This Week in the Watershed

Hollands Island-B-1200
Hollands Island in the Chesapeake Bay was a victim of sea-level rise, partially caused by climate change. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh cited rising sea levels claiming islands in the Chesapeake Bay in his reasoning for supporting the EPA's Clean Power Plan. Photo by Octavio Abruto/iLCP.

Society is not addressing environmental issues with a sense of urgency. Changes in the environment tend to occur over many years, occasional peaks of improvement can obscure overall downward trends, and society frequently overlooks the economic, cultural, and psychological benefits a healthy environment provides. Climate change in particular is high on the list of the environmental issues that society neglects to tackle with earnest.

This week, Attorneys General Brian Frosh (MD) and Mark Herring (VA) took a stand against climate change, joining 16 other attorneys general in support of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Power Plan. The plan, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gases from fossil-fueled power plants and increase renewable energy, is currently being challenged by special interests from the fossil fuel industry and attorneys general from two dozen other states.

For Frosh and Herring, climate change is not a distant threat—it's happening before our eyes, and can be witnessed in the Chesapeake Bay. In throwing his support behind the Clean Power Plan, Frosh stated, "Rising sea levels are claiming islands in the Chesapeake Bay, and extreme weather events threaten neighborhoods, homes, and our natural resources." Herring is in full agreement, stating, "Climate change isn't some theoretical idea or academic exercise...Climate change is real. And here in Virginia, we're already dealing with the consequences...In the last 75 years, the sea level in Hampton Roads has risen by 2 feet—2 feet."

Despite this grim reality, it is encouraging not only to see Frosh and Herring speak out about climate change but also the bipartisan Maryland Climate Change Commission setting high goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, aiming for a 40% reduction by 2030. From combating climate change to fighting for clean water, tackling environmental issues with a sense of urgency clearly starts with one central component—leadership. We applaud the men and women who stand up for smart, science-backed policies, and will always support them in our work to Save the Bay.

This Week in the Watershed: Major Kudos, Dirty Water, and High Standards

  • Bravo to Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Director of Horn Point Laboratory at the University of Maryland Michael Roman, for compellingly articulating the need to restore oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection just received a report card with alarming results. To put it mildly, there's room for improvement. (Patriot News—PA)
  • Major kudos to Attorneys General Brian Frosh (MD) and Mark Herring (VA) for their decision to stand with the Environmental Protection Agency in support of the Clean Power Plan. (WBFF—MD)
  • Virginia farmers received good news learning they can apply for funding to fence livestock from streams. Not only is keeping livestock out of streams better for the animals, but it also helps the Bay and its rivers and streams. (Baltimore Business Journal—MD)
  • Lancaster, PA is making great strides in its stormwater reduction efforts. (Lancaster Intelligencer Journal—PA)
  • We couldn't agree more with this editorial, applauding the bipartisan Maryland Climate Change Commission for setting high carbon emissions reduction goals in the fight against climate change. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Weak stormwater permits and lack of monitoring throughout Maryland has all but guaranteed the state won't meet its urban stormwater requirements under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The projected shortcoming is particularly concerning given that stormwater is the fastest-growing source of urban pollution. (Bay Journal)
  • While implementing agricultural best management practices is the cheapest and most effective way to reduce pollution fouling the Bay and its rivers and streams, it still costs money. In this light, it is severely disappointing that Bay-specific conservation measures have received significant cuts in funding. (Bay Journal)

Lend Your Voice for Clean Water!

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

November 7

  • Luray, VA: Get your hands dirty, planting trees on a Virginian farm! This forested buffer will filter polluted runoff and cool streams. Click here for more info!
  • Cambridge, MD: Help CBF plant 800 native trees to restore a four-acre buffer to the Chicamacomico River. The farm, which is legally protected from development, now works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore wetlands that provide wildlife habitat and filter runoff. This area is critical habitat for the federally-listed Delmarva fox squirrel and coastal-dependent birds including salt marsh sparrows and American black duck. Click here to register!

November 13-15

  • Easton, MD: Volunteer to staff the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's exhibit in the iconic Waterfowl Festival! Lend a hand for just a few hours teaching the community about CBF's work on the Shore and enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavor of the beautiful Eastern Shore. Contact Hilary Gibson at to sign up!

November 13

  • Onancock, VA: Meet new people, learn all about water quality issues on the Eastern Shore, and enjoy some great food at CBF's Dine & Discuss: Fish 'n Fowl Taco Night! Receive updates on fisheries, agriculture, and water quality with a smattering of science and a peppering of policy. Eat fish and chicken tacos free of charge. A cash bar will be available. This is an adult-only event. Reserve your spot today!

November 14

  • Virginia Beach, VA: Three to four volunteers are needed to staff a CBF display table at a local oyster roast! Volunteers will share current information with the attendees and enjoy this very informal event that includes all you can eat oysters with a portion of the proceeds going to CBF. For more information contact Tanner Council at or 757-622-1964.

November 18-20

  • Washington, D.C.: Join CBF at Greenbuild, the world's largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. The green building community gathers to share ideas and mutual passion at Greenbuild, with three groundbreaking days of inspiring speakers, invaluable networking opportunities, industry showcases, LEED workshops and tours of the host city's green buildings. Click here for more information!

November 18

  • Easton, MD: Attend CBF's Oyster Expo for a night of all things oyster! Staffed by leading scientists from around the region, this event will feature a variety of family-friendly exhibits, movies, and displays that bring to life the ongoing work to support the iconic Chesapeake Bay oyster. Learn about current oyster restoration projects and what you can do to help. Click here to register!

November 19

  • Chestertown, MD: Come on out for a Bay Panel Discussion featuring farmers, environmentalists, and local residents talking about the challenges and success in the effort to achieve a healthier Chesapeake Bay while continuing to produce food. Click here for more information!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Cleaner Bay Helps Offset Climate Change

The following first appeared in the Baltimore Sun earlier this week.

Hollands Island-1000
Holland Island before it fell into the Bay in 2010. Sea level rise in the Chesapeake is just one dramatic consequence of climate change. Photo by Chuck Foster/CBF Staff.

The temperature of the water in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams in many places is actually rising faster than long-term trends in the air. ("Chesapeake waters are warming, study finds, posing challenges to healing bay," Oct. 14). That points to a stark reality: As we've paved over the bay region, we've created a skillet effect for rainwater. Combined with rising air temperatures globally, we can see why rockfish and other creatures are now in the hot seat.

The good news is that cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay will actually help correct both rising air and water temperatures. Many of the steps needed to reduce water pollution will also reduce water temperature and lead directly to reductions in greenhouse gases and help minimize the effects of rising sea levels and higher temperatures.

A study by Yale University found that improving farming practices alone in the bay drainage area (only one piece of the overall plan to restore the bay) could sequester about 4.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent emissions of three-quarters of a million SUVs, or the entire statewide residential electricity use of New Hampshire or Delaware.

Trees planted along streams are especially cost effective for reducing both air and water pollution.

Of course, we need other efforts to reduce air pollution—not only to mitigate climate change, but to save the bay. Watershed-wide, about one-third of the nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake comes from the air, much of it in the form of nitrogen oxides formed from the combustion of fossil fuels.

If we make personal choices to conserve electricity or drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, if business and government work to reduce power plant emissions, and if we reduce polluted runoff from our urban and suburban communities, the result will be cleaner, cooler water.

The conclusion is clear: Restoring the Chesapeake Bay also helps fight climate change. And vice versa.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director

This Week in the Watershed

Algal blooms are increasing throughout the watershed, in part due to warming temperatures as a result of climate change. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

Climate change is a prototype of a truly global issue. Low-lying islands in the Pacific are being lost to sea-level rise; food supplies are threatened with record-setting droughts in Africa; beetles which were previously killed by freezing temperatures are destroying forests in the western United States. These are just a few examples among many of the impact climate change is having around the world. Add to the list: the warming waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

According to Maryland's Center for Environmental Science, water temperatures have risen on average 1.2 °F since the 1980s across more than 92 percent of the Bay and its rivers and streams. This increased temperature decreases the water's capacity to hold dissolved oxygen, exacerbating the Bay's fish-killing dead zones. The decreased oxygen squeezes fish into smaller and smaller areas of the water column, and contributes to algal blooms. Rising temperatures also stress other temperature sensitive species, such as eel grass. Added altogether, warming the Bay dramatically impacts the entire ecosystem.

Facing a problem of climate change's magnitude can quickly become overwhelming. Research shows in fact, that the immensity of the issue contributes to alarming apathy. As with most issues this large and complex, there are no silver bullet solutions. Rather, small, incremental solutions amount to significant change when brought to scale. And often, these solutions are local in nature.

A recent report highlights how fighting stormwater runoff is an effective strategy in combating climate change. Rain falling on baking asphalt and concrete, then funneling into our waterways, heats the Bay and its rivers and streams. By decreasing the amount of impervious surface and through better stormwater management, we can fight this trend, and decrease the water temperature. And perhaps not coincidentally, help clean the water as well. Talk about a win-win.

This Week in the Watershed: Warming Waters, Striped Bass, and Scooping the Poop

  • Good news for the James River, as a recent report declares it is healthier than in decades. (Daily Press—VA)
  • Microbeads, tiny plastics found in products ranging from toothpaste to cosmetics, are polluting our water supply. Pennsylvania is planning to hold a hearing on the issue after the budget impasse is resolved, potentially following Maryland's lead by passing legislation banning microbeads. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • The waters of the Chesapeake Bay are warming. If the trend continues, it could "worsen fish-suffocating dead zones and alter the food web on which the bay's fish and crabs depend." (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A survey of juvenile striped bass in Maryland brought good news, as it found reproduction twice the long-term average. (Bay Journal)
  • Thousands of dead menhaden washed up on Virginia's Eastern Shore after a fishing accident. (Daily Press—VA)
  • ICYMI: The Richmond County Board of Supervisors voted to delay the vote on the development of Fones Cliffs. (Free Lance Star—VA)
  • Picking up after your dog might not seem like a big deal, but as this editorial reveals, dog waste has enough bacteria and viruses that it can cause serious health issues in humans. Don't forget to scoop the poop! (Frederick News-Post—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

October 17

  • Keymar, MD: Help CBF plant over 800 trees and shrubs on a dairy farm in Frederick County. This stream buffer will help provide clean water in the Monocacy River Watershed. Register here!

October 18

  • Upper Marlboro, MD: Come on out to CBF's Clagett Farm for a fun-filled afternoon with friends, live music, craft-brewed beers, and mouth-watering food created by area chefs using local ingredients at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Burgers and Brews for the Bay event. Learn more and buy tickets here!

October 21

  • York, PA: A good time is to be had by all at BrewVino. Residents can meet neighbors looking to protect local waterways and learn about new opportunities to get involved in ensuring clean water, healthy communities, and a thriving economy for York County. Oh, and there will be good food! Click here to register!

October 22

  • Washington, DC: Join USGBC-NCR for "Building for Climate Resilience: Adaptions and Strategies." Part of USGBC-NCR's lead-up to Greenbuild Voices on Resilience Campaign, this event will feature a panel of expert practitioners discussing real-world examples of projects designed and engineered to withstand our changing environment. Click here to learn more!

October 23

  • Easton, MD: CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore office is moving! Join us at our new building, the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. Building tours and light refreshments will be provided, and CBF Eastern Shore staff will be present to visit with you as we celebrate the new space with partners and friends in the community. Click here for more info!

October 24

  • Baltimore, MD: Join us at the Great Baltimore Oyster Festival to celebrate the mighty oyster while enjoying five varieties of oysters, specialty foods, boat tours, music, and more! Hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Waterfront Partnership, and Healthy Harbor. Online registration is closed, but still come on out! Entry to the event is free, and oyster plates will be available for purchase on-site. Click here for more info!
  • Queen Anne's County, MD: Come paddle with us on Southeast Creek, just off the Chester River. Southeast Creek is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore creek, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh, abundant wildlife dominated by various species of bird life, and a watershed consisting mainly of farmland. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up close views of herons fishing in the shallows and wood ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

This Week in the Watershed

While the blue crab was recently found to tolerate higher levels of hypoxia than previously thought, they're not out of danger. Photo by Damon Fodge.

As any mountain climber can attest, reaching new heights brings with it increased difficulty. The decreasing amount of oxygen in the air makes every breath more trying, to the point where oxygen is needed through personal tanks. Even the best of athletes can find themselves out of breath when facing low-oxygen environments.

In the Chesapeake Bay, critters are finding themselves facing a similar obstacle, as increased dead zones and warming waters from our rapidly changing climate are decreasing the level of oxygen in the water. Known as hypoxia, this condition depletes the Bay of life, devastating the ecosystem.

While new research by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science reveals blue crabs are more resilient to hypoxic conditions than previously thought, other creatures it depends on for food are vulnerable. The threat is clear and the plan to save the Bay is desperately needed. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, if implemented, can make a dramatic difference in bringing oxygen levels back to safe and healthy levels in the Bay. Now wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air!

This Week in the Watershed: Keystone Pollution, Environmental Literacy, and Blue Crabs

  • Agencies throughout Pennsylvania's state government are exploring ways to accelerate pollution reduction efforts in the Keystone State. (Lancaster Farming—PA)
  • The environmental literacy requirement in Maryland has been a huge success thus far. (What's Up Mag—MD)
  • How will blue crabs respond to increasing water temperatures due to climate change? New research reveals intriguing findings. (Daily Press—VA)
  • ICYMI, the American Farm Bureau Federation is continuing its fight against the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, filing for an extension of time to ask the Supreme Court to hear its appeal. (Bay Journal)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

October 7

  • Virginia Beach, VA: CBF is hosting the second annual "Living Waters: Wading In" Interfaith Summit. Join us for a day of music, prayer, inspiring speakers, and collaborative work sessions as we explore ways the faith community can celebrate, protect, and restore our rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay. Click here to learn more and register!

October 9

  • Annapolis, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Annapolis October 9. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

October 10

  • Easton, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Easton October 10. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!
  • St. Michaels, MD: Join us for a sail on CBF's historic skipjack, the Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the Bay's oyster population. Click here to register!

October 11

  • Baltimore, MD: CBF's oyster gardening program is expanding to Baltimore Harbor! We're looking for 50 new gardeners to care for two cages of oysters each over the winter and then "plant" them on a reef in the spring. This unusual hobby is fun, educational, and helps to clean the harbor waters. Register here!

October 12

  • Annapolis, MD: The Annapolis VoiCeS Course, a six-week adult education class on Mondays, starts October 12! The course will cover regional environmental issues affecting Maryland and the Bay watershed. The program provides information on subjects affecting the health of our community's natural environment and how you can take action. In-depth sessions are taught by Bay experts from CBF and other regional institutions and organizations. Click here to register!

October 13

  • Easton, MD: The Eastern Shore of Maryland VoiCeS Course, a six-week adult education class on Tuesdays, starts October 13! The course will cover regional environmental issues affecting Maryland and the Bay watershed. The program provides information on subjects affecting the health of our community's natural environment and how you can take action. In-depth sessions are taught by Bay experts from CBF and other regional institutions and organizations. Click here to register!
  • Annapolis, MD: Current CBF oyster gardeners can pick up baby spat for the upcoming season. Register here!

October 14

  • Baltimore, MD: Get your hands dirty planting trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses in a vacant lot in West Baltimore that CBF and a coalition of groups are restoring. Click here to register!

October 15

  • Edgewater, MD: Another opportunity for current CBF oyster gardeners can pick up baby spat for the upcoming season. Register here!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Conservation in the Face of Change

DSC_0091Joseph Stallings
Photo by Joseph Stallings.

The following first appeared in Save the Bay magazine

The fisheries of the Chesapeake give identity to the region, and maintaining them in the face of various stresses remains our biggest obligation and challenge. Loss of habitat, degraded water quality, and overharvest have been vexing to sort out and address, and climate change potentially shifts the landscape entirely.

As a temperate estuary, the Chesapeake faces change regularly. Water temperature can change 50 degrees over a year. Salinity, a key determinant of where fish can live, ranges from zero (freshwater) at the head of the Bay to ocean saltiness at its mouth. From year to year this "salinity gradient" can shift dramatically depending on the amount of rainfall in the watershed. Certain species have adapted well to this changing environment. These are the ones the early settlers found in unbelievable numbers. And these "resilient" species are the ones that have supported our valuable fisheries: blue crabs, oysters, and rockfish

The abundance of life in the Bay seemed limitless early in our history, but with hindsight we have learned there are limits to what we can take out sustainably. Add to that the historically reckless attitude toward the environment including denuding the land and damming the rivers, and the Bay's living resources faced new changes to which they were not adapted. American shad and oysters are two good examples. Both were harvested relentlessly, and both lost habitat quantity and quality. 

Now climate change is adding a new layer of complication to this picture. Increasing temperature, rising sea level, and more variable precipitation present new challenges for Bay life. Species at the southern end of their range, like soft-shelled clams and eelgrass, already seem to be retreating northward up the Atlantic Coast. Atlantic menhaden haven't produced strong year classes in the Bay in 20 years. Might this be due to climate-related shifts in ocean currents interrupting their life cycle? Rockfish (striped bass) prefer young menhaden as food but may be shifting more to blue crabs as a result and suffering nutritional consequences. And crabs may also be facing new predators like red drum, which are expanding their range northward into the Bay.

There are no simple answers to addressing climate change or any of the other changes facing the Chesapeake Bay. Monitoring Bay conditions and adapting our strategies, much like fish and shellfish have to do, is the basic response. Managing our fisheries sustainably also requires being attentive and nimble. Ensuring there are enough fish to spawn and sufficient habitat for them to survive are fundamental principles. Science provides the basis for these assessments. Most importantly, when the science is incomplete, err on the side of the resource. Being conservative is the best course for both fish and fisherman in the face of change.

—Bill Goldsborough, CBF's Director of Fisheries

This Week in the Watershed

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Rock Run in Lycoming, PA, a tributary of the Susquehanna River, is one of many streams and creeks whose health dramatically impacts the Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

It has been said many times, as goes Pennsylvania, so goes the Chesapeake Bay. With half of the Bay's fresh water coming from the Susquehanna, Pennsylvania has a more dramatic impact on the health of the Bay than any other state. This reality makes the EPA's recent interim milestone assessment all the more alarming. While Maryland and Virginia are generally on track, Pennsylvania is on pace to fall significantly short.

In the coming months, we will continue to focus on reducing pollution from Pennsylvania, while not losing sight of the responsibilities all states in the watershed have in cleaning our rivers, streams, and Bay.

This week in the Watershed: Pennsylvania, Sneakers, and a Climate Change Encyclical

  • Pennsylvania is way off track in meeting it's pollution reduction goals. (Bay Journal)
  • Virginia's Lafayette River bi-annual survey reveals it's getting increasingly healthy. (Virginian Pilot—VA)
  • Former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler conducted his annual "Sneaker Index," where he waded into the Patuxent River until he could no longer see his white sneakers. The informal survey measured the clearest water since the 1950s! (Southern Maryland News—MD)
  • Pennsylvania really does need to step up their game. (Baltimore Sun Editorial)
  • While Pennsylvania needs to make major leaps in its pollution reduction goals, Virginia is generally on track. (Daily Press—VA)
  • Philadelphia County and numerous businesses and organizations joined CBF's Clean Water Counts! initiative in Pennsylvania, which calls on state officials to make clean water a top priority in the Keystone State. (CBF Press Release—PA)
  • The Pope released an encyclical Thursday, calling for a cultural revolution to combat climate change. CBF came out in support of his encyclical, applauding him for calling people to be better stewards of creation. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

June 20

  • Those who have been growing oysters can plant them in the Patuxent River.
  • Get outside and get your hands dirty, helping plant 400 trees and shrubs along Swatara Creek in Londonderry, PA. E-mail Kate Austin at to register!
  • Yet another opportunity for those interested in oyster gardening for the first time or those looking to pick up new baby oysters to attend an oyster gardening workshop, this time in Deltaville, VA.
  • The Clean Water Concert Series continues on Maryland's Eastern Shore, as the XPD's perform in Easton, MD.

June 21

  • Love paddle boarding? Then put on your calendar "Cape 2 Cape," a festival celebrating paddle boarding through a 19-mile race across the Bay and various Father's Day races. All proceeds benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

June 24-25

  • Interested in advocating for clean water in Virginia? Attend the 5th Annual Clean Water Captains workshop in Virginia Beach. E-mail Lori Kersting at for more information.

June 25

  • Get on the water with CBF on Susquehanna's West Branch, often described as a "recreation mecca." On this canoe adventure you'll learn about the native ecosystem and explore the verdant valley, paddling by plants and animals that call these unique ecosystems home. Click here to register!

June 26

  • Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells (we call it "shell shaking") by shaking off the dirt and debris so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. Registration is required!

July 11

  • Enjoy a leisurely guided hike along the Gwynns Falls Trail through Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. A guest speaker will bring to life the history of this the second largest urban park in the country. Click here to register! Deadline to register is July 7.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

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!

The Blueprint Is Like Cash in the Bank

DSC_4731CBF President Will Baker at this morning's press conference: "Today we can confirm what we long advocated: Reducing pollution makes great sense for our health and environment." Photo by Rob Beach/CBF Staff.

This morning, we released our report, The Economic Benefits of Cleaning Up the Chesapeake. The results of the report are breaking new ground in our case for implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—our best chance for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

For the first time ever, we can put a dollar figure on the value of implementing the Blueprint. That figure is staggering. When the Blueprint is fully implemented, the added benefits of clean water, clean air, and healthy land will reach $22.5 billion per year. Just as important, the report shows that abandoning the Blueprint now would cost $6 billion annually in natural benefits lost to polluted waters.

Economic Report CoverThese numbers are a conservative estimate that came from rigorous work by CBF's water quality expert, Dr. Beth McGee, and the respected natural resources economist Dr. Spencer Phillips of Key-Log Economics. Together, they reviewed more than 70 previous studies to calculate the economic value of the natural benefits the Bay system provides.

Of the two dozen potential benefits the natural environment provides, the authors looked at the eight benefits most directly related to water quality. These are the ones they evaluated:

  • Climate Stability
  • Food production
  • Protection from flooding
  • Clean water supply
  • Clean air
  • Treatment of waste
  • Recreation
  • Aesthetic value

All tallied, those benefits to the Chesapeake Bay's six states and the District of Columbia are worth more than $107 billion annually. When the Blueprint is fully implemented, that number rises to nearly $130 billion.

The efficacy of the report has been confirmed by expert reviewers from the fields of ecological economics, water resources management, environmental policy, and water quality science. The evidence is absolutely clear: What's good for the Bay is good for the economy—not just in communities on or near the Bay where benefits to boaters and fishermen are obvious. Every state with rivers and streams that drain into the Bay stands to gain substantially from implementing the Blueprint.

Here's how the annual financial benefit of implementing the Blueprint break out by state:

  • Pennsylvania: $6.2 billion
  • Virginia: $8.3 billion
  • Maryland: $4.6 billion 
  • Delaware: $206 million
  • West Virginia: $1.3 billion
  • New York: $1.9 billion

Econ Report Infographic square FINALImplementing the Blueprint is about more than cleaning up the Bay. It's about fixing what's wrong with the way we use our land and water. It's about maintaining forested areas that help filter water, some of which ends up as drinking water in our wells. It's about smarter development, because reducing the amount of pavement and hard surfaces prevents pollution from washing into rivers and streams when it rains. Cleaning the Bay is about using best management practices on farms that minimize the fertilizer and waste running from the land into the water.

We know these things will lead to cleaner water flowing into the Bay, which will allow the return of sea grasses and increase habitat for fish and crabs that live among the grasses. Cleaner water will reduce the low oxygen zones—areas of the Bay where oxygen is so low that most marine life can't survive.
But that's not all it will do. It turns out, the very things that are needed to clean the Bay are going to improve groundwater, air quality, soil health. That in turn improves human health, property value, agricultural productivity, and recreational commerce.

We now have the proof. Implementing the Blueprint improves the economic value of the entire region—from New York to Virginia, from Pennsylvania to West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the Nation’s capital.

Now it's time to get the job done, make the changes that need to be made to improve water quality in the Bay. We'll all reap the benefits!

—Kimbra Cutlip, CBF's Senior Multimedia Writer

A Tipping Point for Good

The following first appeared in Truth Out.

The Brock Environmental Center, located at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, VA

We've known for a long time that the Earth is warming, but it could be worse than we thought. A recent report from the World Meteorological Organization concludes that carbon pollution and the buildup of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are increasing much faster than projected. And this pollution is putting communities across the country at a higher risk of droughts, intense storms, floods, and other problems brought on by global warming.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, we're on the front lines of climate change. Streets in Norfolk, Virginia, home to nearly a quarter of a million people and the world's largest naval base, routinely flood during heavy rains. Wind-and wave-pushed storm surges make the flooding even worse. And scientists estimate sea levels in Norfolk will rise another foot and a half within the next 50 years.

Virginians are scrambling to prepare the region for these changes. The governor convened a special commission to recommend action; the military is looking hard at the future of its Hampton Roads bases—and local governments, businesses, and citizens are bracing for the worst.

But at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we're not blinking; we're creating a tipping point for the good by helping to develop solutions that could be a model for coastal regions across the country and the world where climate change threatens our livelihood and our future.

In November 2014, we'll open the doors to the new Brock Environmental Center—a 10,000 square-foot environmental education and community center in Virginia Beach, VA. By adapting existing technologies and utilizing old-school building techniques, we're building an energy efficient and environmentally smart building that will reduce damaging carbon pollution and adapt to rising sea-levels and a changing climate.

The solution starts with energy independence. To achieve that goal, the Brock Environmental Center is designed to use 80 percent less energy than typical buildings. The building will generate clean renewable energy from two wind turbines and rooftop solar.

Our designers curved the building and positioned it to maximize natural sunlight and maritime winds. The building features a "dog trot," an open deck in the middle of the building that promotes natural ventilation by allowing cool air to flow in and heat to flow out. It's an old trick used by Colonial builders in the South before the era of air conditioning. The highly insulated building significantly reduces the need for heating and air conditioning.

Together with the center's ultra-tight walls, windows, and doors, extra insulation and energy efficiencies, the Brock Center will truly be energy independent.

The building will also be water independent. Rainwater will be harvested from the roof and treated, allowing us to use our own water for drinking, sinks and showers, and other needs. Any excess rain water will flow into nearby rain gardens. "Gray water" will be used for native grasses, flowers, and shrubs. Even the center's bathrooms will use waterless toilets that compost waste in waterproof bins until the harmless compost can be spread on the grounds.

Anticipating more regional flooding, we have raised the building on pylons about 13 feet above current sea level and above any expected flooding in the coming decades.

Most importantly, we deliberately left the landscaping around the building as natural as possible in marsh, sand, shrubs, and trees. There are no paved parking lots; staff and visitors will park on nearby streets and walk to the center on a natural path through the woods. Any code-required handicap and emergency accesses will use permeable pavers that let water soak in rather than run off.

All of this natural, "soft" landscaping makes the Brock Center serve as a giant sponge, absorbing rainfall and storm surges and allowing flood waters to spread and recede naturally without harm to the center or nearby neighborhoods.

Researchers, students, designers, and architects will come to the Brock Environmental Center to learn about the Chesapeake Bay and environmentally smart building techniques to reduce carbon pollution and prepare our communities for climate change. As people take these techniques back to their communities around the country and the world, it will help create a tipping point for the good.

—Will Baker, CBF President

Watch this video, discussing the genesis of the Brock Environmental Center project and how it is a model for combating climate change and future coastal buildings. 

Photo of the Week: Beauty, Promise, and Peril on Tangier Island

Tangier.Is.S-BlakelyTangier Island, Virginia. Photo by Steve Blakely. 

The highest point of land on Tangier Island is only four feet above sea level, and the small community here is fighting hard to hang on: The ground is sinking, and the ocean is rising. To me, the beauty, promise, and peril of the Chesapeake are all captured in this one amazing place.

—Steve Blakely

Learn more about Tangier Island here.

Ensure that Steve and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], 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!