Youre Seeing How It Works These Stormy Days
After one of the recent torrential downpours, of which there seems to be no shortage this summer, I took a walk along the narrow gut that drains Lake Claire, a several-acre brackish water that empties into the Magothy River near its mouth. Water gushed downstream through the cord grass, moving at such velocity that it scoured the natural channel a foot deeper than its normal depth. Marsh mud and sand blended together, creating a marbled collage of sediment not unlike the EtchaSketch screens popular before video games and the Internet began sucking the minds of Americas young and not-so young. (It was encouraging to see a couple of kids, oblivious to the damp aftermath of the storm, investigating the shoreline.)
The storm water system was stressed to capacity, and water roared down the street through the culverts and eventually into the Bay. Unseen, of course, were the unknown pounds of nutrients and other pollutants washed off yards and streets. Luckily, a decent amount of the water, in these parts at least, passed through some natural buffers to reduce the impact of pollutants.
Storm water and its associated pollution run-off reminded me of Gov. Parris Glendenings announcement a couple weeks ago that Maryland has already attained its goal of creating 600 miles of forested stream buffers in its part of the Bay watershed. He pledged to double the goal by planting another 600 miles of buffer. Technically, the state has established 577 miles of buffers with another 23 miles under contract to be planted by next spring. Marylands timeliness - we reached our goal eight years ahead of schedule - and its pledge to restore another 600 miles of buffers are encouraging signs of our states continued commitment to cleaning up its part of the watershed.
For perspective, in 1996 the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council set a watershed-wide goal of creating 2,010 miles of forest buffers by 2010. Of that number, Marylands pro-rated goal was only 375 miles, which really would not have made much impact on water quality. The 600 miles of buffers planted in Maryland will, according to the Department of Natural Resources, prevent 2.7 million pounds of sediment; 271,000 pounds of nitrogen, the main culprit poisoning the Bay; and nearly 25,000 pounds of phosphorous from entering the Bay each year.
So the state did the right thing in committing to restore 600 miles. That laudable goal was certainly attainable and definitely necessary. In the new Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, the signatories agreed that by 2002, they would ensure that measures are in place to meet our riparian forest buffer restoration goal of 2,010 miles by 2010. And by 2003, each Bay state and Washington, D.C., would establish a new goal to expand buffer mileage.
Of several approaches to restoring buffers, perhaps the most important is the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, a federal-state initiative that pays farmers and landowners to remove environmentally sensitive cropland from production and plant streamside buffers. In various parts of the watershed, I have visited farms enrolled in Reserve Enhancement, and farmers and landowners and I have agreed that the program is an effective way to reduce pollution, increase the health of their herds and help them offset financial pressures, which all together may make it less likely they will be forced to sell their land. Marylanders can be rightly proud that we were the first state in the nation to take advantage of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Today about 27,000 acres are enrolled. We are also the first state to receive federal approval last year to strengthen incentives.
The Farm Bill is up for reauthorization before Congress next year, and with a couple new provisions, it would make the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program even more effective. Without innovative and effective programs that restore buffers and conserve land, the progress made to protect and restore our watershed will erode before our eyes.
Fish Are Biting...
Chesapeake Bay anglers should be take note that DNR has shut down the summer flounder season in the coastal bays and Chesapeake Bay through August 6. The season resumes on August 7. Flounder fishing is open in the Potomac River with a 16-inch minimum size through December 31.
Chumming in the upper Bay is becoming a bit more reliable, particularly at Love Point, Thomas Point (early) and the Hill. Fishing at Tolley Point remains slow for all species. Livelining at Kent Narrows and Bay Bride is worth a shot. Most charter captains are still trolling from Breezy Point to Parkers Creek.
In the lower Bay, several charter boats and recreational anglers are fishing Buoy 74 with decent results for rockfish and sea trout. Bluefish are breaking at the Middle grounds north to Poplar Island, many times in the later afternoon.