Sunday, November 29, 2009

Beached Oysters - Tropical Storm Ida Remnants in Chesapeake Bay

The remnants of tropical storm Ida that hit Virginia, Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay region a few weeks ago (Nov. 15th, 2009), caused quite a bit of damage to shorelines, docks and floating equipment.

The picture below shows a whole bunch of floating oyster beds in Southern Maryland torn loose from their moorings, and washed onto the lee shore and rocks.

Plenty of other shore erosion, dock and pier damage, and fallen trees were also visible.

In Virginia, Gov. Timothy Kaine said recently that the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved his request for federal disaster assistance. Tropical Storm Ida's remnants primarily lashed coastal Virginia with high winds and drenching rain. Kaine says the storm caused an estimated $70 million in damage.

Homeowners and renters in the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach and the counties of James City and York are eligible to apply for low-interest loans. Businesses affected by the storm also can apply for disaster loans.

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Save the Chesapeake Bay with Alpacas in Southern Maryland?

Couple of interesting, confluent articles in the Washington Post (WAPO) today.

First is the editorial entitled "Failure on the Chesapeake Bay", which very frankly segments the tasks required to clean up the Chesapeak Bay into four main areas - aggressively regulating farm runoff (of nitrogen-based pesticides and livestock waste), enforce maximums on daily loads of wastewater from municipalities and businesses allowed to be pumped into the Bay, limit the catch of oysters and crabs by Watermen, and mandating "green-building" techniques for new commercial and residential construction. While these task seem pretty straightforward and clear, there's a considerable lack of cross-the-board political will to create and enforce the absolute regulations (not negotiations) required.

The second article was about the Southern Maryland (Bushwood) "Moore or Less Farm", and Jim Moore's (owner) shift in farming operations away from production of traditional livestock (mostly raised for slaughter) to Alpacas...these llama-like animals are raised for their renewable wool, plus their much-reduced appetite for costly feed. The article further details how many farmers, seeking more profitable returns in the face of declining prices and increasing costs, are turning to greenhouse-grown vegetables, grain, specialty animals like the Alpacas, agri-tourism and jobs off the farm.

These two imperatives, to both "Save the Bay" and "Save the Farms" are inexorably intertwined, it's clear. Dramatic measures to cut back on pollution from farming may actually be already underway and made more tolerable, due in large part to the economic pressures already forcing farmers to convert to activities with less "nitrogen-footprint". Farms with smaller, fewer large animals, less insect and drought-intolerant crops, and more income fed by agro-tourism rather than fertilizer: these are farms better positioned to help save the Bay, for the benefit of everyone including the "aqua-farmers" (i.e. Watermen), who themselves may end up participating in more imaginative forms of aqua-culture as the EPA regulates and implements new methods of growing and sustaining underwater bay life.

It seems everyone can help, as well - we can help, for example, promote the agro-tourism part of the equation, by highlighting the great farms and agriculture-oriented tourism destinations in St. Mary's county and other Southern Maryland areas.

Check out the Southern Maryland Agriculture Development Commission site out to find details on these farms and things to to or visit. Also the Southern Maryland Trails site ("Earth, Art, Imagination"), with its "guide to all things handmade, home-grown, locally harvested and authentically Southern Maryland". On this site you'll find farms like "Moore or Less", featured in various ways including on the "Barnwood and Beach Glass" trail loop.

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