Volume 12, Issue 16 ~ April 15-21, 2004
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Chesapeake Outdoors
by C.D. Dollar

Flushing out Bad Water
Legislature approves Bay Restoration Fund

“You fishing for clams or crabs?” I asked as rain bombarded my face, glancing over at the stack of bushel baskets in the back of the pickup. Three days of hard rain kept me at the dock, regulated to running chores instead of charters. The large man, dressed in NASCAR cap and oilskin jacket, answered matter of factly, “clams,” without looking up from the jerry cans he was filling with diesel fuel.

I waited a long minute, then asked, “Tough going or you doing okay?”

“Slow but improving,” he said. Then with a slight shake of his head, he added, “A lot of death out there though,” in reference to dead clams in the beds he’s been working in waters near Kent Narrows.

“It’s those sewer pipes to blame for all the bad water,” he asserted. He then noted the mess involving the Centreville town manager and allegations of unreported sewage releases into the Corsica River headwaters from the Queen Anne’s County seat.

A more randomly prophetic conversation about water quality couldn’t have been scripted. Unbeknownst to either of us, these two issues would in a few short hours take dramatic turns, each perhaps leading to gigantic leaps in reducing pollution, both locally and throughout Maryland waters.

On Monday night in Annapolis, Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Restoration Fund bill passed both the House and Senate. That same evening across the Bay, in one of those strange coincidences only politics can spawn, the Centreville Town Council fired longtime town manager Terence E. Adams, the central figure in Maryland Department of the Environment’s probe into a million-gallon sewage spill at the town’s antiquated wastewater plant.

The legislation to upgrade sewage treatment facilities couldn’t have come any sooner for the Bay’s fisheries and those who earn a living or derive pleasure from them.

In one fell swoop — one that seemed doomed just last week — the governor and state lawmakers pulled together to pass legislation that will not only fund sewage upgrades but also provide funds to replace failing septic systems and offer much-needed financial help to farmers to plant cover crops, which help trap nutrient runoff.

The monthly fee of $2.50 on sewer bills and an equivalent $30-a-year fee on septic systems is a reasonable investment in the short- and long-term health of the Chesapeake. Tax, user fee, surcharge: Call it what you will; if used as it’s intended, it’ll be money well spent.

Eastern Shore fishing guide and restaurant owner Mark Galasso told me, “the cost of doing business in Maryland is one of the highest in the country. So why would I be in favor of legislation that will put an additional cost burden on my restaurant business? Because without the Chesapeake Bay and the tourism it generates, I wouldn’t be in business in the first place. I applaud it and support it.”

Chesapeake Guides Association president Richie Gaines added, “We’re happy about it, and this is a big step toward cleaning up the Bay. Lawmakers could have taken the easy way out and not enact the tough provisions attached to the final bill but they didn’t. And for that we applaud them.”

Fishermen, boaters, paddlers, birders, hunters and Chesapeake enthusiasts of all stripes should also tip their hats, because, historically, Bay-saving initiatives of this magnitude only come around once a generation. That’s far too long between healing measures, given the poor state of the Bay’s health. But it’s a start.

Now comes the challenge of keeping the momentum rolling.

Fish May Be Biting
Reports of big fish and schools of bait, primarily river herring, in the Choptank, Nanticoke and Susquehanna rivers bode well for Saturday, April 17’s opening day of the Spring Trophy Rockfish season. Capt. Karl Roscher of Crab Creek will be out this weekend aboard Hurricane, and he plans to start out trolling a tandem bucktail rig (chartreuse and white), umbrella rigs with big Sassy Shads and Stretch 18s. He’ll be ready to switch if fish show a preference for one lure over another.

Despite clear waters and decent water temperatures, the Flats are still very unreliable overall. You hear reports of big fish, but there hasn’t been much of a pattern.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated April 15, 2004 @ 1:12am.