Forum to outline Harbor Point environmental issues

A public forum on environmental issues surrounding the planned Harbor Point development will be held Thursday beginning at 7 p.m. near Fells Point.

The forum was called by City Councilman James Kraft, whose 1st District includes the Harbor Point property, located to the east of Harbor East.

The agenda includes an outline of the environmental plans to drill through a protective cap covering toxic chromium at the site, leftover from the former industrial tenant, Allied Signal.

Officials from Honeywell, the owner of the property, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the developer Beatty Development Group will participate.

The meeting will be held on the first floor of the Morgan Stanley building located at 1300 Thames St.

Appealing to students’ stomachs – and consciences?

When Johns Hopkins University pledged to buy more local, sustainable food, part of officials’ rationale for doing so was that it could encourage other schools to follow suit. As a powerhouse university with major influence, officials said, Hopkins could blaze the trail.

If multiple college and universities in Maryland also signed the pledge (which is organized by a national group called Real Food Challenge and which asks colleges and universities to buy at least 20 percent of their food from local sources by 2020) that could make a real difference for small farmers, ranchers and other suppliers throughout the state, advocates said.

FoodThe economic benefit to those local producers is clear, as is the potential environmental payoff of more sustainable farming practices and reduced emissions from not transporting food across the country. But when Jon Berger, the RFC’s mid-Atlantic regional coordinator, told me the organization is working to revive
“the art of cooking from scratch” in the nation’s college cafeterias, I couldn’t help but wonder how that would go.

What’s the benefit to universities and colleges?

How do you persuade administrators who aren’t interested in the “buy local” movement to shift their focus, and, in some cases, to pay more for food? How do you convince worn-out dining services workers that cooking is better than, as Berger put it, “unzipping and unpacking”?

Berger had an answer: “It’s about what young people want,” he said. “If you look at what students say they want in a college, the amount they say they care about the food has gone up a lot in the past decade, so more schools are starting to pay attention to that as a crucial piece of attracting students.”

He might be on to something there. Environmental issues are certainly important to a substantial number of people, particularly young people. But how many students would choose a school because it emphasized sustainability in the dining halls? Or, conversely, how many would rule a school out based on its lack of support?

Leave your opinion in the comments section!

Harbor Point environmental plan expected by early October

Harbor PointEngineers from Beatty Development Group LLC said they expect to obtain detailed environmental plans by early October that would allow the drilling of about 1,000 pylons through a protective cap covering toxic chromium on the city’s waterfront at Harbor Point.

Jeff Boggs, an engineer with Environmental Resources Management, the local engineering group hired by Harbor Point developer Michael Beatty to shepherd the drilling plans through the protective cap, said Wednesday that a detailed design plan being negotiated with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has an Oct. 9 deadline for resolution.

The plan has raised controversy in the $1 billion development that will hold a 23-story local headquarters tower for Exelon that Boggs said is expected to break ground in December — if the plan is approved. He said a community meeting could be held to discuss and outline the details of the plan but that none had been scheduled.

The Harbor Point project was awarded up to $125 million in tax incentives this week by the City Council after much debate and controversy this summer in hearings at City Hall. The tax increment financing, or TIF bonds, would be sold to private investors and would help pay for infrastructure, parks and a new bridge at the 27-acre site located between Harbor East and Fells Point. The investors would be repaid over a 34-year period with increased property taxes that are diverted from the city’s general fund.

About 100 people turned out to an open house Wednesday evening at Harbor Point to view plans for the new development, including certain details about the drilling through the protective cap, established in 1999 during a $100 million cleanup of the site by its new owner Honeywell.

Honeywell is in the process of selling the site to Beatty for an undisclosed price.

Trying to gobble up turkey call market

Just in time for Maryland’s spring turkey hunting season — which begins April 18 — we have news of one manufacturer of turkey calls suing another.

Down-N-Dirty Outdoors alleges Knight & Hale Game Calls has copied its air-blown turkey call and is selling a version that is basically a rip-off of Down-N-Dirty’s.



Here’s how Down-N-Dirty’s call sounds:

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And here’s Knight & Hale’s:

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According to the lawsuit, the companies had been in talks about doing business together or possibly merging, but when nothing came of the discussions, Knight & Hale took one of the calls it was given by Down-N-Dirty and copied it.

Regardless of how the suit comes out, turkey hunting remains difficult. As the Maryland Department of Natural Resources says: “It is nearly impossible to sneak up on a turkey.”

And whatever sound you’re making, we say: Many are called, few are frozen.

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Keeping aquaculture afloat

Lockheed Martin may be responsible for your future plate of sushi. The defense giant from Bethesda has developed an aquaculture system so innovative that it was named one of Time magazine’s top 25 inventions of 2012.

Working with Kampachi Farms of Hawaii and Illinois Soybean Association, Lockheed has come up with a mobile fish pen that floats along on ocean currents while attached to a barge. Automated systems — tied to satellite communications — feed the fish and clean the pen while it journeys through deep water.

“This truly revolutionary approach to aquaculture is a remarkable example of the breadth of missions and projects to which Lockheed Martin technology can be applied,” Gerry Fasano, president of Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions-Defense, said in a news release. “We took technologies and software developed for defense-related applications and used them to create a sustainable, environmentally sound method of farming, which will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on our oceans and wildlife.”

The mobile pen could help alleviate environmental or crowding issues related to inland  and shore-based fish farms.

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Report: Industry drills for fracking-friendly studies

An Associated Press article posted earlier Monday on our website reported how opponents of fracking — the controversial method of extracting natural gas from rock deep beneath the ground — apply shaky science to back their stand.

Meanwhile, another news report says the natural gas industry has been backing university scientific studies that reach conclusions favorable to continued fracking — though the studies’ connection to the industry isn’t at all apparent.

“Producers are taking a page from the tobacco industry playbook: funding research at established universities that arrives at conclusions that counter concerns raised by critics,” a Bloomberg article states.

As examples, the Bloomberg piece cites the following:

*An economic study from Penn State that favored the continuation of Pennsylvania’s policy of not taxing gas drillers. “What the study didn’t do was note that it was sponsored by gas drillers and led by an economist … with a history of producing industry-friendly research on economic and energy issues.”

*A University of Texas study that said fracking did not contaminate ground water. The professor who led the study is on the board of a gas-drilling company and received $400,000 in compensation from the company last year.

*A study from the State University of New York at Buffalo, partially authored by the same economist from the Penn State study, that “did not acknowledge ‘extensive ties’ by its authors to the gas industry, according to a watchdog group.”

Maryland’s black bears on Twitter

If you’re seeing @MDBlackBear suddenly becoming active on Twitter these days, it’s for good reason.

Apparently ’tis the season for the state’s black bear hunting lottery, and the Twitter account (created by the Dept. of Natural Resources) has about 800 followers. The DNR is spreading the word that the 2011 hunting permit lottery opened online July 1, and is accepting applicants through Sept. 2.

DNR will issue 260 bear hunting permits this season, with only one black bear to be harvested by a permittee/subpermittee hunting team. More details on the process and the sport itself can be found here.

Kind of a peculiar way to use Twitter, but hey, it’s beary innovative.  (Yes, I did.)

Flush task force formed

A group of business, agriculture, science, environmental advocacy and government leaders have been appointed to a state task force to study the impact of septic systems on future development of rural land.

Today’s move comes after debate during the 2011 General Assembly over the proposed Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, was appointed head of the task force and Jon Laria, named on Monday as managing partner in the law firm of Ballard Spahr will be vice chair. Laria, is a close political ally of Gov. Martin O’Malley, who appointed the task force. Laria also chairs the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission.

“This effort is not about stopping growth — it is about stemming the tide of major housing developments built on septic systems to generate clean water and protect our environment and public health,” the governor said in a statement.

Task force members are Erik Fisher, land use planner with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Fred Tutman, executive director of the Patuxent Riverkeepers and a member of the Patuxent River Commission; Robert Mitchell, administrator of the Environmental Programs Division of Worcester County; Rob Etgen, executive director of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and Pat Langenfelder, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau.

Studies show that over the next 25 years, 26 percent of new residential units built in the state will install septic systems. Those systems are anticipated to create 76 percent of new nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and other Maryland waterways and tributaries.

The task force is expected to report findings by Dec. 1.

Science in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

You might start seeing this “SolarBee” floating in the harbor soon.

Blue Water Baltimore, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper and KCI Technologies are partnering up on a pilot project to study the aeration and mixing in the waters of Baltimore’s harbor.

The project will determine the scope of engineering and scientific skills needed to design a system that would reduce low oxygen “dead zones,” which form throughout the summer months. Those zones are responsible for wide-spread fish-kills that you’ve seen (and smelled?) around the harbor before.

A solar-powered “SolarBee” aeration and mixing device will be anchored in the harbor off the end of the Recreation Pier at 1715 Thames St. in Fells Point starting Thursday.

The pilot study program will monitor and track dissolved oxygen, the temperature of the water, salinity, density and conductivity.  Getting that information will help the companies create devices to reduce those “dead zones.”

Funding for the program comes from a $100,000 grant from the Abell Foundation. KCI will be conducting the monitoring of the program.

Spend your lunch with the Baltimore Blast

The Baltimore Blast are headed to the Major Indoor Soccer League championships this year for the sixth time in nine years.

To celebrate, the Blast are throwing a party downtown on Thursday so visitors and those on their lunch break can mingle with the players and join in. The celebration will be at noon at Hopkins Plaza on Charles and Baltimore streets. There will be music, free food and Blast paraphernalia, as well as the chance to win tickets to the championship game.

As for the game itself, Baltimore will play against the Milwaukee Wave at First Mariner Arena on Friday. The game will be at 7:35 p.m. and tickets range from $16 to $30.