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November 2012
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January 2013

Photo of the Week: Aarons Beach in Winter

IMG_3575Photo by Janice Vogel.

"Aarons Beach near Mathews, Virginia. Taken by my friend Janice Vogel. She lives there and loves it. I've been drawn to it my whole lifethe Bay."

—Thomas Buchanan

Ensure that Janice and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like Aarons Beach. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Photo of the Week: Crab Creek Kayaking

KayakingPhoto by Deb Ament.

A late fall day kayaking up Crab Creek off South River last month.

Ensure that Deb and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary waters like Crab Creek. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Counties Should Support, Not Disparage, Bay Cleanup Blueprint

The following op-ed appeared on Southern Maryland Newspapers Online earlier this month.   

MapAt least seven rural Maryland counties have banded together to step back from local pollution-reduction efforts, and instead focus attention on pollution coming over the Conowingo Dam at the southern end of the Susquehanna River. The St. Mary's County commissioners will soon decide whether to join them.

The coalition's stalling strategy threatens to undermine a solid, science-based plan that is already in place to clean up all the rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. And St. Mary’s County is surrounded by waters designated as impaired by pollution, including the lower Potomac, the lower Patuxent and the Chesapeake Bay.

Experts have known for some time that the Conowingo Dam is losing its ability to trap sediment and phosphorus pollution. Maryland and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are studying possible solutions to restore the capacity.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes Pennsylvania needs to accelerate its efforts to reduce water pollution before it even reaches the Conowingo Dam and that the dam’s owner, Excelon, needs to play a role in finding solutions for the dam’s dwindling capacity.

But Maryland counties should not use this as an excuse to avoid their own cleanup responsibilities, as outlined in the blueprint for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

From our conversations with county leaders throughout Maryland, we know that their concern is the projected cost of implementing the pollution-reduction strategies that will lead to clean water. These concerns are legitimate, but we believe solutions exist, or are on the horizon.

Initial cost estimates were high, but these projections already are dropping in many jurisdictions. For example, a year ago Frederick County estimated it might have to spend as much as $4.3 billion to reduce polluted runoff. An outside expert then estimated $2.3 billion. That number dropped to $1.5 billion when the state provided better information to the county about techniques it would allow. We believe costs could continue to drop significantly there.

The same thing could happen in St. Mary’s through innovation and creative financing, among other strategies.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is actively working with counties to tackle the cost issue, and recently co-hosted, with the Maryland Association of Counties, a day-long seminar on innovative financing opportunities. We are eager to work with county leaders throughout Maryland to advance creative funding solutions.

Finally with respect to cost, counties will not be expected to foot the entire bill. State and federal dollars can help fund pollution reduction activities. CBF and others will advocate for increases.

We ask the new coalition of Maryland counties to join us in these efforts, and also to consider ways it can actively support—rather than disparage—the baywide cleanup blueprint.

Ultimately, that plan is our best hope for cleaning up the Bay that we all depend on, and we will all have a stake in its restoration. If we follow that Blueprint the oysters, crabs and other aquatic life will rebound, our economy will surge, and we will leave clean water for our children and grandchildren.

—Alison Prost 
CBF's Maryland Executive Director

Photo of the Week: Santa Comes to the Bay!

Santa in planeSanta stares down at Tangier Island. Photo courtesy of Kathy Bosin.

Journalist Kathy Bosin took part in the 44th annual Tangier Holly Run earlier this month where "Santa" delivered (via plane--not reindeer) fresh greens and Christmas cheer to the Chesapeake's Tangier Island. Read her story and check out more photos here!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Holiday Giving: There's Still Time!


Are you stumped on what to get some of your hard-to-shop-for friends and family this holiday season? Well look no further...we've got some great ideas that don't require long lines at the mall or shipping, and they help save the Bay! What more could you want!

  1. Browse our 2012 Holiday Catalog.
    From growing 2,500 native oysters or planting five trees, to sending one student on an award-winning CBF field experience, purchasing a gift from our catalog is the best way to give something meaningful to your friends and family this holiday season while also helping to save the Bay.

  2. Give a gift that lasts all year.
    Give someone special a membership to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. With it, they'll receive a subscription to our magazine and discounts to the store, all while supporting our critical work defending the Bay.

Photo by Alex MacLennan/CBF Staff.

Time to Press Forward, Not Back Down

DamnThe below article originally appeared in the Bay Journal News Service earlier this week.

The Susquehanna River and its big dams have been in the news lately. A handful of Maryland county officials would like you to believe the dams are the primary ill of the Chesapeake Bay.

They claim that because sediment reservoirs behind the Conowingo Dam are at capacity, instead of trapping pollutants during storms, the dam now allows two pollutants—phosphorus and sediment—to flow downstream at alarming rates. They argue that years of restoration progress have been erased and that current bay restoration efforts do not address these issues. And finally, these local leaders contend that Maryland's investments in restoring the bay would be "futile" and all of the efforts to help our local waters should now come to a standstill.

Well, as chair of the Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) for the Chesapeake Executive Council, which includes the state governors, Environmental Protection Administration administrator and other senior officials who guide the cleanup effort, I write today with good news—every bit of scientific information available says they are wrong on all counts.

First, they claim 80 percent of the pollution to the bay comes from the Susquehanna River. This figure is not in any of the scientific information I've seen and no expert I've contacted knows where the number comes from.

Second, the nutrients and sediment passing through the Susquehanna's dams, under all conditions, are indeed accounted for in the state-of-the art tools the bay restoration scientists use.

Third, while storms do increase the freshwater and pollutants flowing through the dam, they by no means erase the progress we have made. For example, the large grass bed on the Susquehanna Flats, located right where that river meets the bay, withstood the flow of fresh water and sediment downstream during last fall's storms precisely because we put time and effort into restoring it to health.

And finally, whatever pollutants get past the dam primarily affect the northernmost tidal waters of the bay and its rivers.

So let's talk about things that are true.

The recent introduction of pollution limits in the effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay recognized that we could no longer point our fingers at someone else. We all have to do more to protect our local streams and by doing so, help the Chesapeake Bay. Many Pennsylvania and Maryland localities are already investing wisely in projects to restore their own local waters and send cleaner water downstream.

In Lancaster, Pa., even before the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was established, we changed our thinking and began to put projects in place to stop polluted runoff before it reaches local waters. We are continuing to invest our money in sewage treatment and stormwater infrastructure, using green technologies and following our comprehensive green infrastructure plan.

Meeting our local goals will be costly in the short term, but recent studies done in and on our city actually show a cost savings in the long run. In other words, if we postpone what has to be done, future generations will bear an even greater financial burden. So we are building Lancaster into a more appealing, livable community right now, with more trees, gardens and healthier waters, all of which give us a better chance of attracting new residents and economic growth.

So, why, LGAC members wonder, would any county or city spend their citizens' dollars on lawyers to fight against clean water rather than using that money to improve their communities and their local streams?

Maryland’s county officials should recognize that their counties and towns have the most vital interest in the bay. If they give up their efforts, many in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and other states will use that as an excuse to do nothing. Rather than pulling back or arguing, I would expect Maryland localities to fully appreciate the value of clean local waters and set the example for all of those upstream.

There is so much financial assistance available, so many creative "green" engineering firms at work and so many solid, new ways to manage polluted runoff that we are dumbfounded by the resistance from these local leaders toward cleaner local waters for their communities and the bay. 

To the extent Conowingo Dam is an issue, let's get the right people to the table to talk constructively about the facts and solve the problem. The timing is perfect because the license for that dam is up for renewal.

Enough of creating diversions and pointing fingers to distract from the work that is so sorely needed. It's time to recognize that we are all in this together. It's time, past time in fact, to get busy on the work we were entrusted to do as our communities' leaders.

—J. Richard Gray

J. Richard “Rick” Gray is Mayor of Lancaster, Pa. and the Chair of the Local Government Advisory Committee, an independent group of elected local leaders from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia that advises the Bay Program’s Chesapeake Executive Council. 

Conserving Menhaden Will Restore Jobs, Not Destroy Them

MenhadenfishermenLater this week the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will meet to review public comments and adopt an updated coast-wide management plan for menhaden—an important, ecologically rich fish that has plummeted to record-low numbers in recent years. Some have argued that reducing the catch of menhaden will kill jobs and destroy the fishery, when in fact, quite the opposite is true.

Check out these five, often overlooked facts about how important restoring menhaden is to restoring our economy:

  1. Jobs in the marine fishing industry are based on publicly owned biological resources.  A key function of government is to maintain these resources for maximum public benefit. The latest science tells us that we have fished above the rate that would maximize benefits (overfishing) for 52 of the last 55 years. The Atlantic menhaden population has declined to its lowest point on record.
  2. In 1876, there were 99 menhaden reduction factories up and down the east coast. During World War I there were 18 plants in Reedville, VA, alone. In the late 1990s, when the ASMFC first began debating how to address the decline in menhaden numbers, there were three plants left. The Ampro Fisheries plant in Reedville was closed in 1997 after being bought out by its rival, Zapata Protein (which soon became Omega Protein), reducing the number of plants in Reedville to one. The Beaufort Fisheries plant in North Carolina closed in 2005. There is now only one plant left on the Atlantic Coast.
  3. Failing to take action is not the best prescription for the industry or its workers. Inaction may avoid a handful of job losses in the short term, but at the expense of continued overfishing which will inevitably lead to economic stagnation and possible further declines. Conserving menhaden will restore jobs, not destroy them, and benefit the ecosystem and the economy.
  4. Science and history demonstrate that strong conservation helps troubled fisheries:
    • When Atlantic striped bass stocks fell to historic lows three decades ago, the states imposed strict catch limits under an ASMFC management plan. Stripers rebounded to historic highs and now generate hundreds of millions of dollars in fishing-related revenues and thousands of jobs coastwide.
    • When the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population was down 70 percent five years ago, Virginia and Maryland prescribed science-based catch restrictions. Today, blue crabs are recovering dramatically, providing more crabs and more economic value.
  5. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission adopted a management plan in 2001 with a wide range of objectives for stabilizing and enhancing the menhaden population for both economic prosperity in the fishery and the health of the marine ecosystem. It has spent a dozen years developing and applying the science and management tools for achieving these objectives. The actions now being considered are the result of an extended, methodical, transparent, and scientifically sound deliberative process.

Congrats to CBF's Virginia Volunteers!

Ann Jennings and Jack Bricker2.jpgThe Virginia Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has presented the Chesapeake Bay Foundation with its Earth Team Partner Award. CBF's Virginia Office was cited for its recent work in recruiting and engaging farmers, students, and local volunteers in activities to improve and protect water quality in the Muddy Creek watershed of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

In nominating CBF for the award, NRCS said:

"One of the most effective uses of volunteers in the state of Virginia is by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), a non-profit organization devoted to the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. While their area of interest may seem limited, it is impossible to protect the Bay without protecting its massive watershed. In Virginia, 60 percent of the state's rivers and streams flow into the Chesapeake Bay . . .

"Partnerships with agencies such as NRCS are vital, but the use of volunteers is critical. Their participation in restoration projects such as tree buffer plantings meld well with the mission of NRCS and are beneficial to all. Farmers, most of whom want to be good stewards of the land by fixing eroding stream banks and cattle access to headwaters and streams, typically cannot afford installing a tree buffer without the assistance of the CBF volunteers and conservation agencies. In turn, CBF invites farmers to meet the volunteers working on their land and to plant alongside them. In this way, volunteers are able to put a face on production agriculture and to understand the impact of their conservation assistance.

"As an example, this past year, a team of energetic and hard-working volunteers participated in CBF's tree buffer program at the headwaters of Muddy Creek in Rockingham County. Libby Norris, a Virginia Watershed Restoration Scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, spearheaded and helped coordinate the large-scale community project to create a streamside buffer and install livestock exclusion fencing on the Twin Maples Farm.

"After working with local vendors to purchase trees, tubing, and fencing materials, and install the fencing, she recruited about 70 volunteers to plant trees. Over the course of two weekends in November 2011, volunteers, primarily from James Madison University, planted 1,200 trees on six acres of land. Altogether they helped protect about 3,000 feet of stream. Additionally, a group of the same volunteers returned to dig out patches of thistle and broadcast seed on the banks. The CBF volunteers' labor helped create a natural filter in the headwaters of Muddy Creek. The trees they planted absorb a multitude of nutrients in the buffer before any water runs off the pasture and into the stream.

"One of the many positive outcomes of this project has been the interest generated among other farmers with similar conservation concerns. The success of the Muddy Creek project and the work performed by the volunteers has led to numerous ongoing projects that will ultimately improve the quality of the Chesapeake Bay. CBF and its volunteers are truly making a difference in Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay."

Ann Jennings, CBF Virginia Executive Director, accepted the award from NRCS State Conservationist Jack Bricker Dec. 3 at the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ annual meeting in Roanoke, Va.

—Chuck Epes

Photo: CBF's Ann Jennings with NRCS State Conservationist Jack Bricker. Photo by Pat Paul.

A Make-Or-Break Moment for the "Most Important Fish in the Sea"

The following op-ed appeared on Friday in the Washington Post.

MenhadenCatch_JohnSurrickOne of the smallest fish in the Chesapeake Bay is also one of the most critical. Atlantic menhaden have been called "the most important fish in the sea" because of the vital ecological and economic roles they play in the Bay and along the Atlantic Coast.

Filter feeders, the silvery fish form massive schools that sweep through the water eating microscopic plants, animals, and detritus. Young menhaden are sardine-size, but they can grow into foot-long fish that are bony, oily, and considered quite unpalatable by human tastes.

Other critters love them, however. Menhaden are a major food source for striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder, weakfish, dolphin, whales, and iconic Chesapeake birds such as ospreys, loons, and pelicans. Seventy percent of an adult rockfish's diet typically has been menhaden. If you love angling for stripers or dining on rockfish fillets, you have to love menhaden, the little fish that makes it all possible.

But all is not well. And in Virginia, one peculiar legislative oddity could stand in the way of badly needed action.

For many years, menhaden numbers have been declining dramatically in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic Coast. Today, they're at their lowest levels on record, or about 8 percent of unfished numbers. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which manages the coast-wide menhaden population, has concluded that menhaden have been experiencing overfishing for at least 32 of the past 54 years.

Equally disturbing are scientific reports that osprey in the lower Bay are suffering malnourishment linked to fewer menhaden; similar concerns have been raised about striped bass.

Help for menhaden could be on the way. But two things need to happen first.

First, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which is considering steps to address the menhaden decline, must produce an aggressive action plan. Reducing annual harvests by 25 percent or more, for example, is an essential first step for allowing the population to recover. The commission will release a new conservation plan this month.

Second, East Coast states must implement the plan—including Virginia. If Virginia fails to adopt meaningful catch restrictions, menhaden simply will not recover.

That's because menhaden are the target of an intense, industrial-scale fishery operating in the Chesapeake Bay and off the mid-Atlantic coast by Omega Protein Corp. This "reduction fishery" uses spotter airplanes, mother ships, small boats, and giant nets to catch vast quantities of menhaden and bring them ashore to Reedville, Va. There, they are processed into fish meal and oil for vitamin supplements, cosmetics and animal feed. Eighty percent of all menhaden caught on the East Coast come back to Reedville, making the tiny town one of the nation's largest fish landing ports (by weight) and providing several hundred local jobs. Any conservation plan that doesn't apply to Virginia and the Omega Protein plant will have little effect.

But there's a problem. In Virginia, fisheries decisions are made by the state's Marine Resources Commission—except when they relate to one species. Yes, you guessed it: menhaden, which is instead managed by the 140 members of the General Assembly. This odd arrangement puts politicians, lobbyists and money, rather than scientists, in charge of menhaden. This, it goes without saying, does not bode well for making the tough choices needed now.

To overcome this, it is vital that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) take a leadership role in support of legislation that implements meaningful menhaden conservation. Powerful and successful precedents argue that he do so. Virginia took strong steps in the past to successfully rebuild the striped bass population and to spur the rebound of blue crabs in the Bay. The recovery of these species, and of menhaden, will benefit everyone, including Omega Protein, watermen, anglers and wildlife.

The fate of the "most important fish in the sea" may well depend upon it.

—Chris Moore 
CBF's Hampton Roads Senior Scientist

Learn more about this critical fish on our website here.

Photo by John Surrick/CBF Staff.