Volume 12, Issue 50 ~ December 9 - December 15, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

Atlantic Right Whale Killed at Mouth of Bay

Two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. That principle was demonstrated at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay last month, when the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship the USS Iwo Jima preempted the space occupied by a 15-year-old pregnant right whale.

The Iwo Jima reported a whale strike at 10:46am on the morning of November 17, 10 miles outside the entrance of Chesapeake Bay, according to a Navy internal e-mail.

An hour and 14 minutes later, according to the same e-mail, the Virginia Marine Science Museum received a report that a slow-moving whale missing a large portion of its fluke and bleeding was spotted inshore of the Chesapeake Bay Light Tower.

The 35-foot whale and its fetus, which was less than two months from full term, washed up on the Northern Outer Banks in Ocean Sands, North Carolina seven days later, on November 24.

The double loss is compounded by scarcity. Only 325 to 350 North Atlantic right whales survive in the world.

Right whales rarely travel more than 20 miles off the coast, making them particularly vulnerable. Among whales found dead, about one-quarter show cuts and trauma consistent with a ship strike.

“Ship strikes are the largest known cause of death for the North Atlantic right whale,” said Chas Offutt of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington group that calls itself PEER. “The single biggest known source of whale strikes is the U.S. Navy.”

The Navy did not return calls for this story.

Five days after the strike, the Navy notified the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration office of fisheries of the accident.

In May of this year, NOAA recommended steps to reduce the number of collisions between ships and whales. It advocated reduced ship speeds, rerouting and channel restrictions to move traffic away from calving, mating and migratory areas.

But days before the strike, New England PEER director Kyla Bennett called NOAA’s approach window dressing.

“NOAA’s proposal is too little, too late because it indefinitely postpones real protections,” wrote the former federal biologist in a press release.

In the same release, PEER blasted the Navy. “The U.S. Navy is refusing to consult with NOAA on the impact of naval operations, despite the fact that in right whale habitat Navy vessel traffic dwarfs commercial ship traffic.”

—Louis Llovio

Artificial Tree Shows Signs of Life
Watch out for Hitchhiking Critters

If you need more reasons to buy local and fresh-cut, read on.

Maryland state agriculture officials are advising that you be on the lookout for pests lurking in Christmas decorations after a creepy experience in Michigan this year.

Maryland Department of Agriculture was alerted by the federal Department of Agriculture, which picked up the story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (reported by Bay Weekly co-founder Bill Lambrecht), about an artificial tree buyer who found wood-boring beetles in the real bark of the Chinese-made artificial trees bought from an Ace Hardware store. She captured and handed over to the Michigan Department of Agriculture the crawly insects, which turned out to be potentially invasive brown-fir longhorned beetles. At least one other live beetle was found at a retail warehouse in Princeton, Illinois.

Ace Hardware recalled 40,000 of the trees from stores nationwide.

Why such uproar over a small beetle? If these invasive pests had the chance to make the Midwest their home, they would destroy vegetation and could cost millions of dollars to control.

Controlling and monitoring invasive species carries a high price tag.

Maryland alone spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in monitoring and controlling exotic invasive species like the gypsy moth and the emerald ash-borer, says Bob Tichenor of the Maryland Invasive Species Council.

It’s not just trees in which invasive beetles steal away.

Last year in Maryland, a beetle from India was discovered in scented, dried pinecone holiday potpourri.

There haven’t been any stowaways discovered yet this year, says Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Sue duPont. Still, if you find a critter crashing your Christmas, you should bag it and freeze it for the department.

“We encourage people to contact us at the Department of Agriculture as soon as possible,” duPont says. “We don’t want this kind of foreign insect getting into Maryland.”

—Carrie Steele

photo by Mark Burns
Bates High School Starts Its Third Life

From Segregated School to Integrated Junior High to Community Center

Some 300 alumni, community leaders and neighbors turned out to the old Wiley H. Bates High School off West Street near Maryland Hall on December 5, to celebrate the kickoff of an ambitious refurbishment project as the long-dormant school prepares to be reborn for the new century.

In 15 to 18 months Bates High School will reemerge as the combined site of a senior center, Boys and Girls Club and affordable senior housing, with space set aside for an exhibit on the school’s history plus a memorial courtyard honoring school founder Wiley H. Bates. The baseball and soccer fields behind the school will remain in public use, maintained jointly by the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. Construction on the senior center and the Boys and Girls Club will begin within two weeks; the housing portion will get underway in early January.

“It’s a long overdue project,” said Kathleen Koch, executive director of Arundel Community Development services. “We’re really excited about it.”

Bates, began as an African American school that graduated 44 classes before closing in 1966 with the implementation of desegregation. It reopened for a second life as an integrated junior high school. In 1981, the aged school closed and has sat dormant for 24 years.

Consensus on the old school’s next life was finally reached by the Bates Advisory Committee about a decade ago, and now the project is finally moving forward. The cost for renewal is estimated at $22 million, split nine ways among federal, state, county, city and private funding sources.

The immediate neighborhood stands to benefit as well by way of a Small Area Plan being undertaken by the city. But nobody could be more enthralled than Bates’ proud alumni, who sang their alma mater’s school song at the ceremony.

—Mark Burns

Russell Steele hewed by hand more than 1,200 clapboards to historically recreate the Lord Mayor’s Tenement at Historic London Town.
History Lives

14 Honored for Making History Fun

Summer’s gone, but Shady Side’s August Blessing of the Fleet and the summer-long maritime concert series at Annapolis’s City Dock have not been forgotten. Memories of those good times lingered, winning two awards from the Four Rivers Heritage Area for people and projects that have enlivened local history in Annapolis, London Town, and Southern Anne Arundel County.

“Thirty nominations of such high quality were received that the number of awards was enlarged from seven to 14,” said Four Rivers director Donna Dudley at the recognition ceremony last month.

Paula Fishback — a founder of Three Centuries Tours and Maryland Tourism Council’s Travel Person of the Year — has for 30 years donned colonial garb to lead hundreds of thousands of Maryland schoolchildren around Annapolis City Dock and the historic district, entertaining with true stories of famous men and women, infamous cads and bounders and everyday people who have lived and worked in Annapolis over the last 300 years.

Peg Wallace, a founding member of the Annapolis Maritime Museum, has a namesake Chesapeake Bay draketail and is the only woman honored in the Annapolis Sailing Hall of Fame. She founded the Eastport Civic Association’s Eastport Historic Committee, which established the Barge House Museum and developed an award-winning Eastport walking tour. In 2001, as Barge House Museum evolved into the Annapolis Maritime Museum, Wallace guided efforts to transform the vacant McNasby’s Oyster Company building into a community focal point for lectures, history exhibits, and special events. The museum was heavily damaged in 2003 from Hurricane Isabel. Now Wallace is working to restore the Barge House and the McNasby building.

Four Rivers Legacy Award winner Russell Steele used 2,500 hand-wrought nails and split more than 30 logs (yielding up to 40 pieces of clapboard from each log) to make 1,200 individual pieces of clapboard for the walls, roof and chimney of the Lord Mayor’s Tenement at Historic London Town.

Steele not only used traditional building methods and “early tools of the trade” but he “passed on this legacy to a dedicated group of volunteers” who have “shared this knowledge and skills with visitors to the site,” wrote London Town director Donna Ware in her nomination of Steele.

Volunteer Nancy Reams earned the Heritage Interpreter of the Year award for her outstanding docent work at three historic sites: William Paca House and Garden, the Hammond Harwood House and London Town. Greg Stiverson of Historic Annapolis Foundation praised Reams for putting substance as well as enthusiasm into her roles. She “has taken every Maryland history course I have taught several times and takes the Three Centuries Tours training course every winter,” he said.

Other Four Rivers Heritage Area award winners are:

First Person Interpretation: The team of Janice Hayes-Williams of Legacy Promotions and Scotti Preston, singer and actress.

Site Interpretation: The new brochure, “The Hammond Harwood House 1774: A Museum of 18th Century Arts.”

Best Scholarly Publication: Jean Russo and Mark Letzer for The Diary of William Faris: The Daily Life of an Annapolis Silversmith.”

Educational Interpretation: Captain Salem Avery House, Discovery Village, Shady Side Elementary School, Annapolis Maritime Museum, City of Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and waterman John Van Alstine for “Seasons of a Chesapeake Bay Waterman: An Activity Guide for Teachers.”

Interpretative Tour: Jack Smith for his lively and informative narrated boat tours of the historic West River.

Children’s Interpretation: The booklet “My Annapolis Adventure: Passport to Discovery” by Debbie Wood of Chesapeake Children’s Museum, Paul Foer of Annapolis Department of Transportation and local writer and illustrator Ginger Doyel.

Best New Heritage Initiative: Thomas Point Shoal Light Consortium including the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, City of Annapolis, Annapolis Maritime Museum and Anne Arundel County.

Heritage Professional: Anne Arundel County cultural resources planner C Jane Cox.

—Becky Bartlett Hutchison

Ask the Plant Professor

Winter Landscapes

Q My asparagus garden is now full of four- or five-foot-tall plants turning brown. When is the advised time to cut the plants to the ground?

A Cut the foliage down to 2-inch stubs after frost when it has browned but before the red berries fall off. (You won’t see berries if you have an all-male hybrid cultivar.) A four- to six-inch mulch of compost, manure, leaves or other organic matter added at this time will help control weeds and add nutrients.

Q What happened to the acorns this year? There aren’t any! My squirrels are eating all kinds of things they don’t normally eat.

A Many oaks produced a phenomenal harvest of acorns (called masting) last year. Afterwards, they need three or four years to build up carbohydrate reserves in order to produce acorns again. The lack of acorns is not related to the cicada damage or drought as sometimes assumed.

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.

Way Downstream

Along the Chesapeake, a study by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center found a strong correlation between shoreline development and the level of dangerous PCBs in the flesh of white perch. Conclusion: the farther the development is from shore, the lower the contamination of PCBs, a dangerous chemical used in electrical transformers before it was banned in the 1970s …

In Washington, the bipartisan letter to President George W. Bush from Bay area congressional representatives requesting $1 billion for the Chesapeake Bay minced no words: “The future of our national treasure hangs in balance,” it read. Thus far, no reply …

In Virginia, the State Water Control Board stood up to property-rights advocates last week by applying the “exceptional waters” label to nine streams and to Lake Drummond in the Great Dismal Swamp. The designation means that the bodies of water are to be forever protected from new wastewater discharges ...

Our Creature Feature comes from London, where folks were wondering what performance artist Mark McGowan would do for an encore after pushing a peanut in front of Tony Blair’s home. They found out: McGowan ate a fox, roasted, in protest against the ongoing ruckus in Britain over a new government ban on fox hunting.

“One million people marched against fox hunting and another million marched for it. The housing estate where I live is full of crack-heads, but no one marches to help them,” he told Reuters.

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