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Dock of the Bay: June 7-13, 2018

Election Day Comes Early
Vote June 26 … or June 14-21
      Maryland’s Primary Election day is June 26, with polls open statewide from 7am to 8pm.
     Can’t wait that long?
     Eager voters can vote early  June 14 through 21, with polls open 10am to 8pm. Instead of your normal polling place, Anne Arundel early birds vote at the Edgewater Library, Anne Arundel County Board of Elections, Severna Park Library, Pip Moyer Rec Center and the Crofton, Glen Burnie and Odenton libraries.
      Calvert early birds vote at the Community Resources Building, lower level conference rooms, 30 Duke Street.
     Check out the candidates in your district and statewide at the League of Women Voters info site: www.vote411.org
–Sandra Olivetti Martin
 
Swim Bay-Safe
Keep watch on Maryland Healthy Beaches  
     Chesapeake Bay is our very own swimming hole. But landlocked as it is, it’s vulnerable to everything we do on its shores. When a dog poops upstream, it washes down. When a seagull flies over, poop falls from above. When our septic systems leak or sewage lines break — as in Shady Side and Baltimore in this week’s deluge — well, you know what happens. That same rain washes all sorts of landside hazards — from farm and lawn chemicals to chicken scat — into our swimming hole. 
     When fecal bacteria gets too high, swimming becomes a danger rather than a cooling pleasure. Other bacteria, including flesh-eating vibrio, occur naturally in brackish water like the Bay and its tributaries.
     So it’s a good idea to look before you leap. 
     Information on your beach is, says Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, “just a tap on a smartphone away.”
     Load Maryland Healthy Beaches from your app store. There you’ll find information gleaned from monitoring water conditions at nearly 200 beaches in Maryland from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 
     Local health departments sample and test their waters. In some cases, riverkeepers and communities do their own sampling. Advisories against swimming are made when contamination exceeds safety standards. Beaches can be closed after sewage spills or other harmful contaminants.
     The good news is that the annual Maryland Healthy Beaches 2018 Progress Report shows that 99 percent of the time last summer our beaches met water quality requirements and were open for swimming with no health advisories. This marked the sixth straight year that the rate exceeded 98 percent and the 13th consecutive year that the rate was 96 percent or greater.
    Still, swimmers should stay informed and be proactive. Stay out of the water within 48 hours of a heavy rain. Avoid swimming if you feel ill and have open cuts or sores. Try not to swallow the water, and shower after swimming.
     You can help keep the bacteria down by carrying off your trash, used diapers and dog waste.
      Find color-coded status reports on beaches throughout the state and daily updates on rainfall at www.MarylandHealthyBeaches.com.
–Shelby Conrad
 
Bye-Bye Book Fines
Calvert Library doesn’t mind if baby loves the book you’re reading
      A baby forms 700 new neural connections per second in the first years of life, according to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.  You help boost those connections when you read to your child, starting with those chunky, colorful, pint-sized board books.
      To help you help prepare those young brains for kindergarten, Calvert Library is making all of its children’s board books fine-free.
      So you don’t have to panic if a book disappears in the couch cushions or the back of a stroller for a few weeks.
     “Research tells us that the positive impact of quality and quantity shared book-reading with infants is still obvious years later when they start school,” says Calvert Library Director Carrie Plymire. “Reading is enriched by interactivity: taking on the emotions of the characters, responding to your babies’ emotions, labeling pictures, choosing developmentally-appropriate books. Our amazing librarians help with that.” 
     To get those neural connections clicking from Day One, every baby born at Calvert Health leaves with a board book in a cloth bag, plus information about the importance of reading, playing, talking, singing and writing starting at birth.         Those board books come compliments of Calvert Library, Calvert Library Foundation, Friends of Calvert Library, the Optimist Club of Calvert and PNC Bank. 
–Kathy Knotts
 
Update: Legislating the Sun’s Energy in AACo
www.bayweekly.com/node/42863
      Anne Arundel County has taken a big step toward governing solar development.
     During six months of consideration of the best county fits for the technology, the Dispersed Energy Committee and the Office of Planning and Zoning met with farmers, landowners, citizen groups, environmental groups, solar developers and neighbors. At a public meeting May 23, many people said they wanted both solar farms and protection for farms, forests and views.
      This week, the committee proposed zoning laws that may do both.
      Solar projects would be excluded on Targeted Ecological Areas, designated Forest Interior Dwelling Species Habitats, steep sloping forests and wetland and stream buffers. The largest projects— called Utility Scale — would be prohibited from Rural Legacy land, Priority Preservation Areas and state and county conservation, historic and agricultural easements.
      First preference would be given to projects in industrial zones, second to brownfields and reclamation areas and least to rural agricultural districts. Current industrial zones would be revised to make solar development as easy as possible. Projects in rural agricultural zones would have the heaviest requirements, including a special exception process allowing public comment.
      Limiting the size of a solar development to no more than one-quarter of the farm would further protect farmland. No more than half of prime soils on a site would be permitted to come out of agricultural production. Soil Conservation District officers would be a part of the permitting process, so that Best Management Practices for runoff would continue.
      Currently, 80 percent of a property can be deforested for any development. This would not change for solar farms. Replanting will be required at a 3:1 ratio.
Landscaping buffers would be required to protect views from roads, particularly historic roadways. 
      All equipment would be removed when solar projects finish up. Developers would be required to purchase a performance bond to be repaid after cleanup. The land would then revert to its original use. Thus, a solar array on farmland could not be used as precedent to change its land use to industrial.
       Solar developers have expressed concern that both the special exception process and the restrictions on farmland could make siting difficult. “I’m concerned that this may make solar development in Anne Arundel County impossible,” said Tom Matzie of Clean Choice Energy.
      At the next step, the County Council considers the committee’s proposed zoning laws, bringing a second round of public hearings.
–Birgit Sharp
 
This Week’s Creature Feature: Cedar Waxwings
The masked bandits of the bird world
       Large flocks of a bird with a high-pitched voice will soon start stripping fruit from mulberry, cherry and other fruiting trees. When a flock of these birds finds a tree or bush with ripe fruit, other flocks will follow, returning day after day until the plant is stripped. With a dark mask around the eyes, the birds look like masked bandits.  
      Called cedar waxwings, these bandits have backs and sides of a smooth tan color, and their wings frequently have tips of bright yellow and red. They are very social and are almost constantly talking to each other. But their voices are so high — among the highest in the bird world — that many people cannot hear them. The high-pitched sound is also difficult to track to its origin.
     The birds nest in groups, building a dozen or so nests in dense trees, like the cedar. In the summer when there are young ones around, they switch from fruit to insects, which they catch even in the air.
      In winter, they come to my home for winterberry, a type of holly. After the berries have frozen a couple times, they are bird edible. As soon as they are ripe, a flock of waxwings comes by. Within a day, the thousands of berries will dwindle to none.
      Last year, one of the cedar waxwings ate so many berries that it couldn’t fly. It had to spend most of the day at the top of a bush before it could fly again.
     There are two species of waxwings in North America, and neither is endangered. The northwestern Bohemian waxwing is more colorful and is less social.  
     They do not migrate, so to help them over winter, plant trees and bushes with berries like cedar, winterberry, serviceberry and dogwood.
     Do not plant nandina, also known as sacred bamboo or heavenly bamboo. Its berries look like winter berries but are poisonous.
–Wayne Bierbaum
 
Way Downstream …
      From America’s marshes, a fine, furry industrious creature of lore is being hunted mercilessly and, perhaps, foolishly.
     We’re speaking about the beaver, that quintessential American mammal and construction expert whose luxurious fur financed the opening of the American West along Lewis and Clark’s Missouri River.
     They’re still being hunted, and not just to make hats. The U.S. Department of Agriculture trumpeted recently how many beavers the government had slayed last year: 23,646.
      Sure, beavers cause a few problems with their ceaseless building and gnawing. We recall the well-heeled folks in Taos, N.M., a few years back who were having trouble logging in. Turns out a beaver doing some logging of her own had chewed through a fiber optic cable.
     And yes, they can get a bit too curious. In St. Mary’s County two Christmases ago, a beaver was nabbed inside a Dollar Store checking out decorations and fake trees.
     Yet maybe the time has come for a revisionist take on our toothy, flop-tailed neighbor, who we just may find is an overlooked line of defense against drought, flooding and the flow of nutrients into the Bay.
      A place to start may be a book that comes out this week by environmental writer Ben Goldfarb. It’s called Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.