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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: April 2011

Apr
29
2011

Ten Maryland towns receive more than $230,000 to expand green infrastructure

Ten Maryland communities have been awarded a total of more than $230,000 to design “green streets” that will reduce polluted stormwater runoff to the Chesapeake Bay and local rivers while creating green jobs in urban areas.

Baltimore City, Bladensburg, Capitol Heights, College Park, Colmar Manor, Cottage City, Edmonston, Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, University Park each received grants of $25,000-$35,000 to plan and design “green streets” in their communities.

A “green street” is a street that:

  • Minimizes impact through an approach that incorporates water quality, energy-efficiency and other environmental best practices
  • Integrates a stormwater management system that increase infiltration and/or reduces flow
  • Reduces the amount of water that is piped directly into streams
  • Makes the best use of the street tree canopy to intercept stormwater, control temperatures and improve air quality
  • Encourages pedestrian and/or bicycle access
  • Provides an aesthetic advantage to a community

Communities can save $27 for every $1 invested in green infrastructure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Green Streets-Green Jobs Initiative grants are funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. For more information, visit the Trust's website.



Apr
27
2011

Chesapeake Bay health receives C-minus on latest report card

The Chesapeake Bay has received a C-minus on the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s (UMCES) 2010 Bay Health Report Card. The 2010 grade is a 4 percent decrease from 2009, when the Bay’s health received a C.

Higher rainfall – which led to increased stormwater runoff from the land – drove down scores for water quality and biological heath indicators. Researchers believe that two closely timed, large-scale weather events in winter 2010 played a role in the decrease.

The Bay’s health is affected by many factors, including human activities and natural variations in rainfall, which is the major driver of runoff from farms, cities and suburbs. Even as pollution is reduced, higher rainfall and associated runoff can mask the effects of these improvements.

“One of the main drivers of annual conditions in Chesapeake Bay is river flow related to weather patterns,” said UMCES-EcoCheck scientist Dr. Heath Kelsey. “While efforts to reduce pollution have been stepped up in recent years, nature overwhelmed those measures in 2010 and temporarily set the Bay back a bit.”

The declines are the first observed since 2003 and are on par with conditions observed in 2007. Annual weather-related variability in scores, even as more pollution-reduction measures are put into place, is to be expected in a highly complex ecosystem like the Bay, according to Dr. Kelsey.

Overall, the Lower Bay’s health score stayed relatively steady from 2009, while the Mid- and Upper Bay regions declined slightly. Results were fairly consistent in that declines were seen in most indicators.

  • Grades improved in just two reporting regions: Virginia’s James and York Rivers.
  • Scores declined in nine regions: Lower Eastern Shore (Tangier Sound), Maryland’s Lower Western Shore, Mid Bay, Patapsco & Back Rivers, Potomac River, Rappahannock River, Upper Bay, Upper Eastern Shore and Upper Western Shore regions.
  • For the first time since 1996, two regions scored an F: the Patapsco and Back Rivers and Lower Western Shore (Maryland) regions.

The report card, based on data collected by state and federal agencies through the Chesapeake Bay Program, provides an independent analysis of Chesapeake Bay ecosystem health. It is expected that Bay Health Index scores will increase over time, as restoration and pollutant reduction activities are increased.

The report card analysis is conducted through the EcoCheck partnership between UMCES and the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. In addition to the Bay-wide reportcard, UMCES works with local watershed organizations to develop river-specific report cards to give residents a creek-by-creek look at their local waters.

For more information about the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Health Report Card, including region-specific data, visit the Chesapeake EcoCheck website.



Apr
26
2011

What flows into storm drains?

We've been getting a lot of rain in the Chesapeake Bay region this spring. One day after a rain storm a few weeks ago, we decided to go around the neighborhood to see what trash we could find on the street.

After an hour, we had picked up about half a garbage bag full of trash. Our route along an Annapolis street led us to a storm drain that was located directly above a small creek. All of the trash we picked up that day would eventually have gone into the storm drain and then into the creek it flows to. How? Rain!

Rain picks up trash and other pollutants and washes them into storm drains, which flow to our local streams, creeks and rivers. And our local waterways flow to the Chesapeake Bay. This is why you should always pick up your trash!

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Apr
25
2011

Watermen Remove 10,000 "Ghost Pots" from Chesapeake Bay and Rivers

Waterman hauled up more than 10,000 derelict “ghost pots,” lost fishing nets and other assorted metal from the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers this winter as part of Virginia’s Marine Debris Removal Program.

In total, more than 28,000 ghost pots – abandoned crab pots that litter the Bay’s bottom – have been removed over the past three years. Watermen removed more marine debris this year than in either of the last two years.

Ghost pots inadvertently trap and kill crabs, fish and other wildlife. Scientists have determined that each functional ghost pot can capture about 50 crabs a year. Ongoing research suggests 20 percent of all the crab pots set in a year are lost, primarily due to storms or boat propellers.

This year, a total of 9,970 ghost pots were recovered. In addition, 52 lost nets and 532 other pieces of junk were hauled up, including a jon boat, a portable generator frame and a large metal crate used to transport hunting dogs.

The recovered crab pots were found to have captured more than 11,000 animals, including thousands of crabs, as well as turtles, fish, eels and whelks. More than 27,000 animals, many already dead, have been found in ghost pots retrieved since 2008.

The removal program, funded by NOAA through the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and administered by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), pays out-of-work watermen to use side-imaging sonar units to detect and retrieve ghost pots and other marine debris. It is the first and largest program of its kind in the United States.

For more information about the Marine Debris Removal Program, visit VIMS' website.



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