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June 2010

A different sort of populist revolt; Cambridge demands smart growth

Progress toward a cleaner Chesapeake Bay can’t always be measured in nutrient loads alone.  In Cambridge, MD positive change seems to have occurred at a certain boiling point of citizen upset.
Cambridge is a small Eastern Shore city on the banks of the Choptank River that gained notoriety only a few years ago for approving a massive resort development near the fragile Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Now the city is becoming a beacon of green civic consciousness.

"It’s almost like a 180-degree change," says Bill Giese, a community activist.

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Bay Streams “Showcased” for Cleanup

Several weeks ago, Bay Daily talked about Chesapeake Bay “backwater” issues and the need to reduce pollution in the hundreds of headwater streams far, far away from the Bay itself.

“To clean up the Bay, we must clean up the Potomac River. To clean up the Potomac, we must clean up the Shenandoah River. And to clean up the Shenandoah, we must clean up the scores of small creeks, streams, and runs that snake through the Shenandoah Valley’s famously productive farmland,” we reported.


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Prevailing Winds Can be Fickle

Photo by Jennifer Cassou With my colleague Tom Pelton out of town and far away from internet connection, he has entrusted Bay Daily to a few of us at CBF.

In today’s edition of the Baltimore Sun, Tim Wheeler writes that scientists are predicting “The fish-smothering "dead zone" now forming in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay is likely to be one of the smallest in the past 25 summers.”  The (Annapolis, MD) Capital carried a similar article.

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The Gulf Disaster May Well Touch the Bay

Oil slicks and tar balls from the Gulf oil spill haven’t made it to the Chesapeake Bay yet – actually, there’s little likelihood they ever will. But the spill may have a detrimental effect on the Bay in a way Oilpix you  might not suspect.

Most of the oysters packaged by Virginia and Maryland oyster processors during the summer come from Louisiana. That’s because native Chesapeake Bay oysters are still relatively scarce. They have been for some time, as over-harvesting, pollution, and disease have reduced the Bay’s wild oyster population to about 2 percent of its historic levels.

The Chesapeake Bay once produced nearly 20 million bushels of oysters a year, but today the Gulf of Mexico is the oyster king, supplying nearly 70 percent of the nation’s bivalves. That is, until the recent oil well disaster. Because of the ongoing spill, nearly a third of the Gulf has been declared off-limits to oystering, and half of Louisiana’s oyster beds are now closed to harvests.

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Jack Johnson, Czar of Calm and Clean

JackjohnsonLike a lot of you out there, I am a big fan of singer/songwriter Jack Johnson, his mellow voice, finely crafted lyrics and environmental ethos.

So I fell into a zen frenzy (if the word “frenzy” can be used in relation to the swami of smooth) when I learned that my employer – the Chesapeake Bay Foundation – has entered into a partnership with Johnson. There he is in the picture at left, slaving away at his office.

He’s on tour to promote his new album, To The Sea, and while he’s doing it, he also wants to promote the idea of people getting involved in their communities. (If that sounds earnest and do-goodish, well, the man is like that – listen to his music and you can figure that out).

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Stop the Bull, Save the Bay

Bull What’s the beef?  Why do some big agricultural groups oppose the most important environmental legislation of our generation, the Chesapeake Clean Water Act?  The critics claim that the bill, now pending in Congress, will hurt family farms.

That is bull.  A new study, released today by the World Resources Institute, demonstrates that a typical Maryland crop farmer (for example) would earn a net profit of about $10,000 a year from the nitrogen pollution trading credits that would be created as part of the legislation. 

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Maryland Proposes New Restrictions on Farm Fertilizer to Cut Pollution Into Bay

Farm field Maryland is proposing to become the first state in the Chesapeake region to prohibit most farmers from applying fertilizer on their fields in the fall and winter to reduce the amount of pollution in the Bay.

Banning the application of fertilizer from the harvest of summer crops until March 1 would prevent about 600,000 pounds of nitrogen a year from being washed by rain into the nation’s largest estuary, said Royden N. Powell, Assistant Secretary for Resource Conservation at the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

“In the fall, if there are residual nutrients in the soil that the plants can utilize, the farmer is better served both economically and environmentally to not apply additional fertilizer,” Powell said.

Affected by the new regulations will be farmers across Maryland who plant about 100,000 acres of wheat, barley and rye in the fall and then harvest and sell these grains in the spring, Powell said. The proposed rules will be introduced this winter, take effect in the fall of 2011, and carry a fine of $250 for violations, he said.

Russell Brinsfield, executive director of the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology at the University of Maryland, praised Governor Martin O’Malley's administration for taking a significant step that will help the Bay without hurting farmers.

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Beware of False Advertising in Chesapeake Bay "Improvement" Act

Bayboat Do not be fooled by the title, folks.

A bill called the “Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act” (HR 5509) was introduced recently by Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Holden and Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte. They claim in a press release that the bill would “support ongoing efforts to reduce the pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

But would it reduce pollution?  Not even close.  Even though it is called an "improvement" act, in reality, this legislation would seriously undermine the federal Clean Water Act, which has been the backbone of pollution control efforts in the Chesapeake Bay and waterways across the country for nearly four decades.

Yes, the bill would create a new Chesapeake Bay advisory committee with no regulatory authority (not that we need another one of those).  And, to be fair, the legislation would do a few good things, such as adding procedures to increase the transparency of federal budgeting for Bay restoration efforts.

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Calls for Oil Spill Cleanup Fund and Drilling Ban

Speaking at a news conference in Baltimore today, U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin demanded that BP pay for the full cost of cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and supported the creation of an escrow fund to set aside billions in oil industry money for the effort, according to The Baltimore Sun.

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Spin is Killing "The Most Important Fish in the Sea"

Menhaden Menhaden are runty, oily, bony fish -- but they are of whale-sized importance to the Chesapeake Bay, because they filter algae out of the water and are a primary food for many larger species.

So how are they doing, this Rodney Dangerfield critter that author H. Bruce Franklin called "The Most Important Fish in the Sea?"  Well, if you listen to the last remaining company in the East that nets them for industrial processing, menhaden are getting along just swimmingly.   "Menhaden Resource is Not Overfished," touts a headline on a press release from Omega Protein, which sends out boats from Reedville, Virginia, to vacuum up whole schools.

We are swimming in spin here. 

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