Environmental Advocate Urges Action To Address “Uncontrollable” Bay Restoration Variables

August 29, 2014

In an August 27 MarylandReporter.com opinion piece, Bay Journal News Service writer and environmentalist Tom Horton discussed the challenges that currently “uncontrollable” variables p0se to Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration efforts.  Specifically, he cites: (1) the expansion of watershed farmland; (2) the reduced use of agricultural buffers due to higher grain prices; (3) predicted climate change effects, including rising sea levels and warming waters; (4) the effects of natural gas fracking; (5) population increase; and (6) natural cycles like the North Atlantic Oscillation.

Horton argues that while the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tries to account for these uncontrollable in its Bay computer models, Bay stakeholders should take more direct action to address at least some of these variables.  From the opinion piece:

Deal right now, with the most predictable uncontrollables, like sea level rise. Retreat wherever appropriate from the Bay’s edges; leave room for rising seas to create wetlands as they destroy existing ones. Build reforestation into the price of all that “cheap” new fracked gas to reflect its real cost.

Require proven ag pollution controls like winter cover crops that suck up polluted runoff. Regulate the spreading of animal manure. Tightly monitor farm practices to reduce pollution. Too much is now computer-modeled, not measured, and we don’t know what’s working.

And, we can begin to honestly ask whether it’s likely we’ll have water quality in a Bay with a watershed that holds 24 million people that’s as healthy as when there were 8 million.

Howard County School Launches Food Scrap Recycling Program

August 28, 2014

Howard County’s Pointers Run Elementary School became the first public school in the county to launch a food scrap collection program, which was inspired by letters from a 4th grade class last year.

Coverage from the Baltimore Sun noted,

Students in teacher Deborah Hantman’s class wrote persuasive notes to county government and school system officials asking them to consider including their school in the county’s food scrap composting program, which had expanded to the surrounding Clarksville community in November.

“It would be great if the students could get some kind of response so they know that their letters were received and that they have the power to make a difference,” Hantman wrote in her own letter.

The county did respond, and Pointers Run students will now see bright yellow food scrap collection bins next to the recycling and trash bins in the cafeteria. Teachers will also have a composting bin in the staff lounge.

“The students here… realized that practicing waste reduction at school is just as important as at home,” County Executive Ken Ulman said at the program’s launch on Monday, the first day of school. “We agree. Their efforts show that it doesn’t take long for good ideas to catch on and become part of everyday behavior.”

Click here to read the full story.

FERC Expected to Grant 1-Year Operating License For The Conowingo Dam

August 28, 2014

An August 25 Cecil Whig article reported that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is expected to grant Exelon Generation a 1-year license to continue operating the Conowingo Dam as stakeholders and regulators continue to work through the Dam’s complicated environmental impacts on the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“We expect FERC will give us an annual license for one year so that we can continue to address outstanding issues,” Exelon spokesman Bob Judge said.

Judge said on Monday that the delay is not unusual.

“It happens all the time. It happened 40 years ago when the dam was last re-licensed,” he said.

The article also noted that representatives from the Clean Chesapeake Coalition are protesting recent FERC recommendations and Exelon’s proposed sediment management plan.

Clean Chesapeake Coalition’s attorney, Charles “Chip” MacLeod, a Chestertown attorney with Funk and Bolton, said that Exelon’s sediment management plan and FERC’s recommendations don’t do anything to combat what he believes is one of the biggest issues facing the Bay — the sediment building behind the Conowingo in its reservoir.

“You have a real problem with the Upper Bay right now and the amount of sedimentation and (the dam reservoir) just gets more full every day,” MacLeod said earlier this month. “The relicensing is a chance to do something.”


Chesapeake Bay Dead Zone Expands

August 26, 2014

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Chesapeake Bay’s oxygen “dead zone” has been shrinking for the last several years.  However, an August 25 Baltimore Sun article reported that after hitting a record-low in June, the zone has significantly expanded.  From the article:

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reports that the volume of bay water with too little oxygen in it for fish to breathe — also known as the “dead zone” — rebounded in early August to its 8th largest size.  …

With the dead zone back to above-average, the volume of low-oxygen water in the main bay was estimated last week to be 1.32 cubic miles.  That’s about what government and University of Maryland scientists had predicted early in the summer, based on high river flows resulting from a wetter spring this year than in 2013.


Innovative Manure Management Projects Awarded $1M in Howard, Frederick & Worcester Counties

August 22, 2014

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) recently awarded $1 Million in grants for three animal waste management technology projects in Howard, Frederick & Worcester counties.

From MDA’s press release,

MDA announced the first two grant awardees:

Planet Found Energy Development (PFED) $676,144.47 – uses an anaerobic digester linked to a nutrient recovery system to produce electricity (26 kWh plant producing an estimated 100,000 kW/yr) for parasitic load and will use net metering to send any excess electricity back to the grid. Excess heat may be used to offset propane costs for poultry house heating. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are to be partitioned into three separate fertilizer products for on-farm use or sale. The dry weight of the poultry litter is reduced by 50 percent and the fiber by-product has the potential to be re-used as poultry bedding. Millennium Farms, owned/operated by Jason and Kim Lambertson, is in Worcester County and has six poultry houses. Although pairing the two components is new, both have been proven as stand- alone systems. PFED broke ground on the anaerobic digester component of the project this spring and will use grant funds from the State to support the nutrient capture system.

“Our team at Planet Found Energy Development is excited to work with the Maryland Department of Agriculture in finding alternative ways to utilize poultry manure,” said PFED Partner Jason Lambertson. “Our partnership is the first step in helping the agricultural community use a current resource as renewable energy while reducing key nutrients that have a great impact on the future of the poultry industry in Maryland. We welcome this opportunity to be a part of a solution.”

Green Mountain Technologies, Inc (GMT)$388,310 – Although composting is not new, the in-vessel system is a closed system reducing variability of environmental factors impacting composting success. The vendor offers this as a turnkey operation and provides ongoing management support which reduces farm operator time, labor requirements and potential error. GMT proposed two individual projects for in-vessel composting:  The first is a small composter at a horse rescue facility in Howard County where nutrients and by-products will be reduced by 50 percent. GMT is in discussion to market this compost to vendors who sell planting medium for nursery production. The second project is larger and will be implemented on a dairy farm in Frederick County that also will process the offal from its turkey production and processing facility. The agricultural operation is owned and managed by Eugene Iager, who is exploring the use of the compost for dairy bedding and opportunities for marketing it. GMT operates out of Seattle, Wash., and they will use web-enabled controllers and probes to monitor temperatures and manage the composter remotely when not on site.

“Green Mountain Technologies is honored to have two projects selected by MDA. We realize that the agricultural industry must be given waste management options that are not only environmentally sustainable but also financially sustainable,” said GMT Agricultural Sales Specialist Mollie Bogardus. “We believe in furthering the market channels for the value added products created through quality composting of the waste from dairies, equine facilities and poultry sites. These grants will provide Maryland farms examples of successful composting operations.”

In January 2014, MDA issued a Request for Proposals for demonstration projects with proven and innovative technologies that manage agricultural manure and on-farm generated waste in a manner that improves its utility as a fertilizer, changes its form or function for alternative uses, or produces energy or other marketable products. The overall outcome of the technology will result in reduction of nitrogen and/or phosphorus movement to surface waters associated with animal manure produced on farms in Maryland.

To read more about the grants awarded by MDA, visit MDA’s website.

CBF Offers Fact Sheet on Charging Federal Facilities Stormwater Fees

August 22, 2014

Chesapeake Bay Foundation - Saving a National Treasure


The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) published a fact sheet explaining how local governments can subject federal facilities to their stormwater management fees.  The fact sheet briefly covers the history of stormwater fees in Maryland and adjoining states and then analyzes the federal Clean Water Act and the holding of a 2012 federal District Court case, U.S. v. City of Renton.  The fact sheet concludes:


CBF urges counties and municipalities to review assessments of stormwater fees on federal facilities in light of this important court case and the federal law’s legislative history. Both indicate that, under the federal Clean Water Act, local jurisdictions across the Bay watershed that have local stormwater fee systems may charge the same reasonable fees to federal agencies with facilities within their jurisdictions as to nongovernmental entities there, and federal agencies are obligated to pay such fees in the same manner and to the same extent as nongovernmental entities. Such fair share contributions can be very helpful in assisting local governments pay for local polluted runoff abatement programs.


Washington County #1 in State for Solar Energy Capacity

August 22, 2014

An August 18 Herald Mail-Media article reported that Washington County has the highest solar capacity of any county in Maryland and explored the rapidly increasing use of solar generation facilities by governments, businesses, and residents.

MEA officials said the county’s solar capacity represents about 18 percent of the state’s total 184-megawatt capacity as of Aug. 4.

In comparison, only about 1 megawatt of power generated in the state came from solar sources in 2007, according to MEA Director Abigail Hopper, who said Gov. Martin O’Malley has set a goal of generating 1,200 megawatts of power through solar energy by 2022, among other renewable-energy initiatives.

The article noted that Washington County has a capacity of 33.8 megawatts according to the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA).  Much of that capacity is derived from a solar farm at a state prison, but the county and at least one of its municipalities are entering into solar farm agreements in the near future.

On the government level, Washington County and the Town of Boonsboro have agreements in place for solar-farm projects in the near future.

The county’s goal is to create up to 25 megawatts of power through an array placed on up to 130 acres of county landfill properties that would be leased to EPG Solar, according to Julie Pippel, director of the county’s division of environmental management.

Estimated to bring in $12.8 million in revenues and cost savings over a 25-year period, the project would make Washington County the only one in Maryland to generate 100 percent of its power for government operations from solar energy, Pippel said.


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