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April 2012

March 2012

Bay Advocates Demand Legislative Action at Rally in Annapolis: "Clean Water Is Our Right!"

Chanting, singing, and waving signs proclaiming “Clean Water Is Our Right!” more than 150 advocates of legislation that would reduce pollution from stormwater, sewage treatment plants, and sprawl rallied this morning at the Maryland State House in Annapolis.

The protesters urged state lawmakers to pass bills to increase funding for wastewater plant improvements through the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund (or “flush fee”). The advocates also asked for approval of legislation that would require 10 urbanized counties and municipalities to create fees to build stormwater pollution control systems.  Both of these sources of funding are critical if Maryland is to meet new federal pollution limits for the Bay. The group also urged lawmakers to pass a bill that help limit sprawling development.

CBF rally on Lawyers' Mall 163Governor Martin O’Malley and  legislative leaders pledged  to keep fighting for these initiatives as the General Assembly heads into its final few weeks of the  session. “With your help, we are going to secure even greater investments in our Bay Restoration Fund, because we believe in clean water,” O’Malley told the cheering crowd.

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Runoff Pollution Contributes to 21 Percent Drop in Bay Grasses in 2011

UnderwatergrassesFor the second year in a row, underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay declined in 2011 -– dropping by 21 percent from 2010, following a 7 percent decline the previous year, in part because of heavy rainfall and runoff pollution, according to the U.S. EPA Chesapeake Bay Program.

Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee turned the Bay into a muddy mess that looked like chocolate milk in satellite photos, and this muck smothered the grasses.

Aquatic vegetation is important to the Bay, because it filters silt out of the waterways and adds oxygen to water.  Grasses also serve as vital shelter for young blue crabs, striped bass, and other forms of life. The extent of grasses in the Chesapeake Bay, however, are now at their lowest levels since 2006.

The amount of grass is now “much more typical of what was observed prior to 1991 when grass acreages were at the lowest levels recorded” by aerial surveys, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program, which announced the results this morning. Contributing to the decline were hot weather and heavy rains in 2010 and 2011, which washed large amounts of sediment down the Susquehanna River and other waterways.

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Clean Water Rally Planned for 9 a.m. Tomorrow in Annapolis

Adocates for a clean Chesapeake Bay are urged to turn out for a rally tomorrow morning (Wednesday, March 28) at 9 a.m. at the Maryland State House, Lawyer's Mall, 100 State Circle in Annapolis.  Bring signs, photos of the Bay, and loud voices!  Among other things, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and our allies in the Clean Water Healthy Families coalition are urging state lawmakers to approve an increase in the Bay Restoration Fund (the so-called "flush fee") for much-needed improvements to sewage treatment plants.

Pipe Break Releases 17 Million Gallons of Sewage a Day into Bay Tributary

Danger polluted water keep out sign 014A break in a 54-inch sewage line inside a Baltimore area sewage pumping plant on Sunday is releasing 17 million gallons of sewage a day into the Patapsco River, with the pollution flow, including bacteria and excess nitrogen, expected to continue until the rupture can be fixed on Thursday.

As a result of the problems at the Patapsco Pumping Station at 4612 Annapolis Road, Baltimore and Anne Arundel County officials are warning people to avoid all contact with the Chesapeake Bay tributary, from Hammonds Ferry Road to the Middle Branch.

“The Department of Health has posted emergency closing signs along the section of the Patapsco River, and the closure will remain in effect until further notice,” the Anne Arundel County Health Department advised.  “People coming in contact with the affected water are advised to wash well with soap and warm water immediately. Clothing should also be washed.”

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Steps Forward, Steps Needing a Nudge

Some good Bay news and some troubling Bay news from Virginia…

The 2012 Virginia General Assembly adjourned earlier this month after approving several bills that should advance Chesapeake Bay restoration. Good legislation included a measure that expands the state’s pollution trading program to allow more participation, transparency, and accountability, and a bill that will reduce nitrogen runoff from lawn fertilizer.

And several bills that posed a real threat to the Bay failed to win passage, including ones that would have directed the state attorney general to consider suing EPA over the Bay pollution limits (TMDL), withdraw Virginia from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (to protest the commission’s management of menhaden), and eliminate federal oversight of nontidal wetlands in Virginia.

On the flip side, the Assembly adjourned without agreeing on a state budget. That puts in limbo proposed funding to help upgrade local sewage treatment plants, assist farmers with soil and water conservation practices, and help CBF provide environmental education to Virginia students and teachers. Budget negotiations resumed this week, however, and published reports were predicting lawmakers could reach agreement on the state’s two-year spending plan as soon as next week. Stay tuned.

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Chesapeake News and Events

York River Algal Bloom

As people in the region enjoy this unseasonable warmth, the Bay begins to suffer some spring algal bloom woes.  In the main stem of the Bay, the Department of Natural Resources is tracking a large bloom of prorocentrum algae between the Potomac River and Tangier Island.  Algal blooms like these are the result of nutrient pollution and can cause ‘dead zones’ in the water where there is little to no dissolved oxygen. 

In other Bay news… 

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Human Chain of Energy to Ring Maryland State House on April 2

Glow forth, and do good!  Advocates of wind energy plan to pass out glowing miniature wind mills and create a human “circle of support” around the Maryland State House at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 2.   Supporters hope to convince the legislature to approve a bill that would give a boost to proposals to build an offshore wind farm east of Ocean City in the Atlantic Ocean.  The human chain will begin assembling at Lawyers Mall, 100 State Circle.   To learn more, click here.

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Name the Critter Contest

Newborns"Mom! I'm cold! Where's my blanket?"  The first reader to correctly identify these Chesapeake Bay creatures will win a free Chesapeake Bay Foundation T-shirt.  Enter your guesses as comments below.  Ready, set, go!

UPDATE: These are double-crested cormorant chicks, just moments after hatching.  And the first reader to identify them was Bujor.  Contrats to Bujor and thanks to everyone for reading and playing. 

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Rally for Clean Water Planned for March 28

ProtestJoin the rally for clean water!  This is a critical time to urge the Maryland General Assembly to approve funding to help the state meet pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay.  Come to Lawyers Mall, 100 State Circle in Annapolis, at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28.

We are urging everyone to make signs or bring large photos that will explain to your elected representatives why reducing water pollution is so important.   For details, click here.   Among other things, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and our allies in the Clean Water Healthy Families coalition are urging lawmakers to approve an increase in the Bay Restoration Fund (the so-called "flush fee") to upgrade sewage treatment plants. 

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Sign of the Climate? Migratory Osprey Remain in Chesapeake All Winter

OspreyThe epic migrations of osprey from South America to the Chesapeake Bay mark the seasons, with their return in March a traditional sign of spring.

Populations of these raptors -- also called "fish hawks," with their white chests and M-shaped outline in the sky -- have quadrupled since the 1970s because of a federal ban on the pesticide DDT. But, increasingly, the migratory schedule of osprey is being altered by a new environmental problem: climate change.

Dr. Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University,  said that in recent years he has seen 15 to 20 osprey living in the southern Bay all winter, instead of migrating south to Brazil, Venezuela, or Columbia.   Dr. Watts and his colleagues conduct visual surveys of bird populations from airplanes, and have seen the resident osprey around Virginia’s Chickahominy River, among other locations.

In addition, Dr. Watts said many osprey seem to be returning from their migrations earlier in the spring than normal, although he added this needs to be confirmed with additional research. “There are more and more reports of osprey overwintering in the Bay,” Dr. Watts said. “That may be a function of a warmer climate, and their continued access to fish, which is the main issue for why they leave.”

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