After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

There is no content to display.

Author Archives: admin

The Hudson/Perdue Chicken Waste Case — What We’ve Already Learned

A decision is expected soon in the highly publicized federal lawsuit Waterkeepers Alliance, Inc., vs. Alan and Kristen Hudson Farm and Perdue Farms, Inc. The outcome is anyone’s guess, but already testimony from the trial has made clear that Maryland’s effort to oversee and enforce nutrient management plans needs more muscle.

Nutrient management plans are developed to guide farmers in their fertilizer use and manure management to prevent water pollution. State officials say the plans are crucial to restoring Maryland’s waters. Yet testimony in this case shows how readily the process of developing and reviewing these required plans can go awry.

In the following excerpt, a lawyer for the Waterkeepers questions Mr. Hudson, the poultry grower, about his Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP), a plan he had developed during the lawsuit and paid for with public dollars.

Q:  In early February of 2012, in fact, February 15th of 2012, (the consultant who wrote the plan) sent you an updated [C]NMP, correct?

A:  Probably, yes.

Q:  But you told him that you needed to send it to your lawyers for comment, correct?

A:  Yes.

Q:  And then you got — you received information back (from the lawyer) – you called (the consultant), or he called you, and you had a phone conversation where you relayed the information on the changes that you wanted in the CNMP, correct?

A:  Probably.

Q:  And one of the changes you wanted removed was the notation that (the consultant) had made that in 2011 too much phosphorus had been applied on to some of your fields, correct?

A:  It could have been.

Q:  And another change that you asked him to make is (the consultant) had recommended what are known as vegetative environmental buffers, correct?

A:  He could have.

Q:  Well, those are the rows of trees that are planted in front of the fans to block emissions, correct?

A:  That’s what was in the plan.

Q:  That was in the plan. And you told him to take that out too?

A:  Yes.

Q:  There was also a pipe, a — that was going to be put in Ditch 3, correct?

A:  Yes.

Q:  And the purpose of the pipe in Ditch 3 was so that you could cover over Ditch 3 and plant vegetative buffers, so that the blow out of the fans would blow on to dirt in this area and not into the ditch, correct?

A:  That’s what was in the plan.

Q:  You told him to take that out?

A:  Yes.

Q:  (The consultant) also had a reference to dust from the poultry houses coming out. And you told him to take that out as well, didn’t you?

A:  Yes.

So, the farmer’s lawyer suggests the plan writer remove any mention that the poultry operation might pollute; the plan writer-paid with public money-alters his professional recommendations to satisfy this wish, and the farmer, whom it would seem from his testimony doesn’t want a plan to stop pollution, signs one that obfuscates his farm’s pollution sources.

Where does such a plan provide a public benefit in exchange for that public money?

Will the state officials catch it?

During the trial, officials of Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), the agency overseeing this CNMP, testified they visited the farm to verify basic facts like the number of chicken houses and had overlooked potential pollution routes, such as a pipe draining the production area. They said they had not been aware that measures to prevent pollution had been removed from the plan.

But one case can’t tell the tale for all farms, so to get a broader understanding consider this. The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the MDE oversee the development and implementation of approximately 5,500 nutrient management plans, with MDA responsible for all but approximately 500 plans, the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans, which are written for farms that raise animals and which MDE oversees. Farmers are required to update their plans every three years and to file annual implementation reports detailing nutrient use. MDA checks to see the reports are filed, and in 2011 audited 450 farms to check on compliance.

The audits found 30 percent of farms had some problem: 20 percent had outdated plans; five percent revealed improper timing of nutrient applications, were incomplete, or backed by poor records; and five percent revealed an over application of nitrogen or phosphorus.

The department had to send 1,276 warning notices to farmers who had failed to file their implementation reports on time. By year’s end, 98 percent had submitted their reports, but 53 farmers failed to, and were fined.

I suspect, given the testimony, the 20 percent outdated plans, the slow reports on implementation, and oversight that borders on rubber-stamping, that MDE and MDA cannot ensure the development of effective plans or their enforcement as they are operating now. We need the legislature to fund enough MDA and MDE inspectors, stiffen penalties, and pass laws that will hold plan writers, farmers and growers and agri-businesses accountable for inadequate plans, and ultimately their pollution.

Dr. Tom Jones, President

Assateague Coastal Trust


‘One Big Dead Zone’

(Posted by Sen. Brian Frosh.)

(This is third in a series of posts on What’s It Going to Take?: A look at how the environmental community can regain the initiative and build the political will necessary to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.)

Whats It Going to Take?

“Unless we are very aggressive in the next few years, we could easily lose the Bay. It could be one big dead zone.” – Maryland State Senator Brian Frosh.

Despite decades of efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, rapid population growth has offset much of the progress. Some people are beginning to lose faith that a restored, healthy Bay is even possible. Sen. Brian Frosh explains in this exclusive Bay Action Play video:

Continue Reading

New Leadership for Chesapeake Bay Action Plan

We are pleased to announce today the formation of the executive council of the Senior Bay Scientists and Policymakers, almost one year to the day after launch of the Chesapeake Bay Action Plan website.

Composed of leading scientists and policymakers, members of the executive council are all long-time champions of the Chesapeake Bay, and they will lend their substantial talents and expertise to help our group shape important policy decisions. They will also provide direction to help the Senior Bay Scientists and Policymakers strategically focus our collective efforts, and harness the power of the many organizations supporting this work, so we can be most effective.
Continue Reading

Protecting the “Most Important Fish in the Sea”

(Posted by Gerald Winegrad.)

Conservationists have been working for seven years to gain conservation measures for menhaden. This species plays an important role in the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem as a filter feeder, as a critical prey species for other fish and for piscivorous (fish-eating) birds. That’s why this keystone species has been called the most important fish in the sea.

After the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission 2010 stock assessment found that menhaden are at their lowest point on record, the group is on the brink of adopting historic coast-wide conservation measures for this over-fished species. Yesterday, a group of 30 Chesapeake Bay leaders sent this letter to ASMFC urging restrictions on fishing this critical species.
Continue Reading

Smart Growth Vs. Dumb Zoning

(Posted by Bob Gallagher.)

The top two sources of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are runoff from agriculture and urban and suburban development. On the Western Shore of Maryland, where I live, the biggest source is development.

The principles of managed growth or smart growth can reduce the polluting effects of development by concentrating development where infrastructure can eliminate, reduce or mitigate their effects. For example, modern waste water treatment results in far less pollution than septic systems do. Building in areas that have excess capacity of schools and roads also reduces pollution. And, prohibiting development in wetlands, flood plains and other sensitive areas protects bay water quality.Continue Reading

D.C. Environmental Film Festival Features Chesapeake Bay Films

(Posted by Jeanne McCann.)

The D.C. Environmental Film Festival is showing four timely films on Wednesday, March 23, from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., at the Carnegie Institution for Science (Elihu Root Auditorium, 1530 P St., NW; Metro: Dupont Circle, 19th St. exit. Red line, Metrobuses: S1, S2, S4, S9, G2) Elizabeth Buckman, Vice President, Communications, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, will moderate the program, and introduce the filmmakers.

Continue Reading