Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entries in Potomac River (21)

Thursday
Apr162015

Human Drugs Harming Fish Fertility

Prescription drugs intended for humans are affecting our fisheries in frightening ways. That's because they or their residues are flushed down toilets and into our waterways. Birth control pills are among the most concerning because they affect fertility in bass and other species.

For example, a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that fish exposed to a synthetic hormone called 17a-ethinylestradiol, or EE2, produced offspring that struggled to fertilize eggs. The grandchildren of the originally exposed fish suffered a 30 percent decrease in their fertilization rate. The authors mulled the impact of what they discovered and decided it wasn't good.

"If those trends continued, the potential for declines in overall population numbers might be expected in future generations," said Ramji Bhandari, a University of Missouri assistant research professor and a visiting scientist at USGS. "These adverse outcomes, if shown in natural populations, could have negative impacts on fish inhabiting contaminated aquatic environments."

Read more here.

Additionally, check out this previous post at Activist Angler about minnows exhibiting bizarre behavior because of drugs.

Tuesday
Mar172015

Troublesome Invasive Plant Returns to Potomac River

Sassafras River Association volunteers collected these water chestnuts from creeks and streams on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

A troublesome old invasive has reared its head once again on the Potomac River. While sampling fish populations, biologists with Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries (VGIF) found a dense clump of water chestnuts, covering about ½ acre of water, near a boat rental dock in Pohick Bay Regional Park, 25 miles south of the nation’s capital.

Response was quick, as VGIF organized volunteers to hand pull the troublesome plant this past fall.

Water chestnut is probably a lot more troublesome and invasive potentially than snakeheads might be,” said biologist John Odenkirk.

“It was dense, but we got it. Hopefully, we nipped the potential for this plant to take over the bay and shut it down.”

Because it is an annual that sprouts from seeds, this fast-growing exotic is not susceptible to herbicides. It can be controlled only by pulling or mechanical harvest. The seeds have sharp needles that can attach to wildlife, clothing, and other items for transport to new areas, and they can remain viable in sediment for more than a decade. Just one acre of plants can yield enough seeds to cover 100 acres.

Native to both Asia and Europe, water chestnut was first confirmed on the Potomac in 1923, with a two-acre bed expanding to cover 41 miles of river, from Washington, D.C., to near Quantico, Va., in just two years. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the dense, floating mats restricted navigation, harmed fisheries, and killed off submersed plants with their thick canopy.

The Army Corps of Engineers mechanically harvested the infestation and the plant was considered mostly eradicated from the Potomac by 1945. But limited hand harvesting continued into the 1960s.

USGS is studying this more recent invader to determine its species and lineage. Its spiny seed pods don’t resemble those of water chestnuts found in Maryland and other states. Additionally, VGIF and volunteer stewards will keep an eye out for future outbreaks. 

Sunday
Feb152015

Historic Access Site on Potomac to Re-Open in March

Dock repairs have begun.

Shut down in the fall because of safety concerns, one of the most popular and historic access sites on the Potomac River will re-open in March, according to the National Park Service (NPS).

Still,  resource managers are uncertain how they will  provide a long-term solution to the siltation, which forced closure of The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove in October. At that time, NPS declared the dock unsafe for public use, two weeks before the end of the season, and an official revealed the agency does not have the money to dredge the cove and make lasting repairs.

In response to concerns expressed in a petition by the Friends of Fletcher's Cove, a coalition of more than 400 organizations and individuals, NPS sponsored a public meeting in December, and agreed to re-open Fletcher’s in the spring.

“The Park Service made clear its commitment to fund and implement a plan that addresses the immediate need for safe access to the Fletcher’s dock,” coalition leadership told its supporters, which include Keep America Fishing, Trout Unlimited, and the Potomac River Smallmouth club.

“The more complex long-term solution to the siltation at Fletcher’s Cove will require your continued persistence and support. The Park Service anticipates a comprehensive study is needed and will develop a scope-of-work as a first step.

“Our coalition must continue to assist with this vital effort to preserve the Fletcher’s Cove experience for future generations to come.”

Important financial assistance could come from the Washington, D.C. Fisheries & Wildlife Division, according to its director, Bryan King. He said that the city has funds not being used that are “strictly for boating access.” Consequently, “we could have a grant (for Fletcher’s) off our desks in a matter of weeks.”

One possible complication is that commercial activity is not allowed where federal funds are used, and the concession at Fletcher’s is a private corporation. 

(This article appeared originally in B.A.SS. Times.)

Monday
Dec152014

Potomac River Public Access Threatened

In October, 2014 an official with the National Park Service declared the walkway to the Fletcher’s Cove boat dock unsafe for public use, effectively cutting off access to the Potomac River from publicly available row boats, canoes and kayaks. The walkway, which once floated at the lowest tide, is now grounded and compromised by siltation. Unless immediate action is taken, there is a strong possibility the dock will stay closed next spring.

The continued operations of the Fletcher’s Cove concession as we now know it may be at stake. To ensure continued access to the dock in the spring of 2015, ACTION MUST BE TAKEN NOW. PLEASE mail and/or email the NPS expressing your concern and asking that it expedite a plan to save access to the river at this location.

Mailing address: Kevin Brandt Superintendent,  C&O Canal National Historical Park Headquarters Office, 1850 Dual Highway, Suite 100, Hagerstown, MD 21740-6620

Send your email request to  C&O Canal NHP Headquarters.

What follows provides more historical information and explains how we have reached this critical point in time. Please share this document or its link to anyone who will support this effort and also sign our petition to preserve river access at the boathouse.

The Potomac near its fall line has long been a cherished natural resource for the entire region. Providing access to the river since before colonials arrived, the area known as Fletcher’s Cove is a natural wonder within the boundaries of what would become the nation’s capital. Archeological digs have shown that Native Americans used this location to harvest and store fish and grain. The reliably deep water of the tidal cove also served as the first river access point for George Washington’s “Patowmack Canal.”

Early in our nation’s history, Andrew Jackson was rowed in a boat from this spot to fish for striped bass under Chain Bridge. After the Civil War the Fletcher family established a boathouse  which allowed every man to enjoy this unique location for recreation and to partake in the bounty of the “Nation’s River.”

Over a century later and now part of the C&O Canal Historical Park, Fletcher’s Cove continues to draw visitors of from all over the world. The park and boathouse there today are precious Washington, DC landmarks for residents and tourists alike.

Siltation has been a growing problem at Fletcher’s for many decades, and it is largely a manmade condition. Traditional agricultural practices and overdevelopment upstream have played an obvious role by increasing the sediment runoff. The cove’s problems worsened after the construction of Metro and the Dulles Interceptor Sewer in the 1960’s.  Excavated soil was dumped at the river’s edge just north of Fletcher’s Cove, with the intention of creating a more sheltered area for Fletcher’s Cove.

It was soon discovered that seasonal flooding deposited increased amounts of silt where it previously did not settle. The cove began to fill in at an alarming rate. In the early 1980’s a narrow channel was dug to improve flow, but it hit bedrock, often clogged with debris, and was deemed ineffective. Dredging projects that have been attempted only temporarily addressed the problem. The cove continues to fill in.

Not only is Fletcher's Cove an historic gem and a unique and vital resource for the outdoors person, but it is the ONLY access point for D.C. Fire and Rescue, Montgomery County Rescue and the D.C. Harbor Police from Georgetown to the dangerous Little Falls area. If access is closed off at this location, then response abilities to the frequent emergency incidents in the area will be severely compromised.

 To increase awareness, a coalition of river enthusiasts has drafted this statement to inform the public. It’s well worth repeating we need your help to encourage officials with The National Park Service and the C&O Canal National Historical Park to implement a solution that will maintain the boathouse and provide access to the river from Fletcher's Cove by next spring. Please help get the word out by sharing this statement with others and asking them to reach out. The following individuals and organizations currently endorse this effort. If you would like to join us and be added to this list, please fill out this petition to save river access at Fletcher’s Cove

Thanks to your support we have increased awareness. The NPS issued this C&O Canal National Historical Park News Release  announcing a public hearing on Dec. 17. Please continue to sign and spread the word.

Monday
Aug042014

Scientists Find More Mutated Intersex Fish in Nation's Waters

All scientists have to do is search new waters, it seems, and the mystery of mutated intersex fish grows more disturbing.

Most recently, they’ve found male smallmouth bass carrying eggs in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna, Delaware, and Ohio river basins, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey. Male fish at every site sampled had immature eggs in their testes, with the highest percentage in the Susquehanna. Previously in the Chesapeake Bay drainage, research revealed evidence of the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the Potomac.

Vicki Blazer, lead author of the study, said that the pollutants affecting bass, as well as white suckers, “are most likely complex mixtures form both agriculture sources, such as animal wastes, pesticides and herbicides, and human sources from wastewater treatment plan effluent and other sewage discharges.”

"The prevalence and severity of the immature eggs in smallmouth bass corresponded with the percent of agricultural land use in the watershed above the collection sites," the scientist said. "Chemical compounds associated with estrogenic endocrine disruption, in particular estrone, a natural estrogen, were also associated with the extent and severity of these effects in bass."

Meanwhile, a toxicologist with the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency office in Denver reported that her research on fathead minnows is suggesting that “a very potent synthetic female hormone . . . can wipe out fish populations over several generations, and it’s the male fish that are most affected.”

Previously, Kristen Keteles added, studies had shown that male fish below wastewater treatment plants can lose masculine characteristics and become indistinguishable from females when exposed to estrogen and other endocrine disruptors.

“Our new study found that a potent form of female hormone estrogen used in prescription drugs not only causes the males to look female; it also appears to be toxic to male fish and these effects may impact future generations of fish.”

Fish A is a normal male fathead minnow. Fish C is a normal female. B is a male that was exposed to female hormones in prescription drugs and looks more like a female. Photo by Adam Schwindt

These disturbing discoveries regarding fish, which could portend similar problems for other species, began to emerge in the late 1970s, with anglers fishing wastewater lagoons in Great Britain, according to Whitney Jacobs, a former Conservation Associate at B.A.S.S. who researched the effects of environmental estrogens on male fish while doing graduate work in fisheries at the University of Georgia.

But the first reports of intersex was not documented in scientific literature until 1994 and the first major national assessment of the problem was not published until 2009,  she added.

“Widespread occurrence of intersex in black basses (Micropterus spp.) from U.S. rivers, 1995-2004” revealed intersex in 3 percent of fish collected and in 4 of 16 species--- largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, common carp, and channel catfish.

“However, it was most prevalent in largemouth and smallmouth bass,” Jacobs said. “The study also found the greatest incidence of the condition in the southeastern U.S.”

More recently, a 2014 report from scientists at the University of Georgia revealed these mutations aren’t confined to rivers. In “Survey of Intersex Largemouth Bass from Impoundments in Georgia USA,” they said that 48 percent of male largemouth bass collected from 11 reservoirs without direct municipal or agricultural wastewater inputs were intersex. Additionally, they found the condition in nine of the fisheries.

“The high incidence of intersex males in small impoundments demonstrates the condition is not confined to rivers and suggests that factors other than those previously associated with intersex (i.e., municipal wastewater) may be involved,” the researchers concluded.

Scientists hope that future research will reveal those additional factors. Meanwhile, they believe that fish that live downstream of wastewater treatment plants are most at risk, because of chemicals that can’t be filtered out of discharges.

“Humans excrete hormones and medications, which often end up in our rivers and streams from sewage,” said Keteles, adding that flushing medications also contributes to the problem.

“The water is treated, but many hormones and pharmaceuticals are not completely removed by wastewater treatment plants,” she said.

“My team is trying to determine what this means for fish, and ultimately for people, too.”

How to dispose of medicines properly

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)