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Why Anglers Should Support Maryland’s Phosphorus Management Tool

MapPhosphorus is at the center of a big fight right now between Governor Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly.

The Governor, his administration, the farm community, the members of the House and Senate, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation all acknowledge the solid scientific evidence that phosphorus runoff pollution from spreading manure on farm fields is a problem for the Chesapeake. Despite strong efforts by sewage treatment plant upgrades and many farmers, phosphorus pollution is not yet declining in Maryland’s Eastern Shore rivers. In fact, it is actually increasing in the Choptank, causing more damage to this important waterway.

The issue is the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT), developed over 10 years by Bay and agriculture scientists from the University of Maryland to help farmers precisely manage the way they fertilize their crop fields. The farm community participated actively in the development of this innovative tool. Regulations putting it to work would have gone into effect at the beginning of February.

But Gov. Hogan, at the request of the Maryland Farm Bureau and other organizations, pulled the plug on the PMT shortly after his inauguration, saying he wanted to “hit the pause button” to seek more input from farmers. Shortly after, concerned members of the General Assembly filed House and Senate bills to convert the PMT regulations into legislation. Just before House and Senate hearings on the PMT bills, Hogan issued his own Maryland Agricultural Phosphorus Initiative 2015

It is good that he acted, but his Phosphorus Initiative offers loopholes and even more delay. Here is what the Baltimore Sun had to say in its editorial response, "Stand Firm on Phosphorus": "the new rules offer too many off-ramps to divert the cause, particularly a provision that gives the state agriculture department broad authority to postpone their implementation as officials see fit." It's high time we deal directly with the problem of phosphorus runoff pollution in our rivers and Bay. Anglers can help a lot by asking their elected officials to get on with the job. 

But isn't this whole PMT campaign singling out family farms unfairly?
No. Many Chesapeake watershed farmers are making heroic efforts to reduce their impacts on streams, rivers, and the Bay. Just click here to read about the good work that some farmers are doing for their farms and local waterways. Agriculture, if managed well, reduces runoff pollution at very low cost. The problem is that agriculture covers 25 percent of the land in the watershed or 8.5 million acres (note map above). Look especially at the proportion of Maryland's Eastern Shore that is growing crops and poultry. That huge acreage is why agriculture keeps coming up as the leading cause of the Chesapeake's ills. Our Bay and its rivers and streams need nearly ALL of the watershed’s 87,000 farmers to exercise Conservation Best Management Practices. 

We depend on Maryland farms for the food that fuels our bodies every day. But, note the comparative cost figures in the Sun editorial: "...the financial cost [of the PMT] is somewhere in the neighborhood of $22.5 million . . . Eastern Shore poultry producers spend more on advertising. Maryland's annual seafood catch is worth more than that despite its pollution-related declines of the last several decades. And Maryland's boating industry alone is worth about 100 times that. So exactly who should be doing the compromising?"  

Now look at The Economic Benefits of Cleaning Up the Chesapeake. The Bay watershed is a tremendous economic asset, but it's under severe pressure from us humans and our needs for food, transportation, and housing. Maryland cannot afford an either/or choice between vibrant agriculture and a healthy Chesapeake. We must find ways to have both. Farmers who have already installed Conservation Best Management Practices are showing the way, in teamwork with state and federal agencies, agricultural and Bay scientists, and businesses looking at new ways to use excess phosphorus.

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There is real win/win opportunity here, but getting there will grow more difficult and expensive the longer we wait. It's time for everyone who has a stake in a healthy Bay, especially anglers and seafood harvesters, to urge Gov. Hogan and the General Assembly to reach agreement on this "PMT Pause" and then move quickly to put it to work. 

Every angler and waterman from the Sassafras to the Pocomoke, and all of the rest of us who love those waters, must tell our elected officials that we want SOLUTIONS to the problem of farmland soils oversaturated with phosphorus. Click here to take action now!

Remember: The Chesapeake’s fish and crabs need clean water. And they are essential to prosperous communities in Maryland. We need BOTH healthy waterways and strong agriculture. It’s time to get to work and figure out how! 

John Page Williams, CBF’s Senior Naturalist 


Let’s Follow Arkansas’, Oklahoma’s Lead in Controlling Phosphorus

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.

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Approximately 228,000 tons of excess poultry manure are applied annually on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Photo courtesy iStock.

On the U.S. farm, necessity has always been the mother of invention. Maybe that's part of the reason the poultry industry along the Arkansas and Oklahoma border has been able to reduce by 75 percent the amount of chicken manure it applies on farm fields in one watershed area.

Necessity in that case was a 2001 court case filed by the city of Tulsa against six poultry companies, upstream municipalities and others. The case, ultimately settled in 2003, claimed excess poultry manure was contaminating city drinking water drawn from the Eucha/Spavinaw watershed. Finding that there were not adequate provisions in statute or regulation, the judge set a limit on soil phosphorus above which no more manure could be applied.

Maryland could learn something from those states. We can achieve all our goals. We can require our chicken growers on the Eastern Shore to reduce the amount of excess manure they apply to crop fields, and we can do it without putting farmers out of business or forcing the poultry industry to flee the region. We can come together to tackle this problem. We don't need a judge, but we need a nudge. We need legislation to prompt action.

For the past few years, Maryland chicken growers have been concerned by the prospect of the regulatory tool known as the Phosphorus Management Tool. The tool is a method developed over 10 years by University of Maryland agriculture scientists that allows farmers to assess the level of phosphorus in their soils so that they can apply the correct and safe amount of manure to their fields.

Maryland wanted to require farmers to use the tool because excess manure application on the Shore causes the same problem in the Choptank, Nanticoke and the Chesapeake as it does in the Eucha/Spavinaw watershed: eutrophication, or slow death, of the water system from lack of oxygen. But the opposition claimed to anyone who would listen that the regulation would cost too much to implement, and that the large poultry companies would up and leave the state.

Gov. Larry Hogan listened. Just hours after taking office, he pulled the regulation before it went into effect. Now the General Assembly is considering a proposed bill that would accomplish the same thing as the shelved regulation.

How unfortunate. We know we need less manure applied to Eastern Shore fields. The Maryland Department of Agriculture estimates 228,000 tons of excess poultry manure are applied each year on the Shore. You might say it's a manure crisis. That's the necessity that should be driving invention. With the phosphorus tool in place, we could move on to finding cost-efficient ways to reduce manure application. Instead, we're back at square one, essentially quibbling over the measuring cup we'll use to bake a cake. With no regulatory option, we must rely on a legislative one.

The good news is that there is such an option. Legislation now before the General Assembly, SB 257 and HB 381, provides six years for us to work out a means to bake that cake. Arkansas and Oklahoma effectively did it in four years. The Western states worked out a plan to truck excess manure out of Eucha/Spavinaw to areas in need of manure.

This is not to say trucking manure out of your watershed is a magic bullet solution. Maryland already redistributes some excess litter, although not nearly enough. The point is the Western states worked out a viable solution without crippling the farming industry. The right amount of manure is now spread on fields. The poultry companies were an integral part of the solution. They should be in Maryland, as well, where the solution could include increased manure redistribution and the widespread use of technologies that extract and use the phosphorus for various purposes.

In fact, we're in far better shape than Arkansas and Oklahoma were at this stage of the game. We have the measuring tool for phosphorus. We don't need a judge to set application limits. Hogan has put funding in his budget that can help with implementation. What we need is legislation. Arkansas and Oklahoma learned that sometimes we all need a push to do the right thing. Years of failed attempts at a voluntary, collaborative solution prompted Tulsa to file its lawsuit. Necessity resulted. Innovation followed. We can do this.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director

Remind Gov. Hogan and your state legislators that Maryland has committed to make steady, measurable progress on clean water restoration under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.


Photo of the Week: The Largest Blue Crab I Have Ever Seen

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This is the largest blue crab I have ever seen, caught about 10 years ago in the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs, FL. I spent a lot of time on the Bay as a youngster and a young man, until I relocated to Florida. 

An excerpt from my poem "Pretty Work" encapsulates my love for the Bay:

The shellpiles tell a story,
of the many
who have experienced the glory,
of harvesting the bounty
of the Bay.
But the glory is diminished
some even think its finished.
Can the decline be reversed,
or will it continue to get worse?
Can man and nature somehow combine
to save the day?

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—Dr. Bob Powell

Ensure that Bob and future generations can continue to enjoy the extraordinary critters found in 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 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!


"Rain Tax:" Easy to Demonize, But Critical to Clean Water

The following first appeared in The Dagger.

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One of the many consequences of polluted runoff is flooding. Seen here is silted stormwater runoff from residential construction in Mount Rainier, MD. Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

The so-called "rain tax" is easy to demonize. It makes a convenient political target ("Governor Larry Hogan Introduces Legislation to Repeal ‘Rain Tax,'" Feb. 12). What's harder is to help people understand the reason for the fee, and the risk to Baltimore and Harford counties of reducing the fee or getting rid of it altogether.

First, some history. The 2012 law requiring ten jurisdictions to establish some level of fee came after years of frustration. Since the early 1990's, the ten jurisdictions have been required by the federal Clean Water Act to meet specific goals to reduce polluted runoff. The federal law singled out these 10 jurisdictions because polluted runoff is often the biggest source of water pollution to urban and suburban rivers and creeks, and because specific rivers in these localities were badly fouled.

In the Patapsco River, for instance, about 23 percent of the nitrogen pollution and 69 percent of sediment pollution comes from the lawn fertilizer, pet waste, construction site dirt and other contaminants that run off the landscape after a storm. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared the Patapsco, as well as other rivers in Baltimore County as "impaired" with too much pollution, including the Gunpowder River, Lower Gunpowder Falls, Middle River, Back River, and Jones Falls.

In Harford County, the Bush River, Lower Winters Run, Atkisson River, and Bynum Run are impaired, along with the Gunpowder, according to EPA. Runoff is a major culprit. In the Bush River, for instance, about 34 percent of nitrogen pollution is from polluted runoff.

What does this mean for residents of these counties? This past summer a scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation took some water samples after a major rain storm at a popular swimming hole located on a tributary of the Gunpowder River in Baltimore County. Swimmers didn't realize it but the water had bacteria counts as high as 36 times the safe level set by the EPA.

But the problem is the nine counties and Baltimore City have not reduced their polluted runoff sufficiently. Most have fallen short of goals set by the state, Harford particularly. Money is the issue. When it comes time to budget funds, cleaning up rivers and streams understandably gets short shrift compared to paying teachers, or maintaining water pipes. Before the 2012 law, for instance, Harford was reducing substantially its funding for pollution reduction. The negligence jeopardizes human health in these localities. The runoff problem also causes economic damage, such as flooding. It also prevents the state of Maryland from meeting its commitments to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Given all this, the Maryland General Assembly decided in 2012 it had to act. It required the 10 jurisdictions to collect a fee that would be dedicated only to reducing runoff. The money couldn't be hijacked for some other purpose. At the counties' request, the legislature gave them and Baltimore City flexibility to set the size of the fee, and the means of collection. One size doesn't fit all, the counties argued.

As a result the fee was set at various levels, with Frederick showing its disdain by approving a one penny fee, and Carroll County refusing to collect any stormwater fee. Both counties promised to reduce polluted runoff using other revenues. Recently, Harford leaders voted to do the same, and Baltimore County is expected to significantly reduce its fee. Governor Hogan also has proposed legislation to repeal the entire 2012 law.

So where does that leave us? Back at square one. We have promises from the ten jurisdictions that they now will do the work, promises that they failed to keep for years prior to the 2012 law. It also means that in places such as Baltimore County critical new programs funded from the stormwater fee likely will now be demolished or downsized. For instance, the county's Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability has an outstanding tree-planting program to reforest 1,500 acres of the suburban county by 2025. Trees planted in key drainage areas are one of the most cost-effective means of reducing polluted runoff. Will that program survive now?

The 2012 law provides some accountability for reduced pollution. Without the law, we will have nothing more than promises. Again. But words will do nothing to make the rivers of Baltimore and Harford counties clean again.

We urge citizens to tell their state delegates and senators not to repeal the 2012 law, and to tell county leaders to reinstate a reasonable-sized fee to tackle a long-neglected problem.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director

Please contact Gov. Hogan and your state legislators and remind them that Maryland has committed to make steady, measurable progress on clean water restoration under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.


The Bay Offers Up the Perfect Valentine

101423-1285Photo by Donnie Biggs.

I must be the only person in the entire Chesapeake Bay area who doesn't know how to serve an oyster on the half shell. Butter? Lemon? Old Bay? I'm embarrassed to say I have no idea. But it's time I learn. My husband loves them, and I'm planning to buy a dozen for Valentine's Day.

In this, at least, I am not alone. Oyster sales spike on Valentine's Day alongside chocolate and bubbly. Seafood shops are stocking up, and restaurants are adding the epicurean indulgence to their Saturday night lover's menus.

Kevin McClaren who runs Marinetics, Inc., home of the famous Choptank Sweets oysters, has been hustling since last week to fill all the orders that have come in. He likens the work to a well-coordinated dance. "It's like a ballet," he says, "Taking them out, washing them off, getting them on ice, packing them up. Over and over. All day." A manly ballet, he adds.

Kevin says his business more than doubled this week. Whole Foods alone ordered 6,000. Most of his sales are to local and regional restaurants that will be serving them up roasted, fried, dusted with chocolate, and of course, raw on the half shell.

Long considered an aphrodisiac, the humble oyster was said to have given the 18th Century Venetian playboy, Giacomo Casanova, his swagger. In 2005, Italian researchers claimed they had the proof to turn the myth into a reality. Their work showed that Mediterranean mussels contained two amino acids associated with amorous behavior in animals. In the end, however, mussels are not oysters, and their study subjects were not human. More recently, it's been said that a high concentration of zinc in oysters could induce a romantic response, but one would have to gobble them down in gluttonous quantities more likely to induce vomiting than romance.

Myth or not, oysters remain high on the list of essentials for gastronomic courtship. Behind the seafood counter at Whole Foods in Annapolis, Lamont Jackson expects to shuck nearly 600 of the stony Bay jewels on Saturday. Normally oyster sales hover at around 50 per day. I asked him why he thought so many people bought oysters on Valentine's Day, and his answer was probably the best I'd heard so far: "I think they add something fun to the table."

That's what I'm hoping for when I serve them up tomorrow tonight. After all, it has been scientifically proven that fun is the best recipe for a long, happy marriage.

Kimbra Cutlip, CBF's Senior Multimedia Writer

Learn how we're restoring these beloved creatures of the Chesapeakeand perfect Valentines.


Photo of the Week: Countdown to Spring

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The Narrows on Kent Island in early January. Tired of the cold, windy, dreary days. Countdown to Spring? 36 days!!

The Bay is our future. I volunteer and teach my five-year-old son the importance of not littering, picking up other people's trash because it could harm the ecosystem and animals, [respect ing] all animals/insects of the Bay.

Living on the Shore you really appreciate the beauty of the Bay. Where I grew up in Prince George's County all I thought was that the Bay was dirtyI never wanted to go near it much less swim in it. I don't want it to be like that for future generations. Everyone should be able to enjoy the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. 

—Krystle Chick

Ensure that Krystle, her son, 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!


Governor Hogan, Don't Backtrack on the Chesapeake Bay

The following first appeared in The Hill on Saturday.

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Agricultural runoff is the largest single source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Photo by Miguel Angel de la Cueva/iLCP.

Hours after delivering his inaugural address, Gov. Larry Hogan (R-Md.) had his staff pull the plug on a common sense, science-based solution to a poultry manure crisis on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where factory chicken farming is big business. 

Agriculture is the largest single source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams, especially fertilizer and manure. As part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the regional plan to finish restoring the Bay, states in the watershed pledged to reduce agricultural pollution, substantially.

As if those two facts aren't reason enough to accelerate clean-up efforts in agriculture, here's another. It's far less expensive to stop pollution from farms than any other major source, including sewage plants, cars and paved landscapes. Despite this, Hogan has killed proposed regulations that would have cut farm pollution significantly to Maryland creeks and rivers and the Bay.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture estimates that about 228,000 tons of excess chicken manure is being applied annually to the fields of the Eastern Shore. It's not intentional. Farmers use an outdated scientific tool for determining the right amount of manure. So farmers clean out their chicken houses and apply the poultry litter on nearby fields as fertilizer - at legal but excessive levels. The result of the excess manure in Maryland is glaring. Other agricultural states, including Pennsylvania and Virginia, have updated their phosphorus limits for manure application.

The list of polluted Eastern Shore waterways includes the Chester, Choptank, Transquaking, Nanticoke, Sassafras, Manokin, Pocomoke and Wicomico rivers. About 80 percent of the phosphorus pollution fouling those rivers comes from agriculture, and much of it is from excess chicken manure applied to fields. When it rains, the phosphorus washes into nearby creeks or leaches out of the fields.
When phosphorus gets in the water, it stimulates massive outbreaks of algae, starting a chain reaction that results in dead zones of low oxygen and a crippled seafood industry. Excess manure also can make Eastern Shore swimming areas unsafe.

Agricultural scientists at the University of Maryland came up with a solution to the manure crisis on the Shore. They developed a Phosphorus Management Tool or PMT that farmers could use to determine the right amount of phosphorus-rich poultry manure to be applied to their crop fields. Former Gov. O'Malley (D) proposed that farmers be required to use the tool if they use chicken manure on their fields. That was the regulation killed by Hogan.

The PMT manure solution would not only clean up Eastern Shore creeks and rivers but it also would serve farmers. Phosphorus is a valuable commodity in many parts of the world. Innovative industries are waiting in the wings to pay farmers for their excess phosphorus. New manure regulations would be phased in over years by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and implementation would be subsidized by the state.

Farmers with excess manure may have to truck some to other areas where fields aren't saturated or to private facilities that turn poultry manure into energy, fertilizer pellets or other products. Some farmers may have to buy commercial fertilizer to replace the nitrogen from the manure or use mixed-species cover crops to add nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil. Department of Agriculture officials said the agency could help pay for these costs. Or maybe the big poultry companies should help their contract growers comply.

What's not to like? Local creeks and rivers of the Eastern Shore would get cleaner. So would the Chesapeake Bay. Swimming areas that once were off-limits would be safe again. Crabs, fish and oysters would rebound. Watermen would go back to work. Many farmers would sell excess phosphorus to the private market.

Unfortunately, Governor Hogan got bad information on this issue. Lobbyists for Maryland agriculture claimed these regulations would harm the Eastern Shore. They also said the new rule was a last-minute effort, even though it was years in the making, frequently delayed by the same lobbyists. It's the same old story. Industry fights science. Yet time and time again we have seen that reasonable regulations stimulate our economy. Smart companies see them as opportunities, not obstacles.

Governor Hogan, please don't backtrack on the Bay.

—Will Baker, CBF President

Tell Gov. Hogan and your state legislators that we can't backtrack on the Bay! Remind them that Maryland has committed to make steady, measurable progress on clean water restoration under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.


Get Down to Earth on Fighting Phosphorus Pollution—Just Use a Soil Test

The following was distributed by the Bay Journal News Service.

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A CAFO, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, on the Eastern Shore

Maryland's newly elected governor, Larry Hogan, recently repealed the state's Department of Agriculture's Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulation. His act made me gnash my teeth.

Farmers and legislators on the Eastern Shore had begged him to repeal the regulation because it would have forced many of them to cease applying phosphorus-laden poultry litter to soils already saturated with the nutrient.

Those farmers would instead be forced to use commercial fertilizer with no phosphorus and balance nutrient application with crop needs.

Decades of repeated animal manure applications have overloaded many fields with phosphorus in the Bay watershed, including the Eastern Shore. There is so much phosphorus in these soils that it is polluting surrounding streams and the Chesapeake.

In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 75–100 percent of the soil tests conducted on farm fields on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, parts of the Shenandoah Valley and the Lancaster County region of Pennsylvania, have "excessive or optimum levels" of phosphorus. Crops planted on these fields will not respond to additional inputs of phosphorus. Additional applications of phosphorus on these fields will leach into the groundwater or runoff and become a water pollutant causing algae blooms, dead zones and weakened aquatic ecosystems.

Society as whole is paying hundreds of millions of dollars for nutrient management practices on farms to correct these abuses, but we end up with little progress.

Our tax dollars pay for nutrient management plans and planners, the development of "phosphorus indexes," the PMT, cover crops and all sorts of fancy combinations of crop management techniques that look good on paper but in actuality do little to reduce excess nutrients in the water. The result is inflated or misleading numbers.

Why don't we use nutrient testing in the water to measure success instead of equating the development of a "plan" to a nutrient-reduction coefficient?

Survey after survey shows that people don't mind subsidizing farmers when they are doing things that improve natural resources. Personally, I loathe subsidizing farmers that continue to pollute even though the light of science is blazing in everyone's eyes — including theirs.

This scenario has been going on for decades all over the country where poor land-use practices pollute water and affect everything downstream. Science finds a solution — polluters whine and bellyache while politicians delay action. Science finds another solution but makes it more complicated — polluters whine and bellyache while politicians delay action. It's the endless-do-nothing loop. The result is more bureaucracy and paper work as well as inflated, valueless numbers that make us feel like progress is happening while in reality, only a snail's pace of incremental change occurs.

The housing bubble that created our most recent economic recession was caused by inflated values, lack of oversight and politicians not paying attention to sound management.

These same toxic principals — inflated values, lack of oversight and in the case of the PMT, a disregard for science — are causing a nutrient-reduction bubble in the Chesapeake watershed and beyond. In other words, we think we are reducing nutrients in the Bay but we really aren't.

The answer to this nutrient management problem is very simple and we could save millions of dollars doing it.

Use a soil test.

If the nutrient is already in the soil to feed the crop, don't apply more. Use the money from all the crazy, complicated formulas that documented the false reductions to move the nutrients to fields that could use it or transform it into something useful.

Phosphorus is a valuable nutrient that is needed worldwide. It is in short supply globally, and unlike nitrogen, cannot be manufactured. Conserving it and moving it to deficient areas makes sense. Manure transport and transformation programs need to be improved, verified and fully funded.

In the poultry industry, nearly all the birds raised in this country are owned by very large corporations. These big poultry companies, called integrators, bring the phosphorus in through feed they purchase from the mid-west. The farmer, who works under contract to the integrators, feeds it to the chickens.

But right now it's the farmer, who most likely took a loan out to build those poultry houses, who is left with the debt, any dead birds and the manure. It's an out-of balance scenario all the way around.

We are all to blame for this and there is something we can all do. Farmers need to fertilize according to a soil test; integrators need to take more ownership of the manure; scientists and environmentalists need to make solutions simpler; and politicians' actions need to act using science. I promise, if we can do this, society as whole will be willing to pay for it.

—Bobby Whitescarver

Tell Gov. Hogan and your state legislators that we can't backtrack on the Bay! Remind them that Maryland has committed to make steady, measurable progress on clean water restoration under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Robert Whitescarver is a farmer, certified nutrient management planner in Virginia and a retired district conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He can be reached at bobby.whitescarver@gettingmoreontheground.com. 

Distributed by the Bay Journal News Service on 2/3/2015.


Photo of the Week: A Rare Sight

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This photo was taken near the mouth of the Bay right off of Cape Henry, Virginia. We witnessed at least 10 to 12 different humpback whales that afternoon in January. Most of them were swimming in pairs, gliding, diving down revealing their flukes. I even saw one breach out of the water in the distance. An amazing day to say the least! 

[I have] so many cherished moments of my life surrounding the Chesapeake Bay. As a child I spent endless hours swimming through the tides. Countless days were played boating, kiteboarding, paddling, or just relaxing in the Bay with friends and family. I've watched the wildlife—egrets, seagulls, turtles, sandpipers, dolphins, and whales—in appreciation. I've been blessed to witness hundreds of glorious sunsets. I was even married to my husband on the shoreline.

The Chesapeake Bay brings so many great memories of the past and should always be protected for the future.

—Heather Bautista

Ensure that Heather 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 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!

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On the Front Lines of Mitigating Climate Change

The following first appeared on EcoWatch.

Brock_1200CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach. Photo by Roberto Westbrook.

Sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia are rising at a rate more than twice the global average. Since 1960, the area has experienced a 325 percent increase in "nuisance flooding" that disrupts business by closing roads and flooding parking lots and putting undue stress on infrastructure, like storm water drains, roads and sidewalks.

Some of this recurrent flooding is due to the land settling, the geologic results of a massive meteor strike here 35 million years ago. But there's little doubt the Virginia coast is also on the frontline of climate change, surging waters and more intense storms. It's no longer a question if and when the sea will rise here; the challenge is how much and how to adapt.

The Chesapeake Bay is our nation's largest estuary and home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals, including thousands of acres of valuable coastal marsh and wetlands. Scientists anticipate Virginia will lose 50-80 percent of these wetlands in the next 50 years at the current rate of sea-level rise. And it isn't just the beautiful vistas we'll lose, but everything else these wetlands provide—protection from erosion near waterfront property; flood control; filtration of runoff and removal of pollutants; and the food, water and habitat for the critters that call the wetlands home.

The busy Hampton Roads area is the second most populated region at risk from sea level and related storm damage after New Orleans. And it is home to the world's largest Navy base. During a speech at the College of William and Mary, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) remarked that in another 25 years, the main road into Naval Station Norfolk, will be under water three hours a day.

Thus, climate change not only threatens our way of life, but it's threatening our national security as well. We need to mitigate its effects with short- and long-term strategies. We need to adapt to these changes by developing environmentally smart infrastructure that not only allows us to live in a rapidly changing world, but minimizes climate changing pollution for the future.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's new Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach is designed to do just that by minimizing CO2 emissions, limiting environmental impacts and adapting to rising sea-levels. The center is built on pilings more than 14 feet above sea level and 200 feet back from the river's edge (double the 100 feet clearance required by Virginia law), safe from both rising sea levels and storm surges.

The Brock Environmental Center also utilizes existing technology and common-sense design features to meet the Living Building Challenge, the highest standard for environmentally smart building. Two small wind turbines and roof top solar arrays generate enough energy to power the building. Geothermal wells, windows that open and close according to temperature needs, super-insulated walls and floors, and natural ventilation features—heat and cool the building.

And rain cisterns and a filtering system make the Brock Environmental Center the first project in the U.S. to receive a commercial permit for drinking filtered/treated rainwater in accordance with the federal drinking water requirements. In fact, the center uses rainwater for all its water needs.     
The builders also extensively used recycled and salvaged materials to reduce waste, and they excluded more than 300 hundred toxic materials typically found in common building materials.

Finally, the building was designed to prevent site disturbance—there is no parking lot on site, and it is landscaped in native trees, shrubs, and grasses to restore years of displaced wetlands. The natural landscaping allows flood waters to rise, settle and recede naturally without harm to the center or nearby neighborhoods.

Now open for business, the Brock Environmental Center allows the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to continue its groundbreaking work saving the Bay in Hampton Roads while providing a national model for smart building, energy efficiency, and climate-change adaptability.

—Christy Everett, CBF Hampton Roads Director

Click here to watch a drone fly through of the completed Brock Environmental Center!