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The Chesapeake's Oldest and Largest

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A fish with unparalleled historical significance, the Atlantic sturgeon is threatened with extinction on our watch. Photo courtesy of iStock.

There's an ancient fish in our Chesapeake Bay, and it's threatened with extinction on our watch.

That's right: A local fish—the Atlantic sturgeon—survived Ice Ages, just to become endangered millions of years later by poor water quality, destruction of its habitat, and overfishing.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries is proposing to designate "critical habitat" for Atlantic sturgeon. CBF will be weighing in on this critical designation—and we hope you will, too.

The Atlantic sturgeon has a long history in the Chesapeake Bay, earning the title of its oldest and largest fish species. These prehistoric fish have been around for 120 million years, and each one can live 60 years, grow to 14 feet in length, and weigh up to 800 pounds.

But their numbers have dwindled, and, in 2012, the Atlantic sturgeon was added to the Endangered Species List. Now, NOAA Fisheries must identify those areas that are most important for the survival of the species—the "critical habitat" needed for spawning, rearing, feeding, and migration to other important habitat.

The link between the health of sturgeon and the health of the Bay and its major rivers is an important one. The Bay's degraded water quality has created barriers between important habitats, interrupting the species' life cycle. By restoring water quality through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, we will be helping to recover one of the region's oldest, most extraordinary fish species.

From Virginia's James, Pamunkey, and Mattaponi Rivers to Maryland's Potomac River to Pennsylvania's Lower Susquehanna to the Delmarva Peninsula's Marshyhope Creek and Nanticoke River, sturgeon have spawned and survived across the Chesapeake Bay region. They'll need these areas—along with the healthy water quality that will allow them to get to these areas safely—in order to survive.

What can you do to help? Public comment on the critical habitat designation will be taken until September 1. Stay tuned for updates on how you can weigh in to support our recommendations for designation. In the meantime, more information on the proposal and comments can be found here.

Wow. Modern-day dinosaurs right here in the Chesapeake Bay. Don't your kids and grandkids deserve that same sense of wonder?

Let's work together to ensure that a fish that has been here for millions of years will still be here, spawning and someday thriving, for generations to come. 

—Bill Goldsborough, CBF's Director of Fisheries


Photo of the Week: Summer Storm Over Horn Harbor

LighteningStrike

This is a 30-second exposure taken from our pier last Friday evening in Peary, Virginia, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

This storm rolled down the Mobjack Bay and took direct aim at Cape Charles. The lightning strike is directly over Cape Charles.

I travel weekly for work all over North America. Likewise, my family is very active, going in different directions all week long. Every Friday when we cross the bridges in West Point on our way to Mathews County, we simply relax and begin to enjoy the peace, quiet, and solitude of the Chesapeake Bay. I grew up on the Bay as a kid, and I'm so thankful that I can raise my children on that same Bay today almost 50 years later!

—Scott Phillips

Ensure that Scott and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

 


This Week in the Watershed

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Underwater grasses, which depend on clean water, are key to the survival of the blue crab. Photo by Jay Fleming.

Without a doubt, one of the most beloved critters in the Chesapeake Bay is the blue crab. A summer staple of dinner plates, the blue crab is not only ingrained in Bay cuisine, but also in the Bay's culture, history, and economy. Considering the importance of this cantankerous critter, it has always been troubling that its population is notoriously unpredictable. Many factors impact its population in a cycle that can often be boom or bust. In efforts to improve blue crab numbers, harvest restrictions are often considered as one of the most important steps to take. While harvest restrictions are vital, particularly on females, there might be an even more important factorclean water.

Pardon the nautical pun, but clean water is "the rising tide that lifts all boats." For blue crabs, underwater grasses are critical to their survival. Blue crabs are most vulnerable when they are shedding their shell, and underwater grasses provide the cover they need to survive. However, underwater grasses are few and far between when pollution, largely from excess nitrogen and phosphorus, blocks the sunlight that grasses need to grow. Clean water not only helps blue crabs, but all flora and fauna living in and on the Bay. Not to mention, humanity benefits from clean water as well, with expanded recreational opportunities, improved public health, and massive economic benefits.

The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is the key to moving clean water efforts forward in the Bay. And a clean Bay, full of healthy, swimming blue crabs, is a legacy worth leaving to future generations. To learn more about all things blue crabs, tune into the most recent CBF podcast!

This Week in the Watershed: Burgeoning Blue Crabs, A City Showdown, and An Island Predicament

  • Maryland Governor Larry Hogan focused attention on the sediment buildup behind the Conowingo Dam, calling for new ideas to address the pollution problem. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A public hearing on the coal ash ponds at the Chesterfield Power Station drew a large contingent of speakers imploring state regulators to impose stricter environmental requirements on Dominion Virginia Power. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)
  • Animal rights groups are calling attention to the unethical hunting of cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • Improved water quality and underwater grasses have helped produce more—and bigger—crabs this season. (Bay Journal)
  • The successful renovations at the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant are a high note amidst a national crisis of failing infrastructure. (Center for Progressive Reform Blog)
  • Virginia's Tangier Island faces an uncertain future. (New York Times Magazine)
  • Lawrence County in western Pennsylvania became the latest county to adopt a Clean Water Counts resolution, becoming the 27th county in Pennsylvania to ask state officials to make clean water a priority. (New Castle News—PA) Bonus: CBF Press Release
  • The cities of Boston and Baltimore have seen vastly different outcomes of local water cleanup efforts. (Baltimore Brew—MD)
  • Pennsylvania farms might face new federal inspections in light of the state not being on track to meet its 2025 pollution-reduction targets. (Lancaster Intelligencer Journal—PA)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

July 15, 22, 29

  • Shady Side, MD: Break a sweat and help Save the Bay—join CBF in cleaning the "homes" of the next generation of Chesapeake Bay oysters! Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells. We'll be shaking off the dirt and debris on shells so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This "shell shaking" event is a bit of a workout but a fun, hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with bad backs or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking. Click here to register!

July 22

  • Virginia Beach, VA: Join CBF for an early morning outdoors! We are looking for volunteers to help with a variety of property maintenance at the Brock Center and Pleasure House Point. We can use your help anytime from 7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. Activities will include cutting back phragmites around the site, removing Japanese sedge, and checking in on Libby's Garden and the rain gardens. If you are interested, please send us an email at rsvp@cbf.org or call 757-622-1964. Please share with us your name, home or cell number, and your email address so we can stay in touch in case of any changes. Also please let us know if you can come out for an hour or all three hours.

July 26

  • Annapolis, MD: Wondering how your favorite Bay critters are doing? Join CBF Fisheries Director Bill Goldsborough to learn the latest about what's happening underwater beneath your boat, kayak, or paddleboard! Our summer "Save the Bay" Breakfast features an ecology crash-course and updates on the health of three of the Chesapeake Bay's most iconic fishery species: oysters, striped bass, and blue crabs—plus a menhaden bonus! Come enjoy a delicious Boatyard breakfast and learn things you never knew about some of the Bay's most important—and tasty—inhabitants. Click here to register!

July 30

  • Norfolk, VA: Come on out for the 19th Annual Paddle for the Bay! Paddlers with kayaks to paddle boarders and all others in between, join in this Mid-Atlantic Paddlers Association certified competition to raise funds for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Trading Bad Habits for Better Water

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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Litter, which often finds its way into local waterways, is high on the list of environmental pet peeves among CBF staff. Photo by Krista Schyler/iLCP.

Why is it that, while watering a lawn, people allow lots of water to hit the street, sidewalk, anywhere but the lawn? It happens a lot with automatic sprinklers.

Why do they cut down street trees that infringe on sidewalks, but aren't diseased or otherwise a nuisance or danger?

Leaf blowers! They're noisy and leave drains clogged. Why not mulch the leaves with a lawnmower?

While venting about such annoyances helps clear our mind in a therapeutic sort of way, correcting such nuisances can, more importantly, clean our water.

The Environmental Protection Agency reminded us recently that Pennsylvania is still significantly behind in meeting its Clean Water Blueprint commitments to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in local rivers and streams.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation staffers in Pennsylvania shared some of their own pollution pet peeves, so that we might all consider some easy solutions that will reduce harmful runoff and address other practices that are damaging our waterways.

It peeves Emily "when people go out to 'enjoy' our waterways by fishing, paddling, and end up leaving behind their beer cans, trash, fishing line, etc.," she says. "If you can carry it in, please pack it out."

B.J. would like his neighbors to stop mowing their grass clippings into the street. "Are they too lazy to rake them up? Now the clippings may not only clog the storm drain, they add damaging nitrogen to the water. These are the same neighbors, by the way, who blow the snow from their sidewalks into the street in the wintertime, creating more stormwater runoff."

Bill says he has gone to great lengths with local township supervisors to slow the permitting of additional trucking warehouses/distribution centers in the Carlisle area. "In addition to the devastating diesel truck air pollution, another exhaust gas emission, nitrogen oxide, fills the air and is a source of the nitrogen pollution of local waters and the Chesapeake Bay," he adds.

Kelly O. notes that "When Harrisburg has heavy rains beyond what our ancient stormwater infrastructure can handle, raw sewage mixes with it and goes into the river. That includes everything that people flush down their toilets, like paper and pharmaceuticals," she says.

Ashley says litter is a huge concern, especially in Lancaster City. "It's a lack of common sense when people put out the trash. It's not tied down properly so it blows everywhere," she says. "Street cleaning is also important for a city and most people don't move their cars or care about it. It needs to happen to keep pollution out of the storm drains."

"The amount of excess salt applied to sidewalks and roads during a snowstorm," bothers Brent. "I understand this is a safety issue if the roads and sidewalks are icy, but I believe de-icing could be accomplished with less salt applied and in a more environmentally-friendly ways."

Clair isn't happy with people who don't pick up after their dogs. "Besides leaving landmines that everyone else walking in the neighborhood needs to dodge," she says, "animal waste left on sidewalks and lawns eventually washes into storm drains and then into local waters, contributing harmful bacteria that raises human health risks."

Frank wishes people would stop littering with their cigarette butts. "They end up in streams, storm drains and elsewhere," he says. "I do not enjoy it when I am fishing and a cigarette butt floats by me or I see one on the streambank. Having to put up with the stench of cigarettes is bad enough but seeing them in the water is even worse."

In fact, the same carcinogenic compounds in cigarettes that can cause disease in humans, leach into the water, some of which could be sources of drinking water.

About 19,000 miles of Commonwealth rivers and streams are polluted, and as we all have a stake in clean water, there is a lot of work ahead. People and government need to do their parts. Pennsylvania has a Blueprint to restore local waterways and we all need to make sure it's implemented.

Correcting our pollution pet peeves by working with others who are often at the root of them, can produce the legacy of clean water that we all deserve.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director


Photo of the Week: "Love" at Cape Charles

FullSizeRender

This is of my family at the Chesapeake Bay at Cape Charles, Virginia. This has been our vacation spot for years. I have been going there for about 30 years, [since I was two-years-old]. I now am blessed to be able to share it with my husband, 10-year-old son, and 5-year-old daughter. We love the "at home" atmosphere of Cape Charles, the semi-private beach, natural abundance, and fishing opportunities.

—Brandie Gilbert

Ensure that Brandie, her family, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

 


This Week in the Watershed

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Fishing is just one of many recreational opportunities afforded to us by clean water. Photo by Krista Schyler/iLCP.

From the long, hot, muggy days, to the out of office messages from colleagues on vacation, to the barbecues and lawn games, there's no doubt that summer is here. With the warm weather comes ample opportunity to get out on the water, enjoying the Bay and its rivers and streams. Indeed, the Chesapeake Bay region rivals anywhere in the country when it comes to outdoor activities and gorgeous landscapes.

To enjoy this national treasure, however, the water needs to be clean. Environmentally-friendly actions taken by individuals on a broad scale can make a huge difference. If only everyone could avoid the environmental pet peeves of CBF's Pennsylvania staff! Great work is also taking place in the streets of Baltimore, where inspiring community leaders are working to clean the streets of trash that eventually washes into the Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.

Ultimately, however, the best hope for clean water throughout the Bay and its rivers and streams, is the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. And if the Blueprint is fully implemented, it will provide an additional $1 billion a year in economic value from recreational activities throughout the Bay region. The fun we have on the water and the beauty we experience will continue to inspire us in our work to see the Blueprint implemented and #SaveTheBay.

This Week in the Watershed: A Historic Trail, Pet Peeves, and Trashy Streets

  • The Anacostia Watershed Society released a report that the Anacostia River is still extremely degraded. (Bay Journal)
  • Virginia students learned outside, embarking on a trip with CBF's education program. (Free Lance Star—VA)
  • Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director, writes on the environmental pet peeves of CBF's Pennsylvania staff. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • CBF's Brock Environmental Center was nominated as a finalist for World Architecture News' Sustainable Buildings Award. (World Architecture News)
  • A couple recently completed a nine-month, 6,900-mile journey, including a trip up the Rappahannock River, viewing the beautiful Fones Cliffs. (WVTF—VA)
  • Check out this fun Q&A on all things Chesapeake Bay. (Washingtonian—D.C.)
  • Community efforts are in full swing to reduce the level of trash on the streets of Baltimore, which eventually washes into the Inner Harbor. (Bay Journal)
  • Two Maryland watermen received lifetime bans following a large poaching scheme of striped bass, also known as rockfish. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is celebrating its 10th anniversary. (Bay Journal)
  • Cambria County in central Pennsylvania became the latest county to adopt a Clean Water Counts resolution, becoming the 26th county in Pennsylvania to ask state officials to make clean water a priority. (Tribune Democrat—PA) Bonus: CBF Press Release

What's Happening around the Watershed?

July 8, 15, 22, 29

  • Shady Side, MD: Break a sweat and help Save the Bay—join CBF in cleaning the "homes" of the next generation of Chesapeake Bay oysters! Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells. We'll be shaking off the dirt and debris on shells so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This "shell shaking" event is a bit of a workout but a fun, hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with bad backs or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking. Click here to register!

July 26

  • Annapolis, MD: Wondering how your favorite Bay critters are doing? Join CBF Fisheries Director Bill Goldsborough to learn the latest about what's happening underwater beneath your boat, kayak, or paddleboard! Our summer "Save the Bay" Breakfast features an ecology crash-course and updates on the health of three of the Chesapeake Bay's most iconic fishery species: oysters, striped bass, and blue crabs—plus a menhaden bonus! Come enjoy a delicious Boatyard breakfast and learn things you never knew about some of the Bay's most important—and tasty—inhabitants. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate