This Summer, the Crab Bake You Save May Be Your Own

The following first appeared in the Patriot News.

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Grassy habitats are critical for blue crab survival. Photo by Jay Fleming/iLCP.

Crab cakes. Crab soup. Crab Imperial.

Encrusted with a favorite seasoning or lightly broiled as cakes, by the pound or by the bushel, we love our crab meat.

Blue crabs are one of the tastiest and more resilient species that come from the Chesapeake Bay and their fate is the hands of Pennsylvanians.

The good news is total numbers of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay are up slightly this year, after the 2012-2013 survey indicated a drastic loss down to 300 million.

The 2015 Chesapeake Bay winter crab dredge survey shows populations of juvenile and adult blue crabs have gone up to 411 million. Most notable is how adult females have clawed their way from 68 million to 100 million.

Blue crab populations fluctuate because of a witch's brew of factors like severe winters, the harvest, and pollution.

Chesapeake Bay watermen supply as much as one-third of the nation's blue crabs each year. About 75 percent of the Bay's adult blue crab stock is harvested. As for Mother Nature, there is little any of us can do to control the weather.

But pollution control is within our grasp. Driven by our commitment at CBF to improve water quality in Pennsylvania as well as the Bay, we cannot think of delicious crab meat without also thinking of crabgrass.

A dense lawn is one of the more effective barriers against what many Americans consider intrusive and offensive crabgrass.

Applying lawn fertilizer can help get the job done. But the runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment is the leading cause of impairment of 19,000 miles of Pennsylvania waterways.

Agriculture is the largest source of that pollution. Urban and suburban runoff are also key sources.

Pennsylvania delivers half of the freshwater that flows into the Bay. It's easy to see how what we do in Pennsylvania, through agriculture and what we put onto our lawns, affects the health of the Bay and its blue crabs.

The presence of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Bay encourages the explosive growth of algae. Algal blooms darken the water and block light, killing underwater grasses that re-oxygenate the water and provide critical shelter for crabs.

"Dead zones" are formed when blooms fed by polluted runoff quickly die and decay, sucking up oxygen. In order to find oxygen, crabs move to shallow waters where they are caught more easily.

These "Dead zones" also destroy or inhibit the growth of clams and worms, an important food source for crabs.

The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is a plan that sets pollution limits for Pennsylvania and the Bay.

Pennsylvania has developed an individual plan to achieve those pollution reduction goals and committed to two-year milestones that outline the actions it will take to achieve success.

Achieving pollution reduction goals and improving water quality in Pennsylvania, with a sensitivity toward how we handle pollution, can ensure an ecosystem in the Bay that supports a healthy blue crab population.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Are you a resident of Pennsylvania? Make your voice heard, and tell your County Commissioners to pass a resolution saying Clean Water Counts in Pennsylvania!


Don't Backtrack on the Bay

The following first appeared in the Center Maryland.

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A group of more than 200 gathered February 24 in Annapolis at the Rally for Clean Water. Photo by Rob Beach/CBF Staff.

Is there a way for Gov. Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly to find common ground on two controversial environmental issues this year—reducing pollution from excess manure in rural areas, and reducing polluted runoff in urban and suburban parts of the state?

We certainly hope so. Maryland is counting on these two major clean-up measures to continue our progress toward restoring the Chesapeake and our local creeks and rivers.

And while we encourage across-the-aisle problem solving, we at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will fight forcefully to ensure whatever bills emerge during this legislative session, or whatever regulations are put forth by the Hogan Administration, are strong enough to do the job. Watered-down measures won't get us clean water.

Recent assessments of the Bay's health have found significantly less pollution entering the Maryland part of the Bay, thanks in large part to upgrades at the state's major sewage plants. Marylanders paid for those upgrades and the millions of pounds of reduced pollution they brought through the so-called 'flush fee.'

Now we need to upgrade our stormwater systems. In the Greater Baltimore-D.C. area this is the next major source of water pollution in many creeks and rivers. It's weed-killer, pet waste, oil and other contaminants that wash off the landscape after a storm. It's such a problem that the Maryland Department of the Environment warns Marylanders not to swim in any creeks, stream, river or the Bay for 48 hours after a good summer thunderstorm.

And we need farmers on the Eastern Shore and our rural areas to help by applying the correct amount of manure on crop fields. Currently, about 228,000 tons of excess poultry manure are applied, and phosphorus in the manure ends up in nearby creeks and rivers, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Phosphorus is a major cause of the ‘dead zones' of low oxygen that afflict Eastern Shore rivers such as the Choptank each summer, as well as the Bay at large. A tool developed over 10 years by the University of Maryland would enable farmers to determine the correct amount of manure to apply as fertilizer, without hurting the environment.

Governor Hogan pulled regulations proposed by the O'Malley Administration to address the manure crisis, and on Feb. 23 announced alternative regulations. Thankfully, those regulations recognize the necessity of regulating with the tool, but they include loopholes that allow for potentially indefinite delays of implementation. We cannot accept that. We support, instead, a legislative fix to the manure crisis, SB 257 and HB 381. Those cross-filed bills already represent considerable compromise between environmentalists and agricultural interests, allowing a six-year phase-in of the tool.

CBF also opposes any bills that purport to solve the problem of polluted runoff, without requiring local, dedicated funding. Reducing this type of pollution is expensive work. For decades, Maryland's most populated counties and Baltimore City have been required by state law to adequately fund this work, but they haven't. The General Assembly tried to fix that in 2012 by requiring these 10 populated jurisdictions to collect a dedicated fee. We oppose any attempt to repeal that law, or bills that would merely bring us back to a failed past. We've heard the promises before. We need accountability.

We hope in the coming weeks the General Assembly and the Hogan Administration can work together to forge collaborative, but effective solutions to these issues. Our measure of success cannot be simply that we passed legislation or enacted regulation. Our yardstick of success must be clean water.   

The public demands nothing less. Over 200 people took time off from jobs and families recently to attend a Rally for Clean Water 2015 on Lawyer's Mall. Over 20,000 "Don't Backtrack on the Bay" messages have been sent to Governor Hogan and legislators. When county leaders in Harford held a public hearing to consider repealing the county's polluted runoff fee, residents spoke out for the fee, against a repeal. These are just some of the signs of the public's desire for forceful action.

People understand that cleaner water will bring stronger communities and greater economic prosperity, just as a tide uplifts all boats. Requiring farmers to apply only the necessary amount of manure on fields, for instance, can actually improve the farmer's bottom line in the long run. Various technologies and industries are emerging that can use excess manure, or the phosphorus it contains, for alternative uses. The farmer can profit from doing the right thing.

History will record whether this governor and this General Assembly kept us on track to a healthier Chesapeake Bay. To all lawmakers, we say: Don't Backtrack on the Bay.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director

Take action now to remind Gov. Hogan and your state legislators that Maryland has committed to make steady, measurable progress on clean water restoration under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.


Get Down to Earth on Fighting Phosphorus Pollution—Just Use a Soil Test

The following was distributed by the Bay Journal News Service.

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A CAFO, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, on the Eastern Shore

Maryland's newly elected governor, Larry Hogan, recently repealed the state's Department of Agriculture's Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulation. His act made me gnash my teeth.

Farmers and legislators on the Eastern Shore had begged him to repeal the regulation because it would have forced many of them to cease applying phosphorus-laden poultry litter to soils already saturated with the nutrient.

Those farmers would instead be forced to use commercial fertilizer with no phosphorus and balance nutrient application with crop needs.

Decades of repeated animal manure applications have overloaded many fields with phosphorus in the Bay watershed, including the Eastern Shore. There is so much phosphorus in these soils that it is polluting surrounding streams and the Chesapeake.

In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 75–100 percent of the soil tests conducted on farm fields on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, parts of the Shenandoah Valley and the Lancaster County region of Pennsylvania, have "excessive or optimum levels" of phosphorus. Crops planted on these fields will not respond to additional inputs of phosphorus. Additional applications of phosphorus on these fields will leach into the groundwater or runoff and become a water pollutant causing algae blooms, dead zones and weakened aquatic ecosystems.

Society as whole is paying hundreds of millions of dollars for nutrient management practices on farms to correct these abuses, but we end up with little progress.

Our tax dollars pay for nutrient management plans and planners, the development of "phosphorus indexes," the PMT, cover crops and all sorts of fancy combinations of crop management techniques that look good on paper but in actuality do little to reduce excess nutrients in the water. The result is inflated or misleading numbers.

Why don't we use nutrient testing in the water to measure success instead of equating the development of a "plan" to a nutrient-reduction coefficient?

Survey after survey shows that people don't mind subsidizing farmers when they are doing things that improve natural resources. Personally, I loathe subsidizing farmers that continue to pollute even though the light of science is blazing in everyone's eyes — including theirs.

This scenario has been going on for decades all over the country where poor land-use practices pollute water and affect everything downstream. Science finds a solution — polluters whine and bellyache while politicians delay action. Science finds another solution but makes it more complicated — polluters whine and bellyache while politicians delay action. It's the endless-do-nothing loop. The result is more bureaucracy and paper work as well as inflated, valueless numbers that make us feel like progress is happening while in reality, only a snail's pace of incremental change occurs.

The housing bubble that created our most recent economic recession was caused by inflated values, lack of oversight and politicians not paying attention to sound management.

These same toxic principals — inflated values, lack of oversight and in the case of the PMT, a disregard for science — are causing a nutrient-reduction bubble in the Chesapeake watershed and beyond. In other words, we think we are reducing nutrients in the Bay but we really aren't.

The answer to this nutrient management problem is very simple and we could save millions of dollars doing it.

Use a soil test.

If the nutrient is already in the soil to feed the crop, don't apply more. Use the money from all the crazy, complicated formulas that documented the false reductions to move the nutrients to fields that could use it or transform it into something useful.

Phosphorus is a valuable nutrient that is needed worldwide. It is in short supply globally, and unlike nitrogen, cannot be manufactured. Conserving it and moving it to deficient areas makes sense. Manure transport and transformation programs need to be improved, verified and fully funded.

In the poultry industry, nearly all the birds raised in this country are owned by very large corporations. These big poultry companies, called integrators, bring the phosphorus in through feed they purchase from the mid-west. The farmer, who works under contract to the integrators, feeds it to the chickens.

But right now it's the farmer, who most likely took a loan out to build those poultry houses, who is left with the debt, any dead birds and the manure. It's an out-of balance scenario all the way around.

We are all to blame for this and there is something we can all do. Farmers need to fertilize according to a soil test; integrators need to take more ownership of the manure; scientists and environmentalists need to make solutions simpler; and politicians' actions need to act using science. I promise, if we can do this, society as whole will be willing to pay for it.

—Bobby Whitescarver

Tell Gov. Hogan and your state legislators that we can't backtrack on the Bay! Remind them that Maryland has committed to make steady, measurable progress on clean water restoration under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Robert Whitescarver is a farmer, certified nutrient management planner in Virginia and a retired district conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He can be reached at bobby.whitescarver@gettingmoreontheground.com. 

Distributed by the Bay Journal News Service on 2/3/2015.


A Comprehensive Cleanup for the Bay

The following first appeared in the Diamondback.

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The Conowingo Dam, in Laurel, MD. Photo by Eliot Malamuth.

Recent scientific studies show that sediment backed up behind the Conowingo Dam is not as big a threat as previously thought. During a big storm, 80 percent of the sediment that comes through the dam is from upriver, while 20 percent is the mud scoured from the area behind the dam, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. What that means is the bigger threat to the Chesapeake Bay remains what it always has been: pollution that enters the Susquehanna River and all other tributaries from farms, cities and suburbs.

Don Boesch, president of the university's Center for Environmental Science, testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in May about the additional sediment coming over the dam.

"The increased loads have a relatively modest effect on dissolved oxygen in deeper waters near Kent Island, with little or no effects on water quality over vast portions of the estuary, including the larger tributary subestuaries, such as the Choptank and Patuxent Rivers. Impaired conditions in the tributaries, including not only water quality but also harmful algal blooms and fish kills, are much more determined by reductions of nutrient pollution loads within their watersheds."

It's important to keep our eye on the biggest problem: the source of pollution. We need to address the sediment buildup at the dam, but not as a substitute for the hard work in our own backyards to reduce the overload of nutrients and sediments that foul the bay and threaten crabs and other marine life.

The state General Assembly and this state's next governor, therefore, should be pushed to do just that. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation recently issued a list of critical actions state leaders must take in the next four years to finish the job of cleaning the Chesapeake Bay. Those actions include reducing the amount of pollution from manure that reaches creeks and rivers, tightening enforcement efforts of environmental laws and stopping raids to environmental funds. The foundation is urging its members and the public to consider gubernatorial and legislative candidates' positions on these issues when voting.

The university also should be aware that in 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency put the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and Washington on what the agency called a "pollution diet." The jurisdictions all agreed to abide by this diet and to design and implement plans to do so. The foundation calls this initiative the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. It is a national model for restoring a multistate water system. It holds all jurisdictions accountable for progress. It will make the bay swimmable and fishable once again. The foundation was a leader in the initiative, suing the EPA to force the "diet" and subsequently pushing and helping jurisdictions to meet their pollution limits.

Meeting their responsibilities under the blueprint should remain the focus of leaders in this state and other jurisdictions. Pennsylvania leaders must do their share to reduce pollution entering the Susquehanna and ultimately reaching the Conowingo Dam. Other states and local jurisdictions must do their part to reduce pollution entering their local waters. This comprehensive approach offers the best hope not only for crabs, oysters and other marine life, but also for our children and grandchildren. They shouldn't have to swim or frolic in polluted water.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director


Getting "Run Off" the Beach Because of Runoff

The following first appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Daily Press earlier this week.

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Beach goers in Virginia Beach "run off" the beach from dirty water. Photo by Andrea Moran/CBF Staff

The lower Chesapeake Bay has indeed been fortunate in dodging oxygen-starved dead zones this summer. However, Hampton Roads has seen its share of dirty, unsafe water in recent months.

Just last week, the Virginia Department of Health condemned oyster beds in parts of the James River off Newport News, banning all shellfish harvests there for the rest of September because the water "has been subjected to sewage spills likely containing pathogenic bacteria and viruses, and because the area is not a safe area from which to take shellfish for direct marketing."

Earlier this summer, health officials closed beaches along Ocean View in Norfolk, James River beaches in Newport News, Yorktown Beach, Gloucester Point Beach and the Virginia Beach oceanfront because of high bacteria levels in the water. As of last month, authorities had issued 31 swimming advisories for 16 different beaches, nearly all of them in Hampton Roads, spanning 74 days.

While unsafe beaches can be caused by natural factors such as bird droppings, more often it is the result of pollution running off streets, parking lots and lawns. Even a gentle rain washes pet waste, sewage, litter, grease, oil, fertilizer and other toxic substances off the land and into storm drains leading to nearby waterways. This pollution not only threatens public health, it hurts our local water-based businesses and industries.

Most importantly, runoff pollution is preventable. All of us can do our part to reduce runoff from our homes, yards, schools, businesses, and neighborhoods.

To learn more, go to cbf.org/runoff. Safe beaches are ours for the choosing. Choose clean water.

—Christy Everett, CBF Hampton Roads Director


Toldeo's Toxic Water Emphasizes Need to Reduce Pollution

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal News.

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An algal bloom at Mattawoman Creek. Photo by John Surrick/CBF Staff

Surviving a heart attack is a huge wake-up call that usually warrants a change of diet. Toledo, Ohio, just survived a heart attack.

The city's drinking water, drawn from Lake Erie, became toxic because of a huge algae bloom. Algae blooms are caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorous in the water. This one was the city's wake-up call and signals it's time for a change of lifestyle.

The algae that caused Toledo's heart attack is naturally present in most water bodies including all of the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, the Albemarle Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. Too much nitrogen and or phosphorous, which feed the algae, can cause these algae to grow to enormous sizes called "blooms" that give off toxic substances that harm humans, wildlife and the aquatic ecosystem. Algae blooms are also responsible for "dead zones," which are areas in water bodies so depleted of oxygen that nothing can live.

Nitrogen and phosphorous are major components in fertilizer, manure and sewage. Improper use of fertilizer and manure contaminates our streams when rainwater washes off agricultural fields, feedlots, lawns and golf courses. Failing septic systems and outdated wastewater treatment plants also contribute to the excessive nutrient loading of our streams.

Reducing nutrients in our streams and rivers is the cure; some call this a "pollution diet". We have a pollution diet under way right now in the Chesapeake Bay watershed — and it is working.  Nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Chesapeake Bay have been cut in half since the mid 1980s despite the fact that the population in the Bay watershed increased 30 percent from 13.5 million in 1985 to 17 million in 2012. This is an incredible achievement! The "diet" is working.

Reducing nutrients in streams is not rocket science. We know how to do it. Each of the six states in the Bay watershed came up their own pollution diet to reduce nutrient loading into their streams and rivers. These six plans were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency several years ago and together form the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Lots of people are working together to implement the Blueprint. Farmers are fencing their cows out of the streams, planting riparian buffers, using fertilizers more responsibly and reducing soil erosion by using no-till methods and cover crops during the winter.

Local and state governments are investing in sewage treatment upgrades that remove nutrients from their discharges. People in cities and suburban areas are using less fertilizer on their lawns. Legislatures are passing laws encouraging nutrient management and have eliminated phosphorous in lawn fertilizers. Citizens are paying stormwater utility fees to help fund stormwater management projects.

There are deep-pocketed lobbyists from outside the Bay watershed that don't like the pollution diet for the Bay. The Fertilizer Institute, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Corn Growers Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Chicken Council, the National Association of Home Builders and other lobbying groups associated with activities that contribute to nutrient loading are suing the EPA over the plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the attorneys general in 21 states, most of them in the Mississippi watershed, signed "friend of the court" briefs on behalf of these deep-pocketed lobbyists. Meanwhile, Toledo can't use their water and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico remains the second largest in the world.

Clean water is a choice. The people of the Chesapeake Bay watershed have agreed on a plan to get there. Successful implementation and the Chesapeake's plan will result in safer and more abundant seafood, jobs and tourism. We will have a healthier world; something we can be proud of.

I lament that we have to waste time and money on a lawsuit because we want/need cleaner water.

What happened in Toledo is unfortunate and tragic. For a remedy, they need to look no farther than the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. It's a "pollution diet" that is working.

—Robert Whitescarver
Whitescarver is a recently retired USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservationist who spent more than 30 years working with farmers on conservation practices. He now has his own private consulting business where he helps landowners create an overall vision and plan for their land. He also works with CBF to help famers install more Best Managment Practices (BMPs) in the Shenandoah Valley. He is the recipient of a CBF Conservationist of the Year award.

Take a moment to sign your name in support of clean water to protect the Bay and its rivers and streams for our children and grandchildren!


Could It Happen Here?

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A potentially dangerous blue-green algal bloom in Stafford, Virginia's Aquia Creek, summer 2011. Photo by Nikki Davis.

You've no doubt read or heard news accounts about the dangers to human health of a specific blue-green algae in Lake Erie and other areas of the country that last weekend shut down the municipal drinking water supply in Toledo, Ohio. You may be wondering, "Could it happen here?" Unfortunately, the answer is . . . yes. 

Here are three things you should know about this troubling situation:

    1. The same blue-green algae (technically called a cyanobacteria) that is causing problems in Lake Erie is also found in the Chesapeake region. The toxins produced by these blooms can be harmful to humans and wildlife that come in contact with the water during a bloom. Historically, these blooms have been documented in lakes and other impoundments, and in the tidal freshwater portions of the James River in Virginia and the Potomac River as well as both the the Choptank and Sassafras Rivers in Maryland. In fact, there was a bloom reported July 31 in the Choptank that had cell densities nearly three times what the World Health Organization considers a probable risk to human health. For more information, see CBF's recently reissued 2009 Report, pgs. 8-9, here.

    2. The cause of cyanobacteria blooms is the same as the cause of blooms of other types of algae—too much nutrient pollution. Lake Erie and the Chesapeake have similar problems—excessive nutrient pollution from agriculture and urban runoff—and both suffer from algae blooms.

    3. Fortunately, in the Chesapeake region, most drinking water supply intake pipes are not in areas that historically experience dangerous blooms. However, some drinking water reservoirs are affected by nutrient pollution, making them potentially vulnerable to algae blooms, including blooms of harmful algae. And some Maryland ponds and lakes have been closed to recreational use this summer because of harmful algae.

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A York River algal bloom several summers ago. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

The take-away is this: We must reduce the risk to human health from blue-green algae and other harmful algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay region. This can be done by accelerating efforts to reduce nutrient pollution. Agriculture and urban runoff are primary sources of much of the phosphorus and nitrogen pollution causing these blooms. So, it makes sense to focus efforts on reducing these two sources of nutrient pollution.

Here in the Chesapeake region, those efforts are clearly laid out in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the federal-state plan to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams. The good news is that it's working. Each of the six Bay states and the District of Columbia—including hard-working farmers, business, and individuals—are working together. We are well on our way to making our rivers and streams safer, improving habitat, and protecting human health. The bad news is that the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Fertilizer Institute have recruited 21 states from across the country to support their efforts to derail Chesapeake Bay restoration.

Yes, what happened in Toledo could happen here. Let's ensure it does not. If we, who live in the Chesapeake region want the safe, clean water we deserve, the Blueprint must be fully implemented.

—Beth McGee, Ph.D.,
Senior Water Quality Scientist, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

WAYS YOU CAN HELP:

 


The Resilient Blue Crab

The following op-ed appeared on Friday in the Washington Post.

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Photo by Damon Fodge

It's clearly been a poor year for Chesapeake Bay blue crab harvests. Average catches just three years ago were as much as twice as what they are now.

That is where Angus Phillips ["It's now or never for blue crabs," Sunday Opinion, July 27] and I agree. Where we disagree is what to do about it. Phillips called for a moratorium on crabbing. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) does not. Like many, we believe in managing fisheries through science, not quick-fix schemes. As my eighth-grade history teacher used to say, "Beware of simple answers to complex problems."

While a moratorium may be tempting in its simplicity, the CBF and most scientists believe that limits on the harvesting of female crabs are biologically appropriate for such a resilient species (which is far different from the striped bass, for which the CBF was a moratorium advocate). This approach will also have the added benefit of maintaining jobs and avoiding the economic devastation to communities like Smith and Tangier islands.

Blue crab reproductive success from year to year depends on many factors. Weather is one. Last winter's cold weather killed an estimated 28 percent of the bay's crabs. Pollution also can cause habitat loss. Bay grasses — great places for young crabs to hide from predators — are currently at only 20 percent of historic levels. The bay's dead zones kill the creatures that crabs rely on for food.

We believe that only a comprehensive crab management plan that addresses pollution, habitat and harvest will provide for a long-term sustainable fishery.

While there is plenty of reason for concern, there is also a bright note this crabbing season: Early results from Maryland and Virginia show an encouraging number of young crabs.

Phillips rhetorically asked whether the CBF is aware of the situation. Of course we are. The CBF's scientists have been in communication with the Maryland, Potomac and Virginia regulatory agencies responsible for blue crab management. Our senior fisheries scientist also is a member of the Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team, which oversees blue crab management baywide.

Phillips said he could not find one word about the issue on our Web site. I invite him to look again. A search of our Web site turned up more than 1,400 mentions of crabs — their importance, value and plight. In May, we published "Blue News," a blog posted soon after the annual crab survey results raised concerns about the population. It can be found at www.cbf.org/bluenews.

Finally, Phillips stated that the CBF was raising money for a new wing at our Annapolis Environmental Center, the world's first LEED platinum building. We are not. He also called it a palace. That is an odd description for a building that dramatically cuts energy and water use, reduces human pollution through zero-discharge composting toilets and is built inside and out with sustainable materials.

—Will Baker, CBF President


Angler Clean Water Story: Where Have All the Stripers Gone

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Photo by Blair M. Seltz.

The impact of pollution on the Chesapeake [and its] fish is very significant. Pollution in the form of too many nutrients causes low oxygen levels during the warmer months and this causes the stripers to move around quite a bit. The areas where they can find tolerable oxygen levels seem to be shrinking each year which makes the Bay less habitable. Traditional locations where stripers have been caught for years are no longer productive.

You can have wonderful structure with loads of baitfish on it but no stripers because there is not enough oxygen in the water to support them. Finding fish consistently in the warm months has become much more challenging because they are moving all the time and one cannot see nor determine oxygen levels without expensive test equipment. An area may look good and have lots of bait but there is no way to tell if the oxygen levels will support the [top] predators.

Capt. Richie Gaines, Queenstown, MD
Capt. Richie Gaines has been guiding anglers in the region for more than 20 years and has earned a reputation as one of the top light tackle guides on the Bay. Richie is a "guerilla" guide and fishes the entire Bay, moving with the fish to follow the best bite. Fishing the Bay year-round from the Susquehanna Flats to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel has provided a great deal of experience and taught Richie how to be versatile in applying techniques and locating the fish.

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


New Pollution Regulations Aren't Enough for the Chesapeake Bay

The following op-ed appeared in The Baltimore Sun earlier this week.  

DSC_0010Students on a CBF education experience last fall witness first-hand excessive stormwater pollution. Photo by Tiffany Granberg/CBF Staff.

Action is needed to improve on the General Assembly's pollution-fighting initiatives

Good news about the Chesapeake Bay used to be as scant as oyster harvests. But in the past few years, headlines have brightened. The six bay states andWashington, D.C., all agreed to implement a blueprint for cleaning up the bay and its tributaries. The blue crab population surged. This spring, the Maryland legislature acted boldly to accelerate pollution reduction from sewage and stormwater systems, and from sprawl development.

This summer, Gov.Martin O'Malley, environmental and agricultural regulators, and a legislative oversight committee will make decisions that could sustain this momentum—or could slow our progress. They will determine the final shape of three critical new regulations governing pollution from farm fields, septic systems and Baltimore City.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation applauds the state for many parts of its new regulatory push. But we must strengthen these rules in several areas if we hope finally to put bad news about fish kills, dead zones, and beach closings behind us.

Resistance to these regulations from farmers, homebuilders and real estate interests is formidable. We all resist when we're asked to do more. But too much is at stake to relax our efforts. Try telling an unemployed waterman these changes are too burdensome. Tell him clean water and better harvests must wait several more decades. Also, many people already are doing more to reduce pollution. These new rules merely spread the burden fairly.

Here is how we view the three important pieces of regulation in the pipeline:

The septic rule is strong. It would require new homes with septic systems to use the best available technology. That makes sense since conventional septics aren't designed to control nutrient pollution at all. A top-line septic also is a bargain, relatively speaking. Building near a sewer system would be the best alternative for the environment as well as a community's budget. Homeowners on sewer pay up to $35,000 for their service. Best available technology for septics costs about $8,000 more than a conventional septic.

While septics currently contribute only about 6 percent of total nitrogen pollution around the bay, in some areas, such as Anne Arundel County, septics cause one-third of the pollution. Also, as we continue to sprawl into rural areas, septic pollution continues to grow and threatens to erase progress we've made reducing pollution elsewhere.

In contrast to the septic regulation, the rules for farms and for Baltimore City need improvement.

The farm regulations would better control pollution from fields where manure and sewage sludge are spread. Many farmers have made significant efforts to pollute less. But 39 percent of nitrogen pollution to the bay still comes from agriculture, about half of that from farm fields. Just as we're increasing our efforts to slow pollution from sewage plants, stormwater systems and sprawl, we must do more on our farms.

Some parts of the farm regulations are laudable. The rules would prohibit farmers from spreading manure and sewage sludge on the fields in winter when vegetation is not available to take up the nutrients.

But other aspects of the farm regulations need improvement. The state should strengthen rules for spreading manure and sludge in the autumn, and eliminate a loophole in a provision governing how close to a stream farmers can spread manure and sludge, among other changes.

Maryland also has proposed new rules on how Baltimore City discharges polluted runoff. Those rules, included in a new permit, need to be strengthened. Among amendments needed: Create performance standards that ensure specific pollution reductions; require more monitoring and accountability; and make sure that the discharges of runoff from city streets into waterways meet state water quality standards.

Strengthening these two regulations will ensure cleaner water, and all the economic and social benefits that flow from that. Clean water will benefit us and all future generations. If we don't keep making progress, we will jeopardize human health; populations of oysters, rockfish and crabs; and economies that depend on the bay—meaning thousands of jobs.

New, stronger regulations also will mean a more equitable sharing of the responsibility of cleaning up the bay and local creeks and rivers. Many Maryland homeowners already are paying higher fees to upgrade sewage and stormwater systems. Polls say the majority support this effort because it will pay off in the long term.

If we are going to finish the job of restoring our national treasure, all Marylanders—farmers, suburbanites and city dwellers alike—must increase their efforts. The watermen will thank us. Our grandchildren will thank us.

—Alison Prost
Maryland Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

 

Learn more about the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—our best hope for a save Bay!