Dock of the Bay
Vol. 9, No. 43
October 25-31, 2001
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photo by Mark Burns
Admiral of the Chesapeake Earl White, left, captains the skipjack Stanley Norman, where Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s William Goldsborough, center, explains to Congressman Wayne Gilchrest how oysters keep Chesapeake Bay healthy.
The Little Oyster That Could

The tie is traded for baseball cap and gloves as Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrest (R) slices open a mesh bag of oysters and dumps them over the side of the skipjack Stanley Norman. He’s seeding an oyster reef at the mouth of the Severn River and learning about oyster restoration even while promoting federal conservation.

Gilchrest’s oysters come to rest on a pile of their forebears, gathered on a solid hump beneath the river’s surface. Or so he’s told. There are not yet enough of the filter feeders in residence here to clear a view through the water. Eventually, though, these oysters and the spat they spawn may cement themselves to this ever-growing pile, generation by generation, building a reef.

This is one of 24 reefs being rebuilt throughout the Maryland Bay as the backbone of oyster restoration. Before 1850, the Bay may have been carpeted in as many as 400,000 acres of oysters; today’s total may be only two percent of that. The 2010 goal is to rebuild the oyster population to roughly 10 percent of that historic high.

Key, says Gilchrest, is building more permanent sanctuaries.

“If we reach the point where we have enough sanctuaries with healthy oysters that are disease resistant, we could greatly increase the oyster harvest from where it is now,” he says. “So everybody would benefit. Water quality would benefit. The watermen would benefit. The habitat would benefit.”

Blue crabs would benefit, too. More oysters would do their part by cleaning the water. Cleaner waters would grow more grasses. Grasses would shelter the sidewalkers.

To make sure it all works, Gilchrest wants to pass laws to expand “marine protected areas” — such as existing sanctuaries — and drive forward an “ecosystem fisheries management plan” to rehabilitate entire ecosystems.

Already at work are the Oyster Recovery Partnership, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, watermen, industry, scientists, environmentalists, local non-profits, federal agencies and many more — all with millions and millions of tax-payer dollars. Still, today’s effort is a small-scale prototype of Gilchrest’s dream.
“We’re all swimming in the same direction, but some of us are using the breast stroke, some of us are using the crawl,” said Col. David Hansen, of the Army Corps of Engineers, in describing the different means reaching toward the same end: replenishing oysters to clean up the Bay and salvage an endangered industry.

Conservationists help with seeding projects in rivers along either shore. Scientists in Maryland and Virginia combat the native bane dermo, a disease rampant in low-salinity areas, and the exotic disease MSX, dominant in briny quarters, by breeding millions of disease-resistant oysters. Advocates of beleaguered watermen and packing companies make impassioned pleas to the state for more and better aquaculture rights. Chesapeake Bay Foundation supports shutting off sanctuaries entirely, even from recreational fishing, so scientists can research how reefs fare without human interference. The Coastal Conservation Association is worried that expansion of vaguely defined “marine protected areas” might leave anglers out of prime fishing holes.

So restoration is not quite so fluid as an Esther Williams’ routine. But it is a prototype, says Gilchrest, that can be synchronized.

From here, the congressman hopes, similar partnerships will stretch as far as Guam.

— Mark Burns

Fitzwater Helps Calvert Build a New Library

Like Donnie Radcliffe of Lusby, some authors claim fame because of who they write about. First ladies Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush were Radcliffe’s ticket. Other authors like former White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater of Deale, are famous because of what they’ve done.

Both have a hand in Calvert Library Foundation’s Authors by the Bay fund-raising series to help build new libraries. Radcliffe works behind the scene, publicizing the series. On Oct. 27, Fitzwater will step to the podium to build libraries.

The libraries’ first construction is planned for Prince Frederick, a $3 million Community Learning Center that will be a giant step beyond a conventional library. A $400,000 grant from the state will also help. The vast bulk of the money comes from the county.

Fitzwater becomes the series’ third library-building author. After describing how his discovery of a mysterious Uncle Jay led to his novel set in Kansas, Esther’s Pillow, he will read its first chapter. Then he’ll likely take his audience behind the scenes at the television sitcom West Wing, where he’s a consultant. He’s sure to discuss his novel in progress before breaking into the standard question-and-answer session. He will no doubt be asked his opinion of the terrorist attacks. He, as well as the audience, will likely enjoy questions about his 1995 book, Call the Briefing, about his perspective from behind the White House briefing podium.

The first author in the Calvert library series, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, saw plenty of Fitzwater, behind at the White House podium. A columnist for the Hearst News Service, Thomas worked 57 years for United Press International.

“Her event raised more money than we expected,” Calvert Library Foundation’s Pete Hively notes, “It brought us some very good publicity and it helped make people more aware of the need to expand the library system in Calvert County.”

The turnout was even larger for the second author, Diane Rehm, the nationally syndicated, National Public Radio talk show host.

Fitzwater is the series’ first author of — and soon to be about — Chesapeake Country. He’s setting his third book on the Bay. It’s a mystery centered on a lawyer who leaves Georgetown for Deale, where he buys a crab boat and gets involved in a land-use dispute. For spice, this book’s characters will, Fitzwater promises, “have a sex life.”

As liaison between presidents and the press, Fitzwater is used to deflecting questions he doesn’t want to answer. So you might not get any further on sex life. But, judging from past readings, he’s willing to talk about his typical day as a former White House press secretary or how many times his books were rejected before they were published.

“What I particularly enjoy about the series is the Q and A between audience and author,” said Radcliffe, a former Washington Post reporter “And knowing Fitzwater, I expect him to be particularly informative as well as entertaining.”

With Fitzwater continuing Authors by the Bay’s record of success, Hively says the Foundation hopes “to organize two events a year and continue the series for the foreseeable future.”

Meet Marlin Fitzwater, pepper him with questions and get his autograph on your copy of Esther’s Pillow Sat., October 27, 7–9pm @ King’s Landing Park, Huntingtown. Tickets $20 at any Calvert library: 301/855-1862.

— Jana Barberio

Update: Giant Blocked at Cal-Arundel Line

The bottom line, in Chesapeake Country, is often a sewer line. Which is why a Giant is now less likely to stand 2.3 miles from the Bay.

On October 23, the Calvert County Commissioners refused by a vote of three to two to extend the Windy Hill Sanitary District to the intersection of Route 260 — the main highway to North
Beach and Chesapeake Beach — and Boyd’s Turn Road.

For the southwest corner, Giant Foods had proposed a store of about 50,000 square feet, roughly the size of the nearest supermarket, the Safeway in Dunkirk. The property was commercially zoned, but sewer was the missing link.

“To provide for an extensive development like Giant,” said Calvert County Director of Planning Frank Jaklitsch, “they would have needed public sewer.”

The commissioners refused the sewer extension a week after a meeting where they listened to testimony of 400 citizens largely opposed to the development. Such a development would also violate the county’s comprehensive plan, which directs major development to town centers.

Citizens now celebrating have won a battle, but perhaps not the war. “Without that sewer connection,” Jaklitsch told Bay Weekly, “the owners can still use property for a commercial development — but it will not be such a large grocery store.”

Just how big or small, Calvert County, at least, doesn’t know.
How much development a septic system could sustain depends, according to Jimmy Herriman of the county health department, “on the type of soil and the volume and type of sewage.” To find out how fast water moves thru soil, Herriman said, “we’d have to do a perk test, and we have not had that request.”


What’s a Nice Boat Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

As my fishing parties see a boat at rest on a stone jetty, exclamations of ‘oh my!’ (among others) accent the unusual predicament. Once again we have a boat parked on the stone jetty outside of Deale. The powerboat landed in the night of October 3. By the time she was removed a week later, her ironic name, Getaway, and hailing port Camp Springs, Pa., were legendary for misfortune.

The only fortunate note in the story is that no one was seriously hurt — this time.

As we’ve had almost one a year similarly placed over the last decade, extra precaution may be needed on approaching the Deale Harbor.

This stone jetty divides Rockhold Creek from Herring Bay. From the north side of the harbor entrance, it juts out 900 feet. Its job is to stop the channel from silting in as well as to keep heavy seas from washing into the harbor and disturbing boats in their slips. Similar breakwaters exist up and down the Bay. Clearly, boaters must use caution in the area of these jetties.

The Getaway ran afoul of the Deale jetty at night on a high tide, when only part of the jetty is exposed. It’s likely that the captain, approaching from the north or northeast, made the mistake of lining up on the second set of lighted channel markers instead of the first.
Don’t let this happen to you.

  • Approach the entrance to any harbor, and especially Rockhold Creek, at a slow and safe speed.
  • Be cautious and courteous to other boats around you.
  • Use radar, GPS or other navigational aids to locate the markers and the stone jetty before you approach the entrance.
  • When approaching at night, make sure you are lined up on the first set of markers.
  • During nighttime or times of reduced visibility, if you are unsure of your position, or uneasy about your approach, stop. Get your bearings. Shine a spotlight on the markers and the jetty to ensure safe passage.
  • Never use alcohol or drugs while operating a boat. Stay awake and aware.

Plans are underway for dredging, new markers and a new jetty for the Deale harbor. With these changes in store, it’s even more important to use caution.

— Capt. Jim Brincefield

Way Downstream …

In Virginia, Democratic candidate for governor Mark Warner made it a clean sweep by winning endorsements of Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth in his campaign against state Attorney General Mark Earley. Warner vows to spend $40 million yearly to protect Virginia open spaces …

In Calvert County, Maryland resource officials will hold the third of three crab meetings next week that could result in further limitations and even a higher minimum crab size. The meeting will take place at 7pm Nov. 1 at the Holiday Inn in Solomons

In Boston, authorities finally allowed a ship containing liquefied natural gas to dock after concerns about terrorist attacks. Security for LNG vessels will be an issue on Chesapeake Bay if authorities follow through with plans to allow re-opening of the Cove Point facility, which holds extra peril because of its close proximity to the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant

Our Creature Feature comes from Wyoming, where a bear’s pursuit of chocolate chip cookies has her in deep trouble. Accompanied by a cub or two, the bear smashed a window in a locked car on Casper Mountain last week to get at the cookies.

The same bear has been demolishing bird feeders for the seeds and raiding garbage cans and dumpsters after a dry summer left little to forage. The owner of the auto, unhappy at the clawed seats, said the cookie heist was the most aggressive bear behavior she has seen. Fearing attacks on humans, rangers were tracking the bear. They promise no decisive action until spring, when the cubs could fend for themselves.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly