CBF to Honor Washington College with Conservationist of the Year Award

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The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) announced today that it will honor Washington College for its leadership and commitment to educating the next generation of Chesapeake Bay leaders. CBF President Will Baker will present the Conservationist of the Year Award to Washington College President Kurt Landgraf on Monday, February 26 at the third annual DC on the Half Shell gala in Washington, D.C.

“Now more than ever we need sound leadership to save the Chesapeake Bay and our natural world,” Baker said. “From our earliest days, we at CBF understood we must help students appreciate the wonders of the Bay and to become our future environmental stewards. Washington College has become preeminent in that effort.”

CBF will also award Virginia Wesleyan University with the Conservationist of the Year award at DC on the Half Shell.

“We’re thrilled that Washington College’s environmental programming is being honored in this way by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation,” Landgraf says. “The students who explore our unique assets like our River and Field Campus and programs like the Chesapeake Semester, as well as hands-on learning opportunities through our fantastic faculty, leave here poised to find creative solutions to issues facing not only the Chesapeake Bay, but the global environment as well.”

A longtime leader in innovative environmental instruction, Washington College in recent months has announced several major expansions to its environmental programs. These include the launch of the 4,700-acre River and Field Campus, a new dual-degree program for environmental science or environmental studies majors with Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, groundbreaking for the Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall, and a $500,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the college’s Center for Environment & Society (CES) to expand a project that motivates landowners to reduce polluted runoff into the Chesapeake.

Located on the Chester River, Washington College uses the Chesapeake Bay region as a learning laboratory. The River and Field Campus (RAFC) is home to the only bird banding station and observatory on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, an innovative native grassland restoration project, and part of the Chester River Watershed Observatory. In the future, it will provide a wild food and foraging lab for the new Eastern Shore Food Lab at Washington College, as well as expanded opportunities for collaborative student and faculty research. The College’s Center for Environment & Society, which focuses on the relationship between human communities and natural systems, oversees RAFC and also manages the school’s two research vessels.

Washington College’s environmental education programs emphasize critical analysis and investigation to find solutions to regional and global environmental problems. Those issues include depleted fisheries, world population concerns, loss of biodiversity, climatic changes, and land use management. The school’s environmental science and environmental studies majors are grounded in an interdisciplinary course of studies which include a focus on the local while also providing opportunities for comparative study in Bermuda, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Maine. The innovative Chesapeake Semester, overseen by CES, immerses a small group of students each fall in studies that examine the challenges facing the Chesapeake through the lenses of the Bay’s economy, culture, history, environment, ecology, and politics.

On a given day, a Washington College student might be banding migratory birds, planting an “edible forest garden” to demonstrate the benefits of perennial polyculture in agriculture, starting sourdough culture in his or her dorm rooms, or studying ocean sciences in Bermuda or the Galapagos Islands.

DC on the Half Shell is a celebration of the Chesapeake Bay, called a National Treasure by President Ronald Reagan. CBF also is celebrating its 50th year of working to Save the Bay.

The event will be held at 6:30 pm at Dock5 at Union Market. It will feature gourmet Bay cuisine, cocktails, live entertainment and oysters galore. Co-chairs of the event are Wendy Culp and Larry Culp, chair of the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors, and Kay and David Kaufman. Major sponsors include Kaiser Permanente and Jane P. Batten.

For ticket information, cbf.org/dconthehalfshell. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Taryn Dwan at tdwan@cbf.org or 443-482-2111.

All proceeds from the event support CBF’s own award-winning environmental education and habitat restoration programs. CBF takes 35,000 students, teachers and principals per year on field experiences of hands-on learning and critical analysis. CBF also engages thousands of volunteers in raising oysters, restoring oyster habitat, restoring underwater grass beds, and restoring forest buffers.

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.

The Art of the Merge with ShoreRivers Jeff Horstman

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While it could be said that the proverbial writing was on the wall for some time, the Sassafras, Chester River and Mid-Shore Riverkeepers, and their affiliated organizations, were getting a pretty clear message over the last three years from their major institutional funders that these three, very similar enterprises must consider consolidation for the best possible mission delivery.

As a result of this welcomed nudge, representatives of each group began to meet eighteen months ago to discuss the logistics of this somewhat complicated merging of functions and governance. But inevitably the most exciting part was when these organizations could start to see the raw power that could be achieved by the change. Not only regarding protecting their beloved river sheds but also have a far greater presence in Annapolis and the halls of Congress to pursue their advocacy work.

It fell on Jeff Horstman, the current director of the Mid-Shore Riverkeeper Conservancy, to manage the process which ultimately led to the creation of ShoreRivers.  And he will become its executive director at the beginning of the new year.

The Spy felt it was a good time to sit down with Jeff and talk about how the process, as well as the delicacy and sensitivity needed as these three very different cultures with very similar goals, become a new nucleus.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the new ShoreRivers please go here

Camping under Meteors

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The Leonid Meteor Shower lit up the Eastern Shore sky on a cold evening this past month. The annual event happens around November 17th and often requires its viewers to bundle up – and this year was no exception. The near freezing temperatures would not deter the Junior Naturalist of Pickering Creek Audubon Center from an opportunity to spot a meteor.

A periodic warm-up by the fire for some of the Junior Naturalists participating in the Meteor Shower campout.

The Junior Naturalists are local 7th-12th graders who spend the school year learning about and visiting Maryland’s diverse environments and the summer volunteering during Pickering Creek’s popular EcoCamp. The students are as diverse as the habitats they explore – they come with different interests, hobbies, and knowledge of our environment – but all are excited to spend more time outside.

Pickering Creek planned a campout along the waterfront for the Junior Naturalists so they could quickly escape to their warm tents but the teens had another idea. Starting around 8:00 pm, they started counting off meteors. The tents were quickly abandoned. The Junior Naturalists decided instead to zip into their sleeping bags at the end of Pickering Creek’s dock.

“I counted 18 meteors!” exclaimed Harrison, a new Junior Naturalists, the next morning. As they warmed up over a pancake breakfast, the Junior Naturalists shared stories of the meteors, nighttime sounds over the water, and compared the thickness of frost found on their sleeping bags. Hopefully their next monthly meeting won’t be quite as cold as they hike into the forest for an owl prowl.

To learn more about the yearlong Junior Naturalist program, contact Krysta Hougen at Pickering Creek Audubon Center (khougen@audubon.org).

Earthquake Off Delaware Coast

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The area in red where the November 30, 2017, earthquake was felt.

Did you feel anything odd just before 5:00 pm yesterday, Thursday, Nov. 30?  Some shaking? A bump or jolt while driving?  Did anything fall or break in your house?  If so, you might have experienced the 4.1 magnitude earthquake that struck yesterday at 4:47 pm off the Delaware coast about 6 miles northeast of Dover, Delaware.

A 4.1 earthquake is considered strong enough to cause moderate to considerable damage. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is trying to determine the extent and severity of the quake.  If you felt the quake, MEMA would like to hear from you. The full message from MEMA–with a link to report where you were and what you felt–is at the end of this article on the Dover earthquake, along with a copy of the earthquake survey questions. MEMA needs help from residents to make a “shaking intensity map” of the affected areas.

Earthquakes are rare in the Mid-Atlantic area. In fact, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), earthquakes are rare east of the Rockies Mountains. The last tremor felt in Delaware was in 2011–that from the 5.8 earthquake centered in Virginia that was felt all up and down the East Coast and, in DC, caused cracks in both the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.  Thursday’s quake was felt as far inland as the I-95 corridor in Maryland, Delaware, and southeastern Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and New York to the north.  It was felt over 90 miles away in Washington, DC, in Baltimore, in Philadelphia, and 125 miles north in New York City. However, many in these areas said they didn’t notice anything. The USGS said that light shaking was felt as far south as Virginia and as far north as Poughkeepsie, New York and Connecticut.  The quake registered at a depth of five miles, which is considered a shallow quake and that shallowness causes the quake to be amplified and felt over a larger area. Earth tremors on the East Coast tend to cause shaking in a wider area than those in western states due to the type of quake, the depth of the quake, and to the type of bedrock.

Partial map of Eastern Shore of Maryland showing epicenter –starred– of the Thursday, Nov. 30, 4.1 magnitude earthquake. The quake’s epicenter at the wildlife refuge is roughly 36 miles from Chestertown.

Closer to the quake’s center in Dover, houses shook, windows and loose items rattled, and many people reported a boom and a sound like a train that was loud but only lasted a second or two.   In Dover, the ground shook for 10-20 seconds, sending people pouring out of buildings and into the streets where others were already gathering for the Dover Capitol Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting ceremony. The celebration, which was scheduled for 5 -8:00 pm., continued despite the disruption of the earthquake.

The quake was originally reported at a magnitude of 5.1 then shortly afterward downgraded to 4.4.  After examining readings from multiple monitoring stations, the tremor was downgraded to a probably final magnitude of 4.1.

No aftershocks have been reported so far.

The Delaware Emergency Management Agency believes the epicenter was in Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. No injuries, major damage, or interruption of services were reported in the first few hours after the quake. The wildlife refuge is roughly 36 miles from Chestertown.

The Delaware earthquake was one of five earthquakes registered on Thursday in the US’s lower 48 states. But it was the strongest.  It was not just the strongest quake on Thursday, Nov. 30, but also the strongest in the US for the month of November.  Just 30 minutes after the 4.1 quake in Delaware, there was a tremor–magnitude 3.6–near Salida, Colorado.

Here are the questions on the earthquake survey form from MEMA.  To record your experience click on the “jump” link below then click on the 3rd box in the first row with the title “Felt Report–Tell Us!”

Jump to Navigation

  Magnitude 4.1 Earthquake – 10km ENE of Dover, Delaware

Felt Report – Tell Us!   Expires 05/31/2018

Your location when the earthquake occurred

Choose Location

Did you feel it?


  • Yes

  • No

The remainder of this form is optional.

Help make a shaking intensity map by telling us about the shaking at your location.

What was your situation during the earthquake?


  • Not specified

  • Inside a building

  • Outside a building

  • In a stopped vehicle

  • In a moving vehicle

  • Other

Were you asleep?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Slept through it

  • Woke up

Did others nearby feel it?


  • Not specified

  • No others felt it

  • Some felt it, most did not

  • Most felt it

  • Everyone/almost everyone felt it

How would you describe the shaking?


  • Not specified

  • Not felt

  • Weak

  • Mild

  • Moderate

  • Strong

  • Violent

How did you react?


  • Not specified

  • No reaction/not felt

  • Very little reaction

  • Excitement

  • Somewhat frightened

  • Very frightened

  • Extremely frightened

How did you respond?


  • Not specified

  • Took no action

  • Moved to doorway

  • Dropped and covered

  • Ran outside

  • Other

Was it difficult to stand and/or walk?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes

Did you notice any swinging of doors or other free-hanging objects?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes, slight swinging

  • Yes, violent swinging

Did you hear creaking or other noises?


  • Not specified

  • Yes, slight noise

  • Yes, loud noise

Did objects rattle, topple over, or fall off shelves?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Rattled slightly

  • Rattled loudly

  • A few toppled or fell off

  • Many fell off

  • Nearly everything fell off

Did pictures on walls move or get knocked askew?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes, but did not fall

  • Yes, and some fell

Did any furniture or appliances slide, topple over, or become displaced?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes

Was a heavy appliance (refrigerator or range) affected?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes, some contents fell out

  • Yes, shifted by inches

  • Yes, shifted by a foot or more

  • Yes, overturned

Were free-standing walls or fences damaged?


  • Not specified

  • No

  • Yes, some were cracked

  • Yes, some partially fell

  • Yes, some fell completely

Was there any damage to the building?


  • No Damage

  • Hairline cracks in walls

  • A few large cracks in walls

  • Many large cracks in walls

  • Ceiling tiles or lighting fixtures fell

  • Cracks in chimney

  • One or several cracked windows

  • Many windows cracked or some broken out

  • Masonry fell from block or brick wall(s)

  • Old chimney, major damage or fell down

  • Modern chimney, major damage or fell down

  • Outside wall(s) tilted over or collapsed completely

  • Separation of porch, balcony, or other addition from building

  • Building permanently shifted over foundation

Additional Comments

Contact Information (optional)

Name

Email

Phone

Submit Cancel

New Jersey is also surveying their residents to discover the range of Thursday’s quake.  Their site has an interactive map and totals per town of those who felt the quake.

Official Message from Maryland Emergency Management Agency Monitoring After Earthquake Near Delaware Coast

REISTERSTOWN, Md. (November 30, 2017) — In the wake of the earthquake that hit off the coast of Delaware this afternoon, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency is monitoring for any reports of damage.

The quake, which the United States Geological Survey currently lists as a 4.1 magnitude, hit just before 4:50 p.m. off the Delaware coast, about 6 miles east/northeast of Dover. Reports say it was felt as far east as the I-95 corridor in central Maryland.

The United States Geological Survey asks anyone who may have felt the quake to report it on their website.

While earthquakes are not common in this region, they do happen. In August of 2011, most of Maryland felt a magnitude 5.8 earthquake that was centered near Mineral, Va.

For more information about earthquakes in Maryland, please visit the MEMA website.

For more general information about earthquake preparedness, visit the federal government’s earthquake website.

End Official Mema press release

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Bay’s Oyster Aquaculture Harvest Closing in on Wild Fishery

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More than a century after the first oysters were planted on a Virginia bar, aquaculture has firmly taken hold in the Chesapeake Bay. The value of Virginia’s oyster farms production has eclipsed the public fishery, and many oyster experts believe Maryland is heading in the same direction.

As of last year, 173 Maryland oyster farmers have leased more than 6,000 acres of the Bay and its tributaries, all of which are actively producing oysters. Harvest from those leases yielded almost 65,000 bushels in 2016 — an increase of 1,000 percent since 2012. In the meantime, Maryland’s public oyster harvest, suffering from mediocre to poor reproduction since 2010, saw its harvest drop 42 percent in 2016 to about 224,000 bushels.

“Each year for the past five, lease numbers and acreage have risen along with aquaculture harvest, while public harvest numbers declined,” said Donald Webster, a University of Maryland aquaculture specialist. “This year and next will be very difficult for the public fishery and, frankly, I doubt it will ever recover to amount to anything again.”

Oyster aquaculture in Maryland wasn’t always destined for success. Jon Farrington has been growing oysters in Southern Maryland for about 10 years and has experienced changes in the state’s permitting process, as well as methods for oyster production, that have moved the state’s aquaculture industry past its rocky start.

Farrington left his aerospace engineering job in 2006 to try growing oysters in a Calvert County cove. One of only six oyster farmers in the state at that time, Farrington was battle-tested with the various bureaucracies that needed to sign off on permits to grow shellfish. When the state changed its laws in 2009 to allow oyster farming in every county, Farrington was first in line to apply for his second lease. He was hoping the new law would mean quicker approvals, more encouragement for watermen to enter the field and less resistance from shoreline property owners who don’t want cages and floats disrupting their view.

The law helped, and so have changes in the oyster farming process. But those changes took years. Now, nearly a decade later, Maryland has a $5 million aquaculture industry that has created close to 500 jobs in coastal areas, according to state figures, and shows little signs of slowing down.

Oyster aquaculture in Virginia is still far ahead, with $18.5 million in oyster sales in 2016. But Maryland aquaculture has definitely gotten its sea legs.

“I kind of thought maybe it would happen a little bit faster than it has,” said Farrington, who sells his oysters directly to restaurants. He also has a hatchery operation, selling “seed” oysters to fellow farmers. “On the other hand, the market has developed a lot more strongly than I had probably expected back then. All in all, I’d say, Maryland’s done a pretty good job.”

Several factors propelled aquaculture forward in Maryland after more than a century of resistance to the idea. First, more oyster farmers are raising “triploids,” sterile oysters bred from the Bay’s native species, Crassostrea virginica. Because they don’t expend energy on reproduction, triploids can grow to market size twice as fast as wild oysters — 18 months in Maryland waters, as opposed to three years for traditional oysters. In Virginia’s saltier water, they grow even faster.

Also, new techniques and equipment have made it more efficient: floating up-weller systems, which help seed oysters feed on plankton and grow more quickly, and a pulley system from Australia that rotates cages to reduce fouling and labor.

Many oyster farmers also find themselves in the equipment business; they can’t locate a cage or float that works in their location, so they make their own, and then other farmers want it. For years, Farrington sold a device called the Revelation that rotated oysters. Another oyster farmer, Johnny Shockley in Dorchester County, sells systems for cleaning and shaping oysters.

The state tackled bureaucratic hurdles for lease applicants. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources now coordinates the review process, sparing applicants the complexities of what used to be a multi-agency gamut.

At the federal level, oyster farmers complained that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which required a separate permit, put them through duplicative reviews, so there too the processed was streamlined. Leases generally take six months to be issued now, instead of a year or more, said Karl Roscher, the DNR’s aquaculture manager.

Roscher’s office has added staff to speed application processing, which is helpful, as his office has received more than 50 new applications in recent months. Also crucial, according to fisheries director David Blazer, is an online mapping tool that allows an oyster farmer to see if there are potential obstacles to getting a lease in a particular location. For example, if the proposed lease is on top of a public oyster bar or a well-worked clamming area, the state won’t approve it.

Money and training have helped, too. About 80 percent of the leases are worked by a spat-on-shell method, where watermen let larvae set on natural oyster shell and reach a certain size before moving them to bags or containers on the bottom. Webster, with help from University of Maryland Sea Grant, has been training watermen how to set oysters. The number of prospective oyster farmers seeking training has grown from six in 2011 to 45 last year.

Since 2011, the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corp. has approved $3 million in shellfish aquaculture loans to help growers acquire the needed equipment. The fund, known as MARBIDCO, originally prioritized loans to traditional watermen who were new to aquaculture. But MARBIDCO has since helped plenty of non-watermen, like Farrington and fellow Southern Maryland oyster farmer Patrick Hudson. The loans are low-interest and, if the borrower makes all of the payments, MARBIDCO forgives 25 percent of the principal.

Hudson, who was on his way to law school when he made a U-turn into the oyster business, said the MARBIDCO loan was critical. Banks, he said, aren’t inclined to lend tens of thousands of dollars for a start-up oyster enterprise.

“You have to buy cages and oysters before you sell anything. You need at least a million seed. And then you sit on it for a year and a half,” Hudson said. “Being able to pay just a couple hundred dollars a month was critical. Otherwise, you’re just leaving oyster aquaculture to the really rich people.”

For decades, that’s what watermen feared: that large seafood companies would gobble the leases, while the workers struggled. That has not come to pass. In several cases, watermen have become equity partners in oyster farms. Eric Wisner, a waterman, has about 500 acres under lease in the Nanticoke River. Ted Cooney, who owns Madhouse Oysters on Hoopers Island, has two watermen partners.

Cooney, who came to oyster farming after a career in healthcare financial services, said he’s pleased that the state is encouraging aquaculture. But the process still has problems. Almost three years ago, he applied for two leases in the Honga River; the state recently told him he couldn’t have one because it’s too close to a hunting blind.

“I was out of the swing of the gun, as far as I could tell, [but] two and a half years later, they tell me no. They should have told me 60 days after I applied,” he said. “In that time, I could have applied and already gotten another lease.”

Roscher said the goose blind didn’t show up on the state’s siting tool, so staff had to take measurements in the field.

Tension still occurs between user groups. While public oyster areas are generally established, clam beds and pound net locations are more intermittent. A few years ago, an Eastern Shore delegate introduced a bill in the legislature that would have made farming in clamming areas more difficult; the bill didn’t pass, so clammers and oyster farmers compromised, and the state promised to delineate clamming areas so farmers could avoid them.

Some influential property owners are still flexing their muscles, but Roscher noted that many of those efforts fail. Dialogue, he said, is far preferable to long lawsuits or boutique legislation. Last year, influential property owners in St. Mary’s County persuaded a state delegate to introduce a bill restricting oyster farms at historic sites; that bill, which was specific to the viewshed at Sotterley Plantation and Historic St. Mary’s City, died.

Roscher said that the public relations and bureaucratic problems are surmountable. What worries him is a shell shortage. The state and University of Maryland have grown oysters on alternative substrates built from granite and concrete, but they’re much harder to harvest from.

“There are a lot of different ways to grow an oyster,” Farrington said. “People are still trying to figure out what works best for their application, but as they do, we’re really going to see some production grow in the next couple of years. It’s still a relatively young industry, and people are really dialed in.”

Bay Journal staff writer Rona Kobell is a former Baltimore Sun reporter.

Eastern Shore River Keeper Organizations Unite

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Easton, MD (November 17, 2017) – Chester River Association, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and Sassafras River Association officially announced today the merger of their three organizations to form ShoreRivers, a new nonprofit dedicated to healthy waterways across the upper and middle Eastern Shore.
“I am thrilled to lead this exciting organization and its passionate staff as we work to develop real solutions to improve the health of our waters,” says Jeff Horstman, who will serve as the new Executive Director of ShoreRivers. “ShoreRivers is more than just the sum of our parts – we are now one committed voice with more influence on policy, more capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large regional agricultural and restoration projects to reduce pollution.”
ShoreRivers will keep the local focus of its legacy organizations by maintaining their existing volunteer networks and local watershed boards. The new organization’s mission is to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. The combined organization will work with other environmental organizations, local businesses, farmers, families, local governments and a diverse community of Eastern Shore stakeholders to reduce pollution and protect natural resources.
“Each of our three legacy organizations has a proud and productive history of advocacy and restoration work on the Shore,” said Brennan Starkey, incoming Chair of the ShoreRivers Board of Directors. “By merging together, we draw upon our collective expertise, passion, and innovation to improve our Eastern Shore rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.”
ShoreRivers marked today’s announcement event with remarks from Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Governor Larry Hogan’s Chief of Staff, and Mark Belton, Secretary of Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
“Congratulations to ShoreRivers on this exciting merger. We look forward to continuing our productive partnership with them to accomplish bigger and bolder projects to help enhance and restore the Chesapeake Bay and our local waterways,” said Secretary Belton.
ShoreRivers has a dedicated staff of educators, scientists, restoration specialists, and advocates focused on policies and projects that will improve the health of our rivers. The new nonprofit will have more than 3,500 members and supporters across the Eastern Shore to help achieve the organization’s vision for healthy waterways.
The new organization will include four Waterkeeper programs, the most among any Maryland nonprofit: Chester Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper and Sassafras Riverkeeper. Waterkeepers regularly patrol and monitor area waterways and serve as key spokespersons for those waters.

Today’s announcement event was held at the new headquarters in the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in downtown Easton, MD. The nonprofit has regional offices in Chestertown and Georgetown, the former offices of the Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association, respectively.

ShoreRivers also announced several staff changes to coincide with the merger. Isabel Junkin Hardesty, formerly the Chester Riverkeeper, will become ShoreRivers Regional Director for the Chester and Sassafras Rivers. Tim Trumbauer, formerly the watershed manager for Chester River Association, will become the new Chester Riverkeeper. Elle O’Brien Bassett, formerly the education and outreach coordinator for Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, will become the new Miles-Wye Riverkeeper.
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ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.  www.ShoreRivers.org 

Opinion: Tangier Island needs Help no Matter how you Define its Woes by Tom Horton

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When I began a documentary film this year about climate change and the Chesapeake, I knew that even though local residents were affected by it, I’d never be able to record most of them talking about sea level rise.

They know what they see. And around Dorchester — Maryland’s lowest-lying county and the focus of our film — residents see erosion of the shoreline, high tides that seem to come more often and forests dying along the marsh edges.

It’s easy to talk past one another, we who are comfortable with the lingo and concepts of climate science, and those who are not — even while all talking about the same thing.

This was on my mind recently when my friend, James “Ooker” Eskridge, the mayor of Tangier Island, VA, appeared on a CNN Town Hall with former Vice President Al Gore, one of the world’s foremost proponents of how humans are warming the planet.

Eskridge, who’s not convinced that this is really happening, was invited on the cable TV show because of a phone call he got earlier this summer that brought him in early from fishing his crab pots.

The caller was President Donald Trump. He’d heard about Tangier’s plight: battered by erosion that will soon spell its demise if it can’t find an estimated $25 million to $30 million to bulwark its Bay shore with rock. He’d also heard that the island of some 400 residents, with a culture harking back to 17th century England, had voted nearly 90 percent for him last November.

Ooker heard Gore out, but maintained: “I’ve lived there 65 years and I just don’t see it (sea level rise).”

I talked about the disjunct between the two men with Michael Scott, a colleague at Salisbury University and a professor of geography whose specialty is environmental hazards.

He and I are both in Gore’s camp on climate; but Scott has as good a feel as any scientist I know for explaining the nuances and complexities of such global, long-term phenomena at the level of the average citizen.

“I was upset that CNN portrayed (Eskridge) as this sort of pro-Trump nut job,” Scott said. Eskridge is not wrong at all when he says Tangier’s problem is erosion, the professor said, adding that it’s happening very quickly and is very noticeable.

“But there are really two processes going on and they are not separate,” Scott added.

The second process he refers to is sea level rise, propelled by a warmer climate that is melting glaciers. That’s exacerbated by land around the Bay sinking back to its original contours after being pushed upward by the glaciers that extended into Pennsylvania during the last Ice Age.

Add to that the thermal expansion of the oceans as they warm and the potential slowing of the Gulf Stream that could back up more seawater in the Chesapeake.

Rising sea levels make erosion worse. But Scott’s not at all surprised that Tangier’s mayor said that he “didn’t see it (sea level rise).”

Sea level rise at this point, unlike erosion, “is happening very slowly,” coming up mere inches throughout Eskridge’s lifetime on the Chesapeake.

“It’s been slight enough up to now that it’s actually very difficult to measure unless you’re taking very precise scientific measurements,” Scott said.

But the overwhelming scientific consensus, he continued, is that the Earth’s temperatures have reached the point where a measurable acceleration in sea level is under way. In the Bay, it will add 2 feet or more to everyday tides by around 2050.

The forecasts for 2100 are less certain because we can’t tell how fast the massive ice sheets of Antarctica will melt. But estimates foresee everyday tides 5.5 feet above present levels, “and that’s probably on the low end . . . every time we look at it, it seems our estimates are too low,” Scott said.

A couple wrinkles disguise the coming impact further, he said.

First, it is quite possible for waters locally to shallow up as seas rise. In our filming, we’ve found examples of this in Dorchester County. The sediment eroding from shorelines and disintegrating marshes has to go somewhere, and it may fill in channels and other places where currents carry it.

The larger complication, Scott said, “is that sea level rise is not linear.” In other words, it isn’t going to happen steadily, inch by inch, over the years. That would be relatively easy to predict and respond to.

Unfortunately, the path to 2, 3, 5 or more feet of daily tide around the Bay is going to resemble a curve that steepens as average high tide levels rise.

“The trouble with an increasing curve is that for a while, things will seem as if they’re OK, but then the rate’s going to really increase and you’re going to lose the ability to adjust to it,” Scott said.

Helping localities around the Chesapeake adjust is where Scott’s passion lies; and he said we’re still at a point on the curve where we can act reasonably and cost-effectively.

“This (Delmarva) Peninsula is very precious to me and to my family . . . we want to preserve it for our children and we can do that if we are honest with what’s happening and with how we can try to respond,” he said.

He finds most people don’t care too much about why the tides and the erosion are getting worse, or about the politics of climate change.

“They want to know what is going to happen to them and what they can do about it,” Scott said. For many, the real threat won’t come in their lifetimes, and they aren’t likely to pay tens of thousands of dollars to jack up their houses.

The key he said, is to honestly acknowledge the threat and install public policies that over time guide “the way that development takes place, rearrange the way people build their homes, the way roads are maintained.

“And as we lose marshes we are going to need spaces on the landward edge for them to move into. . . . We’re going to need to buy the development rights to such places from the people who own them now . . . a very appropriate response.”

In low-lying places like Dorchester County, he said he thinks that “if we can get a hold of this in the next five to seven years, we have time to fix it that way. If we wait, then we will be in crisis mode, and things are going to happen in a very shocking and upsetting way.”

As for Tangier Island, it won’t make much difference now whether Mayor Eskridge and his townspeople vote yea or nay on closing coal-fired plants to reduce the long-term buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Tangier needs rock, pretty soon, and no change in energy policies is going to change that.

Even the best seawall at Tangier is not the same as a dike, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and realistically isn’t going to happen. Even less likely are Trump’s assurances to Eskridge that his island would persist for “hundreds more years.”

But a seawall would buy time for another generation or two of Tangier residents to continue the island’s unique culture and heritage, time enough for hundreds of thousands of us to visit and enjoy that — a reasonable investment in my opinion.

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 views do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

ShoreRivers: The Shore’s Uncompromising Voice for Clean Rivers by Jeff Horstman and Isabel Junkin Hardesty

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The Eastern Shore’s rivers weave through farmland, forests, marshes and towns on their way to the Chesapeake Bay. Each river is unique, with its own character, but they share in common the fish, crabs, waterfowl and people that depend on them.

Much as these individual rivers ultimately come together as part of the Bay, three great Eastern Shore conservation organizations are uniting. Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association are merging into a single nonprofit, ShoreRivers, Inc., to serve as a leading voice for healthy waterways on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Through science-based advocacy, restoration and education, ShoreRivers will protect and restore Eastern Shore waters that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. We will work collaboratively with our communities, yet maintain an uncompromising voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

Our three legacy organizations each have a deep history of working collaboratively to improve the health of the waters in our communities, and that mission will continue. By joining together, we become more than just the sum of our parts – we will be one committed voice with more influence on policy, more capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large restoration projects that directly reduce pollution.

We will need that influence to tackle the major issues affecting our environment. ShoreRivers will now be a statewide leader on conservation issues so that when we travel to Annapolis to meet with elected officials or to testify for legislation, we will have the backing of our 3,500 supporters who care about our waters and our Eastern Shore quality of life.

We will also have increased capacity to implement bigger, better projects. That means expanded work with our agricultural partners, broader funding to encourage innovative technologies that reduce pollution, and region-wide restoration projects that capture polluted runoff before it enters our rivers.

From Kennedyville to Kent Island, from Cambridge to Crumpton, ShoreRivers staff, partners and volunteers will work together across the Eastern Shore. You’ll see us out on the rivers and creeks as well as in farm fields and forests. Our leadership, staff and board of directors are comprised of members of the three legacy organizations.

The main headquarters for ShoreRivers will be in downtown Easton at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. We will also maintain regional offices in Chestertown and Georgetown, the former offices of the Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association, respectively. And we will heavily rely on watershed advisory boards for each major river to continue our strong local connections.

An important part of our mission is our Waterkeeper program. Waterkeepers are full-time advocates who regularly patrol and monitor their local bodies of water. Including the ShoreRivers merger, there are now 17 Waterkeepers working in the Chesapeake Bay region – 11 in Maryland. Waterkeepers focus on their individual waterbodies, but frequently work together with other “Keepers.” ShoreRivers will have four Riverkeepers: Jeff Horstman is the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper; Emmett Duke is the Sassafras Riverkeeper; Matt Pluta is the Choptank Riverkeeper and Tim Trumbauer is the new Chester Riverkeeper.

Despite encouraging signs of clearer water and more grass beds in recent years, the waterways of the Eastern Shore remain polluted – they are still threatened with excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff. At ShoreRivers, we believe there are real solutions to these threats, and we are committed to developing projects and programs that will improve the health of our waters and keep them robust and beautiful for all of us – now and in the future.

Jeff Horstman is the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper and Executive Director of ShoreRivers and Isabel Junkin Hardesty is the former Chester Riverkeeper and new Regional Director of ShoreRivers.

 

 

Bay Ecosystem: Relationships Before Reason with Peter Forbes

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The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s annual planning conference has a reputation of “shaking it up” every year with the inclusion of sometimes radical points of view on ecosystem protection with a full range of political and social perspectives, and this year was no different.

Peter Forbes, with such important credentials as having a long career in the land conservation movement, an award winning nature photographer, the author of four books, and since 2001, the owner of a working berry and sheep breed stock farm in Northern Vermont is one those with a unique point of view. As a keynote speaker for the ESLC’s 18th meeting on Kent Island. Peter may hold conventional views of the state of our environment and the threats of global warming, his thoughts of finding solutions are not your typical policy or political prescriptions.

In fact, Peter’s first weapon in the battle to confront the world’s climate challenges is as simple as forming lasting relationships with those who may disagree on what needs to be done. Everything else, according to Peter, is secondary to the need and the importance of finding common ground and purpose with those who work the land.

In his Spy interview, Peter talks frankly about this enormous gap in conservation thinking and how it can be the real solution to moving forward.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy please go here