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August 2012

Worrisome News from Northumberland
This week, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) granted a 150-acre oyster lease to Bluff Point Holdings LLC, a development company headed by Charlottesville developer Tom Dingledine.

As Virginia law stipulates, such leases are intended exclusively for planting and growing oysters. In this case, Bluff Point Holdings says it intends to raise oysters in Barnes Creek, a Chesapeake Bay tributary in rural Northumberland County, Va.

The company actually sought a much larger lease from the state -- 250 acres, or virtually the entire bottom of Barnes Creek and beyond into the Bay -- but agreed to scale back its request after commissioners questioned the company about its complete lack of oystering experience,  the size of its requested lease, and potential navigation hazards. One commissioner even called the company’s original request “preposterous.”    

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Website Predicts Flooding From Sea-Level Rise

Flooded annapolisWant to see what your neighborhood may look like with sea-level rise?

Well, if you live near the Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, an interesting new online mapping tool called “Future Coast” will give you a chance to peer into the crystal ball.  Check it out by clicking here, and then enter your address.

The website predicts that parts of downtown Annapolis and the Naval Academy (among many other places) will flood more often over the next century as climate change and the natural sinking of land around the Chesapeake region continues to erode shorelines.

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Newspaper: Virginia's AG Sided With Polluters Over Citizens

Coal plantThe (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot this week delivered a scolding to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for accepting more than $440,000 in contributions from power companies and coal mining interests -– while also fighting federal restrictions on pollution from out-of-state coal fired plants that would help the health of Virginians.

“If the EPA regulations were in place, Virginia would have been the beneficiary of pollution reductions to our west while being required to do little to reduce our own pollution,” the newspaper editorialized. “Despite that, Cuccinelli interceded in the case on the side of the states that pollute Virginia's air, and on behalf of the big utilities.”

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to strike down the Obama Administration’s regulations for power plant air pollution that crosses state boundaries was a blow to efforts to meet new EPA pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay. As much of as a third of the nitrogen pollution in the estuary comes from air pollution.

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Parasites Hijack Sexual Function of Crabs

Mud crab with parasiteAn alien parasite transforms males to look like females, and hijacks their reproductive
systems to pump out thousands of larval parasites.

This sounds like a science fiction plotline. But it is actually happening to a species of crab in the Chesapeake Bay: pea-sized, brown and olive mud crabs (Rhithropanopeus harrisii).

Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center discovered that many mud crabs are infected with an invasive species of parasitic barnacle called Loxothylacus panopaei that are multiplying through this gender-twisting, reproductive system take-over, said Dr. Amy Fowler, a researcher at the Smithsonian.

“The parasite itself is from the Gulf of Mexico,” Dr. Fowler said, during a recent visit to one of her study sites on the Rhode River in Southern Maryland.  “Researchers believe that it was brought over in the 1960s as part of the oyster aquaculture trade here in the Chesapeake Bay. When they were moving the oysters, they inadvertently moved a lot of other organisms, including this particular (parasite).”

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Coming Soon to a Bay Near You: One of the Greenest Buildings in the World

Shamelessly tooting the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) own horn, Bay Daily wants to share exciting plans emanating from Virginia Beach, Va.

Recall last month that CBF successfully partnered with local community advocates, the City of PleasureHousePoint_Cropped (2)Virginia Beach, and The Trust for Public Land to permanently conserve a 100-acre-plus parcel of dunes, marsh, and trees on the Lynnhaven River called Pleasure House Point. Just a few years ago, Pleasure House Point was slated for an intense private development of more than one thousand homes.

Now that the land has been preserved for conservation and recreation, CBF is sharing with the community a plan to construct an ultra-green environmental education/community center on a small corner of the Pleasure House Point parcel. A conceptual rendering of the center is pictured above. CBF’s vision is to create one of the most sustainable, environmentally friendly buildings in the world.

Why? To demonstrate how we humans can live, work, and play beside ecologically sensitive places PHP1like the Chesapeake Bay without causing additional harm to them; to provide a comfortable, even beautiful place for community gatherings; to help educate students, teachers, and community leaders about the wonders and challenges of the Chesapeake Bay; and to inspire them to become better stewards of the natural world.

CBF’s motto is “Save the Bay,” and the center it envisions at Pleasure House Point will be a practical demonstration of how a building can help preserve and protect the Bay watershed. CBF’s goal is for the new center to meet the “Living Building Challenge,” a set of strict environmental standards established by the International Living Future Institute.

To be certified as a Living Building, a project must meet 20 stringent criteria in seven areas – site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty – and do so for at least 12 consecutive months after opening. The standards essentially require the facility to have “net zero” impact on the surrounding air, land, and water throughout its construction and operation – zero air pollution, zero waste pollution, zero water pollution.

PHPpress4AMThat will be a challenge for CBF, architect SmithGroupJJR and builder Hourigan Construction, but all are excited about the opportunity to create something unique and unprecedented in the region. For when completed sometime in 2014, the Pleasure House Point center will be the only one of its kind in Virginia, among only 18 prospective Living Buildings on the East Coast, and one of only about 150 currently pursuing the Challenge worldwide.

To learn more about CBF’s plans, click here and here. To learn more about the Living Building Challenge, click here.

What do you think about CBF’s plan to build the greenest building in Virginia? To share your thoughts, click here. And stay tuned for more developments as this exciting project proceeds in the coming months.

Chuck Epes
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Court Decision on Air Pollution Drifts Down Into Chesapeake Bay

Coal plantAir pollution and water quality are closely linked. As much as one third of the nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is from the emissions of smokestacks and tailpipes that falls from the atmosphere back down into the water, creating low-oxygen “dead zones,” according to the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program.

For this reason, the U.S. Court of Appeals decision this week striking down the Obama Administration’s air pollution rules for coal-fired power plants was a blow not only to lungs and health of citizens, but also to efforts to  clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

The so-called Cross-State Air Pollution Rule was designed to force coal-fired power plants in states that contribute to air pollution in downwind states to install emissions control equipment to curb the release of nitrogen oxides, mercury, and other pollutants. The rule replaced weaker cross-state regulations issued earlier by the Bush Administration, which were also thrown out by the courts.

EPA had been relying on the new air pollution rules to eliminate millions of pounds of nitrogen pollution annually in the Chesapeake Bay, as part of a pollution reduction plan for the Bay that is like a blueprint for saving the nation’s largest estuary.

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Maryland's Proposed Farm Regulations...And an Alternative Viewpoint

Will Morrow in front of chicken houseMaryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration is proposing regulations that would require farmers to reduce the runoff of manure and fertilizer that pollutes the Chesapeake Bay.  Many farmers are strongly opposed to government regulations -- but others, including Will Morrow (above), argue that the rules not only protect public health, but also help level the economic playing field between farms that invest to be environmentally responsible, and those that do not.

“We are a society of rules, whether you are talking about the speed limits on the road, or whether you are talking about the medical industry," Morrow said during a recent tour of his Whitmore Farm in Frederick County (which is described in more detail below).  "Every industry has rules, and farmers should not be treated any differently.”

Whitmore Farm 2Among other things, the proposed Maryland regulations would prohibit the spreading of manure on farm fields in the winter.  This rule would force about 200 dairy farms to spend as much as $300,000 each installing manure storage pits, so they won’t have to dump manure on frozen fields as a waste disposal method. The state, however, has pledged to help farmers with these pollution control projets by paying 87.5 percent of the cost, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

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Virginia’s Safe-Harbor Program for Farmers: Will It Work?


Virginia is trying something new to reduce pollution and restore clean water to the state’s streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. It’s called the Resource Management Plan Program, and it’s aimed at farmers. If it works as envisioned, this first-of-its-kind-in-the-region tool could help the state meet its Chesapeake Bay clean water goals by 2025.

The program calls for developing resource management plans prepared by a state-certified planner and customized for each individual farm. Each plan would prescribe specific clean water practices that reduce runoff pollution sufficiently to meet Virginia’s Bay cleanup goals. The farm practices would include fertilizer and soil management, planting grass and forest buffers along stream banks, conservation tillage (no plowing), use of winter cover crops to absorb excess soil nutrients and reduce erosion, and fencing livestock from farm streams.

Participation by farmers in the program will be purely voluntary, but if a farmer fully implements his plan, regularly maintains the practices, and agrees to periodic inspections, he or she will be exempt -- receive “safe harbor” status -- from any future state Chesapeake Bay cleanup requirements for a period of nine years.

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Trimming Lawn Fertilizer Pollution

Gardening 1 (2)Lawns have multiplied across the Chesapeake Bay watershed to cover almost four million acres, more than all of the corn, wheat, and other crops combined.  Runoff of lawn fertilizer makes up eight percent of the pollution that causes low-oxygen “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay, according to the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program.

In Maryland alone, homeowners spend more than a billion dollars a year just fertilizing and maintaining their lawns.

But not every homeowner. “Lawn is not all that attractive, in my opinion,” said Lynn Dickens (above), an artist and gardener who lives in Parkville, northeast of Baltimore.

Gardening 2While her neighbors spend their weekends nurturing their lawns, Dickens is deliberately killing hers. Over the last six years, she has been gradually replacing her grass with a colorful jungle of ferns, cardinal flowers, wild ginger, and other plants native to Maryland.

“I’ve never been one to water or fertilize a lawn, but a lot of people who choose to have lawns spend a lot of resources on them,” said Dickens, as she showed a visitor her native plant garden on a recent morning. “Native plants that are adapted to an area really don’t require that kind of attention or fertilizer.”

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Maryland Court Deals Blow to Sprawl, Upholds Local Planning

SprawlIn a win for efforts to prevent sprawl and protect farmland, a court on Maryland’s Eastern Shore ruled against the rezoning of 216 agricultural acres for big box development.

The decision protects rural land near Chesapeake College at Routes 50 and 213 in Queen Anne's County from being consumed by the equivalent of several Walmarts.  The action also carries statewide significance, because the court treated the county's comprehensive plan, which outlines the community's long-vision for growth, as legally binding. This suggests that such local land-use plans are not mere advisory documents that developers can trample or ignore, as often has happened in the past across Maryland and the U.S.

“We hope that all Maryland jurisdictions are paying attention to this case,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost. “This is the first test of legislation passed in 2009 designed to ensure that local jurisdictions’ zoning decisions are consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. That is important because comprehensive plans protect the quality of life and rural fabric of local communities.”

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