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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: November 2009


Draft Strategy Shows How Federal Agencies Will Restore, Protect Chesapeake Bay

As part of a draft strategy to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Transportation will accelerate Bay cleanup efforts by meeting two-year milestones that lead to all activities needed to restore the Bay and its rivers being in place no later than 2025.

The draft strategy, part of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order that President Obama signed in May, contains a comprehensive suite of federal initiatives to address the challenges facing the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.

“This is the broadest and most publicly accountable cleanup effort ever seen on the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “It’s time for a new era of decisive federal leadership, and new partnerships with state government, nonprofits, the private sector and residents who have all been working to create a cleaner Bay.”

Collectively, the initiatives support three actions:

  • To restore clean water, the EPA will create a framework for performance and accountability to guide federal and state pollution control programs, and expand regulatory tools to reduce pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and urban and suburban runoff. Additionally, the Department of Agriculture will target voluntary conservation incentives in high-priority areas, while other agencies will work to better manage stormwater on federal land and reduce polluted runoff from roads and highways.
  • A number of federal agencies will conserve treasured places and protect fish, wildlife and their habitats. The Department of the Interior will develop a Chesapeake Treasured Landscapes Initiative to support state and local land conservation, while NOAA and the Army Corps of Engineers will lead a revitalized effort to establish oyster reef sanctuaries.
  • NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey are leading the development of a federal strategy for adapting to climate change in the Bay region. Affects of climate change may include rising sea levels, stronger storms, and warmer water and air temperatures.

To accomplish these actions, federal agencies will work closely with the six Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia.

Another important component of the draft strategy is empowering local restoration efforts. Federal agencies will expand technical assistance and resources, and support development of innovative technologies and economic markets for ecosystem services.

Federal agencies have also developed a suite of accountability and transparency measures led by ChesapeakeStat, a publicly accessible online tool that will identify restoration projects, funding and progress.

The draft strategy also calls for an annual plan for spending; reporting on environmental health and restoration progress; and an independent evaluation of federal efforts.

The public is encouraged to provide feedback on the draft strategy during the public comment period, which runs from now to Jan. 8, 2010. The draft strategy will evolve significantly through public comments, state consultations and agency revisions before the final strategy is published in May 2010.

Download the entire draft strategy or the executive summary at the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order website.


Building a Solid Foundation for Bay Restoration

Greetings from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation and the American Water Research Association conferences in the beautiful Pacific Northwest!

Sometimes you just get lucky and it all just comes together.  Right as we finished a major milestone of completing our initial nutrient target loads and began our watershed plans with those targets, the Bay Program modeling team goes off to two national/international conferences.  In those conferences, the team chaired two sessions, presented eight papers, ran a session synthesis, and sat on a panel session.   What an excellent opportunity to tell the larger research community about the progress we’re making on all fronts in the Chesapeake, as well as the challenges before us.

But while the execution looks smooth and planned, the reality is that when the abstracts were written a year ago for these conferences, we thought we’d be further along in much of our technical analysis.  This isn’t unique to us; it’s by and large the standard operating procedure for all our colleagues in all conferences. 

After all, presenting material at these conferences is a lot like painting the room in a new house.  The presentation, like the painted room, is just the showy surface.  To get to the point where we could add nice shiny paint, some people had to work on the foundation, some erected the framework, while others finished the walls. Finally, like the small visible tip of an iceberg or the fraction of the overall time of working on a house when a room is painted, the presentation is made.

Still, when making these presentations I’m reminded of how far we’ve come as we put together the largest and most complex TMDL ever developed.  And I’m reminded too, as the last presentation is made and we pack up ready for home, of how many people worked to get us this far, and how far we have yet to go together.

About Lewis Linker - Lewis Linker is a modeling coordinator with the U.S. EPA at the Chesapeake Bay Program.


Question of the Week: Is it safe to use an organic fertilizer?

Welcome to this week’s installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week we'll take a question submitted through the Chesapeake Bay Program website and answer it here for all to read.

This week’s question comes from Tom: I recently purchased a house on the Potomac near the Chesapeake Bay and I want to fertilize the lawn this fall.  Is it safe to use an organic fertilizer?

Fertilizing your lawn in the fall rather than in the spring is a great step toward protecting the Bay. Many people believe the spring is the best time to fertilize, but heavy seasonal rainfall can actually wash fertilizers off your lawn and carry them into your local creek or stream. This polluted runoff, which contains nitrogen and phosphorus, fuels the growth of algae in the Chesapeake Bay. Algae blooms are harmful to fish, crabs, oysters and other species that call the Bay home.

Organic fertilizers are a safer choice to use on your lawn because they tend to release nutrients more slowly than regular fertilizers, thus reducing the pollution that could run off your lawn. A variety of organic fertilizers are available, made from all sorts of natural materials. Check out The Organic Gardener for more information.

One of the easiest ways to naturally fertilize your lawn is to recycle your grass clippings and compost the leaves that fall from your trees this time of year.

  • After mowing your lawn, instead of bagging up the clippings, leave them on the grass. The clippings will slowly break down and release up to half of your lawn’s nitrogen needs.
  • In autumn, as leaves cover your yard in a blanket of reds and oranges, consider mulching them with a lawn mower instead of raking and bagging them. Using leaves as a natural mulch for your lawn and garden will not only reduce nutrient pollution from fertilizer, but will cut back on the waste generated from lawn and leaf bags.

Visit our Help the Bay in Your Backyard page for more tips on how to fertilize your lawn for a healthy Bay.

Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose it for our Question of the Week!


14 Places to View the Chesapeake's Wintering Waterfowl

Summer may be over, but there are still a number of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the splendor of the outdoors. In autumn and winter, millions of migratory birds visit the Chesapeake Bay region as they follow the Atlantic Flyway during their seasonal flights.

The Chesapeake, which sits along the Atlantic Flyway, has always been a favored winter residence and stopover for many waterfowl – ducks, geese and swans – on their way to and from their northern breeding grounds. The wetlands, fields, shallows and open waters of the Bay offer a fertile environment for waterfowl to feed and rest.

There are countless great places in the Chesapeake Bay watershed – which stretches from upstate New York to southern Virginia – to catch a glimpse of these beautiful birds on a fall or winter day. From national wildlife refuges (NWR) to state parks and wildlife management areas, the options are plentiful no matter where you live.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the top places to spend a day enjoying the beautiful waterfowl that call the Chesapeake region their winter home.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge – Cambridge, Md.

Located about an hour northwest of Salisbury, Blackwater NWR is one of the premier spots in the Bay region to see wintering waterfowl. Each autumn, thousands of Canada geese flock to the 27,000-acre refuge during their annual migration. Tundra swans, snow geese and a variety of ducks are also abundant at Blackwater.

The refuge is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. There is an entry fee of $3 per vehicle, $1 per pedestrian or bicyclist (those under 16 are free).

Elk Neck State Park – North East, Md.

Elk Neck State Park is situated on the Susquehanna Flats, a unique portion of the Bay that is less than 5 feet deep. In the past, hundreds of thousands of waterfowl used to migrate to this area in massive quantities. While there are fewer birds there these days, the park is still a great spot to watch dabblers like teal and mallards as they feed in the shallow waters of the Flats.

The park is open year-round and cabins are available for rental. On weekdays, the park charges an entry fee of $3 per vehicle; on weekends and holidays, that changes to $3 per person. Out of state residents will have to add $1 to these fees.

Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area – Queenstown, Md.

With 2,800 acres of land maintained specifically to attract waterfowl, this 30-mile-long island is a sure bet for bird-watching. Wander along inlets and beaches to see thousands of ducks, geese and swans, possibly even close enough to appreciate the intricate differences of each species.

The island is open from sunrise to sunset every day of the year with no entry fees.

Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge – Rock Hall, Md.

The 2,285-acre refuge is home to approximately 243 species of birds. Waterfowl include pintails, goldeneyes, ruddy ducks, oldsquaw, canvasbacks and buffleheads. Also found in the area is the tundra swan, which can be seen in groups of as many as one thousand.

The refuge is open from 7:30 a.m. until one half hour after sunset with no entry fees.

Chenango Valley State Park – Chenango Falls, N.Y.

At the end of the last Ice Age, as the last glacier retreated, two masses of ice were left behind and eventually melted, creating the Chenango and Lily lakes in New York. During the migration seasons, birdwatchers can find ducks as well as herons and kingfishers by the lakes. Along the trails, woodpeckers, nut hatches, warblers and thrushes abound.

The park is open year-round for day use, and campsites are available May through October.

Susquehannock State Park – Drumore, Pa.

Susquehannock State Park offers several river overlooks, which give visitors a unique panoramic view of the lower Susquehanna River. With such a major stop on the Atlantic Flyway nearby, the park is a haven for migratory birds on their journeys. Visitors will inevitably see large numbers of Canada geese, mallards, lesser scaup and several other species. The park also has the world’s first bald eagle sanctuary, where two nesting bald eagles have lived for many years. Several other eagles have nested on the island in recent years as well. The eagle sanctuary can be viewed through binoculars or the on-site optical viewer.

Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area – Berkeley Springs, W. Va.

Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area is mostly an oak-hickory forest covering 3,500 acres. While this portion of the Bay watershed is a bit too far west to draw many migratory waterfowl from the Atlantic Flyway, the 205-acre lake does attract limited numbers of ducks and geese. Mallards, Canada geese, wood ducks and several species of diving ducks can been seen on the lake.

Nanticoke Wildlife Area – Woodland, Del.

The Nanticoke Wildlife Area contains 4,415 acres of forests, fields and wetlands bordering the Nanticoke River. Along the river, visitors will be treated to the brilliant fall plumage of the drake wood duck and also be able to see American widgeon, gadwall and American black ducks. A multitude of herons, grebes, songbirds and egrets also inhabit Nanticoke Wildlife Area.

For more information, please contact the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife at (302) 539-3160.

Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge – Warsaw, Va.

Rappahannock River Valley NWR is the newest of four refuges that comprise the Eastern Virginia Rivers National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Established in 1996, the refuge protects 20,000 acres of wetlands and uplands along the river and its major tributaries. The vast stretches of wetlands and river frontage provide habitat for a multitude of species of waterfowl, including black ducks, widgeons, greater scaup, hooded mergansers, canvasbacks and ring-necked ducks.

New Point Comfort Nature Preserve – Mathews, Va.

This 146-acre preserve on a peninsula in the Chesapeake Bay has three major natural habits: a tidal salt marsh, a maritime forest and a sandy beach. There is a boardwalk and observation deck over the salt marsh that offers great views of the habitat and wildlife, as well as a roadside between the forest and the marsh where you have a great opportunity to view waterfowl during spring and fall migrations. Shorebirds take their places in the tidal lagoons, while land birds roam the forested areas. Neo-tropical songbirds and other migratory birds are frequently seen here as they travel along the Atlantic Flyway.

The preserve is open daily from dawn ‘til dusk.

Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve – Mathews, Va.

This salt marsh habitat separates the eastern side of Winter Harbor from the Chesapeake Bay. The habitat is constantly changing due to wind and water that move the sand on the narrow beach, but this doesn’t change how many species of birds and waterfowl are found. Bethel Beach boasts more than 185 species of birds, including 25 species of shorebirds.

Kiptopeke State Park – Cape Charles, Va.

Just a few miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Kiptopeke State Park is a 500-acre refuge for viewing fall migrations. The park includes a songbird banding station so that visitors of the park can view up-close songbirds like warblers and ovenbirds. There’s also a hawk-trapping station with species including sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper’s hawk, peregrine falcons and merlin. The nearby Eastern Shore of Virginia Wildlife Refuge has a migration display that’s also worth checking out.

The park is open year-round with a $3 entry fee Monday through Friday and $4 on weekends and holidays.

Grandview Nature Preserve – Hampton, Va.

This 500-acre preserve, with its wooded trails and shoreline along the Chesapeake Bay, is very appealing to migrating and wintering birds. Beginning in October, wintering waterfowl such as eiders, scoters and open-water ducks come along. The preserve is open to walkers and bikers.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel – Virginia Beach, Va.

For a different experience, you can observe waterfowl from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s four man-made islands. The man-made habitats are located in open waters, providing an inviting resting point for many migrating birds. Frequent avian visitors include northern gannet, pelican, brant, king eider, harlequin duck, red-breasted merganser, peregrine falcon, American oystercatcher, little gull and black-tailed gull.

For another list of great waterfowl-related places to visit around the Bay, check out the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network's compilation of waterfowling driving tours.

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