Trophy rockfish from the good old days
By DJ Rippert
Political action regarding the Chesapeake Bay is increasing. Here is a summary of some key issues ….
Menhaden victory. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reports, “The Virginia House and Senate have passed bipartisan legislation to transfer management of Virginia’s menhaden fisheries from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).” The long-running battle over who should regulate Virginia’s menhaden fishery has been extensively covered by Bacon’s Rebellion. You can read some of the more recent posts here, here and here. This change in regulatory venue has been long demanded by environmentalists and opposed by reduction fishery Goliath Omega Protein.
Commentary: This is a very positive change for the Chesapeake Bay. Menhaden will still be caught in Virginia waters but the regulation of that fishery will now be scientifically managed by the VMRC. The simple fact is that the Democrats have removed one corrupt burr from under the saddle of Virginia’s state government. This change in attitude was catalyzed by aggressive federal action by the Trump Administration. Good for both Virginia’s Democrats and Trump’s Commerce Department. Specific kudos to state Senator Linwood Lewis, D-Accomack, Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax, Senate committee chair Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, Governor Ralph Northam, and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Continue reading
Photo credit: Stephan Lowy
by Don Rippert
What, me worry? Omega Protein has admitted exceeding its menhaden catch limit for 2019 in the Chesapeake Bay. Omega Protein, a Houston-based company and wholly owned subsidiary of Cooke, Inc, a Canadian firm, operates a fishing fleet based in Reedville, Va. Employing about 300 Virginians, Omega Protein has been mired in controversy over the years regarding its heavy catch of menhaden. Since this topic has been repeatedly covered on Bacon’s Rebellion, I won’t provide detailed background. However, the environmental group Menhaden Defenders operates an informative website describing the situation.
Menhaden Defenders writes, “The commercial menhaden fishery is made up of two sectors, a reduction fishery, which grinds billions of bunker up for fish meal and oil, and the bait fishery which supplies menhaden for lobster and crab traps. Reduction fishing is an antiquated practice that has been banned in every east coast state, except Virginia.” Virginia is the only east coast state that allows reduction fishing and is also the only east coast state that allows unlimited contributions to state politicians. Over the last 26 years Omega Protein has donated just under $600,000 to Virginia politicians, political committees and PACs with the majority going to Republicans.
Two disturbing facts were brought to light last week. First, a survey of two agriculture-intense Virginia counties found that the effort to reduce agricultural pollution by fencing off farm streams from cattle is far behind schedule. Second, our supposedly progressive governor put forth a very watered down Watershed Improvement Plan that effectively eliminates the livestock fencing goals in the Commonwealth. Northam Administration vs The Chesapeake Bay.
Cows do more than fart and burp. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, raised more than a few eyebrows when her New Green Deal included measures to curb the greenhouse gas effects of farting and burping cows. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez whimsically referenced the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide as digestive byproducts from many farm animals, especially cattle. While these emissions are a legitimate issue, a bovine prescription for Gas-X and Rolaids would not solve the problem. The production of meat in general, and beef in particular, has a sizable negative impact on the environment. Every step in raising, slaughtering, packaging and shipping meat adds to greenhouse gas emissions. Across the globe animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions (14-18%) than transportation (13.5%). However, the environmental impact of animal agriculture doesn’t end with greenhouse gas emissions. A 1400-pound Holstein steer produces 115 pounds of manure per day or about 21 tons per year. Some of this prodigious amount of manure finds its way from cows and steers to farm creeks and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay. The manure contains high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus which cause excess algae growth de-oxygenating the bay’s water. Many consider animal waste the biggest problem confronting the Chesapeake Bay. Continue reading
Between a rock(fish) and a hard place. Striped bass, locally known as rockfish, migrate up the coast of the Atlantic each spring to spawn. The biggest rockfish come into the Chesapeake Bay to mate and then leave the Bay to resume their trip north. Other smaller rockfish remain in the Bay. The period of time when the big oceanic rockfish come into the Bay is known to fishermen as the Spring Trophy Season. Regulations are strict but anglers flock to the Bay in the hope of landing a big striped bass. The trophy season starts after the spawn and runs from May 1 to June 15 in Virginia. At least, that’s usually the plan. Unfortunately, a recently completed fish assessment has shown a precipitous drop in rockfish. Scientists blame this on overfishing and are considering asking the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to ban fishing during this year’s trophy season. This is a startling development given the seemingly good news about the Bay in general and rockfish in particular over recent years.
School daze. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation(CBF) recently issued it biannual State of the Bay Report. The report can be found here. The CBF assigns both a numeric and letter grade to the bay. This report (2017 – 2018) garners a score of 33 for a grade of D+. The last report (2015 – 2016) tallied a 34 / C-. The grading scale is as follows
40 or below – dangerously out of balance
41 – 50 – improving
51 – 70 – stable
71+ – saved
The first State of the Bay Report was issued in 1998 and Bhe bay received a “grade” of 27. Progress was slow but steady through 2016. The recently issued report (2018) represents a rare regression in overall score since the report was started.
Rain, rain, go away. An extremely wet 2018 is primarily to blame for the regression in the bay’s health. And wet it was. DC’s official recording site at Reagan National Airport ended up with 66.28″ of rain, which broke the previous record of 61.33″ from 1889. This total is over 2 feet above DC’s annual average of 39.74″, and is nearly as much rain as the previous 2 years combined of 67.3″ (2016 + 2017). Baltimore’s BWI Airport recorded 71.82″ of rain against an annual average of 43.62″. That was the wettest year on record and the weather book dates back to 1871. The runoff from all that rain caused significant regressions in nitrogen (-5), phosphorus (-9) and water clarity (-4) from the prior report. One ray of sunshine in the report was the fact that underwater grasses notched a small gain from 2015-2016 despite the deluges. Continue reading
Background: Republican Rep Bob Goodlatte (Va – 6th) has proposed an amendment to an appropriations package which would forbid the EPA from using federal funds to take action against bay states that fail to meet pollution-reduction targets set by the EPA and agreed-to by the states. The amendment is to the 2019 Interior, Environment, Financial Services and General Appropriations Act. The amended bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives 213 to 202. The same bill (without the Goodlatte Amendment) was passed by the US Senate 92 to 6.
Goodlatte’s rationale. Rep Goodlatte previously explained his rationale for restricting the EPA’s authority over the Chesapeake Bay cleanup on his website. You can view that explanation here and here. (Hat Tip: Jim Bacon). However, it should be noted that the first link was from 2014 and the second from 2016. One would think that Goodlatte’s most recent attempts to curtail the EPA’s enforcement of the TDML Blueprint would require an updated explanation of intent … especially in light of the continued success of the Bay cleanup effort since EPA enforcement began.
Media reaction to the 2018 amendment. In order to get the essence of the media reaction to Bob Goodlatte’s proposed amendment I performed an internet search with the argument “Goodlatte & Chesapeake Bay Cleanup.” There were 42,800 results. Here are the top 10 written in 2018 pertaining to Goodlatte’s latest attempt to restrict the EPA from enforcing the TDML Blueprint:
- Measure to weaken EPA enforcement of bay cleanup is up for House vote – again (Daily Press)
- US House again votes to restrict federal enforcement of Chesapeake Bay Cleanup (Baltimore Sun)
- Editorial: Goodlatte once again targets the bay cleanup (Fredricksburg.Com)
- Senators vow to fight stripping funds to enforce Chesapeake Bay cleanup (LA Times)
- Environmentalists claim measure will set back Chesapeake Bay (13 News Now)
- Virginia GOP Congressman Again Tries to Gut Accountability For Chesapeake Bay Cleanup (PA Environment Digest Blog)
- Goodbye and Good Riddance to Goodlatte (Bacon’s Rebellion) (LOL)
- Harris backs Bay cleanup (The Star Democrat)
- Bay Journal: Hogan urges US Senate to reject curb on EPA role in Bay cleanup (Maryland.gov)
- House Republicans Advance Bill that Would Derail Chesapeake Cleanup (NPR)
Methodology reminder. Bob Goodlatte has made many failed attempts over the years to prevent the EPA from regulating the Chesapeake Bay’s TDML Blueprint. Interspersed with articles relating to his most recent attempt were articles referencing his prior attempts. Those prior articles were omitted from this list.
Conclusion. Goodlatte seems to have very little support for his latest attempt to restrict the EPA’s authority over the Chesapeake Bay. Beyond the dearth of media articles in support of Goodlatte, seven of Virginia’s eleven U.S. House of Representative members voted against Goodlatte’s amendment. Both Virginia U.S. Senators committed to blocking the amendment in the Senate. Even Maryland’s Republican governor came out publicly against the Goodlatte amendment. I also quickly scanned the next 10 articles (numbers 11 – 20) on the sorted list of responses to my internet search. All were opposed to Goodlatte’s latest attempt to restrict EPA enforcement of the TDML Blueprint.
— Don Rippert
Carpetbagger. Bob Goodlatte is the 13-term congressman from Virginia’s 6th Congressional District who has blessedly chosen to retire this year. In my opinion he represents just about everything that is wrong with the GOP. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts and educated at Bates College in Maine, Goodlatte somehow avoids the “carpetbagger” moniker so quickly put on Terry McAuliffe by Virginia’s Republicans. He won his congressional seat at age 39 and has spent the last 26 years in Congress. Yet he goes uncriticized as a “politician for life” by the conservative Newt Gingrich types who claim to eschew such long running elected officials. He is a polluter’s best friend with apparently no concern for the property rights of those negatively affected by the pollution he justifies and defends. However, he’ll be gone soon and you’d think we’re past the damage done by this phony conservative. Oh no. Even in his final days in office Goodlatte is actively denying people protection of their property rights despite “property rights” supposedly being a core tenet of conservative Republican dogma. What a farce.
Blowing up the blueprint. The Chesapeake Bay represents not only a national treasure but a working laboratory for the protection of property rights. Certainly right thinking conservatives must believe that allowing a small minority of people and corporations to pollute a public waterway unfairly takes away the property rights of non-polluters. In the case of a waterway that borders multiple states, one would think that sensible and honest conservatives would insist that the federal government protect the property rights of all the states. Isn’t this both a core tenet of conservatism and a reasonable construct of property rights? Not according to Bob Goodlatte.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed states have claimed to be working together to clean up the Bay for the past forty years. For 31 of those years the effort failed as various states simply ignored their clean up commitments. Then, in 2009, the EPA was authorized to provide scientific leadership and oversight for a new clean-up plan — the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint. Progress has been substantial since that time. Despite Virginia being a major beneficiary of the blueprint, one of our own Congressmen has put forth an amendment to curtail the EPA’s role in this effort. You guessed it, ole Bob Goodlatte sponsored an amendment to H.R. 6147 forbidding the EPA from spending money to provide firm, science-based accountability over the blueprint. As a press release from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation puts it, “Congressman Goodlatte’s amendment would keep EPA from using any funds to provide this “firm accountability” if a state fails to meet its pollution-reduction goals set under the Blueprint.” So much for preservation of property rights from this so-called conservative.
Hall of shame. Bob Goodlatte’s amendment for the protection of raw sewage in public waters passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 213 to 202. Seven of Virginia’s Representatives (Wittman, Taylor, Scott, McEachin, Beyer, Comstock and Connolly) repudiated Sideshow Bob and his amendment by voting against it. However, four of our so-called representatives (Garrett, Goodlatte, Brat and Griffith) couldn’t find the mental acuity to understand how a clean Chesapeake Bay might help the Commonwealth of Virginia. While it’s no excuse for their buffoonery Garrett, Goodlatte and Griffith have districts far from the Bay. Brat, by comparison, has a district bordering the city of Richmond. What are the voters in the 7th district thinking? Will “Kepone Dave” get re-elected? Here’s a good article about the cleanliness of the James River in Richmond (warning: true but disgusting content)
Going forward. The congressional seat being vacated by Bob Goodlatte’s retirement will be contested by Ben Cline (R) and Jennifer Lewis (D). Cline is a member of the General Assembly and long time Goodlatte toady. Lewis is a bleeding heart liberal with minimal political experience. So far, Lewis has raised $72,000 to Cline’s $787,000. The Cook Partisan Voter Index for the district is R+13. Sadly, Cline will almost certainly win and continue the anti-conservative, anti-Virginia activities of his predecessor.
— Don Rippert
Image credit: Chesapeake Bay Foundation
The health of the Chesapeake Bay continues to improve but is still “dangerously out of balance,” declared the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CFB) in its 2014 State of the Bay report. The goods news is that bay waters were notably cleaner and the oyster population rebounded last year. The bad news is that algae blooms, deoxygenation of the water and sunlight-blocking sediment were still big problems. Losses in the blue crab and rockfish populations were particularly disheartening.
Overall, I think society has struck the right balance toward saving the bay. The fact is, Virginia faces many challenges and scarce resources to devote to them. We cannot afford to spend as much money fixing the bay as the job requires. On the other hand, we can’t let our commitment slip. The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and we must restore it. The course we’ve chosen — slowly but steadily ratcheting up standards to reduce pollution and foster the recovery of key species over time — seems appropriate.
The imposition of new storm water regulations in 2014 means that Virginians will continue to pay more in the years ahead, although much of the expense may be hidden in the cost of real estate development/redevelopment. What strikes me is that different methods of reducing nitrogen pollution vary so markedly in the cost per pound. Restoring or constructing wetlands costs $1.50 per pound of nitrogen pollution reduced, according to the CFB graphic above, while stormwater retrofits to hard infrastructure can cost up to $200 per pound saved.
Surely, there must be some way politically to channel more effort into wetlands construction ($1.50 per pound), creating vegetative buffers to farmlands ($3.20 per pound), implementing conservation tillage ($3.20 per pound) and planting cover crops ($4.70 per pound) rather than paying for massively expensive stormwater retrofits. Go for the low-hanging fruit first. Only if that doesn’t do the job, move up the scale to increasingly expensive solutions.