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April 2010

More Good News About the Bay

More Chesapeake Bay good news this week. Following reports a few weeks ago that the Bay’s blue crab population is up for the second year in a row comes word from EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program that the Bay’s underwater grass beds grew by 12 percent from 2008 to 2009. Eelgrass_photo_gallery_widget
Last year’s survey of the submerged grasses found nearly 86,000 acres, the most since 2002. Increases were noted in all three parts of the Bay -- upper, middle, and lower – and in important species like eel grass.
Bay Program officials credited the uptick to ongoing efforts to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution from farms and wastewater treatment plants.

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Here's What the Oil Spill Would Look Like at the Mouth of Chesapeake Bay

Offshoredrilling A picture is worth a thousand barrels of oil.

 At left is a satellite image of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  At right is a computerized image (by my talented CBF colleague Mike Dougherty) of what an oil spill of the same size would look like at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, where offshore drilling is now proposed.  Notice the threat posed by the blob's oily tentacles to the Assateague National Seashore, Virginia Beach, Ocean City and the blue crab spawning grounds of the southern Chesapeake Bay.

If you ever needed a reason to oppose offshore drilling in our region, here it is... in vivid color.

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Oil Spill Is A Political and Economic Mess, As Well As An Environmental Disaster

The Washington Post is calling the massive oil spill off Louisiana a political mess for President Obama's plans to allow offshore drilling along the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, and much of the southeastern US coast, including Florida. Authorities have now closed commercial and recreational fishing from Louisiana to Florida because of the petroleum pollution, shutting down one of the biggest sources of seafood in the U.S.

Pick Your Beach View: Wind Turbines? Or Oil Drilling Platforms?

Windturbine Two big news items this morning.

The federal government approved the nation’s first offshore wind farm, in Nantucket Sound.  Meanwhile in the Gulf of Mexico, five times more oil than previously estimated is gushing from beneath a collapsed drilling platform, sending about 210,000 gallons of oil per day drifting toward wetlands and beaches.

Put these two together, and you get this question. Which would you rather see built off of your beaches here in the Chesapeake region?  Drilling platforms for oil and gas?  Or wind turbines?

If you say neither, I would ask: Do you drive a car? Burn natural gas in your stove?  Use electricity to boot up your computer? If so, you have a responsibility to think about where your energy comes from, and what you are willing to sacrifice to get that energy.

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Fishing for the Cause of the Great Blue Crab Comeback

Bluecrab2 At Obrycki’s crab house in Baltimore, news of the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab rebound inspired a round of drinks and a salute with wooden mallets.

 “I think it’s a positive sign that the Chesapeake’s cleaning up, and it’s good that we have it,” declared customer Doug Wren, as he and a group of friends slammed away at a pile of spice-slathered crustaceans.

Scientific surveys this winter estimated that crab populations in the Bay have more than doubled over the last two years, reaching highs not seen in more than a decade.  After years of decline, this year there were about 650 million crabs in the Bay, up from about 260 million in 2007.

But what was the cause of the crab comeback?  Was it really, as this diner suggested, a sign the Chesapeake is cleaner?

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Satellite Image of Oil Spill

Check out this NASA satellite image of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, off of Louisiana.  Then picture something similar off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It's a good reason not to allow drilling off of Virginia's coast, as recently proposed.


"Giant Ice Cream Cone" of Spilled Oil Illustrates Risk of Offshore Drilling

Gulf oil spill There are 42,000 reasons why the federal government should not allow drilling for oil and gas off of the coast of Virginia and the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

That’s the number of gallons of oil that are pouring each day from a damaged well near Louisiana, after the drilling platform above it exploded and sank.  Eleven workers remain missing in that tragedy. And officials are now saying that a sheen of oily water has spread over about 1,800 square miles of the Gulf Coat, according to news accounts.

Imagine that oily blanket on our local sands here in the Mid-Atlantic region. 

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Yes, Crabs Can Tango

Circle May 15-16 on your calendar if you live in central Virginia. Heck, circle it on your calendar wherever you live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Something really cool is brewing that you’ll want to see.

Minds In Motion, Richmond Ballet's education and outreach program for school students, is in rehearsal for a spectacular dance performance about…the Chesapeake Bay. Dancing about the Bay? Indeed. Minds In Motion is doing it all – crabs, oysters, underwater grasses, runoff, dead zones, the whole Bay story – through dance, music, and video.

You’ll get a flavor of what’s cooking from their press release:MIM 09-402crop

Hundreds of Richmond-area school students will combine their best dance moves with a “Save the Bay” message this May in a spectacular performance of “Dancing for a Brand New Bay” at the Arthur Ashe Center in Richmond.

The performance, which will culminate with a show-stopping finale involving more than 700 students on the stage at once, is the result of a year of dance instruction and Chesapeake Bay education by Minds In Motion, an education and outreach program of Richmond Ballet. Minds In Motion teaches movement and dance to fourth-graders in more than 20 Richmond area public and private schools.

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Feds Fine Major Development Company for Polluting the Chesapeake Bay

Sprawl The feds have cracked down on a national real-estate development company for breaking the law and polluting the Chesapeake Bay.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced a $1 million civil penalty against Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., one of the nation’s largest home building firms, for widespread violations of clean water laws designed to stop storm water runoff pollution. You can read EPA’s statement and fact sheet about the violations by clicking here and here.

My reaction: It's good that EPA is making an example of the big guys of the real-estate industry. But the government should not stop with this case. There are a lot more developers out there who also deserve scrutiny, and this incident raises the possibility that storm water law violations are widespread.

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