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Posts from the ‘Current issues’ Category

Critical Times

DC Monuments 005

Given the unfolding events of the past week or so, I stopped to assess my feelings and have tried to ferret out the truth from all the hype and questionable reporting. Based on the responses I see from my on line community, and considering the sense of the Country, it is a remarkably unusual time. I have never seen a more disreputable or dysfunctional Presidential campaign in my 50+ years of experience. We face profoundly important choices in the near term that will affect our children’s and their children’s lives.

I shy away from the conspiracy theorists and extremists of all kind. Yet, recent events cannot be ignored. Evident, blatant campaign fraud; mishandling and destruction of classified materials; clandestine and unethical meeting crossing political and active legal interests; lying to the Congress and FBI; death of an email hacker in a jail cell; apparent conflict of interest and possible fraud in the management of a family Foundation. Granted that these stories are often spun for political gains, but in mass, and given the timing, it doesn’t pass the laugh test to believe there has been no wrong doing. I believe both political sides have their own set of troubling issues.

Others have said it, and I believe it – we face a crisis of confidence in our leadership. Laws are being bent or ignored to accommodate the powerful, examples of inequality/injustice are pervasive – not just in race and life style, but across the spectrum of human activity. The elite behave as though they have the only truth, and the rest of us had better get with the program or be penalized – and the laws apply differently to them, or not at all. These conditions cannot persist if our Country is to survive in a form we can accept, and the Constitution and Bill of Rights promise.

I called for the FBI Director to be fired for what I believe was a breach of justice if not law. After some consideration, and further information, I retracted that statement in part. In fact, the responsibility and accountability rests higher up the chain. The DOJ Attorney General still has the opportunity to set it right however unlikely that may be. Further, the President is culpable in his enthusiastic support of a candidate whose integrity and judgement is very much in question.

I appreciate what this Country has stood for, even with some occasional warts. I have been pleased and proud to be a citizen. Yet the treatment of all our citizens by the government has increasingly restricted our personal freedom, whether in the name of safety from external threats or the imposition their ‘wisdom’ over ours to force changes in our behavior and/or beliefs. This is all very disheartening. Should this trend continue, conditions will become far worse than merely disheartening. I fear increasing and violent turmoil if our leadership doesn’t correct the path we’re on. Worse, I see little or no evidence of that correction, and strong indications that the electorate in general is unprepared and/or unwilling to act in the Country’s best interest.

From a practical perspective, I cannot in good conscience vote for either of the presumptive candidates, leaving my only option to vote for those ‘down ballot’ who demonstrate a willingness to bring thoughtful change to a broken governmental system – I hope other will do so as well.

How the terrorists win:

  •  We stop trusting everyone, except those who agree with us..
  •  We impugn the motives of anyone with whom we disagree..
  •  We hide in our cave(s), afraid to travel or associate in groups..
  •  We give up our personal freedoms, and privacy in exchange for a false sense of security..

……………………….
There is and always has been evil in the world. Fighting it is a continuing challenge. The ISIS threat is not new, though it may be different in kind in some significant ways. It feels extreme and a fundamental threat to civilization. It cannot be allowed to persist.

Individual citizens have incomplete information, and likely false information in part, on which to judge government actions/policies. Determining who/what source(s) to trust is a separate challenge.

For these, and other significant reasons, deciding how to respond to the Syrian refugee issue is especially problematic. Compassion says open our doors, caution says no, wait or some variant prompted by concern for imbedded ISIS threats. I choose to believe that no one wants these individuals to be thrown to the wolves. Deciding how best to help those fleeing from terror, without impugning the motives of those who have different views, should be the goal of a sensible and useful debate.

Listening to disparate news reports and the very personal attacks and counter attacks by our leaders is singularly unhelpful. Leaders of both political parties, especially the President, should be ashamed by their behavior to date.

I for one, want to help those truly in need, AND I want reasonable assurance that my government is protecting us – personally and our way of life – AND our ability to safely enjoy it. These may be conflicting goals that call for some accommodations by all of us – citizens and leaders.

Let’s start by focusing on solutions, sharing fact-checked information, and dispensing with rhetoric and name calling … those can’t do that are not being helpful and should get out of the conversation.

Silly season notes

I try to avoid political comments , but can’t resist this time …..

So, here we are again in the early days of the ‘silly season’. The packed field of candidates that filled the stage last night – for both GOP debates – certainly offered opportunities to confirm the appropriateness of that title. But the consequences of candidate performance and the substance of the issues are anything but silly. I believe the coming election will be pivotal for our Country, and will offer very distinct choices for our future direction. Let’s hope our final choice, whichever Party, has the wisdom to begin closing the divide(s) that continue to stagnate progress.

I watched both debates with some hope for a clear sorting out of the field. It is too soon to be picking winners, but here are a few quick observations. The sooner we get Trump, and his unwarranted, unhelpful arrogance, off the stage the better. Fine that he’s rattled the cage of the political right, but he has little of substance to add, and provides an unfortunate and inaccurate picture of mainstream political conservatives. He surely doesn’t represent me. On the positive side, Carly Fiorina offered a clear, thoughtful and articulate contrast to Trump’s later pompous rants. It’s unfortunate that they weren’t on the same stage, but I believe that will come. The remainder of the field did less to distinguish themselves from the flock, though Carson offered a refreshing view from outside the political establishment. Too bad there wasn’t better time balance for all the candidates. The questions were pointed, issue-oriented for the most part, and candidate were generally responsive.

It will be a long stretch to the election, and I’ll reserve judgement till we see more significant debate on issues, and the other Party gets their candidates up on a similar open forum……. It is not too early to begin watching the large field of candidates with a critical eye – and a good sense of humor…

Freedom of the seas

Is that a reality? The implication is that we can get on our boat and sail anywhere that our draft allows – unobstructed. Just stay clear of the debris gyre, lost containers and other floating hazards. Moreover, we can anchor wherever our fancy suggests, and for however long a time we’d like. While a far more complex issue, there are a few highlights worth noting.

One could argue that international laws about entry and exit aside, and associated costs, at a global level this isn’t too far from the truth. But now scale down to U.S. coastal waters where the vast majority of us sail, and it becomes a bit more problematic. Regulations relating to obstruction of navigation, safety and restricted areas imposed mostly for security reasons are minor nuisances. On another front, we are on the cusp of expanding off-shore development to include large array wind energy generation. New permitting along the east coast (e.g. MD & VA) promises such development in areas that are commonly transited by sailors. To what extent those developments will become hazards to navigation, or interfere with current wind flow patterns, remains unclear. Such wind energy development is well along in other parts of the world.

windBureau of Ocean Energy Management photo

A good review of the status and extent of off-shore wind development globally can be found at the BOEM web site http://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy-program/renewable-energy-guide/offshore-wind-energy.aspx .

Of more immediate concern for most of us is the growing interest in some States to control traditionally free water travel along their coasts and inlets. These are clearly ‘waters of the U.S.’ and subject to Federal jurisdiction – generally the Army Corps of Engineers. A case in point is the effort underway in parts of Florida to impose local ordinances that would effectively close many anchorages. These proposed ordinances fly in the face of established State law and policy, yet State agencies are caving to pressure from waterfront residents to follow a process leading to such outcomes. Already many communities have established mooring fields – usable for a fee – that restrict anchoring opportunities spatially and economically. Hopefully, saner heads and existing State laws will prevail, and the movement of boats up and down the east coast of the U.S. will continue unimpeded.

**Those who care about such things should complete the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FLA-ANCHOR . Hearings are imminent in Florida.

It must also be added that the ‘Corps’ continues to suffer from budget restrictions that prevent the effective control of shoaling along the AICW. The controlling depth of 8ft MLLW is specified in Federal statute, and is not maintained in many areas. With occasional depths below 5ft the passage of deeper draft boats is restricted. This impediment to travel on the AICW has become chronic and is progressive, making future use of the Waterway problematic.

Change is inevitable, and an essential part of life, but freedom to wander on the waterways of the world feels equally essential – at least to some of us who sail.

Risk is a four letter word

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Many activities we undertake for work or pleasure entail some degree of personal risk. The legal system has a long and complex history of dealing with risk, especially in the work place, and how/where to assess responsibility for harm. It’s less clear in certain areas of the recreation arena. Recent crises and loses, and the reactions to them in the sailing community, raise issues about risk.

We have become a very risk-averse society. The predominant view appears to be that any bad thing that happens must be the responsibility of someone, and steps must be taken to assign blame, assess for any loss and to prevent such from ever happening again. This view makes moot the notion of ‘accidents’,i.e. no one is at fault, and raises real questions about who, if anyone, should decide for each of us what level of risk is appropriate or acceptable for us to accept.

Two events and recent weeks prompted me to revisit my concerns about this trend, and to try to condense the issues at they relate to the sailing community in particular. First, a family set off to cross the Pacific with two young children aboard. The younger became ill, required a significant rescue effort and resulted in the scuttling of the boat. The family is well and working to recover. Second, four very seasoned blue water sailors were returning a boat across the Atlantic, lost a keel and their lives. Their bodies have not been found.

In the first instance, the parents were severely criticized in the media for putting their children at risk. The criticism came largely, if not entirely, from sources that had no relevant sailing experience. The cruising community has come to their defense, and provided much needed support.

In the second, an extensive and largely futile effort was mounted to find/recover the sailors against severe odds. When the search was first called off, there was a loud and massive cry to continue – long after any reasonable chance of finding the missing sailors. That ‘forced’ a re-start of the effort with unsuccessful results, put more folks at risk, and escalated costs.

There were enormous financial costs and personal risks to the rescuers/searchers in both cases. It can be argued that in neither case were the experienced sailors undertaking any unusual or even unreasonable risks. They went off shore in competent boats with adequate experience.

The questions these events raise with me are in the realm of risk assessment and response, including costs. In no particular order: 1) who, besides me, has any right to decide what level of personal risk I may willingly accept in undertaking a voluntary activity? 2) who should be financially responsible for the costs of responses such as were mounted in these cases? 3) should anyone besides the parents decide what degree of risk to impose on minor children, and if so who and how?

I have my personal answers to these questions, at least in part. 1) no one; 2) probably some combination of insurers, public services and the private party depending on the specifics; 3) ‘No’ should be the default, but as a society we clearly believe in protecting minors from irresponsible parental behavior – irresponsible being the operative word. Who’s the judge?

I believe the case can be made in the sick child instance that where it occurred is irrelevant. There are many other remote scenarios that would likely not have raised the same public response. How is an at-sea response any different from a remote shore-side response where an insurer would pay for an ambulance – other than the magnitude of the cost? Parents would likely not have been criticized in such on-shore cases. And, would the public response have been different had it been an adult that needed medical attention? Clearly history says yes. See the following for more, and a thoughtful response to their critics.

The Kaufmans’ journey on their sailboat, Rebel Heart, comes to an alarming and heartbreaking end, igniting a surge of media attention and fury at the rescue’s estimated $663,000 price tag and raising concerns for the safety of their young children. Charlotte Kaufman, mother of two, speaks publicly for the first time.

http://www.sandiegomagazine.com/San-Diego-Magazine/June-2014/After-the-Rescue-The-Kaufman-Family-Speaks/

In the case of the four sailors lost at sea, the relevant questions are cost-based and who decides, by what criteria, to call off a search. In my view, the professionals conducting the search are in the best position to judge – they did in that case, but unfortunately succumbed to uninformed pressure to continue.

In the end, our personal decisions to accept risk come also with the acceptance of consequences. We shouldn’t have to answer to anyone for those choices. In the case of responsibility for others at sea, minors or otherwise, there is well-developed maritime law. I think the Kaufmann’s made responsible decisions and their public response (see above) make the clear case for them as competent, responsible parents.

The sooner we accept that ‘accidents’ can happen, and that individuals are free to accept risks associated with their personal activities, the better in my view.

 

Poplar Island Progress

What a great restoration story!

See pictures and description of the restoration of Poplar Island. Tremendous progress has been made in about 15 yrs, from a beginning when only about 4 acres of the original island remained.

Follow the link below for an outstanding photo essay…….

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                                 Photo by Steve Droter

http://www.chesapeakebay.net/blog/post/photo_essay_poplar_island_restoration_brings_critical_habitat_back_to_bay

Bay Progress

The Chesapeake Bay Program released the Bay Barometer report the end of January giving a mixed review.  Progress needs to be recognized while understanding that persistence and new efforts will be needed to stay on a positive restoration track. The report is a science-based snapshot of a range of health indicators. Bay Barometer: Bay impaired, but signs of resilience abound

For more information on the Bay and restoration programs follow the link… http://www.chesapeakebay.net/

A New Game in Town . .

A New Game in Town Promises

More Effective Conservation

Earlier this week, a diverse group of dedicated conservationists from business, non-profit conservation and environmental groups and other natural resource professionals gathered at the Fleet Reserve Club on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The gathering was organized by the Conservation Leadership Council (CLC) whose mission is to –

“advance innovative approaches to America’s environmental challenges through policies rooted in fiscal responsibility, limited government, market entrepreneurship, community leadership, and public-private partnerships.”

Politically conservative-minded leaders have been at the forefront of innovative conservation since the early days of President Teddy Roosevelt. They have led and supported efforts in land and species conservation and restoration. They firmly support the objectives of the high profile efforts under the Endangered Species, Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. It is equally critical to understand that they firmly believe there are more effective ways, as we go forward, to accomplish those goals than the top-down, regulatory-heavy approach represented in those acts and supported by their politically liberal colleagues. While there are sharp and significant differences in policies and approaches to resource conservation, there is immense common ground for those willing to explore it.

Conservation need not be partisan. While progress has been achieved under current legislation and regulation, the most effective conservation actions nearly always grow from the bottom up with on-the-ground efforts in communities and local areas. This will be increasingly true as we move past the easier to the more difficult challenges and solutions, and public funding shrinks. Innovative ideas are tested, results are measured, partnerships are built, often against a background of contentious issues and conflicting beliefs and policies. Solutions grow out of the honest exchange of information, the development of mutual respect and trust among all the interested parties. Processes are transparent. These efforts do not always come easily, but results are universally supported and lasting. Progress is measureable – a critical element to continuing support.

The Conservation Leadership Council is a group whose efforts promise to advance conservation across the Country, and diminish the harsh partisan battling that is counter-productive to sustainable progress. They provide a beacon to follow through the challenging waters of resource conservation in the coming years. They are personal  friends and professional colleagues, and have my full support.  For more, visit www.leadingwithconservation.org .

 

Dam threats

Conowingo Dam has divided the Susquehanna River from the Chesapeake Bay since it was built in 1928 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conowingo_Dam). For 84 years, silt and whatever else flows down the river has accumulated behind the dam. The Dam is due for re-licensing in 2014. The threat to the Bay is well understood, but remedies are difficult, expensive and have been consistently put off for years.

Each significant weather event leads to increased releases from higher flows and to reduce strains on the dam. That sends an assortment of toxins, nutrients and debris down the Bay. Those releases can cause health and safety risks to sailors and others who recreate on those waters in addition to damages to Bay resources including clams, oysters and crabs. The frequency of significant releases is increasing as the storage capacity of the dam decreases. Remedies are needed now not later…….

Conowingo Dam

For a more complete story, see the article by Karl Blankenship, editor of the Bay Journal – http://www.bayjournal.com/article/conowingo_damreleasing_pollutants_at_more_frequent_rate

Good Bay News from MD and VA

Progress continues on improving Chesapeake Bay conditions. While slower than many would like, it is worth noting that population within the Bay watershed continues to grow bringing addition challenges. Those who depend on the Bay for a livelihood, and as a recreational resource appreciate the progress!

_____________________from the HarvedeGracePatch, July 9. 2012……..

Maryland has met its milestones to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Monday.

The 2009-2011 milestones are part of the state’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), which puts the state on track to achieve its next two-year goal, as well as the 2017 goal.

“There are some challenges so large that we can only tackle them together. Restoring the Bay is one of them. And all of us are here today because we understand that the choices we make together for our Bay matter for our health, our environment, our quality of life, our economy and for future generations,” O’Malley said, according to a statement. “We have worked closely with our local partners to create and carry out a Watershed Implementation Plan that works for each individual community, and do it in an open and transparent way. Thanks to our hard work together, we have achieved our 2009-2011 milestones, and we’re on track to meet our 2012-2013 milestones.”

O’Malley’s announcement came at the Chesapeake Executive Council meeting Monday in Virginia.

See Maryland’s 2012-2013 goals via BayStat.

The progress includes planting 429,818 acres of cover crops, which prevented about 2.58 million pounds of nitrogen and 86,000 pounds of phosphorous from impacting the Bay, according to the statement. That figure met 123 percent of the cover crop goal, the statement read.

Improvements to state and local wastewater treatment plants led to the prevention of more than 1.5 million pounds of nitrogen from reaching the Bay—meeting 165 percent of the state’s wastewater nitrogen reduction goals, the statement said.

More than 106,000 pounds of nitrogen—88 percent of the state’s two-year goals—were prevented from reaching the Bay through improved site-design and retroactively installing stormwater management systems in developments, according to the statement.

The Healthy Air Act prevented more than 331,000 pounds of nitrogen from reaching the Bay on an annual basis from 2009-2011, the state said, reaching 100 percent of its goals.

The state, according to the release, also planted 895 acres of forest buffers to help naturally remove nutrients, meeting 166 percent of its goals in the process.

“Thanks to the leadership of Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly, legislation passed this year will help us to protect, restore and support healthy waterways and drinking water while preserving farm and forest land, all of which will benefit Maryland families with clean water for years to come,” Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers said in the release. “Clean water is the foundation of public health, economic health and Marylander’s quality of life for the future.”

Also in the release, the state said Maryland is on track for its 2012-2013 goals, and in partnerships with Virginia, the Bay’s blue crab population is at the highest level in recorded history.

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More  news ……………….

Virginia making progress on bay cleanup goals, groups say

// By: Rex Springston | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Published: July 10, 2012 Updated: July 10, 2012 – 12:00 AM

 RICHMOND, Va. —

Virginia met six of nine goals set in 2009 for restoring the Chesapeake Bay, environmentalists say.

“Virginia has made considerable progress in meeting its first bay milestones,” said Ann Jennings, Virginia director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental group.

“Even in those areas where the state fell short — certain farm conservation practices and reducing lawn fertilizer — new or anticipated programs coming on line and ongoing policy ‘tweaks’ can ensure greater progress,” Jennings said in a statement.

The bay foundation and Choose Clean Water, a coalition of groups supporting the bay cleanup, analyzed nine key interim goals, called milestones. The groups announced their findings Monday.

According to the analysis, Virginia met its goals for restoring wetlands, planting grass buffers by streams, managing storm water, dealing with septic tanks and reducing nitrogen and phosphorus — key bay pollutants — flowing from sewage-treatment plants.

The state fell short, however, on increasing the planting of cover crops, planting streamside trees and managing pollution that runs off urban areas.

“All states exceeded in some categories and fell short in others, which is not surprising in this first milestone effort,” the environmentalists said in a news release.

Doug Domenech, Virginia’s secretary of natural resources, said the state is more focused on reducing pounds of pollution than meeting the individual goals.

“Virginia has already met and exceeded its nitrogen reduction goal for 2013 by 680,000 pounds!!” Domenech said in an email.

The bay foundation “should take a more comprehensive view of the program instead of focusing on the few practices we may have missed,” Domenech said.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Friday that major sewage treatment plants exceeded their goals, an achievement that prevented 2.5 million pounds of nitrogen from entering waters leading to the bay.

Virginia’s efforts to reduce the plants’ nitrogen and phosphorus releases date back to the mid-2000s.

Leaders of the federal and state bay cleanup established the milestones to better gauge states’ progress. The first set of milestones covers actions from 2009 through 2011.

Meanwhile, the Chesapeake Executive Council, a group of federal and state leaders that sets policies for the cleanup, elected Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent C. Gray its chairman Monday.

The group met near Lorton at Gunston Hall, which was the home of George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Gray succeeded federal Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson.

Efforts to clean the bay have been under way since the mid-1980s. The latest plan aims to put enough pollution controls in place by 2025 to restore the bay — with most of the controls in place by 2017.

The effort could cost Virginians more than $15 billion, according to state estimates.

In addition to federal agencies, the cleanup involves Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

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