Month: February 2014

Chesapeake Stormwater Network’s Homeowner Guide

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This afternoon I’ve been reading about the Chesapeake Stormwater Network and looking over their Homeowner Guide for a More Bay-Friendly Property. The guide goes into projects and practices such as rain gardens, rain barrels, planting trees, rain permeable driveways and conservation landscaping.

Reading for some starter tips on potential spring projects:

Homeowner Guide for a More Bay-Friendly Property

Chesapeake Stormwater Network

Friday News Roundup

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Virginia’s Northern Neck Soil and Water Conservation District briefed on consequences of hydraulic fracking, proposed in the region: (Rappahannock Record).

Secretary of Natural Resources for the Chesapeake Bay Appointed in Virginia: (Bay Journal)

Rally at Cove Point, Maryland to protest export of natural gas: (Baltimore Sun)

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection hears responses to Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement: (PA Environment Digest)

More on Ocean Acidification and the Cheapeake Oyster

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Last week I shared a project on the state of the Eastern oyster, which included a review of restoration efforts in the Chesapeake region and a study on the potential impact of ocean acidification on the oyster population. As I mentioned in this report, acidification has had a major impact on the West Coast oyster industry, but has not yet had much of an effect on the East Coast. It is difficult to predict how the Chesapeake Bay will be affected by acidification, given the unique estuary that the Chesapeake is. The Bay is a mix of freshwater and saltwater, and salinity and depth vary across the estuary. Although many reports on ocean acidification exist, there are very few studies that have been conducted on acidification on coastal systems.

I learned today of a professor who has been studying the issue of acidification, and its effect on species native to the Chesapeake, such as the Eastern oyster and blue crab. Justin Ries works at the Marine Science Center in Northeastern University in Boston, and has been growing oysters and blue crabs in the lab. The organisms have been raised in water with high levels of carbon dioxide, to mimic possible future conditions on the East Coast. The results don’t look so promising for the now growing Chesapeake oyster industry. (See a 2010 Earth Magazine write-up here).

However, as mentioned, there is uncertainty as to the extent acidification will affect the Chesapeake. More studies must be conducted on coastal estuaries to be able to predict future conditions. In the meantime, representatives in the state of Maryland are attempting to bring this issue up for further study, examining the effects of acidification, and possible solutions, to be included in a report by the Maryland Department of Environment next year, (Maryland House Bill 118). Hopefully other states, especially Virginia, will follow suit.

Restoring Wetlands to Act as Carbon Sinks

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Restoring Wetlands to Act as Carbon Sinks

A report released by Restore America’s Estuaries, describes how wetlands can be used as carbon sinks to offset the impacts of climate change. The study focuses on a region on the West Coast, but there is a lot of potential for wetland restoration in the Chesapeake Bay area. The Chesapeake has many wetlands, several of which are in danger of disappearing. Could and should we restore wetlands in the Chesapeake region to act as carbon sinks? Which sites would be suitable for restoration?

The Restore American’s Estuaries Report:

Tunnel Under D.C. Will Reduce Flow of Sewage into Local Waters

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Tunnel Under D.C. Will Reduce Flow of Sewage into Local Waters

The Washington Post covered a story in Sunday’s paper on a solution to sewage overflow into local rivers. Workers are constructing a tunnel under Washington D.C., using a machine, “The Lady Bird,” to take up the soil. The end product will be a 13 mile long sewer tunnel, to prevent the flow of untreated sewage to the Potomac and Anacostia River, and to Rock Creek, which frequently occurs with the overburdened combined sewer system in the District.

This tunnel could do a lot to clean up the local rivers, and reduce the flow of polluted water into the Chesapeake Bay. The Post states that all the soil collected by the Lady Bird will be transported to a dumping site in Maryland. My question however, is what happens to all this excess soil? Is there risk of the soil reentering the watershed through runoff, and how much of a risk could this pose?

A Way to Reduce Nitrogen Runoff from Farms in the Chesapeake Watershed?

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A Way to Reduce Nitrogen Runoff from Farms in the Chesapeake Watershed?

The Bay Journal published an interesting article this week, looking at a way to reduce nitrogen from Maryland farms, using a bioreactor to filter runoff. The method has been used in the Midwest, and is currently being tested in the Chesapeake region.

Update on Virginia Runoff Bill

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Several weeks ago I shared an appeal from the Potomac River Conservancy, asking Virginians to contact their lawmakers about legislation on polluted runoff. Virginia passed stricter regulations for polluted runoff several years ago, but has failed to successfully implement these standards. Recent bills attempted to prolong the delay of stronger runoff regulations, but the bills were overturned in the state House and Senate last week. State localities must abide by the new runoff standards as early as July 1. Good news for Virginia’s waterways and for the Chesapeake!

The Impact of Ocean Acidification on the Eastern Oyster Population in the Chesapeake Bay

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I’m sharing a project I worked on last spring on oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay, and the impact ocean acidification may have on the oyster industry in the coming years. Ocean acidification is caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and affects the ability of organisms, such as oysters, to form shells. Acidification has already caused problems for oyster farmers on the West Coast, and could become an issue in our region.

In this project I examined the decline of the oyster population in the past century, looked at the current restoration effort, and researched the potential effect ocean acidification could have on the eastern oyster. I reviewed literature on the issues, including journals, articles and webpages, and then wrote a short reflection piece. Reviews, comments, questions or critiques are welcome.

In the News

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Anti-sprawl efforts in Maryland help curb nutrient runoff to Chesapeake by limiting the spread of developments with septic systems; Charles County farmers find fault with limitations (Washington Post).

Maryland Director of Natural Resources Secretary’s confirmation held up (Baltimore Sun).

PA Governor Corbett encouraged to include clean water investments in budget plan that will target stormwater runoff  (Public News Service).

Chesapeake Bay cleanup threatened by agricultural lobbyist groups, attorneys general from states outside of Bay watershed over fears that EPA rulings in Bay cleanup efforts could be applied to the Mississippi River Basin and beyond (Washington Post).

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation responded to efforts to derail the Bay clean up (see above link) in a press statement released Tuesday. (CBF Press Statement).

Update on Grasses Restoration Project

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I’m working on two projects dealing with the restoration of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay. The first is the Grasses for the Masses program though the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. I planted celery seeds almost two weeks ago and several small shoots have emerged. I’ll continue growing the grasses until it’s time for planting in May.

View of a celery grass shoot from underwater

The second project involves planting grasses in Antipoison Creek, just off of the Chesapeake Bay. I’ve been talking with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to get this project going. In order to plant grasses I’ll need to get a permit from the NRCS, but research and planning is required before starting the permit process.

I’ve been talking to an expert at VIMS to fully understand the process and methods involved with growing underwater grasses, and figuring out what species of grass to use.

I’m planting celery seeds in Northern Virginia, but when mature, these grasses will be planted on the Potomac River in a region that has lower salinity levels than Antipoison Creek. I’ll work with a species adapted to saltier waters, such as eelgrass or widgeon grass for Antipoison Creek.

Additional questions I have been researching include when to plant, how to plant, where to get seeds or grasses, water depth needed for these plants to survive, and other materials that might be needed for the process. I’m still working on some of these answers, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Eelgrass requires a water depth of about 0.5 to 1.0 meters at mean low water and a tidal range of 80-100 centimeters. This allowed me to determine where to plant off of the shore.
  • There are two main methods for growing underwater grasses: planting seeds and transplanting shoots of grass, each has various sub-methods
  • The optimal planting time for transplants is late September to early October
  • To plant seeds, seeds must be collected from their source in mid-May to early June; planting experiments must be conducted mid-August to mid-October.

I’m still deciding whether to transplant grass shoots or plant seeds, and which specific method to use. I can broadcast seeds by hands, plant seeds via buried burlap bag, transplant bundles of shoots, or transplant single unanchored shoots. Part of this decision will involve figuring out where to get the seeds or grass shoots for planting. I’ll be updating the blog as I learn more.