Online Archives

Volume 2 Issue 4 1994

Previously inaccessible archives from 1993-1997 now coming on-line, with more each week!
Note that this is working copy (uncorrected text, no photos, including covers).

This weeks lead stories:

Ice Storm ‘94: Days We’ll Remember | Boating the Bay - The Captain | Valentine Rendezvous | Powered by Imagination

Weekly Features:

Burton on the Bay | Editorial | Letters to the Editor | Not Just For Kids | Dock of the Bay
Laughing Gourmet | Politalk | Sky Talk - In the Sky

Lead story

Ice Storm ‘94: Days We’ll Remember

byNew Bay Times Staff

In the Sky

In the winter of 1994, mid-Bay country resembled an icebowl, one of those clear glass globes so lovely when you’re outside shaking it rather than inside getting pelted.

What fell on us from the skies — and it was a lot — depended on the size and temperature of our air-dome at that moment.

When both the air in our dome and the air above us was below freezing, snow fell.

When the air above us was warm but our dome was cold and tall, the rain froze into sleet before it hit us.

But when the upper atmosphere was warm but our dome cold and shallow, the rain froze on impact. That happened many times.

Landing on chilled terrestrial objects — trees, fences, cars, roads, you name it — rain freezes instantly, in layer after clinging layer. Limbs and wires grow as big as a big man’s fingers, tree buds as big as cherries.

In the Forest

One by one, cracks sound. Treetops, branches and limbs plummet to earth. It is a scene of devastation.

In the village a half-mile away, people have no electricity. They are disturbed. Here, in the middle of the woods after the umpteenth ice storm, devastation reigns and the world changes by the minute.

The story is in the sounds. Narrow twigs enlarged by ice to the sixth power slap at one another like frozen fingers. Soft pines leaning under their shimmering burdens finally collapse with a dulcimer ring. Their dying smells waft through the woods. There’s the single pop of a branch drooping with ice. It peels away and drops into the frozen rungs beneath with the noise of glass shattering.

A bigger limb falls through a web of ice; a chandelier has been shot from the ceiling. Then come the high-caliber cracks, the creaks and groans before the smashing.

Most frightening is the death of whole trees. First a cannon boom, then rifle shots, then the painful tearing. It is just the beginning, triggering a chain reaction of five seconds of pops and shattering in limbs below. It shakes the woods, and more trees give up. A woods is a connected place.

It is quiet now, almost as if someone has shouted hold your fire. Time to take stock of the wounded and fallen. Let’s hear a moment of silence for them all. The sounds retreat for a few moments only.

Then a new progression of booms begins, followed by more cracks and groans and shattering. It bounces and echoes with the perfect acoustics of the forest auditorium. This series lasts seven seconds; the next goes on for 10. But you can never be sure because if you look at your watch and not skyward, you may become a casualty.

And you may miss the skyline forever changing.

Whoa! There goes a really big tree just where my eyes are cast, like a shooting star when you’re on your back on the pier. The top of this old, lone oak was leaning at 45 degrees. A single ferocious boom and forty feet of it falls fast like a bomb. This incident is over in a second and a half, but the forest floor shakes and the tingling of ice persists like bad nerves.

Where the oak lay broken, the air is strangely warm. The treehas been ripped open, exposing its moist, red insides.

The forest smells of blood.

In the Lines

“It’s worst at night. Things are cracking. Something near is dropping … but nobody knows where. We all run and duck,” said Baltimore lineman Lenny Ciotta, rehanging lines in southern Anne Arundel County two days before Valentine’s Day.

“You lose track of time. I’ve been here since Friday on a 24-hours-on, eight-hours-off schedule. We fix it and watch it go back down. With so much ice on the trees, we’re fighting a losing battle,” Ciotta added.

“I’ve never seen ice like this,” echoed BG&E supervisor John Birrane, working on downed lines with lineman Tom Jukes and meter inspector Tom Palisano.

“After we got past Route 214 it just got thicker and thicker. What day is this? I don’t know anymore. We worked 30 hours straight, got off at noon and were told to report again at 5am this morning. What day is it?”

In Frustration

Broken lines frayed tempers as well as limbs.

In Calvert County, where power was out in some homes for as many as eight days, angry customers broke the doors down at Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative’s Prince Frederick office. Police were called in. Then other grouchy residents complained they were paying sheriff’s deputies to do SMECO jobs.

Deep in the woods in Anne Arundel County, another powerless consumer promised to shoot the first lineman he saw. No word on whether his power’s been restored.

On the Ground

Pick up the pieces. Pick up the sticks. They’re yours. When the power company fells, it chops. When God fells, the sticks are nicely stacked and left behind.

They’ll make good fire wood to keep you warm next winter.

In the Record Books

Over 132 hours (from 3am Wednesday, February 9 to 7am Tuesday, March 15) 7107 “tree problems” downed 39 poles blowing 1053 fuses killing 30 transformers unstringing 2284 lines unpowering 130,000 dwellings calling in 800 workers in 165 vehicles costing $2.5 million.

“If there was a line, trees were across it,” said Bill Rees, BG&E’s tree chief.

That’s only in Baltimore Gas and Electric territory, Anne Arundel County and Calvert only as far south as Breezy Point.

And that’s only counting the third storm in the house of Aquarius, 1994.

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Boating the Bay - The Captain

by Lee Fifer

Special to New Bay Times

An Adventure:

Of the three generations on this voyage of the 43-year-old Lee-Mar, the youngest earns the honors.

Daniel was only six, though he would have added “and one-half!” protesting the shortchange to his experience. His sister was three. Even so young, they had spent many hours playing in, on and next to the Bay, with most of their time devoted to crabbing in our tributary, Rockhold Creek, swimming in Herring Bay and exploring the nooks and crannies of both Rockhold and Tracys Landing Creeks.

All of their time on the Bay itself they spent aboard the old cedar and mahogany fishing and cruising boat their grandfather had built in 1951. Brought aboard as babies in a carrying crib, both had a similar initial reaction to the old boat — comfortable sleep while the diesels purred in their ears as they were gently rocked by the wave-slicing bow. Recently they had alternated sitting in my lap behind the steering wheel as we searched for the best location to catch spot, and Meredith’s pink Minnie Mouse rod regularly caught the first and most.

I had finally convinced their grandfather, Carson, age 90, to spend an afternoon fishing, this time for bluefish. Joe, who had replaced all the old cloth-covered electrical wiring in the boat, had also joined us, bringing his lucky (he guaranteed it) rod and reel. The fourth adult was my nephew, Charles, in his second year of college, and an avid fisherman.

As we entered Herring Bay, I recounted the story told me by our neighbor and dear friend, Wayne, a Deale native, of how people he knew had walked from Drum Point Road to red buoy #2, which now stands in open water marking the southern boundary of the channel into Deale. Some years ago, he explained, a finger of land with three farms stretched out over what is now Parker’s Shoal. Only crabs walk that trip today.

The weather was energizing. The Bay’s surface moved with small chops, both gentle and welcoming. As I released the free spool lever of a trolling rig we had brought in the expectation of wrestling a big bluefish aboard, I looked about with pleasure at the gathering of generations aboard a boat I had spent so many hours reconditioning — from new electrical systems, to stripped, restained and revarnished brightwork and bulkheads (all six coats), to replaced windows and latches, to hand cut carpet. And all those blisters.

I sat behind the new, bigger steering wheel that allowed a more comfortable grip while scanning the trolling rods, all five, each at its own angle. The pilot’s seat, ten feet from the covered stern cockpit, is well placed for trolling or bottom fishing.

Even the approach of a speeding muscle boat did not seem a threat to this peaceful afternoon.

Daniel stood next to me, already holding on to the pilot’s seat, so my warning of approaching waves was directed at those on the stern, especially young Meredith, who had begun to walk from the seated fishermen to join Daniel and me in the pilot’s cabin. The waves arrived first.

Our slow trolling speed allowed me to turn only slightly into the waves. Meredith had clutched the splashboard which, where she stood in the stern cockpit, was above her head. What none of us expected, though, was that the violent, sideways rocking of the boat would throw the door of the pilot’s cabin closed with such force that the latch holding the glass window in place would release.

The sound of the slamming door and shattering glass shocked us all, especially Meredith. Terrified, I leaped from the seat and strained to determine if the door or window frame had struck her. My momentary relief faded quickly when the sheet of dark, thick blood moved down her forehead. Although the window was two feet from her, a shard of shattering glass had struck her scalp above the hairline.

I grabbed her, blocking the blood from her eyes with one hand while separating her hair with the other to search for glass fragments. She pressed against me in this awkward caress, crying. I found no glass and, after a quick inspection by her grandfather, a retired surgeon, I carried her to the galley to clean her wound and continue applying pressure. Charles helped supply wet towels, as Joe and Dad wound in the lures.

It was only then, when her bleeding had ceased, perhaps five or ten minutes after the accident, that I asked ... who is piloting the boat? We were still in gear and moving!

Although few other boats were to be seen on this weekday, we had been underway the whole time. The thoughts of all four adults had been on Meredith. Still holding her, I emerged from the galley.

There, sitting on his knees so he could see over the top of the wheel, was Daniel. “Don’t worry, Dad, I've been steering her!” he exclaimed.

That was two year ago, when Daniel was six and one-half.

The Lee-Mar, the 149th boat built by Bronza Parks, follows the classic lines of Matthews cruisers. At 49 feet 11 inches, she draws only 30 inches of water and cruises at 10 to 12 knots.

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Valentine Rendezvous

Heron Is Timely; Visitors Tardy

Teaser: Normally you don’t come calling on heron. Today is the exception.

When you make an appointment with a heron, don’t be late.

Heron won’t wait.

This Valentine’s Day, the Nanjemoy flock returned to their Charles County rookery unmet, unobserved — and punctual.

“They come back so regularly at Valentine’s Day that we call them the love birds. One day there’s nothing, and then they’re everywhere in an explosion of birds,” says Cal Posey, who knows these birds of habit better than anybody.

When the ice finally stopped falling from the sky and the visitors finally came calling, there the great blues were, gliding overhead like pterodactyls evolved to grace. Punctual as ever, they had made their Valentine’s Day appointment and were resettled into routine, leaving the rookery for their day’s work about 9 in the morning and returning about 3 in the afternoon.

The visitors had hoped to tour this capital city of East Coast heron-dom early, before the 2400-bird flock flapped in from the southwest. That would have been a sight to see, says Posey, who was the rookery’s human manager for a dozen years: “Just after sunrise, a lone bird appears, then circles, calling but not landing. Within 15 minutes to a half hour, a host of several hundred arrive and alight.”

The big birds are shy, and wary of visitors. Beneath the towering trees in whose tops they build their nests, “one person walking can spook hundreds of birds into flight,” says Steve Cardano, Posey’s colleague and director of the nearby Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center.

But the visitors were late. The vanguard herons had arrived, and the first eager courting pairs were inspecting or rebuilding their nests — depending on how hard this unusually hard winter had hit the treetops.

Forty or 50 feet below, the tardy callers were up to the same thing: nest counting.

In the ordinary way of things, meetings with heron are chance, fleeting and serendipitous.

From February into November, in our Chesapeake neighborhood, heron flaps, regular as Olympian breathing, low over water or high over treetops. Heron haunts the shallows, still and patient as a reed; or wades, meticulously lifting each two-foot-long, sticklike leg, flipping ooze off each thin, handlike foot. Heron fishes, striking sudden and true as a snake. Heron plays hide-and-seek with a shore-gliding canoe, lifting off at each approach, soaring then settling down into camouflage once again — just far enough along for the game to be repeated. Heron stands sentinel at the summit of the tallest tree on the shoreline.

Then, as the chill sets in, most birds ease down south to warmer weather and better fishing. Our birds may go to the Carolinas for the winter, Cardano allows. But nobody knows for sure, because nobody climbs the 40 or 50 feet to heron aeries to band the chicks. That’s what you’ve got to do to follow a bird’s wandering.

Even in deep winter, an occasional heron stands over the frozen shallows or cocks its wings akimbo to soak up the thin sun. Who knows? Maybe it’s a local bird toughing it out; or maybe it’s a northerner who thinks this is warm.

Normally, you don’t come calling on heron, who issues few invitations.

Today is the exception. Today, Nature Conservancy makes its annual nest census of the great Nanjemoy rookery and visitors are welcome.

The sun is out, dappling the hills with a nice 50-50 blend of light and shadow as the counters crunch into the woods. Underfoot, the ice crest is as crisp and shimmering as if the thaw were still a hope. Here a parchment-dry American beech leaf is captured in ice; here evergreen fern has escaped. A single, tentative moquito lands. The hardwoods and evergreens of this old forest are tall; bramble has not found the light to thrive, so the way is clear, though the counters, slipping and sliding, wish for crampons on their boots.

Herons have been living in this lovely wood since the mid-’40s, says their old friend Posey. Mayan-like, they abandoned their old nearby city — their neighborhood changed when their tall trees were logged and a pig farm moved in. Here, with a little help from unintrusive friends, they’ve thrived in solitude. The feeding, too, is good, with “lots of good marshes and tidal creeks nearby,” says Department of Natural Resources colonial waterbird expert Dave Brinker, who explains that his job “is birds that live in colonies, not 17th century settlers.”

Twenty-five percent of Maryland’s blue herons are now fledged at the Nanjemoy colony. In recent years, Maryland has hosted 35 to 40 rookeries and Virginia 154, which together are home over 27,000 breeding adult herons. “They’re doing well, with populations increasing over the long term as we improve water quality and reduce environmental contaminants. The low point was slightly after the turn of the century when the threat was hunters, and women wore heron feathers on their hats,” Brinker says.

Posey is the Nanjemoy heron’s oldest and first friend. He watched them settle into the Nanjemoy rookery and, when logging threatened this home too, he suggested the Nature Conservancy add the rookery to their protected collection of rare properties. Roused Marylanders signed on to “Save a Nest,” and the 288 acres was purchased as a Nature Conservancy preserve.

A couple of years ago, more friends, the Nanjemoy Stewardship Committee, persuaded a hunting club to change its plans for locating a target range nearby.

A nuisance is what this year’s tardy counters would be had the herons not soared out for lunch. They’ll be gone a while; crabs, crayfish and frogs haven’t yet popped out for spring, and many shore waters are still iced over, making small fish harder to find. Hungry heron will happily eat meadow voles, but they may have to range 10 or 15 miles to make a meal.

Good thing they’re gone: over 1300 is a lot of nests to count. To manage the job, Nature Conservancy has sent a trio; with them come Brinker from DNR; two from New Bay Times; Nanjemoy Educational Center Director Steve Cardano, plus a school busload of 27 top biology students and their teacher Doug McIlvaine of Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf.

“That total’s real exciting, over a hundred more than last year,” says Nature Conservancy’s heron watcher Linda Kramme.

“Wow!” said Brinker.

We’re an awed and noisy crew, craning our necks to spot, in the tops of white oak, Virginia pine and tulip poplar, the homes that heron builds. Once we’ve seen a couple of these tire-sized, stick woven, tree-top nests, we find them everywhere. Tree #244, a vast, five-trunked tulip polar, has three nests in its main trunk and two in its second-biggest member. This year’s full house is a 12-nest beech tree, two down from 1992’s14 nest high, which was two down from 1991’s 16-nest high.

Above the nests, the sky is violet blue. Heron has returned, and spring is coming.

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Powered by Imagination, You Can Row the Bay and Beyond

by Eli Flam

Special to New Bay Times

Never mind the winter weather; you can row the Bay these days by putting your mind to work. Nor do you have to stop at South River, or Cove Point; you can cover the world — with help from the Row-a-log (no patent pending).

It all came to me while waiting a turn to row in a small, windowless gym in Washington, D.C. Plugging away was a woman with dark eyes fixed on some urgent inner landscape — pull/slide, pull/slide, pull/slide...

The rower machine’s little screen blipped 32 strokes-a-minute, a good pace even with minimal tension on the rods. Time, three minutes and 30 seconds. She passed 300 strokes and continued strong, getting somewhere all right, mind running free — when suddenly the back of my neck prickled and a vision burned through those dull grey cinder-block walls.

On the River

The woman was rowing down the Potomac River in an elegant single scull with a pair of 10-foot oars, slick as could be, in the clear under a brilliant blue sky. She passed Hains Point, Fort McNair; the muddy Anacostia eddied in. Planes to and from National Airport zoomed almost overhead. On slid the woman, against the tide, priming the line at the end of The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

But wait, she was pulling forward, or backwards-forward, if you will, setting her own rhythm. A new beat snuck in: “Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah ... Jordan’s river is chilly and cold, hallelujah —”

Finally the woman stopped, and I thought: the Row-a-log.

Now fancy pulling machines come with screens to set up in front, for “touring” videotapes, as with exercycles, or for simulating racing competition. But why box yourself in with all that expensive gear and settings cooked up cafeteria-style?

Float Free

Let the mind float free. Pick any site or stretch of water near or far. Keep a count with the timer screen, if there is one, for data. If not, keep track on your own.

Figure that each stroke “carries” about, say, 10 feet. Say you do a decent 15 minutes four times a week, for arguments sake at 25 strokes a minute, an easy-going pace. That adds up to almost three miles weekly, more than 10 miles in a month.

Jot down the figures each time on a Row-a-log you fashion yourself. Picture the trip in advance or underway: you are a camera, your own camcorder, VCR. Mix in weather and water traffic and landscape and people. Start the next trip at the last finish point.

At some three miles a week, down the Potomac from the Lincoln Memorial, the woman would reach Popes Creek in Charles County in about four months, near where Confederate sympathizers rowed the injured John Wilkes Booth across to Virginia after he shot Lincoln in Ford’s Theater. They needed a second night; strong head winds and currents foiled them the first time.

Some 80 or so years later, on a parallel tack, Sylvia Plath wrote:

...I am rowing, I am rowing

though the oarlocks stick and are rusty

and the sea blinks and rolls

like a worried eye ball,

but I am rowing, I am rowing,

This story ends with me still rowing.

No Limits

But with a Row-a-log, your achievement has no limit. Go to the Nile where rowing may well have started more than 3,000 years before the birth of Christ, or on to the Irrawaddy, where royal Thai barges still are propelled by dozens of men pulling at long sweeps.

No need to stay cooped up in windowless gym or cramped basement. As you row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream-of-consciousness, latch on to the words of Theodore Roethke:

To follow the drops sliding from

A lifted oar,

Head up, while the rower breathes,

And the small boat drifts quietly


To know that light falls and fills,

Often without our knowing it

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Dock of the Bay

Peggy on the Bay: Lieutenant in a Looming War

Margaret Ann Reigle has, to put it mildly, a different outlook than many who have watched the ailing Chesapeake resurrected from abuse and unwise development.

“People are getting mugged and bludgeoned by government bureacrats,” she says. “The environmental movement is not really about the environment; it’s about a political concept of land use and restrictions.”

Reigle’s words may sound like poison, but her sentiments on behalf of “property rights” are gathering steam across the country.

The so-called Wise Use Movement — often fueled by oil, mining and timber money — is attracting people mad at government and weary of environmental rules. (Leaders took the phrase from Gifford Pinchot, the early 1900s U.S. Forester in the early 1900s, who asserted that we need to make wise use of our resources.)

The effects of these anti-environmental crusades are bubbling in statehouses, county boards and in Congress. Recently, property-rights advocates recently blocked an effort in Congress to elevate the Environmental Protection Agency to the president’s cabinet.

Now they have their sights set on passing a landowners’ protection bill and watering down efforts to preserve wetlands and endangered species.

Reigle’s fight has moved from local to state to national issues. She arrived in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore in 1988 after retiring from a top job on the business end at the New York Daily News. Two years later, she founded a newsletter after helping neighbors embroiled in a dispute over wetlands.

Today, her Fairness to Land Owners Committee has 14,000 members in 46 states, and Reigle, 49, operates in the vanguard of the property rights movement. Among her pursuits, she’s co-anchor of a of a series of programs on Empowerment Television, which is headed by archconservative Paul Weyrich. The next episode airs March 22.

Reigle didn’t expect to be alighting in Annapolis this winter, where’s she’s been promoting property-rights bills since 1990. But there she was last week, testifying against a bill that would allow the state to take over duties of wetlands regulation. (See Politalk in this issue.)

On this issue, Reigle was on the same side as the environmentalists whom she dreads — but for different reasons. They worry that the state could not handle the job. Reigle has several complaints, among them the prospect of state officials tramping around on private property.

“It may be fine for a developer who has consultants,” Reigle says of further wetlands rules, “but for the moms and pops trying to build an extension on their homes, it is very burdensome.” “Moms and pops” frequently are invoked in Reigle’s litany of the injured.

For years, environmental advocates been wrestling polluters and the rap that environmental protection costs jobs. Now, with Peggy Reigle and her allies in the ring, the conservationists have a new challenge.

First, they are spreading the word that the backers of many Wise Use groups are the polluting companies whose exploitative ways have damaged the earth. And with environmental laws under attack, they are also returning to basics.

“We must remind people why why these laws were passed in the first place and of all the good they’ve done,” observes Michael Crook of the National Wildlife Federation. “They didn’t come in through the back door.”

Righting a Wrong

When boat-owning fishermen of the Chesapeake license their craft for fishing this year, they’ll once again be issued a gratis license entitling them to fish from any boat. This free permit was lost last year in a legislative/DNR fumble.

Seems that when the 1993 General Assembly passed a bill to raise the private boat fishing license — which allows all the boat’s occupants to fish without buying a regular tidal license — from $25 to $30, it somehow deleted the section that offered the owner a license to fish from other boats as well.

When finally discovered, the omission brought howls of anger from sportsfishermen, but no satisfaction. Finally, during this session, the Legislature corrected their oversight.

Or was it an oversight?

So while the license is returned, the question remains: Who’s to blame for a an “oversight” that forced thousands of boat owners to buy additional fishing licenses?

The bill was fostered by DNR, approved by the legislature, both of which should be expected to monitor proceedings. Whose responsibility was it to catch slips like this — and why wasn’t it caught? Why, too, no public apology?

Somewhere there are answers, and we’ll do our best to get them. In the meantime, get your new boat fishing license with the tidal permit included before there’s another change.—B.B.

In Mosquito Control, Do We Get Stung Either Way?

With ice still packing the earth, governments are getting ready to fight mosquitoes. This season, there’ll be some changes.

The state of Maryland has agreed to take over spraying in Annapolis after the city complained in a letter Dec. 7 that it could no longer afford a program of its own. Maryland took over spraying in the rest of Anne Arundel County two years ago.

In a reply last month, the state Agriculture Department said it would make plans to hire the people needed for mosquito surveillance and “appropriate mosquito control.” The state also said it would run an education program for people who have questions.

We have a couple. Is it necessary to spray these chemicals? Is it worth it awakening to the groan of truck-mounted sprayers and clouds of chemicals wafting in our windows?

The state relies on Cythion, a form of the pesticide malathion sold by the Swiss company Cheminova. Many communities around the country — especially in California, but as close as Fairhaven Cliffs, which has refused spraying — have debated the wisdom of using malathion. Governments contend that the dangers and annoyance of mosquitos are worse than the chemical.

Yet a three-year study by the federal Agriculture Department acknowledged last year that heavy spraying can harm the environment and some of the people in it. The study advised people who are sensitive to chemicals to stay indoors during spraying and for as long as a day afterward.

Anne Pearson, who heads the Alliance for Sustainable Communities in Annapolis, is among those requesting the state conduct further studies to prove that spraying is needed.

“They seem to feel that they must give people a quality of life in which they sit by their barbecue and not be bothered by mosquitoes,” Pearson remarked.

Cyrus R. Lesser, chief of mosquito control for the state, observed that spraying is just one of the weapons. His office sends out people to clear mosquito breeding grounds, like standing water. The state also uses microbial pesticides and less dangerous chemicals at times.

Lesser insists that there’s the threat from spraying is overblown. “In our review of the recorded literature, we have found no documented case of a problem when it was used according to the label,” Lesser said. “We feel like we can minimize any risk to the environment.”

Lesser also affirmed that people have a choice. If a neighborhood or community association does not want to be sprayed, all it needs to do is write or call the state.

Here’s the address and phone: Department of Agriculture Mosquito Control; 50 Harry S Truman Parkway; Annapolis, Md. 21401; (410)841-5870.

And if you want to look at that federal report, write to: Harold Smith, Chief of Environmental Analysis; Room 545, USDA; 6505 Belcrest Rd.; Hyattsville, Md. 20782.

Is Disney’s Park a Goofy Idea?

Here at New Bay Times, we lauded the proposal for a new Disney theme park over in Virginia as a welcome recreation outlet for the region. Perhaps we spoke too soon.

Virginia taxpayers are getting upset at all the costs, including $163 million for road improvements near Haymarket, where the park would be carved. That’s a lot of walking-around money, even for big-time Mickey Mouse.

Meanwhile, environmental advocacy groups put out a report identifying 32 potential sites other than Haymarket.

“The major problem is that their site would bring urban sprawl in yet another direction from Washington,” asserts Bob Dennis, chairman of the Take a Second Look campaign.

Dennis also points to potential water and sewage problems along with Disney’s reluctance to give people information they want.

“They say we’re just a bunch of rich estate-owners out here. But that’s not true,” Dennis added.

Little Crabbers in the Crosshairs?

In recent hearings on proposed DNR crabbing restrictions, sports crabbers let their objections be known about a program they claim targets them.

Many expressed outrage when they learned how little proposed regulations would cut into commercial catches. Commercial crabbers would be limited to 300 pots — now considered the commercial average, but captains could hire a mate for a day and add another 300 pots for $10 a year. Not enough? Hire still another mate, pay another ten bucks, and get 300 more pots.

DNR admitted that’s getting well above the current average, but explained that stricter limits lie ahead.

What’s more, commercial crabbing hours are much more lenient than recreational hours. Many sport crabbers complained that earlier commercial hours would let trotlines be set early enough to squeeze out sports trotliners, whose day starts later.

Recreational crab restrictions potting at piers means that a community pier — no matter how long — could hold only two pots — no matter how many residents in the community. In Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Marys and Baltimore Counties on the Western Shore the limit currently is four, as it is at some Eastern Shore counties. Now it would revert to two, and be enforced.

Picture recreational potters in a community trying to outrace each other to set their pots first. A judge will need the wisdom of Solomon. Still more wise judges will be needed to sort out another proposal to maintain a distance of 100 feet from existing rigs.

The entire crab issue poses a difficult image problem for DNR. —BB

Way Downstream...

Above in Dock of the Bay, we write about anti-environmentalists. Here’s one more example: a mail ad for radio host Rush Limbaugh’s newsletter proudly proclaims that the envelope “was not printed on recycled paper”...

Down in Kentucky, state government has set aside $600,000 for a job corps to help businesses and towns with pollution problems...

Activists worrying about the dangerous chemicals that keep golf courses lush and then spill into the countryside have more ammunition from a new University of Iowa study.

A survey of 618 former golf course superintendents found an unsually high incidence of tumors in their lungs, brains, prostates and elsewhere ...

Who says electric vehicles won’t work? A battery-powered Chevy S-10 pickup set a world record last month by driving 831 miles in one day at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The pickup stopped every hour or so for high-speed recharges, the sort which may be available at local filling stations in a few years...

Get ready, Annapolis. In Boston, the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, has donated three pounds of red worms to be used in state office buildings to eat banana peels, pizza crusts and leftovers from stateworkers’ lunches...

Stormswept waters of the Chesapeake have claimed the lives of a couple of kayakers in recent years, but in California a 34-year-old woman kayaker survived when a Great White Shark struck her craft with such force that she was sent 10 feet into the air. She tried several times to get back into her kayak, but it kept tipping over because of a 20-inch gash in the hull. Another kayaker rescued her. A San Francisco aquarium director said that these sharks often bite, then back off to allow their victims to die before they commence feeding. Thankfully, no such sharks in the Chesapeake.

This week’s Creature Feature comes to us from frog-jumping land out in California, the locale for Mark Twain’s short story: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

For 65 years since Twain’s famous story, they’ve been holding the Jumping Frog Jubilee, sort of a track meet for athletic amphibians.

Now there’s a twist. Authorities hereabouts found out recently that people are refining a hallucenogenic drug produced by local toads. These lumpy toads — with no better name than Bufo alvarius — secrete a fluid from a gland on their back which resembles LSD when dried and smoked.

Toking toad juice— called bufoteine — is illegal even in the Kingdom of the Jumping Frog. Two people, one of them an Explorer Scout leader, were arrested.

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Bay Neighbors the Best

Years ago back in the Midwest, our neighbors spent half their waking hours complaining. About our trees and bushes. About the music. About cars. About kids rappelling from second-story windows. Especially about our infamous German Beagle, Slip Mahoney. (His territory included their yards and their porches.)

In Washington for a short spell, people in the apartment below kept a checklist of imaginary ceiling damage from our water bed. (You guessed it — lawyers.)

Living on the Chesapeake for a decade, you develop an understanding of good neighbors. You get to know the word community. The truth showed during the Ice Storm of ‘94.

We weren’t alarmed by the neighborly call informing us gently of a “limb in the kitchen.” We thought that a twig or two had pierced a small window pane. Big deal, we said. Then we got home.

Flashing lights. People gathered to watched the show, some of them shaking their heads.

A massive chunk of our giant maple had split away from the weight of ice and crashed through the kitchen roof. Power lines were down and helmeted utility workers patrolled everywhere.

Ice-Sleet-Rain storm No. 37 was hitting. But our neighbors, who had showed up in force, didn’t skip a beat.

They chainsawed, heaved, hauled, patched and secured. They cleaned and swept. They hacked a path through the jungle of limbs that blocked the door. They took our worried dog home and told him it was all right. It was like an old-fashioned barn-raising.

Later, despite problems and messes and power-less houses of their own, neighbors kept coming by. One brought a pot of pea soup, cooked on another neighbor’s wood stove. One afternoon, as we sat complaining, another brought over a freshly baked chocolate cake. How did they conjure up one of those? Do you know how good a warm chocolate cake tastes in a cold, dark house?

Yes, it was a prime lesson in swell neighbors, an act of generosity no doubt displayed elsewhere during a troubled time on the Chesapeake Bay.

Great neighbors, indeed.

Even if they keep asking how we like our new skylights.

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Letters to the Editor

New Bay Times’ prestigious Wheeler Johnson Award has been followed by more awards, among them First Place in the Art-Illustration category in the annual Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association competition.

The association awarded the top prize to New Bay Times contributor Lee Summerall for drawings accompanying the October article, “New World Cornucopia: Our Cups Runneth Over with Native Abundance.”

The humorous story gave advice on what to do at harvest time when your garden produces too many zucchini and peppers. Summerall’s drawings depicted a giant zucchini rising from the garden to challenge the cook and a chorus line of hot, hot peppers.

New Bay Times won two honorable mentions in the press association contest. One of them went to Children’s Page Editor Sonia Linebaugh in the Art-Illustration category for her sketch “Darin and the Geese” accompanying the second installment of her story called “The True Story of the Wonderful and Cantankerous Sir William.”

Another honorable mention was awarded New Bay Times editorial staff in the General News category for the story “Bets Down: Will Indian Casinos Rise?”

Rendering Unto the Seizers

Dear New Bay Times:

In an editorial in January, you highlighted a case where a local veterinarian nearly forfeited his Jeep Cherokee to the local prosecutor because his son, unbeknownst to him, possessed a small amount of drugs while riding in the vehicle. You warned your readers that asset forfeiture laws, by giving prosecutors immense power to seize assets, were taking Maryland residents down a “slippery slope of eroding constitutional rights.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Since civil forfeitures are determined according to a much lower standard of proof than the government needs for criminal convictions, there are many examples of people losing their homes, vehicles and life savings after having been acquitted of all charges against them.

In one forfeiture case, United States v. Sandini, the court held that “the innocence of the owner is irrelevant” when deciding whether property will be forfeited to the government. So much for the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven.

The government doesn’t need to convict you of anything, and in most cases the burden of proof is on you. Forfeiture laws have stood our Bill of Rights on its head and thrown Due Process out the window.

—John T. Paff

Somerset, NJ

Glad for Getaways

Dear New Bay Times:

I pick up your paper wherever we see it, usually at Fresh Fields.

Your Valentine’s issue really drew me in — especially the cover and the article on the Eastern Shore Bed & Breakfast.

I’d like to see more stories like that on places to get away from it all and all the fun and interesting things to do, whether they’re day-trips or weekend-trips.

Keep going. I love your paper.

—Karen Franke

Annapolis, Md.

Flying High

Dear New Bay Times:

Thank you for the wonderful photo-essay, “Flying the Bay,” by New Bay Times’ photographer Steven Anderson. It was humorous indeed with its references to the fate of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the “Big Bopper.” Is Steven still green?

When you look down from the big jet, you can’t really get a good view of the Chesapeake. But a single engine plane like the one your photographer flew in gives you an entirely different perspective of the relationship between water and land.

I’ve flown in small planes, but not around here. After reading your story, I plan to go up as soon as it warms up. Can you run another list of local airports sometime?

I also wanted to say I like your approach to news and I hope you will give us more good sailing adventures like your recent three-parter.

—Terry Arnold

Annapolis, Md

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Not Just For Kids

Make Your Own Winter Nest Count

Recently The Nature Conservancy of Maryland’s Great Blue Heron Sanctuary did their annual winter nest count.

You can do the same thing to keep track of the birds and squirrels in your yard or neighborhood. Now is a good time to makea nest count because it’s easy to see the nests in bare trees.

First draw a simple map of the yard or neighborhood you’re going to examine like the sample map. Be sure to write down the location and the date.

Put your map on a clip board or fasten it with rubber bands to some stiff cardboard. Take a pencil and you’re ready to go.

Look for clumps of leaves or twigs in trees. Squirrels’ nests will look like big clumps of leaves high up in the tree but not at the top. Heron nests are made of sticks and pine cones and and can be seen all the way at the top of trees.but you’re unlikely to find them in your neighborhood. Look for signs of other nesting clumps.

When you see a tree with a nest, draw it on your map. Record the data: the kind of nest— squirrel, bird; the size— small, medium, large; whether it’s high or low in the tree; and the kind of tree if you know.

Get your friends to help out. Several can look while one writes down the data. Keep your map until next year. Then see if there are nests in the same place. See if there are more nests or fewer. The Nature Conservancy found out that the herons are gradually moving their nesting area to the north????

What will you discover? You won’t know until you look.

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Hey! Who’s Driving the Ship?

By Bill Burton

Who really decides natural resources policy and management in Maryland?

And is the current way the best way?

It boils down to checks and balances, the checks and balances of power.

Too often, the folks who pay the bill (you and I) and the professional resources managers (scientists) are lost in the shuffle, though the hierarchy would like us to think we’re all-important in the process.

As for the professional managers — dedicated and trained scientists who make recommendations after detailed studies and deliberations — we’re told by their bosses that their interests aren’t broad enough. They don’t take economic consequences and social implications into consideration.

When you get right down to it, the ultimate decisions on matters of importance are made by two all-powerful government branches: The administration — Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his intimidated, too-quick-to-agree underlings in one corner; and in the other, members of the General Assembly, who have an innate suspicion of anyone but themselves making decisions bigger than the brand of paper clips purchased for state agencies.

The consequences of a tug of war between administrators and legislators are ominous. Political considerations come first; environmental considerations, second. It’s the nature of the beast.

Maryland’s fishermen, hunters and other outdoors lovers have long wished the General Assembly would stay out of their affairs. But when they have a gripe that they think is ignored, who do they go to? If you know the answer, it’s not a question. They go to their senator or delegate. That’s part of what checks and balances is all about.

Nothing is wrong with a politician intervening under such circumstances to ensure constituent complaints are at least considered. But when that same politician decides to make natural resources policy, things get sticky.

By and large, we’d prefer that the trained professionals manage the resources we all pay to enjoy. Theoretically, that’s what we’re supposed to have in our Department of Natural Resources. Theoretically.

Theoretically, because, though appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate, the secretary of DNR serves at the pleasure of the governor, currently one William Donald Schaefer. Under him as secretary for years has been Dr. Torrey C. Brown, and under him are a deputy secretary and assistant secretaries, all of whom obviously also serve at the pleasure of the governor.

And get this. Not one of those under secretaries is a professional manger of fish, wildlife or other natural resources. Political backgrounds abound. Under them in a bureaucratic maze are the true and learned scientists who have their constituents (the resources) at heart. Their opinions, we who pay the bills must hope, will somehow rise to the top in this bureaucratic swamp.

The last professional in the upper echelon was straight shooter and bureaucracy-be-damned Don MacLauchlan, a dedicated career scientist in Maryland for 30 years, who was squeezed out when his assistant secretaryship was abolished a couple years back. His niche was forests, parks, wildlife and freshwater fishing. With his exit went professional representation at the top.

This is not an indictment of Torrey Brown, who — though a former Baltimore delegate and politician — has often proven innovative in natural resources management. His connections with, and knowledge of the administrative/legislative process can accomplish much — especially when he has the ear of the King Crab.

But when the Guv has his mind made up — whether by personal whim or pressure from his business oriented confidants — Dr. Brown has not fared so well. What’s he to do, commit hara-kiri?

His predecessor took this risk back during the reign of Gov. Marvin Mandel when a lead shot ban, aimed at waterfowl hunters, was the hottest controversy of the time. I was there, summoned to the office of Jim Coulter, a quiet, conservative, yet determined DNR secretary.

“You are probably witnessing the death of a secretary,” he said as I stood before his desk. “But today, I am issuing a ban on lead shot in waterfowl hunting.”

Coulter was convinced that switching to steel shot would spare thousands of fowl from poisoning by lead eaten while feeding.

Gov. Mandel, an avid waterfowl hunter with whom I had gunned on several occasions, thought the opposite — and strongly. Yet he even chuckled when Coulter sent him a case of steel shot, which he set aside, though probably used later when the ban eventually went into effect, thanks to US Fish and Wildlife Service intervention.

But before the federal ban, the General Assembly banned DNR from implementing Coulter’s ban. The ban met a subsequent veto by Gov. Mandel’s successor, Gov. Harry Hughes, whose veto was in turn overridden.

Gov. Mandel had hired Coulter and let him carry the ball, as he did earlier when former Gov. J. Millard Tawes was selected to head DNR after serving as Maryland’s most dedicated natural resources-oriented governor ever.

But by no means can Gov. Schaefer be considered to share Gov. Mandel’s leave-it-to-beaver approach to DNR secretaries. Before he learned — if he ever did — to distinguish a rockfish from his favored flounder, Gov. Schaefer announced he would end the rockfish ban. No colloquies with the scientists, just pressure from friends and political allies who envisioned the economic benefits. Fortunately, that episode ended happily.

Last year, he tightened the screws when pressured by then (but now-retired) Kent County Speaker of the House Clayton Mitchell to override DNR by lengthening the Canada goose season and increasing the bag limit, much to the distress of the scientific community. (So upset was Delaware that it withdrew from a joint goose management plan with Maryland.) Economics, not environment, was the issue to the Guv.

Then came the crab issue. With the pressure on, DNR developed a hasty plan that robbed recreational crabbers to benefit — you guessed it — commercial crabbers. Same old story, but now we’re getting back to checks and balances.

Under the newest crab plan, recreational crabbers will pay more for their first crab license (if they don’t have a tidewater fishing license), while their catches and crabbing opportunities are curtailed. Only in bureaucracy can that happen. But here the General Assembly could be the balancer. Licensing programs by law invoke the General Assembly. A DNR bill has been submitted, but it must still pass the legislature.

We’re back to having the legislature — who we’d prefer stay out of our business — as the only recourse to an unjust law that charges more and gives less. Licensing would be palatable if recreational crabbers were to get something better than added restrictions for their contributions.

With its limited scientific knowledge and awareness of natural resources management, the Assembly has the legal but not the valid right to set creel and size limits. Ditto for game, gear restrictions, hours, management policy and license structure.

Remember two years ago when it raised the boat licensing fee for fishermen, but goofed by dropping an original provision that allowed the owner of a boat licensed for fishing to fish elsewhere in tidal waters?

This mistake — a costly one covered in more detail elsewhere in this issue — is an example of what happens when politicians meddle. Another example was an attempt to lower the legal size limit for hardheads so that Marylanders could keep some of a species most of which went to Virginia, where no size or creel limits apply. Until the hardhead issue was resolved, fishermen lost.

Add to the list the General Assembly’s override of the initial lead shot ban and its dictate that state duck-stamp funds be spent to release inferior, pen-reared mallards.

Sportsmen knew the funds would have been better diverted to improving marshland habitat. But the decision makers weren’t in the know.

Now, there’s a new twist. For better or worse? It’s too early to decide. Del. Tony DiPietro of Baltimore has introduced a bill that would bring back to Maryland the Fish and Game Commission way of doing business. We went “modern” 25 years ago, starting on the path that took us to the current DNR formula.

Going back isn’t necessarily bad.

Most states still have the commission arrangement; among them Pennsylvania and Arkansas are well known for sound management. Pennsylvania’s Game Commission is the best known in the US. for guarding wildlife soundly and listening to hunters. Maryland’s wasn’t too bad either.

When I came in 1956, there was a State Parks Commission, a Tidewater Fisheries Commission and a Game and Inland Fish Commission, somewhat the same but a bit different in procedures. Tidewater rarely considered recreational fisheries interests, instead concentrating on commercial fisheries. But the old Game and Inland Fisheries Commission was much more dedicated to its constituency.

Five commissioners were on the GIFC: Frank Wimbrow representing the Eastern Shore; Desmond Walker, Southern Maryland; Royden Blunt, the Baltimore area; Dr. William Holton, the Washington suburbs; and George Walters, Western Maryland.

As director, Ernie Vaughn was the administrator who carried out the decisions of the commissioners, all of whom were gubernatorial appointees. In some states they have to be confirmed by the legislature. So we’d be staying with politics, you say. Maybe, but in a different way.

Those commissioners were — and still are in many states — appointed to long terms, which were staggered. No governor could reign long enough to clean house. Our commissioners, an independent lot, were frequently reappointed, and the atmosphere was much less charged politically than today. I can’t recall an instance when Govs. Ted McKeldin, Millard Tawes and Spiro Agnew intervened.

Today, we have advisory boards and committees that offer suggestions to DNR; sometimes they’re accepted, other times not. Decisions are made in a bureaucratic atmosphere polluted by Gov. Schaefer, whose standard do-it-now approach often precedes or ignores scientific considerations.

Our system is more dependent on governors like Harry Hughes, Marvin Mandel and Millard Tawes, but in politics there are no guarantees. Can we and our resources afford a King Crab clone?

Word is DiPietro’s lengthy commission bill is cumbersome and needing refinement — as well as standing little chance of passage. But it could work, if sent to a study group to work out the bugs. Considering the political situation in Maryland, it’s worth looking into. Maybe, though, its diverse commissioners could promise a fish and wildlife command that has a more independent presence — one more closely associated with its constituents who hunt, fish and enjoy natural resources.

Possibly status quo is preferable — though that’s questionable. Overall, Torrey Brown does a good job when left to do so. But he needs more professionals in the upper echelon of fish, game, forestry and other natural resources. Just ask the professionals in the lower echelon. Regrettably, they can’t answer you.

No need for change for the sake of change. If we can make our system work, and work so the average outdoor lover feels it’s working, why change? But currently there’s a bit to be desired: Checks and balances.

Enough said ...


Righting a Wrong

When boat-owning fishermen of the Chesapeake license their craft for fishing this year, they’ll once again be issued a gratis license entitling them to fish from any boat. This free permit was lost last year in a legislative/DNR fumble.

Seems when the 1993 General Assembly passed a bill to raise the private boat fishing license — which allows all a boat’s occupants to fish without buying a regular tidal license — from $25 to $30, it somehow deleted the section that offered the owner a license to fish from other boats as well. When finally discovered, the omission brought howls of anger from sportsfishermen, but no satisfaction. Finally, during their next session, the legislature corrected their oversight.

Or was it an oversight?

So while the license is returned, the question remains: Who’s to blame for a an “oversight” that forced thousands of boat owners to buy additional fishing licenses?

The bill was fostered by DNR, approved by the legislature, both of which should be expected to monitor proceedings. Whose responsibility was it to catch slips like this — and why wasn’t it caught? Why, too, no public apology?

Somewhere there are answers, and we’ll do our best to get them. In the meantime, get your new boat fishing license with the tidal permit included before there's another change.


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Laughing Gourmet

Eating for Comfort

There’s nothing like a week of endless power outages and crashing trees to awaken one’s need for comfort. Comfort foods — those uncomplicated dishes that remind us of the uncomplicated days when power was always there, when trees didn’t crack ominously in the icy darkness, and when it was no big thing to hop in the car and go to the store — make life more bearable.

One of the best things about those traditional comfort foods is that ingredients are frequently part of your basic pantry stock, so even if you can’t venture out onto the roads, you may still be able to soothe your tired and whimpering inner self with a hot bowl of soup or a slice of PB&J Banana Bread.

Lentil Soup

Not only quick, easy and economical, but very tasty. Forget that it’s high in fiber and very good for you (don't tell anyone, they'll never guess!). It’s delicious. Lentils have the most flavor of any popular bean, thus don’t need much seasoning. This serves 6 and can be doubled.

1 bag brown lentils

2 ribs of celery, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

2 carrots, sliced

3 smoked pork neckbones or 1 smoked pork hock

1/2 t (or more) of your favorite hot sauce

salt and pepper (add at end after you’ve tasted)

Lentils don’t need pre-soaking. In a 6 qt. pot, place all ingredients except hot sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to boil and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour. Skim after 30 minutes; add water as needed to keep soup from getting too thick. At end of an hour, check lentils, cooking another 15 minutes if they’re not soft. Taste; add hot sauce, salt and pepper to your taste.

Serve with a spoonful of sour cream atop if you wish. This soup is even better on the second or third day.

Quick Fish Chowder

1/2 C each finely chopped onion, celery and carrot

1/4 C olive oil

1 lb boneless white fish (You can substitute shrimp, oysters or clams.)

1 qt milk or half and half

2 t cornstarch

1/2 bay leaf

salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

Heat olive oil; add vegetables and cook slowly, covered, until onion is transparent, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Add fish, bay leaf, tomatoes; cover and cook gently 5 minutes. Flake fish. Add milk except for 1/3 C. Put cornstarch in a small bowl, add milk, and stir until dissolved. Add to soup in a thin stream, stirring until thickened. Season to taste.

To fatten, chop 3 slices of bacon, fry until crisp, then cook vegetables in the fat. Top the finished chowder with the bacon.

Spanish Bean Soup

Looks complex but isn’t, and well worth the hour it takes. Freezes well and, like lentil soup, is far, far better on the third day. Don’t stint on the saffron. Serves eight.

1 pkg dried garbanzo beans

8 pcs chicken, thighs or whatever makes you happy

2 med onions, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 qts chicken or other broth (you can use water)

1 large smoked pork hock

1 large bay leaf

1 T each dried basil and oregano

4 med potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

1/2 lb chorizo (a dense, dry sausage sold fresh or canned in Latin groceries; not the fresh chorizo sold in local supermarkets) or other sausage (even turkey sausage if you’re desperate); slice 1/4 inch thick and parboil for 10 minutes

1/2 t real Spanish saffron

1/2 t red pepper flakes

salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste

The night before, pick over beans, put in an 8 qt pot and cover with water. Cover and leave in a cool place.

In the morning, drain beans. In a frying pan, fry chicken pieces in small amount of oil (or frying spray) until browned; refrigerate until needed. Add onions to pan, fry gently until transparent (about 10 minutes). Add carrots and garlic and cook for 2 minuets.

Add vegetables to beans in stock pot; add 2 qts each stock and water, and first 3 spices. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, checking every 30 minutes to be sure liquid isn’t low. When beans are tender (2+ hours), add potatoes, chorizo, saffron, pepper flakes, and salt/pepper/hot sauce. Cover and cook 30 minutes. Add chicken pieces (and liquid from bowl if you want), more broth or water if needed, and simmer another 30 minutes. Taste broth; adjust to your own taste. Remove bay leaf.

PB&J Banana Bread

1/3 C chunky peanut butter (not fresh ground)

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1/3 C cooking oil

1 C white sugar (or half and half brown and white)

2 large eggs, beaten

1 1/2 C flour (try half whole wheat pastry and half unbleached)

1 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

3 T milk

1/2 t vanilla extract

1/2 C your favorite thick jelly or jam

Preheat over to 350. Grease and flour small loaf pans. Thoroughly mix peanut butter and bananas in a medium-sized bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix oil and sugar, then add to banana mixture and beat well. Add eggs; mix well. Sift flour, soda and powder together; mix into banana mixture. Add milk and vanilla, mixing thoroughly.

Scrape into loaf pans; marble jelly through top of each pan. Bake 40 minutes or until loaf has pulled away from sides of pan. Cool well before slicing. Best if made a day ahead.

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Red Tape Battles

Government Red Tape. Voters hate the stuff. Bureaucrats love it. Around the Statehouse, it’s part of every Assembly. It’s different this year.

This year, bureaucrats are trying to break free, while voters are using red tape like gauze — for protection.

Confused? Here’s the story.

It all revolves around Senate Bill 291. That piece of legislation would change the way nontidal wetlands are permitted and protected. Right now, when you want a permit, you must go through both the feds and the state to get it.

Senate Bill 291 would cut one of that double layer of red tape, giving the whole process to DNR. The feds would retain a less involved oversight role.

During a recent Senate committee public hearing on the bill, the defenders and critics argued the virtues of red tape.

Bureaucrats pleaded to be cut free from the tape. For nearly two hours, they confessed that yes, there’s duplication in government; yes, time and funds are wasted.

“We spend a great deal of time pushing papers around on a desk, brow-beating agencies to go ahead in a timely manner. We’d rather be out in the field,” argued DNR’s Robert Miller. His staff — he’s in charge of the nontidal wetlands program — spends 30% of their time redoing what the feds have already done. This bill will streamline government, said he and other officials.

Who could argue against that? Oddly enough, voters did.

Talk about politics making strange bedfellows. Joining environmentalists in testifying against the bill were property righters, who usually fight all shades of green laws. Environmental advocates argued that the feds need to be involved because red tape affords another layer of protection for wetlands. For 45 minutes, they testified that DNR has a “disturbing pattern” of avoiding citizen participation and an “abysmal” wetlands mitigation record.

Nor, added Audubon Society’s Neal Fitzpatrick, do DNR staff credentials match the fed’s. “The biological backgrounds and staff in the federal permit review is very critical, especially with endangered species,” he said.

Three hours into the debate, committee chairman Clarence Blount had enough. He urged the environmentalists and bureaucrats to nip and tuck the red tape till everybody was satisfied. At the last minute, the state added 14 amendments to try to calm opponents. But the green groups complained again: they hadn’t seen the amendments.

Voting on the bill was delayed to give the compromise time to jell. After the hearing, Chesapeake Bay Foundation folks huddled in the hall with the governor’s people.

Whatever happens now, SB 291 has a long way to go before it gets to be law. Will it be redesigned to suit everyone? Will the Senate committee send the bill as it is to the House (where the show will begin again)? Or will the poor bill die in committee?

It takes a lot of talking to make a bill a law. And a lot of Capitol Red Tape.

Lobby Day

A green wave washed over the Statehouse recently, when over 100 voters rolled into Annapolis to talk environmental politics. They gathered for Lobby Day, the annual push for environmental bills.

Toting signs like “Southern MD Knows Green” and “Anne Arundel is the Greenest,” they began with a briefing on the issues this year: reducing toxics, restricting pesticides, increasing citizen legal rights (what the courts call “standing”) and protecting and permitting wetlands.

Then, educated and excited, they headed to the Statehouse to caucus with their legislators. There, meeting in small groups by districts, they buttonholed the pols on this session’s “environmentally correct” do’s and dont’s.

To speak in language legislators understand, the voters linked green bills with economics to make their points. “Issues like pesticides also have to do with health. Prevention is a much better investment,” Sierra Club member Sandy Daniels told the Southern Maryland delegation.

Do politicians listen to these folks? Does Lobby Day make a difference in getting bills passed? “You really do make a difference,” says veteran politician Sen. Gerald Winegrad, “Politicians aren’t going to do it for you — you’ve got to make it happen.”

Winegrad is an easy sell: he’s the darling of environmentalists. His colleagues in the Assembly are quick with a smile and nod around constituents, but the proof’s in the voting.

Patuxent Protector

That defender of the Patuxent River, Senator Bernie Fowler, is at it again. Before he leaves the Senate at the end of this year, the former waterman wants to take one more step toward being able to see his toes in the River of his childhood.

Fowler is making waves by trying to give the Patuxent River Commission more power. He wants the group to have power to review and approve permits for the Patuxent River Primary Management Area.

“The Patuxent River is the canary bird of the Chesapeake Bay,” Fowler said, referring to the canary carried into the coal mine to warn miners of toxic gas.

Opponents include DNR and the Maryland Aggregates Association, the sand and gravel folks. They argue that Fowler’s bill would create a “new and unnecessary permit step.” Sound familiar?

Fowler has support among colleagues on the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs committee; four of them are co-sponsors. He doesn’t know if the bill will fly in the full Assembly, but he’s willing to give it a try.

Report Card Time

The League of Conservation Voters annual scorecardfor Congress is in and Maryland’s senators passed. In the House, it was a bit of a different story.

Sen. Paul Sarbanes scored an 88 percent and Sen. Barbara Mikulski 75. Both are Democrats. The scores were measured from 16 votes during 1993.

In the House, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, an Eastern Shore Republican, tallied a 95 percent. Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Democratic leader who represents southern Maryland, managed a 60.

The scorecard may have offered a hint to green voters about the coming election for governor. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley of Baltimore county, a leading Republican challenger, scored just 20. But it was an improvement over her 7 percent score during the 1991-92 Congress.

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Sky Talk - In the Sky

From the Air

Seen your first robin yet? They’re not so far away. This time of year, you’ll find a flock in most any forest, where they spend the winters gobbling holly berries. So proximity, not pushing the season, explains how those early birds show up to catch their worms in the first sunbeam of spring.

But spring and winter are kissing cousins: awaiting the thaw, our forsythia bush hosted every bird in town. We’ll be looking for yellow to see if these early birds spared us some flowers.

On the Limb

While watching forsythia, we’re noting with some relief that crepe myrtle, dogwood, and tall dry marsh grasses are springing back from their bowed and recumbent positions.

Most trees will be equally resilient, we’re assured by Erik Neumann of the National Arboretum in Washington. “The trees will survive, with altered shapes. There will be some filling in; where a portion’s been lost, remaining branches will make up with more growth to make up for root-branch imbalance.”

Decay will set in where branches have broken, but there’ll be less if you make a clean cut over the tear. Plants don’t heal the way animals do; instead the trees will wall off their injured areas with a row of cells and go on living.

Broad-leafed evergreens like hollies, magnolias and rhododendron may show the brownish tinge of frostbite in their leaves, but don’t give up hope, Neumann encourages. Their stems may still be alive.

Down to earth, we’re still waiting for narcissus to waft its heady perfume. Last year it bloomed in January. This has definitely not been the winter for pansies, which can usually be relied upon to bloom between cold spells. Frozen dead this year, we fear.

In the Mail

Seed catalogs are arriving! Seed Savers, Johnny’s, Pinetree (small packages for smaller gardeners), Jackson and Perkins, Smith and Hawkins, Burpees, Sunseeds, Stokes, Brittingham’s Berry Book. They’re good kindling, fueling dreams of days when the ground thaws (it’s been frozen as deep as eight inches), the ice melts, Piscean muck dries and we and our seeds go to work in our gardens.

Meanwhile, early growers are starting their seeds inside.

Not Here … Yet

Joe Cahill, father of Sam the Crab, writes from oceanside what everybody’s thinking:

“Although I’m Irish, by God what I’m about to say sounds Indian.

“The sun is the spirit of life!

“My spirits soar to the angels when I see and feel its warmth.

“We’re heading into our third day without the spirit.

“P.S. Last time I heard about Sam, he was heading to France!”

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