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November 2012

Tangier Gets Good Thanksgiving News

Appropriately enough, two days before Thanksgiving last week the good folks on Tangier Island got some welcome news: a long-awaited seawall and jetty project to protect the island’s main harbor will finally become a reality.

Flying out to Tangier to deliver the news personally was a passel of state and federal officials, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. Paul Olsen, Congressman Scott Rigell, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech, and other state and local officials.

Remotely situated in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Island is home to some 450 residents whose livelihoods depend upon catching fish, crabs, and oysters. The island has had serious erosion problems for decades. (Take a look at this interesting Washington Post graphic showing Tangier Island erosion over the past 150 years.) The seawall and jetty are aimed at protecting the channel that leads to the island’s harbor, helping to shield it from damaging waves and ice flows and reducing erosion that silts in the channel.

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Value of Nature Recreation Tops $1 Billion Annually on Delmarva Peninsula

FishingOpponents of EPA’s pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay -– from industry lobbyists to some short-sighted county governments -– frequently grumble that building stormwater control systems and upgrading sewage plants is just too expensive.

But what about the economic value of nature?  And how much will this value diminish if we fail to follow EPA pollution limits and state cleanup plans for the Bay, also called the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint? 

Well, a report for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership by Southwick Associates, an economics research firm, spells out some specifics about the impressive value of nature on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Among the findings:

• Camping, biking, and trail-based recreation on the Delmarva Peninsula is worth $1.07 billion a year and generates over 11,000 jobs throughout the region.

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Fracking's Dramatic Impact May Soon Be Seen in Chesapeake Bay

LNGpierinBaySeagulls sit on the natural gas pipelines of a massive industrial pier that towers five stories over the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland.  But there are no workers on the docks of the Dominion Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas pier in Calvert County, because no commercial shipments of natural gas have arrived in more than a year.

The silence here -- with sailboats breezing past, and sunlight glittering off the waves -- could change dramatically, however, if the Dominion company receives approval from federal, state, and county governments for a $3 billion proposal to rebuild the facility to allow liquid natural gas (LNG) exports.

The Chesapeake Bay would have the first LNG export pier in the East.  Dominion plans to build  equipment to chill natural gas to 260 degrees below zero so the fuel can be more easily transported from Maryland around the world on ships in a condensed, liquid form. As many as 75 tankers a year, each about 1,000 feet long, could arrive to load up at the pier.

Bruce McKay“It would be a remarkable turn-around,” said Bruce McKay, Managing Director of Federal Affairs for Dominion (shown at right), as he stood before at the pier’s idled cranes. “There will be thousands of jobs created here, in the community, and across the state of Maryland during construction. It will be one of the biggest capital construction projects in Maryland in quite some time.”  

Hydraulic fracturing -- or "fracking" -- to extract natural gas is controversial. But nowhere is the potential of fracking's transformation of America’s energy supply more obvious than here at Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay.

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Stormwater Fee Helps Chesapeake Bay

Rain_garden1An inner city school in Richmond built a rain garden that absorbs pollutants and keeps them out of the Chesapeake Bay.

The project was funded, with state assistance, by the Richmond Stormwater Utility fee, which was created in 2009, according to the Bacon's Rebellion blog.  The fee raises about $9 million a year by taxing property owners based on how much blacktop and roof surface they have on their properties, according to the article. The city charges homeowner from $25 to $75 per year, depending upon the square footage of impervious surface.

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What Happens Next for Menhaden?

The public has now weighed in on what to do about the plight of Atlantic menhaden, the “most important fish in the sea” that has plummeted to record-low numbers in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic coast.

Today (Friday, Nov. 16) marked the final day to send public comments to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the coast-wide agency that manages menhaden and that’s devising a plan to address their dwindling numbers.

Early indications are the commission received tens of thousands of letters from individuals and groups concerned about menhaden’s plight. Groups representing interests as divergent as recreational anglers, birders, charter captains, restaurant chefs, and chambers of commerce have urged the commission to take aggressive steps to restore the menhaden population. Why do they care?

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Bee Declines Linked to Common Pesticides

David Hackenburg (2)David Hackenburg has been a beekeeper for more than half a century.

As a kid, he loved the taste of honey.  And so, at the age of 12, he ordered his first bees from a mail-order catalogue and cobbled together a hive on his parents' dairy farm.

Today, Hackenburg is 64 and caring for bees is still his life. Except now, he tends about 100 million of them in 3,000 hives, many on a hill above his farmhouse in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

“When I’m working bees, it’s like the rest of the world seems to go away,” Hackenburg, owner of Hackenburg Apiaries, said lifting the lid of one of his  hives on a recent afternoon.

BeeOver the last decade, however, Hackenburg has noticed something wrong with his busy extended family.  The bees are not living as long –-  28 days instead of 48, on average. They don’t eat well.  They are not as vigorous.  And they seem to wander off from their hives, and never come back. Already this fall, he said he’s lost 40 percent of his bees.

Hackenburg, former president of the American Beekeeping Federation and current chairman of the Honey Bee Health Advisory Board, said beekeepers across the country are seeing the same kinds of losses.  He suspects pesticides are to blame -- and there is growing scientific evidence he may be right, although other factors may be involved, too.

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Undermining the Bay Cleanup: Funk & Bolton's Dirty Water Team

PollutionkayakA Baltimore-based law firm is trying to drum up business by convincing rural Maryland counties to pay the firm to find legal reasons to avoid contributing their fair share for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup.

“Funk & Bolton has outlined a multi-pronged strategy to address the shortcomings of the various mandates and programs billed as Bay restoration actions,” attorney Charles D. “Chip” MacLeod wrote to Kent County’s commissioners on Sept. 20.  He advertised the effort as “an effort to save the citizens of your county an exorbitant tax burden.”

Funk & Bolton has already used this pitch to pocket fees from Dorchester, Cecil, Frederick, and Allegany counties, and it is now trying to convince Kent, Caroline, and Queen Anne’s counties to join their anti-cleanup club.

This is a free country, of course, and if local governments want to spend more money on lawyers instead of removing pollution from streams where their children play -– it is up to the voters to decide if that is a helpful expenditure.

Governor Martin O'Malley's blog yesterday warned that the Funk & Bolton effort "threatens to undermine our collective actions to restore the health of the Bay."

To take action against the anti-Bay organizing by Funk & Bolton, click here if you live in Carroll County, Maryland; here if you live in Caroline County; here if you live in Kent County; and here if you live in Queen Anne's County.

The Funk & Bolton scheme is based on some falsehoods about pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, and these need to be corrected. Here are some examples:

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Bay Rebounds from Sandy

11-5-12 NASA Sat 250
While folks in New Jersey and New York continue to struggle with the massive damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, it looks like the Chesapeake Bay is starting to rebound from the storm.

Sandy actually dumped less rainfall in the Bay watershed than was predicted, and consequently there has been less flooding and polluted runoff flowing into the Bay over the past two weeks than after, say, last year’s big blows, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Still, the “Frankenstorm” washed plenty of pollution into Bay rivers and streams, and it seems to have been responsible for several raw sewage spills. As Bay Daily reported earlier, Sandy knocked out a sewage treatment facility in Savage, Md., causing a spill of about 20 million gallons of sewage and rainwater to gush into the Little Patuxent River. That was one of about 19 sewage spills reported across Maryland during the storm.

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The Election and the Bay

WhitehouseThe 2012 election is over. The fight to save the Bay carries on.

The results from last night mean that the work the current Administration's EPA has been conducting with Chesapeake Bay region states to implement pollution limits for the Bay will continue.   There will be at least some level of consistency at the federal level in defending and putting into action these critically important pollution limits (also called the Bay “Total Maximum Daily Loads.”) The limits were issued by EPA in December 2010 and require a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen pollution and a 24 percent cut in phosphorus pollution into the Bay by 2025.

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