Tag Archives: Chesapeake Bay

Maryland Tries To Restore Dwindling Bay Grasses

By SARAH POLUS
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS- Climate change and human pollution are reducing levels of grasses in the Chesapeake Bay, which are a crucial factor in restoring its health.

Bay grasses not only provide important habitats for wildlife, but experts are learning that healthy beds can be an important line of defense against severe coastal storms.

However, scientists are finding significant declines in the health and diversity of grasses found in the Chesapeake.

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Program Chief Lee Karrh, there are at least 17 species of grasses in the bay. Species locations vary throughout the bay, depending on the water’s salt content.

Wild celery and stargrass like to grow in fresher waters of the northern region of the bay, widgeon grass is commonly found in the middle regions, and eelgrass prefers areas of high salt content, such as the lower region near the Virginia state line.

Among the most common bay grasses are eelgrasses, Brazilian and common waterweeds, wild celery and various kinds of pondweeds such as the American, curly and horned pondweeds, according to University of Maryland Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Professor Raghu Murtugudde.

There have been “a lot of changes in what species are most common,” Karrh said. “What’s very concerning is [in the lower part of the bay] we’re losing a lot of eelgrass.” Karrh attributes this change to heat stress in the summers. “2005 and 2010 were very warm summers that impacted the eelgrass more so than other species,” Karrh said, noting that eelgrass is very slow to recover.

Other parts of the bay, especially the middle regions, are experiencing a decline in grass species as well, and a general loss of diversity, Karrh said.

Other factors such as the bay’s salt levels dictate grasses’ growth. Salt levels increase with sea level rise and hurricanes and tropical storms, and drop with extreme rainfall on land.

According to Rich Batiuk, associate director at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program office, good water quality is crucial to bay grasses’ health, since polluted or clouded water can block sunlight, and therefore stunt its growth.

Nutrient pollution can pose a big threat to bay grasses, since algae thrive on nitrogen and phosphorus. When these algae overpopulate, algae blooms are created, which cast a layer over the water’s surface that blocks out light, preventing underwater grasses from growing, Batiuk said.

Although nutrients and sedimentation are natural parts of river environments, humans have “modified the landscape extensively by urbanization, agriculture, deforestation, and so on which increases (sediment) loads,” Murtugudde said.

According to Batiuk, runoff from agriculture and residential lawns carries fine, silty material into the bay.

According to Murtugudde, maintaining good water quality in the bay is necessary, because grasses are natural filters, and can reduce harmful algae blooms. “We can hardly overemphasize their role,” he said. “Sub-aquatic vegetation is part of the integrated ecosystem of the bay.” How productive, resilient and biodiverse the bay is all depends on these grasses, he added.

Bay grasses are natural filters against strong storms and nutrient and sediment pollution from land, so they provide excellent habitats for everything from oysters, crabs and small fish to a very large number of microbes, bacteria, insects, and migratory and resident birds, Murtugudde said. “They are critical for maintaining required levels of oxygen for all living species.”

Underwater grasses also help reduce wave strength. “Good grasses will reduce coastal erosion…they have a nice buffering capacity,” Batiuk said. According to Batiuk, areas in Maryland with healthy bay grasses saw less shoreline damage after strong storms in recent years.

As the benefits of bay grasses are becoming clear, their popularity as a coastal protection device is increasing as well. New York City recently decided to restore its Jamaica Bay marshes for coastal defense after Sandy struck. “We don’t need to wait for a disaster to learn these simple lessons,” Murtugudde said, adding that maintaining bay grasses is crucial for the bay’s health.

According to Murtugudde, bay grass revival requires humans to reduce their pollution and runoff, which can be achieved by limiting nutrients used on lawns and agricultural farms, and using permeable paving materials to reduce runoff.

Batiuk said, “People who live in houses can do some simple things” like create rain gardens, place rain barrels under drain-spouts to prevent runoff, and make smart public transportation choices, such as driving low-emission cars and taking public transportation. “This should extend to smart growth concepts and reducing commuter miles on the watershed,” Murtugudde said.

According to Batiuk, public efforts can have “small but incrementally important impacts.”

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CNS 12-19-13

 

Heavy Winter Snows Could Yield Big Chesapeake Algae Blooms Come Summer

By SARAH POLUS
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – If Maryland experiences heavy snowfall this winter, biologists predict the Chesapeake Bay could experience above-average levels of bacteria and toxic algae blooms during the summer.

While human pollution can cause bacteria growth and algae blooms, natural factors, such as climate conditions, dictate their frequency. The amount of snowfall each winter is linked to algae bloom instances in the summer, since spring snowmelt causes runoff, and more nutrients to enter the bay.

“Some relation does exist between higher harmful … blooms and increased runoff related to the amount of snow, rather than just winter temperatures,” University of Maryland Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Professor Raghu Murtugudde said. Maryland is expected to experience warmer than normal temperatures this winter, but also excess amounts of snowfall, so “harmful algal blooms may well turn out to be above normal next summer.”

Water temperature, the bay’s salt content, and nutrient levels determine bacterial growth.

“Warmer temperatures mean more growth,” Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Environmental Health Bureau Director Clifford Mitchell said, so the summer is generally the most high-risk time of the year for contamination. However, “hundreds of thousands of people … [enjoy] the bay every year completely safely… I don’t discourage people from going in the bay.”

Potential for infection and toxic exposure is generally not worrisome, although Maryland residents could benefit from avoiding recreational activity in the bay during certain high-risk periods when bacteria and algae blooms are high in frequency and toxicity, Mitchell said.

In certain situations however, the state health department issues swimming warnings because of higher risks of bacterial infections. Heavy downpours lead to increased sewage run off, which could potentially contain strains of E. coli or promote toxic algae blooms, Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, although “a little consumption of bay water isn’t worrisome … we do worry about infections that come from exposure.”

There’s a chance of exposure to bacteria and toxins for people who do recreational activity in the bay with open wounds, especially for those with compromised immune systems. Even people “who are otherwise healthy but get puncture wounds from contaminated crab or shellfish” can develop infections, though only a few cases a year develop into significant or serious infections, Mitchell said. Raw seafood consumers are also at a small risk of exposure.

As for bacteria that grow naturally in the bay, Vibrio is the Department of Health’s main concern, but of all the people who swim in the bay each year, only about 30 to 50 individuals develop cases of Vibrio, which in its mildest form causes skin infections and stomach ailments.

The Department of Health doesn’t directly monitor individual bacterial levels in the bay, but looks out for warning signs such as algae blooms.

“Although not common, we have had cases across the country where blooms contain relatively high concentrations of toxins,” Mitchell said.

According to Allen Place, marine biologist at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, blooms occur when algae encounters its optimum growth factors, and natural predators like viruses and grazers don’t exist in high enough levels to suppress growth.

Blooms are fed by nutrients, mostly from human sources. Human waste and agricultural production are two of the main culprits of creating nutrient pollution, Place said.

“In the Chesapeake Bay, we are fortunate that most algae blooms have very little direct effects on human health,” Place said, citing possible skin irritation as one of the worst consequences.

The bay’s freshwater lakes and upper parts of the tributaries sometimes have Cyanobacteria blooms however, that produce toxins that damage liver cells, which can cause cancer in humans and death for dogs when ingested, he said. To be safe, Mitchell said the public is advised to avoid the bay and its tributaries’ affected regions until any bloom clears.

According to Place, Maryland isn’t alone in this phenomenon: “General trend worldwide is greater frequency of algal blooms with longer duration,” he said.

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12-11-13

Letter to the Editor

The Conowingo Dam situation is a modern day travesty against water quality throughout the upper portions of the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. For 86 years the accumulation of sediment and toxins that have collected north of the Dam are having a devastating impact on our fisheries’, particularly when a major fresh water event takes place. The well-advertized satellite photos of tropical storm Lee allowed us to view the millions of tons of sediment as it was dispensed by the tidal waters as far as the Potomac River. One cannot over state the damage that has been done to the oyster and soft shell clam industries while we find ourselves in the midst of a terrible Blue Crab Harvest. We are for all intents and purpose out of the oyster and clam fisheries in the upper bay as these areas have been smothered by a blanket of sedimentation. Further damage continues to be done to Bay grasses (sav’s), which provide important habitat while producing life-giving oxygen that all marine animals depend on. This needs to STOP!

The utility that holds the permit to use the Conowingo Hydro-Electric Dam is going through the permitting process that can be re-issued next year. It has been 40 years since the federal energy regulatory commission (FERC) last issued a permit for this facility. The time is now for FERC to make it a condition of the issuance of a new permit that the utility and the state of Pennsylvania developed a plan to mitigate the sediment that has been allowed to accumulate over the past 86 years. If this opportunity were missed, the further demise of our precious Chesapeake Bay will be assured and all the good efforts to date would have been in vain.

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the Chesapeake Bay agreement. We have fewer crabs, a fraction of the oyster population and no soft shell clams and bay grasses are but a shadow of there former status. In recent years we have seen a flush tax, nutrient management programs, critical areas restrictions, storm water controls, emission testing, bat septic system requirements, and now a rain tax just to name a few, save the litany of chemical reductions. Citizens are willing to do there share to help restore our beloved Chesapeake Bay, how about government? This is why I suggest that all levels of our government have an absolute obligation to hold all parties accountable for what is certainly the single worst point source of sediment pollution affecting the Bay to date. Not so long ago the board of county commissioners that I served on successfully opposed the dumping of dredge spoil at site 104 just north of the bay bridges. Yes, it was expensive and time consuming but I have never regretted our efforts because there are something’s that you must do, this is another issue that demands our best effort.

I dedicate this letter to all of those who derive beauty and benefit from the Chesapeake Bay.

Sincerely,
George O’Donnell

Dishing the Dam Dirt, Dealing with Sediment at the Conowingo Dam

By JESSICA WILDE
Capital News Service

CONOWINGO DAM – A 14-mile reservoir behind the Conowingo hydroelectric generating dam in northern Maryland stops 2 million pounds of sediment every year from flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. But another one million pounds get through, burying underwater grasses that support sea life and adding to the bay’s myriad pollution problems.

The reservoir that stores the sediment, essentially dirt and other material carried by the water, is expected to reach capacity within 20 years, after which all of the sediment will get through the dam, putting the bay’s health further at risk.

Exelon Power, which owns the Conowingo Dam, is negotiating a new license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would last for 46 years. State officials and others say the time is now to resolve the sediment buildup.

“This is the moment in time when these issues will be addressed,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative assembly representing Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

State and federal agencies are studying possible solutions, with the three-year Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment to be completed by September 2014.

But the solutions will not be simple, and the question remains: Who will pay for them?

“There’s no silver bullet in this,” said Bruce Michael, resource assessment service director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, who is working on the study. “We’re not going to come up with one magical thing that’s going to be cheap that we’ll be able to implement quickly.”

Exelon Power is waiting to see what the study finds before making any conclusions on who will fund it.

“Exelon believes it should be a shared approach,” said Robert Judge, Mid-Atlantic regional manager of Exelon Power’s communications. “Exelon thinks this needs to be a regional discussion, to look at the models and see what the next steps would be.”

Swanson said the cost would be prohibitive and far exceed what Exelon makes from power generation.

“It’s widely recognized that no one entity could pay for this,” she said.

And after all, it is not Exelon’s sediment. If the Conowingo Dam was not there, all of the sediment flowing through New York and Pennsylvania down the Susquehanna River would pass freely into the bay.

Sediment comes from the land, said Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

It is dirt. It is clay. It is little pieces of earth, matter that settles at the bottom of a liquid.

It comes from construction sites, agricultural fields, poorly maintained logging operations, roadside ditches — any place that doesn’t have adequate vegetation to hold soil in place.

Environmentalists call these vegetation buffer zones, areas of grass and trees that hold dirt in place during rainstorms.

Parking lots, roads and large areas of flat cement do not have buffer zones, and the oils, pollutants and sediment from the roads find their way into waterways when it rains, a process called stormwater runoff.

When it reaches the bay, it settles on top of underwater plants, burying them and preventing future root growth. The plants might have been food or home to other marine life, and shelter for fish and crabs.

While nutrients like sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous are necessary in very small amounts, in large quantities, they disturb the balance of the ecosystem.

“Nature is seeking equilibrium,” Campbell said.

The small soil particles block out sunlight, which interferes with photosynthesis in underwater plants and grasses, decreasing oxygen that is important for sustaining aquatic life.

“As that cumulatively takes effect in large areas of the bay, it has a deleterious impact on the healthy condition of the bay,” Campbell said.

Environmentalists have been working to limit stormwater runoff as a solution to the sediment buildup behind the dam, but that effort relies on a cooperative effort among New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The Susquehanna River begins in Cooperstown, N.Y., and the sediment load increases substantially south of Harrisburg, Penn. The river ultimately contributes 25 percent of the Chesapeake Bay’s total sediment load.

The Conowingo Dam is about five miles from the Pennsylvania border and 10 miles from the bay, and there are three dams north of it in Pennsylvania.

But the reservoirs behind the other dams are full, and only the Conowingo has storage left to hold sediment.

Exelon Power is studying possible solutions as part of its negotiation process that began with a pre-application in 2009. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked that Exelon file a sediment management plan with its final application next year.

Among the possibilities are dredging the Conowingo Pond, the 14-mile reservoir that still has storage capacity north of the dam, and using the sediment for a number of different projects — from parklands to quarries, maybe even brick-making, Swanson said.

Another option would be to allow sediment to pass through the dam at certain times of the year that might be less damaging for the bay, but that would interfere with the dam’s operation and would need Exelon’s support, Michael said.

“It’s going to be difficult environmentally and infrastructure-wise,” Campbell said, explaining that the sediment is like wet concrete and could be toxic and very difficult to move.

The Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment will be releasing a list of possible solutions over the next six months. Michael hopes the public will get involved.

But even if the sediment storage issues at the dam are resolved, Campbell said they are a temporary fix to an ongoing problem.

There’s a myriad of technical and economic considerations to deal with what’s behind those dams, Campbell said. And they don’t solve the long-term problem of sediment entering the river to begin with.

“It’s sort of like putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound,” he said. “If we don’t turn off the sources — the sources coming in from the land — if we don’t get a handle on that, they may buy us time but not a solution. You have to start at the source.”

Even if we remove that sediment, it will accumulate again behind the dam, he said. It buys time, but also does not deal with the quantity of nitrogen or phosphorous entering the bay, which could be controlled by decreasing stormwater runoff.

Campbell said some argue Exelon Power should be responsible for dealing with the sediment since they own the dam. But others say it is not their sediment.

“That’s going to be a point of conversation,” he said. “If there is anything that can and should be done technologically and economically, who undertakes the lion’s share?”

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CNS 05-09-13

 

Rescued Sea Turtles Find Temporary Home in Baltimore

By ANGELA HARVEY
Capital News Service

BALTIMORE- Sea turtle number 32 had a small part of its front left flipper amputated last week because a joint lesion has not healed since the reptile was brought to the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program in November.

“It’s an infection in the joint so we don’t want it to spread and then have to amputate the entire flipper,” said Amber White, a husbandry aide. “As you can image that would impair his swimming ability.”

The surgery on Friday went well. Number 32 has stitches in the flipper and has resumed its normal swimming activities, while stitches on the turtle’s front right flipper are healing well after a similar amputation was done at the animal care center in January.

Number 32 was found stranded off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., White said. Its rehabilitation carries high stakes because it is a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the smallest and most critically endangered species of sea turtles.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the Kemp’s Ridley turtle’s nesting numbers started declining dramatically after 1947, reaching a low of 702 nests in 1985. Since the mid-1980s, the number of nests laid in a season has been increasing. There were 20,800 documented nest in 2011. This increase is attributed to nest protection efforts and regulations requiring the use of turtle excluder devices in commercial fishing trawls.

Sea turtles were in the public eye last week when more than 1,000 scientists, researchers, conservationists, lawmakers and students from 80 different countries came to Baltimore for the 33rd Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, said Dr. Ray Carthy, president of the International Sea Turtle Society and assistant unit leader of the Florida Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit.

The National Aquarium of Baltimore and the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center cooperated on the symposium to bring attention to the critical issues affecting sea turtles and diamondback terrapins, the Maryland state reptile, in the Chesapeake Bay.

“The water quality and health of the Bay affects all of us because sea turtles are important sentinels of the ecosystem,” Carthy said. “The Bay is an important foraging and nesting area for turtles, as well as an important developmental area for young turtles.”

The injuries turtles endure as a result of many of the issues discussed at the symposium can be seen at the aquarium’s rescue program. It has treated and released turtles and other marine animals stranded in Maryland for 21 years. It also is a part of a regional stranding network, so it can take the overflow from other animal care centers from Maine to Virginia, said Jennifer Dittmar, the stranding coordinator.

The animal care center has seven juvenile turtles in its care: two loggerheads, two greens, and three Kemps. All came to the program in November and December after being stranded in Cape Cod, White said.

The turtles are being treated for a variety of conditions such as cold stunning — the same as hypothermia in humans — respiratory infections and the exposure of shell bone, White said. Rehabilitation time depends on the turtle’s condition, but typically lasts five to six months. During their stay the turtles’ energy levels and respiratory rates are closely monitored and program veterinarians perform surgeries, ultrasounds, endoscopies and other procedures as necessary, White said.

The staff tries to mimic the turtles’ natural environment as much as possible. Currents are created by the tank’s water system. To replicate sea kelp, car wash strips are attached to PVC pipes, and little tunnels were made for the turtles to hide under.

A number painted on the shell identifies each turtle. Their sex cannot be determined until they are a little older — males have longer tails. They have yet to be named, so White affectionately refers to the group as the brat pack, in tribute to classic 1980s movies.

Many of the staff and researchers from the National Aquarium and the program attended the symposium, where this year’s theme was connections. Carthy said Baltimore was the ideal location for international conservationists and scientists to meet with federal workers to share research and discuss protection and conservation policies.

“The sea turtle community is global, and many of the laws passed in the United States affect conservation efforts worldwide,” Carthy said. “Having this event in Baltimore allows people in the sea turtle community to easily meet and exchange ideas with federal workers.”

The exchange continued with a teachers workshop, held at the National Aquarium and run by the Virginia Aquarium’s education department, that drew about 30 educators, most from Baltimore city and county areas. Educators were introduced to the lives of sea turtles in the Chesapeake Bay as they discussed how to educate students about the health of the estuary.

“We want to help educators incorporate sea turtles and conservation careers into their curriculum,” Carthy said, “and it’s personally important to me to target minorities that are underrepresented in the conservation fields.”

Artwork made by students from six Maryland schools was on display at the symposium as part of a contest with the theme of how humans can help sea turtles overcome threats they face.

In the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean sea turtles can face entanglement, cold stunning, bycatch, habitat denigration, and agricultural and industrial runoff causing dead zones, Carthy said.

These are some of the dangers number 32 will face when it is eventually released. After the surgery is complete, the program staff will wait for signs that it can hunt and forge and is healthy enough to return to the wild.

White said there will be a test.

“We drop in live crabs. It’s not easy prey, they fight back.”

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Conowingo Dam Re-Licensing Affects Chesapeake Bay

By JESSICA WILDE
Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS – Exelon Power is negotiating a new 46-year license to operate the Conowingo hydroelectric generating dam on the Susquehanna River in northern Maryland, which provides power to more than 700,000 homes. The current license expires in September 2014.

But state officials and legislators from the Eastern Shore said Friday that sediment and fish passage issues need to be worked out first in order to better protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Sediment levels are one of three major contributors to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, along with nitrogen and phosphorus, and more and more sediment has been passing through the Conowingo Dam in recent years, particularly during storms.

Legislators are frustrated by the amount of state money spent on sediment studies at the dam, when much of the sediment is flowing in from Pennsylvania.

Sen. E. J. Pipkin, R-Queen Anne’s, asked for an action plan to take the place of studies and meetings that have been going on for too long.

“Can we ask for a summit with Pennsylvania?” he said.

The Eastern Shore Delegation will be sending a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley to make sure Pennsylvania is appropriately involved in the discussion.

Scientists have been aware of sediment issues at the dam since the 1970s, Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert Summers said Friday, and efforts to decrease its flow with erosion and land conservation strategies have been working.

“We have seen a decrease of sediment flowing into the reservoirs,” Summers said. “There is progress being made.”

The Conowingo Dam is on the Susquehanna River about five miles from the Pennsylvania border and 10 miles from the Chesapeake Bay. Sediment that passes through the dam from Pennsylvania eventually reaches the bay.

The dam has historically been a great controller of sediment, Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, told legislators Wednesday. Three million pounds of sediment reach the dam every year, and the dam only lets 1 million of that through, storing the other 2 million in reservoirs.

At equilibrium, when water levels on both sides of the dam are equal, all 3 million pounds of sediment pass through, Swanson said.

Equilibrium currently occurs only during storms. But studies show that as the dam’s storage capacity is used up, permanent equilibrium could be reached in the next several decades.

“So whether you believe that equilibrium is going to be reached in the next 10 years, next 20 years, or the next 40 years, it’s going to happen during the next license cycle,” she said. “So what that means is we better get the license right now, and we better negotiate whatever we can associated with sediment, associated with fish passage, associated with flow and land conservation.”

The dam, which has been producing power since 1928, is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and both Maryland and Pennsylvania are responsible for issuing water quality certifications.

Federal and state agencies are working with environmental groups to study the inflow and outflow of sediment, and fish passage. The $1.38 million study uses computer modeling to determine whether and where to dredge, and whether it would be beneficial to let sediment through at times that would be less damaging to the bay.

Exelon is also participating in the study, which will be ready by 2014. But those parts of it that will be necessary for licensing negotiation will be available this year, said Frank Dawson, assistant secretary of aquatic resources for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The dam cannot be the only stopper of sediment, Summers said. Maryland and Pennsylvania need to prevent sediment from entering the dam to begin with.

“The sediment issues require participation from multiple parties,” said Mary Helen Marsh, director of environmental operations for Exelon Power.

For all of the state resources going into resolving the sediment issue at the dam, sediment only seems to be increasing, legislators said.

“It’s time for some action,” said Delegate Jay Jacobs, R-Kent. “It’s time for some resolution. You can’t keep taking and not giving.”

 

Another Bay Report Card

How is the Chesapeake Bay doing? The University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science will let us know in its latest report card, which will be released shortly. Last spring, the bay got 42 out of 100 possible points, down from 46 the year before and the first drop in four years. Winter storms were blamed for the drop. Since then, the bay has seen record rains last fall that pushed muddy water and tons of trash into the bay followed by a warm, dry winter. Heavy rains carry sediments that can cloud water and bury bay grasses. Storm runoff also carries pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from sewage, lawns and farms that can cause oxygen-robbing algae blooms.

Bay Restoration Strategy Status

The federally-led strategy to restore the Chesapeake Bay is ahead of schedule for two of three key pollutants, although the cleanup is being held up in some areas by budget concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency said in two reports recently released. Reducing nitrogen and sediment pollution is ahead of schedule, while phosphorus reduction is behind schedule. The three are the key pollutants in the bay. Nitrogen and phosphorus come from sources including sewage, fertilizer, auto and power plant emissions. Once they enter the Chesapeake and waterways that feed the bay they can spur oxygen-robbing algae blooms. Sediment that runs off lawns, development sites, farms, roads and other areas can cloud water and bury bay grasses, which provide food and habitat for a number of species. EPA spokesman Greg Barranco said a new tracking and reporting system for phosphorus offset most of the reductions for the pollutant.

A Cover Crop That Helps The Bay?

The daikon radish, a staple at sushi bars worldwide, is helping Maryland farmers fight Chesapeake Bay pollution. Some farmers are experimenting this winter with using the radish as a cover crop, which is planted in the fall to absorb excess fertilizer and prevent it from running off into waterways while helping control erosion and improve the soil. In Talbot County, which led the state in cover crop planting last year, wheat is most often planted, but county officials say some farmers are experimenting with the slender, white, deep-rooted radish. State officials say the radish’s roots help break up compacted soil and reduce weeds, and the plants break down if the radishes are not harvested. That means spring planting can be done without plowing under the cover crop.

Coast Guard Resumes Search

The Coast Guard resumed the search for a missing boater on the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay. A boat capsized last weekend near the Bay Bridge. Authorities say a strong gust of wind blowing against a tightened sail helped capsize the boat. So far, the body of 25-year-old Tyler Cordrey of Eden, Maryland, still has not been found. The only confirmed survivor is 25-year-old Taylor Rogers of Salisbury. She was treated for hypothermia after the accident and is now out of the hospital. Another person on the boat, a 46-year-old man from Laurel, was also rescued but later died. Maryland officials say it’s been a bad year for boating accidents. More than 20 people have died statewide.