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Atlantic CoastWatch May - June, 2006

Shrinking Atlantic States

News For Coastal Advocates
During the past century, reports geologist Harold Wanless of the University
of Miami, the sea level has risen 9 inches along the south Florida coast—a rate 6 z
times faster than over the previous 2,400 years. He joins many others in stating the
likelihood of a further 3 to 5 foot rise in this century for the South Florida region.
Shrinking Atlantic States 1
With no part of the Everglades National Park lying more than 8 feet above
sea level, large portions of it are consequently subject to inundation—especially, Insurer Pullbacks Continue 1
Wanless told USA Today, since “efforts to drain wetlands by cutting canals to the
coast have opened the door to the rising sea.” Another climate scientist, Jonathan Sayings 2
Overpeck of the University of Arizona-Tucson, sees a 3-foot increase by 2100,
meaning “bad news” ahead for south Florida communities such as Flamingo and Beach Protection 2
Cape Sable, characterized by the paper as “onetime aspiring gateways to para-
dise,” and even for Miami.
Courts & the Seashore 3
Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer and colleagues
foresee a similar general rise in the Atlantic’s sea level thanks to polar ice cap With Appreciation 3
melting, with ominous consequences for New Jersey. Such a rise, Oppenheimer
told the Star-Ledger, would put 1 to 3 percent of the state under water and subject 6 Publications 4
to 9 percent of it to chronic flooding. Afflicted areas would include Atlantic City,
Cape May, and Jersey City along with more than 30 square miles of the Meadow- Harnessing Wind & Tides 4
The Hard Corps 5

Insurer Pullbacks Continue Home Depot Caves in CT 6

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina (Atlantic CoastWatch, November-Decem- MD Critical Area in Trouble 6
ber 2005), casualty insurance companies quickly began to study how to adjust to the
related threats of global warming, coastal population growth, and increasingly Menhaden Overfished? 7
frequent and violent storms. Some, we added, had “already moved beyond
research to action,” redlining areas from Massachusetts to Florida where they
would no longer supply coverage even to longtime customers. z

Now, reports the Washington Post, come indications of an accelerating Recurring

trend with Allstate, the industry’s second-largest company, no longer writing
policies in Florida, Louisiana, and parts of Texas and New York. “Other firms,” the
paper continues, “have pulled back from the Gulf Coast to Cape Cod, notifying People; Awards; Species &
Florida of plans to cancel 500,000 policies.” Deficits have become widespread. Habitats; Restorations;
With “a potential market failure here, if not an actual market failure at work,” Report Cards; Products;
Brookings Institution senior fellow Robert E. Litan told the paper, “I wouldn’t be Funding
surprised if you see a stampede of insurers trying to get out.”
Atlantic CoastWatch is a bimonthly
Reassurance, however, came from other quarters. Despite the storms, the nonprofit newsletter for those con-
industry as a whole racked up a 12% increase in net income in 2005, the Post cerned with environmentally sound
continued; perhaps half of the Katrina losses were borne by overseas firms or development between the Gulf of
reinsurance companies that insure the insurers. Spokesmen from the industry Maine and the eastern Caribbean.
stressed their ability to weather the storms, and warned against the consequences
of complex governmental interventions. Said Frank Nutter, president of the Coastal News Nuggets, a daily news
Reinsurance Association of America: “This industry has been very profitable and headline service, is available through
very resilient in the face of the most significant catastrophic losses. We can’t see
why there’s a case to be made for a government role.”
Atlantic CoastWatch
Vol. 10, No. 3 Sayings
A project of the Sustainable (What follows was first published in Velador, the newsletter of the Caribbean
Development Institute, which Conservation Corporation, and is reprinted with its permission,)
seeks to heighten the environmen-
Even before the recent hurricane seasons, Florida’s beaches were se-
tal quality of economic develop- verely eroded, with almost 40% listed as critically eroded. Following the hurri-
ment efforts, in coastal regions, by canes, Florida began the largest and most costly beach and dune rebuilding
communicating information about program in US history. In the 10 years between 1994 and 2004 the state spent
better policies and practices. SDI $242 million on beach renourishment. In 2004 and 2005 the state spent approxi-
is classified as a 501(c)(3) organi- mately $173 million on sand. This was matched with $184 million from the federal
zation, exempt from federal government and about $40 million from local governments for a total of over $400
income tax. million spent in just two years.

Board of Directors With so much of Florida’s coastal waters being dredged and our coastline
being rebuilt, it is essential that environmental regulations are in place to protect
Freeborn G. Jewett, Jr., Chair near-shore reefs and sea grass beds (habitats important to healthy recreational
Robert J. Geniesse, Chair Emeritus and commercial fisheries) and the full spectrum of coastal resources.
Roger D. Stone, President
Dale K. Lipnick, Treasurer It is these coastal resources that define Florida and support tourism and
Gay P. Lord, Secretary coastal recreation. Consequently, Florida has an extensive regulatory and permit-
Hart Fessenden ting framework in place to protect these resources and ensure that the newly built
David P. Hunt beach resembles as much as possible the natural beach in appearance and func-
Simon Sidamon-Eristoff tion. Sand grain size and color, clay and carbonate content, and compaction
qualities are all regulated.
While preserving sea turtle nesting habitat is a prime motivation behind
William H. Draper, III some of the sand quality requirements, it is important to remember that Floridians
Gary Hartshorn need the same basic things as sea turtles — healthy sandy beaches, thriving near-
Stephen P. Leatherman shore reefs, clean and pollution-free coastal waters, and healthy sea grass beds. In
Jerry R. Schubel other Atlantic coastal states sand quality is not so closely monitored, and as a
Christopher Uhl consequence beach quality is sometimes compromised. In some areas the rebuilt
beaches no longer resemble the soft white sandy beaches of the past.
By protecting sea turtle nesting habitat, we ensure that future generations
Roger D. Stone, Director & President of Floridians will also be able to enjoy the healthy natural beaches to which we are
Shaw Thacher, Project Manager all accustomed.
Robert C. Nicholas III, Contr. Editor
Anita Herrick, Correspondent
Feds Waffle on Beach Protection
Foundation Donors
In a lengthy article, New York Times science reporter Cornelia Dean
Avenir Foundation describes many costly efforts to use seawalls and dredge sand as ways to prevent
The Fair Play Foundation beaches and wetlands from migrating naturally. Offering persuasive arguments
The Madriver Foundation that such initiatives will often “prove futile,” especially in parts of Florida and along
The Moore Charitable Foundation North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Dean then describes her effort to obtain comment
The Curtis and Edith Munson from James Titus, a knowledgeable EPA official.
The Summit Fund of Washington In 2000, Dean reports, Titus, the agency’s project manager for sea level
rise, published an essay stressing the need for the nation to “make decisions on
Sponsored Project whether or how wetlands and beaches should be allowed to migrate inland.”
Without such policy, Titus stated, what the government is saying is that wetlands
Environmental Film Festival in the and beaches are “important,” but “whether they survive for the next 50 or 100
Nation’s Capital years is not our problem.”
March 15 - 25, 2007
When Dean reached Titus by phone, he told her he was no longer allowed
Featuring screenings of documentary, to comment publicly on such matters, and referred her to Bill Wehrum, the agency’s
feature, archival, children’s and acting assistant administrator for air and radiation. His bland comment: it seems
animated films. “quite likely that people will want to protect developed areas and might be willing to let undeveloped areas like wildlife refuges or coastal farms migrate.”

Courts & the Seashore Dead by his own hand is the journalist,
yachtsman, and environmentalist Phil
Merrill, 72. A board member of the
z Last year the US Supreme Court, in a controversial 5-4 decision, upheld
Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) for
the city of New London, CT’s use of eminent domain power to evict homeowners in
many years, Merrill donated the $7.5
the modest Fort Trumbull neighborhood. The city sought this power to make way
million needed to build its handsome
for an upscale hotel, office, and condominium complex. The Court thus affirmed the
and very “green” headquarters near
right of municipalities to make way for private development generating tax rev-
Annapolis. Out for a solo spin on the
enues. Recently another shoe dropped. After a long period during which the city
Bay on a breezy Saturday afternoon,
attempted to reach settlements with all seven of the community residents who had
Merrill disappeared from his 41-ft.
taken the battle through the court system, its city council voted 5-2 to allow the city
sailboat. His body, tied to a small
attorney to obtain a court order to demolish the homes of the last two holdouts.
anchor and bearing a gunshot wound,
was recovered more than a week
z In another closely-watched case, the US Supreme Court unanimously
later. Merrill was the publisher of
ruled that a Maine power company, S.D. Warren, must comply with state require-
Capital-Gazette Newspapers whose
ments even though, the company argued, the five dams it owns and operates on
principal product, the Annapolis
the Presumpscot River do not “discharge” anything and are therefore not subject
Capital, is a source frequently cited in
to regulation under the Clean Water Act. No matter whether water flowing out of
this newsletter and in the Coastal
such dams contains pollutants, wrote Justice David Souter, the word “discharge”
News Nuggets section of our website.
has a “plain meaning” of “flowing or issuing out” and thus covers outflows from
Said John Page Williams, CBF natural-
hydroelectric dams. The ruling, requiring the company to maintain minimum stream
ist: “He loved the water, loved the bay
flows and provide fish passageways, affects some 1,500 hydro power dams that
and believed it could be saved. He
may not emit pollutants but, said the Bangor Daily News, do “alter rivers and the
passionately wanted that to happen.”
surrounding landscape.” Said Rebecca Wodder of American Rivers: “This is a
victory for rivers, for clean water, and most of all for good old common sense.”
Environmentalists’ apprehensions
about management policy for national
z For decades both developers and environmentalists have been fighting
parks (Atlantic CoastWatch, January/
pitched battles over what constitutes a wetland. Hopes that the US Supreme Court
February 2006) lessened when, in an
would clarify the situation this year came to naught, however, when the justices
early declaration, new Interior
issued sharply divided opinions on two pivotal Clean Water Act cases and re-
Secretary Dirk Kempthorne reaf-
manded them to a federal appeals court. Under the Clean Water Act, the federal
firmed conservation as the primary
government has jurisdiction over “navigable waters,” legally defined as “the
job for the National Park Service.
waters of the United States.” The logic, says the Washington Post,” is that protect-
Recent drafts of new management
ing navigable waters is impossible without protecting the waters that empty into
guidelines for the service had stressed
them. But the legal question of how far upstream the Clean Water Act goes has
recreation, arousing fears of ex-
troubled courts for years.” In one of the two recent cases, Michigan developer
panded freedom for snowmobiles, off-
Keith Carabell sought to fill wetlands to build condominiums but, reported Associ-
road vehicles, and cell phone towers.
ated Press, the US Army Corps of Engineers “balked, saying the property had
But, stated Kempthorne amid wide-
wetlands within the Lake St. Clair drainage system even though they were sepa-
spread sighs of relief, conservation of
rated from a tributary ditch by a man-made earthen berm.” In the second case,
natural and historic places would
Michigan developer John Rapanos had filled in a property with sand to build a
prevail over recreation or energy
shopping center, insisting that no wetlands were involved since the nearest
development in instances of conflict.
navigable waterway is 20 miles away. In their ruling, four justices (Roberts, Scalia,
Preservation, he said, is “the heart of
Alito, and Thomas) favored sharp cutbacks in Clean Water Act protections. But the
these policies and the lifeblood of our
five others favored continuing broad government power to protect wetlands. The
nation’s commitment to care for these
critical vote in the 5-4 decision was that of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who
places and provide for their enjoy-
agreed that the Corps should remain empowered, but cheered the developer
community by asking the lower court to establish where there is a “significant
nexus” between the properties in question, and navigable waters.

Winner of an Environmental Merit

With Appreciation Award from EPA’s New England office
is personal care products manufac-
Major contributions have recently been received from the Madriver turer Tom’s of Maine. The company,
Foundation and from Lawrence S. Huntington. For these we express special recently sold for $100 million to
thanks. We also acknowledge, with great appreciation, these other recent gifts: Colgate-Palmolive by founders Tom
and Kate Chappell, was cited for
Elinor Farquhar George Muser having fully converted its manufactur-
Florence B. Fowlkes Anne and Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff ing to wind energy, switched to
Caroline Macomber Robert G. Wilmers sensor-controlled fluorescent lighting
Frani Blount Muser Alexander and Marine Zagoreos fixtures, and scored impressive gains
in its recycling program. The company
also donates 10% of profits to chari-
table organizations and encourages
employees to spend 5% of their paid Publications
time on volunteer work. Said Maine
Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine: z Marine scientist and conservationist Carl Safina, author of the widely
“C.P. claims Tom’s will remain a acclaimed books Song for the Blue Ocean about the bluefin tuna and Eye of the
down-home toothpaste company; Albatross, has come forward with yet another paean to life on the high seas. His
we’ll believe that when we see it.” new book, Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth’s Last Dinosaur, was
published early this year by Henry Holt & Co.
Species & Habitats
z In his sweeping look at the dynamics of sprawl, This Land: Battle over
With the Florida manatee population Sprawl and the Future of America, (Johns Hopkins University Press 2006), journal-
doubled to 3,000 since the 1990s, local ist Anthony Flint makes many points of interest to those concerned with the
officials downgraded the sea cow’s overdeveloping Atlantic coastline. A specialist who for many years covered
classification from “endangered” to planning and development issues for the Boston Globe, Flint does not flinch from
“threatened.” This response, to deadpan allusions to vested pro-sprawl interests and property-rights zealots as
insistent demands from boating and they emerge in many parts of the nation in reaction to anti-sprawl advocacy. His
marine development interests, could true colors, as one who at heart believes that the adverse social and environmental
lead to rollbacks in slow-speed consequences of sprawl are avoidable at a reasonable cost despite stubborn, well-
restrictions on power boats, which placed opposition, shine through at frequent intervals.
continue to kill and maim many
manatees. But, reported the Miami z The New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore/Washington areas all rank
Herald, some wildlife managers among the nation’s top-20 smoggiest, reports the Environmental Working Group’s
applaud the population increase as Auto Asthma Index. As to what you can do to minimize air pollution and lessen
good news, adding that the less asthma among children, the site also offers a handy guide for motorists. Select a
severe designation does not necessar- city or metropolitan area, and EWG gives you a quick look at the type of air pollution
ily mean less stringent protections. to be found there. A couple of further clicks will tell you how much or how little your
Federally, the manatee remains on car or truck contributes to the problem, and how it rates against other vehicles in its
the endangered list. class. The range is remarkably wide.

Despite comebacks for underwater

grasses in some parts of the Chesa-
peake Bay, says the Baltimore Sun,
Harnessing Winds and Tides
another hot summer could wreak
havoc on them. Last year the water Sponsors of the controversial Cape Wind project to provide windpower
temperature in the bay’s main section from Nantucket Sound for Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and parts of Cape Cod,
averaged 80 degrees, 3 degrees propose to scatter 130 turbines, each 420 feet high, across a shallow 24-acre parcel
above normal, and exceeded 90 of federal land called Horseshoe Shoals about five miles offshore from the cape.
degrees in some shallow areas; Opposition is widespread and many permitting obstacles remain. But a significant
eelgrass cannot survive in more than Congressional threat to the project’s survival seems to have been removed.
approximately 85 degree water.
Robert J. Orth, professor at the Until recently the Coast Guard budget bill contained a provision that would
Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, empower Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, an opponent, to veto the project.
warned of “catastrophic” conse- But powerful senators had, reported the New York Times, pledged to prevent a
quences for the bay if temperatures vote on any Coast Guard bill including that provision. Senator Edward M. Kennedy
once again reach records or near- has outspokenly argued that the windmills could be a hazard to navigation, would
record heights this year. Other harm the area’s value as a tourism attraction, do environmental damage, and
scientists noted that eelgrass is “an represent a giveaway of public land.
excellent barometer for the overall
health of the bay.” But as the Boston Globe reported, Kennedy later acceded to a compromise
that would give the Coast Guard the authority to mandate “reasonable” changes to
In the lower Hudson Valley and Long the Cape Wind project if it finds the wind turbines would pose a hazard to naviga-
Island, reports the Journal-News, a tion, emergency communications, or rescue operations. The Coast Guard has been
spirited campaign is underway to rid one of the 17 state and federal agencies involved in an environmental review of the
the region of the Devil’s tail tearthumb proposal, but did not have the authority to compel changes or block the project.
(aka mile-a-minute vine), an exotic Favoring the project are many environmental groups, Bush Administration officials,
species that can grow 6 inches in a and politicians advocating clean windpower energy as part of the region’s response
single day and up to 23 feet a year. to the energy crisis. Massachusetts residents consistently thumbs-up the project,
Native to East Asia, this species which received a more than 80% favorable rating in one recent poll. And ISO New
arrived by accident with rhododen- England, the not-for-profit corporation that manages the 31,000-megawatt bulk
dron shipments during the electric transmission and generation system for all of New England, has
(Continued, p. 5)
1930s and has spread to many parts
of the region, crowding out native
plants. Without natural enemies,
The Hard Corps scientists warn, the vine will persist
unless volunteers visit afflicted sites at
“The US doesn’t really have a water resources policy,” reported Michael least twice a year, for 5 years, and pull
Grunwald in The Washington Post’s Outlook section. “Just a pork-barrel water out new shoots.
resources agency that builds pet projects in congressional districts across the
country.” This spring, some migrating 13,000
red knots—a species that scientists
Zealous congressional control has often blocked presidential efforts to rein think may go extinct by 2010—visited
in this agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Grunwald continued. “And without their habitual feeding grounds along
executive-branch oversight, the Corps has traditionally inflated benefits, low-balled Delaware Bay. There they fattened
costs, and otherwise justified projects that keep its employees busy and its congres- up on horseshoe crab eggs before
sional patrons happy.” continuing their northward journey.
Though the number of red knots
Examples of mismanagement that Grunwald cites highlight Midwestern exceeded one early estimate of only
flood control and wetlands drainage efforts contributing to the Hurricane Katrina 8,000 birds, this year’s numbers
debacle. But Grunwald’s expose extends to two long-standing Atlantic coastal remain precariously low relative to
boondoggles: the 100,000 red knots that arrived
only 10 years ago. Overall, reported
z The $311 million scheme to deepen the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, shorebirds
pushed by Senator Arlen Specter “to attract cargo ships that had no interest in visiting the bay including sanderlings
using it.” and ruddy turnstones as well as red
knots, were down from some 500,000
z A seemingly endless battle to build stone jetties in turbulent waters around in the 1980s to 200,000 this year.
Oregon Inlet in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, in order to protect fishing boats at a
cost of $500,000 per boat in the local fleet. The White House recently managed to Restorations
kill this hotly debated plan, whose implementation would have affected the geology
and marine life along adjacent shorelines. But its revival remains a threat. The eastern flank of Stonington, CT’s
busy harbor has long featured an
Why, asks Grunwald, are Americans not angry about such shenanigans? unsightly 5-acre jumble of contami-
Perhaps they will be, he sighed, “after the next disaster.” Public apathy notwith- nated, dilapidated 19th century
standing, change may be in prospect, with National Public Radio’s Living on Earth structures ranging from a military
program reporting new moves on Capitol Hill to crack down on the Corps. battery to factories that made horse-
shoe nails and jewelry for the South
Seas trade. But after a lengthy
Harnessing Winds, cont’d from p. 4 cleanup of this brownfield, reports the
state’s Department of Environmental
Protection, the site has been fully
approved Cape Wind’s plan for power generated from its turbines to be integrated
redeveloped with new attractions
into the regional grid.
including condos, a dinghy dock for
visiting boaters, a yacht club, and a
For Cape Wind, the struggle is hardly over. The Cape Cod Times noted that
shorefront pathway leading to Main
under the 2005 Energy Policy Act the Interior Department’s Minerals Management
Street stores and restaurants. “The
Service replaces the US Army Corps of Engineers as the lead federal agency
waterfront, once dominated by
examining Cape Wind. This bureau has established a new environmental review
industrial infrastructure and flood
schedule requiring additional information that will extend the process at least
control walls that together precluded
another 1½ years, and in particular, address construction details and long-term
public use for 150 years, is now open
maintenance plans. (The paper also cites an application by Patriot Renewables
to all,” says an admiring DEP.
LLC, a Quincy. MA developer, to site 90 to 120 windmills in Buzzards Bay.
In only 3 hours on a rainy April 8,
The Boston Globe reports another new entry in the sweepstakes: a
3,454 volunteers recruited by the
request from the Massachusetts Tidal Energy Company for permission to study the
Alice Ferguson Foundation collected
feasibility of harnessing tidal currents in Vineyard Sound. Underwater blades 20 to
trash from 300 cleanup sites in the
50 feet in diameter, anchored to state-owned land, would connect to a generator
Potomac River’s watershed. “Lined
and thence to transmission lines located ashore. An old idea, tidal energy develop-
up,” reported the Bay Journal, “the
ment is become more popular now, with new technology arriving. Some are wary.
collected bags of trash would stretch
Wrote environmentalist Stephen Hawbolt, a specialist on the Bay of Fundy, where
3.5 miles. Included in the harvest
experiments with tidal power date from the 1950s, in the Gulf of Maine Times: “So
were about 70,800 recyclable bever-
far, tidal power has not been the green dream that its developers believed. The
age containers, many household
new generation of turbines may show more promise but need to be tested first. We
appliances, a 1932 boat motor, a
should not automatically assume that they are the great green hope.”
birdbath—and a full bottle of
chardonnay. The foundation’s
ambitious goal, said executive director
Tracy Bowen, is “a trash-free
Potomac by 2013.” Home Depot Caves in CT
For many years federal, state, and Cited by Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for
local authorities have been working to mishandling hazardous chemicals at 13 of its stores in the state, Home Depot
transform the 34 ugly-duckling islands agreed to pay $425,000 in fines and mend its ways. Officials had found violations
in Boston Harbor, many of them including “the improper display, handling, and disposal of products—such as
heavily polluted, into a born-again pesticides and fertilizers—that contain hazardous materials.” Careless outdoor
Boston Harbor Islands National Park storage of such products had resulted in their washing into storm drains and rivers,
with facilities for boating, walking, an unusually severe problem this spring because of torrential rains.
biking, picnicking, and swimming.
Recently a crown jewel was added to Home Depot, which in response emphasized its commitment to “compli-
this system with the opening of ance with all environmental laws,” said it would improve outdoor display and
Spectacle Island as a public park with storage of fertilizers, pesticides, swimming pool additives, de-icing materials and
many amenities including a $5 million other chemicals to avoid stormwater runoff. It would also take new steps to avoid
visitor center. For 100 years a bags being broken open, and to patch torn or broken bags to avoid unnecessary
garbage dump emitting methane gas disposal.
that triggered fires, littered with
medical wastes, Spectacle was what The company is the second retailer in the state to pay such penalties,
one advocate for the park, Sheila reported the New Haven Register. Last August Wal-Mart agreed to pay $1.5
Lynch, called “a leeching landfill in the million and improve its handling of hazardous materials at 23 Connecticut stores.
worst harbor in the country.” Nine-
teen years later, she added in a New
York Times interview, “the transfor-
mation is unbelievable.”
MD Critical Area in Trouble
In 1984, when the Maryland legislature passed the Critical Area Act, this
Reports innovative piece of legislation was widely considered a benchmark for better
protection of the Chesapeake Bay shoreline and a national model. The law calls for
“Redevelopment Strikes at Soul of the tight regulation of all undeveloped land within 1,000 feet of tidal waters and even
Coast,” reads a chapter heading in the stricter governance within a 100-foot buffer. Local governments administer the law
North Carolina Coastal Federation’s with backup from a statewide Critical Area Commission.
latest State of the Coast report. It
describes in detail how, despite the But after the more than 20 years that it has been in effect, says the
enactment way back in 1974 of a University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic in a recently-issued report
brave law designed to usher in “a new entitled Enforcement in Maryland’s Critical Area: Perception and Practice, the law
era in regulatory approaches to simply is not working well.
shoreline development,” largely
uncontrolled economic growth gallops “Routine, small scale violations threaten the Bay with death by a thousand
on and threatens to “turn a third of the cuts,” says the law-student team, led by visiting associate professor Kerry E.
state east of I-95 into one vast Hilton Rogers. “But the much less frequently occurring large scale violations set terrible
Head Island.” With traditional culture precedent and have larger individual impact.”
and values vanishing, the report
quotes one shrimper as saying, A widely reported recent example of large scale Critical Area violation
“Sometimes, I think I have a bulls eye took place on Little Dobbins Island in Anne Arundel County, where property owner
in my back.” Within the report are Daryl Wagner, with no permit or variance, razed an existing house and built a new
myriad suggestions as to how citizens 6,000 foot home and added a road, deck, pool, gazebo, and lighthouse. In their
can help bring better management to research into how Critical Area is working locally, the law school team found many
this besieged region. “All we need is reasons why loopholes in the law and lackluster enforcement result in the “thou-
the political will and fortitude to do sand cuts” from which the Bay suffers. Among the problems:
something,” says NCCF. “The rest, by
comparison, is easy.” z Only local jurisdictions, not the statewide Commission, have the authority to administer the law. Enforcement is almost entirely responsive rather than
proactive. Inspectors are in short supply. The Clinic was “unaware of any jurisdic-
Criticized by overseers for making its tion that has a boat to investigate possible Critical Area violations.”
annual State of the Bay surveys too
positive in tone, the state-federal z Those who want to build in the buffer often exceed the limits of the granted
Chesapeake Bay Program recently permit or variance, or simply apply for and receive the approval after the construc-
rolled out a less rosy new model tion has been completed.
entitled the Ecosystem Health report. (Continued, p. 7)
It shows that in terms of water quality
standards such as clarity and dis-
solved oxygen, and the presence of
chemical pollutants and nutrient-laden
Menhaden Overfished? runoff, the bay remains far from
targets set for 2010. More positive
The management of menhaden, a small oily filter feeding fish with a readings are included, in categories
seasonal migratory range extending from Florida to Maine, has long stirred such as underwater grasses in the
controversy between recreational and commercial fishermen. The concerns of upper bay and the amount of perma-
recreational fishers and environmentalists have been focused on menhaden’s nently protected open space. But the
abundance as forage within ecosystems, and its unique ecological ability to remove overall assessment, says the
nutrients from the water column. Omega Protein, operating out of Reedville, VA Program’s monthly newspaper Bay
with a concentrated harvest in the mid-Atlantic, particularly at the mouth of the Journal, is “grim.” A companion
Chesapeake Bay, maintains that its annual catch represents only a fraction of the report reviews restoration initiatives.
menhaden consumed naturally by other fish, mammals and birds. For the last
decade, the “independent” arbiter in this dispute, the Atlantic States Marine In April 2005, states Friends of Casco
Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Menhaden Technical Committee, from its model Bay in its annual report, the organiza-
based assessments has resolutely stated that “coastwide, the stock is healthy” and tion surveyed 210 people in 7 local
that “menhaden are not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.” communities. Top environmental
threat to the bay is runoff. Runner-up
Since 1997, numerous observations that run counter to the Menhaden answer: “Don’t know.” The results,
Management Boards’ stock assessments have been identified. To early claims of the Friends continued, provide ample
overfishing, the response according to the National Marine Fisheries Service was justification for their education and
“this isn’t an overfishing problem, this is a recruitment problem, and we don’t know outreach efforts.
why that is happening.” Recruitment is the number of fish that survive from larval
stages through their first year. Since 1997 evidence of emaciated and diseased Products
striped bass from mid-Chesapeake Bay was recorded, with the absence of menha-
den from the diets of other predatory species also being noted. In recent years, Do you live in a hurricane or flood
studies comparing current and long-term diets found that menhaden, which at prone area? asks the website
times comprised 80% of striped bass diet by weight, had in some regions become, going on to
completely unavailable to them. In 2004, the Menhaden Technical Committee describe the key role of the sandbag
began a new effort to define what “localized depletion” is, and whether it has been “to slow down the flooding process
occurring with the menhaden stock. and reduce the muck and debris that
enters homes, pools, and business.”
In examining the differences between what that committee concludes Now Mark Martinez, a recent finalist
about the health of the stock, and what is being observed in the mid-Atlantic and on the American Inventor TV show,
New England, Jim Price of the Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation recently has come up with an “innovative,
identified shortcomings with how the menhaden population has been assessed, shovel-like device that allow you to fill
represented and managed. In short, the ASMFC’s statistical “virtual” model (which up sandbags in one fast easy step”—
for menhaden is largely dependent on the industry’s mid-Atlantic focused harvest) twice or more as fast as 2 people
says that the spawning stock is healthy. But as Price reports, “Older menhaden, using the traditional method. “The
age 5 plus, are the most important component of the spawning stock because they time you save may be the time you
(Continued, p. 8) need,” continues the website. “We
can’t stop Mother Nature but we can
slow her down.”
MD Critical Area, cont’d from p. 6 Funding
z There is no provision in the law for citizen action to enforce the law when The Delaware Agricultural Lands
local government fails to do so. Preservation Foundation recently
announced awards of $15,432,149 to
z Interpretation of the law has been flexible, especially with regard to permanently preserve more than
grandfathered lots that had been zoned for homes before 1984. Says the report: 2,373 acres of farmland on 21 differ-
“There is almost a presumption of favor in granting variance for a grandfathered ent farms. The foundation, supported
lot.” Local officials with discretion in how to interpret the statute have often leaned by county, state, and federal funds as
in the direction of development. well as by private land trusts, has
been in operation since 1991. Overall
For all such weaknesses, the Clinic found that the fault lay not so much in the program has preserved 82,317
the law itself, which represents what one observer called a “solid, modest begin- acres of farmland, making the state
ning” for successful Bay restoration, as in inflated expectations in some quarters number one in the nation in terms of
about how much it could accomplish. The Act itself, which was “intended to the percentage of land permanently
preserve the environment and promote development,” needs strengthening, preserved (6.4%) and per capita
concludes the report. So does enforcement. And so do efforts to inform Maryland- spending on farmland preservation
ers as to “how each individual’s actions impact the environment.” ($124 per person vs. $61 per person in
Atlantic CoastWatch
Sustainable Development Institute
3121 South St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Tel: (202) 338-1017

Fax: (202) 337-9639

Tax-deductible contributions for Atlantic CoastWatch are urgently needed.

Maryland). Last year the program

received what the Delaware
Department of Agriculture called a Menhaden Overfished?, cont’d from p. 7
“real boost,” when the state
legislature voted $10 million a year produce up to 10 times more eggs than first-spawning age-3 females. These older fish
in permanent funding to support it. were decimated on their summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine from 1988 to
1993 leading to the northern fishery’s collapse. Since then, the remaining spawning
Since its debut in 1992, 131,358 stock, comprised mostly of age-3 fish, has been relentlessly harvested in the mid-
Preserve the Sound license plates Atlantic region, at the same time that the striped bass population recovered to record
have been sold in Connecticut, high levels and menhaden reduction landings (fish caught for industrial use) reached
generating over $4.7 million for historic lows.” Bottom line: between the reduction fishery’s mid-Atlantic concentration
283 environmental projects. Sales and a resurgent striped bass population, the age 5 plus spawning stock has not been
have slackened in recent years, able to recover, and recruitment remains low.
though, thanks in part to competi-
tion from other, newer specialty During the summer of 2005, in part with the urging of environmental and
plates and design modifications recreational fishing groups operating under the rubric of Menhaden Matter, the
that render the Preserve the Sound ASMFC’s Menhaden Management Board decided to cap the harvest of menhaden in
plate less distinctive. Interestingly, Chesapeake Bay at the average harvest from the previous 5 years, at 105,800 metric
recent research suggests that tons. This was done in the belief that as the primary nursery for Atlantic menhaden,
those with a strong emotional and considering forage and ecological filtering needs, menhaden in Chesapeake Bay
attachment to the Sound, espe- required a measure of protection while the issue of localized depletion was researched
cially boaters and beachgoers, are by the technical committee. Because this management action was delivered with a
more likely purchasers of the primary focus upon the needs of the Chesapeake Bay, rather than with the measures
plates than people who simply needed to re-establish the menhaden stock, Price concludes, this policy could hinder
have strong environmental rather than help efforts to re-establish the age-5 and over spawning stock by shifting
convictions. Next deadline for reduction fishing efforts upon older coastal stocks.
grant proposals to the LIS Fund,
which administers grants under the Under NOAA’s definition of growth and recruitment overfishing, menhaden
program, is September 19. Full are overfished. However, ASMFC management of menhaden is exempt from comply-
information about grant opportuni- ing with those national standards. As Price points out, “Mismanagement persists
ties for Long Island Sound protec- because ASMFC failed to achieve important objectives in their new menhaden Man-
tion work, says the Connecticut agement Plan (2001) that included establishing a “total allowable catch,” reducing the
Department of Environmental chance of stock collapse from overfishing, reducing the risk of recruitment failure and
Protection’s Long Island Sound reducing the impacts on species ecologically dependent on menhaden. Measures
Fund Coordinator, Kate Brown, is should have also included restoring older age 5 plus menhaden to the spawning
available at the “Grants at a stock.” Until such goals begin to be addressed, the only thing likely to grow from this
Glance” feature at dwindling resource will be the controversy and hostility held among those concerned with its fate.