Volume XVII, Issue 15 - April 9 - April 15, 2009

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Letter From the Editor

Change Has Come

Big wins for native oysters and alternative fuels

It’s been a long time coming,
but I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will …

–Sam Cooke

Two big breakthroughs this month have been a long time coming.

So long, that your attention may have drifted. So let’s put them in perspective, and start the celebrations.

Ariakensis oysters first appeared in Bay Weekly back in 2002. By then, that species of Asian oyster had survived Virginia’s early scrutiny and was being tested in local waters as the likely candidate for reviving oystering in Chesapeake Bay, where our native Virginica could no longer pull its weight.

In 2004, the Army Corps of Engineers began its investigation into the potential environmental impact of ariakensis, which has since become a household word in Chesapeake Country.

We’ve learned to say ariakensis, all right. But now, after five years of study, we learn we won’t have to eat it. Virginia resigned its interest in the alien import — a hard decision after seven years of trials — joining Maryland in putting all its oyster hopes in our native species. The Corps made the three-party decision unanimous.

Restoring our native oysters Bay-wide won’t be cheap or easy. Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates $40 to $80 million annually for 10 years. Last week, on April 3, the Department asked for $10 million in federal stimulus funds to add to this year’s restoration fund of $5 million state dollars, $1 million from the Corps and $2.6 million from NOAA through the Oyster Recovery Partnership.

It’s a slow start, but in these penny-pinching times it’s a good start. Best of all, we’re moving in the right direction, investing in our native species. New restoration strategies coming from the state and from smart private entrepreneurs have brightened the outlook. We think we can do it. Here’s to proving ourselves right.

We’re celebrating tonight with a feast of native Chesapeake Bay oysters.

Deregulation as a power source for alternative energy first appeared in Bay Weekly in the last century. It was back in 1997 that alternative energy wizard Jim Caldwell, then of Fairhaven, told us: “If we don’t stimulate alternative sources of energy — like solar, wind and photovoltaic — we’re going to be right back in trouble. The key if we want to clean the air and get lower rates is to get new investment in alternative technologies.”

Deregulation was approved by the legislature in part to stimulate just that kind of competition. Lately, we haven’t felt so good about deregulation, since rates lost their caps (part of the deregulation agreement) and bills skyrocketed. The hit’s been so hard, and at so bad a time, that the General Assembly is considering reregulation.

Yet just this month, alternative energy stimulation is bringing us great news: For the first time ever, wind power is cheaper than coal-fired power in Maryland. Pepco and BGE customers can save money by choosing wind energy this summer.

How? Bay Weekly gave early instructions in our prize-winning 2007 story Energy Wise (www.bayweekly.com/year07/issuexv48/leadxv48_1.html). Reread the story or search for Competitive Energy Suppliers at nomoremonopolies.com. Then buy yourself some wind to celebrate.

       Sandra Olivetti Martin
     editor and publisher