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Atlantic CoastWatch July - August, 2006

Concerns About Lake O Dike


News For Coastal Advocates
For seven decades, the 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike around Florida’s
Lake Okeechobee has protected citizens from the kind of flooding that accompa- Concerns About Lake O Dike 1
nied two hurricanes during the 1920s which together killed about as many people as
the 9/11 attacks. For farmers and public utilities, the dike has helped make the lake
Hurricanes & Climate Change 1
serve as a reservoir. But in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, as extensively reported
in a series of articles in the Palm Beach Post, new concerns are adding to older ones
that its vulnerability makes the dike itself a grave threat to nearby communities. Sayings 2

At least once in its lifetime, the 36-foot dike with 2-foot walls has come Managing Lobsters Better? 3
within hours of collapse from wave erosion, according to its minder the US Army
Corps of Engineers. A big storm could fill the lake to the brim, spilling water over Courts & the Seashore 3
the top of the dike and causing its collapse. Or leaks from within, which have been
frequent during periods of heavy rainfall, could trigger seepage and an eventual Publications 3
failure of the entire structure.

Sometimes in softened language, the Corps has long been warning about Coral Farming Catches On 4
such dangers. A 1999 recommendation for urgent repairs warned that residents
would otherwise be subjected to “an unacceptable risk of dike failure and the $100M for Maine Coast 5
catastrophic consequences of such a failure.” Consultants, politicians, and the South
Florida Water Management District differ on the details but generally agree. Ethanol Fouls Boat Engines 5

Over and above the $10 million it has already put into repairs beyond Vibrio Hits Chesapeake 5
routine maintenance, the Corps now plans a massive $300 million renovation to be
completed by 2020. But the very beginning of that project is now on hold, at least
Plague of Jellies 6
until the end of the hurricane season, pending an expert review of its design. And
the “sunny day” emergency plans set by local jurisdictions, the Post reports, have
failed to deal with how to “prepare for a breach during a hurricane, when wide- NOAA Coastwatch Upgraded 6
spread flooding would hamper evacuations and repairs.”
Recovery, Distress in RI 6

Hurricanes & Climate Change Disappearing Tangier 7

While Atlantic hurricanes have become more frequent and more intense, License Plate Blues 7
some scientists remain cautious to assert a clear link between these storms and
global warming. For others, says Environmental Defense, it’s over. “The Science Is Soft “Cap”for Menhaden 8
In,” claims the organization’s website. “Global Warming is Intensifying Hurricanes.”

An article by Bill Chameides, chief scientist at Environmental Defense and


Recurring
Lokey Fellow Lisa Moore offers detail about a growing scientific consensus. The
authors cite a recent publication by Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea, of the People; Awards; Species &
National Center for Atmospheric Research, stating that “the global warming Habitats; Restorations;
influence provides a new background level that increases the risk” of enhanced Report Cards; Products;
hurricane activity in the future. Funding
With hurricane formation requiring ocean waters at least 80 degrees F in Atlantic CoastWatch is a bimonthly
temperature, Chameides and Moore continue, the oceans have been heating up nonprofit newsletter for those con-
since 1975. The long-projected increase in accompanying hurricane intensity has cerned with environmentally sound
already appeared. Kerry Emanuel of MIT, writing in Nature, posits a direct link development between the Gulf of
Maine and the eastern Caribbean.
(Continued, p. 7)
2
Atlantic CoastWatch
Vol. 10, No. 4 Sayings
A project of the Sustainable (What follows are excerpts from a July 21 interview by Steve Curwood,
Development Institute, which host of the Living on Earth public radio program, with economics professor Robert
Shiller at Yale University)
seeks to heighten the environmen-
tal quality of economic develop-
ment efforts, in coastal regions, by CURWOOD: We understand that people are having trouble buying and selling
communicating information about insurance for hurricanes. How does that affect the real estate market for coastal
areas?
better policies and practices. SDI
is classified as a 501(c)(3) organi- SHILLER: In principle, we know that insurance rates have been rising rapidly. The
zation, exempt from federal cost of insurance in the South has been a problem. It has been going up rapidly. It’s
income tax. partly the insurance companies want more. And it’s partly because of the hurri-
cane risk, which seems to be going up. And in many places in the South it’s also
Board of Directors because damage claims for mold have been going up. So, in principle, that might
be the way that increased risk hits home prices. Because people will see how much
Freeborn G. Jewett, Jr., Chair they have to pay for insurance on this home and then that will give them second
Robert J. Geniesse, Chair Emeritus thoughts about paying such a high price on the home. But that, you know it hasn’t
Roger D. Stone, President really hit yet. But maybe the impact is delayed. I think that we have been going
Dale K. Lipnick, Treasurer through such a psychological boom around glamour areas – and often coastal areas
Gay P. Lord, Secretary are glamour areas – around the country, that it’s been carrying prices up.
Hart Fessenden
Nelse L. Greenway It’s been a rather sudden change. If you look at some of the data that’s been
David P. Hunt collected about the percentage of homes that are second homes, it’s gone up
Simon Sidamon-Eristoff rapidly in the last few years. So that people are buying something like a third of all
homes are either investment homes or vacation homes.
Advisers
CURWOOD: Is there any evidence that climate change is affecting the climate of
William H. Draper, III real estate?
Gary Hartshorn
Stephen P. Leatherman SHILLER: Well, it’s a question of how much. It seems to me that homes on the shore
Jerry R. Schubel are not necessarily good long-term investments. If global warming proceeds and
Christopher Uhl the sea level rises and storms get worse, that’s another factor working in the other
direction. I want you to view these as a risky investment. I would think that what’s
Staff coming up is we’ll see more and more opportunities to hedge the risk anyway. So,
we just started a future’s market at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where you
Roger D. Stone, Director & President can short the Miami home market now. And I think that people who want to live in
Shaw Thacher, Project Manager the Miami area can buy a house there and then hedge their risk. And this is what’s
Robert C. Nicholas III, Contr. Editor coming I think more and more in the future.
Anita Herrick, Correspondent
CURWOOD: So wait a second. I buy a house for a million bucks and then I go to the
Foundation Donors Chicago Mercantile Exchange and I get a hedge, I pay a price for somebody who
would give me that million dollars if the price were to drop.
Avenir Foundation
The Fair Play Foundation SHILLER: Effectively, yeah. You’d be selling a future’s contract. Or you could buy a
The Madriver Foundation put option. I know this sounds esoteric. Not many people are doing this yet. This is
The Moore Charitable Foundation just starting out. But I think that in the future it will become important.
The Curtis and Edith Munson
CURWOOD: Hmm. Are you buying any coastal real estate?
Foundation
The Summit Fund of Washington
SHILLER: I have a home on Long Island Sound, yeah. It’s a second home. I bought it
four years ago.
Sponsored Project
CURWOOD: Yeah?
15th Annual Environmental Film
Festival in the Nation’s Capital SHILLER: I don’t know if I’d buy it today.
March 15 - 25, 2007
CURWOOD: Why not? Why wouldn’t you maybe buy it today?
Featuring screenings of documentary,
feature, archival and animated films. SHILLER: Well, looking here in Connecticut along the shore, I see an awful lot of for
www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org (Continued, p. 3)
3
People

Managing Lobsters Better William D. Blair Jr., 79, president of


The Nature Conservancy from 1980 to
1987, died at his summer home in
Using computer modeling methods, former Rhode Island lobsterman Dick
Vinalhaven, ME. A former journalist
Allen and Hauke Kite-Powell at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have
and State Department official, Blair
posited that Maine lobstermen could save time, bait, fuel, and human energy—and
raised $300 million for TNC, launched
make more money— if size limits were relaxed and the number of traps deployed
several international activities, and set
were reduced. Using various scenarios, the Associated Press reported, they found
the organization on its pathway
that landings in the lobster fishery south of Cape Cod remained relatively stable.
toward rapid growth.
They say that if applied to Maine their new system would work just as well.
Maryland hunter, fisherman, and
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has been a prominent reaction in Maine,
zealous conservationist Frank Smoot
where under existing rules, worked out via widely respected partnerships between
died just a few weeks short of his 100th
scientists, state officials, and lobstermen, the industry has prospered. The catch
birthday. In 1928 Smoot lobbied for
has risen from 30 million pounds in the early 1990s to more than 70 million pounds
the Migratory Bird Conservation Act,
and another record year in 2005. Contributing much to this success have been
reported the Baltimore Sun. During
minimum and maximum size limits, trap limits, and a ban on harvesting egg-bearing
the early 1960s he successfully
females. “It’s insanity,” says Allen. But for the moment, Maine’s carefully-struc-
“pestered” Congress to buy
tured system seems likely to be around for a while.
Assateague Island. Throughout he
worked on many conservation and
environmental education projects—all,
Courts & the Seashore he told the Sun, because of his “selfish
interest in protecting the fish and
The Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) agreed to pay a game I hunted.” On his last fishing trip
criminal fine of $9 million, the largest such levy ever paid by a utility for violating in 2004, Smoot hauled in a 22-inch
the Clean Water Act. The settlement stemmed from a federal grand jury indictment rainbow trout.
charging PRASA with 15 felony counts involving illegal discharges of pollutants
from 9 wastewater treatment facilities and 5 drinking water plants. A separate Awards
$1 million civil settlement resolved repeated environmental violations at 61
wastewater treatment plants. The agreement PRASA reached with federal Chosen from among 20,000 National
authorities also encompasses a $3 million supplemental environment project, and Park Service employees as “Natural
nearly $1.7 billion, over 15 years, in improvements to the system. Resource Professional of the Year” is
Jeff Miller, a fisheries biologist at the
Virgin Islands National Park. Accord-
Sayings, cont’d from p. 2 ing to the Virgin Islands Daily News,
the scuba-diving Miller won the award
largely for the part he played in
sale signs up on these properties. And it mirrors what we see nationally. That the “documenting and drawing public
inventory of unsold homes is soaring. Now I don’t have data on coastal areas, but attention to last year’s devastating
it looks to me like it’s even more intense along the coast. So, when this happens it’s Caribbean coral-bleaching event.”
not a good time to buy unless you can get a really good price. Rising ocean temperatures had
CURWOOD: Where do you think, if there was to be a tipping point in the market, the alerted Miller to new danger for
coastal market, where do you think it might tip first? corals, and his bosses accordingly
allowed him more time underwater to
SCHILLER: Well, I worry about price drops in real estate. We have seen an enor- monitor the consequences. In the St.
mous rise, you know, doubling or even tripling in many areas. And some of these John and St. Croix locations he
coastal areas are the most extreme. Cape Cod, Nantucket, they’ve gotten so high studied, between 23 - 48% of the
on those Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. If you look at a nice house in town, not corals he surveyed had bleached and
even on the water, you could pay five million dollars for it. If we see a weakening of died as a result of high water tem-
the market, they could be an early show of decline. But there are a lot of differ- peratures and disease.
ences in price that I think are due to public attention and public sense of glamour
that in the long run may not be so sustainable. Winners of a top award for investiga-
tive reporting, says the Society of
CURWOOD: Robert Shiller is professor of economics at Yale University. He’s Environmental Journalists, is a 6-
author of the book Irrational Exuberance, an Analysis of Real Estate, Stock Market, person team of reporters from The
and other Speculative Bubbles. Professor, thanks for speaking with me today. Record in Bergen, NJ. In tracing the
course of illegal dumping from a
SHILLER: It was a pleasure. Superfund site in North Jersey by the
Ford Motor Company, contaminating
Copyright Living on Earth. Used with permission of Living on Earth and World
a stream that feeds into a major
Media Foundation. www.loe.org. Living on Earth is the weekly environmental
reservoir, the team uncovered
news and information program distributed by National Public Radio.
4
evidence of mob involvement, federal
agency coverup, and health problems
from which a group of local Native
Americans had suffered. Each Publications
member of the team devoted 6
months or more of near-fulltime z Equipped with more than enough new experience culled from the last
concentration on the story, and the three years of severe and frequent hurricanes, the marine insurance company
paper chipped in extra money for lab Boat Owners of the United States (Boat-US) has gathered its knowledge into a
tests. The award for the resulting handy little package. Its pithy 12-page pamphlet, Preparing Boats & Marinas for
series, entitled “Toxic Legacy,” was Hurricanes, is available free of charge at West Marine stores or at
bestowed by Investigative Reporters www.BoatUS.com/hurricane
and Editors.
z On the heels of the Al Gore film and book An Inconvenient Truth comes
Species & Habitats The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of
America’s Coastal Cities by environmental activist Mike Tidwell (Simon & Schuster
In 2004, reports the Los Angeles 2006). Sounding a shrill alarm call about prospective storm damage to coastal
Times, New York City’s Department of areas generally, Tidwell zeroes in on his home state of Maryland, where, says
Health and Mental Hygiene launched Baltimore Sun critic Tom Pelton, he “predicts the flooding of parts of Baltimore, the
a rat complaint and information line. destruction of Assateague Island, waters pouring into the Washington suburbs, the
Complaints spiked by 40%, numbering Eastern Shore being almost cut in half by the swollen Nanticoke River and the
more than 31,000 in 2005. Under the destruction of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.” Pelton, who considers the
city’s 19-agency Rodent Control book “passionate” and “extraordinarily well written,” also notes parts of it that
Initiative, aggressive baited trapping, appear “politically tone deaf” and open up the author to “attack as an out of touch
sturdy garbage cans, and vigorous liberal.” In his 2003 book, Bayou Farewell, Tidwell correctly foresaw the levee
education efforts have been employed failures that accompanied the Katrina disaster.
to strengthen defenses against the
ubiquitous Rattus norvegicus (Nor- z 50 Ways to Save the Ocean by David Helvarg (Inner Ocean Publishing
way rat). But despite the limited 2006) offers a cornucopia of practical advice to citizens about how to learn to love
success of such measures, the bold rat coastal and marine environments and the creatures that inhabit them, and how to
appears once again to be winning—as help save them. The author is president of the Blue Frontier Campaign.
it has since it first landed in the city at
about the time of the Revolutionary z Sound Health 2006: A Report on Status and Trends in the Health of the
War. New Yorkers seem pretty well Long Island Sound, was recently issued by the Long Island Sound Study (LISS).
resigned. “I think it’s pretty natural to Though conditions vary widely from the 110-mile Sound’s western end near New
have rodent issues in such a big city,” York City to its eastern extremity, LISS found that on the average its water quality
said social worker Robyn Lerner in an between 2001 and 2004 was good 54.3% of the time and fair 41.2% of the time.
interview with the paper. Officials Improvements include sewage treatment upgrades, declining contaminant emis-
reckon that the city’s rat population at sions, growth in some fish populations, and openings of rivers to anadromous fish
least equals its 8 million people. for spawning upstream. Problems noted: sprawl, poor lobster and oyster harvests,
poor response of winter flounder to management efforts, the cost and difficulty of
Long overfished, the sea scallop has restoring shoreline habitats.
made a spirited comeback within its
northwest Atlantic habitat from the
mid-Atlantic to the Gulf of Maine.
Thanks to management initiatives
Coral Farming Catches On
including rotating closures of harvest
areas, limits on the number of boats Coral aquaculture offers many advantages. By growing corals for home
and the number of days they can fish, aquariums, professional growers take pressure off dwindling wild stocks. And by
the total US catch has sharply in- teaming up with scientists, coral farmers help increase understanding of coral
creased over the past decade and without the expense and uncertainties of diving in areas such as Florida and the
fishers’ income has soared. Evidence Caribbean where wild corals grow.
of the management effort’s success is
that a major harvest area called the One such farmer, reports The Baltimore Sun, is chemist and scuba diver
Elephant Trunk, off the mid-Atlantic Steve Lowes, an upstate New York resident who in 2002 capped a long history of
coast, will reopen next January 1 after fascination with the sea by founding his web-based coral business, Web Encoun-
3 years of closure. Scallops there ters. In his basement lab he breaks about 50 species of corals into tiny fragments
have, report several sources, become and cultivates them in tanks for sale and shipment after they have grown to market
astonishingly abundant. The down- size in about 6 months.
side: even though improvements in
dredges have lessened the attrition of Lowes belongs to a 100-member consortium called the Upstate Reef
loggerhead sea turtles drowned after Society, one of about 100 in the US. Thus, says the Sun, he has become “one of a
having been sucked into them, those growing breed of coral farmers who have found a niche supporting the booming
losses continue. Conservationists at aquarium hobby, which in 2005 was a $6.9 billion market.
5

Oceana and elsewhere contend that


the turtles remain insufficiently
$100 Million for Maine Coast protected from scallopers fishing
offshore.
Five years ago, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) launched the
public phase of its $100 million Campaign for the Coast, the largest land protection Officials concerned with the belea-
effort in the state’s history. Now that goal has been achieved. Portland Press- guered Chesapeake Bay found a new
Herald editorial writer Theo Stein set the pretty scene: “A classic waterfront reason for alarm when scientists this
tableau framed MCHT director Jay Espy as he made the announcement on the summer identified a second invasive
grassy lawn of Fort Allen along Portland’s eastern promenade. While a parade of Chinese mitten crab in Bay waters
Navy vessels steamed out of Casco Bay, Great Diamond, Little Diamond and Peaks (the first was found a year ago). Both
islands rode as if at anchor in sun-dazzled waters.” may have arrived in ships’ ballast
water. Further sightings have been
Since its inception, MCHT said, “the Campaign for the Coast has protected reported. Mitten crabs are aggressive
more than 14,000 acres of Maine’s most threatened natural resources, including and, if they catch on as they have in
125 miles of shoreline, 750 acres of coastal farmland and 56 entire coastal islands. San Francisco Bay, could harm the
More than 900 acres of eagle nesting habitat have been conserved, as well as 525 Chesapeake’s native blue crabs and
acres of seabird nesting habitat. These land protection successes, and those yet to shellfish in several ways including
come, will assure continued public access to the coast for traditional activities such competition for food and habitat.
as hiking, fishing, clamming, and nature observation.” Fortunately, Virginia Institute of
Marine Science researcher Rom
“Every year,” MCHT continued, “more than 30 million people enjoy Lipicus told The Washington Post,
Maine’s spectacular coastline—one of America’s most recognized national trea- “there are a lot of hurdles a species
sures, and an important part of Maine’s economic infrastructure.” like this would have to overcome to
become resident” and a real problem.

Ethanol Fouls Boat Engines In just 30 years, says the Atlantic


Salmon Federation in its biennial
report, wild salmon on the Atlantic
Starting in 2004, Atlantic costal states began to ban MTBE (methyl tertiary coast have decreased by more than
butyl ether) as an additive to gasoline. The new blended fuels substitute ethanol, a two-thirds. A new and disturbing
form of alcohol that in the US is made from surplus corn. The new fuel, popular in trend has been a doubling in the rate
the grain belt if not along the shore, works fine in cars and trucks. But ethanol of ocean mortality—failure of fish to
corrodes fiberglass fuel tanks found in some older boats, and can cause clogging in return to home rivers to spawn—to
fuel filters and carburetors and what Boat-US calls “considerable engine damage.” about 3% a month. In Nova Scotia and
The company’s advice: “Pay more attention to your engine(s) this season. Be New Brunswick’s inner Bay of Fundy,
mindful of a knocking or rough running engine” or face heavy costs for repairs and these losses are especially striking,
possible engine or fuel tank replacement. with wild salmon returning to 32 rivers
dropping from 40,000 a generation
ago to only 200 in 2005. The situation
Vibrio Hits in Chesapeake in the northeast US remains what ASF
calls “critically low,” with fewer than
25 salmon returning to Maine’s
Vibrio vulnificus, a form of bacteria from the same family that causes Downeast rivers in 2005.
cholera, inhabits warm, saline coastal waters. It only rarely affects human beings.
The Center for Disease Control receives only some 400 cases a year, most of these
involving consumption of contaminated seafood along the Gulf Coast.
Restorations

Since it acquired 13,000 acres of Long


But even in the Chesapeake area, watch out if you have an open cut or
Island’s much-abused Great South
sore and wade into waters warmed by torrential tropical rains. There as well,
Bay in 2004, The Nature Conservancy
simple contact with Vibrio-tainted water can result in blistering, bright red swelling,
has put one million hard-shell clams in
sepsis and worse. This past June, reports the Annapolis Capital, two men with leg
the water, reports Newsday, in hopes
wounds (one had nothing more than a scrape on his shin) entered the waters of
of achieving a restoration “miracle.”
Bear Creek Neck off the Rhode River near Annapolis despite warning signs posted
Now the island’s Suffolk County
after heavy rainfall. Both ended up with severe leg infections. They recovered after
legislature has voted $1 million to
doses of antibiotics.
strengthen the effort; to match each of
those dollars, TNC is pledged to raise
Not so lucky was Washingtonian businessman William Bergman, who went
an additional $1.20. “That kind of
for a sail on the bay with a cut on his leg, developed similar symptoms, and went to
public-private cooperation is just what
the hospital. Doctors thinking he had a flesh-eating virus prepared to amputate his
we need,” said the paper. “This new
leg, but called that off when he tested negative for the virus. Several hours later,
investment in restoring our natural
reported the paper, he was dead from a massive sepsis infection.
environment is a wise use of public
6
funds and a seed of hope for the
future.”
Plague of Jellies
Reports
From Spain to Massachusetts, heavy swarms of jellyfish have plagued
According to an attention-getting new beachgoers, fishers, and power plant operators this summer. Portuguese men
report jointly issued by several federal o’war have appeared in unusual numbers in southern New England waters, stinging
agencies, entitled “Impacts of Ocean swimmers and causing officials to impose new beach restrictions.
Acidification on Coral Reefs and Other
Marine Calcifers,” coral reefs are in At Maryland’s seaside Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant, sea nettles
deep trouble because increased clogged water intake pumps three times just in July, causing reductions in power
emissions of carbon dioxide into the output. Many more jellyfish than have been counted in recent years showed up in
atmosphere are causing the world’s the York River near Gloucester, VA. Mediterranean beaches have been afflicted as
oceans to become more acidic. The well. Scientists remain hesitant to explain such annoying outbreaks, but higher
absorption of carbon dioxide in than usual water temperatures, associated with global warming, are often men-
seawater, the report states, causes a tioned as a possible cause.
chemical reaction producing carbonic
acid. This acid reduces the quantity in
the oceans of calcium carbonate, a
chemical on which corals and many NOAA CoastWatch Upgraded
other forms of marine life depend.
According to the biologist Thomas E. Recently launched was a new “East Coast Node” for NOAA’s CoastWatch
Lovejoy, president of the H. John environmental satellite data service to help protect, restore, and manage Atlantic
Heinz Center for Science, Economics, coastal resources. Information available includes water temperature, ocean
and the Environment, ocean acidifica- surface winds, and chlorophyll levels.
tion is “the single most profound
environmental change I’ve learned Establishing the Node means faster, and more accessible service to
about in my entire career.” anybody free of charge. It constitutes what CoastWatch program manager Kent
Hughes describes as a “major milestone” that will greatly ease such tasks for
While some bird species such as bald scientists, fishermen and program managers as forecasting atmospheric events,
eagles and wild turkeys have fared predicting harmful algal blooms, and studying fish and marine mammal distribution
will in recent years in Connecticut, along the US East Coat and eventually across the Atlantic to Europe.
reports the Connecticut Audubon
Society, others of the state’s most
familiar species are in decline.
Development has beset birds such as
Recovery, Distress in RI
the eastern meadowlark (off 85%
since the mid-1960s) and bobolink that As reported in the charter December 1997 issue of Atlantic CoastWatch,
favor tall grass. The West Nile Virus Eklof Marine Corporation of Staten Island, NY pleaded guilty to criminal charges
has triggered a decline in crows. arising from an 828,000 gallon spill of home heating oil off the Rhode Island coast.
Scientists cannot yet say why the The spill occurred in January 1996 when the company’s barge North Cape ran
species long seen as the most com- aground in a storm. Ordered to pay a substantial fine and also work cooperatively
mon—blue jays down 70% in the last to repair extensive damage, Eklof with assistance from the private Ocean Technol-
40 years, song sparrows, even the ogy Foundation pitched in and, reports the Providence Journal, helped complete an
long-commonplace European star- “unprecedented” restoration effort along the RI coast.
ling—have hit the skids. In all, says
Connecticut Audubon, 148 of the 9 million lost lobsters have been replaced. Summer nesting habitats in
state’s bird species are in trouble. Maine for loons and eider ducks, which suffered severe losses from the spill, have
been protected along with local beaches used by endangered piping plovers.
Pollution-related beach closings and Habitat improvements and restocking have bolstered stocks of herring, oysters,
advisories reached records heights in scallops and quahogs. “While acknowledging some missteps along the way,”
2005, said the Natural Resources concludes the Journal, “Officials generally think the ecosystem is now back in good
Defense Council in a widely-noted shape.”
report. Atlantic beaches singled for
cleanliness and good management Away from the coast, the Rhode Island situation is less positive. In the
include ones in Milford, CT, Brevard Providence River, baykeeper John Torgan of Save the Bay encountered a bottom
County, FL, Tybee Island, GA, and “just paved with dead clams.” For what he described as a massive die-off he
Bristol, ME. Among this year’s “beach blamed a combination of factors including pollution and hypoxic (low oxygen)
bums:” Chatham County, GA, conditions currently plaguing not just the river bottom, but Narragansett Bay all the
Chatham and Danvers, MA, Rock Hall, way from Providence to just north of Jamestown. At all 53 sampling stations in that
MD, Narragansett, RI, and Myrtle region, the oxygen level found at the Bay’s bottom made it untenable for bottom-
Beach, SC. Better monitoring dwelling fish and crabs.
7

in many coastal areas may to some


extent account for the increase in
Disappearing Tangier closings and advisories, says NRDC,
but heavy rainfall in some areas and
“There are signs everywhere,” reported William Lin of the Virginian-Pilot, development impacts are also
that “time is running out for Tangier’s way of life.” 600 people live on this small reasons for the upward trend, which
island in the middle of Chesapeake Bay. But for-sale signs are sprouting, traditional the organization expects will continue.
watermen are giving up as rising costs shrink earnings, and younger people show
little interest in staying put. Of this year’s graduating high school class of 13, Virginia’s Department of Environmen-
reported Lin, only 2 want to remain on the island and none wants to be a waterman. tal Quality classifies nearly 9,000
miles or 63% of the state’s rivers and
A few mainlanders have come in to buy weekend houses, and some on the streams as polluted. That’s up from
island wanly hope that tourism will make up for some of the decline in the seafood 6,931 miles or 61% at the time of the
industry. But the prevailing mood was struck by Betty Nohe, 73, who told Lin: “I agency’s last such report in 2004. Part
believe we-re going to be all gone.” Expediting the exodus is erosion which already of the reason for the jump: tougher
has lopped off much of the island’s western shore and, in combination with the standards for such contaminants as
rising sea level, threatens much of the rest of the low-lying island. PCBs and mercury.

In 2005, says NOAA in its annual


report on the status of US marine
Hurricanes & Climate Change, cont’d from p. 1 fisheries, there was “both progress in
rebuilding overfished species and
between these rising temperatures and today’s hurricanes with twice as much response of fisheries managers to
destructive potential as those of 30 years ago. slow fishing rates for species that
were found in 2005 to have above-
James Elsner of the Hurricane Center at Florida State University confirms target harvests.” Other sources
these hypotheses on the basis of solid evidence that Atlantic hurricane intensity question the positive tone of NOAA’s
and duration is caused by global warming rather than because of natural variations statement. One such is Andy
in sea surface temperatures. From Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rosenberg of the University of New
satellite data for air temperatures and NOAA information for Atlantic ocean Hampshire. In the current issue of
temperatures, he reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, he could Frontiers in Ecology and the Environ-
use air temperatures to predict sea surface temperatures during the hurricane ment, he and fellow authors contend
season; the opposite was not true. This, he says, firmly establishes the case for that “overfishing and depletion of
linkage between sea surface temperatures and global warming: “If natural variabil- important fish stocks remains a
ity were the driving force,” he told MSNBC, “you’d expect that you’d be able to widespread problem in the US,
predict the air temperatures from the sea surface temperatures, but you can’t do continuing in 45% of the stocks
that.” While others note a “clear signature of external forcing,” he writes, “the managed in rebuilding plans.” Why,
present analysis is the first to directly relate climate change to hurricane activity.” ask Rosenberg et al.? The answer:
“the failure of many plans to reduce
The Environmental Defense statement came out just as NOAA was exploitation sufficiently to end
lowering its 2006 hurricane forecast season from 8 to 10 to 7 to 9. Still, this year’s overfishing.”
season is expected to be the tenth one in the last 12 years to be busier than usual.
Predicting that “Katrina-like events will become more common and more wide- Products
spread unless the emissions of global-warming pollutants are capped,” Environ-
mental Defense calls for “meaningful legislation to cap our greenhouse emissions.” What, asks the Philadelphia Inquirer,
works better than a $3,000-a-month
landscaping company hired to trim the
More License Plate Blues hilly grounds around a Mansfield
Township wastewater treatment
plant? Answer: a tranquil herd of 16
First Connecticut (Atlantic CoastWatch May-June 2006) and now Maine Boer goats that are popular among
are facing new difficulties in selling vanity auto license plates for environmental neighborhood children, cost Applied
benefit. Maine’s long-successful loon plate supporting state parks ands endangered Water Management, Inc. about $50 a
species won buyers in part because the standard “Vacationland” plate was so ugly. month to cover the farmer’s ex-
Now it faces competition from a more attractive one featuring a chickadee, a penses, and, says an inspector for the
lobster plate funding lobster research, and one put up for a scholarship fund. company, “Do a better job than a
mower would ever do.”
What do to as loon plate sales dwindle? “Tell that chickadee to take a hike
and create another truly ugly standard plate,” advised the Portland Press-Herald.
“Put a turkey buzzard on it, or a velvet picture of Elvis.” Readers, skeptical about
Funding
whether the loon money had been put to good use, offered different thoughts.
Wrote one of them: “I would pay good money for an ugly yellow license plate that Hailed when it installed its “flush tax”
stated TAXATIONLAND.” to upgrade waste treatment facilities
Atlantic CoastWatch
Sustainable Development Institute
3121 South St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Tel: (202) 338-1017


Fax: (202) 337-9639
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URL: www.susdev.org
www.atlanticcoastwatch.org

Tax-deductible contributions for Atlantic CoastWatch are urgently needed.

and reduce pollution flowing into


the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Menhaden Get Soft “Cap”
initially expected hefty new
income from military polluters.
Since the mid-1990’s, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s
But following two years of legal
(ASMFC) Menhaden Management Board has been receiving reports of ailing striped bass
maneuvering, lawyers repre-
and other menhaden-eating predators in the Chesapeake Bay.  Menhaden, a small oily
senting the Navy and the Army
filter-feeding fish, also represents the second largest fishery by weight in the U.S., with the
contended that as tax-exempt
bulk usually harvested by Omega Protein, Inc. from the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake
organizations they were not
Bay. A 2004 workshop, convened to examine evidence that the concentrated harvest of
obliged to pay a “classic tax.”
menhaden was impacting the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and its predators, determined
But the final outcome is a happy
that more research was necessary to assess “localized depletion” of menhaden.
one, reports the Baltimore Sun:
instead of paying the less than
In October 2005 AMFSC called for a 5 year research program and a fixed annual
$1 million due under the flush
230 million pounds Chesapeake Bay harvest cap.  Omega, bristling at set limits, was able to
tax, the Department of Defense
refuse compliance. This July Omega and the governors of Virginia and Maryland an-
has instead agreed to spend $22
nounced a new Chesapeake harvest cap proposal establishing a 5 year average annual
million in improvements to five
limit of 240 million pounds—what Omega now takes. Because the new proposal allows
sewage plants that pollute the
carryover of the shortfall or over-harvest from one year to the next, it would allow up to
Chesapeake Bay, and an
270 million pounds of menhaden to be taken from the Chesapeake Bay in any given year.
additional $3.3 million for
It sets no menhaden harvest limits outside the Chesapeake, where Omega also operates.
environmental restoration
projects in Maryland.
The plan comes up for final approval in October. Will Baker of the Chesapeake
Bay Foundation described it as “perfect balance between conservation and commerce
Residents of a North Tiverton, RI
because it prevents depletion of this ecologically important fish without hurting jobs in
neighborhood are suffering from
Reedville.”  Countered the Baltimore Sun:  “Sorry, Will, the deal isn’t balanced, either.
a recent discovery that landfill
Omega Protein gets to, in the words of its spokesman Toby Gascon, continue [fishing] at
under their houses contains
the same levels we have been.”  And we all get to watch them do it. How balanced.  The
arsenic and other toxins said to
deal is still putting lipstick on a pig.”
be dumped there by the Fall
River Gas Co. as long ago as the
1960s. While legal action
continues, reports the Provi- With Appreciation
dence Journal, financial prob-
lems for residents include Very special thanks are due the Curtis & Edith Munson Foundation and to the
plummeting property values and Avenir Foundation for continuing their particularly generous annual support. We are also
bankers’ unsympathetic reac- grateful to Decatur & Sally Miller, William H. Draper III & Phyllis Draper and Alexander
tions to loan requests. Now, Farman-farmaian for renewing their funding of our efforts. We also note with great
thanks to a new state law, appreciation most welcome contributions from these additional donors:
residents can get at least
temporary help via low-interest William C. Baker William C. Lipnick
loans to be issued by the Rhode Blair Bower Wingate Lloyd
Island Housing and Mortgage Anne S. Davidson Russell E. Train
Finance Corp. David P. Hunt