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September 2014

Virginia Attorney General Stands Tall for the Bay

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Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. Photo by Chuck Thomas.

Eloquently and forcefully defending Virginia's right to partner with other states and EPA to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring told a Blue Planet Forum crowd of 200 people Wednesday night that a restored Bay is in the Commonwealth's best environmental, cultural, and economic interests.

"We hunt and fish here," Herring told the audience at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Va. "We boat on these waters and play on these shores. We eat so many foods sustained by these waters. And tens of thousands of men and women make their living on the water, generating billions in economic activity. But it all depends on clean water.

"For centuries, we have worked voluntarily with our neighbors, and more recently, with our federal partner as well, to manage and care for the Bay and the waters that flow into it. The Bay states asked the EPA to help coordinate this effort because the Bay watershed is 64,000 square miles over six states and the District of Columbia. Virginia has never been a state to concede much power or sovereignty to the federal government, and we haven't done so here."

The attorney general's presentation comes as a federal appeals court in Philadelphia readies to hear arguments by national farm industry groups seeking to kill the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the federal-state plan to restore the Bay.

The Farm groups already lost once in court last year when U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo denied all their claims. They and attorneys general from 21 states, some as far from the Bay as Texas and Alaska, and several members of Congress are now seeking to have that decision overturned.

Last spring General Herring filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Virginia in support of the Blueprint, making the Commonwealth the first state in the nation to do so.

"As attorney general, I'm not going to stand by and allow attacks on our plan to protect our waters go unanswered," he said.

His legal brief and his presentation at the Blue Planet Forum underscored the Blueprint as reasonable and appropriate under the Clean Water Act, based on solid science, and fully vetted by public stakeholders.

Echoing the earlier court ruling, the attorney general emphasized the cooperative nature of the Blueprint, which Virginia and the Bay states helped develop with EPA and have been voluntarily implementing since 2010. The Bay's health already is showing some signs of improvement as a result.

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CBF President Will Baker, CBF Hampton Roads Director Christy Everett, student environmentalists James Hemphill and Sarah Conley, Attorney General Mark Herring, CBF's Peggy Sanner. Photo by Chuck Epes/CBF Staff.

"So what's the bottom line?" General Herring told the Forum audience. "The states have led the charge to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, voluntarily entering into agreements and developing and implementing plans with coordination from EPA . . . It's commonsense, it's good government, it's within the law, and it's working."

He also emphasized how important the health of the Bay is to Virginia's economy and the well-being of all Virginians.

"Environmental issues are economic issues," he said, linking a clean Bay and a healthy environment to jobs, new business, and quality of life. "Key to our economic success is a credible case for a healthy environment and high quality of life based on clean air, clean water, and outdoor recreation opportunities."

Wednesday's Forum was emceed by CBF President Will Baker, who cited the recent toxic algae bloom that shut down drinking water supplies in Toledo, Ohio. The incident dramatizes the very real threats to clean water around the nation and why Virginia's support of the Bay Blueprint is so important, Baker said.

The Blue Planet Forum, sponsored by CBF and ODU, is a series of free public lectures to engage citizens on important environmental issues facing the Hampton Roads region and the nation. 

  Chuck Epes, CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

Want to show your support for clean water like Virginia and Herring did? Sign our petition!

Plus, read student and clean water activist Sarah Conley's perspective of the evening here.


Riding for Clean Water

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Why go to France when you can go to Talbot! Join us this fall in a ride across Talbot County, Maryland, to benefit the Bay. While steep climbs through the Alps and rolling vineyards may not be on the agenda, salty Bay breezes and watermen's villages certainly will.

On September 7, 2014, hundreds of cyclists will take in the scenic beauty of Maryland's Eastern Shore and support clean water while riding in the 10th Annual Tour de Talbot. More than just a bike ride, the Tour de Talbot gives back to local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay by supporting the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).

Register as an individual, join a team, or create your own team—there are many ways to participate in this fun event that brings together cyclists of all ages and abilities. Last year's 375 registrants included pro riders, kids, and everyone in between.

Registration includes lunch, a drink ticket, and a T-shirt; rest stops on the banks of the Wye and Choptank Rivers with food and drinks; fully marked routes of 20, 62, and 100 miles; and cheering crowds at the finish line! Kids under 16 ride for free.

The ride supports the work of MRC to preserve and protect the Miles, Wye, and Choptank Rivers, and Eastern Bay. And this year for the first time, it also supports CBF's mission to Save the Bay. Once you register, you can raise funds using the event website, and win prizes, too. The rider who raises the most money will win a Diamondback road bike that retails for $2,200! Don’t miss it!

Event sponsors for the 10th Annual Tour de Talbot include Bicycling Magazine, Calhoon MEBA Engineering School, Bay Pediatric Center, Bike Doctor, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Dock Street Foundation and Tuckahoe Strategies.

—Brie Wilson


Connecting Education and the Environment

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Photos courtesy of Rockingham County Public Schools.

When Rockingham County Public Schools' (RCPS) administrators began to think about how to increase environmental education for students at every grade level, they decided a little hands-on experience of their own might help shape their vision.

So in June, more than 40 school system administrators and principals left the Shenandoah Valley for the Chesapeake Bay to spend three days at CBF's Port Isobel Island Study Center. During their stay, they combined on-the-water field experiences with planning sessions in an effort to develop a county-wide strategy to make outdoor environmental education a part of every child's education, kindergarten through grade 12.

"We wanted to think creatively about how we can better engage students in their learning and provide them with truly meaningful ways to connect content to the world around them," explains Dr. Carol Fenn, Superintendent for RCPS.

IMG_1127In order to understand academic and other benefits of using the local environment as a context for learning across the curriculum, the leadership team took part in field investigations, such as testing water quality, assessing biodiversity, and researching the culture of the local watermen's community on Tangier Island.

For many, this first-hand look at life on the Bay made a big impact. "The retreat to the Bay provided us a chance to really look at the concept of place value and how we can help our teachers include Chesapeake Bay watershed issues in classrooms," said Eric Fitzgerald, Assistant Director at the Massanutten Technical Center. "The whole idea that 'we all live downstream' came to light and how we can make a difference in our schools. It gave us a moment to connect with each other and connect with the Bay."

Tammy Stone, RCPS Science Supervisor, agreed. "Each one of us came away with a sense of personal connection to the Bay that we can take back to our local watershed and to our classrooms."

These experiences helped to inform discussion and planning sessions focused on the best way to align outdoor learning with content standards and how to weave a thread of environmental education from one grade to another, kindergarten through grade 12. That planning will continue into the fall. CBF educators will visit Rockingham County in November to provide professional development for science teachers and additional assistance to school system administrators as they develop their strategic plan.

"Next summer," says Stone, "RCPS hopes to take teachers as a group out on the Bay. The goal would be to take teachers from prekindergarten through grade 12, so that we can provide these rich learning opportunities at every grade."

—Sarah Bodor, CBF's Director of Education Outreach

Learn more about our education opportunities for principals and teachers.

 


Photo of the Week: Show Off Your #BaySelfie!

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A happy dog and his owner swimming the mouth of Dividing Creek. Friends camping at Janes Island State Park. A father-daughter duo fishing for white perch on an unusually cool Saturday morning in July. 

These are just a few of the recent "Bay Selfie" photos that fellow water lovers have sent us this summer. And I'm sure you have quite a few of your own, too—we'd love to see them! 

Take a moment now to check out our "Bay Selfie" photo album on Facebook and be sure to "like" your favorites. Then, show off your love for the Bay and its rivers and streams by sharing your own selfie or favorite photo of family and friends enjoying our waters. 

These photos of the extraordinary people and places along the waters we all love remind us why we do the work that we do. Our memories of these moments—and those to come—are worth fighting for. And with your help, that's what CBF is doing every day. 

Enjoy the last gasp of summer this coming Labor Day Weekend, preferably out on the water. And don't forget your camera or smartphone!

—Emmy Nicklin, CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 Send us your Bay Selfies! Show us the places that mean the most to you, and tell us why. 


Inside CBF: Carrie Vaughn, Clagett Farm

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Clagett Farm's Vegetable Production Manager Carrie Vaughn. Photo by Hannah Holt.

If you live in an urban area, your food source may not be top of mind. However, a farm is always close by in the D.C. region, including CBF's own sustainable Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Clagett produces organic vegetables for a weekly community-supported agriculture (CSA) share as well as donates produce to local non-profits such as the Capital Area Food Bank. This takes a lot of coordination I soon discover, most of which is managed by Carrie Vaughn, the farm's vegetable production manager.

On a sunny Wednesday, I visit Clagett Farm to help with the harvest and to meet with Vaughn. Several volunteers greet me as I arrive and immediately put me to work unloading freshly picked heirloom tomatoes followed by harvesting onions and setting up baskets of vegetables for CSA pickup.

The farm schedule is somewhat predictable: Wednesdays and Saturdays are harvest days, when Clagett Farm staff direct hard-working volunteers who help pick the vegetables. The rest of the week is dedicated to managing other volunteer projects on the farm. Today being a Wednesday, Carrie determines which vegetables are appropriate for this week's share. After deciding on heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, squash, and the onions we'd just dug up, Vaughn oversees the CSA pickup and then settles in for a chat.  

"It varies a lot," says Vaughn of her typical day on the farm. "I think that's one of the nice things about the job: That it's not the same thing day after day. Sometimes I'm working on the tractor alone; sometimes I'm with a lot of people I've never met before; and sometimes I get to work with people that come back all the time, [that become] friends."

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Photo by Hannah Holt.

Vaughn started her career at CBF as a volunteer fresh out of college where she had studied biology and decided she wanted to pursue a career in agricultural research. But, as we know, some things don't always go to plan in life. "I came here to learn about what it's like to be a farmer, so I could be a better researcher. I guess I just fell in love with farming and never left!"

As Vaughn and I continue to talk through the morning, there are many things, I learn, that you can do while gardening or selecting your food to help restore the Bay and its waters. Allowing native plants to flourish and grow is just one of them. "People have to let the clover live in their yard. All that diversity in their lawn is really helpful," says Vaughn. "It's naturally fertilizing."

As expected Vaughn is a tremendous advocate for supporting local agriculture: "A lot of people think that buying organic is about being healthy for the consumer, but for me the purchasing decision has a lot more to do with the health of the whole ecosystem. You want to make sure you're supporting a healthy ecosystem through the farms that are giving you food."

—Lindsey Kellogg, CBF's Communications Intern 

Click here to learn more about Clagett Farm and how you can get involved!


Toldeo's Toxic Water Emphasizes Need to Reduce Pollution

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal News.

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An algal bloom at Mattawoman Creek. Photo by John Surrick/CBF Staff

Surviving a heart attack is a huge wake-up call that usually warrants a change of diet. Toledo, Ohio, just survived a heart attack.

The city's drinking water, drawn from Lake Erie, became toxic because of a huge algae bloom. Algae blooms are caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorous in the water. This one was the city's wake-up call and signals it's time for a change of lifestyle.

The algae that caused Toledo's heart attack is naturally present in most water bodies including all of the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, the Albemarle Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. Too much nitrogen and or phosphorous, which feed the algae, can cause these algae to grow to enormous sizes called "blooms" that give off toxic substances that harm humans, wildlife and the aquatic ecosystem. Algae blooms are also responsible for "dead zones," which are areas in water bodies so depleted of oxygen that nothing can live.

Nitrogen and phosphorous are major components in fertilizer, manure and sewage. Improper use of fertilizer and manure contaminates our streams when rainwater washes off agricultural fields, feedlots, lawns and golf courses. Failing septic systems and outdated wastewater treatment plants also contribute to the excessive nutrient loading of our streams.

Reducing nutrients in our streams and rivers is the cure; some call this a "pollution diet". We have a pollution diet under way right now in the Chesapeake Bay watershed — and it is working.  Nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Chesapeake Bay have been cut in half since the mid 1980s despite the fact that the population in the Bay watershed increased 30 percent from 13.5 million in 1985 to 17 million in 2012. This is an incredible achievement! The "diet" is working.

Reducing nutrients in streams is not rocket science. We know how to do it. Each of the six states in the Bay watershed came up their own pollution diet to reduce nutrient loading into their streams and rivers. These six plans were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency several years ago and together form the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Lots of people are working together to implement the Blueprint. Farmers are fencing their cows out of the streams, planting riparian buffers, using fertilizers more responsibly and reducing soil erosion by using no-till methods and cover crops during the winter.

Local and state governments are investing in sewage treatment upgrades that remove nutrients from their discharges. People in cities and suburban areas are using less fertilizer on their lawns. Legislatures are passing laws encouraging nutrient management and have eliminated phosphorous in lawn fertilizers. Citizens are paying stormwater utility fees to help fund stormwater management projects.

There are deep-pocketed lobbyists from outside the Bay watershed that don't like the pollution diet for the Bay. The Fertilizer Institute, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Corn Growers Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Chicken Council, the National Association of Home Builders and other lobbying groups associated with activities that contribute to nutrient loading are suing the EPA over the plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the attorneys general in 21 states, most of them in the Mississippi watershed, signed "friend of the court" briefs on behalf of these deep-pocketed lobbyists. Meanwhile, Toledo can't use their water and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico remains the second largest in the world.

Clean water is a choice. The people of the Chesapeake Bay watershed have agreed on a plan to get there. Successful implementation and the Chesapeake's plan will result in safer and more abundant seafood, jobs and tourism. We will have a healthier world; something we can be proud of.

I lament that we have to waste time and money on a lawsuit because we want/need cleaner water.

What happened in Toledo is unfortunate and tragic. For a remedy, they need to look no farther than the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. It's a "pollution diet" that is working.

—Robert Whitescarver
Whitescarver is a recently retired USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservationist who spent more than 30 years working with farmers on conservation practices. He now has his own private consulting business where he helps landowners create an overall vision and plan for their land. He also works with CBF to help famers install more Best Managment Practices (BMPs) in the Shenandoah Valley. He is the recipient of a CBF Conservationist of the Year award.

Take a moment to sign your name in support of clean water to protect the Bay and its rivers and streams for our children and grandchildren!


Photo of the Week: Dog Days of Summer

Dog_StehleHarrisMy newly adopted dog Old Bay. She had never seen the water before just a few weeks ago, and now I can't keep her out! 

—Stehle Harris 

 

Ensure that Stehle and future generations continue to enjoy memorable summer moments like these along the Chesapeake. 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!


Polluted Runoff: Be the Solution

20140812_161510Photo by John Long.

Tuesday's rain brought with it pleasant temperatures and good coffee-break conversation, but what else did it usher into Maryland?

While our farms, lawns, and flowers welcomed the rain after many dry days, water rushing through our neighborhoods and into our creeks, rivers, and local swimming holes ushered in a mess in Anne Arundel County's Cox and Furnace Creeks. Sewage overflows caused by uncontrolled polluted runoff triggered emergency closures of both creeks for the next week. Not so welcome.

Satellite photos of the Bay's watershed on August 13 show how Maryland's headwaters are clouded by all the sediment and nutrients that enter our waters when we get downpours like Tuesday's. Not to mention the pet waste, lawn fertilizer, oil, and grease that has built up on the local landscape since our last rain. Downhill and into the Bay it goes—unless such polluted runoff can be slowed down by improved farm, urban, and residential management practices.

The good news is that we have a science-based solution—the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—to reduce all the nasty pollution that enters our streams, creeks, and ultimately the Bay. We all have a role to play in the Blueprint—there's no single boogie-man we can point a finger at and expect the problem to go away.

Whether we're in Western Maryland, the Lower Eastern Shore, or everywhere in between, we can be a part of this solution. That means putting best management practices on the ground—even in our own backyards!—to slow polluted runoff so it can be stripped of pollution before flowing into our creeks and rivers, pushing for changes to our agricultural systems to prevent nutrients running off farm fields, and demanding that our state protects and adds more trees as natural filters to our urban and suburban landscape.

So on your next coffee break, start talking about the solution. Just like the Chesapeake watershed, you're part of it!

 —CBF's Maryland Office

Click here for ways that YOU can be a part of the solution, not the problem.

 


Photo of the Week: The American Lotus at Mattawoman Creek

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The month of July features a special blooming of the yellow lotuses at Mattawoman Creek, which boasts one of the largest fields of American Lotuses along the western side of the Chesapeake Bay. 

There was no better way to see this sacred flower, than from a kayak, as a group of 26 kayakers recently discovered in this photo.

Mattawoman translates as "where one goes pleasantly." [The river is one of] the most productive spawning grounds for migratory fish such as hickory shad and yellow/white perch throughout the Chesapeake Bay. It's a rich and vital resource that always presents opportunities to view wildlife, including egrets, herons, wood ducks, ospreys, beavers, tree swallows, and hawks. But it's also common to see American bald eagles and American green tree frogs.

—Dom J. (DJ) Manalo, Rockville, MD

Ensure that DJ and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these along the Chesapeake. 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!


A Weekend Without Water

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Lake Erie's toxic algal bloom. Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.

The following was written by Alexander Krupp, a rising sophomore at George Mason University and an intern at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Hampton Roads office. He traveled to Ohio last weekend for a family funeral.

I was in a hotel in Findlay, Ohio, this past weekend. The town is largely comprised of local businesses, many family-run. I saw on the morning news that the town and neighboring areas were in a state of emergency due to a toxic algal bloom in the water supply that the treatment plants could not handle. They said that all citizens were not to drink the water, boil it, cook with it, bathe with it, or even touch it.

There were signs in every building in Perrysburg, Ohio, on the sinks and toilets saying not to come in contact with the water. My friends and family, who live from Fostoria to Glandorf, had to wait in line for hours to buy bottled water. I was in Ohio for a funeral for a family member and was forced to leave to drive 20 minutes to the nearest store for water because the water from the fountains and faucets were not safe to drink.

Just think of all the local restaurants that could not wash their produce or cook anything with water. Or think about all the mothers who could not run a bath for their children. It's devastating to be without such an essential resource. 

But what caused this catastrophe?

Around the western end of Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes, algal blooms have become more and more frequent due to large amounts nutrient pollution from agriculture and urban runoff. But it seems that nothing had been done about this pollution, and now with the toxin microcystin, which is produced by the algae, at three times the safe level for drinking water, 500,000 Ohio residents had been forced to find alternative water sources to make it through each day.

It's now more obvious than ever that lawmakers have not been focusing enough of their attention on our environment and our public health, because Ohioans are clearly being affected directly. Even though the Mayor of Toledo just declared that the water is safe to use again, citizens are still cautious—and for good reason.

This past weekend has been a bold reminder that water quality is of vital importance to our daily lives and is not something to be taken for granted. Here in the Chesapeake region, efforts to protect our waters are clearly laid out in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the federal-state plan to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams. But with the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Fertilizer Institute having recruited 21 states from across the country to support their efforts to derail Chesapeake Bay restoration, we must fight harder than ever to ensure the Blueprint is fully implemented.

I'm hopeful that this situation will prompt local governments to be strict with nutrient pollution and more mindful of warning signs in the future.

—Alexander Krupp

Click here to read our experts' take on the situation in Toledo, and what it means for us here in the Chesapeake Bay region.