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January 2011

Bills To Protect "The Most Important Fish in the Sea" Drown in Indifference

Menhaden The fish get no respect.

For the sixth year in a row, legislation has died in Virginia that would have more wisely managed menhaden, small but important filter-feeders that are a major source of food for the Chesapeake Bay’s larger fish.

A bill by Senator Ralph Northam of Norfolk (Senate Bill 765) died today in the Virginia Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee when he asked for a motion to report the bill favorably out of committee, and received no supporting votes.

That’s a swimming shame.  The legislation would have helped to discourage the chronic overfishing of menhaden. It would have moved responsibility for managing this complex fishery away from politicians in the state General Assembly and into the hands of the Virginia Marine Resources Committee, the state’s professional fishery managers, who oversee all other fish species.

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New Green Group Fights for a Blue Baltimore Harbor

Baltimoreharbor Thumbs up to a new environmental organization that unveiled itself yesterday, called "Blue Water Baltimore." Five groups with strong track records of cleaning up urban streams in Baltimore have merged to multiply their muscle and clout.

They have a big task ahead of them. An investigation by The Baltimore Sun's Timothy Wheeler this weekend shows that bacteria levels in the Inner Harbor are sometimes more than 10,000 times higher than EPA would consider safe for swimming.  Wash your hands, kayakers and paddle boat renters!

One of Blue Water Baltimore's first projects will be repaving alleys and street corners in East Baltimore with water-permeable materials, which will reduce storm water runoff pollution in Baltimore Harbor and the Patapsco River. 

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Name The Bay Critter Contest

Mouthydude"I said, throw me BAAAAAAAAACK!"  The first reader to correctly identify the name of this mouthy species will win a free Chesapeake Bay Foundation T-Shirt.  Enter your guesses as comments in the section below. 

UPDATE: Okay, that was way too easy. Next week, you guys are getting a hardball.  Yes, this is a monkfish, Lophius americanus, also known as a goosefish or an anglerfish. And the winner is Stacey Fowler!  Stacey, send an email to me ( with your T-shirt size and address, and we'll mail you your prize.

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Faced by Gas Drilling Boom, Maryland Promises New "State-of-the-Art" Environmental Protections

Drillcrew While thousands of natural gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania and West Virginia in recent years, not one well has been drilled in Maryland in a decade and a half. This is despite the fact that the western part of Maryland sits atop the same formation of gas-rich shale that has attracted a drilling gold rush to the north and south.

This lack of drilling in Maryland could soon change.  In a big way.

More than a year ago, two companies -– Samson Resources of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Chief Oil & Gas of Dallas -– applied to start hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Maryland’s part of the Marcellus Shale formation, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.  In this technique, also called “fracking,” drillers inject millions of gallons of water mixed with hydrochloric acid and other chemicals at high pressure into rock formations, to crack the shale and release natural  gas.

Gasmap Expecting "fracking" to start soon in Maryland, more than 500 property owners in Garrett County have already signed leases to allow companies to extract natural gas from 124,000 acres of land, more than a quarter of the county, according to a county map (shown at right). These land owners are eager to get the drilling started, because it could mean millions of dollars in royalty checks for them, and millions of dollars in tax revenues for the county, which will impose a 5 percent tax on the gas revenues.

But the Maryland Department of the Environment is taking its time and being careful in reviewing these drilling applications. The state agency is consulting with regulators and experts in Pennsylvania, and trying to make sure the drilling permits are protective of the environment, according to Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the state agency.

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"Clean Water" Group Is a Front for Farm Lobbyists, Mining Companies and Other Polluters

Glasses Why is it that anti-environmentalists feel compelled to pose as environmentalists?  If people don’t think protecting waterways or wildlands is all that important, compared to other priorities, that's their right. They should just be honest about that and let their ideas compete openly in our democracy.

I bring this up after reading the appealing-looking web page of a group called “Protect My Water.” This organization claims that its goal is to “Protect the Clean Water Act,” which it says “has been responsible for extraordinary advances in improving the health of the nation’s surface waters.”

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MD Bay Fund To Get 25 Percent Boost, Despite Down Economy

Omalley During the darkest of times, he stayed green.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley deserves great praise for proposing a 25 percent increase in an innovative program that pays for projects to reduce runoff pollution into the Chesapeake Bay.

Despite the economic downturn and a projected $1.6 billion deficit in the state budget, Governor O’Malley is proposing that $25 million go into the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund in the fiscal year starting on July 1, an increase over the $20 million this fiscal year.

The investment will help pay for stormwater pollution control projects in towns and cities, and the planting of cover crops to absorb excess fertilizer on farms, among other initiatives.  The funding is critical because Maryland and the other Bay states recently pledged to EPA that they would accelerate their reduction of pollution into the Bay to meet EPA’s new pollution “diet” for the nation’s largest estuary.

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Virginia Wetlands Again in Jeopardy

Smith Farm Wetland Troubling bills are afoot in the Virginia General Assembly that would remove the state’s protection of large tracts of nontidal wetlands and leave the only safeguards in the hands of the federal government.

Proponents of Senate Bill 885 and House Bill 1623 contend that nontidal wetlands don’t need both state and federal protection, and that eliminating Virginia’s permitting role for large-impact projects will reduce burdensome regulation and paperwork for development businesses. Perhaps not coincidentally, the sponsors of the bills represent districts in Southeast Virginia, a region dense with both wetlands and developers.

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Grrrrr. I Dare You to Guess My Name!

Mysterydude Don't mess with me. The first of you readers out there who correctly identifies what kind of Chesapeake Bay critter I am will win a free Chesapeake Bay Foundation T-Shirt.  To compete, enter your guess as a comment below.

UPDATE:  The shocking answer is: NORTHERN STARGAZER.  And the winner is: Christy Formby. The Northern Stargazer, or Astroscopus guttatus, is one of the strangest and most hard-to-find fish in the Chesapeake Bay.  The surly-looking fellows have electric organs on top of their heads, and they can deliver a jarring shock to folks who try to pick them up.  The prehistoric-looking animals live on the bottom, and are sedentary and solitary.

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