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Chesapeake Bay

Atlantic's Largest Menhaden Fleet Facing Penalties

Nov 1, 2019
AP/Steve Helber

Menhaden are fish near the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay food chain. They’re good for crab bait and they’re pursued on an industrial scale by Omega Protein Corporation to be turned into fish oil and fish meal for factory fish farms.

The Canadian company owns several U.S. fishing fleets, including one in Reedville, Virginia.

A Resilient Chesapeake

May 22, 2019
Creative Commons

Despite record rainfall washing pollution and debris into the Chesapeake Bay last year, the bay’s health continues to improve.

Sure, it took a little dip from its 2017 score, say scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, but it still maintained an overall “C,” which the scientists say is a sign of resilience in the nation’s largest estuary.

Rachel Baye

The House of Delegates voted along party lines Friday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill prohibiting oyster harvesting in five Chesapeake Bay tributaries — Harris Creek, the Little Choptank River, the Tred Avon River, the St. Mary’s River and the Manokin River.

The Nature Conservancy

On the lower Eastern Shore, just south of Snow Hill, they’re cutting down trees to try to resurrect historical swamps that were drained hundreds of years ago to create farm fields and tree plantations.

Those trees are slowly being replaced by Atlantic White Cedar, a tree that once thrived in the swamp. Draining the swamp led to floods and fires. But replacing the original trees will help restore the swamp, explains Deborah Landau, a conservation ecologist with the Nature Conservancy.

At the Mouth of the Bay, a City Seeks Resilience

Mar 11, 2019
Pamela D'Angelo

Newmarket Creek flows from Newport News, Va., through nearby Hampton where nuisance flooding caused by rising tides and sinking lands has created problems for more than one homeowner.

Since 2008, the city of Hampton has been looking at ways to live with water. City officials recently brought experts together for a week-long workshop and a community meeting at the Hampton Coliseum to look at innovative ways individuals, neighborhoods and the city can manage flood risk during storms and adapt to become more resilient to rising waters and sinking lands.

Wikimedia Commons

  

The state Senate voted Tuesday to ban the sale of foam food and beverage containers. If the measure passes the House, Maryland would be the first state to pass a statewide ban on the products.

The ban covers expanded polystyrene cups, plates, takeout containers and egg cartons.

Oyster Restoration: It's Easier Said Than Done

Jan 21, 2019
Pamela D'Angelo

  

Ten years ago, President Obama issued an executive order requiring Maryland and Virginia to restore oyster populations, decimated by disease, over-harvesting and pollution, to tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.

But that has been easier said than done, according to state and federal scientists meeting in Newport News, Va.

Dams, Rain, Debris and Downstream Effects

Dec 17, 2018
Tom Flynn

Exelon Generation, the company that owns Conowingo Dam near the mouth of the Susquehanna River, was forced to open its flood gates several times last summer after record breaking rainfalls and again in November after even more rains.

They said then the gates would remain open “until further notice.”

And that continues to create problems downstream in Chesapeake Bay, where even in the middle of December crews are still pulling large tree trunks and limbs that were washed through the flood gates out of the water.

BelindaMarie pix via Flickr

After one of the wettest summers on record—Baltimore received more than two-and-a-half times the normal rainfall from June 1 to August 4 this year—we’re into hurricane season. And although Hurricane Florence may not be as bad for Maryland as originally predicted, it’s still expected to add to the state’s rainfall total.

That’s another surge of fresh water in a Chesapeake Bay that already is feeling the effects of all that rain.

Joel McCord

Last week, Governor Larry Hogan sharply criticized Pennsylvania and New York for not doing enough to slow pollution and trash flowing down the Susquehanna River into the Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Environmental Protection fired back, calling the remarks “careless and insensitive.”

But the two were a bit more conciliatory at Tuesday’s Chesapeake Executive Council meeting.

Things are looking up for the Chesapeake Bay, according to scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The scientists released a report card on the bay’s health Friday morning that found the "positive trajectory" they’ve noted in recent years is now "statistically significant."

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Maryland’s rivers once teemed with a fish called river herring, the generic name for alewife and blueback herring.

A century ago, watermen on the Choptank River caught millions of these fish that live in the ocean, but return to fresh water to spawn in a single year. 

But the population has plummeted, thanks to overfishing, dams that block their paths upstream to spawning grounds and habitat loss.

Lost Crab Pots: Not as Bad as We Thought?

May 21, 2018
Pamela D'Angelo

Back in 2016, a team of scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science said watermen lost an astounding number—145,000 crab pots, leading to the deaths of millions of dollars’ worth of crabs trapped in those pots.

But a different panel of scientists says it’s not as bad as they originally thought.

Oysters and Dead Zones: A New Experiment

Apr 27, 2018
Ben Spier

It’s known that oysters are not only a favorite delicacy, but also incredibly beneficial to their habitats because of their water-purifying powers. In fact, a typical adult oyster can purify up to 50 gallons of water a day.

But now, Maryland scientists wonder whether the bivalves can serve another purpose: to break up oxygen-starved “dead zones” plaguing the Chesapeake. And they’ve started an experiment in the Severn River, just north of the Route 50 bridge to test the idea.

Johnathan Lefcheck

The Chesapeake Bay’s grass beds, once devastated, are making a comeback.

A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy has documented a three-fold increase in the amount of bay bottom and its tributaries covered by the beds.

It’s gone from 7,000 hectares of grass in 1984 to about 25,000 hectares now, said Jonathan Lefcheck, the lead author of the study. That’s enough grass to cover New York City’s Central Park three times over.

Booming chicken industry sparking new regulations

Feb 28, 2018
Pamela D'Angelo

Here’s a little known fact. That booming chicken industry on the Delmarva Peninsula began by accident in 1923. Cecile Steele, the wife of a farmer in Ocean View, Delaware, ordered 50 chicks from a nearby hatchery for egg production. They sent her 500.

She kept them, grew them out to about two pounds each, sold them for a profit and ordered 1,000 more the next year. Five years later she was raising 26,000 chickens and some 500 other farmers had caught on.

A solution to oyster shell shortage?

Feb 20, 2018
Pamela D'Angelo

It’s an old Chesapeake tradition, paving driveways, decorating gardens and the bases of rural mailboxes with oyster shells. But it may give way to a different purpose; helping to restore the Chesapeake’s decimated oyster population. Here’s why.

Oyster shells are just the thing an oyster farmer needs to spread across three or four acres of leased bottom in a Chesapeake tributary to form a bed for baby oysters to attach themselves and grow. But shells are hard to come by (see: tradition and decimated population), and expensive; $3 to $4 a bushel. And that’s where homeowners like Jeff and Lisa Duffy come in.

Fresh water is 32 percent saltier than years past

Jan 15, 2018
Dominique Maria Bonessi

America’s fresh water is getting saltier, and has been over the last 50 years. That’s according to new research from the University of Maryland.

You’ve seen those big trucks driving around dumping salt on the roads. University of Maryland scientists say that is just one of the reasons that in the continental U.S. freshwater has become 32 percent more salty, and 90 percent more acidic.

Interstate conflict at a fisheries managers' meeting?

Nov 15, 2017
Pamela D'Angelo

Meetings of fisheries managers often can be snooze fests. But the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting in Linthicum this week turned into turned into a hand-wringing session for commercial fishermen, environmentalists, anglers, and even the commissioners.

And it was all because of a baitfish called menhaden.

Oyster stories from Virginia's Northern Neck

Nov 7, 2017
Pamela D'Angelo

It's November... one of those months with an "r" in it... and that means it's oyster season on the Chesapeake Bay, a tradition that goes back centuries. The folks at Belle Isle State Park, on Virginia’s Northern Neck, are working to preserve some of that tradition with the stories of people who lived there and worked in the oyster business in the 1940s and 1950s. Correspondent Pamela D’Angelo has compiled some of their stories. 

Just as Maryland and Virginia are in the middle of ambitious oyster restoration efforts in Chesapeake Bay tributaries, a new threat has appeared; excess acid in the deeper waters.

According to new research out of the University of Delaware, deeper bay waters—30 to 50 feet—are becoming more acidic. That means carbon dioxide is dissolving in the water, which could potentially hurt oysters.

Rachel Baye

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget eliminates all of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s $73 million and reduces or eliminates several other funds used to clean up the Bay and its watershed.

On Thursday, leaders from the six states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed — who together form the Chesapeake Executive Council — signed a resolution calling on Trump and Congress to replace that money in the budget and urging federal agencies to remain active participants in Bay restoration efforts.

Joel McCord, WYPR's news director, and Karen Hosler, of the WYPR news team, discuss the changed political of Chesapeake Bay restoration.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

Democrats in the General Assembly and environmental activists called Thursday for Gov. Larry Hogan to challenge President Donald Trump’s proposed $73 million cut eliminating the Chesapeake Bay Program. During Thursday's floor session, the legislators introduced a resolution criticizing the cuts and directing Hogan to act.

Trump budget eviscerates bay restoration funds

Mar 16, 2017

President Trump's budget blueprint to "Make American Great Again" cuts $73 million from EPA, the entire budget for the Chesapeake Bay Program, the multi-agency effort that oversees bay restoration programs.

The cuts would remove EPA oversight of the Chesapeake Bay's so-called pollution diet to clean up the bay and its streams, creeks and rivers and drew sharp rebukes from bay scientists.

Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers are questioning the decision by Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration to fire the long-time manager of the state’s blue crab program. State House and Senate committees grilled administration officials over the dismissal at a joint hearing Monday.

A Chesapeake Valentine

Feb 14, 2017
Pamela D'Angelo

In honor of Valentine’s Day WYPR’s news department skipped the usual politics and mayhem to introduce you to William and Bessie Hudnall, who have been married for 79 years. They’ve lived in Baltimore and New York, but spent most of their lives—he’s 102, she’ll be 98 next month—near the Chesapeake Bay in Northumberland County, Virginia.

Bay benefits from boating changes

Nov 4, 2016
John Lee

Tim and Yvonne Treadwell were tanking up their 34 foot Formula on an October weekend, getting ready for one last trip before pulling the boat for the winter. Over the summer, they’d gone to Fells Point, Chestertown and Rock Hall for swimming and concerts.

"We just play all up and down the bay," Yvonne Treadwell said. "It’s a lot of fun."

Rising tides make life difficult for scientists

Aug 9, 2016
Pamela D'Angelo

  Chesapeake Bay shorelines are gradually disappearing as sea level rises and higher high tides eat away at beaches and fragile, sandy cliffs. And while that causes anxiety for some waterfront property-owners, it also creates a dilemma for archeologists and paleontologists.

They’re gradually losing important sites and artifacts to the water.

The case of the missing Chesapeake Bay blue crabs

Jul 21, 2016
Pamela D'Angelo

  Over the years, scientists have learned more about the Atlantic blue crab than just about any other species in the Chesapeake Bay. But there’s at least one mystery that still has them stumped. What happened to the millions of young crabs that vanished in 2012, what should have been a bumper year?

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