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November 2013

Getting More Bang for Clean Water Bucks

DSC_0019They say all politics is local. The same thing could be said about cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

After all, common sense and lots of science tell us that to restore the Bay itself, we need to restore the hundreds of local creeks and streams that drain into the rivers that empty into the Bay. Or said another way, take care of the small stuff, and the big stuff will take care of itself.

And now comes a study from the James River Association (JRA) in Virginia highlighting this and providing good news for local governments and their budgets.

The study, conducted for JRA by the Center for Watershed Protection, looked at local pollution reduction plans aimed at cleaning up streams in three localities – Lynchburg, James City County, and Richmond. The idea was to determine how much pollution these local plans also would reduce toward cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. In other words, how much would doing the small stuff help in doing the big stuff?

According to the study, a heckava lot.

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Oysters Making a Splash in Virginia

P6170015Oysters are in the news this week, and in a good way. A very good way.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that the Old Dominion’s 2012-13 oyster harvest totaled 406,000 bushels. That’s the largest catch since 1987 and a 60 percent increase over the year before.

Moreover, the dramatically improved oyster harvests are producing dramatically improved economics – more money and jobs in Virginia.

“The ripple effects through the economy from last year’s unexpectedly large oyster harvest resulted in an estimated $42.6 million in economic value, using a multiplier of 2.63 on a dockside value of $16.2 million,” the governor’s office said.

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Blessing the Waters, Restoring the Waters

Some 150 people from across Virginia gathered in Richmond on Tuesday to ponder whether people of religious faith, science, and conservation can find common ground and save the Chesapeake Bay.

Judging from comments of participants after this all-day “Living Waters” summit at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, the answer was a profound “Yes!”

Water is sacred across all faiths, cultures, and time, one participant observed, urging everyone to return home and engage their communities in projects that help protect local streams and rivers.

“This is God’s earth, and we need to be good stewards of it,” another said.

Still another proposed that the Virginia General Assembly create a “Sacred Waters” caucus of legislators who acknowledge and prioritize the Chesapeake Bay and its importance to Virginia.

Many found strength in the like-minded people at the summit who shared an earth stewardship ethic and were energized by the discussions and the prospects for moving forward. One woman testified she has believed and practiced earth stewardship for 40 years but has often felt like a voice in the wilderness in her church community.

“What a blessing for me today to be with you all," she said. "This is just beautiful.”

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“Waves for a Cause” Helps Save the Bay

Today’s generation of adults has not always done a stellar job of protecting the environment, especially natural treasures like the Chesapeake Bay.

Thank goodness then for WFC – Waves for a Cause -- a small group of Chesterfield County, Va., elementary school students who have embraced the mission to Save the Bay.

Led by Cassie Robinson (on the right in above photo), a 5th-grader at Winterpock Elementary School, the group has been raising awareness about the Bay and its problems over the past year by talking to friends, drawing flyers and posters, staffing WFC tables at school events, and even holding pot-luck dinners to raise money for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).

The group’s commitment and enthusiasm was palpable when Cassie and WFC buddy Lanie Mahone (in the center above), a 4th-grader at J.B. Watkins Elementary, showed up unannounced at CBF’s Richmond office one day recently. Accompanied by Cassie’s dad, Carl Robinson, the pair wanted to show off a colorful home-made poster touting the Bay and Bay life, and to present – drum roll, please – a check for $100 to CBF.

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Legal Action Aims to Stop Tons of Pollution from Filtration Plant

WaterpollutionCHESAPEAKEBAYPROGRAMThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its allies are taking legal action to stop pollution from a water filtration plant in Montgomery County, Maryland, that has released more than 27 million pounds of sediment and nearly 1.4 million pounds of aluminum into the Potomac River over the last four years.

Yesterday, CBF and the Environmental Integrity Project, on behalf of the Potomac Riverkeeper, filed a notice of intent to sue the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) for the water pollution violations at the Potomac Water Filtration Plant in Seneca, Maryland.

The plant treats drinking water for residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. But it also discharges about eight million gallons of wastewater per day into the Potomac River just upstream from the Great Falls National Park.  The plant’s permit expired 11 years ago, but it continues to release millions of gallons of sediment pollution and aluminum directly into the river instead of treating the waste or disposing of the waste properly offsite.

“The sediment being discharged, in violation of permit limits, is damaging the health of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay,” said Christine Tramontana, CBF Litigation Counsel. “The goal of this action is to push WSSC to upgrade its facility, stop unpermitted discharges, and ensure accurate monitoring."

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We Won't Back Down Over Kent Island Development Project

Four seasonsYou may have heard: the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is being excluded from a charity event because of our stance opposing a giant waterfront development project on Kent Island.

The decision to exclude us from the Chesapeake Bay Run is outrageous and silly, and we are not going to be intimidated. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation continues to stand strong against the proposed 1079-unit Four Seasons project on Kent Island. The project would be one of the largest developments ever proposed in an ecologically sensitive waterfront area of the Bay.

It’s not clear who was responsible for rejecting our involvement in the Chesapeake Bay Run, a 10- kilometer charity running event over the Bay Bridge planned for November 2014.  But apparently a small group of influential people in Queen Anne’s County who support the development took exception with our stance.

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Family of Watermen Launches Aquaculture Business and "The Next Revolution"

Oyster farmers Johnny and Dorsey ShockleyJohnny Shockley’s family has worked the water for generations on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

But Johnny, who is 50, finally gave up dredging for oysters three years ago because the Bay’s shellfish populations had plummeted.  His father, Dorsey,  hung onto the family’s tradition for two more years.  But then he, too, finally stopped harvesting oysters last winter at the age of 72.

Johnny said he did not want his son, Jordan, who is 22, even trying to follow in the family’s line.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a waterman.  It’s a great lifestyle. The problem is that it’s no longer a way to make a good living,” Johnny Shockley said on the docks in Fishing Creek, on the Honga River.  “Looking forward to where the trend was going, by the time he was old enough to get started out, there was to have been nothing left for him.”

But instead of being swept under by the tide of change, the Shockleys learned to ride the tide and profit from it.

Working with his father and son, Johnny Shockley launched an oyster farming business, called the Hooper’s Island Oyster Aquaculture Co.  It grows a fast-growing but sterile version of native Chesapeake oysters in tanks and underwater cages. The family took advantage of a special low-interest state loan program designed to encourage oyster aquaculture.

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Cleaner Air = Cleaner Bay

PLLTN 0028Chesapeake Bay scientists have known for years that air pollution contributes approximately one third of the excess nitrogen pollution plaguing the Bay and its rivers and streams.

That’s because every time a fossil fuel – coal, oil, gasoline, natural gas – is burned, the combustion forms nitrogen oxides that waft into the atmosphere and fall back upon the earth (and water) as nitrogen pollution.

Together with pollution from farm and urban RVRS 0040
runoff, fertilizers, and sewage treatment plant discharges, this excess nitrogen spawns a glut of algae in the Bay and its rivers. These “algal blooms” cloud the water, stunt vital underwater grasses in the Bay, and create dead zones of oxygen-starved water that kill or stress marine life.

But it turns out the reverse is true as well. A university study released this week found that less air pollution seems to result in less nitrogen pollution in Bay waterways.

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Why Do Some Counties Refuse to Follow Pollution Control Law?

STORMWATERsouth river federationLast year, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law requiring the state’s 10 largest municipalities to tackle the only source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay that continues to grow: suburban and urban runoff.

It was good policy and common sense.  And almost all of the counties and Baltimore City complied and created runoff control fees, which are used to build systems that collect and treat this pollution.

But Carroll County did not.

In response, the Maryland Attorney General’s office is now threatening to fine Carroll County up to $10,000 per day for not meeting the requirements of the law, according to a report by the Associated Press and WBAL radio in Baltimore.

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