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"To protect the unique environment and heritage of Talbot County --- its waterways, farmland and historic small towns."

Talbot County.... in the news. Important issues affecting all of us.

Chesapeake SAV plunges to lowest levels since 1986

Scientists suspect multiple factors for decline: warmer temperatures, worsening water quality and lingering effects from Tropical Storm Lee

By Karl Blankenship on May 01, 2013

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay
The amount of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake plunged 44 percent over the last three years, leaving the Bay with its lowest coverage of the crucial plants since 1986 — about the time cleanup efforts began.

Aerial survey data from 2012 show that submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV, acreage dropped 21 percent from the previous year, to 48,191 acres. It was first time Baywide underwater grass coverage declined for three consecutive years since the annual survey began in 1984.

More worrisome is that no single factor is driving the downward trend. Instead, scientists blamed multiple causes, including lingering effects from Tropical Storm Lee, which buried the Upper Bay with sediment in 2011; warm temperatures; and worsening overall water clarity.

"It's a pretty abysmal story," summed up Bob Orth, a scientist with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who oversees the annual survey. "There were very few bright spots."

Just four years ago the Bay had 85,914 acres of grasses, the second highest amount reported in recent decades.

Underwater grasses need clear water to get the sunlight they, like all plants, need to survive. Because of that tight link to water clarity, the annual SAV survey is one of the most closely watched indicators of how the Bay is doing.

Grass beds are also one of the most critical components of the Bay ecosystem. They pump oxygen into the water, trap sediments, provide food for waterfowl and shelter for fish and blue crabs.

By studying old aerial photographs taken of the Bay, scientists believe the Chesapeake contained about 185,000 acres of grasses during the first half of the last century.

With rapid increases in population, development and nutrient pollution in the decades after World War II, the amount of grasses dramatically declined. Sediment washing in from cleared land clouded the water, as did the algae blooms fed by huge increases in nitrogen and phosphorus running off farms or discharged from wastewater treatment plants.

Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 wiped out much of what was left, leaving just 38,228 acres when the aerial survey began in 1984.

Nutrient and sediment reductions required by the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or pollution diet, are intended in part to create water clear enough to again support 185,000 acres of grasses.

Lee Karrh, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and chair of the Bay Program's SAV Workgroup, cautioned against reading too much into the Baywide trend, noting that grass beds in some areas have shown an ability to bounce back rapidly.

"We probably shouldn't make too much out of it just yet," Karrh said. "It is worth being concerned about. But the sky hasn't fallen."

Less than two decades ago, the Upper Bay's Susquehanna Flats were mostly barren and scientists held out little chance for recovery. Now, lush beds occupy the area. Even after three years of decline, these beds remain the largest and healthiest in the Chesapeake.

While greatly reduced in size by a torrent of sediment washed in by Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011, Susquehanna Flats still covers thousands of acres and is capable of pumping out large amounts of seeds and plant parts, known as propagules, which can help the bed expand as well as provide a seed source to revegetate nearby rivers where grass beds were buried in the aftermath of Topical Storm Lee.

"There was a lot of seed production last year," Karrh said. "My gut feeling is that there is plenty of capacity to rebound."

But in looking at the Baywide data, he acknowledged, "It's going to be challenging to hit 185,000 acres."

Scientists monitoring Bay grasses divide the Chesapeake into three regions, the Upper, Lower and Mid Bay, each of which has its own unique characteristics. Things such as salinity changes sometimes harm species in one area but benefit those in another. Karrh noted that it is unusual for all three zones to decline in the same year.

But the Upper and Mid Bay regions have declined for three consecutive years while the Lower Bay has declined for two. Last year:

  • In the Upper Bay, which stretches from the head of the Chesapeake to the Bay Bridge, underwater grasses decreased 32 percent from 13,287 acres in 2011 to 9,087 acres last year. Since 2009, grass coverage in the upper Bay has decreased 61 percent.
  • In the Middle Bay, which stretches from the Bay Bridge to the Rappahannock River and Pocomoke Sound, acreage fell 28 percent, from an estimated 34,142 in 2011 to 24,522 acres. Since 2009, grass coverage in the Middle Bay has declined by 38 percent.
  • In the Lower Bay, which is south of the Rappahannock River and Pocomoke Sound, acreage decreased 7 percent, from 15,654 acres in 2011 to 14,582 acres last year. Over the last two years, underwater grass acreage in the Lower Bay has decreased 36 percent, after being largely unchanged from 2009 to 2010.

The overall trends — especially in the Mid and Upper Bay — suggest the difficulty in meeting the 185,000-acre goal. "Not in my lifetime," Orth said, "unless a miracle happens."

Prior to the dieback over the last three years, grasses in the Upper Bay had largely occupied their potential habitat, leaving little room for further expansion.

In the Mid Bay, there has been no trend the last two decades, and grass beds in the Lower Bay have been trending downward since the mid-1990s. Most of the potential underwater grass habitat is in the Mid and Lower Bay. Reaching the Baywide goal means those areas would need dramatic rebounds; but both face challenges.

Unlike the Upper Bay, where many low-salinity plant species thrive — 13 are found in the Susquehanna Flats alone — the Mid and Lower Bay have much less diversity.

Prior to Tropical Storm Agnes, many Mid Bay beds contained three or four grass species, which helped make them resilient. Each species tolerates a slightly different set of conditions, so when one was knocked back another was available to take its place. Now, Mid Bay beds are dominated by widgeon grass, a species notorious for its year-to-year fluctuations. Without other species to provide stability, the beds come and go based on the boom-and-bust nature of widgeon grass.

Unfortunately, other species present in those areas were so completely removed by Agnes that there are few seed sources to spur their comeback. In the rare cases where other types of grass have shown up, they have quickly died back because of poor water quality. Efforts to bring those species back have, in many instances, had little success.

The outlook in the high-salinity areas of the Lower Bay is the most worrisome. Eelgrass is the dominant species in that area, but it likes cool temperatures. As Bay water has warmed over the last decade, the large, stable eelgrass beds that once dominated the region have been dying back.

Poor water clarity has increasingly forced eelgrass out of the deeper, cooler water where it once thrived and into water less than a meter deep near the shore, which also tends to be warmer, Orth said. "It's a double whammy," he said. "This Bay warming is going to be a challenge for eelgrass."

He also noted that the aerial survey may underestimate the severity of eelgrass loss in the Bay. Surveys done last year in grass beds that had been examined over a period of years revealed that some beds that historically consisted primarily of eelgrass were increasingly dominated by widgeon grass, the only other species in the Bay that tolerates high salinities.

"We were shocked in 2012 at how much eelgrass we've lost in these areas where it is mixed with widgeon grass," Orth said. That means the Lower Chesapeake is becoming increasingly dependent on a species that widely fluctuates in abundance.

"When you have widgeon grass, which is boom or bust, you are going to have whole systems where all of a sudden there is nothing, and next year it is everywhere," he said. "To rely on the presence of that species for a very large portion of the Bay as an indicator of water quality is going to be challenging."

Improving water clarity could help grasses, especially eelgrass. Clearer water means it's easier for plants to get the sunlight they need for photosynthesis so they can conserve more energy and better withstand other stresses, such as heat.

But water clarity has been worsening in much of the Bay, and scientists are uncertain exactly why. Nutrient reductions are aimed at improving clarity by controlling algal growth. Yet scientists said that clarity was worsening even in some places where monitoring shows levels of chlorophyll a — a measure of algae in the water — seem to be improving. They said that highlighted the need for stepped-up monitoring to better understand factors impacting grass beds.

Nonetheless, Orth noted that in small coastal bays on the seaside of Virginia, where temperatures are slightly cooler and the water is clearer, eelgrass is thriving. "They are not declining the way the Bay is," he said.

Nick DiPasquale, director of the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office, echoed the call for improved water quality, saying in a statement that "this year's data is a sobering reminder of how imperative it is to continue our restoration efforts."

DiPasquale said the latest SAV data showed "both cause for concern and encouragement; while the declines are worrisome, there are still some signs of resilience in the Bay. It is good to see the Susquehanna Flats underwater grasses remaining hardy and exciting to see emerging beds in the James River."

Indeed, despite the strong downward Baywide trend, the aerial survey data did provide good news in a handful of places. Perhaps most notably, was the mainstem of the James from Richmond to the mouth of the Chickahominy River.

After being mostly devoid of grasses for decades, the survey showed beds in that area had more than doubled, from 32 acres to 67 acres.

"The James has been dominated by point source pollution for many years, and that is the place where we've made the most progress," said Bill Street, executive director of the James River Association. "I think it shows that if we are able to make some progress, we can continue to see those improvements."

The Chesapeake Bay Program has created a new dynamic online mapping tool that anyone can use to see how the Bay's underwater grasses have changed in location, abundance and species over the last 30 years. Visit: www.chesapeakebay.net/visualization/baygrasses/.

Information about SAV in the Bay and 2012 survey results are also available on the VIMS website at http://web.vims.edu/bio/sav/index.html.

New SAV strategy to focus on smaller restoration projects

Scientists hope to learn more about what conditions are needed by grass beds to survive.

With underwater grass beds in a downward trend, a new strategy from the Bay Program outlines new research, protection and restoration efforts needed to revive these critical habitats.

In a sharp contrast to the last strategy, written a decade ago, it scales back calls for large plantings of new grass beds in favor of smaller projects where scientists hope they can learn more about conditions needed for underwater grasses to survive.

But the strategy's overriding goal remains the same — like the previous strategy, it says it is "essential" that jurisdictions achieve the Bay water clarity goals that produce the minimum light requirements necessary to achieve 185,000 acres of underwater grass beds.

Like all plants, submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV, needs light to survive, and today's murky Bay makes many historic habitats off-limits. Achieving Baywide nutrient and sediment reduction goals is considered an overriding objective for the widespread recovery of underwater grass beds.

The strategy also says that regulatory programs need to protect existing grass beds from disturbances, including dredging, boating, fishing or other activities that directly affect grass beds. In addition, it said that particularly important beds should be identified and get extra protection. It also calls for efforts to minimize disturbances to grass beds from exotic species such as mute swans or water chestnuts.

In a significant change, the strategy also calls for regulatory programs to protect from disturbance potential SAV habitat — areas where underwater grass beds were once present but do not exist today.

"We have enough problems reaching 185,000 acres," said Lee Karrh, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and chair of the Bay Program SAV Workgroup, which wrote the strategy. "If we are reducing that footprint where that grass once occurred by building something over the top of it, it makes it that much more challenging. Now you have to find different areas to reach your goal."

The largest change in the strategy is the smaller SAV planting goal. The 2003 strategy had called for planting 1,000 acres of grasses by 2008, or 200 acres a year. Only about 150 acres ended up being planted, largely because of a lack of funding. Most of those planted in the Bay died, although large plantings in coastal bays on the seaside of Virginia thrived.

The new strategy calls for planting at least 20 acres a year Baywide, and sets forth rigorous monitoring requirements so scientists can better understand why plantings in the Chesapeake succeed or fail.

"The ultimate goal is to make a habitat difference locally, and also learn how to apply the lessons learned at a much larger scale in the future," Karrh said. "If you don't learn something from your activities and do it better in the future, you are just wasting your money."

Indeed, the strategy emphasizes the need for increased water quality monitoring and research to bolster underwater grass levels, which are now at a 26-year low. Much of the monitoring in the Bay and its tidal rivers is conducted in channels, far from the shallow water where underwater grasses grow, and studies suggest water clarity can be significantly different in those near-shore areas.

The strategy notes there has been "virtually no funding" for SAV restoration research in the last five years, but says ramped-up studies are needed to understand impediments to restoring SAV in unvegetated areas.

Bay water clarity goals are based on research that identified the extent of water quality needed to maintain existing beds. But restoring grasses in barren areas may require even better water quality. "Once we determine what those restoration requirements are, we will be in a much better position to know if it is possible, if it is practical, to try large-scale restoration again," Karrh said.

In addition, past projects have indicated that other factors, such as sediment type, waves, the condition of nearby shorelines and disturbances in the watershed may also affect the ability of grass beds to survive. Understanding how all of these factors influence grass bed regrowth is "not going to be easy, but it is going to be huge," Karrh said. "It will be a very big piece going forward."

The strategy also calls for research to better understand how climate change and sea level rise will affect underwater grass beds, and the extent to which grasses will be able to adapt to those changes. In particular, eelgrass in the Lower Bay has been shown to be sensitive to warmer water and scientists are worried about its ability to persist in the Chesapeake.

Because they are out of sight to many people, scientists often consider underwater grasses to be an unappreciated habitat — one author described them as the "ugly duckling" of coastal ecosystems. The strategy calls for increased efforts to improve public awareness and understanding of the importance of underwater grass beds.

Originally published in the Bay Journal, republished with permission from the Talbot Spy

A Community Conversation: Talbot County: An Economic Profile

On May 13, 6 p.m. at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton, the Director of Talbot County’s Office of Economic Development, Paige Bethke, will present an analysis of current conditions and the prospects for our county’s future. Members of the community including Janice Bain-Kerr, LWV Mid-Shore, participated in the study that is the basis of this presentation. Hope you can come to discuss with Ms Bethke the outcomes of the study. This program is free and open to the public. www.tcfl.org

State of the Rivers report card released
Star Democrat April 16, 2013


EASTON - The Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy's (MRC) State of the Rivers Party on Friday night wasn't just about presenting the 2012 report card for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, but about spreading a message of conservationism, too.

"It's not just about the Bay, it's about places that you all connect with - parks in your neighborhood, the local stream, the Tred Avon. It's all of it," Dr. Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, said.

According to MRC, 122 sites from the Miles and Wye Rivers Watershed and the Choptank Watershed were tested for dissolved oxygen levels, water clarity, algae growth and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen.

The Choptank River scored a C+ grade on MRC's 2012 report card, which is roughly equal to its 2011 score.

Drew Koslow, the Choptank Riverkeeper, said drought conditions, like the ones faced in 2012, usually make for better water quality because of less runoff, more underwater grasses and strong oyster production due to high salinity levels.

But, Koslow said, the Choptank's underwater grasses declined in 2012 after having a resurgence in 2011 and it's hard to explain why the grass is there one year and not the next.

He said the Choptank also scored worse on phosphorus levels in 2012, and he hypothesized that it's because phosphorus is becoming mobile and moving with ground water.

Agriculture constitutes about 62 percent of the Choptank River Watershed's land use, he said.

"When you hear the majority of pollution and nutrients are coming from agriculture, it makes sense because it's dominant land use in our watershed," Koslow said. "We're right now working with farmers in environmental communities to put projects in the ground to reduce pollution. If we lose agriculture, we're going to have sprawl development and we're just going to lose our quality of life."

Harris Creek, an oyster sanctuary, saw an improved grade of a B in 2012, stemming from improved nitrogen levels, Koslow said.

Though Koslow said he couldn't pinpoint where the nitrogen is coming from, a big reason nitrogen levels improved in 2012 was probably because of the cover crop program.

"After three years of cover crops, you start seeing the big reduction. It's not a stretch to say that the reason we're seeing such improvements in nitrogen is because the cover crops the farmers are planting," Koslow said.

Davis said the number of people engaging in projects aimed to protect or restore the Bay watershed is increasing, and that almost fives times more people significantly care about the watershed than those who don't.

"The Chesapeake Bay story is one that people are looking to around the world. People are looking here to see how we solve this problem because of the various challenges and the various sectors that have to be engaged," Davis said.

But, she said, ensuring the Bay's protection and restoration isn't just about collecting scientific data, it's about being proactive and pushing neighbors to do the same.

Wye and Miles Riverkeeper Tom Leigh echoed that in his presentation on the parts of the watershed from which he collected data.

"We're all in this together and we can't fix this without your help, and we need you all to tell two friends. We need you to ask them to tell two friends," Leigh said. "Unless you get out and get into the river and streams - that changes things, that's a game-changing event. It's relatively insignificant when one or two or 10 people do it, but taken cumulatively ... makes an enormous difference and the system will respond to that."

The Eastern Bay was included in MRC's report card for the first time and got a B grade.

According to MRC, the better grades in the Eastern Bay aren't surprising as it's a well-flushed body of water, open to the tidal flows of the Bay and has less proportionate influence from land-based runoff and groundwater.

The Eastern Bay's better results, according to MRC, mean that the excess of nutrients and sediment in rivers in the watershed comes primarily from surrounding land, and possible practices people do on land that could result in pollution threats must be addressed.

"Somebody lives downstream from you, and guess what, somebody lives upstream from you, and keep that in your mind," Leigh said. "Shout it from the tree tops, should it loud and shout it often and it will ... get heard, it will get noticed, it will get the job done."

April 16, 2013
Letter to the Editor - Fertilizer

The Star Democrat’s April 16 article summarizing the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy’s State of the Rivers event held on April 12 gave an excellent recap of the meeting. One point made deserves special emphasis however: much of the degradation of the Eastern Shore Rivers is due to fertilizer.

One often-overlooked source of fertilizer that contaminates our creeks and rivers is lawn fertilizer. We should begin to realize that a lush green lawn is not a good thing. We must understand that the fertilizer used on lawns also creates lush green algae. Algae uses oxygen needed for animal life (oysters, crabs, fish) and it also prevents light from reaching submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). So what? SAV produces oxygen needed for animal life, including oysters that filter the water. Thus, without the nitrogen from fertilizer, the water quality improves.

The moral of this story is that lush lawns mean poor water quality. A healthy but non- fertilized lawn should be a matter of pride because such a lawn means healthier creeks and rivers, and ultimately a healthier Bay.

February 7, 2013
Craig Tanio, M.D., Chair
Maryland Health Care Commission
4160 Patterson Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21215

Re: Docket No. 12-20-2339 (Shore Health System)

Dear Dr. Tanio:

I write on behalf of Talbot Preservation Alliance regarding the above captioned pending certificate of need application filed by Shore Health SystemfUniversity of Maryland Medical System. TPA is an all volunteer bipartisan citizens group that has been active in Talbot County for the past 15 years, engaging with local government on development and land use issues.

Five years ago TPA organized a petition drive which garnered the signatures of 10,000 local citizens (a considerable number for the Eastern Shore), in support of retaining a new Memorial Hospital in or adjacent to Easton here in Talbot County. That same broad based local community support continues today.

We have been alarmed by the ongoing efforts of Queen Anne's County/Caroline County to gain "interested party" status in connection with the CON proceeding. We urge the MHCC not to set the dangerous precedent of approving such status in circumstances driven by political considerations and economic interests, rather than by the traditional objective health care planning criteria that the MHCC always has used in passing on a pending CON application.

We submit that the MHCC should not condone the attempted use of "interested party" status as leverage on the part of one jurisdiction to bargain with another, or with a CON applicant. Queen Anne's/Caroline counties claim they need a "seat at the table" in order to induce SHS/UMMS to afford them certain unidentified amenities that they apparently believe will benefit their citizens. But QAC/Caroline, not to mention Senator EJ. Pipkin, have been acutely aware of the intention to build a new Memorial Hospital for at least the past five years, and have had ample opportunity to engage in a dialogue with SHS over their perceived health care needs. Indeed, QAC already has induced UMMS to construct a new free standing emergency room in Grasonville, which confirms that the county has ample ability to persuade SHS to respond to its needs without the necessity of "interested party" status in a CON proceeding.

We therefore respectfully urge you to deny interested party status for QAC/Caroline, so as not to set an unfortunate precedent and in order to preserve the use of that status for its intended purposes, in connection with objective health care planning, in the future.

We similarly urge the Commission, of course, to grant the pending Certificate of Need. Ample time and study went into the planning process over multiple years before the CON was filed, which established that the proposed location just north of Easton is by far the most accessible site for all of the multi-county patient constituency that the hospital will serve. Memorial Hospital already operates as a regional health care facility, and its regional reach will be only enhanced by its relocation to an even more accessible location as proposed in the CON application.

For all of these reasons we hope that the Commission will deny the "interested party" entreaties of QAC/Caroline, and that the Commission will promptly approve the certificate of need so that the new hospital project may get underway. Thank you for considering these comments.

Very truly yours, ~~~ Thomas T. Alspach, President



The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), the owner of Shore Health System (SHS), has proposed to locate a new Memorial Hospital on Longwoods Road, near the Talbot County airport. That proposal is under review and must be approved by the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC).

But Senator E.J. Pipkin on behalf of Queen Anne's County (QAC) is working to delay or block the UMMS/SHS proposal, opening the door to the relocation of the hospital to Queen Anne’s County.

Surprisingly, UMMS/SHS have not pushed back against the Pipkin/Queen Anne's County


For a sample email click here

Mr. Paul Parker, MD Health Care Commission
Center for Hospital Services
4160 Patterson Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21215

For those interested in development issues in Queen Anne’s County, The Talbot Preservation Alliance, in cooperation with our friends there, announces the new non-partisan organization: Citizens Watch of Queen Anne’s County, Inc.  This group is the successor to Citizens Alliance to Save Our County.  The link to Citizens Watch is www.citizenswatchqac.org.  Those of us in Talbot County should follow closely development in Queen Anne’s County, especially along Route 50, since traffic congestion there from overdevelopment will adversely affect Talbot County residents.The Talbot Preservation Alliance was founded in 1999 by Talbot County citizens with the common goal of preserving the unique and fragile environment of our county. We work to accomplish this objective through education, advocacy and, occasionally, through litigation.

QAC and Caroline Want to Weigh In On Easton Memorial Plans

Posted on the Talbot Spy January 2, 2013

A plan in development since 2007 to relocate the Easton Memorial Hospital within town limits may be in jeopardy, said Easton Town Councilwoman Kelley Malone in an email on New Year’s Eve.

“The relocation within Town limits was a result of intense community involvement and activism recognizing the devastating impact a move out of Town and County would have on our local economy,” Malone wrote in her email. “[The hospital] is the largest employer in the Town…and ancillary healthcare establishments are critical to Easton’s economy.”

Malone fears that a recent filing with the Maryland Health Care Commission by Senator EJ Pipkin, R-Queen Anne’s, could result in Queen Anne’s and Caroline Counties obtaining an “interested party” status, which could possibly lead to the hospital being located out of town. Pipkin and the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners appeared before the Maryland Health Care Commission in October and requested Queen Anne’s and Caroline Counties be named as “interested parties,” which means either county could file a petition that could possibly hold up the process of locating the hospital near the Easton Airport, Malone said.

“As a result, if the designation sticks, one piece of paper filed at a cost of $100 bucks by a Queen Anne or Caroline County Commissioner would all but kill years of collaborative work between Easton, Talbot County, Shore Health and UMMS to keep our hospital within town limits,” Malone wrote.

Malone said Easton taxpayers have already spent over $2 million for water and sewer on land that was donated to the town by Talbot County.

Easton Town Council members met with Del. Addie Eckardt, R-Talbot, Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Talbot, and Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, who oppose giving the “interested party” designation to QAC and Caroline.

“The Town and County have been in close collaboration so as to present a united and strong front in defending our hospital and local economy,” Malone wrote.

But QAC Commissioner David Dunmyer said it is not the intention of QAC or Caroline to change the planned relocation of the hospital near the Easton Airport.

“This is absolutely not an attempt to take the hospital out of Talbot County, or change the relocation plans,” Dunmyer said.

“If I find out thats where it is going, I will come out hard against it,” Dunmyer told the Spy on Wednesday–speaking by phone from the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Cambridge. “I voted for “interested party” status so we could make sure the needs of QAC is met in establishing a regional hospital. We feel we deserve that because we actually contribute more patients to the hospital the any of the other counties.”

“I think the location near the airport benefits QAC,” Dunmyer said. “It puts the hospital closer to us. I like the location.”

QAC Commissioner Bob Simmons echoed Dunmyer’s statements and said “there has never been any conversations about trying to get the hospital moved from its designated spot.”

Simmons said there would be nothing gained by trying to move hospital but said the “interested party” status was to make sure QAC’s interests were represented.

“We’re trying to get the assurances that QAC has its needs met and has a voice in the direction of the hospital,” Simmons said.

QAC and Caroline do not currently have acute care facilities, but they each send more patients to Easton Memorial than Talbot County, according to a Sept. 20 letter Pipkin wrote to the Maryland Health Care Commission requesting the “interested party” status.

“The health and well-being of Queen Anne’s and Caroline Counties depend on their standing as interested parties in the relocation,” Pipkin wrote. “Any decision made by the Commission relating to the [hospital] extends beyond Talbot County, affecting both Queen Anne’s and Caroline. The two counties should have a clear path to “interested party” status in this matter

"On-Farm Implementation Reviews and Inspections"
Betweeen July 1, 2012 and November 15, 2012, MDA conducted 295 on-farm implementation reviews and inspections to ensure that nutrient management plans are current, records are in line with plans, and that the farmer is using the plan to properly manage nutrients. Approximately 70 percent of the farms inspected were in compliance. Warnings were issued to 94 farmers. More than 50 percent of the violations were due to expired nutrient management plans. Since July 1, 2012, MDA has collected one $100 fine from a farmer who failed to take corrective actions.
Source: Maryland Nutrient Management News

Editor's Note: If 30% of Maryland farmers aren't following their nutrient management plans and the fines are only $100, does this constitute adequate enforcement? Maryland law requires all Maryland farmers to have a "nutrient management plan" that closely regulates how much ferilizer (or manure) is applied to their fields and when. Food for thought!

Important Notification for all Talbot County Residents:
Flood Insurance Rate Map Changes

The federal government is updating Talbot County’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). Two public meetings were held on October 16th, 2012 for the public to learn more about the changes and how they may affect your property and flood insurance rates.

Representatives from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) made presentations and discussed the process and the program changes. To view a flood map of your property or for more information on the new Flood Insurance Study and Updated Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs).

Visit: www.mdfloodmaps.com, www.msc.fema.gov
or www.talbotcountymd.gov or call the Talbot County Office of Planning
and Zoning at (410) 770-8030

LETTER TO EDITOR- published Oct.,25, 2012

In a recent letter, Debbi Patten claims that it is not Eastern Shore rivers but “…rivers, dams, and overflowing sewer systems north of us that are causing the majority of the problems”. As far as our local rivers are concerned, that assertion is false.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported in May of this year that the Choptank River is one of only two rivers in the entire multi-state Bay watershed in which observed nitrogen levels continue to rise. The U.S.G.S. also reported that nitrogen levels in Pennsylvania’s rivers are going down. Empirical data also show that both nitrogen and phosphorus levels are higher in the headwaters of Eastern Shore rivers than at the mouths. If the problem stems from “up north,” how is this possible?

Multiple peer reviewed reports show that air deposition only adds 10-15 pounds per acre per year of nitrogen, an amount easily absorbed by any vegetated surface. The state’s “Baystat” website reports that wastewater (septics included) provides less than 9 percent of the Choptank’s nitrogen load. “Baystat” also reports that local agriculture is responsible for almost 75 percent of the nitrogen load in the Choptank.

Agricultural practices on the Shore have drastically changed over the last 50- 60 years as the production of chicken feed has replaced a previously well- diversified farm economy. This change, including a stratospheric increase in nitrogen applied to corn, is almost solely responsible for the corresponding meteoric rise of nitrogen contamination in our local waters.

Clean up our Rivers

Soon, all of us will be called on to support a court-ordered clean-up program. There are effective, less-expensive ways to get this done!

Click here to the very informative presentation and learn more on ways you can help!

What We Can Do: Contact Information and Suggested Actions

Talbot County Council
1. Urge the County Council to lobby for revisions to the state fertilizer act that would permit local control over residential fertilizer application.
2. Urge the County Council to expand the agricultural buffer width to 60 feet.

Corey Pack, cpack@talbotcountymd.gov
Andy Hollis, ahollis@talbotcountymd.gov
Laura Price, lprice@talbotcountymd.gov
Dirck Bartlett, dbartlett@talbotcountymd.gov
Tom Duncan, tduncan@talbotcountymd.gov
Mailing Address: 11 North Washington Street, Easton, MD 21601

State Legislators
1. Urge members to advocate for county control over residential fertilizer application.
2. Urge members to advocate for mandatory traditional cover crops for all recipients of federal crop subsidies.
3. Urge members to advocate for eliminating financial incentives for commodity cover crops.

Richard Colburn, richard.colburn@senate.state.md.us
Mailing Address: James Senate Office Bldg, Room 315, 11 Bladen St, Annapolis, MD 21401

Addie Eckhardt, Adelaide.eckhardt@house.state.md.us
Mailing Address: House Office Bldg., Room 213, 6 Bladen St, Annapolis, MD 21401

Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, jeannie.haddaway@house.state.md.us
Mailing Address: House Office Bldg, Room 212, 6 Bladen St, Annapolis, MD 21401

State Level Officials
Submit comments on the Maryland draft Phase II watershed Implementation Plan (WIP)
1. Urge abandonment of the “Basin Model” concept.
2. Instead, insist on numeric, county-by-county targets for pollution reduction.
3. Insist on numeric, quantified reduction targets for each sector of the Watershed Implementation Plan: county septic and storm water, and county agricultural.

Tom Thornton,
Maryland State Total Mean Daily Load (TMDL) Coordinator
phaseIIwip@mde.state.md.us and tthornton@mde.state.md.us

Be sure submit comments on the Maryland Draft Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP)! wipcoordinator@mde.state.md.us

If you would like to join Talbot Preservation Alliance, please contact us directly via email: info@talbotpreservation.org

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