Monday, June 14, 2010

Virginia Water Radio 21: Week of June 14, 2010

Welcome to Virginia Water Radio (Episode 21) for the week of June 14, 2010. This week's show is hosted by Alan Raflo, research associate at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, located at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Our show presents news and notices that relate to Virginia’s waters, from the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean.

[Sound file deleted 12-13-11.  For access to archived file, contact Virginia Water Radio.]

NEWS

  • On June 2, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, or DGIF, issued an update on the occurrence of spring fish kills and disease in the Shenandoah and James River basins. Spring kills of varying extent have been reported in the Shenandoah basin since 2004 and in the James basin since 2007. According to the update, this spring reports of disease or death in Smallmouth Bass and sunfish have been “light” in the Shenandoah basin and “almost non-existent” in the James basin, and the mortality and disease levels are similar to what was seen in 2009. Through studies of fish condition, aquatic invertebrates, potential chemical contaminants, and potential pathogens, state agency staff and scientists continue to work on finding the causes of the repeated spring kills and disease. But the DGIF report states that “determining the cause…has proven to be extremely difficult.”  News source: Shenandoah and James River Fish Disease and Mortality Investigation: Spring 2010 Update, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 6/2/10. More information about the chronic spring fish kills is available from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Web site, http://www.deq.state.va.us/info/srfishkill.html.
  • On June 3, in Baltimore, the Chesapeake Executive Council held its annual meeting to discuss progress by the Bay states and federal government toward restoring the Chesapeake. The Executive Council includes chief executives from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the U.S. EPA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The day before the annual meeting, 56 Bay-area politicians, scientists, and environmental organizations sent the executive council a letter in which they asserted that, quote, “after 26 years of effort, the formal Bay Program and the restoration efforts under the voluntary, collaborative approach currently in place have not worked, and current efforts have been insufficient and are failing,” unquote. The letter cited three examples where Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania are not making scheduled progress on various restoration goals, and it called for states to develop watershed implementation plans that include 25 specific state actions to reduce nutrient and sediment loads to the Bay.  News sources: “Region leaders cite progress in Chesapeake Bay cleanup; ecologists want EPA to act,” Washington Post, 6/4/10; and "Voluntary, Collaborative" Bay Cleanup Is Failing. A Call For Stronger Action and Regulation. Bay Daily, 6/2/10.
  • On June 5, a prescription drug and needle take-back program at two hospitals in Spotsylvania and Stafford counties attracted 143 people who dropped off 312 pounds of drugs and 19 bags of needles. The event was part of Operation Medicine Cabinet, a nationwide effort to prevent improper use of medications and to prevent environmental contamination of aquatic systems by unused medications. Pharmaceuticals are one group of so-called “emerging contaminants” in water resources that are suspected of being linked to endocrine, or hormonal, problems in aquatic animals, such as the presence of male and female characteristics in fish, which have been observed in various waterways, including the Potomac River.  News source: Program throws away meds, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 6/8/10. More information about Operation Medicine Cabinet is available online at http://www.operationmedicinecabinet.org/. http://www.operationmedicinecabinet.org/. More information reports of intersex characteristics in fish in the Potomac River watershed is available from the November 24, 2009, Washington Post article, “Six years later, gender-bending fish in our water supply remain a mystery.” More information reports of intersex characteristics in fish nationwide is available from Widespread Occurrence of Intersex Bass Found in U.S. Rivers, U.S. Geological Survey News Release, 9/14/09.
  • And in our last news items this week: This spring at Swift Creek Elementary School in Midlothian (in Chesterfield County), fourth-graders teamed with kindergarteners to survey frogs living near Swift Creek, an Appomattox River tributary. The students placed about 100 PVC pipe sections around the creek in an attempt to attract frogs to these artificial shelters and allow the students to study the frogs’ life cycles and behavior, including the calls of different species. The project is one of several school-research projects around the state supported by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Classroom Grant program. The grants are designed to help schools provide “meaningful watershed experiences” in which students participate in structured outdoor activities that involve investigation, problem-solving, and communicating conclusions.  News Source: Students get froggy in Swift Creek watershed, Chesterfield Observer, 5/27/10. More information: The definition of a “Meaningful Watershed Experience” is available at the DEQ Classroom Grants Web site, http://www.deq.state.va.us/vanaturally/classroomgrants.html, as of 6/1/10.
WATER SOUNDS AND MUSIC

This week we featured a new mystery sound: spouting wales

Spouting occurs when resurfacing whales breathe through their blowhole, which is a nostril on top of their head. Several species of whales, including six species considered to be endangered, are believed to pass through Virginia waters. Winter whale-watching trips for Humpback and Fin whales, for example, are a popular activity in Virginia Beach. Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sound Clips Web site for making this recording available for public use.
Detailed information on whale species found in waters off Virginia’s coast is available in The Marine Mammals of Virginia (with notes on identification and natural history), by Robert A. Blaylock, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, 1985; online at http://nsgd.gso.uri.edu/vsgcp/vsgcpe85001.pdf. For information on endangered whale species that may be seen in Virginia waters, see A Guide to Endangered and Threatened Species in Virginia, by Karen Terwilliger and John Tate, McDonald and Woodward, 1995. Information about whale watching off Virginia Beach is available from the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site or from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center Web site.

UPCOMING MEETINGS AND EVENTS

First, in government policy and regulatory meetings occurring between June 17 and June 24.

  • On June 21, the State Water Control Board meets in Richmond. The meeting will continue on June 22 if necessary. For more information, phone Cindy Berndt at (804) 698-4378.
  •  Also on June 21, the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board meets in Richmond. For more information, phone David Dowling at (804) 786-2291.
  • On June 22, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission meets in Newport News. For more information, phone Jane McCroskey at (757) 247-2215.
  • On June 23, the Department of Health’s Sewage Handling and Disposal Appeal Review Board meets in Richmond. For more information, phone Donna Tiller at (804) 864-7470.
Now, here’s one upcoming meeting about Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, for impaired waters:
  • June 24 in Rockbridge Baths, on the TMDL implementation plan for Hays Creek and three tributaries in Rockbridge and Augusta counties. For more information, phone Nesha McRae at (540) 332-9238.
Finally, in upcoming educational and recreational events.  This week we focus on four river events coming up in July:
  • From July 8 to 11, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin is holding the Potomac River Ramble, a paddling, camping, and learning trip. For more information, phone (301) 984-1908. 
  • On July 10, the James River Association is holding the James River Runoff Rundown, a fundraising activity attempting to have boaters cover all 340 miles of the James in one day. For more information, phone (804) 788-8811. 
  • On July 17, at the Low Water Bridge Campground in Warren County, the Potomac and Shenandoah Riverkeepers are holding the Shenandoah River Rodeo, an annual music, food, and paddling festival. For more information, phone (202) 222- 0707. 
  • And from July 24 to August 18—Saturdays through Wednesdays only—the National Committee for the New River is holding the New River Expedition, a trip along the length of the New from North Carolina to West Virginia. For more information, phone (336) 982-6267.

    For more information about government policy and regulatory meetings, click here for the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall, where these meetings are listed by date. E-mail addresses for contact people are available there. For TMDL meetings, click here for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality TMDL Web site. Please note that TMDL meetings are also listed at the Town Hall site, but are included among all other meetings.  In the educational and recreation events section, organizations, events, or both are hyperlinked whenever possible. Click on those links for more information.
Virginia Water Radio is a product of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, which is solely responsible for the show’s content. Hosting and bandwidth for this podcast are also provided by the Water Center. We invite you to visit the center online at www.vwrrc.vt.edu.

Show notes and production assistance were provided by Patrick Fay. Recording assistance was provided by the Office of University Relations at Virginia Tech.

Opinions expressed on this show are not necessarily those of the Water Center, Virginia Tech, or this station.

If you need more information about anything mentioned this week, call us at (540) 231-5463, or visit our web site at www.virginiawaterradio.org.