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January 2010

Spin Defeats Intelligent Management of Bay's Fish

Menhaden3 Bad news has washed ashore from Virginia.

The General Assembly last night killed legislation that would have improved the state’s management of menhaden, a small but important fish that helps to filter the Chesapeake Bay and feed larger species.

Kalbird8 The bills would have switched management of the fish from the politicians in the General Assembly to the scientists at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.  It is unfortunate that opponents of the bill misrepresented the legislation as a threat to the state’s economy –- when actually, the commission has a duty to safeguard both the Bay’s economic and ecological benefits.

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Coal Crackdown?

Mountaintopremovalmining For all you who enjoyed the Bay Daily story in December about my road trip to West Virginia to explore the issue of mountaintop removal coal mining, check out this update in today's Washington Post.

The newspaper reports that the Obama Administration launched a "crackdown" on mountaintop removal mines, scrutinizing 175 proposed mines in the Appalachian region over the last year, and only approving 48. 

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Biased Poll Pollutes Public Debate

Kalbird8 Beware the wording of poll questions, because they can turn black into white… and public opinion into nonsense.

Exhibit A:

An Annapolis-based public opinion research firm yesterday released a poll that was paid for by the Maryland State Builders Association.  This special interest group is lobbying hard to undermine new stormwater pollution control regulations that would improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

Wouldn’t you know it?  The builders’ poll concluded that the public doesn’t really want what’s in the public  interest: clean water.  What the public really wants is what is in the development industry’s interest: fewer regulations.

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A School of E-Mails To Save a Fish

Menhaden2 The most important fish in the Bay need your help.

Menhaden -- tiny swimmers that play a whale-sized role in the Chesapeake's health -- are facing a crucial vote in the Virginia General Assembly. As I wrote yesterday, these fish clean the Bay by filtering out algae (which they eat). And they are a key food source for larger fish, such as striped bass. 

Click here to find out how you can email state elected officials on behalf of this vital species. Let your lawmakers know that the Bay needs science-based management of menhaden by the experts at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, not by politicians in the General Assembly. 

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The Runt Who Carries the Bay on His Back

MenhadenOften, it's the least-respected things in life that turn out to be the most important.

Consider the runty little fish called menhaden and its role in the Chesapeake Bay, which is currently the focus of an intense debate. 

Menhaden are oily, bony, smelly, spoon-sized fish that are inedible to humans. Even their nicknames, including “pogy,” "bug-mouth,” and “fat-back,” sound like insults hurled at a pudgy kid on the playground.

And yet, these nobodies act as vital organs for the Bay. Menhaden are filter feeders, gobbling up vast amounts of algae that cloud the Bay’s waters and cause low-oxygen “dead zones.” The fish are a key link in the Chesapeake’s food chain, serving as nourishment for several species of larger fish, including striped bass.

Menhaden are also prey for something else: an industrial fishing fleet based in Virginia’s Northern Neck.

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Rise Up and Fight Back Against the Politics of No

Kalbird1 You may have heard that politics is compromise. Or that it’s something that you don’t really want to watch, because it might turn your stomach – like making sausage.

Well, look at the sausage factory these days, folks. Because the production line has ground to a halt.  We are no longer dealing with the politics of horse-trading or delay. We’ve entered the politics of no.

No health care reform.  No global warming legislation likely to emerge from this Congress. No long-promised stormwater pollution control rules in Virginia to protect the Chesapeake Bay. No much-needed strengthening of federal clean water laws.

No. No. No.

Bumper stickers proclaim “Keep the Change.”  Think about this statement.  What is this mindset, "keep the change?"  It's a full-throated celebration of the status quo.

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The Bard of the Bay

Wisner A concert and CD release celebrating the "Bard of the Bay," Chesapeake folk singer Tom Wisner, is scheduled for Friday, January 29, at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland. Wisner, an environmental educator and song-writer who has long celebrated the Bay, is fighting cancer, and this could be his final CD. For details, click here. To read Bay Daily's profile of Wisner, click here.

Investigation! Outrage!... And a Heaping Pile of Intrigue

Manurepile The mystery of the manure pile... deepens.

First, an environmental  group called Assateague Coastkeeper buzzed in an airplane over a Berlin, Md., poultry farm and took this picture (left) of what it claimed was as heap of chicken manure leaking pollution into a Chesapeake Bay tributary.

Then, the Maryland Department of the Environment  (MDE) said it investigated and determined the heap wasn’t poultry waste at all – but treated human waste sludge from Ocean City’s sewage plant.  So-called “class A” sewage sludge is a form of fertilizer routinely used by farms and golf courses across the country.

Whoops.  That would seem to be an embarrassing error for Assateague Coastkeeper, which had pointed the finger at the poultry industry. The case may seem like chicken scratch. But it has generated wide media attention and intense emotions because of the ongoing debate over the role of the poultry industry in polluting the Chesapeake Bay.

And here's the plot twist. Now it turns out the state environmental agency never collected samples from the pile or the stream. "Chicken Farm Inspectors Leave Empty Handed" was the headline today (January 21) in the (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times.

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