitor those discharges. ...

Group claims Omega Protein is dumping fish wastes in Bay

An environmental group is alleging that menhaden fishing ships may be dumping vast amounts of decomposing fish wastes into the Chesapeake almost every day during the fishing season, removing oxygen from water in a Bay that already suffers chronic "dead zones."

Omega Protein, the Texas-based company that operates the menhaden fishing fleet based in Reedville, VA, disputes the accusations by the Southern Environmental Law Center, based in Charlottesville, VA, saying its discharges comply with permit limits. ...

MD to create large oyster sanctuaries, encourage aquaculture

Large sections of several Maryland rivers would be set aside as permanent oyster sanctuaries under a new management strategy proposed by Maryland officials in December that is aimed at restoring native oyster populations and rebuilding income for watermen.

The source of that income would change: The plan promotes oyster aquaculture by opening 600,000 additional acres of Bay bottom to leasing, including 95,524 acres of natural bars that previously had been off-limits for leasing.

Wild oyster harvests can still take place, but areas available to the traditional fishery will be gradually decreased by the expanded sanctuaries and new leased areas, and it will be more tightly managed. ...

Officials swap stories of battle against invasive species

Spiny water fleas, furry mitten crabs, northern snakeheads, dead man's fingers-they all sound like something out of a horror movie. But unfortunately, the story of the invaders that took over the nation's seas is all too real.

These marauders enter our waterways, either introduced accidentally or on purpose, and within a few short years, many establish breeding populations. They gobble up native fish and native habitats. With no natural predators, there's no stopping their growth. They breed like rabbits-or, as the case may be, nutria. ...

VA phosphorus limits on hold pending latest computer model data

Evolving science from the Chesapeake Bay Program has stalled an attempt to tighten phosphorus limits for stormwater runoff in Virginia's portion of the Bay watershed.

New stormwater regulations, passed in December by the Virginia Board of Soil and Water Conservation, require enhanced management practices to hold and absorb stormwater on newly developed land, but they will not reduce the phosphorus standard as anticipated.

Instead, the statewide standard for annual phosphorus discharge will remain at .45 pounds per acre, while the Department of Conservation and Recreation works with the EPA to identify the appropriate phosphorus limit based on the latest estimates from the Bay Program's computer models, which help to guide cleanup efforts. ...

MD, VA buy back 924 crabbing licenses

Watermen in Maryland and Virginia have voluntarily sold 924 commercial crabbing licenses back to state agencies through programs aimed at reducing pressure on the Chesapeake's struggling blue crab fishery.

All licenses returned through the buyback programs will be permanently retired.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission purchased 359 crabbing licenses through a $6.7 million buyback program that closed on Nov. 1. The purchase will reduce the cap on commercial crabbing licenses in Virginia to 1,649. It will also eliminate 75,441 crab pots from Virginia waters-18 percent of the existing total. ...

Landsat images offer clearer picture of changes in watershed

Images taken from satellites more than 400 miles above the Earth's surface are bringing land-cover changes throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed into tighter focus.

The images, which capture tracts as small as 30 square meters, offer a surprising picture of some trends in land cover. For instance, they indicate that the rate of farm land loss has slowed, while the fastest rate of urban expansion in recent decades occurred between 1984 and 1992.

But the images also confirm the ongoing-and accelerating-loss of forest land in the watershed. ...

Chesapeake College’s new Agriculture AAS is a two-year degree debuting in Fall 2016.

Travel

Wholesale reclamation and wetland seed supplier.
A Documentary Inspired by William W. Warner’s 1976 Exploration of Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay.

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