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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: November 2010


Intersex Fish Found in Susquehanna River, Delmarva Lakes

“Intersex” fish – male fish with female traits – are showing up in more Chesapeake Bay region waterways. Government and university scientists have recently collected intersex smallmouth and largemouth bass from several waterways in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.

More than 90 percent of adult male smallmouth bass collected during studies on the Susquehanna River this year contained immature egg cells, according to a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Susquehanna is the second major Chesapeake Bay river where scientists have found intersex fish. The Potomac River, as well as the Shenandoah and Monocacy rivers, have documented cases of intersex fish.

Intersex fish have recently been discovered in lakes and ponds on the Delmarva Peninsula as well. Researchers with the University of Maryland sampled six lakes and ponds in Maryland and Delaware and found intersex fish in all of the tested water bodies.

Scientists believe that male fish may develop these female trails through exposure to hormone-mimicking chemicals in the water. More research is needed, but these chemicals may come from agricultural pesticides, poultry waste, human personal care products or pharmaceuticals.

For more details about intersex fish in the Susquehanna River, read this Nov. 2 Baltimore Sun article. For more information about intersex fish found on Delmarva, read this Nov. 11 Baltimore Sun article.


State of the Nation's River Report Highlights Changes in Forests, Farms

The Potomac Conservancy has released its fourth annual State of the Nation’s River report, naming development a primary source of stress on farms, forests and the health of the water in the Potomac River region.

The report highlights changes in the way land is being used in the Potomac River region. Forests and working farmland, both economically and ecologically valuable features, are being lost as the area continues to grow. This ultimately affects the health of the river, which is a source of drinking water for Washington, D.C., and other communities.

The report also explores the potential of “green infrastructure” as a way to accommodate growth while also supporting the health of the river and the environment.

“We invest so much in our man-made infrastructure, like roads … Our green infrastructure deserves the same investment,” said Aimee Weldon, Potomac Conservancy’s senior director of restoration and land, about the need for a new system of connected forests, farms and river. “That investment in natural networks of connected lands will strongly support wildlife and provide benefits to human populations.”

The report illustrates many examples of good and bad land use practices in the Potomac region. One recent example took place in Loudoun County, Virginia, where more than 450 trees along 1.5 miles of the river were cut down to clear a view. According to the Potomac Conservancy, this action was legal under county rules, showing that codes and ordinances need to be updated to reflect the current nature of development.

“Through sufficient funding and thoughtful codes and ordinances, county, state and federal agencies can work with local partners and communities to build a strong network of lands and streams, which will maximize and protect public and private investments in land conservation and restoration,” said Hedrick Belin, president of the Potomac Conservancy.

A companion document, called the 2010 Potomac Agenda, recommends several actions to preserve forests and better manage farmland:

  •     Protecting forests so there is no net loss
  •     Placing land under conservation easements to protect it from development
  •     Expanding farmland conservation plans to help farmers determine which conservation practices best fit their farm and optimize the land’s value
  •     Reducing polluted runoff to a level that local streams can handle without becoming impaired
  •     Improving state and federal inspections and compliance on factory farms
  •     Funding the Farm Bill to support farmers as they are expected to do more
  •     Researching the human health effects of pesticides, insecticides and antibiotics used on farms
  •     Providing incentives to small lot forests land owners to increase and enhance their land
  •     Promote green infrastructure and wise land management throughout the Potomac River watershed

For more information about the State of the Nation's River, visit the Potomac Conservancy's website.


What invasive species are in the Bay and how did they get there?

Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.

This week’s question came from Katherine, who asked, “What invasive plants and animals exist in the Chesapeake Bay and how were they introduced?

Invasive species are animals and plants that are not native to a certain area and harm the ecosystem they invade. There are as many as 200 invasive species present in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that are causing some serious issues in an already-stressed ecosystem.

Invasive species can be introduced in many ways. Some travel accidentally through human trade and tourism, while others are deliberately introduced.

Six invasive species that live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are mute swans, nutria, phragmites, purple loosestrife, water chestnut and zebra mussels.

Mute swans were introduced into North America in the late 1800s, mainly for the purpose of “decorations” for zoos, parks and private estates. The Chesapeake Bay region’s mute swan population formed when five swans escaped from an estate in Talbot County, Maryland, in 1962. By 1999, an estimated 4,500 mute swans were living in Maryland and Virginia.

Nutria were introduced to Maryland in 1943 to establish an experimental fur station at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, but it proved to be unprofitable. The rest of the nutria from the project were released or escaped, leading to an overwhelming population of the marsh-dwelling rodents at the beginning of the 21st century.

Phragmites is thought to have been introduced from Eurasia in the 19th century by way of dry ballast from ships. Today it dominates many mid-Atlantic marshes.

Purple loosestrife was introduced to the U.S. from Eurasia in the early 1800s for ornamental and medicinal purposes, as well as via dry ballast dumped by foreign ships. It spread through inland canals, increased development, the sale of the plant for use in gardens and seed generation for bee forage.

Water chestnut was first found in the U.S. in 1859 in Massachusetts, but has since spread to other locations in the northeast. It is believed that water chestnut was introduced as an ornamental plant in ponds and spread from there. It was found in Baltimore County, Md., in 1955 and has gone through several cycles of eradication and reappearing since that time. 

Like phragmites, zebra mussels were introduced to the United States via ballast water from European ships traveling from the Caspian and Black seas. The freshwater mussels were spotted in the Great Lakes in 1988 and have since spread to many other water bodies throughout the United States, including the Susquehanna River.

Come back next week to find out about the damage invasive species are causing and what is being done to solve it!

Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events.

Image: The invasive plant phragmites dominates many marshes in the mid-Atlantic region. 


$3.4 Million Awarded to 34 Local Restoration Projects Throughout Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Thirty-four environmental projects in all six Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia have been awarded more than $3.4 million to help reduce pollution to local streams, creeks and rivers and the Bay.

The funding for the projects was awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations and local governments working to improve the condition of their local watershed.

The 2010 grant recipients will develop conservation plans in both urban and rural settings, preserve valuable natural lands and implement on-the-ground and in-the-water restoration practices throughout the Bay watershed. Many of the projects will use social media campaigns to fully engage their local community in restoration and conservation efforts.

“Clean water is important to every community, so it’s vital that these projects will occur in all six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the District of Columbia,” said Shawn Garvin, regional administrator for U.S. EPA Region 3.

Some examples of the types of projects funded include:

    Large-scale installations of rain gardens and rain barrels
    Stormwater retrofits and green building designs at schools and urban buildings
    An “Extreme Stream Makeover” restoration project
    A social and educational outreach program to educate citizens about conservation easements
    Efforts to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from farms into local streams

The 2010 Small Watershed Grants were announced at Dundalk Veterans Park near Baltimore, Md. The announcement event highlighted the “Trees for Neighborhoods” initiative led by the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management. Baltimore County is using its $50,000 grant to educate homeowners about the benefits of planting trees as a way to reduce polluted runoff.

“From planting more trees in urban areas to improving wildlife habitat and minimizing stormwater runoff, these grants result in partnerships that help restore and protect the Bay,” said Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Since 2000, more than $27 million in Small Watershed Grants has supported 626 projects around the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These projects have leveraged close to $90 million in local matching funds for a total on-the-ground restoration investment of more than $115 million.

The Small Watershed Grants program is funded primarily by the U.S. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program with additional support in 2010 from the U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the District of Columbia Department of the Environment, Altria and FedEx. The grants are administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

”This program is an example of a truly effective public-private partnership that delivers funding to high-impact, on-the-ground restoration projects in communities throughout the region,” said Amanda Bassow, acting director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Eastern Partnership Office.

Visit www.nfwf.org/chesapeake for more information about the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program and a full list of this year’s grant recipients.

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