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November 2012

We Want Your Questions!

Will Baker GOn November 12, CBF President Will Baker will be teaching a course as part of the Kaleidoscope Program at Roland Park School titled, The Chesapeake Bay – A National Treasure: Citizen’s Guide to Saving the Bay. We hope you will attend! (Register Here: Corcorana@rpcs.org or call Alexa Corcoran at 410/323-5500 ext. 3091; Seminar Fee is $30.)

But before the seminar, we'd like to hear from you! What would you like to hear about on the 12th? What sorts of Bay issues are you interested in? What concerns do you have about the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams?

Please post your questions and thoughts below in the comments field. As these questions and ideas get posted, we hope others will react to them. That way, we can tee off on a base of discussion that night rather than start from scratch.

Will will consider all of the input below and try to fashion his remarks to address what is of interest to you. We're looking forward to a fun, interactive discussion with you!

Learn more about the seminar here.



Photo of the Week: Serenity Now

 SunPhoto by Irene Martinelli.

"This image was taken in the Sandy Point Beach viciniy as the sun was going down. I think it imparts a sense of serenity."

—Irene Martinelli

Ensure that Irene and others continue to enjoy serene sunsets along extraordinary waters like these. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!


Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org,along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

 


Cows and Clean Water, Part 5

This is the fifth and final in a series of blogs on how community conservation groups worked with farmers in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and Rockingham County, Virginia, to improve the water quality of local streams and rivers through various Best Management Practices. Read the fourththird, second, and first parts.

NA007718_7Photo courtesy of CBF Staff.

Mill Creek is no longer impaired for phosphorus and sediment, and both Muddy Creek and lower Dry River are no longer impaired for nitrogen. These important achievements came about directly through the Clean Water Blueprint process. Meanwhile, though Stephen Foster Lake, lower Dry River, and Muddy Creek still carry impairments, the trends in their monitoring data show clear improvement.

Progress on these waterways continues as farmers continue to work with their federal, state, county, and private partners. Properly designed and installed combinations of conservation practices can and do improve water quality in areas of land being intensively farmed. 

Healing the tributaries of the Susquehanna and the Shenandoah--and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay itself--will require both Pennsylvanians and Virginians to replicate these ongoing projects on many streams in the Chesapeake drainage basin.  Meeting that challenge will require the kind of dedication to good stewardship, cooperation, trust, technical assistance, funding support, and, in some cases, carefully-applied pressure that have helped the farmers and septic system owners on Mill Creek, Muddy Creek, and lower Dry River to make substantive improvements.

Meeting the challenge will be an ongoing task.  For now, though, the take-home messages are that installing conservation practices can be done on working farms, and they do improve and protect water quality.  Thanks to the federal Farm Bill, state support, and private grants, funding packages can make conservation practices affordable for family farmers.  The bottom line is that we CAN restore streams and lakes that benefit the public at large, while helping farmers remain profitable. The farmers and their partners in these projects deserve the deep thanks and respect of everyone who has a stake in clean water.


—John Page Williams


Watershed Hero: Shirley Stark

ShirleyStarkspeakingatMemberMeetingShirley Stark addresses volunteers at a recent CBF member meeting. Photo courtesy of Andrew Bliss/CBF Staff.

Located in South Central Pennsylvania across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, Lemoyne—a borough of less than 5,000 people—is becoming a stormwater management leader and Shirley Stark is working to keep it that way.

With forward thinking council members, what started as a Downtown Revitalization back in 2006 has led to the construction of street berms containing rain gardens along the borough’s Market Street. The rain gardens capture polluted water running down the road, filter out litter and pollution, and let water infiltrate into the ground—instead of flowing untreated into the Susquehanna River.

Shirley Stark, a Lemoyne resident and CBF volunteer is leading a charge to raise public awareness about these rain gardens and to keep them maintained. A long-time native plant gardener and advocate, she first made the connection between native plants, rain gardens, and polluted urban water while making a video for the StormwaterPA website. Stark has always loved gardening, but was really motivated when she realized that gardening can help clean and protect our water. 

Rain garden maintenance is critical because the native plants require different upkeep than most landscaping. If not properly maintained, then the rain gardens may not work efficiently. Unfortunately, Lemoyne was having difficulty training its staff to properly care for the rain gardens as well as paying for their upkeep. Knowing that long-term maintenance is critical to the success of the gardens, Stark organized a group of volunteers to maintain the Market Street rain gardens.   

Thus far, Stark is finding success! In September, she organized a fall maintenance day with more than 60 volunteers who planted 300 plants and removed a truckload of weeds. She plans to have at least two maintenance events each year and potentially a third in the summer. Beyond maintenance, Stark is hoping to build public awareness of the Market Street rain gardens, stormwater pollution, and what people can do at home to improve water quality.

—Andrew Bliss

Learn about CBF's clean water efforts through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprintour best hope for a saved Bay!


Cows and Clean Water, Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of blogs on how community conservation groups worked with farmers in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and Rockingham County, Virginia, to improve the water quality of local streams and rivers through various Best Management Practices. Read the third, second, and first parts.

Landes plantingCBF tree plantings on Darrel Landes farm along Muddy Creek. Photo by CBF Staff.

Both the trust developed by the outreach process and the technical assistance offered by the state and federal partners played key roles in participation by the Old Order Mennonites in the Muddy Creek and Dry River watersheds. Even though the pollution limits applied just as much to them as to their less conservative neighbors, many chose to invest their own money instead of government cost-share funds to upgrade their conservation practices and develop nutrient management plans for both crop fields and livestock operations. They have, however, accepted the technical assistance offered by NRCS, the Shenandoah Valley SWCD, and CBF. It is testimony to the Mennonites’ faith, their stewardship ethic, and the encouragement of their bishops that these farmers paid the full cost to install the recommended conservation practices, which included about 80 percent of the streambank livestock exclusion fencing installed to date.

It is worth noting, however, that the other farmers along Muddy Creek who have accepted cost-share funding have also willingly contributed their shares of their projects’ costs. One particularly important portion of the cost-share funds made available to them has come through NRCS from special Chesapeake Bay program sections of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Muddy Creek’s condition improved significantly from 2001-2006, thanks to the whole-farm combinations of Best Management Practices installed then. They included dairy loafing lot systems, 10 miles of stream fencing to exclude livestock, grazing systems to protect and enhance pastures, 1,200 acres of cover crops for small grains, and side-dress application of nitrogen on corn. In addition, the project addressed rural human wastewater issues with 13 septic system repairs and replacements, 30 septic tank pump-outs, and the installation of five alternative waste treatment systems. Improvement has continued since 2006, as farmers along the creek have worked steadily to extend, enhance, and maintain these conservation practices, both with and without cost-share funding.

Their efforts have produced one major success: Muddy Creek and lower Dry River are no longer impaired for excessive nitrate. Levels of that pollutant have consistently stayed around 6 mg/l in Muddy Creek and 4 mg/l in Dry River, with no sample in excess of the drinking water standard (10 mg/l) since 2004, despite some years of heavy runoff that would previously have produced continuous violations.

Muddy Creek is still impaired for E. coli bacteria and benthic invertebrates. Though the results of in-the-field water quality testing indicate clear improvements, they also suggest caution, as E. coli violation rates continue to run over 50-60 percent in the creek's watershed, still a long way from the maximum 10.5 percent violation rate necessary to de-list the water and call it fully supporting for recreational use. The job has taken a decade so far. The great cooperation over that time between many partners—both public and private—deserves high praise, but it is important to understand and be realistic about the effort and the resources necessary to turn around waterway ecosystems that have been (largely unintentionally) treated very roughly for over a century. 

—John Page Williams


Stay tuned for the fifth and final part of the "Cows and Clean Water Series" next week!


Cows and Clean Water, Part 3

This is the third in a series of blogs on how community conservation groups worked with farmers in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and Rockingham County, Virginia, to improve the water quality of local streams and rivers through various Best Management Practices. Read the second and first parts.

Landes 1Darrel Landes farm along Muddy Creek. Photo by CBF Staff.

Muddy Creek, Rockingham County, VA

With its fertile Shenandoah Valley soils, Rockingham is Virginia’s most valuable agricultural county, especially for livestock: beef, dairy, and poultry. Unfortunately, the concentration of livestock on the county's rolling land has led to significant nonpoint source nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the streams and creeks that feed the Shenandoah River system. A partnership of farmers, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations (including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation), and private contractors has quietly produced a solid success story for several tributaries of the North River over the past 15 years. There are several elements in this success that echo the Mill Creek project.

In the 1990s, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) placed Rockingham's Muddy Creek and Dry River on the Commonwealth’s 303(d) List of Impaired Waters for violating the nitrate public drinking water standard of 10 milligrams per liter, since the Town of Bridgewater draws from the North River below Dry River's confluence with it, and for violating the E.coli bacteria water quality standard. In addition, Muddy Creek has a benthic (streambed aquatic life) impairment because of sediment and phosphorous pollution.

Thus DEQ began developing a pollution reduction plan for these two waterways. Implementation began in 2001 with installation of agricultural and residential Best Management Practices (BMPs) on farms through a partnership between willing landowners, DEQ, the VA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), VA Cooperative Extension, the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, the Rockingham County Farm Bureau, the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Farm Service Agency (FSA), and several food-processing companies. More recently, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Virginia Office and Watershed Stewardship, Inc. have joined the partnership.

At the beginning of the project, a grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment allowed DEQ and DCR to conduct public outreach in planning the nuts and bolts of implementation. This outreach played a critical role in building support for the project, just as outreach did 300 miles to the north on Mill Creek. A DEQ/DCR report noted that, "Effective outreach is as much a matter of building relationships and trust as it is of providing pertinent information...[It] means adapting to the schedules, customs, and rhythms of the community. It involves flexibility and the willingness to operate within a give-and-take relationship."

—John Page Williams


Stay tuned for part four tomorrow which discusses how fencing, grazing systems, and other innovative methods helped improve the Muddy Creek watershed.

Landes 3Darrel Landes farm along Muddy Creek. Photo by CBF Staff.


Photo of the Week: Fox Island Panorama

FoxIsland_ChristineWysockiPhoto by Christine Wysocki/CBF Staff. For a full, interactive view of this image, click here!

"My name is Christine and I work in the Communications department at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Living most of my life in Maryland near the Severn, Magothy, and South Rivers, I have a deep fondness for the water and the food, peace, and fun that it provides. I am moved by the Bay’s natural beauty on a daily basis, and so thankful to live here in the watershed. This photo was taken atop CBF’s Fox Island education center in early September of this year. Our department was on a three-day planning retreat and this was my first-ever time at this location. I had been told about how these field experiences have transformative powers and was amped to finally be experiencing it all for myself! Armed with only a smart phone and a neat panorama capturing app, I climbed up to the roof and stood on a small wooden landing known as the crow's nest where I was able to rotate for a unique 360-degree view of the horizon."

—Christine Wysocki
For a full, interactive view of this image, click here!

Ensure that Christine and others continue to enjoy extraordinary waters and places like these. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!


Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Cows and Clean Water, Part 2

This is the second in a series of blogs on how community conservation groups worked with farmers in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and Rockingham County, Virginia, to improve the water quality of local streams and rivers through various Best Management Practices. Read the first part here.

  Clear Stream Through Buffer IIIPlanting native trees, shrubs, and grasses along streams help absorb and filter harmful pollutants running off from the fields before they enter our waters. Photo courtesy of John Page Williams/CBF Staff.

Publication of the TMDL brought availability of cost-share funding to the farmers for conservation practices from Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, which provides federal support to help state and local agencies focus on nonpoint source pollution problems. In the beginning of the project, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) Farm Stewardship Program provided matching funds for restoration of forested streamside buffers.

In the middle of the decade, many farmers also qualified for cost-share assistance from the Conservation Reserve Enhancement and Environmental Quality Incentives Programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (CREP and EQIP) and from Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener Program (Department of Environmental Protection). USDA also offered assistance from its Bradford County Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff.  CBF added technical assistance from local stream buffer specialists Jennifer Johns and Steve Smith.

Jen Johns grew up on a sheep/beef/veal/hog farm in nearby Sugar Run.  She has academic training in both environmental science and social work. “It’s worth taking time to build relationships and network with the community,” said Johns. “We have good teamwork between NRCS, the District, and CBF. Most people don’t care who works for whom, as long as we get the projects done right.” 

To restore Mill Creek, the solutions were agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs), especially nutrient management planning, excluding livestock from streams, and managing manure.  Over the next ten years, Lovegreen, Johns, Smith, and the other team members visited all 13 of the farms to explain the ecological need for BMPs and, in many cases, their advantages for the health of the farms’ cows. Working with each farmer, they developed a plan specific to the operation’s needs. The local, person-to-person approach was the key to developing trust and convincing all of Mill Creek’s farmers to join the project. 

Then the work began. Virtually every project included streambank fencing and associated facilities, like alternative water sources and stabilized stream crossings; planting native trees, shrubs, and grasses along the stream courses; building manure storage facilities that allowed the farmers to avoid having to spread manure on frozen ground during Bradford’s long winters; stabilizing barnyard and heavy use areas; and setting up milkhouse waste treatment systems using constructed wetlands. In a couple of cases, the project partners helped farmers build new barns to move their cows away from the stream.

Finally, the team used the Natural Stream Channel Design approach to restore two deeply-eroded sections of Mill Creek that were contributing the bulk of the sediment going into the lake.

By 2005, monitoring studies made it clear that the restoration was working. Phosphorus and sediment levels had dropped 52 percent and 59 percent, respectively, far enough to comply with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint (TMDL). They have stayed low since. Everyone involved breathed a sigh of relief, celebrated briefly, but then got back to work, because there was one important problem remaining: the lake’s bottom had over time caught so much phosphorus that the pollutant would periodically re-suspend with changing water temperatures.

The lake has not yet met its pollution limit requirements, but it is getting close, because Mike Lovegreen and his team have worked out a system that siphons water from the lake bottom into a constructed wetland below the dam. Look for more improvement over the next couple of years as this wetland scrubs the lake water.

—John Page Williams


Stay tuned for how forested streamside buffers and other innovative methods helped restore other watersheds.

Constructed Wetland IConstructed wetlands like these also help filter out harmful pollutants from our waters. Photo courtesy of John Page Williams/CBF Staff.


Red – Right – Recycling

RecyclingHalyards clanging, dealers dealing, and docks lined with the shoes of the shipboard can only mean one thing around Annapolis in October: The boat shows are in town.  

For the next two weeks, thousands of boaters, yachties, and brokers will live their lives on temporary docks in downtown Annapolis. Breakfasts will be eaten during the morning rush to boats and booths, lunches will be devoured between clients and tours, and libations will be consumed to celebrate sales and purchases. A good time will undoubtedly be had by all, but what will happen to those bagel wrappers and emptied bottles? 

Not to fear. This year Annapolis Green, partnering with WasteStrategies, is helping the United States Yacht Shows demonstrate its commitment to the environment by making recycling available (for the first time!) within the shows. As the biggest outdoor events in Annapolis, recycling at the boat shows not only sends a powerful message to the thousands of visitors who will attend, but will also demonstrate that locals care about the Bay and visitors should, too.

So if you’re in attendance, keep an eye out for the brightly colored "eco-stations" that will be set up around the show. Enjoy your time andif you’re luckyyour purchases, but be sure to keep it between the navigational beacons and remember, "Red-Right-Recycling!"

—Rob Beach


Cows and Clean Water, Part 1

This is the first in a series of blogs on how community conservation groups worked with farmers in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and Rockingham County, Virginia, to improve the water quality of local streams and rivers through various Best Management Practices. Read on!

Bullfrog in algaeA bullfrog covered in the algae of Stephen Foster Lake. Photo courtesy of John Page Williams/CBF Staff.  

Mill Creek, Bradford County, PA

Pennsylvania's Endless Mountains lie along its Northern Tier, against the New York border in Bradford County. The parallel mountain ridges provide spectacular views through this rural countryside of forests and farms. In the 1970s, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources created a new state park at the foot of Mt. Pisgah and dammed the stream at its base, Mill Creek, to form Stephen Foster Lake, which drains through Sugar Creek to the Susquehanna River near Towanda. The lake developed a reputation with recreational anglers for largemouth bass and panfish, while people flocked to the park for picnics and other activities.

Soon, though, the lake grew cloudy with sediment and began growing summertime algae blooms. The area where the creek flowed in became significantly shallower. (The inflowing sediment eventually reduced the lake’s volume by 29 percent.) When the blooms died off and fell to the bottom, bacteria decaying them sucked the oxygen out of the deeper waters, reducing fish habitat. The problems worsened through the 1980s, so in 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a three-year study of the lake, conducted by the Bradford County Conservation District under the guidance of District Manager Mike Lovegreen. 

The study looked at both the lake and its upstream Mill Creek watershed, to work out the causes and evaluate the feasibility of remedying them. It included both chemical and biological analysis, as well as inventorying land use and changes to the streambed over time. Part of the problem proved to be that the small 70-acre lake received all of the runoff from a relatively large 6,577-acre watershed, with 57.5 percent in agriculture (41.6 percent in pasture, 15.9 percent in row crops), compared with 41.2 percent in forests and only 1.4 percent in developed land and ponds. Land use was driving the condition of the lake. The problem was a miniature version of what plagues the Chesapeake Bay: a large land area draining to a small, shallow settling basin.

The lake study documented serious problems with phosphorus and sediment pollution, most of it coming from the 13 dairy farms in the watershed. In 2000, the EPA declared the creek and the lake impaired for those two pollutants and published a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), calling for significant reductions.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on how forested streamside buffers and other innovative methods helped restore this unique watershed.

—John Page Williams

 

Picture1Stephen Foster Lake developed a reputation with recreational anglers for largemouth bass and panfish, while people flocked to the park for picnics and other activities. Photo courtesy of John Page Williams/CBF Staff.