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The Best of 2014

 

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First there was this: Toxic blue-green algae in Lake Erie shut down the drinking water supply in Toledo, Ohio; the American Farm Bureau Federation along with other special interest lobbyists and 21 state attorneys general declared war on the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint; the Bay's blue crabs and rockfish faced especially trying times due to poor water quality and diminished habitat.

But then there was this: Oxford, Maryland and other communities rolled up their sleeves and worked together to tackle harmful polluted runoff problems; hard-working farmers across the watershed improved water quality and efficiency on their farms; our new Brock Environmental Center—one of the world's most environmentally smart buildings—opened its doors in Virginia Beach.

The year 2014 is not an easy one to explain. It was full of highs and lows, good news and bad.

6a00d8341bfb5353ef0168eab74332970cOn this New Year's Eve as we reflect on the challenges, lessons learned, and successes from this complex year, we decided to take a look back and see what you, the reader, valued and cared about most. So without further ado, these are the top 10 most popular posts from 2014 . . .

1. "Blue News": CBF's Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough discussed the troubling news from the annual blue crab winter dredge survey, and what we can do to improve numbers of the Bay's iconic critter.   

2. "Rockfish: Down But Not Out": Rockfish numbers, too, were down in 2014, but in this post we discussed why we're not losing hope just yet. 

3. "Could It Happen Here?": CBF's Senior Water Quality Scientist Beth McGee examined the blue-green algae crisis in Lake Erie that shut down local drinking water supplies this summer. And she asked the question we'd all been wondering: Could something like that happen here to the 17 million of us living in the Bay watershed.  

4. "Farmer Success Stories": Hard-working farmers told their stories of how they implemented Best Management Practices that not only improved productivity and efficiency on their farms, but also local water quality. 

6a00d8341bfb5353ef01a73d703f37970d-800wi5.  "21 States, 8 Counties Join Farm Bureau Challenge to Bay TMDL": In an outrageous attack on clean water restoration, 21 state attorneys general (most from outside the Bay watershed) joined with the American Farm Bureau Federation, The Fertilizer Institute, and other special interests and filed a surprise challenge to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. 

6.  "Oxford, Maryland Leading the Way to a Cleaner Bay": Small communities like Oxford took it upon themselves to actually do something about the polluted runoff in their own backyard. 

7. "Anne Arundel County Will Benefit From Stormwater Fee"CBF's Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost explained the importance of a polluted runoff fee and how it will improve the environment, economy, and health of communities like Anne Arundel County. 

8. "Imagine a Building as Efficient and Beneficial as a Tree"After years of planning and months of construction, the Brock Environmental Center—an international model for energy- and water-efficiency—came to life in November. 

6a00d8341bfb5353ef01b8d08f5d84970c-800wi9. "Be the Solution": Our Maryland office wouldn't play the blame game. It discussed how we all have a role to play in implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Whether we're in Western Maryland, the Lower Eastern Shore, or everywhere in between, we can be a part of the solution in battling polluted runoff.   

10. "Smith Island as I Recall it 35 Years Ago": In honor of our Smith Island Education Program turning 35 this year, the program's first educator and founder Bill Goldsborough reflected on the early days, inspiring and transforming students in this unique island community.

Thank you for being curious, inquisitive readers of our CBF Blog. We strive to keep you updated on important clean water issues and hope we have accomplished just that throughout 2014.

Now we look forward to 2015 as a time to work even more vigilantly for healthy rivers, clean streams, and a restored Chesapeake Bay. Thank you for helping us do that. And keep reading . . . 

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media


Concrete Solutions, Not Rhetoric, Needed

The following first appeared in the Daily Times.

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Photo by Tom Pelton/CBF Staff

A recent Daily Times editorial encourages compromise between farmers and environmentalists but offers no solution. In fact, the proposed state regulations to update existing nutrient management rules is a compromise solution.

The regulations, in the works for the past ten years and delayed repeatedly for the past three, will be phased in during six years under the compromise. No farmers would have to change their management practices until the 2017 growing season.

That additional delay also postpones cleaner water on the Eastern Shore, but it illustrates the balance these draft regulations sought to strike.

The O'Malley administration also has offered to increase taxpayer subsidies to help farmers cope with the updated rules, and the Department of Agriculture says sufficient funds exist to lend a big hand. That's the right thing to do.

We also think poultry companies who control all aspects of a contract growers operation but take no legal responsibility for the waste generated can play an increased role beyond the existing support of the manure transport program.

Environmentalists aren't blaming farmers for the manure crisis on the Eastern Shore—a fact continually lost in this debate and in the Daily Times editorial. Phosphorus was building up in farm soils long before many current farmers ever spread manure, and before science and poor water quality alerted us to the problem.

But we have a crisis. The state estimates 228,000 tons of excess poultry manure are spread each year on the Shore—an environmental catastrophe which fouls the creeks and rivers of the Shore.

What's the alternative to the updated rules? How else are we to reduce the amount of phosphorus from chicken litter being added to already saturated soils? Technology and private industry can play a role, but alone can't solve the problem. How else will we clean the local creeks and rivers on the Eastern Shore? Concrete, informed solutions are needed, not further rhetoric.

—Alan Girard, CBF's Eastern Shore Director

Tell Maryland's leaders we need to reduce agricultural pollution through innovative tools that help farmers reduce phosphorus running off their farm fields.


Maryland Leaders Protect Funds for Bay Cleanup

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2.5 million oysters were planted on Cooks Point Sanctuary Reef near Tilghman Island in 2009. The recent appropriations bill secured funding for critical projects such as oyster restoration. Photo by Erika Nortemann.

The following first appeared in The Baltimore Sun.

Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, along with Rep. Steny Hoyer, deserve our thanks for securing funding in the recent omnibus appropriations bill to keep Maryland on track to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams ("For better or worse, spending bill passes," Dec. 15).

We are making progress, but the work is expensive and federal dollars are critical.

The bill includes significant funds for oyster restoration, sewage treatment upgrades, and assistance to farmers and suburban communities as they reduce polluted runoff. Dollars also are targeted for continued restoration work at Poplar Island and watershed education and training.

Investments in cleaning up our water such as these will pay off. The region will see $22.5 billion in additional economic benefits when we fully implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the plan for finishing the bay cleanup.

We thank Maryland's entire congressional delegation for their commitment to this effort.

—Will Baker, CBF President


Photo of the Week: The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania

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Fed from the hills of north-central Pennsylvania, Pine Creek stretches 87 miles through historic villages such as Cedar Run, Slate Run, and Waterville on its way to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.  The river and its tributaries are beloved destinations for anglers and boaters. The section of Pine Creek pictured here is known as the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania," a 47-mile long canyon formed during the last ice age. Here, at Colton Point State Park, the gorge is 800 feet deep and 4,000 feet wide. The Pine Creek Rail Trailvisible on the left side of the image—runs along the mainstem and provides biking, hiking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing opportunities.

The Pine Creek watershed has only 22 people per square mile (compared with 274 in the rest of Pennsylvania), and it is home to well-managed forests, dark night skies, native trout, bald eagles, and diverse plant and animal communities. It once sheltered elk herds, mountain lion, and American shad. Looking from a high vista, one can almost imagine their return. It's harder to imagine the barren hillside of the logging era, when old growth forests were clear cut and log rafts floated to sawmills downstream.  

Since then the landscape has regrown into mixed hardwood forests, accessible by many trails and old logging roads. The watershed has also endured the legacy of the coal mining era, which left many miles of tributary and mainstem polluted from acid mine drainage. Decades of work by dedicated citizens have brought about 15 miles of tributary back to life and restored mayfly hatches on lower Pine Creek.

—Lori Davias Maloney

Click here to view more Pine Creek photos.

Do you have a favorite, winter-themed Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to me at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay and its waters mean to you. We look forward to seeing your photos! 


Skipjack Stanley Norman: Defying the Odds

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CBF's Skipjack the Stanley Norman. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

It is hard to believe a 70-foot wooden boat constructed at the turn of the 20th century is still sailing today. But CBF's Skipjack, Stanley Norman, defies the odds. A treasured piece of Chesapeake Bay history and culture, the Stanley Norman serves today as a "floating classroom," where students of all ages learn about oysters, the life of a Chesapeake Bay waterman, and Bay-related issues of the past, present, and future. 

A Two-Sail Bateau, known colloquially as a "Skipjack," is an oyster dredging wooden boat that reached its peak popularity in the Chesapeake Bay region in the late 1880s. A cheap boat to build and sail, the skipjack was tremendously efficient at dredging oysters due to its strength and power, which was necessary to haul oyster dredges across the Bay floor. While no boat matched its strength in dredging oysters, it was inferior in harvesting other fare found in the Bay. As a result, when oyster populations diminished dramatically in the 1960s, the size of the Chesapeake Bay's skipjack fleet shrunk simultaneously. The dwindling of the skipjack fleet was astounding—of the estimated 2,000 skipjacks in the Chesapeake Bay at their peak, an estimated 13 are left. Virtually none of these skipjacks are used for their original aim of dredging oysters, but instead are used for educational purposes.

Possessing a character only a boat of its age and history can hold, the Stanley Norman provides a unique educational experience. Indeed, when students step aboard the Stanley Norman, they're not only learning more about the Bay, water quality issues, oyster restoration, and the life of a waterman—they're taking a step back in time. More than 3,000 students step aboard the skipjack annually, participating in activities such as raising the sail as a team, with the accompanying call-and-response of "Heave!" "Ho!", exploring Chesapeake Bay geography through pouring over historic and current maps, and dredging and pulling up oysters, to name a few.

"If you want to experience the Chesapeake Bay, there are countless ways to go about it," says Dave Gelenter, Captain of the Stanley Norman since 1998. "You might study the Bay in school. You could read any number of books written about the science, culture, or history of the Bay. You could watch videos of Blue Crabs molting in Eelgrass beds or Bald Eagles feeding their young. All of these experiences would leave you richer for having done them. But to sail aboard the Stanley Norman, a vessel which is an actual part of the culture and history of the Chesapeake, makes you part of the Chesapeake. An experience on the Stanley Norman connects people to the Bay in a way no other experience can."

Aside from the tremendous educational value the Stanley Norman provides, this boat represents something much greater in the evolution of the relationship between the Chesapeake Bay and those who depend on the bounty of its waters. While the steep decline in the Chesapeake Bay's oyster population has several causes, including disease, changes in water quality, and habitat loss, it is undeniable that the overharvesting of the Bay's oysters played a large role. This overharvesting was greatly assisted by the skipjack and its incredible efficiency at dredging oysters. 

It might seem a bit counterintuitive therefore, to celebrate a boat that in some ways represents the overharvesting and accompanying decline of the Chesapeake Bay oyster. A closer examination however reveals our great progress as a society. Where once the skipjack was used to exploit the Bay's oysters, the Stanley Norman is now educating thousands of students on the importance of oyster restoration. And more importantly, the Stanley Norman is helping cultivate in our future leaders a love for nature through exposure to the beauty, history, and culture, of the Bay and its waters.

If the Stanley Norman will make it another 112 years is anyone's guess. But perhaps this old skipjack will continue to defy the odds, not in just mere survival, but in helping to restore the great Chesapeake Bay oyster and the waters which it calls home.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


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Can't get enough of the Stanley Norman? Click here to dive into it's unique history, dimensions, fun facts, and photos.


Stormwater Fee is a Boon for Prince George's

The following first appeared in The Baltimore Sun.

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Photo by Krista Schyler/iLCP

Some people want us to think a stormwater fee is a lemon. They sourly call it a "rain tax." Prince George's County thinks otherwise. It is making lemonade to prove it.

Prince George's officials knew the county's stormwater system was badly in need of fixing, but they also knew how expensive the work could be. That's why most jurisdictions throughout the state have neglected the work for years. The county also recognized that a dedicated source of funding such as the stormwater fee could actually leverage considerable private funding. County leaders created a first-of-its-kind, public-private partnership with a company called Corvais Solutions. The contract was signed Nov. 20. With the partnership, the county will get management services from a large private company experienced in accomplishing public sector infrastructure projects, considerable liquidity and equity financing to do the work, and real results on the ground, efficiently.

This innovation could reduce the overall costs of upgrading the county drainage system by 40 percent, according to some estimates. You heard that right: the stormwater fee will save Prince George's taxpayers money. It should be a model throughout Maryland, yet instead of embracing the idea, some — including Gov.-elect Larry Hogan — are still fighting the fee.

Mr. Hogan, in fact, says he plans to repeal the state law requiring these local fees, claiming they're not necessary. But the folks giving Mr. Hogan advice can't have looked at local budgets lately. Nor have they much knowledge about the Chesapeake Bay cleanup. Repealing these fees now would kick the legs out from under new and sometimes innovative local programs that can save taxpayers money and show great promise for cleaning up dirty waterways.

The fees came about after a 2012 state law required the 10 largest urban jurisdictions in Maryland to fund better management of polluted runoff. New state permits will hold the locales accountable. Polluted runoff is the water that washes off streets and driveways after a rain, carrying pet waste, lawn fertilizer, pesticides, and petroleum by-products directly into nearby streams, rivers and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. In many urban and suburban waterways it is the main source of water pollution. State and local authorities warn us not to swim in or even come in contact with these waters for a full 48 hours after a strong rain because of polluted runoff.

The sheer volume and speed of runoff from paved landscapes also causes flooded basements and streets.

The stormwater fees, based on a property's runoff potential (for example, rooftops and parking areas) enable local utilities to install or fix neglected drainage systems, much as sewer or electric fees are used to maintain and upgrade pipes and power lines. The polluted runoff fees are locally charged and locally managed to pay for local solutions.

In developing its solution, Prince George's County was shrewd, like a smart company that knows reasonable government regulations present more opportunity than obstacle. The county embraced the new law. And its citizens will benefit.

Seeing another silver lining, the county and Corvais are also putting together an aggressive program to train local citizens and existing small businesses in the skills necessary to fill the substantial employment needs to get the work done on the ground. These are good private-sector jobs: landscape installers and maintenance crews, construction workers, surveyors and the like. Short-term job estimates run in the thousands.

So, what's not to like? Prince George's will aggressively clean up polluted runoff that plagues local streams like Sligo or Beaverdam Creeks, Cabin or Horsepen Branch, and of course the Patuxent and Anacostia Rivers. It will charge its citizens a fair fee to accomplish this. It will get help from the private sector, which gains in the process. It will grow its employment base with good, long-lasting jobs. And it will be gaining attractive, greened-up communities along the way.

It's these sorts of benefits that have prompted 13 communities in Maryland to approve stormwater fees to date, most recently the City of Salisbury on Nov. 24. They join six locales in Pennsylvania, 23 in Virginia and more than 1,400 nation-wide.

Maybe more local governments should be thinking "lemonade" instead of "lemons" as they face the challenge of cleaning up their badly polluted waterways. And Governor-elect Hogan and other state leaders should let these new stormwater utilities begin to produce the kinds of results that are so promising.

—Lee Epstein
Director of Lands Program, Chesapeake Bay Foundation


Photo of the Week: Winter Is Coming

BillPortlock3Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

"There's a certain slant of light,
Winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the heft,
Of cathedral tunes . . . "

—Emily Dickinson, Poem 258

Photographer and CBF's Senior Educator Bill Portlock captured the icy, golden-hour sunset above from Bishops Head, Maryland, several winters ago.

At this time of year when darkness sets in way too early, when slap-happy winds turn your cheeks a ruddy hue, it's easy to hibernate indoors. But don't forget, we've still got lots going on! From member meetings, to advocacy and volunteer trainings, to Christmas tree/wreath sales, to polluted runoff workshops—winter is yet another busy and productive season for us, and we hope you'll come out and join us. See our events calendar for more.      

So bundle up, get out there, and enjoy those winter afternoons

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

Do you have a favorite, winter-themed Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to me at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay and its waters mean to you. We look forward to seeing your photos! 


Remembering Why We Do What We Do on #GivingTuesday


ElaineYes, today is #GivingTuesday—that day celebrated around the world that reminds us that this time of year isn't just about getting, it's also about giving . . . giving gifts, giving time, giving kindness, giving . . . whatever. 

And as I thought more and more about this day, I found myself looking for inspiration from all my favorite writers and leaders and poets and philosophers. (Yes, I even resorted to googling "famous quotes about giving.")

And I can spew out some pretty fantastic ones: Take Maya Angelou's "I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver." Or Albert Einstein's "It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it." 

And Ralph Waldo Emerson's ever-thoughtful "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself . . . Serve and thou shall be served."

JenBut often what's more real, more inspiring, more tangible than those giants of ideas and idealism that, these days, live only in books and on the Internet, are those people around us, every day doing their work quietly but with great passion and pride. 

I asked Elaine Lutz, our Maryland Office attorney, what brought her to CBF, and why she does what she does. Her simple six-word answer speaks for itself: "I believe in Nature's intrinsic value."

Our Managing Editor Jen Wallace listed the names of her two children, eight-year-old Martha and five-year-old Eamon, as her reasons for getting up every morning and doing what she does.  

Jocelyn Tuttle, our Baltimore Harbor Program educator, spoke of the rivers and streams that inspire her everyday to teach the next generation of Bay stewards.  

LucasOur Student Leadership Coordinator Lucas Johnson wholeheartedly gives his time and energy to Saving the Bay because he loves exploring the great outdoors.   

All of these colleagues inspire me as I work alongside them for a healthy, restored Chesapeake now and for generations to come

Whatever your reason may be, we hope you'll think of the Bay and its rivers and streams this Giving Tuesday.     

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media
 

What inspires you? Click here to send us your clean water story.

Jocelyn


Photo of the Week: Autumn Glory

DSC00935aPhoto by Doug Edmunds.

Photographer Doug Edmunds captures a glorious fall day on Maryland's Eastern Shore. "I have enjoyed all that the Bay has offered for many years including the wildlife, boating and fishing, spectacular views, and great photo opportunities," says Edmunds. "Many thanks to CBF for their continuing efforts to maintain the overall health and beauty of the Bay!" 

Ensure that Doug 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 Senior Manager of Digital Media, 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!