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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: January 2011


Maryland Farmers Plant Record Amount of Cover Crops in 2010

Maryland farmers planted a record 398,679 acres of cover crops on their farms last fall, exceeding the state’s cover crop goal by 20 percent, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Cover crops are considered one of the best and most cost-effective agricultural conservation practices, also known as best management practices (BMPs). Cover crops help protect the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways by controlling soil erosion and reducing nutrient pollution runoff.

Collectively, the 398,679 acres of cover crops will prevent an estimated 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen and 80,000 pounds of phosphorus from potentially polluting the Bay and its rivers.

“Maryland is committed to achieving our Bay restoration goals by 2020, five years ahead of any other state in the watershed,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “The fact that farmers exceeded their goal and helped us get 60 percent of the way toward our overall two-year goal across all sectors shows that we can reach our early target.”

Farmers plant cover crops in the fall after harvesting their summer crops. Rye, wheat, barley and other cereal grains are planted as cover crops because they grow in cool weather.

Visit the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s website to learn more about cover crops.


Maryland Proposes $25 Million for Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund

Maryland Gov. Martin O. Malley has proposed $25 million in fiscal year 2012 funding for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. The funding would support projects to reduce polluted runoff to the Bay.

The Trust Fund was established in 2007 to provide a dedicated source of funding to accelerate Bay restoration. The Trust Fund focuses on projects that are the most cost-efficient and are targeted to areas where pollution reductions will be the most effective.

The Trust Fund supports critical efforts to significantly improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. Pending legislative approval, the on-the-ground fixes identified for funding in FY 2012 represent nearly a third of the overall annual nitrogen reduction needed from non-point sources.

The funding will support cover crop plantings on farms and tree plantings throughout the state. Additionally, the Trust Fund will direct $6.2 million to local communities to help clean up local streams and rivers.

  • Prince George's County will receive $2.8 million for a large-scale restoration project on the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River.
  • Howard County and the Columbia Association will receive $1.2 million for stormwater retrofits and forest buffer restoration in the Little Patuxent watershed.
  • Baltimore County and the Herring Run Watershed Association will receive $640,000 for stormwater retrofits and forest buffer restoration in Back River.
  • Harford County will receive $500,000 to construct four stormwater management projects in Wheel Creek.
  • Anne Arundel County will receive $463,000 to construct and monitor an innovative sand seepage stream restoration in a Magothy River sub-watershed.
  • The Sassafras River Association will receive $290,000 to install wetlands and pilot poultry manure incorporation within the watershed.
  • The town of Centreville will receive $250,000 to manage stormwater at the local wastewater treatment plant in the Corsica River watershed.

The Trust Fund is funded through motor fuel tax and rental car tax in Maryland. Since 2008, the Trust Fund has allocated $38.4 million for projects that reduce polluted runoff. The 2012 funding is a 25 percent increase over 2011. When fully funded, the Trust Fund should generate $50 million every year.

Visit Maryland DNR's website to learn more about the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.


What is the Chesapeake Bay Commission?

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 John, who asked: “What is the Chesapeake Bay Commission? Who are they and what do they do?”

The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a tri-state legislative body representing Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The commission was created in 1980 as a bi-state commission to help Maryland and Virginia collaborate and cooperate on Chesapeake Bay management. Pennsylvania became a member in 1985, after which time the Commission began advising each state's general assembly on matters deemed to be of Bay-wide concern.

The Commission also serves as the legislative arm of the Chesapeake Bay Program, advising each of the jurisdictions represented by the Bay Program partnership.

Since its establishment, the Commission has worked to promote policy in several areas that are vital to Chesapeake Bay restoration, including nutrient reduction, fisheries management, toxics remediation, pollution prevention, habitat restoration and land management.

The Commission has 21 members from the three states. Among those members are:

  • Five legislators each from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania
  • A cabinet secretary from each state who is directly responsible for managing his state’s natural resources
  • One citizen representative from each state

The chairman position rotates among the three states each calendar year. As of January 2011, Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Brubaker took over as Chairman of the Commission.

One of the Commission's main goals is to make sure that member states' common interests are thoroughly represented in regard to any federal government actions that may affect them. This has become a vital part of the process of developing the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Executive Order strategies.

To learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Commission, check out their About Us page.

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.


Maryland Climate Change Report Outlines Strategies to Combat Sea Level Rise

The Maryland Commission on Climate Change has released a report outlining strategies to reduce the effects of climate change on Maryland’s land, water and people.

The report, called the Phase II Strategy for Reducing Maryland’s Vulnerability to Climate Change: Building Societal, Economic and Ecological Resilience, includes a section devoted to the Chesapeake Bay and aquatic ecosystems. More than 80 experts worked together to develop the strategy.

Maryland state agencies will use the Phase II Strategy along with its companion, the Phase I Strategy for Sea Level Rise and Coastal Storms (2008), to guide and prioritize their policies on adapting to climate change.

With more than 3,000 miles of shoreline, Maryland is the fourth most vulnerable state to climate change and rising sea levels in the nation. Because the Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, the effects of climate change here have implications for similar bays and ecosystems.

The report’s chapter on Bay and Aquatic Ecosystems concludes that climate change will alter the distribution of species and habitats in Maryland, and may in fact worsen conditions that are already putting stress on these species and habitats. Rising temperatures, precipitation shifts and sea level rise are all expected to affect aquatic plants, animals and their habitats.

Climate change is also expected to alter the interactions between humans and the Bay. Fisheries and recreational opportunities may diminish due to sea level rise. Wetlands in the state may become degraded, limiting the protection of sensitive shorelines during storms.

The report offers recommendations for Maryland to reduce current stressors on the Bay and aquatic ecosystems as well as proactive steps to stop future damage. These include increasing monitoring and assessment to guide future decision-making and assessing current management efforts used to protect critical habitats and ecosystem services.

In particular, the report recommends protecting coastal habitats and streamside forest buffers to address land use changes along the state’s waterways.

For more information about the report and the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, visit Maryland’s website.

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