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Volume 15, Issue 35 ~ August 30 - September 5, 2007

Way Downstream

In Maryland waters, Diamond Jim is still on the loose. But some 160 anglers from every county in Maryland have reeled in fish big enough to qualify for a chance at prizes in the 2007 Maryland Fishing Challenge. The fishers caught 32 of 60 eligible species statewide, ranging from largemouth bass in mountain streams to yellow perch in the Chesapeake and dolphin and mako shark in coastal bays and the Atlantic coast.

With the clock ticking toward the Labor Day deadline, you’ve got one last weekend to try for prizes. The Fishing Challenge drawing includes a Toyota truck and a motorboat with trailer; Diamond Jim carries a bounty of $25,000:

At the mouth of the Patuxent River, from the death of an old bridge, an oyster reef is born. Over 1,000 tons of concrete from the old Woodrow Wilson Bridge are gaining new life as Cedar Point Fish Haven, a deep-water artificial reef, where benthic organisms and other Bay critters will live …

Sixteen septic owners in Anne Arundel County critical areas are using Flush Tax funding to install new home systems that remove nitrogen from sewage as it percolates its way to groundwater. Their grants average $17,900. Ninety-two more citizens have applied to the County Department of Health for grants to install systems that can slash nitrogen in wastewater by half, reducing the amount of harmful nutrients flowing into Chesapeake waterways. There’s no deadline to apply:

In St. Mary’s County, St. Mary’s College has landed on the wrong side of a powerful state senator over locating its new Rowing and River Centers at a choice spot along the river. Sen. Roy Dyson, a Democrat, says locals have been complaining that the privately funded buildings obstruct a choice view of St. Mary’s River along Rt. 5.

St. Mary’s, a college sailing mecca, says that the placement of buildings is right for students, the school and the community. But an irritated Dyson says the General Assembly will be watching St. Mary’s more closely — which may not bode well for the state’s liberal arts college come budget time in Annapolis next spring …

On the Eastern Shore, the director of Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary pleaded guilty last week to charges of misusing funds for wetlands preservation. Dianne Pearce agreed to misdemeanor recordkeeping and violating the state’s charitable organization law. She agreed to pay $116,000 in restitution. The money had come from Perdue Farms in a plan to restore wetlands on 90 acres near the town of Showell …

Our Creature Feature is a distant one: from Mars, where the debate has reopened as to whether life exists there. After Viking failed to detect biological activity in the 1976 Mars landing, many people concluded nothing could live there.

But German scientist Joop Houtkooper, of the University of Giessen, said last week that the spacecraft might have discovered signs of a weird life form on the freezing Martian surface similar to what is found in Antarctic permafrost. What’s more, .01 percent of the Martian soil could be of biological origin.

“It is a possibility,” he told Reuters news agency, “that life has been transported from Earth to Mars or vice versa a long time ago.

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