- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

While reading about the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ plans to document the impact of the recent monsoon-type rains on the Chesapeake Bay’s water, it reminded me of a similar instance in 1972 and the effects that Tropical Storm Agnes had on the Chesapeake.

In the areas of water quality, habitat and living resources — especially the submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) — some comparisons can be drawn.

“The recent rain event was almost as impressive as that affiliated with Agnes,” Secretary of Natural Resources C. Ronald Franks said. “However, unlike Agnes, this event was preceded by record dry periods, so the resulting runoff is not expected to be as great.”

Even so, after Agnes dumped horrendous amounts of rain onto land and waterways, the color of the Chesapeake Bay soon looked like coffee with cream, in great part because of the tremendous runoff coming down from the bay’s biggest feeder river, the Susquehanna. Waste treatment plants overflowed all over the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia region, dumping untreated sewage into the bay. It didn’t take long before we were told that the bacteria content in the water was so high, it might not be a bad idea to delay fishing trips, or at least take bottles of water and hand soap and do a hospital-like scrubbing after touching the water.

I reported the bad news and was immediately told by some charter fishing captains that their business would suffer because of it. In time, things returned to normal — kind of.

Meanwhile, there’s a chance that slowly returning bay grasses — particularly in the upper Chesapeake — will once again be silted over by the tons of mud washing down the Susquehanna. Oxygen-starved dead zones will increase and let there be no doubt that the bacteria count in the bay’s water was raised when everything but the kitchen sink recently entered it.

Is it as bad as 1972? Probably not. But what happened to the bay and its bigger feeder rivers less than two weeks ago, most assuredly wasn’t good. Some of the upper bay’s state parks swimming areas have been closed. The Susquehanna, Patuxent, Potomac, Rappahannock and James on the western side of the bay and the Chester, Choptank, Pocomoke and Nanticoke on the Eastern Shore couldn’t possibly be considered bathwater-clean and that can be bad news for years.

Eastman not sponsoring WHA — On June 21, I wrote about the World Hunting Association (WHA) and its plans to begin global hunting contests with contestants using weapons that employ tranquilizers, rather than deadly bullets. It sounded as if the WHA wanted to begin a kind of “catch-and-release” hunting method. The WHA’s announcement included a statement that said Eastman Outdoors, the makers of famous Carbon Express arrows and other products, would be one of its corporate sponsors.

Not so, says Eastman.

“I want to let you know that neither Eastman Outdoors, Inc., nor Gorilla Treestands sponsors the WHA,” said Julie Legeret, marketing assistant for Eastman.

Legeret added that David Farbman, the president of the WHA, listed Eastman as a sponsor without its consent or a signed sponsorship agreement.

“We strongly disagree with the World Hunting Association and we want consumers to know that,” Legeret said.

Latest on St. Mary’s Lake — The 230-plus-acre St. Mary’s Lake, south of Leonardtown, Md., which sprung a leak not long ago and was partially drained to permit dam repairs, is slowly being allowed to refill. Put the accent on “slow.” The lake is refilling in small increments, then sits for days, even weeks, to see how the dam accepts the increased water pressure. On top of that, when winter arrives there’ll be another draw-down, perhaps to reduce added water levels brought by heavy snow or rain. Don’t look for any of us using the boat launching ramp at the lake for some time yet — perhaps well into 2007. However, the lake looks fine right now, good enough for cartopper johnboats or shore walkers who want to fish.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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