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March 2013

Nation’s Waters Still a Long Way from Clean


The Patapsco River after Hurricane Sandy. Photo by CBF Staff.
Some sobering news from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week: More than half of the nation’s waterways – 55 percent – are in poor condition for aquatic life.

“The health of our Nation’s rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, and this new science shows that America’s streams and rivers are under significant pressure,” Office of Water Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner said in an EPA press release about a new national water report.

The EPA report, the first comprehensive national water quality assessment of its kind, is based on stream data collected from some 2,000 monitoring sites around the nation in 2008-2009, the most recent time period data were available. Agency scientists and state and university experts then crunched the numbers to determine the health of the country’s streams, rivers, and bays.

To no one’s surprise living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the report said a significant problem in the nation’s waterways is excessive nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.

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Tide Rising for Virginia Shellfishing

Good news this week from Virginia’s shellfish industry and more evidence that a cleaner, healthier Chesapeake Bay is a boon to the economy.

“The shellfish aquaculture industry in Virginia continues to grow, adding significant value to the state’s seafood marketplace,” says the Virginia Sea Grant Marine Extension Program in a new report, “Virginia Shellfish Aquaculture Situation and Outlook Report.” 

Virginia continues to lead the nation in the farming, or aquaculture, of hard clams, producing 171 million market clams in 2012 and generating an estimated $26.8 million in revenues, up nearly $1 million from the year before, the report says.

Equally encouraging is the continued growth of Virginia’s oyster farming industry. The report says state oyster growers sold more than 28 million cultured oysters in 2012, a 21 percent increase over the year before.

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Eroding Bay Islands Could Be Helped by Experimental Buoys

Holland IslandWith islands in the Chesapeake Bay slowly vanishing beneath the waves because of rising sea levels and sinking land, a company plans to build experimental buoy systems to reduce erosion in three locations this year, including on historic Tangier Island, Virginia.

The Glen Burnie, Maryland-based Murtech plans to use an innovative design tested in the labs of the U.S. Naval Academy by Dr. Michael E. McCormick, a pioneer of wave energy research. He is former Chairman of the Department of Naval Systems Engineering and also a consultant for Murtech.

BuoyphotoThis summer, the company plans to install 53 buoys –- the largest, 10 feet in diameter –- in front of the harbor of Tangier Island (an example of one of the devices is shown at right).  Tangier harbor’s western entrance has been widened by storms and erosion in recent years, allowing large waves to roll in and smash the crab shacks and piers of watermen. The buoys will have fins on their sides, and are designed to create interference with the waves and reduce their size and power. Similar systems are being planned for Barren Island, in Maryland, and Aberdeen Proving Grounds, in the northern Chesapeake Bay, according to Murtech.

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The Bay as Economic Engine

Baltimore writer H.L. DeadriseMencken once described the Chesapeake Bay as an “immense protein factory.” He might just as well have called it an “immense job factory,” given the countless number of people who have made a living off the Bay and its resources over the centuries.

Even today in its degraded condition compromised by pollution and habitat loss, the Chesapeake is a powerful economic engine.  And the small, encouraging improvements that scientists are now beginning to see in the Bay’s health are also being mirrored by small and encouraging growths in Bay-dependent jobs and businesses.

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Name the Species Contest


The Bay Daily "Name the Critter" contest has evolved and expanding its range to become a "Name the Species" competition.  The first reader to correctly identify this species will win a free CBF T-shift. To compete, you must enter your guess as a comment on this blog. UPDATE: These are eelgrass seeds, and the winner is Rodney Herbert. Congrats! 

Write Your State Lawmaker to Reduce Trash in Our Bay

BottlesandcansThe Maryland General Assembly is debating legislation that would dramatically reduce bottle and can litter in streams, rivers, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and the Chesapeake Bay.

A hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Friday for State Delegate Maggie McIntosh’s “Recycle for Real” bill, which would create a 5 cent refundable deposit on drink containers. Customers would get the deposits back when they return cans and bottles to stores or recycling centers.

The program would give all of us a financial reward to look for trash and pick it up because it would mean more cash in our pockets.

These types of deposit laws have a long and proven track record of success.  The 10 states, including New York and Michigan, that have passed  “bottle bills” have seen their bottle and can litter quickly drop by an average of about 75 percent.  Meanwhile, recycling rates in these states have skyrocketed because the laws create an all-American financial incentive to do the right thing. 

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