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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: December 2010


EPA Establishes Chesapeake Bay "Pollution Diet"

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a final “pollution diet” to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its streams, creeks and rivers.

The pollution diet, formally called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), spells out the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that needs to be reduced to bring the Bay back to health. The TMDL calls for a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen, 24 percent reduction in phosphorus and 20 percent reduction in sediment.

The TMDL is driven primarily by detailed plans created by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia to put all needed pollution controls in place by 2025, with at least 60 percent of the actions completed by 2017. Additionally, the EPA involved stakeholder groups and the public in TMDL development during the past two years.

“In the past two years we have made huge strides that will yield real results for millions of people who rely on the Bay for their livelihood and way of life,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Now we begin the hard work of implementing this pollution diet and building on the last two years.”

The EPA worked closely with the seven Bay jurisdictions during the past several months to address deficiencies in their draft plans. The final plans were improved enough that the EPA was able to reduce and remove most “backstops” that were in the draft TMDL.

Significant improvements in jurisdiction plans include:

  • Committing to more stringent nitrogen and phosphorus limits at wastewater treatment plants, including on the James River in Virginia (Virginia, New York, Delaware)
  • Pursuing state legislation to fund wastewater treatment plant upgrades, urban stormwater management and agricultural programs (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia)
  • Implementing a progressive stormwater permit to reduce pollution (District of Columbia)
  • Dramatically increasing enforcement and compliance of state requirements for agriculture (Pennsylvania)
  • Committing state funding to develop and implement state-of-the-art-technologies for converting animal manure to energy for farms (Pennsylvania)
  • Considering implementation of mandatory programs for agriculture by 2013 if pollution reductions fall behind schedule (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New York)

The final TMDL still includes some backstops for jurisdictions that did not meet the EPA’s expectations or their pollution allocations. These include the wastewater sector in New York, the urban stormwater sector in Pennsylvania and the agriculture sector in West Virginia. Additionally, the EPA will keep a close eye on Pennsylvania agriculture, Virginia and West Virginia urban stormwater, and Pennsylvania and West Virginia wastewater.

The EPA will regularly oversee each of the jurisdictions’ programs to make sure they implement pollution control plans and remain on schedule for meeting goals and milestones. Each jurisdiction will be accountable for results along the way.

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL was prompted by insufficient progress in restoring the Bay, despite extensive restoration efforts that have taken place during the past 25 years. The TMDL is required under federal law and responds to consent decrees in Virginia and the District of Columbia dating back to the late 1990s.

The full TMDL, as well as evaluations of the state plans and EPA backstops and contingencies, can be found on EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL website.


Bay Health Improves, but Still in Critical Condition, According to Report

The Chesapeake Bay’s health has improved slightly over the past two years, but the ecosystem remains out of balance, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s 2010 State of the Bay report.

The Bay’s overall health ranks 31 out of 100 on the Foundation’s numeric health index, a three point improvement from 2008. On the health index scale, 40 represents “improving,” 50 represents “stable,” and 70 represents a “saved” Chesapeake Bay. A score of 100 represents the pristine conditions of the 1600s when Captain John Smith explored the Bay.

“The Bay is a system that is starting to get better,” said Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Although this is a “huge development,” according to Baker, “the gains that have been achieved are fragile.”

The overall score is derived from 13 individual scores for indicators on pollution, habitat and fisheries. Eight of the 13 indicators improved in 2010, while two scores decreased.

  • Blue crabs showed the largest increase, improving 15 points to a score of 50 after the crab population more than doubled between 2008 and 2010.
  • Bay grasses continue to show slow, steady improvement, mostly due to flourishing grass beds in the upper Chesapeake Bay. The score increased two points to 22.
  • Despite slight improvements in some areas, nitrogen pollution, dissolved oxygen, water clarity, oysters and shad all received failing grades.

To help continue upward progress on restoring the Bay, the Foundation urges the government to enforce pollution laws and people to tell their elected officials that saving the Bay will help the region’s economy.

Visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s website to read the entire 2010 State of the Bay report.

Keywords: report card

Photo Tour: Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary and Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Upper Marlboro, Maryland

I gotta say… December 3 was not the nicest day ever to go out and shoot some pics, but it was well worth it anyway. Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Upper Marlboro, Md., was our first destination.

Here is a slideshow of the day, it features photos contributed by both Alicia and myself.

What’s great about Merkle is that it is huge and has plenty of trails to explore. It is perfect for hikers, bikers, and photographers. Many of the trails lead right out to the Patuxent River (which I unfortunately got too close to and stepped in within our first hour of walking).

Unfortunately, we missed the fall foliage by just a couple weeks, but we did have a chance to see some awesome sights. The clouds were abundant at sunrise and it made for some very interesting light. My coworker Alicia and I were overwhelmed by the amount of Canada geese. We captured some photos to illustrate exactly how many we saw (you can see them in the slide show above).

It was kind of crazy when we saw two white-tailed deer appear from the woods and run through a huge flock of these geese. All of a sudden, hundreds and hundreds of geese burst into flight going every which way. This made for some cool shots when mixed with the emerging sun.

After a few hours of exploration, the cold won out and we decided to work our way back to the heated car. Unfortunately, the Visitors’ Center was closed but some nice lady working there let me at least come in and run my shoes and socks under the hand dryer for a few minutes. Then it was on to the next destination, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, just northeast of Merkle.

I’m gonna guess that Jug Bay is pretty awesome in late fall or early spring, unfortunately we missed both those time periods. This is one place that I will definitely put on my list to check out when the leaves come back. Jug Bay, like many of the Chesapeake Bay Gateway sites, is a perfect way to escape the crazy, hectic, complex lifestyle and get back to appreciating things for their simplicity and natural beauty.

I would highly recommend visiting either of these locations for a number of reasons. Visits to places like Merkle and Jug Bay get you outdoors and experiencing all that the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries have to offer. After all, how are we going to start protecting and restoring the Bay the way we should until we start understanding and appreciating all that it offers?

Matt Rath's avatar
About Matt Rath - Matt was the multimedia specialist for the Bay Program.

Keywords: wildlife, photography

Do female striped bass feed while spawning?

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 Larry, who asked, “Do female striped bass feed while spawning?”

This question has an interesting -- but brief -- answer. In May 2006 the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control published research on striped bass food habits. Through a method called gastric lavage, the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife determined that female striped bass seem to eat very little just before spawning. Even the largest female striped bass ever caught during their spawning stock sampling (pictured in the link above) had an empty stomach when studied. This seems to be a trend for most striped bass during the spawning season.

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.

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