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Smith Island as I Recall it 35 Years Ago . . .

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Some of CBF's original educators (clockwise from top): Bill Goldsborough (now CBF's Director of Fisheries), Don Baugh (now CBF's Vice President for Education), John Page Williams (now CBF's Senior Naturalist), Richard Maldeis, and Dick Lay.

This year CBF's Smith Island Education Program celebrates its 35th Anniversary. Below its first educator and founder Bill Goldsborough reflects on the early days of the program, inspiring and transforming students in this unique island community.

I had never been to Smith Island when I was hired by CBF in September 1978 to start a field education program there. My initiation came during a weekend trip to nearby Fox Island. Don Baugh, Richard Maldeis, and I ran across Tangier Sound in one of CBF's T-Crafts on a mission to scout the area where we would soon be running field experiences.

We motored up Tyler's Creek from the south, flanking "Fishing Creek Marsh," a plot of marshland that CBF had purchased from local elders Paul and Ullie Marshall. We felt CBF would have standing as a landowner, and we would be able to preserve these fragile wetlands. Well, with hindsight, it didn't quite rise to the level of buying waterfront in Arizona, but the lesson learned was that you really can't "own" a tidal marsh in a traditional sense, and the tide was going to ebb and flow through its creeks and guts and keep the marsh alive and vibrant no matter who owned it on paper.

Nevertheless, the broad expanse of Tyler's Creek was beautiful that fall afternoon, at least until we ran aground. It was a sudden but not jarring experience as the mud bottom closed its grip on our boat and eased it to a stop. Lesson number two: the waters around Smith Island are very shallow! In fact, as we learned in many other encounters with the bottom and taught to the students on our field experiences, the landscape, above and below the water, is very flat. There are very few lines of elevation on either topo maps of the scant bits of upland or nautical charts of the local waters. The result, it turns out, is one of the most intimate intersections of land and water around and a microcosm of how the convergence of tidal and photosynthetic energy make the Chesapeake system so productive.

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One of the first groups of students on CBF's Smith Island Education Program. Photo courtesy of Bill Goldsborough/CBF Staff.

CBF bought a house in Tylerton, one of three villages on the island, as the home base for our field programs. Many of my fondest memories involve that house, sold to us by Norwood Tull before moving to the "mainland" after a lifetime on the water. As a single family home with only one bathroom, it required a few modifications before it could support school groups of 20-plus students. Bunk beds were brought in, and kitchen capacity was expanded, but the biggest challenge proved to be installing a second bathroom, something Don and I barely completed lying on our backs in mud puddles under the house just hours before the first group arrived!

Once we were up and running, each three-day field experience brought that house to life. Dinners were daily adventures as the middle and high school students tried their hand at mixing crab cakes and frying oysters. Evening gatherings around the chalk board were like game shows as each kid competed to recount what we had learned that day. Eventually, faces appeared at the windows and back door as island kids let their curiosity get the best of them. The interactions that ensued were hilarious and heart-warming as island and suburban cultures intermingled. Many of those local kids became life-long friends, some even growing up to become CBF field educators.

During my two years on Smith Island, the reality of the flat landscape sank in as both the boundary for life on the island and the theme for the many field trips I ran. The twice-daily pulsing of the tide into the eight-mile long filigree of marsh determined where the ferry could run, where crabs, ducks, and terrapin could live, and where local watermen hunted for them. On field experiences we talked about "habitat" and how one inch more in elevation caused salt marsh cordgrass to give way to salt meadow hay and how that effected what could live there. It was a life-changing experience to be part of that community (human and biological) and to watch each group of students become suddenly aware of its natural rhythms.

—Bill Goldsborough, CBF's Director of Fisheries and First Smith Island Educator

Learn more about this and other milestone anniversaries for our Education Program in the latest issue of Save the Bay magazine.


Photo of the Week: The Bay in Winter

1616478_10203046439824973_1239151487_nThis past Sunday on Bay Ridge Beach, Maryland. Photo by Amelia Avis. 

I've grown up seeing the Bay every day of my life. Whether I'm swimming in it, sailing on it, or just walking along its shores, I've always felt the most comfortable around the water, and I can't imagine living somewhere without water nearby. To me, the Bay means home, and I think looking out over the Chesapeake and watching the sun rise over the horizon have helped put my world into perspective. The Bay makes me feel limitless, just like the seemingly endless expanse of water I see every morning.

—Amelia Avis

Ensure that Amelia and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint! 

To see more images of the Chesapeake in winter, visit our Facebook Photo Album here.

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!


How Farm Bill Conservation Funding Supports Pennsylvania Farmers: Marquardt Farms, Centre County, PA

 

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Mike Marquardt farms 360 acres in central Pennsylvania. Photo by Frank Rohrer.

Meandering its way through central Pennsylvania, Penns Creek is a world-class trout fishery. But lately it's not just anglers who are drawn to it.

Attention has shifted to the efforts of local farmers who, with many partners and funding through the federal Farm Bill, are improving Penns Creek and its tributaries. At the same time, they are improving the economic stability of their farms.

The watershed has its share of problems. Cows muck through the creek, plowing fields sends soil rushing into streams during rains, and land use changes like the development of farmlands all take a toll on the trout and on their clean water habitat.

But it is getting better, thanks to farmers like Mike Marquardt, who operates Marquardt Farms in Spring Mills. He shares, "Muddy Creek [a tributary of Penns Creek] runs through the farms, so I have to do my part to minimize the impacts."

Mike's efforts are doing just that.

He says, "Cover crops keep the nutrients in the ground!" Planting cover crops and utilizing no-till planting methods are two of the conservation practices Mike follows for the 360 acres of farmland that he manages for his mother Linda. These soil-saving practices and others were prescribed through USDA NRCS conservation plans.

In addition to managing crops, he also raises 50 steers and 40 holstein heifers. That can add up to a lot of manure. Through programs like the USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP), and the Chesapeake Bay Program, Mike received the technical and financial assistance needed to build a manure storage facility.

"With my new manure storage I can spread manure when I want to and put it where I need it." And that's important. Properly managing manure application, combined with planting cover crops goes a long way toward keeping nutrients in the ground and out of the stream.

Finally, Mike knew that having the cows muck-around in Muddy Creek was not good for the water--or for the cows. So with the help of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) he enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

CREP provided the assistance Mike needed to fence the cattle from the creek and plant a buffer of trees between the creek and the field--one more way to keep the nutrients and the soil where they belong.

—Frank Rohrer and Kelly Donaldson

 Ensure that families like the Kuhns are able to continue doing this good work on their farms. Tell Congress to protect conservation programs in the Farm Bill!


Virginia's Stormwater Storm

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Stormwater conveys many pollutants - oily wastes, pet waste, sediment and fertilizers - from our streets and yards to our waterways. Photo by Leslie Middleton.

The following first appeared in Bay Journal News late last week.  

Several bills in the legislative session would roll back or delay a stormwater law than began life a decade ago

For clean-water advocates, local government leaders and those with higher political aspirations, one environmental issue seems to be trumping all others as this legislative begins in both Virginia and Maryland. And that issue is stormwater.

In both states, local governments are pushing back against recently enacted laws that are due to go into effect this year. Read more about the Maryland legislation here.  

In Virginia, the stormwater regulations were supposed to take affect on July 1, 2014 -- after ten years of state agency and stakeholder compromise. But several bills in Virginia's legislative session, which began earlier this month, are seeking to delay or change these requirements.

Virginia's stormwater regulations require more stringent pollution reductions, setting standards for reducing phosphorous and stormwater volume when land is disturbed in new construction and redevelopment.

But the regulations also require all local governments in Virginia to develop a “local program” for administering site plan reviews, permits, inspections, and collecting fees – and some local governments want more time to get these programs in place.

Regulations that were set to go into effect in 2011 have been delayed twice already, and proposed legislation would delay yet another year requirements that activists think are necessary to meet the Bay pollution diet and protect local streams.

“It’s not like this [requirement] has snuck up on any of them,” said Jacob Powel, policy and campaign manager for the Virginia Conservation Network.

Mike Toalson, Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Association of Home Builders, agrees. He is a veteran of many of the advisory panels convened by the state to develop the regulations approved by the Virginia State Water Control Board in 2011.

“This has been a plan that has been ten years in the making. Everyone has been at the table.”

Toalson is sympathetic to local governments’ concerns about the regulations' costs, but he says that the homebuilding community agreed to higher permit fees so that there would be enough money for the local governments to administer the local programs.

And, he said, there are other benefits of the regulations – for the development community and for water quality.

Before, homebuilders applied for erosion and sediment control permits from local authorities but had to get water quality permits from the state. With the new regulations, developers will be able to obtain all their permits locally – and they will be consistent across Virginia.

“We’ve about 30% compliance with the current regulations,” Toalson said. As a result, the appropriate permits have not covered about 70% of land-disturbing activities in Virginia. The new regulations, said Toalson, will result in broader permit coverage, which in turn should result in more protection for local streams. 

Virginia has provided money through a grant program to help local governments establish the local stormwater programs. Over $2 million in 2012 was distributed to help local governments develop these programs ($1.2 million for Bay watershed communities) and $1.8 million was distributed in late 2013 for the same purpose (including another $1.2 million for Bay communities).

Greene County, a rural but growing county in the central Virginia piedmont (2010 population 18,403), got assistance to establish their local program the regional soil and water conservation district using some of this state-provided funding.

Greene County supervisor, Jim Frydl, said: “We haven’t hired the extra people we’ll need, but we are ready to go.”

The development of stormwater regulations over the last ten years has been delayed by the need to align the 2011 regulations with the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or pollution diet. Programs were supposed to be in place by July 2013, unless the locality asked for a one-year exemption. They all did.

Peggy Sanner, senior attorney with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Virginia, recognizes that developing a local program has been a challenge for some communities. While stormwater permit fees are meant to help cover the costs of these programs, it takes time to build dedicated funding adequate to staff positions and establish the programs.

But she cites the amount of money and effort Virginia has invested in reducing pollution from point sources.

“From my perspective, it’s time to turn our attention to the only source of pollution that is still increasing in Virginia -- stormwater.” This, she said, is something that will have a direct and positive impact on our local streams.

Though four of the 11 bills have been withdrawn since Monday, activists and lobbyists in Richmond expect more to come in before the 3 PM deadline on Friday.

The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee and the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources will review the submitted bills starting as early as [this] week.

Leslie Middleton

Tell your legislators: No delay, no dilution, no exemptions from Virginia's Stormwater Programs! 


Photo of the Week: The Only Major Source of Pollution Still on the Rise!

12_NDP_CBF_1Polluted runoff after heavy rains in Baltimore City, Maryland. Photo by Neil Dampier/www.neildampier.com.

Did you know that just one inch of rainfall on one acre of pavement creates 27,000 gallons of polluted runoff that, left untreated, flows directly into local creeks, rivers and the Bay? 

This runoff collects everything from fertilizer to weedkiller, resulting in a toxic cocktail of pollutants harmful to both humans and aquatic wildlife. It also erodes stream banks, destroys habitats, and leads to flooding.

That's why, just yesterday, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a polluted runoff report that explains how harmful polluted runoff is to the Chesapeake Bay region's ecology, economy, and health, and what we can do about it. We hope you will take a few moments to read it.

The above photo shows just how damaging polluted runoff can be, and what it can do to our health and the health of our rivers and streams. "I hope this image proves helpful in some small way to help in your efforts to raise awareness of the critical issues regarding water use and preservation in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed," says photographer Neil Dampier. 

—Emmy Nicklin, CBF's E-Communications Manager


Running for the Bay in 2014!

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Exciting news! CBF has been named a beneficiary of Maryland's "Across the Bay 10k Chesapeake Bay Bridge Run."

The race, scheduled for November 9, 2014, will showcase the Chesapeake Bay to tens of thousands of runners from across the country—and help support our mission to save this national treasure.  

And that's not all.

An added benefit of being named beneficiary of this race is an expanded partnership with Queen Anne's County, Maryland. CBF and the Queen Anne's County Board of Commissioners will work together on several environmental projects, including restoration, environmental education, and technical assistance that will help the county meet its pollution reduction responsibilities.  

Cooperation between businesses, governments, and individuals is key to continued clean water progress. CBF looks forward to expanding our partnership with Queen Anne's County to help improve local water quality. 

Together, we will save the Bay! Click here to learn more. 

—Will Baker, CBF President


Save the Bay, Save Ourselves

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A sign posted by the State Dept. of Health warns people against bathing or wading after high bacteria levels were discovered in the water. One young couple was particularly disappointed after packing for an afternoon of surf fishing. Photo by Andrea Moran/CBF Staff.

The following first appeared in Bay Journal News earlier this month.  

Underwater grasses, oyster beds, clear water: They're well and good, but is the water safe for my kids to swim in? That's a question public officials and environmentalists must answer as they work to restore our waters.

My friend Meredith stopped me as I recounted a favorite Bay of yore story—about wading decades ago in lush seagrass beds that so cleansed and cleared the shallows you could see to dip crabs sequestered there to shed their shells.

I noted that we could bring back these conditions by reducing runoff of fertilizers and dirt from the land, which would also reduce summer "dead zones" of oxygen-starved water in the channels.

Meredith's an experienced environmental lawyer who got the ecological truth I was voicing; but now she's mother to Grace, 3, and Nicholas, several months. And the Bay question she gets from her current social circle along the Choptank River on Maryland's Eastern Shore is this:

"Is it safe for my kids to swim?"

Decades into the Chesapeake restoration, our focus continues on curtailing "eutrophication" by reducing the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus that overfertilize the water, clog it with floating algae, rob light from the seagrasses, and quench aquatic oxygen.

We must continue with this; but it will take a deeper and wider engagement from citizens across the six-state watershed. And perhaps the long-gone seagrasses won't resonate to generations for whom the Bay of my Vietnam-era memories is as remote as the Bay of World War I is to me.

One opportunity to build a bigger constituency for restoration is to connect human health to Bay health. The overlaps between the two range from diet to climate change to air quality, to an array of toxins bad for both fish and us.

To get a sense of the issue, consider that the Bay and its rivers are riddled with health advisories limiting the consumption of everything from eels and striped bass to catfish and blue crabs to sport fish throughout Pennsylvania. 

Another example where we might get more traction: Reducing air pollution further is regarded as a relatively expensive way to cut Bay pollution, even though airborne nitrogen is a significant bay pollutant.

But what if Bay managers and environmental educators included the benefits to human health, children especially, of reducing air pollution? The EPA estimates their value to Eastern states that include our watershed at $120 billion?

It's not that no one's tried to connect Bay and human health. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation made a fine report found on Google, Bad Water 2009. It links increased health risks from harmful bacteria and algae in Chesapeake waters to the nutrients that hammer Bay grasses and oxygen, and ties the heightened toxic risk to warmer Bay water, which is caused by climate change, which in turn is exacerbated by burning fossil fuels that deliver more nitrogen to the Bay.

The CBF report also links harmful nitrates in drinking water to regions with an overabundance of farm animal manure; regions that are also hotspots of Bay and river pollution.

Johns Hopkins' Center for a Livable Future has connected meat-heavy human diets to our health as well as the Bay's and shown that getting our nutrition from animals is linked to cancer and obesity. As for water quality, meat production means more fertilizer runoff to streams and residues of drugs fed to farm animals showing up in drinking water.

Increasingly, I find acknowledgement among Bay restoration leaders that fundamental changes in our agriculture will be needed to meet water quality goals, even as the official line remains that tweaks to the existing food system will suffice.

While toxics have the attention of many Bay groups, the governments managing the Bay have supported none of these approaches in a sustained manner and have failed to collect and make transparent enough data to build a solid understanding of environmental health connections.

A coalition of environmental groups is pushing Maryland's legislature to require reporting of who is using what agricultural chemicals and where they are applied. It's voluntary now, and required reporting would be a start toward better data.

Companies fracking natural gas in Pennsylvania and New York, and maybe soon in Maryland, do not have to disclose the chemicals they inject into groundwater.

"There's no big tent" bringing together all these human-environment health issues, said Rebecca Ruggles, director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network, a group began two years ago.

After a false start in 2000, the EPA Bay Program, perhaps a good coordinating group for any "big tent," seems ready to take toxics more seriously. A recent EPA report shows nearly three quarters of the Bay and tidal rivers are partly or fully "impaired" by toxics—from mercury and PCBs to endocrine disruptors that may impair sexual development in fish. 

The links between bay toxics and bay humans often aren't as neat as those between nutrients and seagrasses and oxygen. But as my friend Meredith pointed out—it's what people want to know and another way to involve them.

—Tom Horton


Photo of the Week: Brownie's Beach Sunrise

ByIlonka WeidaSunrise on Brownie's Beach in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Photo by Ilonka Weida.

The Bay is my front yard and provides daily doses of everything from scenery to serenity. She is a source of recreation, relaxation, and pride. I am in awe how her ebb and flow continuously changes the shoreline (and my view). It all makes documenting her beauty so exciting.

—Ilonka Weida

Ensure that Ilonka and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary 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!


Recommendations for a Healthier Bay

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Great egret on Mattawoman Creek. Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

The following op-ed first appeared in Southern Maryland Newspapers Online in late December. 

A version of this letter was sent from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to the Chesapeake Executive Council. 

Roughly 30 years ago, the leaders of the Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Maryland, the commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Virginia, the District of Columbia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission embarked upon a historic and ambitious journey to work to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

As the 30th anniversary of the signing of the first bay agreement approaches and the Executive Council is considering a new agreement, it seems appropriate to look back at the program's successes and failures and learn from them, with the goal of identifying actions that will help fulfill the vision of a restored bay. With that in mind, we offer the following eight recommendations, on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, composed of the pollution limits established by the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, the associated Watershed Implementation Plans, along with the accountability framework, represent "the moment in time" for bay restoration. While progress has been made, we need your continued commitment to this effort. Specifically, we urge jurisdictions to view EPA's pending assessment of milestone achievements as the opportunity to conduct an honest examination of their programs. They should focus their efforts on identifying areas that need improvement, as opposed to fending off criticism or defending current programs.

Recommendation: EPA needs to ensure bay jurisdictions stay on track, achieve milestone commitments or face consequences for failure. In addition, we encourage the states and the District to continue to engage interested stakeholders in implementation efforts.

Recommendation: Jurisdictions should hold regular meetings of the advisory committees and workgroups associated with WIP implementation. The most costly and challenging aspect of complying with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is reducing and maintaining pollutant loadings from urban/suburban areas. The majority of this responsibility falls to local governments, many of which currently lack the technical and financial capacity to achieve and maintain the necessary pollution reductions. As a result, many local jurisdictions are pushing back against what they see as an "unfunded mandate."

Recommendation: EPA needs to provide oversight of municipal stormwater permit development by the states. At the same time, the states must create permits with clear standards and full accountability, benchmarks and deadlines, and implementation plans directly connected to achieving TMDL waste load allocations. Further, the states must commit to assisting local partners with financial and technical support.

Recommendation: The partnership should better use its existing connections to local governments to help them develop the technical and financial capacity to succeed. The new Bay Agreement should contain explicit goals regarding local government involvement. One strength of the partnership is in providing a forum for the exchange of ideas, lessons learned and facilitating innovation. Providing a venue for the development and transfer of creative stormwater financing mechanisms would be an ideal role for the partnership. CBF supports the creation of a Finance Advisory Committee that would serve as an expert resource for local governments, as well as assist in developing financing strategies to achieve broader conservation goals.

Recommendation: Create a Finance Advisory Committee. It is time to re-energize and engage the broader group of agencies and stakeholders that have felt somewhat disenfranchised in recent years. We support a new Chesapeake Bay Agreement with a broader set of goals and outcomes. We are struck, however, by the "workman-like" approach to the development of the new agreement. The agreement should be an opportunity to reinvigorate the program and reaffirm the vision for, and framework to achieve, a healthy watershed.

Recommendation: Create a new Bay Agreement that is broad in scope, aggressive in action and effective in outcome. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and the Executive Order 13508 for Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration are in place, charting a course for action and providing mechanisms to assess progress.

Recommendation: Do not allow jurisdictions to "opt in or out" of the various goals in the new agreement. It should specify roles and responsibilities of state and federal partners. Clarifying expectations and roles of the various jurisdictions in the new agreement should not preclude the development of, and commitment to, strong goals and outcomes.

Recommendation: Ensure the new agreement includes goals specific to toxic contaminants and climate change.

We acknowledge the hard work and commitment that has led to progress toward restoring the bay and its rivers and streams during the past 30 years. There is much of which we should feel proud, but as highlighted in the recent Bay Barometer, there still is more work to do. CBF remains a willing and active partner to ensure progress continues and the goal of a clean bay is achieved.

—CBF President William C. Baker and CBF Vice President Kim Coble


What You Can Expect from Maryland's 2014 Legislative Session

Maryland_State_House_domeHappy New Year!

This Wednesday, January 8, the 434th session of Maryland's General Assembly will begin. And here's a New Year's resolution we might offer Maryland legislators as they head to Annapolis: Follow through on what you started.

The past few years have been landmark years for CBF and the Bay. We passed legislation to finish upgrading our largest sewage plants, to curb pollution from large developments on septic systems, and to give local governments critical funding to address polluted runoff. Maryland has made some excellent progress to finish the job of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and local creeks and rivers.

But, this year many legislators want to change course and try to stall efforts to tackle polluted runoff. They want to derail our progress. We can't let that happen and preventing that will be our number one priority this legislative session.

Staying the course will get us the best results. We are already starting to see success:

  • We have upgraded about half of the major sewage plants;
  • We have started to get a handle on agricultural pollution;
  • Oysters are showing new resilience; and
  • We have a clear blueprint for the future based on science, specific clean-up strategies, and, for the first time, accountability to ensure success. 

However, backpedaling on addressing polluted runoff is a problem. As more of our forests and open spaces have been paved over, when it rains more water rushes off the landscape and carries pet waste, oil and grease, excess fertilizer, and other pollution into local creeks and rivers. This polluted runoff causes swimming advisories, flooded basements, sink holes, and seafood advisories. It's also the only major source of pollution on the rise and one we must address now. With the dedicated stormwater fees required in the 2012 legislation, local governments in the most developed counties and Baltimore City can do just that. Click here to learn more.

During the upcoming session, CBF will focus on keeping this dedicated local funding in place. We will not see improvements to our communities and local waters without it. We will also track the state budget to make sure the state follows through to finish cleaning the Chesapeake. We call the plan for that work the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

Over the coming weeks and months we will see attacks to the Blueprint from those that wish to derail or delay the clean-up. We will see attempts to gloss over our ever-growing polluted runoff problem with catch phrases that do little more than mislead. 

This is a New Year when change is not for the better. I hope you will join me in insisting on resolve by state lawmakers. We all must work harder to implement the Blueprint. Following through on that plan will finally make Maryland water safe enough for swimming and fishing. Please urge your state legislators to stay strong on stormwater fees!

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director

For more information, please click here.