Dock of the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 2
January 13-19, 2000
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Glendening Legacy:
Trying to Do Right in My Heart

As Gov. Parris Glendening previewed what he hopes to achieve in the year 2000, he was ringed round by images of kings, queens and 11 of the other governors who led Maryland through the 20th century.

Governors who achieve a sixth year in office have the luxury to think about legacy, not reelection. Glendening’s sixth year coincides with an especially portentous time — a new century and a new millennium. It’s a likely time to look beyond politics to permanence.

“I will do nothing to harm the Bay,” said Glendening about his
position on Site 104, where opponents fear dumping dredge spoils from
Baltimore harbor will bury oyster colonies. In this file photo, the
governor tours an oyster dredging operation.

Certainly the governor looked the part: More finely tailored than we’ve sometimes seen him and more at ease — setting the pace, crafting his sentences, recognizing old acquaintances and inquiring of new ones — Glendening could have been striking a pose for the portrait that will soon be added to the illustrious company of the Governor’s Reception Room.

The “Vision for Maryland in the 21st Century” he’d released a few days earlier set the terms of the Glendening legacy: education, environment and economy plus a conscientious, self-critical approach to doing better in our future.

His agenda for the General Assembly convened January 12 elaborated on those themes. Instead of spending Maryland’s billion-dollar surplus to cut taxes another “$12 or $14,” Glendening said, “my preference is to invest in education, our children, our environment.”

For education, he pledged hundreds of million of dollars for both school construction and funding.

“I have listened carefully to citizens and business leaders throughout the state, and it’s clear to me,” Glendening said, “that the thing that’s most important for the well-being and future of the state is what we do with education, both K through 12 and higher education. So I will be proposing to put the bulk of the additional surplus into those crucial areas.”

That bulk is $1 billion minus $400 million set aside to pay for the state’s earlier 10 percent income tax cut.

With Smart Growth in place to protect open space and curtail suburban sprawl, Glendening’s 2000 agenda balanced environment against economy. For the environment, he recalled his environmental record and pledged he “would not do anything to harm the Bay.” But he said he would wait on the Army Corps of Engineers’ findings to reevaluate the controversial Site 104 proposal for dumping dredge spoils from the Baltimore Harbor channel in a deep Bay trough off Kent Island. On the other side of the balancing in that instance, he insisted Maryland must stay competitive by keeping the channel dredged to preserve thousands of jobs.

Glendening also diversified his legacy on several scores.

To supporters of private and parochial schools, he pledged to “seriously consider” state support to the tune of “$6 or $7 million” for textbooks.

To organized labor, he pledged to pay the same “prevailing wages” enjoyed by workers on all other state projects to laborers at work on school construction. Both proposals are already causing quite a stir.

But the governor was less outspoken on extending civil rights protection to sexual preference. While he denied “throwing in the towel” on last year’s failed anti-discrimination bill, he did not promise “a full-court press.”

Glendening reserved his most passionate sentiments for families and working people: workers denied prevailing wages; service workers of the sort he knew at University of Maryland who were at work before dawn — with no health insurance or benefits; homeowners who lose their hopes and savings to roll-over property schemes.

“I’m trying to do right in my heart,” he said.


Warm Up to History of Man and Beast at Calvert Marine Museum

photo courtesy of Calvert Marine Museum A sturgeon caught in the Potomac in 1924.

Six prehistoric creatures have moved into Calvert Marine Museum. Neither stuffed nor mounted, these newcomers are aquatic dinosaurs, alive and swimming just as they did hereabouts 140 million years ago.

Acipenser oxirinchus have been around a lot longer than we have, but how much longer they will survive is anybody’s guess. In our times, the Atlantic sturgeon is an endangered species. Which is why this new exhibit at the museum is such big news.

“These fish are legacies that take us back millions of years,” says Jimmy Langley, exhibits curator. “Sturgeons are still around and swimming in our Bay waters. It is just extraordinary to think that these fish of millions of years ago, never having changed, are the same fish that once swam between the legs of the brontosaurus.”

To see these fish swishing in their 800-gallon exhibit aquarium is almost eerie. Their long, snooty bodies glide along the bottom. Their hard, pointy skin looks like armor, with scales called scutes. These bony bumps are set in rows of five across the entire back of the fish.

“These fish have not changed their shape after all these years,” continues Langley. “The part that really amazes me about them is that after the meteor hit down in the Gulf of Mexico, and all the other dinosaurs supposedly died, these species lived on. They would have not eaten for at least two years, and lived off of their stored fat. I find that amazing that something could live that long.”

The fact that most sturgeon weighed in at over 800 pounds could very well mean that they did store a lot of fat. But fat was not all the fishermen of past decades used the sturgeon for. When many European immigrants settled along the Atlantic coast, they brought appetites for caviar and experience in smoking sturgeon.

Fisheries were set up. Meat, fish oil and the precious eggs, or roe, were often exported to Europe. The large fish, often over 15 feet long, would also provide a lubricant used for waterproofing. Jobs followed sturgeon, and back then both seemed plentiful.

Today, Atlantic sturgeon are a very rare catch, not only in local waters but also in bays and rivers along the coast. Slow to mature, the male of the species waits up to 12 years to reproduce. Female sturgeons are often 20 years old before they begin laying their eggs. If the eggs make it to hatching, the young sturgeon usually remain in this deep water for up to five years before beginning their journey to the ocean.

For several years now, researchers have worked to bring the Atlantic sturgeon back to our waters and off the endangered list. One such person is Dave Secor, fisheries scientist at the Chesapeake Biological Lab, part of the University of Maryland’s Center for Estuarine Studies.

Secor, who has extensively studied sturgeon and their history in Chesapeake Bay, lent his knowledge and talents to Langley, as did such researchers and scientist as Skip Edwards and Stephen Godfrey from the museum.

As well as the fish, you’ll see a timeline of 70 million years of sturgeon history. There are photos and fossils, actual scutes, spearheads, net lines and weights.

“These findings were taken from an all-new area that had remained underwater up until not too long ago,” Langley said of the items on loan for the exhibit from the Jamestown Fort Project. “Because of that, they have been preserved pretty well.”

A life-size 14-foot model of the largest Atlantic sturgeon found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed hangs over the entrance of the exhibit. Langley, Godfrey and Edwards carved this giant fish from high-density foam and covered it with a hand sculpted epoxy skin. If you compare the head of the model to the drawings, photographs, and life specimens in the exhibits, you’ll note that the comparative length of the snout is reduced as the fish grows. Walking under it, you feel notably small.

Compared to the model, the fish swimming in the aquarium also seem small. It will take many years for them to catch up. But with the help of researchers, scientists and supporters of the Bay, these fish will keep history going long after so many have already given up the ghost.

If sturgeon aren’t your thing, there’s lots more reason to take refuge from winter at Calvert Marine Museum. Stroll through the paleontology section to find fossils both familiar and surprising. The collection includes not only sharks’ teeth (ranging from smaller than a pencil eraser to as large as an adult human hand), shellfish, sea birds and dolphins but also bits of primitive crocodiles, camels, elephants, sea cows, rhinoceroses and tapirs that once roamed our region.

Immerse yourself in the maritime history section tracing Patuxent River history from pre-Colonial days to the recreational boating boom after World War II to our times.

Or check out the estuarine biology exhibits, especially the river otters who seem to thrive on entertaining the human faces pressed close to the glass enclosing their home.

The museum also does local history, and just opened is an exhibit, “At the End of The Road: The Vanished Community of Rock Point,” based on the Farm Security Project of the 1930s. “This was a project for many out of work photographers,” Langley explains. “They photographed much of the surrounding waters and land.”

Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons Island: 410/326-2042

—Lori L. Sikorski with Kim Cammarata

Duck Soup: DNR Blind Rules Retinkered

In the early quiet of many winter mornings, shots are the first sound you hear in Chesapeake Country. Until the phone rings, and one irate neighbor complains to another that they’re at it again, those blankety blank hunters.

Hunting is a traditional life way in Chesapeake Country, but not so often a revered one in these new Bay times. Instead, hunting ranks with junked cars, wild teenagers and garbage-picking dogs as a hot button. Push it, and you’re likely to evoke a shriek of rage. Even soft-spoken sorts are likely to spout words that don’t look good in print.

As what happened last weekend in Fairhaven proved. Duck hunters showed up for the first time in recent memory on a marsh lake neighbors consider their own wildlife preserve, and all hell broke loose.
The conflict that stirred the picture-pretty village of Fairhaven might as easily have happened in North Beach or Admiral Heights — or any community where land and water meet. Wherever such confrontations explode, they overflow in questions like the one asked by John Hiser, who’s been around Fairhaven for half a century:

“When Maryland Department of Natural Resources issues a permit, do they ever come out and see where it is?”

Not unless there’s a complaint. Then a Natural Resources Police officer walks and measures the contested area.

Regulations are different on open water, and permitted distances from the shore line varies with the water body, so DNR’s answers won’t be the same for North Beach, for example.

In Fairhaven, Sgt. Richard Gardner found that a quartet of Saturday morning duck hunters had the law on their side — except in one questionable area.

They had a permit to hunt the marsh, issued earlier in the year by DNR at the Anne Arundel courthouse for $11. Not only their blind site license but also their ammunition, gear and location of their blind — on the water side of the mean high tide line — were in order. They had legal birds in legal number in their possession. And they were well outside of the 150-yard prohibited zone surrounding any home.

“As far as the hunt, they’re legal,” said Gardner, after he’d checked their equipment and measured distances with a range finder.

If the hunters had any trouble — besides the hail of indignation raining down on them from angry citizens — it would be for parking their trucks where no parking is allowed.

But their hunt was spoiled, raising bigger questions about how authorities determine the use of multipurpose lands.

Not in the best possible way, acknowledged DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage division director, Mike Slattery. But, Slattery is quick to add, DNR is doing better.

First, permitted locations are inexact. But new computerized systems will calculate distances automatically and exactly by integrating Maryland tax maps with Global Positioning Systems. What’s more, computerization will enable permits to be purchased on line, instead of at the courthouse in the county where the site is located.

Second, community associations and waterfront homeowners often miss their chance to buy up local blind sights before hunters can get them.

In most counties, local interests have six-weeks first call on blinds, from July 1 to August 15, before they’re open to hunters. But many communities don’t know they have that right until it’s exposed by hostilities, as it was in Fairhaven.

The same thing happened last year in Admiral Heights.

“We had a problem last year with hunting on Weems Creek,” said Admiral Heights Civic Association president Nancy Rea. “It was really a shock. People couldn’t believe guns were going off. We have a lot of folks on the creek because it is very quiet.

“People were very concerned,” Rea continued, “but we couldn’t do anything about it last year because the hunters were within their rights. But we got a copy of the DNR manual, and this year we were very careful to have somebody representing the community down there at the appropriate time to buy the permits.”

Admiral Heights Civic Association now owns two permits, covering all the duck hunting allotment between the Rowe Boulevard bridge and the headwaters of Weems Creeks

Another advance, DNR’s Slattery says, is that in the future, communities and landowners holding permits will get automated renewal notices.

“We’re doing quite a bit to make it easier for communities to avoid such conflicts,” says he.

The goal, Slattery explains, is to balance the interests of hunters and citizens.

“It’s not good for community relations or the hunting fraternity to have incidents like this, because it leaves people with wrong impression about hunters’ ethics and conduct. If we can pare back the number of potential conflicts, we’ll be doing a service to both.”

For all the improvements to be made, Slattery defends DNR’s management of the safety of the hunt.

“It’s not inherently unsafe,” he says. “The shot gun has a very short range. After 50 yards of so, its pellets are not able to do anything near lethal damage to a duck. At 150 yards, there’s absolutely no chance of danger.”

So until January 20, when duck hunting season ends, when you hear the guns going off and they sound loud, remember that it’s all sound and no fury.


Way Downstream …

In Virginia, the Commission on the Future of Virginia’s Environment has concluded that to keep pace with Maryland and Pennsylvania, Virginia needs a program to protect nontidal wetlands from development. Developers and farmers say they will fight state legislation in the new General Assembly that orders such a program …

In Connecticut, environmental police are scrambling to find out what is killing white perch and many of the fish in the state’s largest body of fresh water, Lake Pocotopaug. It’s a mystery because the lake has no septic systems or industry near it …

In Germany, three department store chains have ordered a line of Nike jerseys off their shelves after concerns that they are laced with a chemical used in anti-barnacle paint on ships. The Associated Press reported that Nike may have used the chemical “to kill bacteria and quell the stench of excessive sweating” …

Our Creature Feature comes from Virginia, where folks are getting baffled by a beaver.

In Henrico County, west of I-95 near Richmond, people at the West End Manor Lake have appealed to county authorities to catch the buck-toothed culprit that is “wreaking havoc” by downing trees.

County authorities punted by telling them to call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Let’s hope it’s not the same beaver with a fondness for cherry trees that matched wits with feds last spring by the Tidal Basin.

Copyright 2000
New Bay Times Weekly