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June 2011

Windmills Generating Lots of Talk in Virginia

There’s continued talk about building a wind farm off Virginia’s coast to generate electrical power. This week, the Virginia Offshore Wind Conference brought together lots of key players to further debate the pros and cons in Virginia Beach.

One of the key conference outcomes: it’s a lot more complicated than slapping up windmills out in the ocean.

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Who Will Clean Up the Bay? You!

After years – decades -- of big-picture debate about what it will take to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the cleanup effort finally is getting down to the local level where it counts most.

Localities across the Bay watershed, including more than 90 in Virginia, are wrestling with the challenge of reducing their local water pollution to the levels scientists and policymakers have agreed are necessary to return the Bay and its rivers to good health. 

That means very soon citizens like YOU will become engaged in efforts to clean up your neighborhood creek or stream. One glance at this map of the Chesapeake Bay watershed shows that the Bay is really the culmination of hundreds of smaller rivers, streams, and creeks, most of which are many miles from the Bay. But by cleaning up these small, neighborhood waterways, citizens will achieve a double benefit: clean water in their own backyard waterways and, ipso facto, clean water in the Chesapeake Bay.

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Name the Critter Contest

Whatthe"I may not have the prettiest name, but I think I'm the best looking dude at the bar." The first reader to correctly identify this bar-hopping socialite of the Chesapeake Bay will win a free CBF T-Shirt.

Enter your guesses as comments below. Ready, set, go!

ANSWER:  Okay, my bad -- that one was a little bit too obscure.  For the very first time, I stumped the Bay Daily readers.  That, my friends, is a leech ribbon worm, Malacobdella grossa, which lives inside the mantle of oyster shells and is common on oyster bars (hence my awful pun about the "bars" in the question). Next week, I'll try something less grossa. Tom Pelton

Drug Maker Agrees to Stop Putting Arsenic in Chicken Feed

Chickens The drug maker Pfizer today voluntarily agreed to stop marketing a form of arsenic as an additive to poultry feed as the result of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration study that found trace levels of the carcinogen in chickens sold to the public, the federal agency announced today.

A form of arsenic, called Roxarsone, for more than a half century has been fed to broiler chickens across America with the intention of killing parasites and plumping up the birds.

But scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, and Maryland Attorney Douglas Gansler, among others, complained that this FDA-approved practice should end, because it needlessly exposes consumers to arsenic, which is a carcinogen.

A bill to ban arsenic in chicken feed was debated in the Maryland General Assembly this past spring but did not pass, despite being supported by public health and environmental groups including the  Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Dr. Keeve Nachman, an assistant scientist at Johns Hopkins who argued in favor of the ban, said a permanent federal ban on arsenic in chicken feed would be better than the temporary and voluntary action taken by the drug manufacturer, Pfizer. “In the short term, this seems great, but in the long term, I’m not so sure –- because it is a voluntary suspension, which means they are free at any time to return it to the market,” said Dr. Nachman.  “I want the FDA to do its job which would translate to a ban.”

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MD Governor Orders Study of Hydraulic Fracturing and Tax on Gas Drilling

Drillingtowertall When it comes to hydraulic fracturing, better to study than be sorry.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley yesterday signed an executive order calling for a study of the environmental impacts of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale formation that lies under Western Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and other states in the region.

Under the order, the Maryland Department of the Environment and Department of Natural Resources will issue recommendations by Dec. 31 (before the next General Assembly session) on whether Maryland should impose a state tax on gas extraction and pass legislation to establish standards of liability for damages caused by gas drilling.

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Volunteers Put a Project to Bed

IMG_2881 - Copy 
Look what volunteers can do to make a difference in the health of the Chesapeake Bay!

On a recent Saturday, more than 80 citizens -- from Scouts to soldiers to retirees -- planted marsh grasses to complete an extensive shoreline restoration project along the James River near Jamestown, Va.

IMG_2873 - Copy The project at Jamestown 4-H Center will stop erosion, provide wildlife habitat, and protect geologically significant bluffs along a 400-foot section of river frontage. That in turn will reduce runoff of sediment and other pollution from getting into the James, one of the Chesapeake Bay’s largest, most historic rivers.

The recent planting was the second and final phase of a project begun more than a year ago and spearheaded by Ann Jurczyk, a onetime Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) volunteer in James City County who now is CBF’s Virginia outreach and advocacy manager. As a volunteer, Jurczyk did all the research, wrote two successful grant proposals, coordinated contractors and volunteers, and shepherded the project.

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Bay Daily History Game: Captain John Smith on the Potomac


In late June, 1608, Capt. John Smith and his crew aboard the Discovery Barge turned into the Potomac on their way south during their first exploratory voyage of that summer.  What is the modern name of the still-lovely creek that they visited first?  What was the Indian name for both it and its principal town (according to Smith’s spelling)? 

Nomini Creek 053111 II 

The first correct answer will win a free CBF T-shirt.  Ready? Set? Go!  Rattle those keys...


Thanks for playing CBF's Bay History Game this week.  Paula Boracki's second answer is correct.  Paula, if you'll e-mail me at with your mailing address and size, we'll get your prize CBF T-shirt on the way to you.

Nomini Creek, in Westmoreland County on Virginia’s Northern Neck, was undoubtedly surrounded by deep forest when several local Indians beckoned to Smith to come ashore on June 30, 1608.  Smith’s journal recounts the ensuing skirmish, after which the two sides made peace and the Natives escorted the Englishmen up to a feast in their main town, Onawmanient (accent on the fourth syllable) , at the head of the creek’s tidal section. 

English colonists settled on the creek later in the seventeenth century and Anglicized Onawmanient to Nomini.  The Creek’s most famous resident was Robert “Councillor” Carter (1751 – 1804), whose plantation Nomini Hall (built on the site of Onawmanient), family, and life are chronicled in the Journal and Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian, 1773-1774: A Plantation Tutor of the Old Dominion (available online). 

Today, Nomini Creek’s lower reaches form a lovely, pastoral waterway still reflecting some of its eighteenth century appearance.  The upper reaches, though now shallow because of siltation, are largely wooded.  By any measure, Nomini Creek is one of the jewels of the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail.

Best regards, JPW

Eel Liberation Day

Americaneel It was an exciting day at Edgewater Elementary School in Anne Arundel County: eel liberation day. A classroom of first graders freed the peculiar, snake-like fish that they had raised in a tank all year long.

Will Williams, an educator with the county’s Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center, helped the students release the eel into a stream in front of the school that flows toward the Chesapeake Bay.  The children crowded around Williams' plastic blucket to touch the foot-long, yellowish brown, slime-coated traveller.

 “There he goes!" Williams said, releasing the eel into the waterway. "See his tail swimming away?"

One of the seven-year-olds watched the eel  disappear, then cried out:  “Goodbye… Have a great journey!”

The eel is going to need the good wishes.  The number of American eels have fallen over the last 30 years, in part because of blockages of their streams and overfishing for seafood markets in Asia and Europe, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Maryland Department of Natural Resources. 

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