Virginia-area Water News Headlines Sampler for October 21-November 4, 2013: State of the James, Aquatic Restoration Grants, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Easements and Gas/Oil Drilling, Blue Crabs, Menhaden, Striped Bass, and West Virginia Poultry Farm Runoff Lawsuit

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of water-news stories in Virginia, in nearby areas, or otherwise elated to Virginia, from the period October 21-November 4, 2013.  The headlines are grouped by topics and—within those groups—from newest to oldest.  Explanatory notes have been added in brackets after the publication and date.  Unless otherwise noted, all places mentioned are in Virginia.  As of 11/5/13, all headlines listed below have working hyperlinks to take you to the full article.

Aquatic Life and Habitats
Report: James River cleanup has stalled, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/23/13; and James River’s water quality grade increases slightly, Lynchburg News & Advance; 10/22/13; and James River health improves slightly still struggling with sediment pollution, The (Williamsburg) Virginia Gazette, 10/22/13.  On October 22, 2013, the James River Association released its latest biennial “State of the James River” report, covering conditions as of 2012.  (State of the James” reports are available online at http://www.jamesriverassociation.org/the-james-river/state-of-the-james/.The report uses 20 water-quality and habitat indicators to give the river an overall score and grade.  This report’s score of 53 percent (of stated goals) (a grade of “C”) is a slight improvement on the 51 percent score in the 2011 report (for conditions as of 2010).  The report states that a lack of progress in reducing sediment pollution is counteracting other pollution-reduction achievements.  In a related item from another Chesapeake Bay state: Sediment is the largest Chesapeake Bay-tributary issue in Pennsylvania, according an October 15, 2013, report by that state’s Department of Environmental Protection to its Citizen Advisory Council.   Manure From PA Not The Leading Cause Of Nitrogen Pollution To Chesapeake Bay, NorthCentralPA.com, 10/22/13.

Grant will bolster oyster reef work, Virginian-Pilot, 10/22/13.  On October 22, 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced over $6 million in grants for aquatic-habitat-restoration projects in Virginia, Maryland, Maine, and Massachusetts, including a $434,000 grant to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for oyster-reef reef construction in the Lafayette River in Norfolk.

American Rivers and U.S. EPA Potomac Highlands Implementation Grant Program, 11/5/13; and Waynesboro receives $163K grant toward South River restoration, Augusta Free Press, 10/21/13.  In October 2013, the non-profit organization American Rivers and the U.S. EPA announced grants totaling over $1.67 million for eight watershed-restoration or watershed-protection projects in the Potomac River Highlands area Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  In Virginia, the grants are $209,000 for restoration of Peyton Creek in Staunton; $163,000 for South River restoration in Waynesboro; and $150,000 for land conservation along the North Fork Shenandoah River and Cedar Creek in the northern Shenandoah Valley.

Climate Change
Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants declined from 2011 to 2012, EPA says, Washington Post, 10/23/13.  On October 23, 2013, the U.S. EPA reported that emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” from power plants and industrial plants decreased by 4.5 from 2011 to 2012, as a result of many plants switching from coal to natural gas as their fuel source.  According to the Washington Post, power plants account for about 31 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions annually in the United States.

Energy
Virginia Outdoors Foundation places moratorium on conservation easements that allow fracking, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 10/28/13.  In late October 2013, the board of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) voted to put a moratorium until at least June 2014 on approving any conservation easements that allow gas or oil drilling.  The move is in response to concerns and questions about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract gas or oil on lands under conservation easements.  The VOF is the largest holder of conservation easements in Virginia; such easements typically do not allow gas or oil drilling but VOF may allow easements that do so if a landowner requests that.

Fisheries
Virginia closes the bay’s winter blue crab dredge fishery for another year, Daily Press, 10/23/13; and Blog: Virginia Considers Resuming Dredging for Female Crabs, Bay Daily, 10/16/13.  On October 22, 2013, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) voted unanimously to continue the ban on winter dredging season for Blue Crabs in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay waters.  Winter dredging has been banned by Virginia since 2008 as part of efforts to improve Blue Crab populations (dredging for crabs is illegal in Maryland).  The VMRC rejects a proposal that would have allowed limited winter-dredge season and reduced quotas for harvesting using crab pots. 

Maryland Sued Over Menhaden Quota Reductions, Delmarva Public Radio, 10/22/13.  In October 2013, citizens filed a lawsuit against the Maryland Department of Natural Resources challenging the state’s newly issued quota on harvest of Atlantic Menhaden in Chesapeake Bay waters.  Part of the complaint is that Maryland’s harvest quota is 5.3 million pounds annually, compared to a quota of 600 million pounds in Virginia.

MD striped bass spawn better but still below average, Baltimore Sun, 10/22/13.  Striped Bass, or Rockfish, reproduction in Chesapeake Bay watershed rivers—as measured between July and September 2013—improved over 2012 levels in Virginia and Maryland.  The 2013 levels were about average in Virginia but below average in Maryland (despite the increase in that state’s waters).

Outside of Virginia But in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Hardy County chicken farmers talk about victory over EPA, The (Charleston) West Virginia MetroNews Network, 10/29/13; and W.Va. chicken farmer wins lawsuit against EPA over stormwater runoff, permit requirement, Associated Press, as published in Washington Post, 10/23/13.  On October 23, 2013, a federal district court judge ruled that pollutants reaching waterways after being blown through ventilation fans on a West Virginia poultry farm are a stormwater discharge, not part of a point-source of pollution, and therefore are not subject to permitting under the federal Clean Water Act.

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