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

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.

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

Climate Change and the Eastern Shore: Talbot Rising Presents “Before the Flood” July 22

Nothing is more precious than the earth we call home. Yet few of us fully grasp the extent of the climate challenges we face globally and locally.

Talbot Rising will host at the Talbot County Public Library 5:30-7:30 p.m., Monday, July 22, a showing of the award-winning Scorsese documentary “Before the Flood” narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Los Angeles Times called the film “neither dull screed nor stat-heavy pamphlet, thanks largely to the questing intensity of its marquee guide.”

Mary Helen Gillen of Pickering Creek Audubon will walk us through how each of us can personally help mitigate what we are facing and start to build a local wave of commitment. This event will highlight not just our climate challenges but also offer a hopeful path toward meeting them.

 “This documentary is our wake-up call,” said Grace Soltis of Talbot Rising. “If we heed the science, and take decisive action now, we have the means to address climate change starting with personal action, then building community resolve to support climate solutions. Together we can do great things.” 

For more information, contact: Ridgely Ochs, Talbot Rising, 631-871-2172

 

Proposal to Aerate Bay: Breath of Fresh Air or Pipe Dream?

Dan Sheer, founder and president emeritus of a Maryland water resources consulting firm, guides his sailboat up Rock Creek, where aerators have been used since 1988. They successfully dealt with low-oxygen conditions there that generated a rotten egg odor. Bay Journal photo by Timothy Wheeler

What if the dead zone that plagues the Chesapeake Bay could be eliminated now, not years down the road — and at a fraction of the billions being spent annually on restoring the troubled estuary?

Fanciful as it sounds, Dan Sheer figures it’s technically doable. Whether it’s the right thing to do is another question. Bay scientists are wary of potential pitfalls, but some still think it’s worth taking a closer look.

Sheer, founder and president emeritus of HydroLogics, a Maryland-based water resource consulting firm, has suggested that the oxygen-starved area down the center of the Bay could become a thing of the past if enough air could be pumped into the depths and be allowed to bubble up through the water.

“It pretty much gets rid of the problem,” he said during a recent presentation to scientists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. And it’s not just him saying that. The federal-state Chesapeake Bay Program ran his oxygen-bubbling calculations through the computer model it uses to simulate water quality in the Bay, and the preliminary results appear to back him up.

Algae blooms produce dead zone

The dead zone, as it’s called, is produced when algae blooms fed by excessive nutrients in the water die and decay, consuming the dissolved oxygen that fish, crabs and shellfish need to live. This zone of low to no oxygen forms near the bottom in the deep trough down the center of the Bay every spring and grows through summer, until finally receding in fall when algae growth ends.

The Bay Program has been laboring since the 1980s to reduce nutrient pollution and raise dissolved oxygen levels enough to eliminate the dead zone, but the effort has been costly and challenging.

The region missed two earlier cleanup deadlines and is now working toward another target date of 2025, when all projects and programs needed to meet nutrient reduction goals should be in place. That’s looking increasingly unrealistic as well.

Aerating the Bay would be quicker, Sheer contends, and potentially less expensive. His idea: Lay 16 pipes across the deepest part of the Chesapeake at 5-mile intervals from Maryland’s Bay Bridge to the Potomac River, with a series of openings in them to release streams of tiny air bubbles. The oxygen in the bubbles would dissolve into the water and help sustain aquatic life.

Not a new proposal

Sheer isn’t the first to suggest bubbling the Bay like an aquarium. It’s been brought up repeatedly over the last 30 years, only to be dismissed as unworkable and inordinately expensive — harebrained, even.

In the late 1980s, Maryland tested floating aerators in a cove off the Patuxent River, but gave up after they produced a barely detectable change in oxygen near the bottom.

In 2011, the nonprofit Blue Water Baltimore, in partnership with a consulting firm, placed a small aerator in Baltimore’s harbor, with similar results.

Aeration has been used with some success elsewhere in freshwater lakes and reservoirs that suffer from nutrient pollution. And, it has helped water quality in some rivers, such as the Thames in the United Kingdom.

Pumping air into big open bodies of tidal water is more problematic. Scientists in Sweden and Finland have looked at and tested aeration as a possible remedy for severe algae blooms in the Baltic Sea. But they’ve held back from trying it on a large scale, in part because of uncertainty about its costs and effectiveness.

Given that history, reaction to Sheer’s proposal has been mixed.

Lot of questions

“I’m enthusiastic about the idea in a lot of ways, but there are a lot of questions,” said Bill Ball, director of the Chesapeake Research Consortium, a nonprofit that coordinates Bay studies among seven universities and labs in the region.

Sheer, who holds a doctorate in environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins University, said the idea of aerating the Bay mainstem came to him about 18 months ago while listening to a presentation at UMBC about the costs and complications of the federal-state restoration effort. When he stood up and asked why not try bubbling the dead zone away, he said others in attendance ticked off a litany of flaws they saw in his proposal.

“The room sort of turned into a shooting gallery,” he recalled, “and I was the target. I had lots of objections … ‘you’re fixing the symptoms and not the problem,’ ‘you can’t possibly pump enough air,’ ‘it’s way too expensive, takes too much energy’” and more.

After that, Sheer set out to see if his critics were right.

“It looks like it really will work,” he said.

Working at Rock Creek

 

Sheer pointed out that aeration has long been in use in one small corner of the Bay watershed, where he happens to keep his sailboat.

Rock Creek, a tributary of the Patapsco River near Baltimore, has had aerators since 1988. They were put there in response to complaints about the rotten-egg odor given off by the creek in summer.

A 2014 study by researchers with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science rated the Rock Creek aerators a success. They raised oxygen levels near the bottom enough to stop hydrogen sulfide from bubbling out of the sediments — another byproduct of low-oxygen conditions.

“The aerators were incredibly effective at restoring dissolved oxygen to the creek,” said Lora Harris, an associate professor at the UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and lead author of the study. Water quality improved even downstream, she said, nearly to the mouth of the tidally influenced creek.

Rock Creek is relatively shallow and small, compared to the water bodies where aeration has been tested before. The aerators there also were placed on the bottom, rather than floating on the surface.

Aeration has successfully treated low-oxygen conditions in Maryland’s Rock Creek, where they caused a rotten egg odor and prompted complaints from local residents. Anne Arundel County is currently replacing the original aerators at a cost of approximately $1 million. Bay Journal photo by Timothy Wheeler

The Rock Creek aerators cost $285,000 to install and about $7,000 a year to run, according to Janis Markusic, a planner with Anne Arundel County’s watershed restoration office. The county is now replacing the original aerators, she said, to the tune of $1 million.

Might cost $10-20 million

Doing it in the Bay mainstem would likely cost much more. Working with scientific colleagues, Sheer has estimated that it would cost $10 million–$20 million to install the piping network, bubble diffusers, air compressors, oxygen generators and other equipment. To run it would take another $11 million a year, by their estimates, with much of that spent on electricity to power the air compressors, pumps and other equipment.

While not cheap, that’s far less expensive than the current Bay cleanup tab, Sheer pointed out. In fiscal year 2017 alone, the six Bay watershed states and federal government spent nearly $2 billion on the restoration effort, according to Bay Program figures.

Sheer said the Bay Program model runs showed his aeration proposal would do just as much to raise oxygen levels in the Bay’s depths as the last round of nutrient-reducing cleanup plans drawn up by the watershed states and the District of Columbia.

The model also indicated aeration would actually outperform the Bay pollution diet in another, important way. Artificially increasing oxygen levels would reduce the release of algae-fueling phosphorus and nitrogen back into the water from bottom sediments where they had built up over time. That recycling of nutrients from the sediments has long been viewed by scientists as a potential hindrance to the Bay restoration.

A lot we don’t know

Scientists with whom Sheer has consulted — and Sheer himself — are quick to point out that his proposal relies on some unproven assumptions and could have unintended negative consequences, what engineers and scientists call “revenge effects.”

“There’s a lot we don’t know,” Sheer said. “There’s a lot we think we know that might be wrong.”

Ball, an environmental engineering professor at Johns Hopkins, said that from his experience with aeration in wastewater treatment plants, he’s not sure how well bubblers will work at raising oxygen levels in the Bay’s depths.

“He’s relying a lot on the sloshing of the tides,” Ball said, adding that “there’s a lot more work to do to figure this out.”

Jeremy Testa, an assistant professor at the UMCES lab, called the Bay Program model results “intriguing,” particularly in regard to limiting the flux of nutrients back into the water from sediments. But there are potentially significant downsides, he said.

One is that if the current rate of nutrient pollution isn’t reduced, he said, the phosphorus and nitrogen may simply continue to build up in the sediments, and then pour out into the water in one huge algae-blooming pulse if the bubblers ever shut down, even for a short spell.

That’s what Lora Harris said that she, Testa and other colleagues found at Rock Creek. They also found that the creek was emitting significantly more nitrous oxide — a climate-warming greenhouse gas — than other comparable water bodies.

There’s even a possibility, Harris noted, that pumping oxygen into nutrient-enriched waters could increase the formation of toxic methylmercury, which can build up in fish and is already one of the top two causes for fish consumption advisories in the Bay.

There’s also some concern that a series of aerators would create “bubble curtains” in the water that would impede fish movement.

“You never know what’s going to happen when you start manipulating the environment,” Testa said.

Treating the symptoms

Others say that even if technically feasible, aeration is just treating one of the symptoms of a distressed Chesapeake without fixing the causes of its woes.

While aeration could engineer a remedy for low dissolved oxygen, Testa warned that if nutrient pollution isn’t reduced, “we’re still going to have problems” with algae blooms, sediment-clouded water and important habitat like sea grasses not getting enough light to grow.

“Frankly, from a policy perspective, I think it’s a horrible idea,’’ said Beth McGee, director of science and agriculture policy with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It would “let people off the hook,” she contended, weakening public and political pressure to make pollution reductions that would benefit the whole Bay watershed, including its rivers and streams — not just the dead zone.

Indeed, the 2014 Bay Watershed Agreement lays out 10 different goals that go beyond improving water quality to seeking such things as sustainable populations of fish, shellfish and black ducks, increased conservation of land and enhanced public access to the Bay and its tributaries.

‘Horrible idea’ or worth a try?

Sheer acknowledges that aeration is not a substitute for the nutrient and sediment reductions states are having to make under the Baywide Total Maximum Daily Load set in 2010 by the EPA. But rather than sap public interest in saving the Bay, he suggested that it could actually boost it. “If you have a big success,” he said, “maybe you’ll increase momentum to finish the job.”

Lewis Linker, acting associate director of the EPA’s Bay Program office, said that model runs testing Sheer’s proposal are very preliminary and need much more study. But he said “no way, no how” would he see aeration replacing the restoration effort’s current multi-goal approach.

At best, Linker suggested, aeriation might serve as an “add-on,” after all needed pollution reductions have been made, to help maintain healthy oxygen levels in the Bay’s mainstem even under extreme weather conditions.

The only way to find out if aeration can help, Sheer said, is to test the idea someplace in the Bay, with a pilot project costing around $2 million.

“This is not ripe to go out and do,” Sheer said, “but it is ripe, really ripe to go out and do a pilot. … I really think what we need to do next is put a station out there and see what the hell happens.”

Some of the scientists with whom Sheer has consulted agree that for all its potential pitfalls, it’s still worth further study.

“It’s not necessarily the complete solution,” Harris said, to the Bay’s nutrient overenrichment. But, she said, “It’s potentially nudging one of the symptoms that we do care about. …We have an obligation to think about all sides.”

By Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler (twheeler@bayjournal.com)is associate editor of  Bay Journal, published by Bay Journal Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, to inform the public about issues that affect the Chesapeake Bay. 

ShoreRivers Seeks Development & Events Coordinator

ShoreRivers seeks a Development & Events Coordinator to join our team and help fulfill our mission to protect and restore Maryland’s Eastern Shore waterways. The position manages all ShoreRivers events and assists with development and communications activities. The ideal candidate will be an energetic, outwardly social self-starter who is organized, detail-oriented, and enthusiastic about the environment and the communities we serve.

The position reports to the Director of Development and works primarily out of Easton, MDat the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, with frequent work out of our Chestertown and Galena offices. This is a full-time position; the employee must be flexible to work weekends, evenings, and longer hours, and to travel when necessary. The employee must be willing to live in the communities we serve. Salary is commensurate with experience; competitive benefits package included.

To apply, send cover letter and resume to Rebekah Hock, Director of Development, at rhock@shorerivers.org

RESPONSIBILITIES

Events (50%) – manage ShoreRivers’ more than 15 annual fundraising and outreach events, including staff and board coordination, event logistics and budget, volunteer coordination, partner liaison, vendor coordination, and event promotion.

Development (25%) – assist the Director of Development in implementing ShoreRivers’ annual fundraising strategy, including coordinating with the Governing Board, Advisory Boards, and Development Committee, working with our membership database, conducting grant research, and coordinating events and stewardship activities.

Communications (25%) – assist with planning and logistics for our suite of communications, including print, web, social media, press, annual appeal, and branded merchandise.

POSITION REQUIREMENTS AND QUALIFICATIONS

• A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and 2+ years’ work experience in a relevant field of event coordination and/or development.
• Belief in our mission to achieve clean local waters.
• Excellent written and oral communication skills.
• Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite.
• Experience with donor database; Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge preferred.
• Experience with managing budgets preferred.
• Experience with managing volunteers preferred.

SHORERIVERS

ShoreRivers seeks to protect and restore 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.

We have a dedicated staff of educators, scientists, restoration specialists, and advocates focused on policies and projects that will improve the health of our rivers. Our staff includes four Waterkeepers who regularly patrol and monitor our waters and serve as key spokespersons. Our staff also includes a team of environmental educators and a team of agricultural restoration specialists.

Read more about ShoreRivers at shorerivers.org.

Phillips Wharf Celebrates 9th Oyster Planting Day

On Saturday, June 1st Phillips Wharf Environmental Center celebrated its 9th Oyster Planting Day.  Staff and volunteers collected oyster growing cages from participating residents in the Bay Hundred area and planted the oysters in the Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary to aid in oyster restoration efforts. Phillips Wharf, located in Tilghman, Maryland hosts the Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters Program or TIGO for short, which is a part of the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program (MGO).

Oyster Planting Day was well attended with 57 volunteers consisting of youth programs from The National Aquarium and Digital Harbor High School as well as staff and members of Phillips Wharf.  Together they collected, organized and prepared the oysters for their final destination in Harris Creek. This year an estimated 478 cages were collected allowing 73 bushels of oysters to be planted.

As part of the TIGO program, Phillips Wharf Environmental Center is actively looking for residents with waterfront properties to host oyster growing cages for an 8-month period. This allows the spat to grow in a protected environment before they are released on Rabbit Point in early June. The oysters require minimal care for participants as they are suspended below docks in small cages. Anyone interested in hosting cages or participating in the Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters program is encouraged to call Phillips Wharf at (410) 886-9200 or email oysters@phillipswharf.org.

Phillips Wharf Environmental Center is located in Tilghman Island, Maryland and looks to provide education and aquaculture training programs to excite, educate and engage generations of stewards through interactive experiences showcasing the Chesapeake Bay and its inhabitants. Phillips Wharf is funded through public support, education programs and sales from its aquaculture business Fisherman’s Daughter Oysters. Guests are encouraged to visit the campus located just over the Knapps Narrows Bridge in beautiful Tilghman Island or visit www.phillipswharf.org.

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