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I'll Get You My Pretty, And Your Little Fish, Too!

Editorial cartoon

Gary Brookins at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has another winner!

With the Green Fund coming up in the Maryland General Assembly special session next week it could just as easily be Maryland afloat.

Right now, legislators have an opportunity to support the Green Fund for clean streams and a healthy Bay. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of support for it: from environmentalists and watermen to homebuilders, community leaders, and health-care professionals; in fact, 63 percent of Marylanders are willing to pay a $20 annual fee to fund Bay clean-up programs.

It’s a rare moment when opportunity, consensus, and a solution all align at the same time. And we must take advantage of this moment.

As for Virginia, the Commonwealth has made great strides in recent years in funding upgrades to sewage treatment plants. Now the big challenge is reducing runoff pollution, especially from farms. CBF and a coalition of agricultural and conservation groups are calling upon Governor Tim Kaine and the Virginia General Assembly to include $100 million annually for 10 years in the state budget to fund programs that help Virginia farmers reduce runoff. The funding would come from 1/10th of one cent of the current sales tax. If fully funded, the programs could cut 60% of the nitrogen runoff—nearly 12 million pounds a year—needed to meet Bay cleanup goals. This is a huge opportunity to fix one of the biggest pollution problems plaguing Virginia rivers and the Bay.

What do you think? Should cleaning up the Bay be a funding priority?

Technology Will Save the Bay

Nctc I thought the West Virginia woods would be the least likely place to inspire high-tech communications plans. I was wrong. In fact, it’s because I was in the woods that I’m writing this blog entry and committed to experimenting with ways to reach out to CBF members and partners in a more technologically advanced way.

I went to West Virginia to attend the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s 2nd Annual Watershed Forum. It was a weekend of networking & workshops dedicated to restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Even though we were in the woods with no cell phone reception, my take home message is that technology is where it’s at. Technology will Save the Bay. I’m not talking fancy monitoring equipment or a new device that erases our pollution—wouldn’t that be nice! I’m talking social networking, online communication, instant access to information & resources…all of this enables people to connect more quickly and strategically to the solutions that will, in fact, Save the Bay.

I have to be honest. I have a hard time with online technology. I think I’m the only 20-something who doesn’t have a MySpace page or doesn’t love text messaging. I like looking someone in the eye and having a conversation. But after listening to Marty Kearns from Green Media Toolshed, I’ve got to get my act together.

There are so many technological tools at our fingertips to enhance this movement to Save the Bay. Here in CBF’s Virginia office we are going to start an online network for our "Grasses for the Masses" volunteers so they can not only communicate with our Grassroots Coordinator, Jessica, but also communicate with each other. That’s one tiny step, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Emily Francis is Outreach & Advocacy Manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Virginia Office.

I Can See Clearly Now...But What About Tomorrow?

Mra_wadeinThis weekend I went to the Magothy River Association's (MRA) annual "Magothy River Celebration" and wade-in. It was my first wade-in, and not owning a pair of white sneakers I kept a keen eye on my toes. I was pleasantly surprised when we progressed beyond the MRA-planted SAV bed before our feet disappeared from view. The official measurement: water clarity to a depth of 39 inches--up three inches from last year.

The SAV bed didn't have any effect on the water clarity, as the wild celery season is past. The most significant impact has likely been this summer's drought, lessening the amount of runoff and sediment into the river.

Two years ago, however, the difference in water clarity by the grass beds "was amazing!" Claudia Donegan, team coordinator for DNR's Lower Western Shore Tributaries Team, told me. She came out to take the official measurements. At that time, MRA had planted redhead grasses near Little Dobbins Island.

"The plants slow down the velocity of the water and the sediment drops out, making it clearer," she explained.

The MRA is also active in another water quality effort--restocking the Magothy with oysters. This month's Bay Journal carries a story about CBF's aquaculture efforts on the York River. While the article focuses on the potential for aquaculture to help Virginia's trouble oyster industry, back here we were talking about cleaning up the river. According to Dick Carey, who coordinates the organization's oyster restoration efforts, we need at least 125 acres of oyster beds to clean the Magothy; there are currently about 10. Planting a maximum two million spat per acre, that means we need 125 million healthy, reproducing oysters! Not only that, with a 50% mortality rate, we need to plant twice that amount to have a chance at success.

The widespread improvement of water clarity following a short-lived influx of dark false mussels in 2004 shows the significant impact these mollusks can have on our waters. But it's clear (no pun intended) that it will take strong leadership and commitment if it's ever to become a reality.

(Kim Ethridge is a CBF staff member and a member of the Magothy River Association)