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May 2010

Vote Now Against Offshore Drilling in Chesapeake Region

Oilspill Time to vote! Is the image at left what you want for the Chesapeake Bay's wetlands and beaches?

The (Newport News, Virginia) Daily Press is sponsoring an online poll on the question of whether Virginia should become the first Atlantic state to allow drilling for oil and gas off of its coast.

The poll makes specific reference to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and asks: “Given the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, is it a good idea to press ahead with offshore exploration in Virginia?”

The poll allows six different options for answers, ranging from “Yes, The gulf disaster is a freak accident that is unlikely to happen again," to “No, I've opposed the idea all along and the gulf disaster makes me certain.”

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Once Again, a Volunteer Makes a Big Difference

Bay Daily readers have heard me sing the praises of CBF volunteers before. I’m going to warble again, this time about one volunteer in particular.

The Jamestown 4-H Center operates an education facility on the banks of the James River just upstream from the Jamestown historical site in James City County, Va. The center has 400 feet of river frontage, much of which has been eroding and crumbling into the James for a long, long time. Unfortunately, the center has lacked the resources and manpower to do much about it.

Enter Ann Jurczyk, a former marketing professional, triathlete, and busy wife and mother of two teen-age girls who lives just outside Williamsburg. Last fall, Jurczyk had just participated in CBF’s VoiCeS 106 Volunteers As Chesapeake Stewards) program aimed at volunteers who want a broader, deeper understanding of Chesapeake Bay issues. At the end of the series of VoiCeS classes, participants pledge to dedicate 40 hours to a community Bay-saving project or activity.

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Historic Shift in Wind Patterns Over Bay Blows Away Water Quality

Sunsetsail As the sun set over Annapolis harbor on a recent evening, eighty sailboats, with golden and white sails, slashed back and forth, jostling for position behind a motorboat with a man holding a starting gun.

From the days of privateers to the Wednesday night yacht races in Annapolis harbor, the Chesapeake’s winds have long played an outsize role in the region’s economy and culture.

But some scientists have recently discovered that those wind patterns have undergone an historic shift.  And this change in average wind direction has had an impact not only on sailing, but also – surprisingly enough – on water quality in the Bay. This connection was reported first in the Bay Journal by Karl Blankenship. 

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Oyster Revival Is a Focus of New Federal Bay Plan

Oyster The Chesapeake’s battered oysters will get a boost from the new federal Bay restoration plan.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson held a press conference on the Anacostia River in Washington DC to release the Obama Administration’s new strategy for restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

The strategy included goals such as establishing “rigorous new regulation and enforcement to implement all pollution controls for clean water.” To read the whole plan, click here.

Many of parts of the strategy are identical to promises that EPA made on May 10 when federal officials signed a binding agreement to end a lawsuit by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and our allies. Among other things, this landmark agreement requires EPA to finalize new regulations to reduce stormwater runoff pollution by November 2012, and it requires the agency to propose new regulations to control agricultural runoff from large livestock facilities by June 2014.

Another important element in the new federal strategy concerns oysters.

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"Progress...as rare as a pearl in an oyster"

The Washington Post this morning is hailing CBF's consent agreement that forces EPA to clean up the Bay as a "landmark" and a "milestone" with "far reaching consequences" that (combined with the recent resurgence of blue crab populations) suggests "the Chesapeake Bay could be set for a rebound." The newspaper editorializes: "Environmental progress in the Chesapeake Bay is as rare as a pearl in an oyster."

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EPA Signs Historic, Binding Agreement to Clean Up the Bay

Bakersmiling “Binding.”

That’s the key word in the historic 27-page settlement agreement that the federal government signed last night to end a lawsuit by Chesapeake Bay Foundation and our allies against EPA for its failure to clean up the nation’s largest estuary.

The agreement was announced this morning by CBF President Will Baker (pictured at left) and Robert Perciasepe, EPA’s Deputy Administrator (right) during a press conference at CBF headquarters in Annapolis.

The Obama Administration tomorrow is scheduled to release a final report laying out its new plans to reduce pollution into the Bay. This plan will be similar in some ways to the settlement agreement announced today. This similarity is no coincidence.  CBF’s lawsuit in January 2009 spurred the new administration into make saving the Bay a top priority. And the litigation helped to convince President Obama to issue the first-ever executive order on the Bay last May 12, demanding stronger federal action to clean up the Chesapeake.

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Gamble on Drilling Would Give Snake Eyes to Blue Crabs

Oilslick There is some good news in the battle against offshore drilling in the Chesapeake region. But the war is far from over.

We should not let our guard down, because we need to consider all the potential casualties of a Gulf of Mexico-scale spill in our region. For example, all of the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crabs are spawned at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, near where the federal government lifted a decades-long ban on offshore drilling.

Bluecrab2 The federal government recently canceled three public hearings on a proposal to allow drilling in the Atlantic Ocean east of Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. The first meeting had been scheduled for this Wednesday, May 12 in Norfolk; with two others set for May 25 in Ocean City, Maryland; and May 27 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The U.S. Department of the Interior explained the cancellations by saying that it has postponed “indefinitely” a study of the potential environmental impact of drilling for oil and gas in a section of ocean bottom called “area 220.”

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Feds Shifted Oversight of Drilling Industry to Industry

The Wall Street Journal has published a penetrating series of articles about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The newspaper reports that the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling does not write or implement most safety regulations, having shifted that responsbility to the oil industry itself. Moreover, BP fought against new safety rules proposed by the feds last year.


Oyster Reef Balls Make Virginia Debut

My CBF colleagues pulled another tool out of the native oyster restoration toolbox this week: reef balls.

What in the world is a reef ball, you ask? A picture is worth a thousands words, so take a look.

DSC_0006 Reef balls are large, concrete igloos with lots of large holes in them. They’re intended to be placed on the bottom of Chesapeake Bay rivers to create artificial reefs for native oysters.

Early in their lives, microscopic baby oysters float for a time in Bay waters, seeking an oyster shell upon which to settle, attach, and grow for the rest of their lives. Short of an oyster shell – and sadly today’s Chesapeake Bay is very short of oyster shells -- the little oysters will settle upon concrete surfaces like those of a reef ball.  There they will attach themselves, hopefully to grow to maturity, filter Bay water, and reproduce lots of babies to help repopulate the Bay with oysters.

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