Volume 12, Issue 25 ~ June 17-23, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

Wading In to Clean up the Bay
Promises few; praise plentiful

It wasn’t Wade-In-as-usual this 17th year on the Patuxent.

A huge paper mâchè tundra swan, symbolized creatures whose lives depend on healthy waters at this year’s Patuxent River Wade-In.
For one thing, a brass band greeted all comers, and a 12-foot-long paper-mâchè tundra swan floated in the river. For another, the Bernie Fowler’s Sneaker Test was fouled. A gaggle of photographers preceded the waders into a small roped-off space on the river, muddying the waters and the result: 31.5 inches.

Former Democratic state senator Fowler’s podium featured a huge photo of Republican Ronald Reagan. Sen. Barbara Mikulski arrived dressed in red, including bright red rubber boots.

Reaching across old party hostilities was clearly the leading theme. “I’m here to make a Bay statement, not a fashion statement,” Mikulski insisted. “The Chesapeake Bay does not belong to a political party; it belongs to all of us.” The senator then led off the chorus of commendations to Gov. Robert Ehrlich for the Bay-cleaning flush tax proposed by his administration and passed by the General Assembly this year.

Republicans and Democrats alike lauded both former Gov. Harry Hughes and Bernie Fowler, icons for this river group. Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer promised T-Shirts with the legend Fowler’s Followers. Calvert Commissioner David Hale and St. Mary’s Commissioner Tom McKay, both Republicans, presented Fowler with formal statements promising continued care for the river.

Even the nonpartisan and pessimistic Chesapeake Bay Foundation predicted better times ahead. “2004 will be seen as the tipping point at which we started to see improvement in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Foundation President Will Baker.

Among the waders were U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer and retired state Sen. Bernie Fowler, above, and below, U.S. Sen Barbara Mikulski.
Against those hopes, Hughes contrasted 25 years of Bay cleanup efforts. “We’re not where we thought we’d be,” said the former governor who kicked off Bay restoration. “But it would be a lot worse without a Bay Program.”

“I was in elementary school,” said Ehrlich, when Hughes started his Bay work in 1979. “So listen to your elders!” intoned a voice from the audience. Ehrlich answered that admonition with his promise to “clean up the river and Bay — not just maintain the status quo.”

Fowler’s call for tangible cleanup commitments drew plenty of general affirmations of concern but few specific promises.
  • Hoyer announced that on Monday, June 14, he would join an effort to seed 10 million oysters in a newly established oyster sanctuary on the Patuxent River (see following story).

  • Wade-In godfather Tom Wisner announced his Year of the River campaign to help groups of children and senior citizens explain to each other their hopes for the river.

  • Two local spiritual groups — the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the Patuxent Friends (Quaker) Meeting — committed to make a 2004-2005 outreach to spiritual communities with information about the Patuxent River and a question: “What do your spiritual beliefs lead you to do about the Patuxent River?”

Instead of specific commitments, Mikulski brought humor to the overcast day. “A waterman would never wear those,” Maryland Sen. Roy Dyson said of her red boots.

“I’m longitudinally challenged,” Mikulski joked. Bernie Fowler’s goal — wading in to shoulder level, as measured by his six-foot frame — would submerge the 4'-11" senator.

“If we ever get close to shoulder-deep, I’ll present you with a snorkeling kit,” promised Hoyer.

So went Wade-In 2004. Politicians patted each other’s backs. But as the chairs were folded, the band’s instruments tucked into cases and the swan loaded back on a trailer, it wasn’t at all clear that the river itself would be healthier by 2005.

—Sara E. Leeland

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Ask the Plant Professor
Welcome Bugs, Unwelcome Birds

Q If I get ladybugs for my garden, how should I release them?

A Ladybugs, or lady bird beetles, are a gardener’s best friend; however, they are not easily trained. When you release ladybugs, there is no guarantee that they will stay in your landscape. They go to the nearest food source. If you have a serious aphid problem on specific plants, cover the plants with a sheet or floating row cover and release the lady bugs under the sheet so they stay on-target long enough to find and attack the aphids.

The best way to ensure a population of lady bird beetles and other beneficial insects is to have not only aphids but also a wide array of flowering plants to provide nectar, which they also need. Read our free publication, “IPM: A Common Sense Approach to Managing Pests in Your Landscape.”

If you discover aphids on your plants, do not spray them with a chemical (other than soap or oil), and the ladybugs will come.

Q We have a family of birds living in the chimney. How can we get rid of them?

A Observe your chimney from outside to determine what species you have. Consider leaving desirable bird species undisturbed until the fledglings leave. After nest removal, install a chimney cap to prevent recurrence.

To assist you with the removal of birds, contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Hotline at 877-463-6497. They maintain a list of licensed wildlife pest control operators with expertise to trap and remove birds.

Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.

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Ten Million Oysters Find Sanctuary in the Patuxent
Hoyer’s pork is oysters to our Bay

At former state Sen. Bernie Fowler’s Annual Wade-In June 13, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer pledged to help plant 350,000 baby oysters in the Patuxent River.

He kept his promise the very next day. On June 14, Hoyer celebrated his birthday as boats bearing babies and bureaucrats set off at 9am into the rippling brown waters. Soon, the Oyster Recovery Partnership had hoisted the pile of babies off the boat and onto an old oyster bar in the river. No larger than a kernel of pepper, oysters at this young stage are called spat.

Hoyer did more than watch the spat settle via underwater camera. He had helped secure $15 million in federal funds for the Oyster Recovery Project, the partnership that coordinates oyster restoration efforts all over Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Delegate John Bohanan of St. Mary’s County talks with U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer while seeding spat oysters in the Patuxent River.
Those millions came our way by virtue of Hoyer’s position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where he can influence other committee members to see the value of Chesapeake restoration not only to our region but to the nation. The money was included in the Energy and Waters Appropriation Bill, one of the 13 bills in which all federal funding is disbursed. It’s pork, critics complain, but to us it’s oysters.

“If we continue our efforts, good things are going to happen,” said Hoyer of the oyster restoration project.

These oysters come from Horn Point Laboratory, part of the University of Maryland Environmental Science Center in Cambridge, which hatches many of the Bay’s restored oysters.

By summer’s end, 10 million new oysters will live in the Patuxent River sanctuary.

The sanctuary is as new as these young bivalves.

The nearly six acres of oyster sanctuary off Trent Hall in St. Mary’s County arose from the messy spill at the Chalk Point Power Plant that coated the river with some 140,000 gallons of oil four years ago.

The spill oiled some 80 acres of wetlands and shoreline, killing more than 1,000 birds and animals, including waterfowl, diamondback terrapins and muskrats. The spill also harmed finfish and shellfish and hampered roughly 125,000 river trips by fishermen and recreational boaters.

Thus it ruffled feathers of ruddy ducks and humans alike.

“The community was worried about the status of shellfish, wildlife and the environment,” said Hoyer, who lives near the site of the oil spill and new sanctuary.

From the first hours, cleanup crews worked to contain and restore the damage from the Pepco Plant spill. Three trustees — the state, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Damage Assessment and Restoration Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — oversaw the utility during the years of the cleanup.

Oysters were the focus this morning, but other restoration projects dot the Patuxent River map. Six acres of intertidal marsh wetland will be created; beach habitat and shoreline will be restored; and ruddy duck nesting habitat will be recovered.

Restoration can’t turn back the clock, but it’s trying to make up for lost time. Having calculated how many recreational trips were lost, state and federal restoration agencies will build two paddle-in campsites on the Patuxent River plus boat access points and a disabled-accessible kayak/canoe launch.

“The Patuxent is a unique river in Maryland,” said Hoyer, “We believe this can be an extraordinary example of what we can do.”

—Carrie Steele

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Way Downstream …

In Virginia, you can get legally baptized now in the Rappahannock River if that’s your thing. Bowing to pressure from an odd alliance between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Christian Defense Coalition, the Fredericksburg-Stafford Park Authority reversed itself and ruled that clergy at the Cornerstone Baptist Church could dunk parishioners in search of salvation…

In Hong Kong, they finally captured the elusive crocodile whose meanderings we followed as he embarrassed the world’s most famous crocodile hunters. Five-foot-long Croc Croc Chan quietly swam into a fisheries department trap last week, ending a seven-month saga followed around the world. The famous reptile will live out its life at a park — unless it escapes…

Our Creature Feature comes from British Columbia, where a lonely killer whale who has been searching for companionship along Canada’s Pacific Coast for three years will be captured next week and placed with the pod that may have kicked him out.

The orca, named Luna, nearly collided with a sea plane this month and authorities said it was time to move him away from busy Vancouver Island before something bad happened. In a move that will cost more than $400,000, they plan to trick him by leading him into a net with a boat he loves to follow. We’ll soon learn whether Luna’s L98 pod welcomes their wayward child — or whether he’s a great big loner for good reason.

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© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.