Latest on the warm, brown Chesapeake

I read with interest Angus Phillips’ piece in Sunday’s Washington Post about the masses of sediment that deluge the Chesapeake during rain storm like we’ve had here recently. He writes:

Is the Chesapeake turning into a dead mud hole? Every year it seems to get worse, and it’s not just my imagination. “It’s becoming way too common,” said Bill Dennison of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Studies, when asked about the frequency and duration of mud blooms. He spent most of last week monitoring the mess in the bay… The conclusion? It’s bad. “We got about half of what we got in Hurricane Agnes,” said Dennison, referencing the horrendous deluge that buried the bay in mud 34 years ago, wiping out great swaths of shellfish and submerged grasses that never recovered… “The peak daily flow during Agnes was 1.1 million cubic feet of water per second over Conowingo Dam” where Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River enters the bay, he said. “Last week we had 450,000 cfs for peak daily flow there…” But Dennison worries that with population expansion, land development and the continued filling-up of reservoirs with mud, water roaring down the Susquehanna and other rivers is significantly thicker with crud today than it was a generation ago.

It doesn’t take a lot of time on the water around the Bay to see how this plays out. Even the central Bay, near Annapolis, is murky – and that is after a clear spell. I know it is hard to make a living in farming these days, but I also understand it doesn’t take much of a buffer of vegetation and / or wetland to hold back much of the run-off – we need to more aggressively figure out how to help landowners take this step. I also think we need to do what Germany does with run-off. Basically, you have to pay for whatever water comes off your property. This is fair to me – managing storm water is a cost of owning a piece of property; not charging for it is actually an undesirable subsidy. You’d see a lot more intelligently managed parking lots and subdivisions if we could put this policy through, and our boating areas would be much the better for it.

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