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Shady Side Elementary School Students Take a Stand for the Bay

 

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Shady Side students planting oysters in the West River. Photo courtesy of Shady Side Elementary

The students at Shady Side Elementary School in southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland are no strangers to the Bay and life on the water. The town of Shady Side is located on a peninsula, surrounded on the north and west by the West River and on the east by the Chesapeake. Many students are children of watermen who still crab, oyster, and fish to make a living. The school sits less than a quarter mile from the water—and CBF's Maryland Oyster Restoration Center.

So, last year, when 5th grade teachers Kimberly McAllister, Molly Tremel, and Jenna Weckel asked their students to "Take a Stand" for a cause, the Bay seemed like the natural choice.

"These students were raised on the water. They're surrounded by it every day and, for many, its health has a direct impact on their lives. The students worked with CBF last year to grow oysters and then planted them in the West River. Meghan Hoffman and the rest of CBF's Maryland Oyster Restoration team really got the kids excited about oysters—and showed them that they can make a difference," said Tremel.

The students were so motivated they wrote letters and hand-delivered them to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin urging them to continue funding Bay restoration. But they didn't stop there.

They took it one step further—creating postcards, developing a business plan, and selling the cards to friends, family, and others—to raise money to support the Bay. Their efforts were highly successful. In two years, they've raised nearly $4,000 to help CBF grow and plant more oysters in the Bay!

John Rodenhausen, Maryland Director of Development, was on-hand for this year's check presentation and was able to address the nearly 60 5th graders involved in this project. "As an educator and a fundraiser for CBF, it is moments like this that give me greater confidence that the Chesapeake will be saved, not just in these students' lifetimes, but in mine, too!"

The project has become a staple of the 5th grade experience—and a bit of a competition, too. Weckel explained, "We've already spoken to the incoming class about the project. They're excited and energized by the opportunity to raise more money for CBF than last year's class!"

We all have a role to play in saving the Chesapeake. CBF is grateful to the entire Shady Side Elementary School community, including 5th grade teachers Kimberly McAllister, Molly Tremel, and Jenna Weckel, as well as their students, for their support, ingenuity, and hard work.

Together, we will Save the Bay and its rivers and streams!

Brie Wilson, Donor Communications Manager 

Read more about the Shady Side Elementary School Students' efforts here!


The Two Chesapeakes

BySam ChambersPhoto by Sam Chambers.

The following first appeared in 
Bay Journal earlier this month.
 
Two lanes of traffic bake in the summer sun, immobile. Engines idle while passengers sit inside their cars, sweating in the tepid air of an overtaxed air conditioner. They are headed to the beach, suspended 186 feet over the Chesapeake Bay on the William Preston Lane Memorial (Bay) Bridge, part of the vast exodus to Ocean City.
 
The thick, fleshy pads of water lilies bob as kids wade in with a seine net along the shoreline, looking for silversides and translucent grass shrimp. They’ve been at it all afternoon, and their fingers are puckered. Just up the bank, a few others dangle their fishing lines into the water in what they hope is an irresistible fashion—they have the serious job of catching fish for dinner.
 
These are today’s two versions of the Chesapeake. One is known by the water-dwellers, chaperoned in their adventures by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Echo Hill Outdoor School, Sultana Education Foundation and other like-minded organizations. Representing the other is the great, ocean-oriented car caravan that mobilizes from Fridays through Sundays. Cars creep forward in Bay Bridge traffic, the passengers inside unaware that the same salty, sun-glazed magic they’re struggling toward is on offer, right under their tires.
 
A few generations ago, when the sun balefully scorched the summer, the Bay’s shorelines would teem with people seeking relief. Only a few decades later, those same beaches are empty as people drive for hours to claim their gull-buzzed, crowded square foot of sugar-fine sand. We’ve read the headlines and heard the reports: “Dead Zones,” “Pollution,” “Not Safe to Swim.” This, we believe, is our current Chesapeake: past all hope. Pretty sunsets, though.
 
But every summer day, Chesapeake environmental organizations are disproving these misconceptions. They show our children the experiences that earlier generations enjoyed as their Bay birthrights: trot-lining for crabs, swimming for hours where fish wink like coins in a wishing well and falling to sleep lulled by the broken bass groans of bullfrogs. These halcyon days along the Chesapeake aren’t gone. They are happening even as we flee our suburbs and cities for the ocean, dismissing the Bay that still has so much summer’s essence to be savored.
 
Admittedly, the Chesapeake is no longer the clear water refuge of the past. As our population grows along its shores, the Bay’s quality attenuates accordingly. But to hold the Chesapeake Bay to a past standard is an effort in futility. That old Bay, the one my grandfather progged for softshells in 6-foot visibility, probably isn’t coming back.
 
Our nostalgia for the past, though, shouldn’t prevent us from appreciating the Bay we have before us, even if our grand cleanup efforts have not yet yielded the pristine results we are striving for.
There are problems with this modern Chesapeake Bay—places where we can’t swim or fish. In the thick fug of the summer, it has algae blooms. But these issues are not universal. A short drive can lead to a shady swimming hole, an osprey-circled fishing spot or a quiet stretch of sand, loblollies and dunes.
 
Within Maryland parks alone, there are 16 public swimming beaches, 27 spots with canoe and kayaking facilities and 48 anglers’ paradises. Watershed wide there are hundreds of such sites.
But too often, our kids grow up spending summers at the ocean because we are so poisoned by the bad news we read and hear that we’ve dismissed the Bay, whole cloth. If we no longer introduce our children to the Bay, there will be a generation that is oblivious to the Chesapeake’s many charms, and doesn’t care what it becomes. For them, it will be just another landmark to tick off on their way to the ocean, which seems safe, for now.
 
For the Bay to have a fighting chance, we watershed residents have to care about it. And that can only come from positive experiences. Those can be fostered in a camp kayak, but better yet, on family trips where old and young wade in and squish the mud between their toes, hear cicadas singing in a cypress grove, and swim with breath held and eyes open, watching minnows part fore and aft to make way.
 
So, pack some sandwiches and sunscreen, and head toward your local swimming hole, whether it’s Flag Ponds Nature Park, Betterton Beach or Sandy Point. You’ll cut the ocean driving time, and best of all, you’ll get to see firsthand the pure undiluted joy our Chesapeake can still create.
 
—Kate Livie

Photo of the Week: Every Mood She Has

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This picture was taken late summer 2013 from our dock at the mouth of the Rappahannock, where we grow oysters. The Bay is our home, and we cherish every mood she has.

—Amber Price

Ensure that Amber 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: Simply Put

BrandonWhite_LatearlLine_StripedBass_flyrod
Simply put, the single most important variable in my mind to having a healthy fishery not only in my home waters of the Choptank River, but the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed, is having clean water. I have been fishing and living on the Chesapeake since I was a little boy. Over the years I have seen how grasses have decreased as a result of polluted water and other various pollutants.

It wasn't too long ago I was able to fish the shallows of the Choptank River and consistently catch white perch, striped bass, and other finned animals. While I am still able to catch some fish, the Choptank is now the second most polluted river in Maryland and as a result, the fishing does not even compare to when I was a kid. While making sure we have sustainable fishing regulations for both commercial and recreational anglers is important, in my mind the single most important variable neccesary for a healthy ecosystem is clean, unpolluted water.

Brandon White, Easton, 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!


We're Halfway There: Dutch Hollow Cattle Company

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This is one in a series of articles about farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed who have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and efficiency on their farms. As a result of these success stories, we're halfway to achieving the nutrient reductions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waters. View the rest of the series here.

Butch Snow and his wife Melody Tennant have a beef cattle operation in Rockbridge County in the headwaters of the James River. It's a cow/calf operation and a grass-finished beef business called the Dutch Hollow Cattle Company. They own one farm and lease four adjoining farms.

The pair rotate their cows and calves through 19 grazing pastures, allowing each pasture at least 45 days of rest. This allows Snow and his wife to extend their grazing into mid-January, which has cut their need for hay in half.

"Because of our rotational grazing system, we've sold all of our hay equipment," explains Snow. "I'm buying better hay than what I could make." 

Snow contends that by rotating his cattle herds, he gets more grazing days and has healthier livestock.

"Since we started rotating, we have fewer pink-eye outbreaks and fewer parasite problems. We are also weaning heavier calves."

But "you can't rotate if you don't have water," Snow continues. The couple has used several combinations of CREP, EQIP, and the state's agricultural cost-share program to get their cows out of the streams and build rotational grazing systems.

"I attribute my better herd health to better water. They would rather drink out of a trough than in the creek. When I found out these programs help pay for wells, I was motivated to enroll. I could not have swallowed the cost of these improvements. It actually works."

Snow also persuaded the owners of the farms the couple leases to enroll in programs that help pay for cross-fencing, stream exclusion, and alternate watering systems. The owners enrolled in the programs, and Snow coordinated the conservation work.

"It was definitely worth it for me to make these improvements on farms I didn't own," he says. "We get healthier, heavier calves, and the owner gets capital improvements on the land and better forage with fewer weeds."

—Bobby Whitescarver  

 Whitescarver lives in Swoope, Va. For more information, visit his website.

Learn more about how farmers throughout the Bay watershed are working to improve both water quality and efficiency on their farms through critical Farm Bill programs. 


Clean Water Progress

Clagett-KCarroll (40)Photo by CBF Staff. 

The following op-ed first appeared in The Free Lance-Star last week.

Your June 5 "Bay partnership" editorial was spot-on in praising the Department of Agriculture's innovative $2.4 billion conservation funding program for farms in the Chesapeake Bay region and around the country.

Installing conservation practices on farms is the most cost-effective way to reduce pollution.

Bay region farmers have made great strides to reduce agricultural runoff, many using state and federal cost-share programs, partnering with nonprofits or paying for conservation practices out of pocket.

As a result of these and other cleanup efforts, the Bay is actually starting to show promising signs of recovery, from rebounding underwater grasses to bigger oyster harvests to smaller summer dead zones.

Such progress is testament to what can happen when government, businesses and citizens work together for clean water.

USDA's new program promises to increase partnerships and progress. We still have a long way to go, but every step forward brings us closer to restoring our local rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay. And we have a Clean Water Blueprint that details how to reach the goal.

—Ann Jennings, CBF's Virginia Executive Director

Learn more about how this funding is critical to conservation efforts on farms across the watershed.


Photo of the Week: Majestic Creature

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My wife Carol and I just recently got cameras and I got really lucky getting a shot of this blue heron right after we spooked him and he flew off. I think its important that we do our best as a community to protect these majestic creatures for our children's and grandchildren's future enjoyment. Thank you for doing all you do!

—David Clouser

Ensure that David, his wife, 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: Where Have All the Stripers Gone

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Photo by Blair M. Seltz.

The impact of pollution on the Chesapeake [and its] fish is very significant. Pollution in the form of too many nutrients causes low oxygen levels during the warmer months and this causes the stripers to move around quite a bit. The areas where they can find tolerable oxygen levels seem to be shrinking each year which makes the Bay less habitable. Traditional locations where stripers have been caught for years are no longer productive.

You can have wonderful structure with loads of baitfish on it but no stripers because there is not enough oxygen in the water to support them. Finding fish consistently in the warm months has become much more challenging because they are moving all the time and one cannot see nor determine oxygen levels without expensive test equipment. An area may look good and have lots of bait but there is no way to tell if the oxygen levels will support the [top] predators.

Capt. Richie Gaines, Queenstown, MD
Capt. Richie Gaines has been guiding anglers in the region for more than 20 years and has earned a reputation as one of the top light tackle guides on the Bay. Richie is a "guerilla" guide and fishes the entire Bay, moving with the fish to follow the best bite. Fishing the Bay year-round from the Susquehanna Flats to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel has provided a great deal of experience and taught Richie how to be versatile in applying techniques and locating the fish.

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: Clean Water Laws Need to Have Teeth

 

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Photo © Neil Ever Osborne

I am a brook trout enthusiast. The fish is arguably one of the most striking freshwater fish to be found. Brookies need clean, cool water to survive. Loss of forests and runoff that carries sediment into streams are major threats to brook trout. I've watched the stream behind my house decline over the past 20 years, due mostly to development and farming along small feeder streams. The trout are fewer in number and smaller. If the declines of the past 20 years occur for another 20, I wonder whether brookies will even live there anymore. The laws protecting streams should have teeth.

Dave Wise, Lititz, PA

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!


The Dell: Beautifying a Campus, Helping Save the Bay

ChuckPhoto by Chuck Epes/CBF Staff.

The Dell on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., is a quiet, green oasis in the middle of a bustling state university. Students, faculty, and visitors are easily drawn to the place by its leafy trees and shrubs, shady walking paths, free-flowing stream, and picture-postcard pond.

You'd never know the Dell was actually designed to be a stormwater retention and treatment facility for reducing runoff pollution in Meadow Creek, the Rivanna and James Rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. But this bucolic park is proof positive that smart planning and eco-friendly, low-impact design can help achieve clean water goals and beautify landscapes, all while being cost-effective.

The Dell wasn't always so picturesque. A half-century ago, UVA was growing and needed more and newer buildings. University planners decided that Meadow Creek, a small stream running through campus, would better serve the expanding university if it was enclosed in a pipe and put underground, leaving the Dell area level, dry, and more suitable for future buildings and tennis courts. And so it was done. 

Jeff on spillway at Dell tour
Photo by Robert Jennings/CBF Staff.

Decades later, however, and moving into the new millennium, the university realized it had a problem. It still needed to build new facilities, including the massive John Paul Jones Arena for basketball and other large indoor events. But university planners also knew they must reduce the volume of water and pollution running off all the new buildings, streets, and parking lots to comply with the university's municipal stormwater permit, state runoff regulations, and Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction goals.

That caused a shift in thinking from building-centric stormwater controls to regional and low-impact approaches, said Jeff Sitler, associate director of environmental resources for the university. Reconfiguring and softening the landscape to allow runoff water to slow down and soak into the ground rather than quickly wash off into concrete gutters and pipes reduces the volume of stormwater runoff. It also helps clean and filter out pollutants--nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediments--causing problems for the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

University planners became increasingly convinced that moving upstream and reducing runoff with low-impact projects was also a more cost-effective approach, "the best bang for the buck," Sitler says.

Upper pond of Dell from Lambeth House
Photo by Robert Jennings/CBF Staff.

That all led to rethinking the fate of Meadow Creek. The university now realized the creek, for the past half-century buried out of sight in a pipe underground, could better serve the growing university by being unearthed and reborn as a free-flowing stream--a stream with gentle bends and meanders, with artfully designed weirs and forebays to catch and hold big storm overflows, with wide flood plains to allow high water to gently spread and soak into the ground, with bio-filters of native trees, shrubs, and flowers to absorb water and pollution and attract wildlife, with gentle spillways and a placid pond full of fish, turtles, and frogs. And so it was done.

A decade later, the Dell today is a beautiful and busy campus attraction, popular with walkers, joggers, and photographers. It's also doing some heavy lifting to help the university meet federal and state runoff pollution requirements.

According to Sitler, the Dell and associated low-impact features at the John Paul Jones Arena and a nearby parking garage have cut sediment pollution in Meadow Creek more than 95 percent and reduced phosphorus pollution by 90 percent. (Nitrogen reductions have not been as great but generally are low because of the university’s nutrient management plan, Sitler said.)

And all of this for an initial construction cost of $1.5 million and ongoing, routine maintenance expenses, chiefly to periodically clear the pond areas of sediment buildups.

"We wanted the Dell project to produce a blend" of benefits, Sitler says. "We wanted to improve stream flows, improve water quality, reduce the volume of water going downstream, and provide a nice amenity for the university."

Check, check, check, and check.

 —Chuck Epes, CBF's Deputy Director of Media Relations 

Learn more about the University of Virginia's Dell and view before, during, and after photos here.

And check out our Photo Album on Facebook for the grand tour!