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April 2016

Moving Day for the Osprey

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BGE works to safely move an osprey nest to a new platform away from a live electrical pole. Photo by Rob Beach/CBF Staff.

"I just love their sound," says BGE's Principal Environmental Scientist Gregory Kappler on a bluebird kind of day earlier this week. He's talking about ospreys just as one swoops majestically down toward the water in front of us. We're standing on CBF's Merrill Center beach while Kappler's BGE colleagues steadily work nearby to install a new osprey platform.

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BGE's Principal Environmental Scientist supervises from the ground. Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

A recently arrived, misguided osprey has chosen the top of a live electrical pole at our headquarters to build his nest. But rather than risk the lives of the osprey and his future young (not to mention a power outage), BGE is building a new pole and platform dedicated solely to the osprey and his future family.  

"[We're working to] proactively prevent outages, protect the birds, and protect the nests," says BGE's Richard Yost. "It's a win-win." As such, just this month BGE launched its new Osprey Watch initiative to encourage customers to report any osprey nests near or on utility equipment. The utility company will then dispatch crews to safely relocate the nests and birds whenever, wherever possible. 

But though this year is a first for the Osprey Watch program, this type of osprey work is hardly new to BGE. "The first nest that we relocated was down in Baltimore County in 1989," says Kappler. "We've been doing this for many years, trying to keep the birds safe."

In less than an hour, BGE had safely and efficiently moved the osprey nest to a new platform away from the live wires. "[There's the] very real concern that a pole-top fire would occur there. Then you'd lose the birds, the eggs, the young, and electrical service . . . and we don't want any of that to happen," says Kappler who's been with BGE for 37 years.

Just 30 minutes after BGE had packed up and left, the osprey that had been living on the electric pole, glided into its new, fancy digs as if it had been there forever. A welcome sight for all, including Kappler: "It's to the birds' benefit, and BGE's benefit if we can get that nest off that cross-arm, make it safe and, at the same time, give the birds a place to raise their young."

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

While here, BGE was kind enough to help us with another osprey platform where we've set up our very first osprey web cam! Take a look now.

If you see an osprey nest on BGE equipment, please contact the Osprey Watch program at ospreywatch@bge.com with photos and the pole number or address if possible.

Click here for more photos of moving day for the osprey.

 

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The osprey (left) in his new digs. Photo by Rob Beach/CBF Staff.

What Did You Do on Your Spring Break?

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An unusual group of laborers could be seen bending and lifting in the distance on Paul Quick's farm in Union Bridge, Maryland. They were students from the University of Virginia, doing community service earlier this month as part of an Alternative Spring Break program.

While many of their classmates were still sleeping in, these 10 UVA students were working up a sweat as the sun rose and delivered unseasonably warm temperatures.

Each year at this time an inspired slice of students from many colleges commit to spending their spring break helping in the community in various ways. The UVA students volunteered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, where they worked at the organization's Oyster Restoration Center and Clagett Farm for several days, and then one day to help Quick on his farm.

IMG_4651Quick decided several years ago to put his farm in a conservation easement, to honor his father-in-law's wishes that the old dairy farm not be developed. As part of the arrangement, Quick used federal funding to get 20 acres of trees planted along streams on the property. The trees help buffer the stream from possible polluted runoff from the corn and soy crops.

Those trees have now matured. The students' job was to cut off plastic sleeves called "shelters" that had protected the young trees from hungry deer. With about 7,300 trees needing this attention, it was a day of hard labor for students who may be more accustomed to a library or classroom.

The labor was equally strenuous earlier in the week at CBF's Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Maryland, where the students cleaned debris off old oyster shells before planting them in restoration efforts. Those shells, which will be used to grow oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay, are heavy. The students had to use a simple device to lift a pallet full of shells above their heads and "shake" the pallet. It was hard work.

But the students said this was the way they preferred to spend their vacation: "It's worth it, but boy, it was a lot of work," said Maggie Daly, a Third-Year biochemistry student from Yorktown, Virginia.

IMG_4646"My shoulders will be sore tomorrow," said Sarah Overton, a First-Year student from Herndon, Virginia.

Daly said she considers herself "environmentally conscious" but wanted to put that ethic to work in the field so to speak. Overton said she felt the same, and also saw the program as a way to see another part of the region. She had always wanted to visit Annapolis, for instance.

Another student, Conner Roessler, a Fourth-Year from Midlothian, Virginia, was doing the program for the second year in a row.

For his part, farm owner Quick said he was glad for the help. He said the conservation easement required him to plant some trees to help buffer his farm streams, but he decided to plant far more.

The trees not only will help keep the streams clean, they also will provide habitat for deer and other wildlife which Quick enjoys.

Rob Schnabel, a CBF restoration scientist who worked with the students, said trees not only help prevent pollution and stream erosion, but also help cool the stream so trout and other aquatic life are more apt to survive. Unfortunately, Maryland is far behind in its goal to get the banks of farm streams planted with trees, he said.

—Tom Zolper
CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

Check out more photos of these inspiring students in the field.


No Public Accounting for Baltimore's Sewage Problem

The following first appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

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A sewage treatment plant in Baltimore County, MD. Photo by Garth Lenz/iLCP.

Baltimore residents have done their part. For the past 14 years they have paid their water and sewer bills, often with clenched teeth. The city tripled rates during those years. In return, residents expected the city would fix a massive problem in the network of ancient pipes underneath the city. Sewage spills are a regular occurrence in Baltimore after a big rain storm, the result of water penetrating into, and human waste escaping from, 100-year-old pipes. These failings threaten to give the city a third-world reputation—and smell. Residents were willing to pay higher rates so raw sewage would no longer overflow into their basements and streets and into the Inner Harbor.

In 2002, then Mayor Martin O'Malley signed a consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA), committing the city to update the pipe system in the city no later than by January 1 of this year. The city has failed to meet that deadline. Reports indicate Baltimore may be seeking an extension of as much of a decade.

It's maddening enough that the job isn't done. What is equally frustrating is the lack of clear information coming from the city on this issue. It seems astonishing, for instance, that we still don't know definitely how much the city has collected in revenues for the project or how much it has spent to date. Estimates for revenues range all the way from $1 billion to $2 billion. The city apparently also doesn't alert the public about the vast majority of major sewage overflows as required by state and federal law, according to an investigative report by the Environmental Integrity Project.

And perhaps most aggravating is we still don't have any clear idea of the city's plans for finishing the sewer project. The EPA and the city have been negotiating behind closed doors a changed deadline for the work and an amended work plan. But that draft hasn't been made available to the public.

Everyone realizes this project is daunting. It includes fixing 420 miles of sewage pipes. The city also discovered during its repair work a stunning additional problem apparently no one knew about in 2002. A massive feeder pipe to the Back River sewage plant is misaligned, sometimes causing a 10-mile backup.

Still, the city, state, and federal governments owe the public a full and proper accounting and a timetable for finishing this important work. For that reason, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is calling for deadlines for specific action on this issue. The city must be held accountable for progress. Among other steps, the authorities must:

  • Immediately hire a third-party auditor to track progress and expenditures;
  • By January 2017, complete an open public accounting of the finances of the project and of all work finished or scheduled;
  • By 2020, fix the Back River plant's feeder pipe. By that time the city also must stop intentionally releasing sewage into the Jones Falls as a means to relieve pressure;
  • And by 2025, complete all remaining upgrades identified in the consent decree. This date is realistic, and appropriate given the regional plan to clean the Chesapeake Bay requires all jurisdictions to have strategies in place by then to reduce pollution.

Baltimore residents deserve this much and more. They have a right to be angry that after spending at least $700 million on this problem since the signing of the agreement with EPA in 2002, the city continues to dump hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage into the Inner Harbor. They have a right to a full and transparent accounting of money spent, work accomplished or not, and sewage spills still occurring.

Baltimore's sewage problem is just one of hundreds of pollution problems that must be solved by 2025, the deadline for all states and local governments in the region to meet the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Each jurisdiction has its particular challenge. There is no one silver bullet solution to our befouled waters. The blueprint was meant to enlist everyone in a regional clean-up effort, and to hold us all accountable.

Baltimore can't be exempted from that effort.

Sewage in the streets doesn't befit Charm City. Let's get this problem fixed.

—Alison Prost, CBF Maryland Executive Director

Take action right now to tell elected officials and environmental agencies working on this issue that we must see a legally binding agreement that effectively tackles the sewage in our streets without over burdening citizens.


This Week in the Watershed

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Michael Oberman won CBF's 2015 photo contest, with this stunning shot of a yellow-crowned night heron spreading its feathers in a mating display on Wilde Lake in Columbia, Maryland.

For many of us here at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Bay is the most beautiful place on earth. Around this time every year, when the weather warms and the Bay springs back to life, our photo contest validates these feelings. Our inboxes are flooded with gorgeous images of majestic birds soaring through the air, captivating landscapes, and plenty of breathtaking sunsets. These images remind us why we love the Bay so much and help us bring the Bay and its rivers and streams to life throughout the year in all of our publications.

No matter the level of your photography prowess, we would love to see any images you might have captured from Pennsylvania to Virginia, from the Shenandoah Mountains to the Eastern Shore. Our only request is that all photos include water from the Chesapeake Bay or a river, stream, creek, or other body of water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Images depicting people, wildlife, recreation, and farms within the watershed will all be considered.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then some of the photos we receive have quite a story to tell. Share your story with us today. Learn more about our photo contest and submit your photos!

This Week in the Watershed: Fertilizing, Oyster Management, and a Photo Contest

  • Spring time is here, and soon many will be fertilizing their lawn. This can bring many unforeseen consequences. (Bay Journal)
  • Chesterfield County in Virginia is considering a small fee to fight polluted runoff that will help improve local water quality, and prevent erosion and flooding. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)
  • A recent meeting brought together many stakeholders in the world of oyster management to discuss the future of oysters while considering both commercial and restoration interests. (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)
  • CBF has launched its 12th annual watershed photo contest! Submit your photos before the April 22 deadline. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA) Bonus: CBF Press Release
  • Eastern Shore of Maryland counties and towns have come together and identified six goals to improve local water quality. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • We couldn't agree more with this editorial, advocating for Maryland's Eastern Shore community to recognize the dangers of large poultry operations. (Daily Times—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

March 26

  • Machipongo, VA: Learn how native plants can enhance the beauty of yards and gardens, attract beneficial birds and insects, and improve the health of local creeks and the Chesapeake Bay. A complimentary lunch will be provided. Click here to register! This event is FULL!

March 31

  • Easton, MD: Join author of Chesapeake Oysters: The Bay's Foundation and Future, Kate Livie, as she explores the tangled, compelling, and sometimes controversial story of the Bay's favorite bivalve. Livie follows the story of the oyster from a survival food in Jamestown to the oyster wars of the 19th century, through to today's modern oyster wars over aquaculture, sanctuaries, and oyster reef restoration. Copies of the book will be available for purchase, and Livie will sign books after an opportunity for Q&A from the audience. Click here to register!

April 2

  • Virginia Beach, VA: The Brock Environmental Center (BEC), one of the world's most energy-efficient buildings, is looking for tour guides! We are looking for outgoing individuals who will be trained, tested, and ultimately designated official BEC Tour Guides! To RSVP, e-mail Chris Gorri at CGorri@cbf.org with "Tour Guide" in the subject line, or call 757-622-1964.
  • Cambridge, MD: Come plant trees with CBF at Jones Farm. Over 1,200 native trees will be planted on six acres to restore the riparian buffer. This area is critical habitat for the Delmarva fox squirrel and coastal-dependent birds including salt marsh sparrows and American black ducks. No tree planting experience is necessary, and all materials and supplies are provided. Families and children welcome. Click here to register!

April 9

  • Frederick, MD: Come plant trees with CBF in Frederick! This project consists of the restoration of approximately 1,500 linear feet of the Little Tuscarora Creek. The stream system has been impacted by cattle in the stream, adjacent row-crop fields input of sediment, and the lack of a riparian buffer. No tree planting experience is necessary, and all materials and supplies are provided. Families and children welcome. Click here to register!

April 14

  • Wrightsville, PA: Join neighbors, businesses, and elected officials for a lively discussion about local clean water issues. This event is open to all residents of the Commonwealth looking to make a difference in their local community and to take action for clean water. This town hall reception will be a forum where local elected officials will address constituents' concerns about water quality in York County. Click here to register!

April 16

  • Cambridge, MD: Help CBF make the Choptank River cleaner and safer for the whole community during this river cleanup event. All supplies will be provided. Families and groups are welcome to attend. Click here to register!

April 23

  • Monkton, MD: Come help CBF plant 1,200 trees to restore six acres of forest on this new farm. The Little Gunpowder is a natural reproducing trout stream and the restoration of this farm will help protect this cold water fishery. No tree planting experience is necessary, and all materials and supplies are provided. Families and children are welcome. Click here to register!
  • Church Hill, MD: Come paddle with us on the Blackwater River in Dorchester County, Maryland. Blackwater River is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore river, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh and pine forests. The wildlife is dominated by various species of bird life, including nesting bald eagles, ospreys, herons, and ducks. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up-close views of herons fishing in the shallows and ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. All canoes and paddling equipment will be provided. Children ages 10 and up are welcome to register, but must be accompanied by an adult. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels. Click here to register!

 —Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Obama Keeps Virginia Coast Off Limits to Oil and Gas Drilling

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In a win for clean water and the Chesapeake Bay, last week the Obama Administration announced its decision to keep Virginia's coastline off limits to offshore oil and gas drilling. In recent years, officials have considered opening up the southern Atlantic coast to drilling, a move that has been supported by many of the governors and members of Congress in the region.

Luckily, it doesn't look like drilling will take place off of Virginia's coast anytime soon. While the U.S. Department of the Interior had included oil and gas leasing off Virginia in a draft proposal released early last year, in the updated five-year plan released this month the southeastern Atlantic coast remains closed to drilling. "When you factor in conflicts with national defense, economic activities such as fishing and tourism, and opposition from many local communities, it simply doesn't make sense to move forward with any lease sales in the coming five years," Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.

Looming over any offshore drilling proposal is the potential for an accident that would result in environmental catastrophe. Remember the Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill of 2010, when more than a hundred million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and billions of dollars were spent on clean up? Imagine the devastation on the Atlantic Coast if a similar accident were to happen off Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay could suffer some of the very same impacts that plagued the Gulf area following the BP spill—oil-covered beaches, huge swaths of polluted water, and scores of dead and injured wildlife.

In fact, the waters off the mouth of the Bay are very similar to the Chesapeake itself both biologically and hydrologically. Just as science has shown the importance of healthy rivers and streams flowing into the Bay, science also tells us how important the ocean waters off the Bay's mouth are to the Bay system as a whole. The movement of clean salt water between the Atlantic and the Chesapeake is just as critical as taking care of the freshwater tributaries that feed the Bay.

After recent progress in bringing back oysters, underwater grasses, and cleaner and clearer water, drilling would add a new and dangerous threat to the health of the Bay. It's just not worth the risk. 

This goes even beyond potential environmental disasters. The Department of Defense and NASA have also raised concerns about the problems they would face from drilling off the Atlantic Coast. "The Navy and NASA have repeatedly said that Outer Continental Shelf drilling could significantly affect their abilities to carry out training and testing activities in support of America's national security and strategic interests," Virginia Congressmen Gerry Connolly, Bobby Scott, and Don Beyer said in a letter to the Interior Department last year. The congressmen noted that nearly 80 percent of the proposed leasing area off Virginia's coast would interfere with U.S. Navy training and operations, according to a Defense Department report.

Celebrating the latest news, last week Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam emphasized the many economic dangers posed by drilling. The announcement "is a big win for Virginians," he said in a statement. He noted that "40 percent of Hampton Roads' economy is tied to defense-related activities. Tourism and aquaculture generate billions of dollars for the Commonwealth. We cannot afford to jeopardize these important industries that are all tied to the health of our coastal waters."

Here at CBF, Virginia Executive Director Rebecca LePrell applauded the decision against oil and gas drilling off the coast of Virginia, emphasizing that it is the right move for the Chesapeake. "The Bay is on a path toward recovery with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint," she said. "The benefits from chasing petroleum resources on the Atlantic Coast do not justify risking what could be dire consequences for the ecology and economy of the Mid-Atlantic region."

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

This is a huge win for Virginia and for clean water. Click here to send a thank you to President Obama for making the right call.

 


What's Bill Seeing in the Field: A Sure Sign of Spring

For more than 30 years, CBF Educator and photographer Bill Portlock has been exploring, documenting, and teaching the wonders of the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams. With his vast, intimate knowledge and experience with the watershed, we thought who better to check in with about what he's seeing in the field right now . . .

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I found this spotted turtle around 10 a.m. on March 17 resting on a bridge over the Mattaponi River in Caroline County. The sky was clear and the turtle appeared to be gathering warmth from the sun on the cement. Cold-blooded reptiles often regulate their body temperatures this way. However, he was in a precarious location with turtle speed no match for passing cars and trucks. So I stopped to help him to a safer place. I also had my camera with me. I knew it was an uncommon turtle and did not want to disturb him for long, nor certainly remove him from his territory, but did want to document the species in Caroline County as well as share another sure sign of spring with my friends: a turtle emerging from hibernation.

Turtle2The spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) is a relatively small, rare, omnivorous freshwater turtle of Eastern North America, with an adult's shell typically about five inches long. Its upper black shell is overlaid with an irregular, attractive pattern of yellow-orange spots that define the species. Males have brown eyes and a female's eyes are yellow. Males also have a concave plastron (under shell) whose shape is thought to facilitate mating. Spotted turtles seem to occur in small, localized populations with each having three to four different feeding territories—so they do move around. These turtles feed on algae and aquatic vegetation, insect larvae, worms, slugs, spiders, crustaceans, tadpoles, small fish—always eating in water. Males are actively looking for a mate right now, too.

Mid-March is the time spotted turtles emerge from winter sleep. From October to March they live underground and sometimes underwater, buried in mud Turtle4beneath muskrat lodges or sphagnum moss, with other spotted turtles in what is known as a hibernacula. They seem to have strong fidelity to these sites year after year. Surprisingly, they lose little body weight during these months of inactivity. Their peak time of activity is March through June, followed by summer inactivity. See below for more particulars on their habitat and biology.

Students on CBF education programs encounter species of aquatic turtles frequently. Red-bellied cooters, painted turtles, mud- and musk turtles, and even snapping turtles are common freshwater turtles. Spotted turtles are more rare and deserve our care and attention to making our watershed healthy by stopping polluted runoff. Just as with many other species, the presence of a spotted turtle is a welcome indicator of a healthy environment.

—Photographs and Text by Bill Portlock, CBF Senior Educator

Habitat
Spotted turtles prefer unpolluted, slow-moving, shallow waters of ponds, swamps, bogs, fens, marshes, vernal pools, and wet sedge meadows with a soft underlying bottom of mud. Sphagnum moss, sedge tussocks, cattails, water lilies, and hydrophilic ("water-loving") shrubs are important components of the preferred aquatic habitats used by spotted turtles. They travel over uplands, too, when seeking other aquatic feeding territories or as females look for suitable nest sites.

Biology
Spotted turtles aggregate in aquatic habitats in spring (usually in May) to mate. Nesting occurs from mid- to late June. Clutch sizes are usually 3-5 eggs. Most females do not produce eggs every year. The turtles reach sexual maturity when they are 11-15 years old. Summer dormancy, primarily in terrestrial sites, occasionally takes place from July through August and into September, after which turtles enter hibernation. These turtles live to at least 30 years old and can exceed 50 years.

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Photo of the Week: Save the Bay Photo Contest Now Open!

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"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."
—Ansel Adams 

Even if you're not the next Ansel Adams, we want to see your photos! Our 2016 Photo Contest is now open to both amateur and professional photographers. Show us your vision of the Chesapeake watershed—from Pennsylvania to Virginia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Eastern Shore. All photos must include water from the Chesapeake Bay or a river or stream within the Bay watershed.

Click here to submit your photo and enter to win a prize!

A panel of CBF employees will judge entries on subject matter, composition, focus, lighting, uniqueness, and impact. The public will have the opportunity to vote online for their favorite photo in the Viewers' Choice Gallery. Winners receive cash prizes! (First Prize: $500; Second Prize: $250; Third Prize: $150; Viewers' Choice: $100.)

All winners will also receive a one-year CBF membership and will have their photos displayed in various CBF publications, such as our website, e-newsletters, and magazine. The first-prize photo will be featured in CBF's 2017 calendar. All winners will be notified of the outcome, and their images will be posted on the CBF website by May 31, 2016.

So get outside and get inspired by the Chesapeake waters we all love. Don't forget to bring your camera. And hurry, the submission deadline is April 22.

We look forward to seeing your pictures!

 —Jen Wallace
CBF's Managing Editor

Click here to read the official contest rules.

 


This Week in the Watershed

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This pelican was one of the many victims of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The Obama Administration delivered a victory for the Chesapeake Bay and the entire Atlantic coastline this week when he declared that offshore oil drilling will be off limits in the Atlantic Ocean. Photo courtesy Creative Commons.

It wasn't that long ago when millions of Americans crowded around their television sets and watched helplessly as millions of gallons of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico. Without a doubt, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster was one of the worst environmental disasters in American history, spilling over 200 million gallons of oil, killing thousands of animals, and inflicting billions of dollars in damage. Quite simply, the economic, ecological, and cultural consequences of the spill were devastating.

A spill of the magnitude of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay would have a similar impact, threatening life in the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia coast, the fishing and tourism industries, military operations, and the thousands of jobs that rely upon a protected shoreline. Indeed, a 2014 CBF study reveals that the lands and waters of the Chesapeake Bay region provide over $107 billion of economic benefits annually.

As the Gulf of Mexico region still recovers from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill approaching the sixth anniversary of the event, the risks of offshore drilling should still be fresh in our minds. Which is why this week we celebrate the Obama Administration declaring oil drilling off-limits in the Atlantic Ocean. This is a huge victory, overturning a previous plan which would have allowed risky offshore oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Virginia and several Southern states.

Take a moment to thank President Obama for making the right call—keeping our communities safe and putting oil drilling in our backyards off-limits.

This Week in the Watershed: Offshore Drilling, Living Shoreline, and Victory in Virginia

  • People can't take their eyes off webcams of a pair of peregrine falcons in Baltimore and an osprey couple on the Chesapeake Bay. (WTOP—D.C.)
  • A plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge for oyster shells on the Man-O-War Shoal outside of Baltimore is not without controversy. (Bay Journal)
  • President Obama withdrew permits for the oil and gas industry to drill off the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Georgia, to the applause of environmental groups. (New York Times—NY) Related: CBF Statement
  • A "living" shoreline project reveals how using natural resources can reinvigorate an ecosystem when combating erosion. (Washington Post—D.C.)
  • As if we didn't know it already, new state data reveals that there is too much phosphorus on the fields of Maryland's Eastern Shore. (Bay Journal)
  • A Chinese environmentalist is attempting to use the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint to clean his local waters. (Bay Journal)
  • A proposed bill in the Maryland General Assembly is seeking for the state to pay for damages to boats from oyster restoration reefs. When looked at closely, the legislation could establish a dangerous legal precedent. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • The Virginia General Assembly wrapped up last week with major victories won for clean water. The legislature approved vital support for programs that will help restore the Commonwealth's rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. (CBF Statement)
  • Clean water in Maryland was dealt a blow when the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld lower court rulings that allow for vague, weak permits regulating polluted runoff. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Pleasure House Point, the home of CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, VA, is experiencing a rebirth in wildlife and fauna. (Virginian Pilot—VA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

March 19

  • Annapolis, MD: Join CBF's Maryland senior scientist and staff to learn about the natural history and current state of the Chesapeake Bay. Also, get a tour of CBF's environmentally sustainable headquarters, the Philip Merrill Environmental Center. Click here to learn more and register!

March 24

  • Richmond, VA: Enjoy tasty sweets and sweet knowledge at CBF's Desserts and Discussion, where we'll learn about different aspects of our local waterways! This month, Dr. Lesley Bulluck, assistant professor at VCU's Department of Biology and the Center for Environmental Studies will speak on her work with Prothonotary Warblers. Bring a dessert to share with the group and win a prize for the most delicious contribution!  Click here to register!

March 26

  • Machipongo, VA: Learn how native plants can enhance the beauty of yards and gardens, attract beneficial birds and insects, and improve the health of local creeks and the Chesapeake Bay. A complimentary lunch will be provided. Click here to register! This event is FULL!

March 31

  • Easton, MD: Join author of Chesapeake Oysters: The Bay's Foundation and Future, Kate Livie, as she explores the tangled, compelling, and sometimes controversial story of the Bay's favorite bivalve. Livie follows the story of the oyster from a survival food in Jamestown to the oyster wars of the 19th century, through to today's modern oyster wars over aquaculture, sanctuaries, and oyster reef restoration. Copies of the book will be available for purchase, and Livie will sign books after an opportunity for Q&A from the audience. Click here to register!

April 2

  • Virginia Beach, VA: The Brock Environmental Center (BEC), one of the world's most energy-efficient buildings, is looking for tour guides! We are looking for outgoing individuals who will be trained, tested, and ultimately designated official BEC Tour Guides! To RSVP, e-mail Chris Gorri at CGorri@cbf.org with "Tour Guide" in the subject line, or call 757-622-1964.
  • Cambridge, MD: Come plant trees with CBF at Jones Farm. Over 1,200 native trees will be planted on six acres to restore the riparian buffer. This area is critical habitat for the Delmarva fox squirrel and coastal dependent birds including salt marsh sparrows and American black ducks. No tree planting experience is necessary, and all materials and supplies are provided. Families and children welcome. Click here to register!

Upcoming

 —Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


9 Reasons Spring Is Awesome

PicMonkey Collage
As if you needed a reason . . . longer and warmer days, blue blue skies, birds and insects and flowers just waking up to the world. All this makes spring pretty great. Even still, we thought we'd take a moment to celebrate all there is to love about this incredible season. Here are nine reasons:  

1. The return of familiar friends like the osprey! Every spring, these quintessential Chesapeake birds travel thousands of miles to return to the same nests, where they reunite with their mate, breed, and fish for menhaden. Often called the "osprey garden," the Chesapeake Bay has the most concentrated population of osprey in the world! Listen in as CBF's Senior Naturalist John Page Williams discusses these extraordinary birds in our latest podcast.

2. Strawberries! Our sustainable Clagett Farm bursts with life every spring, including the juiciest, sweetest strawberries you've ever tasted. Learn more about our farm and how you can get your hands on some of these life-altering strawberries.

3. Spring Break! Forget Cancun (or dare we say Daytona?), inspiring college students from the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland Alternative Spring Break Programs chose the tropical shores of the Chesapeake to spend their vacations. Here they braved chilly nights on CBF's beach, planted trees across Maryland's farm fields, and cleaned oyster shell at our Oyster Restoration Center. Take a look at these photos to see these dedicated students in action, then watch the video below for a more in-depth view of what inspires these extraordinary students.


 

4. Learning outside! This past Monday, our spring education season launched with full force. Each spring, thousands of students and teachers come out with us to learn about the Bay and its waters and how they can help them. We've still got spots available on some of our programs—click here to sign up.

5. Taking pictures! Spring's early morning light, sweetbay magnolias stretching their newly blooming branches to the sky, a river's still, quiet surface just before twilight—these moments can inspire even the most photographically uninclined individuals. And what better way to showcase these images than by submitting them to our annual Save the Bay Photo Contest launching this coming Monday.

6. Planting trees! Remember your childlike self (and do something amazing for the Bay and its rivers at the same time) by digging in the dirt and planting a tree. Check out some of the plantings we're hosting in Maryland over the next few weeks.

7. Earth Day! Though we like to think every day is Earth Day, this special day (April 22) reminds us how fragile, beautiful, and all-important our planet is. Read on for an oldie but a goodie on the origins of Earth Day.

8. Sailing and boating! Is there anything better than that first day out on the water . . . when the air isn't so numbingly cold and the wind on your face is refreshing rather than irritating? We can't wait for spring days out on the water—join us for one of our Bay Discovery trips!

9. Clean the Bay Day! Though not taking place until June 4, this annual event, 28 years in the making, rallies thousands of Virginians together on one day to clean up the Commonwealth's shorelines. Learn more about this awesome day and sign up here.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media




Let's Heal the Sick Susquehanna

The following first appeared in the York Daily Record.

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The Susquehanna River is sick. Declaring the river as impaired would be a major step towards its healing. Photo by John Pavoncello/York Dispatch.

We learned a few things by asking Pennsylvanians to share their concerns for clean water.

It is encouraging that people feel it is everyone's responsibility to keep our rivers and streams clean. Roughly 19,000 miles of Commonwealth waterways have been designated as impaired, including polluted stretches of water in every county. Pollution threatens our health, degrades our way of life, and challenges the economy.

Many people say they place great value on the nature of Pennsylvania's rural and agricultural landscapes. Plentiful opportunities to get out and enjoy nature, to boat, camp, hike, hunt, and fish are extremely important.

Many feel deeply connected to the Susquehanna River.

Because of this shared appreciation for clean water and enjoying the natural world, concern runs deep for a Susquehanna that is sick and in need of restoration.

In 2005, Bassmaster Magazine listed the Susquehanna as one of the five best bass fishing rivers in America. But that same year, diseased and dying smallmouths were first discovered in the river.

Since then, smallmouth bass continue to bear sores and lesions. Researchers have been finding intersex fish–adult male bass with female eggs in their testes–since the early 2000s. A world-class smallmouth bass fishery is threatened.

Recent studies led by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides, and pathogens and parasites, to be the two most likely causes of death and disease among smallmouths in the Lower Susquehanna. The results are further evidence that the river is ailing. Although studies continue, now is the time to begin to address it.

The DEP will soon release its draft Integrated Water Quality Report which will include its decision on whether to recommend to an impairment designation for the Susquehanna. A 45-day comment period will follow.

The mighty Susquehanna and its tributaries are a way of life and life-sustaining for too many Pennsylvanians for the river's illness to continue untreated.

An impairment declaration would begin the process of healing this amazing river.

The Susquehanna River Basin drains 27,510 square miles from New York state, and through the center of the commonwealth. Its network of more than 49,000 miles of waterways is enough to circle the earth twice.

About 6.1 million people get their drinking water from the Susquehanna River Basin. That's enough people to fill Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL's Eagles) 88 times.

The Susquehanna winds 444 miles from Cooperstown, NY, to Havre de Grace, MD, and provides half of the freshwater to the Chesapeake Bay. It flows 20 miles per day on an average summer day, and at a rate of 18 million gallons per minute at Havre de Grace.

About 20,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, the Susquehanna's valley floor extended southward to what is now the Chesapeake Bay. After the ice receded, the sea level rose, the Atlantic Ocean filled in the old valley and the Bay, and its tidal tributaries were born.

Just as Pennsylvania has a Clean Water Blueprint for restoring its 19,000 miles of impaired waterways, the Susquehanna deserves its own prescription for improved health. It is time to begin healing this amazing river.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Stand with CBF and its partners in urging Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to save this vital waterway by listing the Lower Susquehanna River as impaired.