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August 29, 2011

Coastal sea summit eyes natural, manmade woes

Hundreds of scientists, activists and government officials from around the world have gathered in Baltimore's Inner Harbor to compare notes on cleaning up the planet's troubled coastal waters.

From the Cheapeake Bay to the Seto Inland Sea in Japan, near-shore waters suffer similar insults - too many nutrients from sewage, fertilizer and air pollution, overfishing and habitat degradation.

What's quickly apparent from sitting in for a short while this morning on the four-day global summit is that progress in the uphill battle of restoring stressed and degraded ecosystems depends on one's perspective.

This 9th international conference on Environmental Management for Enclosed Coastal Seas (EMECS) has drawn a sizable contingent from Japan, and several speakers have touched on the devastation wrought earlier this year by the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the island nation's northeastern coast.

Many conference participants got an up-close look at a much less disruptive natural calamity oer the weekend because they arrived in Baltimore just before Hurricane Irene reached here. Indeed, several sessions planned Sunday morning were postponed in anticipation of the storm.

The Inner Harbor got off light this time, compared with the flooding brought by Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003.  Indeed, at the conclusion of a talk outlining the challenges of managing coastal seas, Dr. Motoyuki Suzuki, chairman of Japan's Central Environmental Council, flashed up before-and-after photos of the Inner Harbor taken from the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, where the summit is meeting. The images showed that the storm had not harmed any of the structures along the waterfront, prompting the speaker to say, "Beautiful!"

But the photo taken after the storm had passed showed a swath of caramel-colored water streaming out from Pier 6 by the concert pavilion - where the Jones Falls empties into the harbor.  Evidently the storm washed signfiicant amounts of dirt, harmful bacteria and probably other pollutants down storm drains into the falls and ultimately the Inner Harbor.

It's storm-water runoff like that - every time it rains, even lightly - that's one of the biggest hurdles to making the harbor fit for human contact.  Not the harm wrought by a a tsunami or a truly destructive hurricane, to be sure, but beneath the surface not exactly beautiful, either.

The conference, hosted by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Maryland Department of the Environment, meets here through Wednesday.

(2006 Baltimore Sun photo by Robert Hamilton)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 2:39 PM | | Comments (2)


Please correct this sentence: "It's storm-water runoff life that - every time it rains, even lightly - that's one of the biggest hurdles to making the harbor fit for human contact."

TW: Should be "like" instead of "life". Small type and weak eyes make for typos. Thanks for catching.

I am working with Annapolis Green toward improving recycling efforts at the US Sailboat Show coming up next month. I just came across information relating to the Chesapeake Bay Action Plan and I don't see anything in the list of 25 that relates to watercraft getting greener and cleaner.

Electric Yacht has designed a line of electric propulsion systems for sailboats to around 40 feet, and they have implications for powerboats as well. An Electric Yacht QuieTorque System has no need for fossil fuels, oil changes, and has an average range of 20nm, and can achieve hull speed for a lesser distance.

In the interest of full disclosure-- I am the Director of Marketing at Electric Yacht and hope visitors to our booth will be able to see the advantages. We are the largest domestic producer of such systems. Our booth is on the Floating Pavilion on Dock H under the banner of a like-minded consortium we titled "Yacht to be Green."

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About the bloggers
Tim WheelerTim Wheeler reports on the environment and Chesapeake Bay. A native of West Virginia, he has focused mainly on Maryland's environment since moving here in 1983. Along the way, he's crewed aboard a skipjack in the bay, canoed under city streets up the Jones Fall from the Inner Harbor, and gone deep underground in a western Maryland coal mine. He loves seafood, rambles in the country and good stories. He hopes to share some here.

Contributor Christy Zuccarini has been blogging about the local DIY craft scene for a year for She brings her pespective on all things handmade to B'More Green, where she will highlight projects you can do yourself as well as crafters who are integrating sustainable methods and materials.

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