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August 2009

July 2009

New Poll: Commuter Rail Smarter Use of Taxpayer $ Than Highway

Highwaysprawl Here’s an interesting fact about the proposed Cross County Connector highway project that would induce sprawl development in a largely forested area of southern Maryland.

Because the Charles County roadway violates Maryland’s principals of “Smart Growth,” the county taxpayers will likely have to bear the entire $60 million cost themselves. No state or federal funds will be used (which is unusual for highway projects).

A recent poll of 500 Charles County voters shows that, once local residents know why they’re being stuck with the whole tab, they oppose the Cross County Connector by a margin of 52 percent to 38 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

In other words: Nobody wants to pay the bill for bad planning like this.

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Town Hall Meeting To Discuss New Federal Actions for Bay

Kalbird1 Right now, top officials from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies are debating what additional actions the government should take to jump-start the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.

These critical top-level discussions are happening in response to President Barack Obama’s May 12 Executive Order declaring the Bay a “national treasure” and proclaiming that “the Federal Government should lead this effort” to restore the estuary.

Here is your chance to weigh in. An open “town hall” meeting will be held on Aug. 11 in Annapolis (details below) to discuss options with Chuck Fox, the EPA’s new top advisor for Chesapeake Bay restoration.

What new steps do you think the federal government should take to reduce pollution in the Bay? I think it’s critically important that the EPA start using the federal Clean Water Act to deny permits for development projects, wastewater plants, industrial facilities and other activities that would add more pollution to waterways (including the Bay) that are already on the EPA’s list of impaired waterways.

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Medication for High Blood Pressure from the Chesapeake Bay

TylertonharborI woke up in the Chesapeake Bay island village of Tylerton yesterday and heard nothing but the sound of marsh grass rustling outside my bedroom window.

There are no cars or trucks in this community of 36 wooden clapboard houses and a dozen crabbing boats, and so no need for streets.  Instead, the town on Smith Island has shady walking paths between its homes and storm-battered piers.  And it has silence.

Tylertoncrabpots At sunset, I paddled a canoe around the harbor, and saw dozens of thumb-sized heads poking from the glassy purple water. They were diamondback terrapin, apparently looking around to see if they finally had the place to themselves.  A squadron of seven pelicans soared overhead. The turtles vanished under the water.

The town offers a glimpse at what life would be like without traffic, chain stores, strip malls or fast food. The village’s one shop, the Drum Point Market, offers credit the 19th century way.  Behind the counter is a bin with spiral-bound notebooks, each with the name of a local resident on the cover.  When people come in to buy a half-pound of hamburger or a dozen nails, the manager carefully writes the amount they owe in the book and folks pay when they can.

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Banning Antibiotics in Livestock Feed

Pigs Does Ms. Piggie have a drug problem?  Is it time for her to go cold turkey?

The Obama administration is trying to ban the routine use of antibiotics in pig, chicken and livestock feed.

Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?  It could potentially affect animal feeding operations and runoff in Pennsylvania, Maryland and elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Advocates of such a ban, including Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the administration’s principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs (and until recently, Baltimore’s health commissioner) argue that feeding antibiotics to livestock to enhance their growth can also promote the growth of potentially dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria. More importantly, these scientists assert, using antibiotics in farm animals weakens the drugs so they won’t be as effective when doctors really need them to protect the lives of humans.

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Cutting the Number of Crabbing Licenses to Save the Blue Crab

Kalbird11 Fewer crabbers, more crabs.


Maryland is proposing to buy back more than half of the commercial blue crab licenses to help the iconic species recover.


Do you agree or disagree with the idea of reducing the number of crab licenses in the Chesapeake Bay?  Send Bay Daily your thoughts.


The move to cut down on the number of licenses comes after Maryland and Virginia restricted harvesting of female crabs last year, which appeared to help reverse a decline in crab populations.


The crab population in the Chesapeake Bay as gauged by this winter’s annual dredge survey was an estimated 418 million blue crabs, up from 283 million last year, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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Confiscate the Bay License Plates of Sprawl Highway Supporters

Kalbird1 You can’t have your Bay and pave it, too.  Any public officials who support the sprawl-inducing Cross County Connector highway project in Southern Maryland – which would wipe out wetlands and forests and pollute one of the Bay’s most prolific fish-breeding grounds – should have their "Treasure the Chesapeake” license plates confiscated and recycled. 

The obvious hypocrisy of the government both claiming to “Save the Bay” and supporting massive highway projects to facilitate exurban development is one of the strongest points of an essay published in the University of Maryland Diamondback called “Chesapeake Bay: Speake of the Devil,” by Matt Dernoga, a senior at the College Park campus (pictured below).  You can also read it on his blog by clicking here.

Dernoga Who cares about a student essay?  Well, this is our future.  There is incredible power in the green movement that is growing in college campuses across the U.S.  And who knows, maybe Matt will be governor some day... and will be able to give the thumbs-down himself to highways like the Charles County Cross County Connector.

In his article, Matt first criticizes all the blown deadlines that the federal and state governments have set to restore the Chesapeake.  First, we were going to clean up the Bay by 2000. Then by 2010.  Now the new goal is to have all the policies in place by 2025.

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Recent Bacteria in Severn River at 4 X Limit for Healthy Swimming

PollutedwaterIt’s been a rainy spring and early summer, and that has meant gouts of storm water flushing pollutants from parkling lots, dog waste, leaky septic tanks, and fertilizers into Chesapeake Bay tributaries. Yuck.

The bacteria problems in the Severn River, just north of Annapolis, were featured in a report released by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation this week called “Bad Water 2009: The Impact on Human Health in the Chesapeake Bay.”

The Maryland Department of the Environment says bacteria levels in the Severn River have gone down over the last five years, in part because a leaky sewage plant closed. 

But data from one biologist who has been studying the Severn River suggests that bacteria problems in the waterway persist – and appear worse this year than last.  One reason this could be true is because of the recent heavy rainfall.

HornerphotoDr. Sally Hornor, a biology professor at Anne Arundel Community College who has been monitoring the Severn for 17 years (pictured at right), found Enterococci bacteria levels in the waterway at concentrations above what the federal Environmental Protection Agency recommends as safe for swimming on six of the seven dates she checked in May and June, according to data on her website.

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Pollution in the Bay Linked to Human Health Problems

Stover Swimming with a tiny cut on the leg should not mean a life-threatening bacterial skin infection and four month of medical treatment. But it did for Bernie Voith, who had to call 911 after taking a dip in a tributary to the Severn River in Maryland.

Hauling a boat out of the water and getting a scrape on the thumb should not lead to a terrifying battle with waterborne bacteria. But tell that to Joe Stover (pictured at left), who was hospitalized for 10 days because of an infection he contracted at a boat ramp in Newport News, Va.

These are just two of the human stories featured in a new report released today by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) called “Bad Water 2009: The Impact on Human Health in the Chesapeake Bay Region.”

The report’s conclusion is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must do more to enforce federal clean water laws, not only to protect fish in the Chesapeake Bay – but also to help protect swimmers and boaters from potentially dangerous pathogens.

An aspect of the report that is receiving a lot of attention from the media (see stories by The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Richmond Times Dispatch, Philadelphia Inquirer, Annapolis Capital, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Salisbury (Maryland) Daily Times, Associated Press, WBAL, WTOP, WVEC and 44 other television stations), concerns a rise in the number of reported infections from Vibrio, a salt-water bacterium that can cause life-threatening skin and blood infections and intestinal illnesses.

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Back from Vacation, Mellow Enough for a Fight

Damselflies I’m back from vacation, well rested and mellowed by two weeks of camping and sailing.

All the time off the grid reminded me of the crucial importance of preserving the few green areas we have left. 

And so I bring to your attention an excellent report that came out last week, called “Trouble Ahead.” The study details reasons why it would be foolish and destructive to build a $60 million highway across one of the Chesapeake Bay region’s most productive fish breeding grounds, the Mattawoman Creek in Southern Maryland. (The picture above, by Ben Feldman, is of sunset over the Mattawoman Creek, as enjoyed by two lusty damselflies.)

Here’s one of the facts that jumped out at me.  Charles County, which needs approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the roadway, is already consuming an average of 1.5 acres of land per residential unit, the most of any metro-area jurisdiction  in Maryland

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