December 9, 2014

Senate passes Chesapeake Bay bill

Senator Mark Warner (D) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R) sponsored a bipartisan bill that passed in the Senate recently that would coordinate the numerous agencies and efforts that are working on cleaning up our beloved bay. This Chesapeake Bay Accountability Act is now in the House of Representatives for their consideration. Sure hope that it passes now in 2014 and does not get bogged down in partisan squabbling. 

Under this Bill, the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) would prepare ONE budget to oversee the myriad of programs and track their efforts to restore the bay. Right now it is difficult if not impossible to track the performance of the ten or more federal agencies that work on this huge task.

Powhatan's Village will be protected

Algonquin Chief Powhatan ruled these parts in 1607 when John Smith and friends "discovered" our Chesapeake Bay Area. Powhatan's seat of power was called Werowocomoco, a tract on the York River now privately owned by Bob and Lynn Ripley. But this piece of history on 57 of their acres has been threatened for some time by erosion. 

Good news! A $199,000 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant will allow the nice folks at VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) to get busy in dealing with the erosion on these cliffs. The main feature of this restoration project will be two or more sills of piled rocks just offshore that will give a friendlier habitat for marsh grasses to thrive and more sand to remain. Hopefully, about 15,000 square feet of marsh will keep 900,000 pounds of sediment from washing into the York River each year. Yes, each YEAR. Mother Nature is a tough old gal.

Chesapeake Bay warming up too

According to the U.S. Geological Survey folks, most of the more than 100,000 creeks, streams and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay estuary are warming, largely driven by rising air temps. That is not really surprising if you consider that if your home's air is too cool, your leather sofa will be quite chilly too.

But the latest USGS research, published in the Climatic Change journal, announces that the Bay's water temp has risen more than 2.5 degrees F between 1960 and 2010. And that does not even include the years since then, with 2014 the hottest year on record so far. Air temps during that same 50 year period rose less than 2 degrees F, so obviously the Bay's waters retain the heat.

One major result of warming waters is increased eutrophication, a fancy way of saying too much nutrients in the water. Animals and plants used to one level of nutrients may move upstream in freshwater or up the Chesapeake. Invasive plants may also find an environment that they prefer.

John Smith and Bartholomew Gosnold might not recognize our local waters for more reasons than the homes dotting the shorelines and the lack of oysters and sturgeon.