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October 2013

Queen Anne's County Approves Massive Development on Bay Island

Four Seasons protesterDespite overwhelming opposition from the public, the Queen Anne County Commission on Tuesday voted 3-2 in favor of moving ahead with a massive waterfront housing development on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

The county’s approval of a revised development agreement for the Four Seasons project means the proposed subdivision will head back to the Maryland Board of Public Works for reconsideration of a wetlands permit. 

In 2007, the state board, led by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, denied a wetlands permit for New Jersey-based Hovnanian Enterprises to build 1,350 homes on the site, 556 acres of farmland and trees beside the Chester River north of Route 50 in Stevensville.  But then the Maryland Court of Appeals last year overturned the state’s denial, saying the board had considered too broad a range of issues -– and was legally required to focus only on the question of whether wetlands could be destroyed.

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Farm Industry Lobby Appeals Ruling on Bay Pollution Limits

Farm machinery Chesapeake Bay ProgramThey just don’t know when to give up.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and allied lobbying groups said today that they are appealing a federal judge’s Sept.13 decision to uphold pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay. The industry organizations had sued to overturn the limits, but lost.

“It is disappointing that so much effort has to be spent in the courts, versus on cleaning up the Bay and its rivers and streams,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker. “We are confident that the Bay clean-up plan will be upheld on appeal.”

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Underwater Drones Help Study Link Between Hurricanes and Climate Change

NOAA submarine glider (4)We’ve all heard about aerial drones. But not many people know the federal government also guides a fleet of underwater drones.  These undersea robots don’t track and kill terrorists. They have a very different purpose: to track deadly hurricanes and save the lives of people in the path of the storms.

Last month, during the peak of hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or NOAA)  launched into the Atlantic Ocean 11 submarines, each about five feet long and eight inches wide.

Zdeka S. Willis, Director of NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System, showed one of the torpedo shaped, lemon-yellow machines at her agency’s offices in Silver Spring, Maryland, last month.

“This is a glider.  Think about glider airplanes that just use atmospheric currents to fly. Well, this is our ocean version,” she said, standing beside one of the robots, which was hanging from the ceiling for display.

The submarine “gliders” have wings and a tailfin, which allow them to catch and ride water currents as they roam the ocean from Nova Scotia to Georgia. 

The drone-like undersea fliers have heat sensors that allow scientists to monitor ocean temperatures in and around hurricanes.  This is critical, Willis said, because researchers believe higher water temperatures produce more powerful storms. The potential link is attracting increased study as the Earth’s oceans warm because of greenhouse gas pollution.

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Rain Garden Gets Special Governor’s Approval

Students, parents, teachers, conservationists, and a former governor (and genuine Virginia hero) -- that’s a pretty potent combination to get just about anything accomplished.

That was clear this week at a celebration marking the completion of a large rain garden at Linwood Holton Elementary School in Richmond, Va. The garden, a project spearheaded by the Chesapeake Bay Holton Elem garden 011Foundation (CBF) but involving scores of public, private, and volunteer partners, will catch and filter runoff pollution from nearly two acres of school property, including a large asphalt parking lot that has been prone to flooding.

The garden’s water-absorbing qualities and natural filtering abilities will thus help clean and protect water quality in the Upham Brook watershed, a network of urban creeks snaking through Richmond and adjacent Henrico County and eventually making their way to the Chickahominy and James rivers.

The rain garden is just one of several projects that CBF and partners have completed as part of a larger, whole-community project to help restore Upham Brook. Other efforts have included homeowner education workshops, a “scoop the poop” pet waste campaign, floating wetlands in local lakes, and a variety of volunteer stream-bank plantings and cleanups.   

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Southern Maryland County Aims to Strip Protections from Forests and Farms

BulldozerThe Chesapeake Bay is threatened by a proposal to strip protections from 150,000 acres of forests and farms in Southern Maryland and open the land to development.

The Charles County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote soon on a growth plan for the county which would potentially allow 339 major subdivisions to be built in ecologically sensitive natural areas.

The damage from this kind of uncontrolled sprawl would be substantial. Not only would some of the Chesapeake’s best fish breeding grounds be destroyed in Mattawoman Creek, local traffic problems would become worse, historic farms would be replaced with cookie-cutter subdivisions, and taxes would likely rise to pay for new roads and schools.

Builders and investors would earn big profits while everyone else would suffer. Developers wrote the county’s proposed new land-use plan, and unfortunately, three of the county’s five county commissioners have signaled a willingness to approve it.

On September 20, Maryland Planning Secretary Richard Hall, Maryland Secretary of the Environment Dr. Robert Summers, and 14 other high-ranking state officials in Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration wrote a letter to the Charles County Board of Commissioners urging them to reject the draft plan.

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