Lead­er­ship MD Class of 2016 be­gins pro­gram at Horn Point Lab

Dorchester Star - - Regional - By VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­pub.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ vic­to­ri­adorstar and on In­sta­gram@dorch­ester.star.

CAM­BRIDGE — Lead­er­ship Mary­land Class of 2016 and pro­gram alumni vis­ited the Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence (UMCES) Horn Point Lab­o­ra­tory for a tour of the oys­ter hatch­ery on Wed­nes­day, April 13.

At­ten­dees learned about the ef­forts of the lab­o­ra­tory to re­store the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay to good health and, in par­tic­u­lar, the oys­ter pop­u­la­tion.

Lead­er­ship Mary­land is a statewide per­sonal and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment pro­gram. Fifty-two par­tic­i­pants are ac­cepted each year, and they spend the bet­ter part of their year trav­el­ing around the state learn­ing about sub­jects such as ed­u­ca­tion, health and hu­man ser­vices, crim­i­nal jus­tice, the en­vi­ron­ment, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and di­ver­sity and more.

The hatch­ery op­er­a­tion at UMCES Horn Point is the largest on the East Coast. Over 1 bil­lion oys­ter spat have been pro­duced at the fa­cil­ity over the last decade.

“The pro­gram in oys­ter restora­tion is a part­ner­ship among Univer­sity of Mary­land, Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, NOAA, Oys­ter Re­cov­ery Part­ner­ship, Army Corps of En­gi­neers, Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, and lots and lots of other groups,” said Don­ald Meritt, Hatch­ery Pro­gram Di­rec­tor.

Meritt led the group through the hatch­ery fa­cil­i­ties and ex­plained step by step how the pro­gram works to boost the oys­ter pop­u­la­tion in the Bay. He spoke about the process oys­ters go through to re­pro­duce — from spawn to lar­vae mat­u­ra­tion on to shell at­tach­ment and fi­nally into the Bay.

The group was shown oys­ters in dif­fer­ent stages through­out the lab, the huge tanks where they live, and the green­house where many dif­fer­ent types of al­gae are grown to feed the oys­ters.

Af­ter the tour, Chief of Staff at UMCES Dave Ne­mazie spoke briefly about the over­all de­cline in health of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

Ne­mazie said the Bay restora­tion ef­forts be­gan in the 1980s fol­low­ing Hur­ri­cane Agnes’ ef­fect on the re­gion in the 1970s. A large study of the Bay’s health was con­ducted and the re­sults led to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Agree­ment, an agree­ment among sev­eral states to de­crease ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rus in the Bay.

The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram, formed by the agree­ment, set mile­stones for the re­duc­tion of ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rus lev­els in the Bay. As the year 2000 ap­proached, and it was clear the goal of a 40 per­cent re­duc­tion would not be met, the pro­gram ex­tended the goals through 2010.

“A re­ally im­por­tant thing hap­pened six or seven years ago. With the lead­er­ship of all the states (in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram) and the fed­eral govern­ment, they agreed to set two-year mile­stones in­stead of the 10and 20-year mile­stones set in the past,” Ne­mazie said.

Ac­cord­ing to Ne­mazie, the two-year mile­stones are im­por­tant be­cause they hold the sit­ting gov­er­nors ac­count­able for the restora­tion ef­forts un­der their watch. With 10- and 20-year mile­stones, Ne­mazie said, there was an at­ti­tude of “I’ll leave it for the next guy.”

Too much ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rus causes al­gae to grow too thick and block light from pen­e­trat­ing the wa­ter’s sur­face, Nemzaie said. With­out light, plants on the bot­tom will not grow.

Also, Nemzaie said, when the al­gae dies, it sinks to the bot­tom and be­gins to break down. That bacterial break­down re­quires a lot of oxy­gen, which leeches the oxy­gen from the wa­ter, and not enough is left for other bot­tom-dwelling or­gan­isms to thrive.

The next long-term mile­stone year is 2025.

Af­ter the brief over­view of the Bay’s is­sues, Lead­er­ship Mary­land at­ten­dees were treated to a ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion.

“Un­der the Lead­er­ship Mary­land pro­gram, we hope that our grad­u­ates learn and de­velop new pas­sions, and go for­ward from their ex­pe­ri­ence with us to do good for the state,” said Lead­er­ship Mary­land Pres­i­dent and CEO Re­nee Win­sky.

PHOTO BY VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE

Lead­er­ship Mary­land pre­pared to kick of their 2016 class year with a tour of the oys­ter hatch­ery at that Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence Horn Point Lab­o­ra­tory.

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