Sky-Watch August – The Great Solar Eclipse of 2017 is Almost Here! Monday Afternoon, Aug. 21, 1-4 pm

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Monday afternoon, right here in Maryland, weather permitting, you can see the Great Solar Eclipse of 2017, though it won’t be completely total here. In Maryland, it will be about 83% but still it should be a fantastic sight. The eclipse runs from about 1:18 pm until 4:00 pm.  The peak of the eclipse will be at about 2:43 pm. Remember not to look directly at the sun unless you have purchased special sun-viewing glasses, ordinary sunglasses aren’t enough to prevent eye damage.  After 4:00 pm, the eclipse will be over.  Don’t miss it!

The first total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States in 99 years will occur (August 21st, Monday).  Though only about 5% of the surface area of the United States falls along the path of totality (the line of the Moon’s shadow), millions of us will gather along that path to witness one of God’s greatest wonders.  My wife and I and two college friends have planned to meet in Tennessee along that path to see it, and each other.

What happens for a solar eclipse, is that the Moon passes directly in front of our Sun and blocks all of its light for a period of from one to seven minutes.  The August 21st eclipse will have a totality period of 2 minutes and 41 seconds maximum.  The reason for the short length of totalities is the fact that the Moon is small and casts a small shadow (only about 165 miles in diameter).  The reason we do not have eclipses every month is that the Moon orbits us in a path that varies by about 5 degrees to the Earth/Sun line (our orbit around the Sun).  The geometries of all these motions establish “eclipse seasons” which are six months apart, and which drift 11 days earlier each year.  Another pattern involving eclipses is the Saros, which even ancient Greeks and Babylonians noted.  Exact eclipse conditions repeat after 18 years and 11 days.  One particularly long eclipse of nearly seven minutes in Baja California on July 11, 1991, was followed by another 6 1/2 minute totality eclipse on July 22, 2009.

There will be no eclipses at all in 2018, one in Chile and Argentina in 2019 and again in 2020.  In 2021 Antarctica will see one; 2022 has none at all, and in 2023 an eclipse of only one-minute totality hits a remote region of Mexico.  But on April 8, 2024, an eclipse of 4 minutes totality will pass over several large cities in the USA, starting in Texas and going northeast over Cleveland, Buffalo, Syracuse, New York, and Burlington, Vermont.

For those of us who stay in Maryland, the eclipse will still be seen, but no amount of totality will be visible.  It will start here at home at 1:18 pm and reach maximum coverage at 2:42 pm.  83% of the Sun will be blocked, with the Sun looking like a crescent across the top of the Sun’s disk.  The eclipse ends, when the Moon passes completely away from the Sun at 4:01 pm.

Let me remind everyone that looking at the eclipse, THAT EYE PROTECTION IS NECESSARY TO AVOID DAMAGE TO THE EYES.  Sunglasses are not enough.  Approved filters and special sun-viewing glasses are required.  These can be ordered online.  With 83% of the Sun blocked, also take a look around you and notice the reduced light on the ground and look for odd shadows of crescents on the ground as sunlight filters through tree leaves.  But look often during the afternoon over the 2 3/4 hours of the passing of the the Moon over the Sun.  Watch it advance and retreat over that period of time.  But again, the eclipse in Maryland will not be fully total.  You must look with approved eye protection.  Not just sun glasses.

While the eclipse will only be total over a narrow strip of the US, the sun will visibly darken over much of America.
As far north as Massachusettes the eclipse will cover up to 70-80% of the sun.  To the south, the sun in Florida will be 80-90% covered.

Sky-watchers should also remember that August gives us 31 nights of worthy celestial sights in addition to the eclipse.  Jupiter dazzles in the southwest sky after dark and does not set until 11 pm.  Saturn also rides up in the southern sky some 30 degrees above the horizon and offers wonderful views for those who have telescopes to use.  The summer Milky Way, when our line of sight in the evening is toward the galaxy center gleams as our eyes scan from the southern horizon up and over toward the northeast, passing from Sagittarius, through Cygnus, and on toward Cassiopeia.  This is especially delightful to see when using binoculars.  Venus is 20 degrees up in the eastern sky before dawn and unmistakable at –4.0 magnitude.  On August 19, it sits just above a very thin crescent Moon.  And the Perseid meteor shower, always one of the year’s best peaks on the early morning of August 11 and 12.  Even though the bright waning gibbous Moon will be in the sky then, the Perseids are bright meteors, and we should still be able to see some.  Look northeast anytime from midnight to dawn.

            The one thing we cannot plan is the weather.  A cloudy sky will change all our plans for viewing the eclipse on August 21, but we still look forward with great anticipation and hope for clear skies.  May it be so!
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Pilot Project planned to Dredge Conowingo Dam Sediments by Tim Wheeler

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Declaring the sediment buildup behind Conowingo Dam a growing threat to the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday a pilot project to dredge up a tiny portion of the accumulated silt and sand.

Speaking at a press conference at the dam, Hogan said the state later this month would issue a request for proposals to dredge 25,000 cubic yards of sediment by next spring from the reservoir upstream of the hydroelectric facility on the Susquehanna River.

The intent, he said, is to pin down what it would cost to dredge massive quantities of sediment from the Conowingo “pond,” as the reservoir is called, and to find out if there are viable markets for reusing the material. He said that he hoped the project would help the state determine whether large-scale dredging is feasible — even though an earlier study concluded that dredging the built-up sediment would be costly and provide little overall benefit to the Bay.

Since its completion in 1928, the 94-foot high dam has been trapping millions of pounds of sediment, as well as the nutrients attached to the particles, keeping them from flowing into the Bay 10 miles downstream. But the pond has been slowly filling, and a study led by the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that it has reached capacity and now does little to prevent material from reaching the Chesapeake.

Another concern is that major storms, and even routinely heavy spring rains, can scour large quantities of the deposited sediment from the river bottom and flush it into the upper Bay.

“Much of our efforts to protect the Bay and safeguard our environment for future generations could be wiped out by the effects of one bad storm,” Hogan said. “Simply put, this is a growing threat which must be addressed.”

Hogan’s announcement came on the heels of a brief, invitation-only, closed-door “summit” about the dam at a nearby volunteer firehouse. The meeting, the second that Hogan has held on Conowingo, was welcomed by rural elected officials who’d been invited and have long complained that the dam is a bigger pollution threat to the Bay than almost anything coming from their portions of the watershed, including farming, septic-based development or stormwater runoff.

Charles D. “Chip” MacLeod, a lawyer for the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, a group of seven rural counties, most of them on the Eastern Shore, called the summit “total vindication” of its position that the sediment buildup behind the dam should be made a priority of the Bay cleanup.

“We’ve lost sight of the real problem,” said Richard Rothschild, a commissioner from Carroll County, one of the coalition members.

Others are not so sure. Alison Prost, Maryland director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, who was not invited to the summit, issued a statement saying that “while dredging could be a part of the solution” for cleaning up the Bay, the Corps study indicated that the most cost-effective way to reduce pollution coming across the dam would be to carry out more runoff control practices upriver.

Hogan, though, has aligned himself with the Clean Chesapeake Coalition’s position on the dam since he campaigned for governor in 2014, claiming that state and federal officials and environmentalists were ignoring Conowingo’s threat. He recently became chairman of the Executive Council that oversees the federal-state Bay Program restoration effort, which gives him greater clout to press his case.

The Republican governor said he was gratified that scientists have come around to agree with his position on the importance of dealing with the sediment behind the dam.

The scientific assessments, though, don’t exactly concur. The Corps of Engineers study found that between 2008 and 2011, only 13 percent of the sediment coming into the Bay from the Susquehanna was scoured from what had been deposited in the reservoir behind the dam. Even during Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, a major flood, only about 20 percent of the sediment that flooded into the Bay originated from sediment stored behind Conowingo, while the rest was flushed downriver past the dam without ever being deposited.

But the diminished trapping capacity of the dam does mean that more nutrients from up the Susquehanna are washed downriver to the Bay, where they contribute to algae blooms and fish-stressing low-oxygen conditions in the water. To compensate, the Corps study estimated that areas upstream of the dam would need to keep an additional 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen and an extra 270,000 pounds of phosphorus annually from getting into the river. That would require a 9 percent greater reduction in nitrogen and a 38 percent greater cut in phosphorus from now to 2025.

Dredging the sediment and nutrient buildup from behind Conowingo would in theory allow the dam to trap more sediment, as has happened in the past. But the Corps study found that this would be costly and of limited benefit to the Bay. To restore sediment levels to what they were in the mid-1990s, the study estimated, 25 million cubic yards of silt would need to be excavated. The Corps estimated that could cost up to $3 billion. And unless the flow of sediment coming down the river is curtailed, the pond would gradually fill in again. Roughly 3 million cubic yards a year, or 1.5 million pickup truck loads, would need to be dredged annually to avoid losing ground. The Corps study estimated that could cost anywhere from $48 million to $267 million each year.

Clean Chesapeake representatives maintain that the Corps study was flawed. And in any case, they suggest some short-term actions are needed now, because Pennsylvania is lagging so badly in reducing its pollution to the Susquehanna. “It’s breathing room for the Bay,” said MacLeod, the coalition lawyer.

But a recently completed study by researchers with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science found that phosphorus flushed past the dam along with sediment scoured from the reservoir “would not have a large effect on the Chesapeake Bay.”

The state last year issued a “request for information” seeking preliminary proposals for dealing with the sediment behind the dam. It received 13 responses suggesting dredging and other options for using it to treat soil or create building materials. Roy McGrath, director of the Maryland Environmental Service, said the request for proposals would be more detailed.

The federal-state Bay Program is re-evaluating the progress made to date in restoring the Chesapeake’s water quality, and is finalizing new computer modeling to project what more needs to be done. Meetings are planned this fall, and states are expected to begin drawing up revised cleanup plans next year. Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s environment secretary, said state officials hope the information gleaned from the demonstration project will help shape those plans.

“We’re going to keep our fingers crossed,” said Bob Meffley, a Cecil County councilman who was among the summit invitees. He said he lives on the Bohemia River which, like much of the Bay, is showing signs of recovery, with underwater grasses seemingly everywhere and crabs plentiful — “except when we get [heavy] rain.” he added. Then, he said, they don’t see anything, because of the sediment stirred up in the water.

Others in attendance at the summit saw the dredging demonstration as a minor step, but one still worth taking.

“What it represents is a sliver of the problem,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. “It’s important,” she added, “because they want to see if they can engage the private sector in (finding) innovative uses (for the sediment), but what’s equally important is to recognize that 80 percent of the (pollution) load coming down the Susquehanna is from the upstream watershed and 20 percent is from scour.”

Cecil A. Rodrigues, the Environmental Protection Agency’s acting mid-Atlantic regional administrator, said federal regulators are interested in seeing the results of Maryland’s demonstration project.

“We don’t care where reductions come from,” he said, adding that if the test indicates it’s feasible, it could be factored into future cleanup plans. But whether dredging is done or not, he said, upstream pollution reductions will still be needed.

Joel Dunn, president and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy, a conservation group, who was also invited, praised Hogan’s move. But he said it should not take away from working to reduce pollution from upriver, while enlisting private as well as public involvement.

“The sediment behind the dam is a major issue and should be addressed in the most creative way possible,” Dunn said, “but perhaps more important is a focus on reducing future pollution from coming down the river, otherwise our children will be dealing with this same issue.”

In his press conference remarks, Hogan seemed to acknowledge that. He said that dealing with the sediment and nutrients behind the dam is “just one of many approaches we must take.” But he added that he considered it “an extremely important one.”

The demonstration project will be funded by Maryland, but Hogan made it clear that if it led to more dredging, he expected financial help and cooperation from Exelon Corp. the dam’s owner, as well as from the federal government and the states upriver. Maryland has held up renewal of Exelon’s federal license to operate the Conowingo hydroelectric facility, citing concerns about the impacts on state water quality of the sediment buildup.

“This is not just Maryland’s problem,” Hogan said. And in response to a reporter’s question, he said, “If it comes to that, we’ll file suit against the EPA and the upstream states.”

Timothy B. Wheeler is managing editor and project writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets.

Teachers Investigate Human Impacts by Land and Sea at Pickering Creek

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“Every time I do a workshop with Pickering Creek it’s always diverse, interesting, and hands-on,” Cathy Bornhoeft, Environmental Science teacher at North Caroline High School, said after participating in the two-day Audubon Watershed Experience teacher professional development workshop this summer.

Now in it’s fifteenth year, the Audubon Watershed Experience (AWE) program, funded by Chesapeake Bay Trust, has connected thousands of high school biology and environmental science students to local conservation efforts on the Eastern Shore through hands-on and investigative in-class lessons and field experiences at Pickering Creek. Although the students are the focus of this successful program, another equally important and engaged group at the program’s center – teachers – experienced their own exciting and experiential AWE program this summer.

Environmental Science teachers from Talbot, Wicomico, and Caroline Counties look on as Dr. Dave Curson, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon MD/DC, demonstrates a bird monitoring protocol

The theme of 2017’s summer workshop was “Investigating Human Impacts by Land and Sea.” Day One took place at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and focused on the impacts of rising seas on critical habitat for bird populations that rely on local salt marshes. Throughout the day, teachers from Wicomico, Caroline, and Talbot Counties played interactive games, practiced using data and scientific evidence to support arguments, and took home hands-on activities and resources to use in their classrooms.

Dr. Ariana Sutton-Grier, Director of Science for the Maryland/DC chapter of the Nature Conservancy and an Associate Research Professor at the University of Maryland, presented her research on “blue carbon” and salt marshes. In the afternoon, Dr. Dave Curson, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon MD/DC, toured the teachers to several Refuge areas where Audubon is working closely with Refuge staff on projects to help local salt marshes adapt to a changing climate and rising seas.

With strong coffee in hand, the teachers started Day Two at 6:00 AM for a trip to the Chester River Field Research Station in Chestertown to experience bird banding up close. Maren Gimpel, Field Ecologist for Washington College’s Center for Environment and Society, toured the group around the 228-acre Chino Farms migration banding station; demonstrated how birds are caught, banded, and released; and shared research findings from the banding station’s records. Similar to Pickering Creek Audubon Center, Chino Farms has a long history of agriculture and a recent history of conservation and restoration efforts to improve and protect bird habitats.

Maren Gimpel shows teachers a recently banded Blue Jay at the Chester River Field Research Station

Using data collected from the banding station, teachers practiced a lesson investigating the impacts of weather, land management, and local habitat changes on Northern Bobwhite Quail and Grasshopper Sparrow populations. Following their morning at the banding station, the teachers boarded Washington College’s research vessel Callinectes for an afternoon on the Chester River. Emily Harris, Watershed Coordinator for the Chester River Association (CRA), demonstrated water sampling techniques for fresh and brackish water; discussed restoration, behavior change, and policy initiatives to reduce pollution; and introduced projects CRA works on with landowners, homeowners, and legislators to improve local water quality.

Teacher professional development workshops with Pickering Creek Audubon Center introduce teachers to new activities, resources, and lessons for their classrooms, and connect teachers directly with scientists working in the field. When asked what they found most valuable about the two-day workshop, one teacher commented, “Interacting with the scientists and hearing first hand the importance of the experiments they were conducting. This allows me to better explain these things to my students and show actual work.”

For more information on Pickering Audubon Center please go here

 

ESLC to Host Celebration of Recent Land Conservation Win in Cecil County

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The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) invites the public to attend a celebration and tour of OBX Farm – the site of a recent 460-acre land conservation easement that will eventually be transferred to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and turned into what will be called Bohemia River State Park. The event will take place on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 from 5 to 7pm. This is a free event.

Guests will be treated to refreshments, tours, and inspirational words regarding the acquisition by ESLC Executive Director Rob Etgen. The prime agricultural land, which also contains riverfront access to the Bohemia, as well as a rich network of riparian forests and tidal/non-tidal wetlands, sits just off Rt. 213 in Chesapeake City.

ESLC asks that guests RSVP for the event by emailing Owen Bailey at obailey@eslc.org or calling 410.690.4603, ext. 0.

“Over the course of the past 27 years, ESLC has been involved with literally thousands of Eastern Shore farms. OBX Farms is truly one of the most beautiful we’ve ever assisted in preserving!” said ESLC Executive Director Rob Etgen. “This purchase will keep the land open, free from future development, and most exciting of all, available to the public for generations to come. ESLC is incredibly proud to play a role in this important legacy.”

The acquisition of OBX Farms was fully funded by Program Open Space, which preserves natural areas for public recreation, and watershed and wildlife protection across Maryland. The Board of Public Works unanimously approved the acquisition in June.

For more information, please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165.

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit land conservation organization committed to preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore and the lands and waters that connect them. More at www.eslc.org.

The Collaborative Turtle Research of WC Student and Professor Earns the Cover of “Animal Conservation”

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After Hannah O’Malley proposed that her senior thesis be based on research with Washington College Biology Associate Professor Aaron Krochmal, the results of her original hypothesis and the pair’s collaboration to test it are helping conservation managers reassess the role of learning when it comes to moving endangered animals from one habitat to another.

The results of their study are featured in a manuscript entitled “An Empirical Test of the Role of Learning in Translocation” published this summer in the online edition of Animal Conservation. Coauthored by Krochmal’s research associate Timothy C. Roth of Franklin & Marshall College, the paper will be the print edition’s cover story in February 2018.

Hannah O’Malley ’12 in the field radio-tracking Eastern painted turtles.

For O’Malley ’12, a biology major who minored in secondary education and has gone on to become a key member of Walt Disney’s Animals Sciences and Environment education team, co-authorship of her first peer-reviewed paper “feels great, and I’m very excited to officially see it in writing, (and) that my thesis has a purpose beyond just being my Senior Capstone Experience. I love that it has implications for conserving species.”

Although many researchers have studied translocation—the practice of moving an animal from one location to another to protect it from habitat loss or other extinction risks—this research is the first that examines the practice experientially through the lens of cognition and learning. Wildlife managers have long used “soft release”—giving an animal time to learn a new habitat by penning or otherwise protecting it for a period of time before turning it loose—but this research shows that for some species, even soft-release translocation can only succeed if the animals are able to learn the new habitat.

For Eastern painted turtles, whose migratory patterns and navigational methods Krochmal and his students have been studying for eight years, that critical window of learning only happens within their first three years of life. O’Malley was one of Krochmal’s Summer Research students who had worked with him on turtle research at DuPont’s Chesapeake Farms, a 3,300-acre agriculture and wildlife management property near the College.

An Eastern painted turtle with radio tag attached sets off in search of a new water source.

“This project was Hannah’s idea. She was looking into the conservation education side of things but with a strong science background,” Krochmal says. “She suggested the idea of translocating animals with both a short time window and a long time window to compare their behavior against animals that live in that habitat, asking ‘Can you, as newly introduced animal, catch up to their culture?’ And the answer is no, unless you do it when you’re young.”

These data, Krochmal says, encourage more research into this question for other species that are likely to need translocation. And, it can help conservation managers better allocate limited resources—for instance, they may want to spend their money and efforts only on juvenile and newly hatched turtles, rather than adults, since the former are clearly able to learn a new environment while the latter will likely die in the attempt.

“I remember Dr. K saying, ‘What do you think is going to happen?’ and I said, ‘We’re going to translocate turtles and they’re not going to know what the heck is going on,’ ” says O’Malley. “I had already watched how the resident turtles know so clearly what they’re doing. It’s like us waking up in the morning and saying, ‘It’s wintertime and I guess I need to put my coat on.’ They just know what to do.”

Asking newly introduced adult turtles to learn the new habitat “was like moving someone from Florida up north—‘Whoa! I don’t know how to handle this!’ It would have been cool if they miraculously have this sense of direction without having to learn that, but we definitely saw that was not the case.”

In her career with Disney, O’Malley works with other teams to connect children and families to the global environment, creating outdoor education experiences at Walt Disney World in Florida, as well as curricula and resources for educators. For instance, while working with content from the film “Moana,” O’Malley helped develop an activity packet and teacher resource guide that included lessons on sea turtle conservation, while with the new film “Born in China,” she worked on materials related to education and conservation of pandas, snow leopards, and golden snub nosed monkeys—key species featured in the film.

Her work with Krochmal, she says, taught her that the purpose of research is less to find answers than to learn what are the next questions to ask. As an educator now, she also has realized fully the value of his method of mentorship.

“Dr. Krochmal was one of the first educators who treated me as an equal,” she says. “It was, ‘OK, we have this question, let’s work on it together and see where it goes and where it takes us.’ He would say, ‘This is as much your project as it is my project.’ Over time I became more and more invested and empowered and more confident, and I definitely felt like I was contributing, which as a student you don’t always get.”

See the Animal Conservation abstract here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1469-1795/earlyview

Read the entire paper: here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317719204_An_empirical_test_of_the_role_of_learning_in_translocation

Learn more about the turtle research here: https://www.facebook.com/taskforceturtle1/

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

MRC Breaks Ground on Restoration and Stormwater Projects at Chesapeake College

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On June 28, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and Chesapeake College jointly hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on the college’s Wye Mills campus. MRC has been leading an effort in collaboration with the college and funding partners to develop a comprehensive initiative to address major stormwater challenges on the campus. A suite of 14 projects will materially improve water quality in the Wye River. The projects include a wetland restoration, bioretention facilities that filter stormwater, and a stream restoration that will reduce erosion and treat pollutants coming off hard surfaces and the agriculture fields surrounding the campus.

Kristin Junkin, director of operations for MRC, led the ceremony by describing the projects and the valuable partnerships with both Chesapeake College and the funders that are supporting the work. These funders include Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Queen Anne’s County. She thanked all of these partners and emphasized the importance and necessity of local leaders taking responsibility for restoring and protecting our rivers and Chesapeake Bay.

Photo: Pictured at the groundbreaking ceremony are (left to right) Rob Gunter (Queens Anne’s County Planning & Zoning), Ben Hutzell (Resource Restoration Group), Michael Mulligan (Chesapeake College), Sarah Hilderbrandt (Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources), Steve & Julie Burleson (MRC Advisory Committee), Barbara Viniar (former Chesapeake College president), Jim Moran (Queen Anne’s County Commissioner), Kristin Junkin (MRC Director of Operations), Evan Blessing (Blessings Environmental Concepts), Greg Farley (Chesapeake College), Bill Anderson (MRC Board), Timothy Jones (Chesapeake College), Michael Wiznosky (Queen Anne’s County Planning & Zoning), Dr. Clayton Railey (Chesapeake College), Lucie Hughes (Chesapeake College), Chris Oakes and Jess Lister (Environmental Concern), Tim Junkin (MRC founder) and Gus (Tim’s puppy). 

The college’s vice president of finance, Tim Jones,thanked MRC and all of the funder partners, saying,“Chesapeake College’s mission is to educate the residents of our five county region. Not only will these watershed projects allow us to enhance our classroom programs, they will also allow the college to serve as a working model of best practices for all residents on the Eastern Shore. The college is very appreciative of our partners on these projects. It is through partnerships like these that the college has become a nationally recognized leader in sustainability.”

Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran applauded the well-organized and thoughtful proposal MRC brought to the county, adding that,“Queen Anne’s County is ready to do our part in cleaning up our waterways. We are delighted to work with MRC and we look forward to more projects down the road.”

The attendees at the ceremony had the unique opportunity to explore with the contractors the keystone project in the group, a Regenerative Step Pool Stormwater Conveyance. This project uses shallow pools to slow down and treat runoff from the college’s hard surfaces and surrounding agricultural fields before the water empties into the headwaters of the Wye East River. Attendees got a behind-the-scenes tour on how these types of projects are engineered and constructed.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust funded MRC’s Wye River Assessment that identified the project opportunities, Queen Anne’s County and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funded the design work, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Queen Anne’s County are funding the construction. All of these projects are scheduled for completion by 2018.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and celebration of the watersheds of the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Miles River, and Wye River. For more information on these projects, contact Kristin Junkin at kristin@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443-385-0511.

Memories still Alive, thriving at Horton Homestead by Tom Horton

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The smell of the piney woods and the call of bobwhite quail; tracks of my toy wagon in the soft sand road bordered by ditches alive with tadpoles; the warm odors of the grain bin where mom stashed me as she rolled it through the chicken houses at feeding time; racing to pick up bloody squirrels as they tumbled to the ground after blasts from dad’s shotgun.

Tom Horton rides his hobby horse in front of the log cabin circa 1948. (Horton archives)

These are some of my earliest memories — from the 1940s — of the old log cabin where we lived when I was born, eight miles outside Salisbury on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore.

And you may suspect that I’m about to spin another variation on a theme all too familiar: of better, greener times past, and returning, dismayed, to find all that was dear has been steamrollered by “progress.”

But sometimes you really can go home again. The log cabin 72 years later stands square and sturdy amid blooming shrubs and flowers. The forest has reclaimed several acres of what was open, scrubby field in my childhood. Some of the pines are becoming giants, up to 14 feet around; woodland orchids, sweet magnolias and ferns abound in the understory.

Betty Lou Davis has lived 60 years in the cabin where the Horton family was living when Tom was born. She and Rob dug deep to buy adjacent woodlands to save them from imminent logging. (Dave Harp)

Luckily, the cabin’s current tenant has taken a shine to me. Across the fireplace mantel, in a pine-paneled living room that has changed little, is a wooden board inscribed: “birthplace of Tom Horton, environmentalist.” A Washington Monument would not be as pleasing.

Betty Lou Davis greets me at the door. Going on 89, she’s just back from her regular hour-long swim at the Salisbury YMCA. I’ve learned when calling for a visit to let her phone, a landline with no answering machine, ring “about 13 times” because she’s always outside working in the yard, and that’s how long it takes her to pick up.

The real monument here is the well-maintained, modest cabin and the opulent nature surrounding it, testament to the long and caring stewardship of Betty Lou and her late husband, Rob, a nationally noted bow hunter. Rob once told a local newspaper it was the sight of an eight-point buck munching acorns behind the cabin that sealed its sale to the Davises in 1958 (for $6,800).

The cabin was built on 18 acres in 1934 for a New York man, Robert Cleland, who put $5 as down payment and moved here thinking he might “get a foothold in a small place,” his widow told Betty Lou. The logs were cut from the property and hauled out by mule team, skinned of bark and creosoted, then chinked with mortar and brick. My parents bought the place from Cleland in 1945 — “lucky to get it,” my mom told me, as housing after World War II was scarce.

After almost 60 years at the log cabin, Betty Lou says she can’t imagine being anyplace else. She and Rob dug deep to buy adjacent woodlands to save them from imminent logging, expanding the property to its present 45 acres. Betty Lou and her son maintain trails throughout, with benches placed at scenic points, sharing the nature there with visitors year-round.

The resplendent greenery here is far more beautiful and diverse than in my childhood. Betty Lou took every course on botany offered at Salisbury University during the 18 years she spent earning her degree. (She is no slow learner, but life was busy — and she and Rob had different views on women and education, she said.)

Some changes: The bobwhites that I recall fondly, and the whip-poor-wills whose night calling terrified me, are both heard no more, their species in serious decline because of environmental degradation. “The bird sound when we came here was just thunderous,” Betty Lou said. “Now, not nearly so much.”

Recently, we have been figuring out how she can arrange her affairs to permanently protect the old cabin and its surrounds, a fitting legacy for a remarkable woman and her late husband.

And selfishly, it would mean I can keep going home again, and again. In 1986, when I left off full-time environmental reporting at the Baltimore Sun to move to tiny Smith Island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, I wrote that after trekking the Amazon and following famines across Africa, I was feeling “a need to shrink my prospects, narrow my horizons, move on to smaller endeavors.”

I have happily maintained that course, living now three blocks from the hospital where I was born, biking to teach at Salisbury University a few blocks in the other direction, on the same streets where my grandfather, the college’s dean of education, launched me on my first tricycle in 1948. Not so long ago, after I gave a talk, a very old man came up from the audience. “You won’t remember me, but I delivered you,” he said.

The log cabin, and its inimitable spirit of place, one Betty Lou Davis, are the icing on that cake.

Bay Journal staff writer Tom Horton has written about Chesapeake Bay for more than 40 years, including eight books. He lives in Salisbury, where he is also a professor of Environmental Studies at Salisbury University. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

UMCES Invites Everyone to Report Dolphin Sightings in Chesapeake Bay

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The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science invites everyone who spends time on or near the Chesapeake Bay to report dolphin sightings with a new online tracking system. Chesapeake DolphinWatch allows users to mark the location of their dolphin sightings on a map of the Chesapeake and its tributaries so scientists can better understand where the dolphins are and where they go. The online tracker is accessible at www.chesapeakedolphinwatch.org .

“We’d like to increase people’s awareness of the dolphins and collect data at the same time,” said Helen Bailey, a scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. She specializes in studying the movements of marine mammals.“Whether you’re at home, whether you have a community pier, you live near the water, or you go out on the water, we need your eyes on the sea telling us where are the dolphins.”

Bottlenose dolphins are frequently spotted in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer with reports of them leaping in the air or bow riding boats. However, very little is known about how often dolphins actually come into the Bay, how long they spend there, what areas of the Bay they are using and why.

“Right now we have such scarce information. This is really the first time we are systematically recording this,” said Bailey. “We are hearing anecdotally that dolphins are becoming more frequent visitors to the Chesapeake Bay, but we really don’t have much information at all about where they are going and when. The more eyes we have on the water the better to report dolphin sightings. We think that citizens can make very good citizen scientists,” she said.

The online tracker has four main sections. There is a map page where users can see all of the reported sightings and tap to report their own sighting. Users can either enter the location where they saw the dolphins or have the device use the current location to mark the sighting. Users will be able to view how many users are accessing the tracker and the dolphin sightings in real time. There is also an information page with responsible wildlife viewing guidelines and to learn more about dolphins and the Chesapeake Bay.

“We are excited to be using new technology that will enable everyone to help us understand more about dolphins,” said Tom Miller, director of UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. “Citizen science, such as the DolphinWatch tracker, is becoming more and more important and helps connect everyone to our work to protect, restore, and sustain the Bay.”

Bailey notes that changes in climate, improvements in water quality, and improvements in fish stocks upon which dolphins feed could be factors in a surge in dolphin sightings. She already has a few underwater microphones in the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers where they meet the Chesapeake Bay listening for the echolocation click sounds dolphins make. The data collected through Chesapeake DolphinWatch will help inform where to put more devices to help understand where the dolphins are going and where are feeding.

“People have been really excited to tell us about their sightings, but there was no easy way to report them before,” said Bailey. “Dolphins are very iconic, and they are in our backyard.”

More information on the DolphinWatch program is available on the UMCES website at www.umces.edu/dolphinwatch. Tag your photos of dolphins to @dolphinwatch_cb on Instagram.

Funding for ChesapeakeDolphinWatch.org was provided by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. http://www.umces.edu

CBF: Pennsylvania Still a Problem with Nitrogen in the Bay

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The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) assessment of progress made implementing milestone commitments in 2016 found Maryland and Virginia largely on track to meet commitments for reducing pollution and Pennsylvania falling significantly short in reducing nitrogen pollution.

“While there is significant room for improvement in all the states, it is important to note that reduced pollution is benefitting the Bay. Over time, the dead zone is getting smaller, Bay grasses are at record levels, and oysters are rebounding,” said CBF President William C. Baker. “The success all three states have had in reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants is important, but it also masks shortfalls in each of the states’ efforts to reduce pollution from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff. Continued federal and state investments will be key to success on the state level, and we know the payoff will be significant.”

Under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the states have committed to implementing 60 percent of the practices necessary to restore the Bay by 2017, and 100 percent by 2025. Over the next year, the states and EPA will assess progress and develop new plans to achieve the 2025 goal.

The two-year milestones provide transparency and accountability for restoration efforts. This assessment is for the first year of the 2016-17 milestone period.

CBF’s assessment looked at the practices the states put in place in 2016, as well as selected programs each state has designed to achieve the long-term goals. (Attached to this email is a narrative summary of the Maryland assessment, and a chart summarizing findings for all six states in the Bay watershed and the District of Columbia.)

Pennsylvania practices

Pennsylvania is significantly off track in reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from agriculture as well as urban/suburban runoff. Progress in reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants is on track. Overall progress to reduce nitrogen pollution is significantly off track, but efforts to reduce phosphorus and sediment pollution are only slightly off track.

Pennsylvania programs

Pennsylvania’s re-boot committed the Commonwealth to develop and implement an agricultural compliance and enforcement strategy. As part of that strategy inspections were to be conducted on 10 percent of its farms annually. With funding from the Chesapeake Bay Program and other sources, over 1,100 farms were visited between October 2016 and March 2017, an inspection rate below what is needed to visit 10% of farms. However, the pace of inspections has increased now that the process is more established. Roughly 70% of the farms had the required plans. These inspections, however, only assess whether the required plans exist, not whether they are implemented – a major shortfall of state efforts to date.

Pennsylvania also committed to counting and reporting on agricultural practices that are not government funded. A recent Penn State study reported many practices that the Commonwealth had not counted.

Pennsylvania’s efforts to reduce pollution from urban/suburban runoff are showing mixed success. The Commonwealth is significantly off track in reducing pollution from nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. To help jumpstart reductions, the Commonwealth has implemented specific, numeric goals in permits for small municipalities.

“Pennsylvania’s pollution reduction strategy has shown some progress and the Commonwealth is in the process of developing a new watershed implementation plan to carry it toward the 2025 goals,” said CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell. “But the Commonwealth is considering yet another budget that falls well short of providing the investments necessary for success. Pennsylvania will only be successful with sustained investments in the right places and on the right practices.

Maryland practices

Maryland is slightly off track reducing nitrogen pollution from agriculture, while on track to remove phosphorus and sediment pollution. Urban/suburban efforts have fallen far short for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. Maryland’s efforts to upgrade sewage treatment plants are on track. Thus, overall efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution are slightly off track, while pollution reduction efforts for phosphorus and sediment are on track.

Maryland programs

While seeing success in wastewater treatment plants, Maryland is significantly behind in reducing pollution from septic systems. Technologies exist to significantly reduce nitrogen pollution from septic systems, however the state has stopped requiring those technologies to be used for new systems more than 1,000 feet from tidal waters.

There are requirements in Maryland for large municipalities to develop plans and implement technologies to reduce urban/suburban runoff by replacing 20 percent of impervious surfaces with practices that absorb and filter rainwater. While the Maryland Department of the Environment has reviewed those plans, it has not taken action to correct deficiencies. In addition, draft permits for smaller municipalities fail to require any restoration actions in the next five years.

Maryland is implementing its agricultural phosphorus management tool, which will limit the application of phosphorus on land that already has excess phosphorus. Current programs to match excess manure with farms where it can be used safely may need to be expanded.

“We can feel proud that Maryland got off to a strong start in this epic project to restore the Chesapeake and that state leaders remain committed to the Blueprint. From streams in Western Maryland to tidal creeks on the Eastern Shore, we see evidence of cleaner water. But the job is far from done,” said CBF Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost. “We must work together to find solutions for polluted runoff in our cities and suburbs, for failing septic systems in rural areas, and for problems from sprawl development. Given the uncertainties around federal leadership on this effort, we urge the General Assembly and the Hogan Administration to tackle the challenges head-on for our benefit and for the benefit of future generations of Marylanders.”

Virginia practices

Virginia is on track to meet its phosphorus goal for agriculture, and slightly off track for nitrogen and sediment. The Commonwealth is significantly off track in meeting nitrogen and sediment goals for urban/suburban runoff, while only slightly off track for phosphorus. Due to its success with upgrading sewage treatment plants, overall, Virginia is on track for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and slightly off track for sediment.

Virginia programs

Virginia’s efforts to reduce pollution from urban/suburban runoff are continuing to fall short of its goals. While new permits have been issued for both large municipalities and smaller jurisdictions, permit requirements are not sufficient to achieve the necessary pollution reduction by 2025.

Virginia’s agricultural programs have made steady progress, but there is room for improvement. A program funding 100 percent of the costs to fence cattle out of streams was so successful that there is a backlog of more than 400 farmers waiting for funding. And Virginia’s agricultural certainty program has resulted in the approval of 300 plans, covering more than 65,000 acres of cropland. However, implementation of these plans is lagging, Adoption of cover crops is below targets and implementation of forest buffers is also off track.

“It’s not often that we celebrate overachievements, but the incredible progress made in upgrading Virginia’s wastewater treatment plants allows the Commonwealth to remain largely on track for meeting goals to reduce pollution in our waterways,” said CBF Virginia Executive Director Rebecca LePrell. “However, the road doesn’t stop here. As we approach 2025, the success of wastewater treatment plants should serve as a model for addressing challenges in cutting polluted runoff from agriculture, cities, and suburbs. As state elections near, I hope Virginia’s next governor will work with legislators to ensure stable and adequate investment in farm conservation practices and support for local governments to reduce polluted runoff.”