The Blog Aquatic » Maryland News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 East Coast State Legislators Begin Investigations on Ocean Acidification Fri, 09 May 2014 15:29:17 +0000 Ryan Ono

Photo: Ted Van Pelt with Creative Commons License

When people think about the state of Maine, images of lobsters and lighthouses usually spring to mind. For the state of Maryland, people think of blue crab and the rivers feeding into the Chesapeake Bay.  Both states are closely associated with rich maritime traditions, however a change in ocean chemistry is rapidly occurring that could jeopardize not only their maritime way of life, but also the jobs and economic benefits that the ocean and coastal waters provide.

Ocean acidification is caused by carbon pollution from factories, cars, and power plants being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic. In fact, the ocean absorbs roughly 30% of all carbon pollution we put into the atmosphere, and local pollution running off from the land into coastal areas can make acidification worse. Animals that have shells, like oysters, clams, mussels and crabs have trouble surviving in increasingly acidic water. In the Pacific Northwest  ocean acidification has damaged these animals, contributing to billions of baby oyster deaths, significantly impacting the hatcheries and oyster operations in these regions. The impact of ocean acidification on other animals, such as lobsters and fish, are not well understood.

This uncertainty has caused ocean users and legislators to sit up, take notice and begin to act. I have recently discussed ocean acidification with fishermen and shellfish growers at the annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum, and have also attended a legislative hearing on ocean acidification in Maryland. The unknown ramifications of this environmental issue in these forums were a definite concern.

Since lobsters, blue crabs, and other marine resources are so vital to the waterfront economies of Maine and Maryland respectively, in the last week, their state legislatures have both passed bills forming a commission and task force to study the impacts of ocean acidification on each state’s coastal ecosystems and commercial shellfish industries.

Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson

These commissions are similar to a panel set up by Washington State in that they seek to identify the factors driving ocean acidification, how to mitigate it, how to enhance research and monitoring and how to protect shellfish and other important coastal species. This great, pragmatic first step by state leaders to understand and reduce any threats to the iconic livelihoods of these states was made possible by the hard work and support of concerned local businesses and groups such as the Island Institute in Maine, and National Aquarium in Maryland.

As we have become aware of the concerns from people on the water in Washington, Maine, Maryland and other states, we have informed you of these issues, and asked for your support to let decision-makers know you care about our oceans. Last month Ocean Conservancy asked for people like you to contact your Members of Congress to support funding for ocean acidification research on a national scale and as a result, more than 40,000 letters were sent to 534 elected officials who represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A number of representatives and senators have heeded your messages and have gone on to personally support this research funding.

Thank you for reading, caring and acting—not only for our oceans, but also for the people and communities who rely on those ocean waters for their livelihoods. And congratulations to Maine and Maryland —In the future, we hope to congratulate other coastal states working to address ocean acidification too!

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Offshore Wind Moving Closer to Providing Renewable Energy to the East Coast Fri, 25 Jan 2013 19:40:31 +0000 Anna Zivian

Credit: Wind Turbines by Shutterstock/Dennis van de Water

2013 may be a very windy year. All along the Atlantic Coast, offshore renewable power has been getting a boost. In states from North Carolina to Maine, growing support for wind energy has led to practical steps that will get this industry moving.

In North Carolina, Governor McCrory has announced his support for offshore renewable wind development, saying it would help grow North Carolina’s economy and provide jobs. On Tuesday, in Annapolis, Maryland, Governor O’Malley rolled out a bill to create incentives for offshore renewable energy. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, wind projects are under construction. In Maine, the Public Utilities Commission voted 2-1 on Thursday to approve the terms for Statoil, a Norwegian state energy company, to move forward with a $120 floating wind turbine test project, clearing the biggest step in making the proposal a reality. All along the East Coast, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is moving forward with a public planning to help site offshore wind farms, making sure to consider other ocean users and environmental concerns in the process.

Finally, to help tie it all together, in New Jersey, Atlantic Wind Connection announced that it will be moving forward with plans for the first part of its offshore transmission line that will help connect offshore wind farms to the grid to provide energy to homes and businesses in New Jersey. Construction of the 189-mile segment (of what will eventually be a 350-mile line) is scheduled to be completed by 2015. Even before the line delivers wind energy, it will help (off)shore up the transmission infrastructure.

As we saw from Hurricane Sandy, storms can wreak havoc on the energy distribution system, knocking down power lines and causing hundreds of thousands of people to lose electricity. Having a line offshore and undersea means that at least part of the energy grid will be less vulnerable to the hurricanes and strong storms that are growing more frequent.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management made a finding of no competitive interest and approved AWC to move forward with its permitting process in 2011. The public process for approval allows stakeholders, the public and state and federal agencies to review where and how the line will be sited, what impacts construction of the line could cause, and whether there might be any conflicts created by building the line. This smart planning also lets AWC coordinate with other users to figure out the best routes for the line so that it can link up easily to future offshore wind farms as well as to existing onshore infrastructure.

As Atlantic Wind Connection President Markian Melnyk said about ocean planning at a regional meeting in New England, “”What it means for us is greater predictability, lower risk, lower cost. In our view, when you can identify the right places to do ocean energy, you can do everything better — you can do conservation better and can do energy development better. It doesn’t have to be a fight over siting; this type of collaborative siting work helps makes it more about science and more about sound economics than about fighting.”

With the help of collaboration, coordination and smart planning, renewable energy and better infrastructure may soon become a reality on the East Coast.

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