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Angler Clean Water Story: A Sorry Situation

George M - HeadshotIt really bugs me that the fish I catch from the Chesapeake are "toxic fish." Chesapeake rockfish and white perch are some of the best tasting fish to be found anywhere. Yet I am afraid to eat them! The Bay is so polluted that these fish have been declared unhealthy to eat because of the toxic chemicals contained in their flesh, such as mercury and PCBs. What a sorry situation . . . This has to change!

—George Maurer, Annapolis, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: Becoming More Aware

Capt-Bruno-&-the-Dotty-Vee0003_3-90Having fished the Chesapeake Bay in the greater Solomons area, including the lower portions of the Patuxent River for the past 35 years, it has become evident to me that certain portions of these waters have become less productive due to poor water quality. For example, around the Cove Point area, we used to be able to catch our limits of various species of fish including Rockfish, Bluefish, and Sea Trout. But over the last several years, there has been a noticeable reduction in the catch of these fish. Closer to the shorelines of both the Bay and within the Patuxent River, we would drift fish for Croakers, Spot, and Summer Flounder.

But then, we began to see a lot of dead fish floating on the surface at different times of the year. We also started to notice discolored water in the shallow flats and the tell-tail signs of oxygen depletion. All of these factors resulted in poorer catches of sport fish. The same could be said of the Cedar Point Rips, where there was always a good population of smaller Rockfish and Bluefish. Yet, on occasions, these areas failed to produce depending on several environmental factors. 

Having worked on various committees trying to protect and manage our resources in the Chesapeake Bay, I understand how difficult it is to impress on the local population the importance of clean water and how it adversely effects our natural resources. I hope that as we become more aware of what can be done to improve the water quality, our natural resources for the future should improve. And by doing so, the next generation [of watermen] will prosper.

Capt. Bruno, Lusby, MD 

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Let's Hear It for the BUBBAs!

 

Plum and Walnut
The Grand Prize Winner of the BUBBA Awards at the Plum and Walnut Green Intersection in Lancaster, PA.

Last week the Chesapeake Stormwater Network (CSN) named its six finalists, and ultimate grand winner for (drumroll, please!) Best Urban BMP in the Bay Award, or BUBBA for short. These awards represent the most innovative and effective local projects in the region that clean water the old-fashioned way—with vegetation.

The grand prize winner was a public-private project at the major intersection of North Plum and East Walnut Streets in Lancaster City, Pennsylvania. The intersection was prone to both flooding and traffic accidents. The city built four garden-like structures called bio-retention basins on each side of the intersection to soak up flood water and polluted runoff. The basins were planted with native shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses, and other tree species.

Lancaster Brewing Company, housed in an old brick building on the intersection, also built a cistern to store rainwater from its roof that previously gushed into the intersection. The cistern then releases the water into planters in which the brewery grows its own produce. The brewery's retail operation also used permeable pavement to create a beer garden adjacent to the rain gardens.

The re-engineered intersection also slows the average car's passage through the intersection by 5 m.p.h. So the project soaks up and filters polluted runoff, creates a pleasing garden area and fresh produce for the brewery's retail operation, and calms traffic. Brilliant!

Before man and his domestic animals trampled or paved over the natural world, plants and trees were our natural water filters. Now polluted runoff is the main source of water pollution in many of our cities and suburbs, carrying pet waste, weed killer, and other chemicals directly into local creeks and rivers without being treated in many areas.

The trouble is you can't just build a big treatment plant, like you would for sewage. What we need are thousands of micro-treatment plants strategically located at drainage points around the watershed. That's where bioretention basins and other innovative projects come in. They are like engineered gardens and wetlands.

Of course, an engineered garden is about as exciting to most people as watching grass grow. You certainly won't see headlines in your neighborhood newspaper.

But these projects heal and beautify our scarred landscape. They provide tangible community benefits. The BUBBA awards recognize the best healers. These folks are the doctors of natural drainage. They'll adopt a forlorn and lifeless stream behind a shopping mall, apply medicine, and presto, it's up and gurgling.

I visited one of the finalist projects in Maryland. Previously, it was a barren old farm pond in Davidsonville, Maryland, downstream from animal pens and farm fields. The pond had been the main source of bacterial and sediment pollution to Beard's Creek which drains to the South River.

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The First Place Winner in the Best Habitat Creation in a BMP category of the BUBBA Awards. Davidsonville, MD.

The folks at South River Federation used human ingenuity to mimic what a beaver would have done to the pond. Cut trees, earthen mounds and rock barriers break up the pond into sections which allow for vegetative growth, and a kind of step-pool filtration system.

"Beavers do a lot of things to floodplains that can improve water quality, especially in a forested setting," said Kirk Mantay, restoration specialist for the South River Federation. "The most obvious is that they construct systems of parallel dams that are perpendicular to an existing flow path, like a ditch, gully, or stream. Unlike human-made dams of clay or concrete, beaver dams are full of holes, so water is detained but not often completely impounded. This detention, even in urban settings, is enough to allow phosphorus laden-sediments to 'fall out' instead of being transported downstream."

The accumulation of leaf litter in the pond also will change the water chemistry, Mantay said. Micro-organisms will move in which process nitrogen and phosphorus in the water and sediment which otherwise would have washed downstream.

Children from area schools did the plantings at the Davidsonville pond, decreasing the cost of the project, but also providing hands-on education and a perfect metaphor for hope. Who better to give new life to an old farm pond than kids in pastel shorts planting native grasses.

Now cleaner water flows off the site into Beard's Creek. Water testing downstream has found dramatically reduced bacteria counts. And solitary sandpipers, mallards, geese, bullfrogs, and other creatures have found a welcome habitat. The project earned first place in the Best Habitat Creation in a BMP category. The project was funded by the South River Federation, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Constellation Energy.

—Tom Zolper, CBF's Maryland Communications and Media Coordinator


Photo of the Week: Sharing the Bay

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There are always the nice nature shots, but the Bay is also about commerce. Here is a shot of a large ship passing under the bridge at Chesapeake City on the C&D Canal. As a boater, I see the daily sharing of the Bay between nature and man.

Michael Redmond

Ensure that Michael and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights 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!


Angler Clean Water Story: Fishing for Happy Fish

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Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

I like to fish for "happy" fish. In the fall when the water is clear there are some areas in the Bay where you can see the bottom in ten feet of water. You can see fish on structure and they are obviously feeling frisky and "happy." In this type of environment they take your lure or fly with enthusiasm, they are simply "happy." If you release them they quickly scoot back to their temporary homes no worse for the experience.

However in the warmer months of the summer. You can see fish on your sonar huddled in the top five to fifteen feet water in holes more than 30 feet deep. They are there because it's the only depth where the dissolved oxygen is sufficient for them to survive. All depths below that are essentially "dead zones" due to nitrogen pollution. Even when fish are in the upper tier of the water column, it is obvious that they are stressed out by how slow they move and respond to various fishing tactics.

Fishing in or around polluted water is not a good experience in terms of visual enjoyment or quality of results. Wether you take out a new angler or someone who fishes a lot, they enjoy the "happy" fish experience much more than the stressed fish experience.

Ed Liccione, Queenstown, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Oxford, Maryland Leading the Way to a Cleaner Bay


Tilghman st_by_Cheryl_LewisThe story of Oxford, Maryland is like the proverbial good thing that comes out of a small package.

On its own, without being told, the 800 residents of Oxford through their elected Town Commission voted on May 14 to increase their own property taxes in order to deal with rain water that runs off city streets and parking lots into Town Creek and the Tred Avon River.

Why is rain a problem, you might ask?

Like a hook of land jutting into the Tred Avon, Oxford is only 11 feet above sea level at its high point. During storms, especially when the tide is high, the streets and crawl spaces under people's houses often flood. The town pays dearly and repeatedly in maintenance costs and damages.

About three years ago residents started talking . . . With each other . . . With outside groups.

They talked at the community boat ramp as they splashed their skiffs. The ramp, they realized, is an asphalt funnel. During storms, rain water from nearby streets and parking lots gushes down the ramp. Similarly, it runs quickly off numerous hard surfaces in the town directly into the creek and river. Town Creek overflows like a bathtub with the faucet left on.

Residents Barbara Paca and her husband started talking to neighbors. The couple had recently refurbished a property on Mill Street for their business. They had taken pains to make their new building green—to capture and filter rain water before releasing it slowly. Paca wanted to know if her neighbors might take similar steps at their homes and businesses.  

Pretty soon all these conversations started to coalesce. How could Oxford slow down and soak up runoff throughout the town before it swelled Town Creek? And how could the little town pay for this work?

Alan Girard, CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore Director, got involved. He helped write a grant to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. That money allowed the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of Maryland to study Oxford's plight. Town leaders, various environmental groups, businesses, and county officials joined in the conversation.

The EFC study concluded Oxford needed some form of dedicated funding to finance a host of runoff-reduction projects throughout town and to upgrade the town's old stormwater infrastructure. Several town meetings were held. Slowly, gradually, residents started to see the big picture. The work that wetlands once did along the water's edge--before they were filled in--would have to be replicated by man-made projects that mimic nature. Investing now meant savings in the future.

Residents also came to see an added benefit. The work could help clean up pollution. Runoff carries pet waste, oil, chemicals, and other pollutants into local water. Town Creek is officially designated as impaired by nutrient pollution. Talbot County Creekwatchers consistently finds the water of the Tred Avon with nutrient levels five times healthy levels! And so it became clear that action was needed.

The key to Oxford's success?  

"I think it was through a lot of hard work, a lot of education," said Town Council President Carol Abruzzese. "We worked with the University of Maryland which did extensive workshops and educational seminars that went on for almost a year. We used everything from rain barrels to photos to bringing residents in in small groups."

It's not that there wasn't some resistance. Oxford is one of Maryland's oldest towns. It almost feels like time has stood still there with a general store and Victorian homes along its main street and a ferry service that's been in operation since 1683.  

Abruzzese and former councilman Peter Dunbar agreed that a key was convincing skeptics that the money raised would be dedicated solely to real improvements in the existing stormwater infrastructure and installing new projects. Dunbar said the next challenge is making sure the work gets done, so people can see the results.

And just as Barbara Paca realized that one business owner alone can't solve the flooding problem, Oxford alone can't solve all runoff issues into Town Creek. Dunbar notes, for instance, that an 80-acre county park at the headwaters of Town Creek, and farm fields beyond, contribute considerable polluted runoff to the Creek. He hopes Talbot County will do its part.

That's the whole point of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the regional plan to finish cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. It asks all six states and local areas in the Bay watershed to do their fair share. Each county in Maryland, for instance, including Talbot, has been asked to create its own plan for reducing pollution from runoff, farms, sewage, and other sources within its borders. 

Little Oxford can be an inspiration to larger jurisdictions. We can do this.

—Tom Zolper, CBF's Maryland Communications and Media Coordinator

Photo: Tilghman Street in Oxford, Maryland during a rain storm. Photo by Cheryl Lewis.


Running for the Bay

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Laura, center, along with her husband, Greg, and sons, Ryan and Troy, present CBF with a check representing proceeds from the 2014 Run for the Bay 5K. Photo by Tom Zolper/CBF Staff.

Laura Kellner and her husband, Greg, are always looking for their next race. They travel throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. running a variety of races and enjoying every minute. Travel isn't required, though; they are always on the lookout for races near their home in Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County, Maryland.

"We love to run, but never had much luck finding races close to home," Laura recently explained. 

Lacking local options, Laura did what many would not. She organized her own.

And the annual Run for the Bay 5K was born.

By every measure, the race, with a scenic course along the Chesapeake Beach Rail Trail, is a spectacular success. Over the past two years, the Run for the Bay 5K has welcomed more than 600 runners—and raised more than $15,000 to support CBF.

Laura made it all happen. Despite an already full schedule—she works full-time at Liberty Mutual and she and Greg have two teenaged sons, Ryan and Troy—Laura managed every detail. 

It hasn't been easy. Planning takes several months and includes everything from securing donations from corporate sponsors to managing a variety of logistics like volunteers, water stations, race shirt design, photography, and so much more. 

When it came time for Laura to pick a charity partner, the decision was easy.

"The Bay has always been an important part of my life. When I was younger, my father and I loved to fish together. After retiring, he became a commercial crabber. My father passed away in 1993 and the Bay holds so many memories of him—of my childhood. I still love getting out on the water—it's my happy place. I wanted to help make sure future generations have the opportunity my father and I did to fall in love with the Bay. CBF was the obvious choice."

As the race's sole beneficiary, the funds raised by the Run for the Bay 5K have helped CBF do some amazing work—getting students and teachers out on the water with our hands-on environmental education program, planting oysters and trees that will help make local waterways cleaner, and protecting the Bay's fish and other wildlife.

CBF couldn't be more grateful . . . for Laura's passion and commitment, for the generosity of the dozens of volunteers who donate their time and expertise to make this event a success, and for the hundreds of runners who participate. 

Inspired by Laura's story? You can help raise funds to support CBF's work—Become a Bayraiser! Visit cbf.org/bayraiser to learn more.

Together, we will Save the Bay!

—Brie Wilson, CBF's Donor Communications Manager


Photo of the Week: To Hear Nothing but the Water

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Living in the suburbs of Virginia [can] sometimes be very noisy! But I can always count on the Shore to be peaceful. I love to be out kayaking, just to simply get away from everything and hear nothing but the water. I'll sit in the open water for hours, just listening and taking in the view. This photo was taken in Schooner Bay near Onancock, Virginia [this past April].

—Eric Sundberg, J.R. Tucker High School, Class of 2016 

Ensure that Eric and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights 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!

  


Work Together on Bay Cleanup

BySam ChambersPhoto by Sam Chambers. 

The following first appeared in The Star Democrat last week.

We agree with your editorial ("Stacked deck at Bay hearing," May 9), that collaboration is critical to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. But, we believe at this point elected officials from some Eastern Shore counties should focus on collaboration that cleans up their local water.

On May 5, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., led a field hearing of the Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife held at the Conowingo Dam. The hearing was to establish the facts concerning sediment and phosphorus coming through the dam during major storms.

The dam has been the center of controversy over the past year. The Clean Chesapeake Coalition has suggested the dam is a primary source of pollution to the Bay. The Bay's cleanup, coalition officials suggested, should be focused there, rather than on local cleanup measures that they say come with high cost estimates.

Cardin assembled technical experts to get at the facts, officials from: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of Environment, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Center for Environmental Science at the University of Maryland. They were unanimous in their findings: sediment backing up behind the dam is still an issue, but not nearly as troubling as new pollution entering the Bay from upstream on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, and from every local farm, lawn, and city street throughout the Bay watershed. The hearing confirmed that the most cost-effective means of restoring the Bay is local effort throughout the Bay watershed.

Rick Gray, mayor of Lancaster, Pa., testified how his city is reducing pollution to the Susquehanna with innovative and common sense strategies. But many Maryland governments are making similar efforts, rolling up their sleeves to find solutions at reasonable costs. Those final costs come in far lower than original estimates.

Talbot County, for instance, is collaborating with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), The Nature Conservancy, farmers, landowners, and others on an innovative idea to convert existing farm and roadside ditches into pollution filters. The county believes the idea could cut its estimated water cleanup costs by tens of millions of dollars.

CBF also is working with Queen Anne's County on a pilot program to use private funding to reduce that county's costs. Cities such as Salisbury, Oxford, and Berlin on the Eastern Shore have been collaborating with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland, and various agencies and organizations, to find ways to bring down their estimated clean-up costs.

Now it's time for some other Eastern Shore counties to join in this type of collaboration.

Abstract cost estimates can't justify inaction. In fact, those estimates come down precisely when officials swing into action. Actual implementation of the cleanup is proving much cheaper than the estimates.

Meanwhile, Clean Chesapeake Coalition lawyers can help keep pressure on the owner of the Conowingo Dam, Exelon Corporation, to ensure it does its part to reduce Susquehanna pollution. CBF and many other groups are doing just that. But everyone should have a role. There's no magic bullet to cleaning up the Bay. There's no one villain. We all must increase our efforts.

Local action will bring local benefits: water finally safe for swimming and fishing, more oysters, crabs and fish, resurgent seafood and recreational industries, and best of all, a legacy of a restored Bay to pass to our children and grandchildren.

 —Alan Girard, CBF's Director of Eastern Shore of Maryland

Stand up for the Bay and the rivers and streams that feed it! Sign our petition.


Clean the Bay Day Is Just Around the Corner!

CTBD 2014 color_edited w dateCalling all volunteers for Clean the Bay Day, CBF's annual Virginia volunteer cleanup to remove litter and debris from the Chesapeake Bay watershed!

The June 7 event is among the largest, most successful volunteer events in the state every year, drawing thousands of citizens, students, businesses, and military personnel to help pick up litter along waterways in Hampton Roads, Central and Northern Virginia, the Eastern Shore, and Shenandoah Valley.

If you haven't signed up for this year's event, please do so on our website and sign up to volunteer at a cleanup site near you. It's easy, it's fun, and you can make a difference in the health of the Bay in just three short hours. Bring the whole family, your friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Everyone can help improve the health of the Bay!

Last year, some 6,000 volunteers, including elected officials, enlisted men and women, Scout troops, churches, businesses, and thousands of individuals and families, scoured more than 500 miles of shoreline on foot and in boats, picking up more than 135,000 pounds of harmful debris.

The event also raises public awareness about other pollution issues.

"Marine debris remains one of the most visible and pervasive reminders that the Chesapeake Bay is in need of restoration," says Tanner Council, Clean the Bay Day coordinator. "Rainwater running off streets and parking lots washes litter and debris into storm drains and into nearby waterways. When volunteers remove this litter, they're doing a tremendous service to their local communities and the Bay. They also learn there is much more we can all do to be better clean water stewards."

Clean the Bay Day could not be possible without the help of our local government partners and the generous support and participation of Virginia's corporate and business community, including CSX, Northrop Grumman, the Port of VirginiaDixon Hughes Goodman, River Network/Budweiser, Farm Fresh, HelioSage, and our media partners Inside Business, AltDaily, 101.3 2WD, and 94.9 The Point.

They're making a difference. You can, too. Register today for the 26th annual Clean the Bay Day on June 7!

 Chuck Epes, CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations