March 25, 2015

Virginia secures research lease for wind energy

I hope this is not simply a good PR move for Dominion Virginia Power. But today's headline made me smile.

We know that the offshore wind is more than sufficient for a viable wind farm. Dominion can now move forward to erect two 6-megawatt test turbines 24 nautical miles off Virginia Beach. I hope to sail by them soon.

When we travel, I'm always taking photos of wind turbines when they unexpectedly pop up. Here are some in the Galapagos where I was amazed to see them.


Baltic Sea similar to the Chesapeake Bay?

I never thought of it . . . But these two bodies of water have a lot in common when it comes to nitrogen pollution. Especially the runoff from roads and farms that is known as non-point source pollution.

So researchers in Finland are analyzing the similarities and differences between protection policies initiated in both areas. They do not have as many political entities that need to agree to get things done as the Chesapeake faces. The many states that need to arrive at consensus are somewhat of an obstacle here because it takes so long for the governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia to make significant progress. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation folks help coordinate plans but a lot of beaurocracy gets in the way.

Good luck, Finland.

March 12, 2015

Ice in the Chesapeake a hazard

I do not remember any alert such as this in recent years. But the Coast Guard just announced that boaters should not venture into the northern part of Chesapeake Bay (and specifically Baltimore harbor) until April 15 due to imminent hazardous ice. 

If you have any questions, contact Ronald L. Houck, Sector Baltimore Waterways Management Division, USCG, (410) 576-2674, Ronald.L.Houck@uscg.mil

Because of imminent hazardous conditions, USCG did not provide advance notice or a public comment period. It fears frozen waterways could steer boats off course or cause sinking or grounding. It is broadcasting the ban though marine bulletins, including reports on the thickness of the ice. During winters, hazardous ice buildups frequently occur in the waterways, most often in the canal between Town Point Wharf and Reedy Point; in and around Baltimore Harbor; and the Elk River, Susquehanna and Patapsco rivers.

USCG says it will allow some traffic in certain areas if conditions allow for it to travel safely. If conditions allow, it may end the ban sooner than April 15

March 9, 2015

Electric powered supercarrier on its way

Some interesting trivia of the billion dollars kind. . .

A warship unlike any other is under construction at Bath Iron Works in Maine. General Dynamics is completing a $3.3 billion Zumwalt destroyer that will use all-electric power. And rumor says it may never see battle because no other country will have anything like it. 

The U.S. Navy, already larger than that of all other countries combined, already has 10 nuclear-powered supercarriers. No other country has even one.

Just "food for thought" on a random day.


Blue crabs now in Maine waters

Scientists have now documented that lobsters are now sharing the waters north of Boston with Chesapeka blue crabs. The northern limit used to be Cape Cod, MAssachusetts, but they have been seen off Northern Maine and Nova Scotia.

The waters in the Gulf of Maine are warmer now and blue crabs are now happy there. Back in the 1950s, during a short spell of warmer water, they were also found here. Fiddler crabs are also now seen in these usually cold Canadian waters. However, ocean temps in 2012 and 2013 were 1.3 degrees Centigrade warmer than the previous decade.


March 5, 2015

Nicaragua Canal is humongous project

Did you know that the proposed canal through Nicaragua will be about 172 miles long, while the Panama Canal is merely 51 miles? It will run through Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater tropical lake of the Americas. Roads for all the needed equipment are already being built.

Its $50 billion cost will be shared between a Hong Kong company and the Nicaraguan government.

This info seemingly has little to do with Tidewater Virginia. But the Hampton Roads area will see an impact if and when the mega ships using the deeper and wider Nicaragua Canal use our port. The first mega-ships may pass through this canal in late 2019.


March 4, 2015

A cleaner James River?

$76 million may make a major difference to the water quality of the James River. It has been "predominantly brown" since I moved here eleven years ago, with frequent blue-green algae blooms many summers.

But the major pollutant is nitrogen, 575,000 pounds of it each year. Much of that has been coming from the wastewater treatment plant in Hopewell, east of Richmond. A $49 million grant from Virginia's Department of Enronmental Quality will join the dollars from other sources to upgrade those wastewater treatment facilities. 

The James is a very busy river. According to documents at the Corps of Engineer's James River Partnership website, between 1,000 and 2,500 barges a year travel up the river to the Deepwater Terminal in Richmond. Between 100 and 200 ships, not including the Ready Reserve Fleet at Fort Eustis or pleasure boats, travel on the James every year, with many of them transporting cargo to and from industrial facilities in Hopewell.