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Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s 2012 Grade F (9 on a scale of 70)

Inspired this time of year by the earliest signs of spring to carry on their ancient species, shad don’t know they’re failing the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s survival test.          They’re just doing what comes naturally.    
Editor’s note     Three report cards come to us in the early months of the year, each asking us to consider the health of the Chesapeake Bay and where — if anywhere — all our work is getting us.     Each arrives at a different time, uses different criteria and grading systems and supports a different agenda. How to make sense of any — let alone all — of them? Here staff writer Ashley Brotherton offers a cheat-sheet on the basics.

UniStar Nuclear is too French for Uncle Sam

Local cheering for a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs has seemed misplaced.     The economics of nuclear power are next to impossible these days with the federal government no longer able to provide loan guarantees and cheap natural gas the happening new energy source.     Then there’s Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster two years ago that rekindled safety concerns.

Many cash streams flow into cleaning up the Bay

Stormwater doesn’t stop running, especially in a Chesapeake season Noah could appreciate.     Neither does money stop flowing. Thus Maryland’s Board of Public Works — governor Martin O’Malley, comptroller Peter Franchot and treasurer Nancy K. Kopp — still have money to spend. Last week, they spent $16 million of several continually refilling pools, including the Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Nonpoint Source Fund.

Calvert high schoolers learn to lobby to save animals

I can’t resist a kitten. For six years I’ve mothered orphan kittens for Patuxent Animal Welfare Society.     But it was the numbers I couldn’t help that made me an activist. Every year in Maryland, 45,000 dogs and cats are destroyed. Maryland ranks 39th on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s state report card on animal-protection issues.

School-zone cameras add to General Assembly’s debate

Attention lead-foot drivers: Annapolis is watching you.     The capital city is setting up speed cameras in 10 school zones. Drivers clocked going 12 mph over the speed limit from 8am to 6pm will be mailed a $40 fine. Tickets from the cameras don’t come with points and won’t be sent to insurance companies.

Waterway Access Bill would get Charlie Stek — and you — safely to the water

Charlie Stek wanted his son to experience nature, fishing and paddling rivers. With Maryland’s 10,000 miles of rivers and streams — crossed by 5,176 bridges — that ought to be easy.     Yet there was no safe way to get to the water.     To fish the Patuxent, Stek and his son Alex had to park on blind curves, jump guardrails and scamper down banks.

And earn you a buck a bushel

Oyster shells could be worth more than the change in your pocket if the Oyster Recovery Partnership can talk the political talk.     The nonprofit Partnership, which has planted four billion seed oysters in its work for recovery, is now seeking to persuade legislators to pass a bill giving a $1 tax credit for every bushel of oyster shells you recycle.

Red Wigglers demonstrate the inside story of composting

Red Wiggler worms are busy digging and dining in a compost Can-O-Worms at Annmarie Garden.     Second graders visiting Annmarie Garden on daily CHESPAX field trips explore the world of composting with a little help from the Garden’s squirmy residents, about a thousand in all.     Red Wiggler worms, along with eight volunteers who do the talking, teach the students hands-on and practical ways to go green in their daily lives.

Crossword creator Ben Tausig wins Orca award for Best Crossword

When your favorite movie wins an Oscar, you can say I was there — virtually.     You’ve gotten closer than that in the world of puzzles if you’ve matched wits with Ben Tausig, winner of the Orca for Best Crossword of 2012.     Like the Oscars, the Orcas are awarded by insiders, the followers of Sam Donaldson’s blog, Diary of a Crossword Fiend.