High Flows to Chesapeake Continued in July, Triggering Large Dead Zone

The Susquehanna exceeds its banks at Port Deposit during a high flow period in September 2018. Bay Journal photo by Dave Harp

The Bay continued to be on the receiving end of high river flows in July. The flows have been higher than normal for 13 out of the last 15 months, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The pollution carried into the Bay during that span has led to worse than normal water quality and last month triggered a large oxygen-starved “dead zone” in the Bay.

In July, the USGS reported that the estimated cumulative flow into the Bay from its nine largest rivers — which account for more than 95% of the freshwater entering the Bay — averaged 54,000 cubic feet per second. That was the 15th highest flow on record for the month since the agency began tracking river flows into the Bay in 1936.

So far this year, the flows were above normal in five of the first seven months of the year. That followed an eight-month period from May through December last year when flows were above normal every month.

The USGS considers a flow to be above normal if it is among the top 25% for a given month.

The data is available on a new USGS web page.

High freshwater flows are typically bad news for Bay water quality because they carry large amounts of water-fouling nutrients and sediments, which are flushed off the landscape and into the Chesapeake.

In the Bay, nutrients fuel algae blooms that cloud the water. As the blooms die and decompose, they are consumed by bacteria in a process that depletes water of oxygen. Sediment also clouds the water and smothers bottom habitats.

Scientists have been worried that the protracted period of high flows will lead to a decline in underwater grass beds, which need sunlight to survive. Earlier this year they predicted that the huge influx of nutrients would lead to a greatly expanded dead zone.

Indeed, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported that the area of low oxygen, or hypoxic, water was significantly worse than average during its two July water quality monitoring surveys.

In early July, the DNR reported a dead zone of 1.92 cubic miles in the Maryland portion of the Bay, compared with an average of 1.36 cubic miles. In late July, scientists found 2.01 cubic miles of low-oxygen water, compared with the late July average of 1.34 cubic miles.

Along with pollution, high flows added a surge of freshwater to the Bay that kept salinity low near the surface, causing strong stratification between the surface and higher salinity bottom waters. That essentially traps oxygen-starved water on the bottom and prevents it from mixing with the oxygen-rich surface.

DNR scientists said conditions also were aggravated by temperatures that warmed Bay waters to nearly 90 degrees. Warmer water holds less oxygen than cool water.

The department’s monitoring reports are available here.

By Karl Blankenship

ShoreRivers Hosts 15th Annual Ride for Clean Rivers

On Sunday, September 15, ShoreRivers will host the 15th Annual Ride for Clean Rivers. Ride the beautiful back roads of Talbot and Queen Anne’s Counties in support of ShoreRivers’ work for clean waterways. This is a great way to bring summer to a close surrounded by friends, family, and fellow community members. Register at shorerivers.org/events before September 9 to guarantee an event tee-shirt! Riders are also encouraged to join teams and create their own fundraising pages to boost support for their participation from others.

Cyclers of all ages and levels are welcome to register for 20-mile, 35-mile, or 62-mile (metric century) routes. All routes begin and end at Chesapeake College and include SAG support and rest stops with food and drink. The metric ride will kickoff at 8:00 am and the 35-mile and 20-mile send-off will follow at 10:00 am. Upon returning to the college campus, riders and volunteers will enjoy a BBQ lunch and live music by “Fog After Midnight.”

Cyclists line up at the Ride for Clean Rivers start line.

ShoreRivers looks forward to continued support from the community for this year’s event. Whether enjoying a Sunday bike ride, riding with friends, or promoting a business, this event is about coming together. It is not too late to create a team or sign up to join ShoreRivers in support of cleaner, healthier rivers.

Thank you to ShoreRivers Marquee SponsorDock Street Foundation, as well as Agency of Record, Bay Imprint, Bike Doctor, Blessings Environmental Concepts, The Brewer’s Art, Chesapeake 4-H Club, Chesapeake College, Easton Family YMCA, Ecotone Ecological Restoration, ThinkMakeBuild,and S.E.W. Friel.

All proceeds go toward ShoreRivers’ science-based education, restoration, and water quality monitoring programs. For more information, please contact Rebekah Hock at rhock@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511 extension 206.

ShoreRivers will also host the Run for Clean Rivers in Chestertown during Sultana Downrigging. Participants may walk or run a 5K or 10-mile course to support ShoreRivers. The event will be held on Saturday, November 2 from 9am-12pm at Wilmer Park in Chestertown, MD. Register online at shorerivers.org/events or on the day of the race.

5K Run/Walk: $35 before October 26

10-Miler: $60 before October 26

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

shorerivers.org

Leave it to Beavers by Bay Journal’s Tom Horton

Notes to myself on preparing to teach my Chesapeake Bay course at Salisbury University for the 10th year:

A pair of young beavers perch atop their lodge in a Nanticoke River wetland. Bay Journal photo by Dave Harp

Teach oysters? Always, but this time I’m also going bigger, with beavers. Both are “keystone” species, and Castor canadensis, aka the North American beaver, is potentially the more important, even if restoring bivalves gets more press.

Sewage treatment? Can’t ever ignore 17 million toilet flushers, but as with beavers over oysters, I’m moving inland, traveling upslope, emphasizing the lands of the Bay’s watershed vs. the Bay itself.

And that word, “watershed,” let’s reimagine it — it only entered the language around 1800, by which time we’d already eliminated most beavers and their dams and ponds throughout the Chesapeake region. And, that fundamentally altered and accelerated the way water moved off the landscape.

So what’s a better word — waterkeep? Waterseep? Waterooze? Waterhold? …Something to get us back conceptually to the way it was when the Bay was healthy, its lands more fiercely retentive of life (water equals life).

You want to tell students everything you know. But when you have just 16 three-hour classes a semester, and you’re trying to spend four or five of those sessions outside with watermen and farmers and scientists, or paddling through climate-changed landscapes, you have to choose.

Land use most of the ballgame

Recently, my choices have moved upslope, come ashore, for a couple of reasons.

Land use is most of the ballgame in our estuary, more so than almost any other on Earth. The watershed/waterkeep is about 16 times the area of the tidal waters into which it drains. And the Bay is so shallow that there’s astoundingly little volume of water given its long, broad surface — clearly too little to dilute the runoff from 48 million acres.

The other reason is that the advanced sewage treatment and air pollution control technologies that have carried the Bay restoration to its current, modest success don’t have enough juice left to get us to our 2025 cleanup goals.

This is especially so in light of a growing population — and in light of no population-control policies at any level of government, or even among most environmental groups.

Success by 2025 is going to depend more and more on how well we can halt pollution running from the land — specifically the land that our population radically alters wherever it goes.

Stormwater controls from developed landscapes are better designed than ever, but expensive. It’s uncertain they will be deployed, maintained, inspected and enforced anywhere near 100%. Sediment control, for example, decades after it became law in places like Maryland, remains inadequate.

Farming

Agriculture, a far larger pollution source, is moving in some good directions with a new phosphorus-based manure control mandate in Maryland and the increasing use of winter cover crops that suck up fertilizers from groundwater before it carries them to the Bay.

But this is not happening everywhere, particularly not in Pennsylvania; and even where it is happening, we still don’t have convincing evidence that we’ll get big enough pollution reductions from the intensive row cropping and concentrations of animals that typify modern farming.

Add to this the real possibility that national policy may soon call for greater use of corn-based ethanol in gasoline. It saves little or no energy and would likely result in clearing more acres around the Bay for more corn.

There are promising programs to counteract polluted runoff, such as planting thousands of miles of vegetated buffers along rivers and streams. But those efforts are far behind schedule, and they don’t specifically call for the vegetation to be forest, the best buffer.

When beavers ruled

And while such greening of the Bay’s lands is good, we know that far better would be green and wet; and that’s where we need to reconsider and actively restore the beaver.

No creature on Earth, save for modern humans, has more capacity to transform a landscape; and in designing a landscape that produces excellent water quality, the beaver has no equal.

Beavers ruled the hydrology of North America for a million years or more, until just the last few centuries, when fur trapping reduced populations from an estimated 100 million or more to less than half a million. In the Chesapeake, from millions to thousands is a fair estimate.

Through damming and ponding, beavers stanched the shedding of water from the watershed, cleansed it, filtered it, held back floods, let rain soak in to keep water tables high and streams running even in drought. They created luxurious habitats for a stunning variety of amphibians, fish, waterfowl and mammals.

In recent decades, beavers have come back to the point where a solid body of science in Canada and the United States confirms they were this continent’s most important keystone species — a species whose functioning underpins a whole ecosystem.

My class this year listened to a young man in the stream-restoration business say that in many cases, the work that his company does might be done as well or better by just releasing beavers.

But it is illegal to do that, he said.

That’s a mindset that needs to change. It will take education to overcome prevailing views of beavers as tree-chewing, property-flooding nuisances. They can be, but there are technologies to help us coexist — piping that keeps beaver ponds deep enough for the animals without flooding, for example.

You will hear more about beavers in my future columns — and in the news, I hope. A good place to start: Should the Chesapeake restoration effort include a beaver goal?

In the meantime, we must emulate the animal any way we can, creating wetlands throughout the landscape wherever there is opportunity, moving rapidly toward a “slower” watershed, one that sheds water only grudgingly.

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.

Ecosystem: WATER/WAYS: Smithsonian Exhibit Opens in Oxford

Water: Seventy-one percent of earth’s surface is covered with it. It influences what we eat, where we live, and how we work. It impacts climate, inspires art, music, and religion. It is an environmental necessity. It affects our life on the Eastern Shore. Which is why the current traveling Smithsonian Museum on Main Street (MoMS) exhibit, Water/Ways, at the St. Paul’s Church in Oxford is such a significant exhibition.

Sponsored by the Oxford Museum & Maryland Humanities, the program is designed to explore and raises awareness of water and how it influences economy, history, migration, culture, and spirituality. It also looks at the environmental impact and ways to protect dwindling supplies of this critical resource.

The concept behind MoMS is to send high-quality exhibits to small museums in towns with small populations. Places that usually wouldn’t have the opportunity to participate in a national exhibition program. The selected towns are provided with ready-to-install exhibitions containing a variety of high-quality, informative units with photographs, text panels, and touchscreen interactive kiosks featuring video and audio content. Much of the work done to coordinate, install, and present the exhibition is done by volunteers. After six weeks, the exhibit is taken down and sent to the next scheduled location. Organizations all across Maryland competed for the chance to host this traveling exhibition, and the Oxford Museum was one of only six communities awarded the unique opportunity.

“The way it’s laid out, it’s meant to be of interest to a lot of different levels of curiosity,” says Stuart Parnes, president of the Oxford Museum. “So, there are things here that if you just want to look at the big picture, you can just do that. If you want to read a lot of detail, you can do that. The whole idea of these shows is to get people to think about issues and traditions that have affected our lives forever and we just kind of overlooked them or don’t think they’re important to us.”

But the exhibit is meant to do more than just be an educational experience. With support from state humanities councils, towns have the opportunity to create their own educational programs. “The idea is that each community that takes one of these shows amplifies it with what makes sense in the local community with their local culture or their local history, and their local arts,” says Parnes.

Since the Oxford Museum was too small to contain the 650 square foot exhibit along with the local programming, the main presentation is at the St. Paul’s Church, who cleared their calendar for the 6-week show. Two ancillary Water/Ways exhibits are on display at the Museum: “Carrying On – Four Centuries on the Oxford Bellevue Ferry,” which details one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions and “A Rising Tide in the Heart of the Chesapeake Bay,” which tells the story of Smith and Holland Islands and their struggle with erosion and rising waters. We have a split venue.” says Parnes, “We decided to have them open on the same days and the same schedule so that people could walk back and forth between both locations.”

Expanding on the experience of the informative, inspiring, and eye-opening exhibitions are a series of free and open to the public programs that feature experts in their field. “We’re trying to use people who are local that maybe folks haven’t really connected to yet,” says Parnes. “So, we’re not bringing people in from Baltimore and not bringing people in from Washington. This is about our own little area.” Oxford Community Center, Oxford Town Hall, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and the Easton Library provided space for the educational series which began in mid-July. The remaining lineup includes:

August 7, 5:30pm: Water, Water Everywhere: Sea Level Rise on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy staff.
August 8, 6:00pm: Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier with the book’s author, Earl Swift.
August 14, 5:30pm: Vibrio bacteria: Everything You Didn’t Want to Know, But Probably Should with Ava Ellett (Cooperative Oxford Lab/NOAA).
August 21, 5:30pm: Flushed with Pride (a discussion on Oxford’s new state of the art water treatment facility) by Oxford Town Manager, Cheryl Lewis
Additional information and location of programs may be found by visiting: https://www.oxfordmuseummd.org/events/

Water/Ways is open Friday-Monday 10:00am-4:00pm
St. Paul’s Church 225 S Morris St. and the Oxford Museum 101 S Morris St.
The exhibit runs through August 24, 2019

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Visitor Spending at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Boosts Local Economy

A new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service examined the economic impact of 162 national wildlife refuges to their local economies, including Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Blackwater NWR had an economic impact of $7.8 million, including $667,000 in total tax revenue, 63 jobs, and $2.3 million in employment income to Dorchester and Wicomico counties.  Visitor expenditures for 2017 were $5.8 million, with non-residents accounting for 95% of the total.

Nationwide, 53.6 million people visited national wildlife refuges in 2017, with an economic impact of $3.2 billion on local communities and supporting more than 41,000 jobs.  The figures come from a new economic report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service titled Banking on Nature 2017: The Economic Contributions of National Wildlife Refuge Recreational Visitation to Local CommunitiesThe report is the sixth in a series of studies since 1997 that measure the economic contributions of national wildlife refuge recreational visits to local economies.

“Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a local and national treasure for visitors from next door to across the country.  Our 223,000 annual visitors enjoy activities such as wildlife watching year round, deer hunting September through January, and spectacular waterfowl photography in the winter,” said Marcia Pradines, the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project Leader. “But the impacts go beyond the easy to measure economic outputs.  For instance, all of the county’s fourth and sixth graders participate in environmental education activities, and the habitats provide valuable ecological services such as flood buffers, and nurseries for fish.”

National wildlife refuges generate many individual and societal benefits, including fish and wildlife conservation, open space, science and education, water quality improvement and flood resilience. The thriving fish and wildlife populations of the Refuge System also attract millions of recreational users. Some visitors take part in heritage sports, such as hunting and fishing, where those activities are compatible with refuge management goals and other recreational activities. Others enjoy hiking, paddling, wildlife viewing or nature photography.

Wildlife-related recreation fuels the economy throughout the nation. The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years by the Service, informs the Banking on Nature report. The most recent survey found that more than 103 million Americans, or 40 percent of the United States population age 16 and older, pursued wildlife-related outdoor recreation in 2016 and spent nearly $156.9 billion.

The Banking on Nature study also found:

– National wildlife refuges are seen widely as travel-worthy destinations: 83 percent of refuge spending was done by visitors from outside the local area — an increase of 9 percent from the 2011 study. At Blackwater NWR, 95% is from non-residents.

– More than 41,000 jobs (up 18 percent from 2011) and $1.1 billion in employment income (up 22 percent) were generated.

– The combined economic contribution to communities nationwide is more than six times the $483.9 million appropriated by Congress to the Refuge System in FY 2017.

The Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts in all 50 states and five U.S. territories. Blackwater NWR is within a two hour’s drive of both Washington D.C. and Baltimore, MD. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitats for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and boating to nature watching, photography and environmental education.

For more details and a full listing of each refuge’s economic impact, read the Banking on Nature report and explore the visual data online.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, protects over 29,000 acres of rich tidal marsh, mixed hardwood and pine forest, managed freshwater wetlands and cropland for a diversity of wildlife.  To learn more, visit our website at www.fws.gov/refuge/blackwater or follow us on Facebook @BlackwaterNWR.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Seeks Volunteers

Do you enjoy meeting people from all over the world?  Do you enjoy the outdoors?  Do you want to give back to your community and help others enjoy the natural resources that our area has to offer?  If so, consider volunteering at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).  Volunteers are needed to assist with a variety of programs, including staffing the information desk in the Visitor Center, leading interpretive and educational programs, maintaining the Beneficial Insect and Butterfly Garden, posting boundaries, mentoring new hunters, and much more.

A volunteer workshop will be held at the Blackwater NWR Visitor Center on Saturday, August 10th from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. to update new and seasoned volunteers on current refuge activities.  Learn how to read the landscape from a climate change perspective, and hear about the latest projects with the biological and visitor services programs.  This training session is open to current volunteers as well as any member of the public interested in becoming a refuge volunteer.

Volunteers play a critical role in helping the refuge fulfill its mission.  Over 180,000 visitors from all over the world visit Blackwater NWR each year to photograph wildlife, hike trails, paddle waterways, and enjoy the scenic landscapes.  Established in 1933 as a refuge for migratory birds, the refuge has one of the highest concentrations of nesting bald eagles on the Atlantic coast, and the largest protected population of Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrels.  With over 29,000 acres of tidal marsh, mixed hardwood and pine forest, managed freshwater wetlands and several hundred acres of cropland, Blackwater NWR supports a diversity of wildlife.

To learn more about the volunteer program at Blackwater NWR or to register for this volunteer workshop, please contact Michele Whitbeck at 410-221-8157 or Michele_Whitbeck@fws.gov.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, protects over 29,000 acres of rich tidal marsh, mixed hardwood and pine forest, managed freshwater wetlands and cropland for a diversity of wildlife.  To learn more, visit our website at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/blackwater or @BlackwaterNWR.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

191 Acres of Farmland Conserved in Kent County

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) is excited to announce closing on a new conservation easement in Kent County. The easement, completed in conjunction with the U.S. Army and the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET), protects an additional 191.668 acres of agricultural land with scenic value along MD-297 (Worton Road).

The grantors, Ed and Marian Fry, have now protected more than 750 acres of agricultural land via three conservation easements for their family-owned and operated Fair Hill Farm, an innovative dairy operation. When asked about their experience protecting their farm, Marian stated “we are so pleased to work with the Trust and the Conservancy to protect our farm, and delighted that these two organizations are working together to protect land in Kent County”.

This easement is number 296 for ESLC, which is on track to close its 300th by the end of the calendar year.

Ed and Marian’s dedication to preserving and enhancing farmland, as well as to innovative, sustainable farm practices, is a prime example of conservation at work on the Eastern Shore. Eastern Shore Land Conservancy would like to thank the U.S. Army’s Compatible Use Buffer Program, which provided financial support for the completion of this project.

Shorter, Warmer Winters Could Lead to Longer, more Productive Blue Crab Season

Scientists from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science are predicting that warmer winters in the Chesapeake Bay will likely lead to longer and more productive seasons for Maryland’s favorite summer crustacean, the blue crab.

Researchers examined data on increasing temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay and predictions for continued warming. They found that winters will be up to 50% shorter by 2100, and overwinter survival of the blue crab will increase by at least 20% compared to current conditions.

“Blue crabs are a climate change winner in the bay. As the bay gets warmer they will do better because they are a more tropical species,” said study co-author and Professor Tom Miller of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “We always hear about those species that are going to struggle or move. Blue crab are going to do better.”

The blue crab is found along the Atlantic Coast from New England to Argentina. Maryland’s blue crabs spend their winters dormant in the muddy sediment at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, emerging only when water temperatures near 50° F. In recent years, this dormancy period has been becoming shorter, and trends indicate it will become shorter still—and could potentially become nonexistent.

“Water temperatures are warming and the crabs are cold blooded so their metabolic rate is directly related to warmer temperature. Warmer water means they grow faster,” said Hillary Lane Glandon, who conducted this research as a graduate student at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and is now a post-doctoral research associate at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington.

Scientists predict that the shortening of winter combined with increases in average wintertime temperatures will cause a significant increase in juvenile blue crab winter survival so that the population behavior comes to resemble that currently observed in the Sounds of North Carolina and further south.

“In 100 years, we would expect winter for crabs in Solomons to look more like winter currently looks in southern North Carolina,” said Glandon. “No winter for the crabs.”

While this may sound great, don’t stock up on your mallets and Old Bay yet.

Crabbing is prohibited December through March in the lower Chesapeake Bay, which has helped in maintaining the population at sustainable levels. However, an increase in wintertime crab activity may encourage a lengthening of crabbing season similar to states such as North Carolina and Louisiana, where crabs are active year-round.

“People will be able to fish for them almost year-round. However, this challenges the traditional pattern in which waterman fish for striped bass in the spring and crabs in the summer and oysters in the winter—that traditional seasonal rotation of the harvest. It’s a cultural challenge,” said Miller.

Climate change not only signals warming temperatures but also increased variability in temperatures, further complicating wintertime management of the species. A particularly cold winter could devastate a year-round fishery.

“If crabs start moving and feeding year-round, they represent an added predation pressures on the bay’s ecosystem, and we don’t know how the ecosystem will respond,” said Miller.

Predicting change

The researchers used computer-modeled projections of future temperature from the World Climate Research Programme’s Coupled Model Intercomparison Project to explore how changes in water temperature may impact the overwintering behavior and winter survival of blue crab in the Chesapeake Bay in the next 100 years.

In order to create a model that was directly relevant to the Chesapeake Bay near Solomons, Maryland, they were able to access a long-term (1938-2016) dataset of daily water and air temperature measurements collected right in their backyard in the Patuxent River. From the pier at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, water temperatures have been taken by hand at noon from 1938–2012 and by automatic instrumentation from 2012 to 2016. Average daily temperatures have increased 3.2˚F since 1938.

“The data from right off our pier is a unique data set because it is so long. We couldn’t do this work without someone taking measurements every day off the pier. This highlights the value of long-term monitoring and efforts we make to do that,” said UMCES paleoclimatologist Hali Kilbourne, who looks deep into the past to predict future climate changes. “This study is a good example of the pay-off for all the effort that goes into climate data.”

Humans burning fossil fuels have caused an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the 1800s. Due to the greenhouse effect, this increase has and will continue to cause an increase in atmospheric and ocean temperatures, which are projected to warm from current temperatures by 4.7-8.6°F by the year 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked.

“Our analysis of historical and future predicted temperatures indicates that water temperatures will continue to rise in the Chesapeake Bay through the year 2100. This increase in

water temperature will occur equally in all seasons of the year, and will therefore effect blue crab wintertime behavior and survival,” said Glandon.

The study, “Winter is (not) coming: warming temperatures will affect the overwinter behavior and survival of blue crab,” was published in PLOS One by Hillary Lane Glandon, K. Halimeda Kilbourne, Thomas J. Miller of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The Nature Conservancy to Release Report on the Deployment of New Solar Energy

The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and DC today announced that it will release a new series of analyses on the deployment of new solar energy infrastructure in Maryland to help lawmakers and the public make socially and environmentally sound decisions on ideal locations for solar development.  The first of those reports was released today, which synthesizes stakeholder feedback from a series of community meetings focused on solar energy in Maryland’s future that The Nature Conservancy held across the state in 2018.

Following the recent passage of the 2019 Clean Energy Jobs Act by the Maryland state legislature, Maryland has a new goal of achieving 50% from renewable energy by 2030 with a significant focus on solar energy.  With that higher goal now in place, the timeline for making decisions on where to construct new solar infrastructure is accelerating as well.

“Maryland’s Clean Energy Jobs Act is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our state to secure clean air, green jobs, and sustainable energy for the future, but it’s critical that we make informed decisions about the best places for new solar infrastructure,” said Tim Purinton, Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and DC.  “Unfettered development in the wrong places could cause permanent damage to Maryland’s natural resources, so it’s vital that we bring the best available science and land management experience to the decision-making process.”

“Largescale solar expansion is crucial to meeting the state’s clean energy goals and driving down emissions required under the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act,” said Maryland Senator Paul Pinsky. “We have to be aggressive and thoughtful in plotting locations for expanding solar and other clean energy. Protecting the planet from climate change while protecting our natural resources should direct our efforts.”

The planned analyses are intended to accelerate deployment in the “right places,” which are usually marginal and low-conflict lands where the construction of new solar infrastructure will benefit people, nature, and the economy, rather than negatively impact them.

Following conversations with partners and stakeholders studying solar development in Maryland, The Nature Conservancy set out to talk to as many people as possible with a role or active interest in renewable energy development to better understand the existing problems and help identify a better path forward.  Listening sessions were convened across the state – in Frederick, Annapolis, and Salisbury – at unique locations with the assistance of a professional facilitator.  The results of those listening sessions have been summarized in the first report, which includes three key takeaways.

• A shared focus on developing renewable energy in marginal and low-conflict lands will allow Marylanders to take advantage of the many benefits of renewable energy while avoiding potential negative impacts.

• Significant hurdles currently prohibit or disincentivize renewable energy development in desired locations (i.e., low-conflict lands), but these hurdles provide opportunities to revise or create incentives and development drivers focused towards these types of lands.

• State and local governments play a critical role in assuring success and fostering continued innovation. Working to coalesce around a common goal of increasing renewable energy development focused on marginal and low-conflict lands will get the best outcome for the State.

“Identifying the areas where we can maximize the benefit of renewable energy is just the beginning for solar deployment,” said Josh Kurtz, policy director for The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and DC. “We now have a much better idea of where we’ll find potential areas for deployment that protect forests and healthy farm soils while maximizing benefits for the State and individual landowners. For the next steps, the leadership of state and local governments and private utilities will be critical as Maryland looks for opportunities to streamline the deployment process and get these new solar projects on the grid.”

These findings and others will be presented by The Nature Conservancy on a panel with Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles and Senator Paul G. Pinsky at the Maryland Clean Energy Center in October 22, 2019.

The Nature Conservancy will also be conducting a mapping exercise to identify and evaluate marginal land areas all across the state as potential sites for development.  This will result in a compilation of areas and locations that contain the most elements for success and a better understand of how much real potential there is for widespread solar development in Maryland.  The data will be made publicly accessible online.

The spatial analysis and data portal are scheduled to go live later this year.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners.  Learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s work in Washington DC and Maryland at nature.org/maryland and follow us @Nature_DCMDVA on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

QACA Hails Balloon Release Legislation

July 9, Centreville–Queen Anne’s Conservation Association (QACA), the oldest environmental group on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, today announced its strong support for pending legislation prohibiting the release of non-biodegradable helium balloons into the atmosphere.

“Deflated mylar and latex balloons, and the ribbons they’re attached to, are rapidly accumulating in the environment, maiming and killing wildlife, sea creatures, and farm animals,” said QACA’s Executive Director Jay Falstad. “We applaud the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners for taking the lead against this increasing, but readily preventable, form of environmental pollution.”

The balloon release ordinance, first in the State, was introduced by Commissioner Christopher M. Corchiarino before the Board of the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners on July 9. A hearing is expected for July 23rd. The bill provides for fines of up to $250 for deliberate violations of the prohibition on balloon releases.

“Intentionally releasing balloons into the atmosphere is nothing short of littering”, said Commissioner Corchiarino.  “This ordinance will allow us to protect a cross-section of interests in the County while furthering the stewardship of our waterways and rural landscapes”.

Kristin Weed of Kent Island Beach CleanUps said balloons are always part of the trash collected during the organization’s beach clean-up efforts.

“We find clusters of balloons during every single beach or road cleanup,” she said.  “They’re usually stuck in trees or bay grasses, on the beach, and in ditches along our county roads.”

On Unicorn Lake, in northern Queen Anne’s County, balloons were found that had been released in Dayton, Ohio, four days earlier and had traveled some 460 miles.

“Balloons are often mistaken for food by marine animals such as turtles and birds,” Falstad said. “These creatures then become tangled in the ribbons and are killed.  If balloons from the Midwest are reaching the East Coast, then balloons released from the East Coast are ending up in the Atlantic Ocean.”

Alerted to the balloon problem, Falstad reached out to sailors, boating enthusiasts, and off-shore fishing organizations and learned that they have spotted clusters of helium balloons floating miles off-shore along the Atlantic Coast.

Released helium balloons pose a problem for the agricultural community, as well.  In an online survey Falstad created, farmland owners reported deflated balloons in their fields, requiring farmers to retrieve the balloons in order to prevent them from being entangled in equipment.
 Queen Anne’s farm owner Clara Bramble said runaway balloons pose a risk to their animals.

“When balloons land in our pastures, the cows—and especially calves—can ingest them and the balloon strings can cause choking,” Bramble said.  “The horses and foals are also at risk, and I’ve witnessed horses being spooked by shiny balloons landing in our fields and seeing a horse run through a fence to get away from the balloons.”

Wye Mills farmer Jon Shaw says they recover at least 50 clusters of balloons a year.

“We find them almost every week,” Shaw said. “Balloons spook our horses, they get trapped in our hedgerows, and get wrapped in our equipment all the time.”

“The bill doesn’t apply to the six-year-old kid who accidentally releases a balloon at a birthday party,” Falstad said.  “What it does is raise awareness, and tell people to be thoughtful, because these colorful, non-biodegradable balloons are a serious form of environmental pollution. We’re one county, but this is a nationwide problem, and balloons in trees or farm-fields, or the Chesapeake Bay or any other waterway are a significant, if not widely realized, environmental threat.”

Contact: Jay Falstad, 410-739-6570 – jay.falstad@qaca.org
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