Conservation Efforts Support Healthier Farms, Cleaner Water

The following first appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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Before a farm restoration project was completed with cost-share funding. Photo by CBF Staff.

Until last year, cattle would wade into streams and ponds to cool off on David Surratt's farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Unfortunately, this led to a host of problems. Trampled streambanks muddied the waters, while manure would flow downstream to the Shenandoah River. Calves would pick up infections from bacteria in the water, and two cows died after being stuck in the mud.

But all that has changed since Surratt placed three miles of fencing along the streams and ponds on Meadowdale Farm in Fishersville last year, a project supported by Virginia's agricultural cost-share program. Thirsty livestock now drink from several new watering stations across the farm installed as part of the project. The fences keep cattle out of the waterways, so water in the streams is now much cleaner. Importantly for Surratt, all calves were free of infections last year.

"It's really a win-win deal for us as well as the cattle," Surratt said. "Farmers have a responsibility to keep their cattle out of the streams and improve the water quality." State funding was key to making the project a reality. "There is no way I could have done it without the program funds, especially with cattle prices the way they are today," he said.

Addressing pollution from farms is the most cost-effective way to improve the health of local streams and rivers, as well as downstream in the Chesapeake Bay. It is also a key part of Virginia's plan to clean up the region's waterways under a federal-state partnership called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The state cost-share program funds a variety of conservation practices that lead to cleaner waterways, from cattle fencing to planting trees along streams to protecting soil with cover crops.

But in order to maintain progress, Virginia's farmers need robust and stable state investment in both the agricultural cost-share program and technical assistance from the local Soil and Water Conservation District staff who help implement these projects. In recent years, funding for the program has seesawed dramatically.

Providing ample and predictable levels of funding helps give farmers greater confidence when they consider adding conservation projects. It also gives local Soil and Water Conservation Districts the infrastructure and resources to put practices on the ground. Consistency ensures the program is carried out as effectively and efficiently as possible.

This month Virginia's legislators are making funding decisions that will decide the future of farm conservation efforts. The Virginia Senate is proposing a total investment of $46 million in agricultural cost-share. While a decrease from last year, that level that would still lead to continued success.

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After a farm restoration project was completed with cost-share funding. Photo by CBF Staff.

A separate proposal being considered would bring together a group of stakeholders to determine how to best ensure consistent and reliable funding for agricultural cost-share. This common-sense next step is sorely needed in the face of significant funding fluctuations.

Without continued state support for agricultural practices, Virginia will not be able to meet goals it has set for reducing pollution to waterways by 2025 under the Clean Water Blueprint. While Surratt's project is already making a difference in local streams, the impact grows as more farms do their part. "This project would really work great if all the farmers pull together on this," Surratt said.

However, though many farmers are eager to participate, they need state support to install these projects. In fact, two years ago so many farmers signed up that Virginia is still working through the backlog. Without funding, these farmers will be left waiting another year to install conservation practices.

It is important that Virginia live up to the commitments made to both healthy waterways and its farmers. But the heart of the matter is the fate of our rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Our waters have been slowly and steadily improving, thanks to a host of efforts. People all across Virginia are starting to benefit.

Good farm practices could lead to native brook trout returning to streams in the Shenandoah Valley. In Richmond, locals and visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, and paddling on the James River since it has become much healthier in recent years. In Hampton Roads, efforts to reduce bacteria levels have allowed for the resurgence of the oyster industry in places like the Lynnhaven River.

But this recovery can easily be reversed. Supporting farm practices that reduce pollution will maintain momentum. Let your legislator know that the decisions being made now will help ensure successful farms and clean water for future generations.

—Rebecca LePrell, CBF's Virginia Executive Director & Kendal Tyree, Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Executive Director

Virginian legislators are meeting this week to discuss investing in these critical clean water programs. Take action now to ask them to make the necessary investment in programs that keep the Bay cleanup on target.


Three Examples Show How Ripples Can Become Waves to Save the Bay

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.

The saying goes: "It takes a village." To fully implement the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, governments, businesses, and citizens all must do their part. Every day, I meet people working to reduce pollution and restore local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake. What I have learned is that Bay's village is huge. Few get the credit they deserve. As we enter the new year, I would like to share three stories. There are many thousands more.

Brad Seeley

Chesapeake Bay technician Brady Seeley is on the frontline, conducting farm inspections in Cumberland County as part of Pennsylvania's renewed effort to get pollution reduction back on track. The state Department of Environmental Protection asked conservation districts to inspect 10 percent of farms in Pennsylvania's portion of the Bay watershed for the required manure management and erosion and sediment plans.

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Technician Brady Seeley’s familiarity with farmers and his experience growing up on a small dairy farm serves him well during his farm inspections in Cumberland County, PA.

Some conservation districts opted not to do inspections, fearing they might strain relations with farmers.

But the process has gone smoothly in the Cumberland County Conservation District, thanks to Seeley's familiarity with farmers and his experience growing up on a small dairy farm in the Keystone State. He has been with the district nearly three years.

He is finding areas that need to be improved. After meeting with one farmer, Seely said, "He had a conservation plan but not a manure management plan and agreed to seek technical assistance to get it written. You can go out and tell the farmer he is in violation and then it's not hard in the next sentence to tell the farmer let us help you get those plans."

Mark Foster

Mark Foster is the founder and executive director of Second Chance, Inc. in Baltimore. His nonprofit aims for a "triple bottom line." It strives to give people, material, and the environment a second chance at new life. Second Chance provides green collar jobs to some of the city's residents who find job seeking most difficult, including those coming out of prison and those recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. The workforce deconstructs houses and salvages materials for sale at a Ridgely Street warehouse near M&T Bank Stadium.

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Mark Foster, founder and executive director of Second Chance, Inc., hires those whose past makes it difficult to find a job. They deconstruct houses to save materials from going into landfills.

Foster started Second Chance 13 years ago. He was a homeowner trying to refurbish a house built in 1902. He found it difficult to find replacement pieces and parts. Most old homes were simply demolished, and the remains dumped in landfills. Now, Second Chance workers demolish more than 200 homes a year, saving nearly everything for resale and have kept 10,502,118 pounds of post-construction waste out of landfills so far in 2016.

Foster is determined that Second Chance stretch its environmentalism even more. Next year, Second Chance plans to install rain gardens in its parking lot and solar panels on its roof. Inspired, in part, by volunteering with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation when he was in high school, Foster said that he wants to help the Chesapeake get a second chance.

The Carcamo Family

In Richmond, Efrain Carcamo and his three children walk the banks of the James River several times a month to hunt litter. On each trip, they fill bags with beer cans, plastic bottles, and other trash. For years, Carcamo has repeated this routine in a personal effort to clean up the river.

Growing up on a farm in El Salvador, Carcamo learned to respect the environment. Since moving to the United States as a teen, he's been drawn to restoring the rivers and streams that flow to the Bay.

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In Richmond, Efrain Carcamo, a single father, has passed on his love of nature to his children (l-r), Elysha, Emaya and Eljah, who pick up trash along the James River.

Carcamo's contribution to clean water stretches beyond the untold amount of trash he has removed from the James. He's inspiring others to take action. That starts with his three young children, who eagerly join in efforts to fight pollution.

By being out regularly along heavily used stretches of the river, he's also an example to the many people who see him cleaning up. "I meet a lot of people from different backgrounds out here, from all levels of society, different races," he said. After speaking with him, some follow in his footsteps. "When they realize there is someone doing it, they get courage and they start doing it themselves," Carcamo said.

We all know that the Bay's problems are larger than trash or inadequate manure management. Nonetheless, these individuals are demonstrating the difference they can make and the good they can create. They are Chesapeake Bay stewards.

As we reach the midpoint of the Clean Water Blueprint, we are seeing progress. The water is clearer, the dead zone is getting smaller and Bay grass populations are up significantly. But there is much more work that needs to be done.

In 2017, it will be more important than ever that our elected officials know that we value our rivers, streams and the Bay. So please contact them to let them know that clean water is not a luxury, it is a right.

—Will Baker, CBF President


Clean Water Remains a Priority

The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.

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Polluted runoff cannot be ignored if we are to clean up Virginia's rivers and streams. Photo by Krista Schyler/iLCP.

If you talk to longtime residents of Hampton Roads, you will hear stories about how waterways are starting to show signs that they may be on the mend.

On the Lynnhaven River, a newly burgeoning oyster industry is made possible by the removal of unsafe levels of bacteria that for years led the river to be off-limits to harvest.

The Lafayette River was once a dumping ground for the region's stormwater, but was recently taken off Virginia's list of bacteria-impaired waters.

Out in the Chesapeake Bay, there is a resurgence in underwater grasses and locals report seeing the clearest water in a long time.

Our region is literally defined by water, and we are just beginning to experience how cleaner water improves the economy and quality of life where we swim, fish and live. All of this good news is reflected in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's State of the Bay report released last month, which gave the Bay the highest marks since the report began in 1998.

But the C- score the Bay received is still nowhere near what it needs to be to support economic growth and additional recreational opportunities.

As The Pilot noted in a recent editorial on the State of the Bay, "any improvement is noteworthy, if only to show how much further we have to go." We definitely have a long way to go.

The advances so far are the result of decades of hard work. In recent years, a state-federal partnership to reduce pollution called the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint has led to progress. But the recovery is fragile, and can easily reverse course if we don't keep up momentum.

This month, state legislators are making key funding decisions that will determine whether Virginia stays on track to meet goals for cutting pollution. Now is the time to let legislators know how important it is to fund these critical clean water programs.

Here in Hampton Roads, a lot of work still needs to be done. With so many buildings, streets and parking lots, every rainfall washes a destructive mix of oil, dirt, litter, fertilizers, pet waste and more off hard surfaces and directly into local creeks and rivers.

Cities across Virginia are working to implement projects to control this runoff. Fortunately, a state program called the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund provides matching grants to help localities install stream and wetland restoration projects, permeable pavement, rain gardens, and other pollution-control measures.

These projects effectively treat polluted runoff by allowing excess water to filter into the earth naturally rather than surge into local creeks and rivers. This has the added benefit of reducing localized flooding, another problem with which all of us in this region are familiar.

The Stormwater Local Assistance Fund is already making a difference in Hampton Roads. So far 12 projects have been funded in Norfolk, with another three in Virginia Beach and three more in Chesapeake. On the Peninsula, another 27 projects have been funded.

But this program is under threat right now. With budgets tightening, funding could very well be eliminated in this General Assembly session unless legislators hear enough support for this program.

Cities in the region don't want to see these grants dry up. In fact, officials from many of the localities in Hampton Roads have written legislators and the governor urging continued support for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund.

While the Bay and rivers such as the Lafayette, Elizabeth, and the Lynnhaven are getting better, the recovery can easily be reversed unless we keep up the momentum.

All of us who believe we should leave a legacy of cleaner water and more recreational and economic opportunities for future generations can take a small but important step today by contacting elected officials in support of the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund. The fate of our waters is on the line.

—Harry Lester, Chairman, CBF Board of Trustees

Urge your legislators right now to support clean water initiatives, such as the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, that are integral to a healthy Virginia economy, environment, and way of life!


Slowing the Flow: Miles of Streams Renewed in Fairfax County

How Virginia is Stopping Polluted Runoff with the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund

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A restored stream in Banks Neighborhood Park.

Given that more than 1 million people call Fairfax County home, there are plenty of homes, roads, and parking lots in this suburban Northern Virginia county. Rain washes pollution off all of these hard surfaces during storms, creating polluted runoff that fills streams that flow to the Potomac River.

Fortunately, Fairfax County has been a leader in Virginia when it comes to tackling the polluted runoff problem, thanks in part to 13 different grants it has received under the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF). Altogether, these projects are restoring more than three miles of stream channel and converting three dry stormwater ponds into wetlands.

The grants have allowed Fairfax County to tackle many stream restorations that would have otherwise been put on hold, according to Emma Gutzler of the County's Stormwater Planning Division. With 12 of the projects now complete, the County is seeing results. Recent efforts at Wakefield Park and the Banks Neighborhood Park are just two examples of successful SLAF-funded projects in Fairfax County.

Raising a Stream at Wakefield Park

Right alongside the ever-present traffic on the Capital Beltway, Accotink Creek flows through a concrete culvert under the highway and enters Wakefield Park, a beloved popular spot for locals. But until recently, the stream was in bad shape. The force of the heavy runoff from all of the development upstream wreaked havoc, scouring a deep stream channel through the park. This led to steep, eroding, streambanks with undercut trees in danger of falling over.

But SLAF-funded restoration efforts resulted in radical improvements. The deep channels were filled with soil, raising the streambed and reconnecting it with the original forested floodplain. Right in front of the culvert, a series of rocky pools now slow down the water where it is needed most to prevent erosion. "Because of this culvert that we have, the water is going to be flying," said Jason Beeler of contractor Wetland Studies and Solutions. "When it hits the pools, it has a chance to spin around in circles. The roughness of the bottom of the pool and the sides will be able to dissipate its energy."

The raised streambanks were replanted with native plants and trees. Now these areas are developing into wetlands and vernal pools, which not only help filter out pollutants, but also provide homes and breeding areas for wildlife like native frogs.

People who recreate in Wakefield Park are also seeing the benefits. Officials planning the restoration sought feedback from local hikers, joggers, and mountain bikers who use the park. As part of the project, they installed a new bridge across the stream for hikers and runners. For mountain bikers, in two different places a series of large flat boulders cross the stream. 

"The completion of the Stream Restoration Projects provided both an aesthetically pleasing and natural environment as well as functional stream crossings for all trail users to enjoy," said Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts President Ernie Rodriguez, who heads the mountain biking club that gave input on the project. "The trails within Wakefield Park provide great opportunities for our communities to enjoy outdoor recreation and to become involved with environmental responsibility."

All in all, about 2,700 linear feet of stream channel was restored within Wakefield Park along two tributary streams. The project began construction in October 2015 and was largely completed in August 2016.

Returning to Nature on the Banks Neighborhood Park

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Before the project began.

Just a few years ago, it would have been easy to overlook the stream flowing through the small park in southern Fairfax County known as the Banks Neighborhood Park. That's because about 600 feet of the waterway was trapped in deteriorating pipes underground and channels lined with rip rap and concrete. Further downstream within the project's reach, heavily eroded streambanks transported excess sediment downstream and exposed a water line. It wasn't the prettiest sight.

But since late 2014, the stream has been returned to a more natural state. The pipe and concrete have been removed along 600 feet of stream, and 500 feet of heavily eroded stream channel has been restored. The project began construction in February 2014 and was completed in November 2014

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After the project was completed.

Lush grasses and vibrant Black-eyed Susan flowers now brighten up the streamside. Altogether, about 450 native trees and over 1,700 shrubs were planted alongside the waterway. These plants help slow down runoff and filter out pollution. What's more, locals are observing songbird species that they hadn't ever seen before in the park.

The Wakefield Park and Banks Neighborhood Park projects have made a big difference to the health of local waterways. They are just two of the 13 SLAF projects Fairfax County has implemented in recent years, making it a model for what can be done with state support for efforts by localities to reduce polluted runoff.

The Numbers

 
Number of Projects:
13
Total Linear Feet of Stream Channel Restored: 16,790
Pounds of Phosphorus Pollution Reduced per Year:   1,133
Total Amount of SLAF Grants: $8,620,359


Stay tuned for more stories of how innovative projects like these can help Virginia stop harmful polluted runoff from entering our rivers, streams, and Bay!
 

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

Click here to read our full "Slowing the Flow" polluted runoff series.

Above photos courtesy of Fairfax County Government.


What You Can Do about Flooding

The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.

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CBF volunteers plant a garden in Hampton in Fall 2016. Practices such as rain gardens and dry wells can help alleviate nuisance flooding while also improving water quality. Photo by CBF Staff.

A recent report that nuisance flooding is becoming more frequent in Hampton Roads comes as no surprise to most of us who live here.

Rainstorms regularly wreak havoc on traffic as water fills commuter routes, while king tides can flood streets even on calm sunny days. In my own neighborhood in the north end of Virginia Beach, flooding is so severe that even emergency vehicles like ambulances and firetrucks struggle to get through the high water.

Sea level rise is occurring on such a massive scale that it's easy to feel that there's nothing we can do as individuals. But there are steps you can take at home to alleviate flooding due to rainfall, a big part of the problem here.

Most of these practices involve holding excess water and allowing it to filter into the ground slowly. They include relatively easy and affordable steps like planting trees and installing rain gardens. What's more, such things also reduce polluted runoff, a major source of problems in local waterways.

I can tell you firsthand that they work. At my own home, those perpetual soggy patches in the yard have disappeared since I installed rain barrels and dry wells. While it may seem like a drop in the bucket, it's all about cumulative impact. If most of the homes in your neighborhood would implement these practices, you would notice a real decrease in nuisance flooding.

Each property is unique, but one of the following five things is likely to work for you.

  • Rain gardens are shallow basins filled with native plants. These gardens collect and absorb rainwater running off rooftops, driveways and streets, reducing flooding.
  • Planting trees in open or grassy areas creates a leafy canopy that intercepts rainfall and reduces runoff. The water is instead released slowly or later evaporates. A street tree can intercept from 760 to 3,000 gallons per year, depending on the size and species.
  • Permeable pavers, unlike traditional concrete or asphalt, are made up of porous materials that allow water to pass through. Using permeable pavers on a path, driveway, or street means rainfall can soak into the ground, instead of pooling and running off hard surfaces.
  • Rain barrels collect and store rainfall flowing from roofs and through downspouts. This water can later be used to water lawns and gardens during dry spells.
  • Dry wells are shallow trenches filled with stone or gravel that hold runoff, allowing it to soak into the ground.

While cities in Hampton Roads are making progress by addressing flooding on municipal property, governments can't do it all on their own. Most of the land in Hampton Roads is private property. That's why it is so important that homeowners and businesses do their part.

Fortunately, some local governments are recognizing the value of these techniques by offering incentives to property owners.

Norfolk recently took a big step in the right direction. The city approved a program to reduce the required stormwater fee for property owners who deploy techniques that reduce runoff, like the ones described above.

I hope that other cities in Hampton Roads will see this example and follow suit.

If we all are able to hold back excess water and rainfall at the source, at our own homes, we can make a dent in the flooding problem.

What's more, many of these steps also beautify the neighborhood, save money, attract wildlife and help clean up local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

—Thomas Quattlebaum, CBF's Sea Level Rise Fellow


We're Halfway There: Coyner Farm

This is one in a series of articles about farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed who have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and efficiency on their farms. As a result of these success stories, we're halfway to achieving the nutrient reductions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waters. View the rest of the series here.

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Ever since George and Ruth Coyner fenced their cows out of the streams on their farm in 2005, they've seen great benefits for their herd. What's more, there has been a marked improvement in the stream's water quality.

"I'll bet I could drink the water leaving our farm," Coyner exclaimed. 

The Coyners own and operate a commercial cow/calf operation in the headwaters of Porterfield Run, a tributary of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.  They also raise soybeans, corn, barley, and hay.

"Years ago, I remember a vet telling us there were herd health advantages for our cows if we fenced them out of the streams," Coyner said. "The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was available and we decided to enroll.  The program reimbursed us more than 100 percent of the costs, and they pay us rent every year for the land we fenced away from the cows."

"Since we fenced the cows out of the stream, we no longer have calves falling down in the stream at birth and dying. We no longer have old cows mired up to their bellies in the muck. They now drink clean water and there is no more mortality because of the stream," Coyner continued.

They fenced half a mile of stream, developed alternative watering stations, and built a stream crossing for the cows. The program required them to set a fence 35 feet from the top of the bank on each side of the stream. 

"One of my neighbors told me I was giving up good pasture by fencing the cows out," Coyner said. "But I told him I can get the cows into the barn so much easier now, they drink clean water, and I don't have any deaths because of the steep banks or muck." 

The Coyners are proud stewards of their land, implementing not only streamside buffers but also rotational grazing, grassed waterways, cover crops, and strip cropping.

"We are happy with the program and plan to re-enroll when our contract comes up for renewal in a couple of years," he added.

—Bobby Whitescarver

Whitescarver lives in Swoope, Va. For more information, visit his website.

Learn more about how farmers across the watershed are working to improve both water quality and farm productivity in our Farmers' Success Stories series.


This Week in the Watershed: Relishing the Benefits

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Volunteers at the planting of Second Baptist Church's rain garden. Photo by Arthur Kay.

One of the beautiful things about efforts to improve the environment is they so often come with additional benefits. Second Baptist Church in Richmond bears witness to this truth.

Frustrated by high stormwater fees, the church worked with CBF to build a rain garden. A year later and not only were the church's stormwater fees slashed, but also the garden stimulated community, added a new revenue source from the food grown, and reduced polluted runoff and nuisance flooding. All along, the church was fulfilling a central element of its mission by inspiring congregants to be good stewards of God's creation.

At CBF, these opportunities to catalyze positive change beyond just environmental benefits excite us. Making energy efficiency improvements lowers our carbon footprint while cutting utility bills. Picking up trash alleviates polluted runoff from our waterways while beautifying neighborhoods. Fighting for environmental literacy in our schools cultivates the next generation of Bay stewards while providing students with treasured memories in the great outdoors. The list goes on and on.

We're inspired by the good folks at Second Baptist Church and we hope you'll join us in relishing the many benefits the work to save the Bay generates.

This Week in the Watershed: A Chesapeake Bay Legend, Grasses Recruiting, and An Inspirational Garden

What's Happening around the Watershed?

January 5

  • Easton, MD: Listen to state legislators and numerous regional organizations discuss their preservation, land, and water goals for the 2017 Maryland General Assembly's Regular Legislative Session. The event includes beer, wine, heavy hors d'ourvres, and snacks, as well as a a tour of the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. Click here to register!

January 11-February 11

  • Throughout Virginia: Help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Participants grow wild celery, a type of underwater grass, in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of grow-out, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. With workshops held throughout Virginia, there's plenty of opportunity to get involved! Click to find one near you!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Slowing the Flow: A Major Transformation in Waynesboro

How Virginia is Stopping Polluted Runoff with the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund

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Recently, part of Waynesboro's Jefferson Park neighborhood has undergone a pretty amazing transformation. What at first glance used to be a boggy, grassy field has been turned into a 10-acre manmade wetland, complete with growing native plants and cascading ponds on a 13-acre site.

It was an ambitious project for this small city in the Shenandoah Valley just west of the Blue Ridge. But as the effort nears completion it is starting to pay off.

For nearly 20 years the site was an open field with a small stream running through the middle that served as a dry detention pond, meaning that during heavy rains the low-lying field collected and held back excess water. This has helped with flooding issues in the surrounding neighborhood.

BEFORE 2015.12.15 DRONE
Before the project began.

But as Waynesboro began to look into ways to cut pollution entering the South River, the large field's potential was seen as "low hanging fruit," said Trafford McRae, Waynesboro's Stormwater Program Manager. With changes, the site could have a big impact in reducing polluted runoff.

Over the course of 2016, the small stream was routed through terraced pools and ponds carved out of the field. With construction now complete, as each pool fills with water, the excess water cascades over rocks and enters the next pool. Native grasses and trees like bald cypress and silky dogwood surround the new waterways.

During a heavy rainstorm, the pools retain and slow down excess water so sediment can settle out, and the plants absorb and filter the polluted runoff before it moves downstream.

It will take a year or two for the plants to establish themselves and fill in, but as they do, the site will attract more and more wildlife and beautify the neighborhood.

As the plants spread, the wetlands will provide better habitat for frogs, turtles, songbirds, deer, and a host of other animals. 

McRae envisions that the site will be used as a passive park with a community garden, trails around the pond, and signs explaining the project and history of the nearby stream. The once vacant field will become a community amenity.

AFTER 2016.12.01 DRONE
After the project was completed.

The new wetlands were paid for completely by state grants and loans, including the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) and the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund. "We wouldn't have even dreamed of tackling this project for probably another 10 years without the SLAF grant," McRae said.

Waynesboro officials are pleased, as they really value local waterways. "More and more, the city council and our community recognize that the South River and its tributary streams here in Waynesboro are among our most valuable resources. We're home to an urban trout fishery; we're installing boat launches and trails along the river; and the South River is a designated blueway," Waynesboro Mayor Bruce Allen said. "Completing the Jefferson Pond retrofit is part of a mindset and a local culture we're promoting here for protecting water resources."

The Numbers

 
Size of Wetland: 10 acres
Pounds of Phosphorus Expected to be Removed Per Year:  300 pounds
SLAF Grant: $850,000
Total Project Cost:  $1.6 million

 

Stay tuned for more stories of how innovative projects like these can help Virginia stop harmful polluted runoff from entering our rivers, streams, and Bay!  

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

Click here to read our full "Slowing the Flow" polluted runoff series.

ABOVE PHOTOS COURTESY OF TIMMONS GROUP.

 


The Smell of Saving the Bay

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Hundreds of baskets full of adult oysters and spat-on-shell were planted in the South River last week.

Approaching a ragtag team of CBF volunteers and staff, my first observation was the putrid stench lofting from the truck lovingly called the, "Spatmobile." On a mild December day last week, CBF partnered with the South River Federation to plant 200,000 spat-on shell and 87,000 adult oysters

Covered in oyster "goo"—a combination of oyster refuse, mud, and algae—volunteers tackled the dirty work of oyster planting with vigor. Like a well-oiled machine, volunteers cut open bags of oysters, dumped them into baskets, and carried them to the dock to await transport on a skiff to their eventual new home in the South River. 

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Volunteer Bill Wheeler cuts open a bag of spat-on-shell.

These oysters are crucial in the fight to save the Bay. A keystone species of the Bay, a single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. In addition to their filtering prowess, oysters settle on one another and grow, forming reefs that provide shelter for other critters. Despite their hallmark status in the Bay's ecosystem, the native oyster population is just a fraction of what it once was as a result of disease, pollution, and overharvesting.

Volunteer Bill Wheeler learned that while this oyster planting was a small step in the right direction, restoring the Bay's native oyster population won't happen overnight. "One thing I found out about oysters that's just fantastic is they start out as all male and then they change sex later on. So it's important that when you reseed a reef you have to do it over a couple years because they can't breed if they're all males." Indeed, sanctuary reefs are critical in oyster restoration efforts.

As the group wrapped up the oyster planting, I finally commented on the stench. Without missing a beat, Pat Beall, CBF's Maryland Oyster Restoration Specialist exclaimed, "This is the smell of saving the Bay!" The foul odor largely consists of oyster poo—the oysters clean the water by consuming pollutants and either eating them or shaping them into small, mucous packets, which are deposited on the bottom where they are harmless. So quite literally, the stench is the smell of a saved Bay.

I don't particularly look forward to the next time I get a whiff of the Spatmobiles precious cargo, but with the support of our dedicated volunteers and generous members, I'm grateful that with every oyster we plant, we'll generate cleaner water, vital habitat for critters, and ultimately, a healthier Bay.

Join us in this critical oyster restoration work. With programs in both Maryland and Virginia, volunteer opportunities include oyster gardening, shell shaking, and oyster planting. And with holiday feasts approaching, there is more opportunity to help by recycling your oyster shells.

—Text and Photos by Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

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CBF's Maryland Oyster Restoration Specialist Pat Beall unloads bags of spat-on-shell from the "Spatmobile." 
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Baskets of adult oysters and spat-on-shell await departure for their new homes in the South River.
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Chesapeake Conservation Corps Intern Jaclyn Fisher delivers a basket of adult oysters and spat-on-shell to their new home in the South River.

 Click here for more photos from this oyster planting in the South River!


Fishing with Marsh Rats

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Chuck Foster (left) and Bill Goldsborough (right) in their natural element on a recent Chesapeake fishing trip.


In many ways, their stories are the same. Self-described marsh rats, Bill Goldsborough and Chuck Foster both grew up on the Eastern Shore with Bay blood coursing through their veins and fishing rods in their hands.

"We fished for as long as I can remember," says Goldsborough. "I was going out on the Bay with my dad . . . We had an old 40-foot workboat called the Mermaid, this old beat up thing that he and his buddy on Kent Island bought together. [It was] a real fun adventure keeping that boat running and getting out and catching all kinds of fish . . . we had 100-fish days regularly . . . just me and my dad." It's no surprise that Easton native Goldsborough credits his father for instilling in him a love for fishing and the Bay. A love that eventually led him to CBF, first as an educator on Smith Island and then as the founder and director of our fisheries program. 

Foster, too, grew up on the water and among the marshes on Saxis Island in Virginia, just six miles from what is now CBF's Fox Island Education Center. His was a childhood ruled by tides, full moons, and blue crab harvests. He recalls days getting out of school early in order to get back to Saxis before a full moon high tide flooded the road. Coming from a family of watermen, fishing came easily—and early—for Foster: "At six years old, I'd go out with my grandfather . . . he had a little bed on his boat. He was not noted for his patience, but he had the patience of steel when it came to me . . . you can imagine a six-year old on a crab boat all day long. I got into a lot of stuff." Years later, it was only

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Bill Goldsborough wrestling with a rockfish on a recent fishing trip on the Bay.

natural that Foster came to CBF. Like Goldsborough, he began his CBF career in its education program, starting as an educator on Fox Island and then eventually serving as the organization's first Chief of Staff. "I just fell into it. Fell right into the briar patch and luckily I recognized that pretty early on," Foster reflects.

On a recent gray day in November, I invite myself along on a Goldsborough/Foster fishing trip. There have been quite a few over the years for the good friends, trips ranging in location from the Florida Keys to all over the Chesapeake. But this one would be their final trip together as CBF colleagues. Both Bay legends—who have spent a combined nearly 70 years at CBF (roughly 32 for Foster; 35 for Goldsborough)—are retiring this month, leaving the Foundation in favor of more time out on the water, in boats, and around fish.

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Chuck Foster doing what he does best on a recent fishing adventure off the Eastern Shore.

The sky is dripping, draped with a low-hanging stretch of wet clouds as we motor south toward Poplar Island on Foster's 24-foot, custom-built Hanko. There is a lot of stopping and starting, patiently scanning the horizon with binoculars, looking for seabirds, a sure sign of stripers just below the surface. There is not a lot of talking. When we arrive at a spot deemed worthy near Eastern Bay, Foster cuts the engine and almost immediately rods are in the water. Without saying a word, Foster and Goldsborough find their respective places on either side of the stern—their routine is as natural as their way around a boat, around the Bay.     

As we wait for the fish to come, the conversation ranges from ruminating on a Jim Morris song lyric, to reflecting on the way the nearby gannets slice through the air, to, inevitably, talking about the importance of water. "I can't imagine my life not involving water," says Goldsborough. "I went to college in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and for a while there was this competition between the sea and the mountains. But really there was no contest. I was always going to come back here to the water . . . Has to have salt in it though." Foster chimes in: "It's unnatural otherwise."

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Chuck Foster and Bill Goldsborough took many fishing trips together over their more than 30-year friendship, including to places as distant as the Florida Keys.

It's not long before Foster snags a hearty 28-inch rockfish. He quickly and expertly unhooks the flopping beauty and lays it in the bottom of the cooler, right next to the water bottles and other provisions we've brought for our journey. "Everything's better with a little fish slime on it," he jokes.

When asked how he's feeling after more than three decades at CBF, on the eve of his retirement, Foster turns serious: "Obviously it's bittersweet. I've spent almost 32 years of my life in one place. But the Foundation and the Bay are going to do well . . . and I do think we have turned the corner. I mean look at how clear this water is right now. I don't recall seeing water this clear since a kid."

Goldsborough, too, is hopeful: "After many years and many failed voluntary agreements by the states to take whatever action was necessary [to restore the Bay], and the Bay kept getting worse—algae blooms, dead zones, grasses weren't coming back at all—you start to get a little discouraged. And I figured that there would be little chance that I would see the Bay restored even to what I've known as a kid, much less to a really pristine, healthy Bay. But now," he motions to the clear, flat water below us, "now it seems like all Chuck and I had to do was set a time table for retiring, and now the Bay is looking better!"

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"I can't imagine my life not involving water," says Goldsborough.

He later expands: "We've seen the grasses bounce back a little bit; we've seen the blue crabs come on a little bit in the last few years; [it] appears that the dead zones are smaller. That's all interrelated and all extremely hopeful. It's tempting to think that we're really turning the corner with the Bay."

While at CBF, Foster and Goldsborough have made countless contributions—from launching the Foundation's fisheries program, to building one of the world's greenest buildings, to tirelessly fighting for the Bay's rockfish, oysters, and crabs, to helping build and run the organization, to educating future stewards of the Bay. But out here on the water, there is little talk about their achievements and their invaluable work for the Bay and its rivers and streams. That is not surprising given the nature of these good-hearted, modest men. 

A few hours later, on the way back in, back home to Annapolis, red light inches up from the horizon ever so slightly and we are chilled to the bone. The Bay stretches out before us, flat and calm and beautiful. "There are a lot of amazing things you see out here," says Goldsborough, "and they just sort of accumulate over time and make up this great mosaic of Bay experiences . . . every year you see and learn new stuff that you never thought of before."

Goldsborough pauses and looks at his friend before continuing: "You never know it all. It's kind of what's so interesting about it and keeps us coming out on the water I think."

"It's almost like the older I get the less I think I know," adds Foster from behind the wheel.

 —Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media