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August 2013

Deformities in Yellow Perch Eggs Linked to Suburban Sprawl

YellowperchYellow perch are popular sport fish, prized for their flavor. Their spawning runs up streams during the late winter are heralded as an early sign of spring in the Chesapeake Bay region.
But the ability of yellow perch to reproduce has fallen off sharply in recent decades, with many egg yolks abnormally formed.  Water pollution from suburban sprawl may be the cause, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The abnormalities were most frequent and severe in perch from the South and Severn Rivers, the two tributaries with the most highly suburbanized watersheds,” says the report, which was written by Dr. Vicki Blazer of the U.S. Geological Survey and six colleagues.  These abnormalities “may result from exposure to environmental contaminants,” although more studies are needed to determine exactly which pollutants.
In the Chesapeake Bay region, the problems with yellow  perch appear to be most severe in the highly suburbanized triangle formed by Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis, according to the report.

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Pictures Show Chesapeake Bay Waterfront Threatened by New Jersey Developer

Four seasons development siteWhat do you see in this picture? The blue waters of the mouth of the Chester River, as it flows into the Chesapeake Bay. A scenic shoreline on Kent Island, with a  tree casting a shadow beside a farm field. Clouds drifting peacefully overhead.
Here's what you don’t see:  1,079 houses and condominiums that New Jersey-based developer Hovnanian Enterprises is proposing to build right here, blacktopping much of this waterfront scenery.

This photo –- and the massive Four Seasons housing project planned here, north of Route 50 in Stevensville, Maryland --  is an illustration of weaknesses in Maryland’s environmental and land-use laws.  The development may be one of the largest ever built within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake Bay since the 1984 passage of Maryland’s landmark Critical Areas law, which is supposed to protect waterfront areas.

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County That Refused Pollution Control Fee Now Suffering from Pollution

Piney run advisoryNine Maryland county governments and Baltimore were required by state law to establish pollution control fees to reduce pollution running off streets, parking lots, and other surfaces, called stormwater. The deadline was July 1.

Carroll County just said no. They refused to comply.  Perhaps local officials wanted to make an anti-government statement of protest.  Perhaps they didn’t feel like they had any significant problems with runoff pollution they had to worry about, beyond those addressed by a local program they already run.

Whatever the reason, it is now quite clear that Carroll County has a serious problem with runoff pollution that demands additional attention.  The Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks last week closed boat rentals in the reservoir at Piney Run Park because of a toxic algal bloom. The likely cause was runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen in fertilizers from lawns or farms, according to the Carroll County Times.

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Perfect Place, Perfect Way to Learn About the Bay

What better way to learn about the environment and special places like the Chesapeake Bay…than to get outside and experience them?

And what better place to do that than Pleasure House Point Natural Area in Virginia Beach, Va., 108 acres of beach, marsh, and trees teeming with wildlife at the mouth of the Bay?

That’s the basic premise of a teacher education course conducted this summer by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) at Pleasure House Point. The course, one of many led by CBF every summer around the Bay, is designed to give Virginia Beach teachers first-hand knowledge of water quality, critters, habitat, and other Bay issues and to inspire them to lead their own outdoor field experiences for students (learn more here).

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