I couldn’t pass up the recent chance to join colleagues from the Chesapeake Bay Program for a short road trip to witness the art of the possible.
Just down the road from Fort Meade in Maryland is an office building that is incorporating the latest in green construction techniques.
It’s called the EnviroCenter, and for good reason. It’s a showcase for ways to protect the environment by harnessing nature – from drawing the energy of the sun to reusing the rain from a storm.
The first clue that innovation was afoot at this converted 1905 farmhouse was the lack of puddles as we pulled into the driveway on a miserably rainy day. A downspout from its green roof was feeding stormwater directly into a lineup of storage containers, and rain was being sucked up by the property’s absorbent surfaces.
With expansion plans in the works that will add a range of new environmental features, the EnviroCenter will even be able to capture stormwater gushing down the highway in front of the building – doing more than its share to corral one of the biggest nemeses of the Chesapeake Bay.
Stormwater carries pollutants and dirt from hard surfaces directly into streams and rivers, fouling the water and the habitat needed by fish and other Bay-dwellers.
The Bay Program is about to launch something called the “No Runoff Challenge” to promote no stormwater runoff from properties. The EnviroCenter is expected to do it one better and actually achieve negative runoff.
Stan Sersen, architect and owner of the EnviroCenter, gave us gawkers a tour of the facility, highlighting the practice-what-we-preach aspects of the construction. He also showed us plans for an attached 7,000-square-foot greenhouse that will allow office tenants to grow their own organic fruits and veggies.
If you have the time, check out the EnviroCenter and its non-profit Green Building Institute to learn about sustainable building practices.
Watermen in Maryland and Virginia caught fewer of the Bay’s female blue crabs in 2008, achieving the targeted reduction of 34 percent set by the governors of the two states last spring, according to preliminary harvest data released by both states.
Virginia officials announced last month that the state’s watermen hauled in 9.4 million pounds of female crabs from the Bay -- a 37 percent decline from the average catch in 2004-2007. The total blue crab harvest fell by 29.5 percent in the Virginia portion of the Bay.
In Maryland, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Service said an estimated 8.5 to 10.5 million pounds of female crabs were landed in 2008. This was a reduction of 28 to 36 percent from the average catch of the previous three years. (The Maryland figures are presented as a range because of discrepancies between 2008 harvest reports and concurrent, independent surveys by DNR.)
Prior to new, Bay-wide regulations put in place last spring by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the female crab harvest in the Maryland portion of the Bay was projected to be 13 million pounds, according to Tom O’Connell, director of DNR’s Fisheries Service.
“Our estimates show a significant reduction in the number of female crabs taken in 2008,” said O’Connell.
While annual harvest numbers are an important tool, the most reliable measure of the health of the Bay’s blue crab population is the annual Bay-wide winter dredge survey, which is currently underway. Scientists will use data from the 2009 winter dredge as the basis for potential management actions in the future.
Harvest restrictions will remain in effect in both states when the 2009 crabbing season begins this spring. In Virginia, watermen will be required to set 15 percent fewer crab pots than last year, while in Maryland, officials will address unused crab licenses that have the potential to re-enter the fishery.
Read more about Maryland’s blue crab harvest data and methodology at DNR’s website.
The state of Maryland has preserved nearly 4,500 acres of land in Cecil, Charles and St. Mary’s counties, including 20 miles of Potomac River shoreline that was once explored by Captain John Smith.
The state’s land investment protects a diverse array of natural areas, including forests and wetlands that filter out pollutants and protect clean water in the Bay and its rivers. Maryland plans to use the land as wildlife habitat and public access points for boating, hiking, hunting and other recreational activities.
The preserved land, called the Maryland Province Property, is comprised of four separate parcels: Old Bohemia in Cecil County, Cedar Point in Charles County, and St. Inigoes and New Towne Neck in St. Mary’s County.
In addition to their significance to protecting the Bay, the preserved lands are tied to some of the earliest settlers in Maryland. Old Bohemia was part of the first Catholic settlement in the state, and St. Inigoes was originally acquired in 1634 from King Charles I of England.
Captain John Smith mapped several parts of land along the Potomac River during his 1607-1609 exploratory voyages of the Chesapeake Bay, according to the Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail. Cedar Point, St. Inigoes and New Towne Neck will offer access points to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail, the nation’s first national historic water trail.
For photos and additional information about the protected lands, view this presentation from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.