This Week in the Watershed

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The Bay is rebounding from a reduction in pollution. But more work remains. Photo by Steve Aprile.

It's no secret that the condition of the Chesapeake Bay is a far cry from when Captain John Smith first explored its fruitful waters in the 1600s. Over the centuries, a burgeoning population led to the over-harvesting of its bounty, habitat destruction, and an onslaught of pollution. But the Bay and the rivers and streams that feed it, are resilient.

This week we received good news, as newly released data reveals that pollution is down. With this drop in pollution, Bay grasses are booming, water clarity is improving, and critter populations are rebounding. It's a delightful reminder that as humans reduce pollution coming off the land, the Bay responds in an amazing way.

This progress is a testament to the hard work of the steps taken to reduce pollution by the states, farmers, local governments, and citizens in the watershed. But this is just the beginning. We cannot become complacent; conversely, we need to double down on our efforts. New challenges will inevitably surface, but this will present new opportunities to create jobs, improve local economies, and build bridges with a diverse group of stakeholders. With full implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, we will leave a legacy of clean water to future generations.

This Week in the Watershed: Good News, Sick Fish, and Keystone Funding

  • Two thumbs up to CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program, which provides a platform for students to learn outdoors. (WMDT—VA)
  • Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway has fought for clean water in Pennsylvania for decades. His most recent fight is to declare the lower Susquehanna River impaired as a result of the failing condition of its once thriving smallmouth bass fishery. (Howard County Times—MD)
  • Data recently released found 2015 was the fourth-best year for overall Bay water quality since 1985. (Bay Journal) Bonus: CBF Press Statement
  • We couldn't agree more with the editorial arguing for the wise investment of cleaning up Pennsylvania's rivers and streams. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • A group of Pennsylvania state senators is working to provide extra funding for environmental conservation, recreation, and preservation projects around the Keystone State. (Chambersburg Public Opinion—PA)
  • While residents on Maryland's Kent Island are glad to see a public sewer system brought to their island, there are fears that it will spur expansive development. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Regulations on septic systems are being rolled back in Maryland, putting clean water at risk. (Bay Journal)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

September 24

  • Dorchester County, MD: Join CBF for a paddle! We will put in our canoes on Beaverdam Creek, and from there explore the waters surrounding Taylors Island Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This area is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore waterway, 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. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels.  Click here to register!

September 25

  • Upper Marlboro, MD: Join us for a fun-filled afternoon with friends, live music, craft-brewed beers, and mouth-watering food created by area chefs using local ingredients at CBF's Burgers and Brews for the Bay. A family friendly event, it features live bluegrass music, hay rides, fish printing, and educational stations. Buy your tickets now! (online registration closes at 3:00 p.m. Friday, 9/23—tickets can be purchased at door if still available).

October 1

  • Westminster, MD: Join CBF to plant shrubs and wetland grasses for a recently constructed wetland at Chestnut Creek Farm. Volunteers will learn from the farmer about Chestnut Creek’s sustainable grass-based farm where sheep, beef cattle, and heritage pigs rotationally graze on pastures. Click here to register!

October 5

  • Chestertown, MD: A workshop for local government managers and field operators will provide instruction in best management practice inspection, maintenance, and facility failure decision-making regarding management of stormwater systems. Facilitated by expert trainers with the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, participants will increase their knowledge of effectively treating polluted runoff while complying with local, state, and federal stormwater management expectations. Click here to register!

October 7

  • Westminster, MD: Join CBF to plant 500 native trees and shrubs to restore 1,000 feet of streamside forest buffer. This new buffer will help filter and clean runoff from adjacent farm fields and reduce stream bank erosion into this first-order stream system in the Monocacy River watershed. The mix of native tree and shrub species like sycamores, maples, oaks, dogwoods, alders, and chokeberry are all great for wildlife habitat. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Targeted Funding to These Important Pennsylvania Counties Is Key to Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay

The following first appeared in the Patriot News.

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Tim and Frances Sauder want to implement agricultural best management practices (BMPs) on their Lancaster County farm, but are in need of funding. The implementation of BMPs on farms throughout south-central Pennsylvania would make a major difference in cleaning the state's water. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Tim and Frances Sauder are doing their best to make ends meet while raising a young son and operating a small dairy farm in Lancaster County.

They tend to the 15 cows that provide the milk that becomes yogurt from Fiddle Creek Dairy, all the while paying close attention to the land and the water the flows through those hilly 55 acres.

"We made decisions on how we farm, in order to protect the watershed," Tim says. They have owned the farm for just four years.

"We want to farm in a way that's good for all layers of life, the water, the land, the plants, and the human community," Frances adds. "There's no easy answer and we're humbled by that."

The Sauders want to plant seven acres of trees as a 50-foot wide streamside buffer to protect the tributary to Big Beaver Creek that flows through the farm.

They also see the need to add manure storage and a composting facility, install more watering stations for the cows, and do something about the polluted runoff that floods across the road near their house after heavy rains.

Like many farmers in the Susquehanna River watershed, the Sauders understand that pollution flows downstream and want to do what is right to protect the water. But they cannot afford to pay for it all themselves.

Like other farmers too, the Sauders have applied for state and federal assistance. Sadly, there often isn't enough money to go around, so some projects never get onto the ground.

Pennsylvania is significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitments, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has identified the five counties that contribute the most pollution from agriculture and that would return the greatest reductions for new restoration dollars.

Lancaster is by far at the top of the list, followed by York, Franklin, Cumberland, and Adams.

The foundation is calling on federal partners, particularly the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to provide an initial, immediate commitment of $20 million in new restoration funds to those five counties.

This is money already in the USDA budget. In addition, our group is urging state and local governments to provide additional outreach, technical assistance, and funding.

Collectively, Lancaster, York, Franklin, Cumberland, and Adams counties contribute more than 30 million pounds of nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay each year.

After analyzing federal data, the foundation determined that focusing additional investments in these counties could reduce nitrogen pollution by 14 million pounds.

That is more than half of the entire state's Clean Water Blueprint 2025 goal for reducing nitrogen pollution.

It's disappointing to hear the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection wants to 'police' farmers

But to fully achieve the goal Pennsylvania has set, pollution reduction efforts must continue in all other counties of the Susquehanna watershed.

The Blueprint calls for 60 percent of pollution reduction efforts to be in place by 2017, and 100 percent in place by 2025.

Additional funding for pollution reduction projects will also support and create jobs and improve local economies.

Suppliers that sell the trees for buffers and fencing materials benefit. Excavators and builders who improve drainage to reduce polluted runoff or install manure storage and barnyard improvements get work.

It is also a win for farmers. Funding to reduce polluted runoff leads to better soil health and greater farm productivity. Herd health is protected because livestock aren't standing in streams and drinking the water.

Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania have been damaged by pollution.

Such efforts as the planting of streamside buffers, that reduce nitrogen pollution, also reduce harmful phosphorus and sediment runoff.

The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council, including the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New York, Delaware, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., and the Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, will meet on Oct. 4 to identify future restoration challenges. 

We expect the Council to take real action to reduce nitrogen pollution in Lancaster and other key Pennsylvania counties, and get the Commonwealth back on track toward its Blueprint commitments.

Investing in places, practices, and people like Tim and Frances Sauder and Fiddle Creek Dairy will give us the greatest pollution reductions and the clean water that Pennsylvanians deserve.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director


'Rain Tax' Helps Fight Polluted Run-Off in County Streams

The following first appeared in the Howard County Times.

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Young girls swimming at Cascade Falls this past June. Cascade Falls was one of several locations throughout the watershed where bacteria was found at unsafe levels. Photo by Maryann Webb/CBF Intern.

Excrement in Howard County streams and rivers isn't just a problem after a deluge like we had July 30. Water testing this summer by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found extremely unhealthy bacteria levels in several streams after typical summer thunderstorms. Some of those test sites were swimming holes.

The tests were commissioned by CBF, and conducted by Hood College in Frederick. The partnership tested Columbia lakes in the summer of 2015, finding modestly elevated bacteria levels. This summer, tests were focused on streams feeding the Patapsco River.

People may think waste in our water is only a problem occasionally when sewer lines break in heavy storms, such as the leak that occurred after the July 30 floods, or a problem isolated to big cities such as Baltimore. Not so. CBF tested six Howard streams and rivers after rain storms of as little as a half inch or rain. CBF also tested several times during dry conditions.

The results were troubling. Most sites had unsafe readings even during dry weather, but those readings spiked after ordinary summer storms. Readings at the Cascade Falls swimming hole in Patapsco Valley State Park were up to 300 times above safety limits after a one-inch storm on July 5.

Levels at another popular swimming area on the Patapsco River near Henryton were up to 450 times too high after a 1.5-inch rain a few days before the tragic July 30 storm.

Scientists say water with such high amounts of fecal matter poses health risks to swimmers and others, who can get stomach and intestinal illnesses.

And unfortunately, these high readings at swimming holes weren't atypical. We also found extremely elevated bacteria levels in a small stream running through a residential neighborhood in Elkridge, at the Sucker Branch running past prayer stations at Our Lady's Center in Ellicott City, and at the Plumtree Branch at Dunloggin Middle School, among other sites.

CBF also conducted tests in four other Maryland counties, and in Baltimore City. Additional sites also were tested in Virginia and Pennsylvania. A map of the Howard and other sites can be found at www.cbf.org.

What does all this mean? It means Howard County continues to have a problem with polluted runoff. That's the term we use for water that runs off the land during storms, and picks up all types of contaminants, including possible human and animal waste from leaking sewer or septic systems, pet or livestock waste, and other pollution.

Many of Howard County's local waters, including the Middle Patuxent River, the Upper Patuxent, the Little Patuxent and the Patapsco River Lower North Branch, are considered "impaired" by the Maryland Department of the Environment. Polluted runoff is a major culprit in this problem.

The good news is Howard County leaders stayed strong and retained the county's stormwater fee. Sometimes derided as the "rain tax," this funding source is used to upgrade the county's neglected stormwater system. That work is now underway.

The risks of flooding also will decrease around the county as this work is completed, a major benefit in addition to water quality improvements.

These sorts of upgrades to the county's drainage system take years to undertake, and residents should be patient. But the tests this summer underscore the urgent need for the work.

While we wait, families might heed the rule-of-thumb guidance of MDE: wait 48 hours after a significant rain storm to swim or recreate in any natural waters of Maryland. That unfortunate directive is necessary because polluted runoff remains a major problem for much of the state.

At least Howard County has dedicated significant funds to reduce that pollution.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director


This Week in the Watershed

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Agricultural runoff from farms, such as seen here in York County, PA, is the largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. This week, CBF released a white paper on the top five Pennsylvania counties that should receive additional funding to reduce pollution from agriculture. Photo by John Pavoncello/York Dispatch.

As we discussed last week, one of the most cost-effective ways to rid our waters of pollution is to implement best management practices (BMPs) on farms throughout the watershed.

This week, we dove into where we need to focus these cost-effective efforts. Five Pennsylvania counties top the list of areas that need to reduce agricultural runoff, the largest source of pollution. But while implementing BMPs on farms is very cost-effective, it's still not free. Additional funding for these five south-central counties by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state and local governments would be a wise investment.

The pollution emanating from these counties and throughout the watershed pose serious consequences. Local rivers and streams are degraded. Aquatic life is harmed. And human health and drinking water are put at risk.

But with additional investments in priority areas and the larger implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, these consequences can be avoided. Learn more about what the data reveal as the most strategic, cost-effective opportunities for reducing pollution in Pennsylvania AND downstream.

This Week in the Watershed: Top Five, Cleaning Dirty Water, and SHARKS!

  • A Virginia teenager has earned her Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, by working with CBF and other partners in launching an oyster shell recycling project. (The Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • Pennsylvania students are getting an up-close look at the Susquehanna River through CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • The Hampton Roads Sanitation District is fighting both climate change and dirty water by making their wastewater clean enough to drink. (The Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • A shark sighting, which was highlighted on CBF's Facebook page, has caused quite a stir. (WMDT—VA)
  • CBF's Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost writes on the need to dedicate funds to reduce stormwater runoff. (Howard County Times—MD)
  • A Pennsylvania state representative is pushing for a bill that would make it unlawful for farmers to allow their cows access to streams. (Lancaster Intelligencer Journal—PA)
  • CBF released a white paper on the top five Pennsylvania counties that need to reduce pollution. Critical to their success is improved federal funding to implement best management practices on farms. (Keystone News Service—PA) Bonus: CBF Press Release
  • A new project in Maryland's Somerset County is working to convert excess chicken manure into energy. (Daily Times—MD)
  • A Baltimore area power plant is releasing chemical discharges and stormwater into a Chesapeake Bay tributary, to the chagrin of environmental activists and public health advocates. (Bay Journal)
  • A chicken farmer on Maryland's Eastern Shore has gone organic. (Bay Journal)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

September 16-18

  • Oxon Hill, MD: During this three-day event (September 16-18), we will build concrete reef balls designed to help restore fish habitat in Smoots Bay on the Potomac River. The final destination for the reef balls is the bottom of Smoots Bay, where they will be intermixed with various woody structures to provide an ideal habitat for various fish species, such as our native largemouth bass. Come for one day or all three! Building reef balls is a fun and exciting way to help restore our Chesapeake Bay. Click here to register!

September 17

  • Trappe, MD: Help CBF take out the trash! Join us at Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park to help make the Choptank River cleaner and safer. This is a family friendly event, but all children must be accompanied by an adult. Groups are welcome! Please wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty, and bring sunscreen and water. Click here to register!
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack 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 oyster stocks to save the Bay. Click here to register!

September 24

  • Annapolis, MD: Head out on the water for a morning of fishing, learning, and fun! Spend the morning aboard the Marguerite in search of whatever is biting! Our experienced crew will provide all the knowledge and equipment necessary—just bring your enthusiasm! Gear and licenses are provided. Click here to register!
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack 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 oyster stocks to save the Bay. Click here to register!
  • Dorchester County, MD: Join CBF for a paddle! We will put in our canoes on Beaverdam Creek, and from there explore the waters surrounding Taylors Island Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This area is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore waterway, 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. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels.  Click here to register!

September 25

  • Upper Marlboro, MD: Join us for a fun-filled afternoon with friends, live music, craft-brewed beers, and mouth-watering food created by area chefs using local ingredients at CBF's Burgers and Brews for the Bay. A family friendly event, it features live bluegrass music, hay rides, fish printing, and educational stations. Buy your tickets now!

October 1

  • Westminster, MD: Join CBF to plant shrubs and wetland grasses for a recently constructed wetland at Chestnut Creek Farm. Volunteers will learn from the farmer about Chestnut Creek’s sustainable grass-based farm where sheep, beef cattle, and heritage pigs rotationally graze on pastures. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


This Week in the Watershed

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Planting forested buffers on farms is an agricultural best management practice that tops the list as one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Photo by Carmera Thomas/CBF Staff.

Pollution is the enemy of clean water. And if we want to leave a legacy of clean water to future generations, we need to take action. But what are the sources of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams? Pollution sources include but are not limited to agricultural runoff, urban/suburban polluted runoff, and wastewater treatment plants. Of these, agricultural runoff is by far the largest source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution to the Bay.

While we all want clean water, it cannot be denied that fighting pollution is often expensive. From a purely economic perspective, we should implement the pollution reduction practices that give us the best bang for our buck. Fortunately, the least expensive ways to fight pollution also targets the largest source of pollution—agricultural runoff. Look no further than this graphic which was highlighted on page six of our most recent Save the Bay Magazine: Cost of ag reduction-1200The price tags speak volumes. While pollution needs to be cut across the board, it is clear that implementing best management practices (BMPs) on farms throughout the watershed is one of the most cost-effective ways to save the Bay. Moving forward, we need to help farmers through providing funding and technical assistance to implement BMPs, some of which include installing forested buffers, fencing livestock out of streams, and planting cover crops.

Ultimately, if we are to reach our clean water goals set forth in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, addressing agricultural runoff is paramount. Leaving a legacy of clean water to future generations is on the line.

Want to help CBF plant forested buffers in Maryland? Check out our upcoming plantings!

This Week in the Watershed: Meat Pollution, Dirty Water Infrastructure, and Farmers on a Boat

  • A group of farmers joined CBF on a boating trip on the Bay, learning how they can help with clean water efforts. (Suffolk News-Herald—VA)
  • Climate change threatens the Chesapeake Bay in several ways. (Public News Service—VA)
  • Excessive consumption of meat is high on the list of activities that contribute to excess nitrogen in our waterways. (Bay Journal)
  • While forest buffer plantings throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed are progressing, the annual target was missed. (Bay Program)
  • Local citizens and environmentalists are still concerned about the public health and environmental impact of the burgeoning poultry industry in Maryland's Wicomico County. (Daily Times—MD)
  • CBF and partners are working to plant the largest oyster garden in Baltimore. (Baltimore Style—MD)
  • Oyster restoration work resumed on Maryland's Tred Avon River sanctuary. There is still fear, however, that restoration work might encounter continued delays in the future. (Bay Journal)
  • Maryland's Anne Arundel County is working to improve water quality through tackling stormwater infrastructure repairs. (Capital Gazette—MD)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

September 10

  • Gambrills, MD: Help the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and partner organizations plant shrubs and wetland grasses at the former Naval Academy dairy farm! Sunrise Farm is an 800-acre farm, the largest organic farm in the State of Maryland. Volunteers will plant a newly graded wetland in what was a wet less productive corn & soybean field. Click here to register!

September 13

  • Richmond, VA: The Richmond VoiCeS Course, an eight-week adult education class meeting on Tuesdays, starts September 13! This course will cover the history of the James, urban and rural runoff issues and solutions, practical methods to improve water quality in your backyard, and the critical importance of citizen action to saving the Bay. Plus, there are field trips! Click here to register!

September 16-18

  • Oxon Hill, MD: During this three-day event (September 16-18), we will build concrete reef balls designed to help restore fish habitat in Smoots Bay on the Potomac River. The final destination for the reef balls is the bottom of Smoots Bay, where they will be intermixed with various woody structures to provide an ideal habitat for various fish species, such as our native largemouth bass. Come for one day or all three! Building reef balls is a fun and exciting way to help restore our Chesapeake Bay. Click here to register!

September 17

  • Trappe, MD: Help CBF take out the trash! Join us at Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park to help make the Choptank River cleaner and safer. This is a family friendly event, but all children must be accompanied by an adult. Groups are welcome! Please wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty, and bring sunscreen and water. Click here to register!
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack 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 oyster stocks to save the Bay. Click here to register!

September 24

  • Annapolis, MD: Head out on the water for a morning of fishing, learning, and fun! Spend the morning aboard the Marguerite in search of whatever is biting! Our experienced crew will provide all the knowledge and equipment necessary—just bring your enthusiasm! Gear and licenses are provided. Click here to register!
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack 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 oyster stocks to save the Bay. Click here to register!
  • Dorchester County, MD: Join CBF for a paddle! We will put in our canoes on Beaverdam Creek, and from there explore the waters surrounding Taylors Island Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This area is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore waterway, 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. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels.  Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


We Should Ramp up Bay Restoration, Not Roll Back Protections

The following first appeared in the Gazette-Journal.

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Gloucester County is considering reducing regulations for land use rules which protect water quality. Photo by Garth Lenz/iLCP.

After decades of restoration efforts, the Chesapeake Bay is finally starting to show promising signs. The oyster population is beginning to rebound. At times, water has been the clearest in decades. Underwater grasses sway in the shallows.

But this recovery is fragile. That's why it's troubling that Gloucester County's Board of Supervisors may back off from its restoration commitments. At its September 6 meeting, the board will consider weakening protections under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act that have been in place for decades, the first Virginia locality to consider reversing course in this manner.

Instead of rolling back protections, we need to remain on course to save the bay. Gloucester's rivers, creeks, and inlets have always been one of its biggest assets. Their natural beauty attracts people who visit and stay. Their bounty has long sustained watermen and is leading to the comeback of the Middle Peninsula's oyster industry.

In fact, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Virginia Oyster Restoration Center at Gloucester Point depends on a healthy York River to raise oysters for the bay.

Gloucester shouldn't put its waterways or the bay's recovery at risk. More pollution would threaten aquatic life and increase human health risks. The proposal to reduce countywide protections won't spur growth or reduce administrative costs. Instead, it would actually add costs and paperwork to citizens and businesses that buy and develop land.

The proposal would reduce the area within the county covered by the Bay Act's Resource Management Area (RMA), where current land use rules protect water quality. Right now, the Gloucester County RMA is countywide, meaning that everyone follows the same rules.

But the proposal in front of the board would reduce Gloucester's RMA to just about the smallest total area allowed. However, state law would still require sensitive areas like wetlands, floodplains, and places with erodible soil to be covered by the RMA. Defining these areas would cause headaches for developers, businesses, and homeowners. In the end, Gloucester would have a patchwork of development rules across property lines, creating uncertainty and adding to project costs.

Gloucester County staff have opposed the change. Likewise, the local realtors, business owners, and residents on the board-appointed Go Green Gloucester Advisory Committee recognized that the proposed changes would create "a regulatory landscape that is needlessly complex."

Even large commercial development wouldn't see benefits from the proposal. Development projects over an acre must meet state rules for stormwater management and erosion and sediment control. Given that, changes aren't likely to "have a great impact on economic development in the form of attracting new business," county staff said this summer in a memo to the board.

In short, the county has little to gain economically and a lot at risk for the environment. Fortunately, it's not too late. Gloucester residents can meet with their supervisor or go to the September 6 meeting to ensure that future generations have cleaner water than we do today.

—Rebecca LePrell, CBF Virginia Executive Director

Gloucester Residents: Contact your member on the Board of Supervisors and attend the meeting on September 6 to join us in defending the Chesapeake Bay Act rules.


This Week in the Watershed

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The Atlantic sturgeon, the Bay's oldest and largest native fish, needs your help! Photo courtesy iStock.

George Washington once wrote in his diary that he "went a dragging for Sturgeon," fishing for a culinary staple in the 18th century. But it's more than being mentioned in George Washington's diary that makes the Atlantic sturgeon an American legend. The sturgeon, the Bay's largest native fish, was here long before the days of the American Revolution. Dating back 120 million years, the Atlantic sturgeon once thrived in the waters in and around the Chesapeake Bay. But these dinosaurs of the Chesapeake are now threatened with extinction after their populations plummeted from poor water quality, habitat destruction, and overfishing.

All is not lost, however. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries is now proposing to designate "critical habitat" for this important fish. Designating areas as "critical habitat" can make a world of difference for the sturgeon. But water quality must be a priority in designating this habitat. If it isn't, sturgeon populations could remain under threat as poor water quality creates barriers between important sturgeon habitat and interrupts the species' life cycle.

Sign our petition by September 1st to tell NOAA Fisheries to make water quality a top priority as it designates sturgeon critical habitat and manages it in the future.

What's even better—the sturgeon won't be the only beneficiary from improving water quality. By implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, we all will experience the benefits of clean water, from expanded recreational opportunities, to improved public health, to massive economic benefits. Our children deserve to see a Bay full of clean water with a thriving population of this historic fish. Sign our petition now!

This Week in the Watershed: Dinosaur Fish, Planting Oysters, and an Average Dead Zone

  • Revised procedures have made it easier for Maryland oyster farmers to lease places on the Bay. (Bay Journal)
  • CBF added to its already large total of oysters planted in Virginia's Lafayette River, adding 200,000 more on Tuesday. (ABC 13—VA)
  • The size of the dead zone in the Bay spiked in late July and is now at its average size, covering about 14 percent of the Bay's mainstem. (Bay Journal)
  • Researchers are studying how extreme weather is impacting the striped bass population and other fisheries. (Science Daily)
  • Biologists are concerned that despite finding large Atlantic sturgeon, the Chesapeake Bay's oldest and largest fish, young sturgeon are few and far between. (Washington Post—D.C.)
  • A controversial subdivision on Kent Island has received approval to move forward. (Bay Times)
  • On a visit to a Lancaster County farm, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr. learned about agricultural conservation practices and how they improve local water quality. (Lancaster Farming—PA)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

August 19, 26, September 2, and 9

  • Shady Side, MD: Break a sweat and help Save the Bay—join CBF in cleaning the "homes" of the next generation of Chesapeake Bay oysters! Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells. We'll be shaking off the dirt and debris on shells so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This "shell shaking" event is a bit of a workout but a fun, hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with bad backs or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking. Click here to register!

August 27

  • Wrightsville, PA: Join CBF, Heroes on the Water, and local Trout Unlimited chapters for a day of fishing, paddling, and fly-fishing lessons on the Susquehanna River as we celebrate our veterans and the value of clean waterways. Veterans, community members, paddlers, fishermen, friends, and family are welcome at Shank’s Mare Outfitters from 1 to 5 p.m., to discover and appreciate the Susquehanna. From 5 to 7 p.m., CBF will host a dinner and open bar with live music for all participants. There is a $5 entrance fee for dinner and drinks. Click here to register!

September 1

  • Raphine, VA: The Virginia Forage and Grassland Council is sponsoring a summer forage tour exploring the topic of planning for drought. Click here to learn more!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


This Week in the Watershed

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Maryland's oysters and Susquehanna's smallmouth bass are two critters desperately needing our attention. Photos by CBF Staff and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

The lazy, dog days of summer might be upon us, but saving the Bay never stops. Despite the out of office messages and plentiful distractions summer brings, we need you now. A critical pillar in our approach to save the Bay is advocacy. Put simply, your voice matters. In a world where the squeaky wheel gets the grease, we need to make a lot of noise on several critical Bay issues.

We've said it many times—oysters are awesome. A water-filtering powerhouse, an adult oyster is capable of cleaning up to 50 gallons of water every day. Oysters also provide critical habitat for other Bay critters through the development of oyster reefs. Despite their numerous benefits, the Bay's oyster population is at less than one-percent of historical levels, after decades of disease, habitat destruction, and overharvesting. In efforts to save this precious bivalve, sanctuaries have been set aside, off-limits to harvest, to allow the oyster population to rebound. This week, Maryland's Oyster Advisory Committee to the Governor recommended continuing a small stretch of an oyster restoration project in Maryland's Tred Avon would benefit all stakeholders. A final decision by Governor Hogan is expected any moment. This good news comes with a grain of salt, however—a much larger stretch of this project still hangs in the balance, and even worse, there has been discussion on opening current oyster sanctuaries up to harvest. Stand up for Maryland's Oysters—TAKE ACTION NOW.

We've also said many times, as goes the Susquehanna, so goes the Chesapeake Bay. A critical economic resource and a bastion of cultural heritage in Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River provides 50 percent of the Bay's freshwater. For several months now we have been petitioning for the Susquehanna River to be declared impaired. Since 2005, diseased and dying smallmouth bass have been found in the river. A recent study by Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection found that endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides, and pathogens and parasites are the most-likely causes of diseased and dying fish in the Lower Susquehanna. The state of the smallmouth bass fishery testifies to the devastating impact of pollution. An impaired listing for the Lower Susquehanna would allow the restoration process to begin in earnest, designating the river for additional study and new levels of investment in restoration. TAKE ACTION BY AUGUST 31, and help save the Susquehanna River and its vital smallmouth bass fishery for future generations.

These are just two of the major issues we're engaging in our fight to save the Bay. That's not to mention our work to stop sewage spills in Baltimore, maintain a sustainable harvest quota for menhaden, and protect critical habitat area for the Atlantic sturgeon. Saving the Bay never stops. Raise your voice now for the Bay and its critters. The Bay is a national treasure, and through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and with your help, we will save it for our children and grandchildren.

This Week in the Watershed: Filtering Bivalves, Sick Bass, and An Important Fish

  • CBF Pennsylvania Director Harry Campbell writes on how CBF is helping students chart a course for cleaner water. (York Daily Record—PA)
  • Regulators for menhaden, often called "the most important fish in the sea," tabled discussions of reevaluating quotas until an October meeting. (The Virginian-Pilot—VA) Bonus: CBF Statement
  • We couldn't agree more this editorial arguing that oyster sanctuaries remain restricted from harvest. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A Maryland commission agreed to continue oyster restoration efforts on a small stretch of the Tred Avon, a tributary of the Choptank River. A hearing will take place on August 9, regarding the future of a much larger stretch of the Tred Avon project. (Bay Journal) Bonus: CBF Statement
  • Pollution is plaguing not only the Susquehanna River, but many of its tributaries, including those in York County. (York Daily Record—PA)
  • A report on Maryland's oyster population from the MD Department of Natural Resources reveals signs of revival in sanctuaries and decline in areas open to harvest. Troubling, the report leans towards recommending opening some sanctuaries to harvest, when the conclusions of the report indicate the opposite. (Washington Post—D.C.)
  • The 19th annual Paddle for the Bay in Norfolk was a hit, with hundreds of paddlers on the water. (The Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection declined to list the Susquehanna River as impaired, despite decades of dismal pollution results, especially to the smallmouth bass fishery. (Bay Journal) Bonus: CBF Statement

What's Happening around the Watershed?

August 9

  • Easton, MD: Speak up for oysters! Restoration efforts in the Tred Avon oyster sanctuary are threatened and we need you to speak up for these amazing water-filtering bivalves. The work proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers includes both shallow water work on new sites and seeding on sites already in the project. The project and the public meeting are part of the Corps' future work planned for the Tred Avon oyster sanctuary. Click here for more details!

August 27

  • Wrightsville, PA: Join CBF, Heroes on the Water, and local Trout Unlimited chapters for a day of fishing, paddling, and fly-fishing lessons on the Susquehanna River as we celebrate our veterans and the value of clean waterways. Veterans, community members, paddlers, fishermen, friends, and family are welcome at Shank’s Mare Outfitters from 1 to 5 p.m., to discover and appreciate the Susquehanna. From 5 to 7 p.m., CBF will host a dinner and open bar with live music for all participants. There is a $5 entrance fee for dinner and drinks. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


This Week in the Watershed

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Dolphins are frequent visitors on CBF education trips. This friendly trio came to play on a recent student excursion. Photo by Ian Robbins/CBF Staff.

There are many things we love about the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams, but near the top of the list are all the wonderful critters. From delectable blue crabs, to water-filtering oysters, to the elusive river otter, there are plenty of critters to love. A fan favorite in all bodies of water where they are found, is the inquisitive, friendly, and playful dolphin. Recently, dolphins have been sighted throughout the Bay and its rivers and streams, as far north as the Magothy and Severn River north of Annapolis.

These sightings are another reminder why we love the Bay. From a breathtaking sunrise, to watching an osprey soar through the air with its dinner, to dolphins jumping out of the water, the Bay is full of pleasant surprises. We can never forget, however, that all of this beauty we witness and experience is dependent upon clean water. Indeed, many are speculating that these recent dolphin sightings are a positive sign that water quality is improving. On the contrary, some posit dolphins in the Bay are a sign of hungry predators chasing forage fish compressed by declining water quality.

Ultimately, we can never take the Bay for granted. If we don't fight for clean water through implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, these experiences will only live on in stories and photographs for future generations. The wonders of this national treasure hold intrinsic value, leaving us with three little words to recite as our creed—Save the Bay!

P.S.- Our summer version of e-news just hit inboxes yesterday. Check out these state updates! Pennsylvania | Maryland | Eastern Shore of Maryland | Virginia | Hampton Roads

This Week in the Watershed: Dolphin Frenzy, Growing Grasses, and Blueprint Support

  • We love this editorial applauding the bipartisan support among the Maryland congressional delegation standing behind the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. (Capital Gazette—MD
  • A wastewater treatment plant in Hampton Roads, VA is planning to turn wastewater into drinking water. (The Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • Underwater grasses, a crucial part of the Bay's ecosystem, are on the rebound after decades of decline. (Spinsheet)
  • CBF President William C. Baker writes on the need to support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint a midst attacks from Congress. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Bonus: CBF Statement
  • We are saddened by the news that Eleanor Merrill, a long-time supporter of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, passed away at the age of 82. (Washington Post—D.C.)
  • Archaeologists on the shores of the Wicomico River are studying how Native Americans consumed oysters. (Bay Net)
  • Warren, Lehigh, and Lancaster are the most recent counties in Pennsylvania to adopt a Clean Water Counts resolution, becoming the 28th, 29th, and 30th counties in Pennsylvania to ask state officials to make clean water a priority. (CBF Press Releases)
  • Dolphins have been sighted around rivers and tributaries of the Bay. (Capital Gazette—MD) Bonus: More dolphins!

What's Happening around the Watershed?

July 26

  • Annapolis, MD: Wondering how your favorite Bay critters are doing? Join CBF Fisheries Director Bill Goldsborough to learn the latest about what's happening underwater beneath your boat, kayak, or paddleboard! Our summer "Save the Bay" Breakfast features an ecology crash-course and updates on the health of three of the Chesapeake Bay's most iconic fishery species: oysters, striped bass, and blue crabs—plus a menhaden bonus! Come enjoy a delicious Boatyard breakfast and learn things you never knew about some of the Bay's most important—and tasty—inhabitants. Click here to register!

July 29, and August 5

  • Shady Side, MD: Break a sweat and help Save the Bay—join CBF in cleaning the "homes" of the next generation of Chesapeake Bay oysters! Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells. We'll be shaking off the dirt and debris on shells so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This "shell shaking" event is a bit of a workout but a fun, hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with bad backs or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking. Click here to register!

July 30

  • Norfolk, VA: Come on out for the 19th Annual Paddle for the Bay! Paddlers with kayaks to paddle boarders and all others in between, join in this Mid-Atlantic Paddlers Association certified competition to raise funds for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Click here to register!

August 4

  • East Pennsboro, PA: Get out on the water with CBF! This canoe trip will start just north of the city of Harrisburg near Ft. Hunter Park. The educators from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program will lead the way, winding through large islands. The trip will take the group under the historic Rockville Bridge and pass by one of the largest rookeries on the river, Wade Island. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Chesapeake under Congressional Attack

The following first appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

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Critters like this blue heron depend on the implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Photo by Steve Aprile.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved anti-Save-the-Bay legislation that would turn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency into a paper tiger when it comes to reducing Chesapeake Bay pollution. Fortunately, there was some good news. Every Maryland representative, on both sides of the aisle, voted against the measure.

The entire delegation understands the value of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and the need for states that aren't making sufficient progress to be held accountable. A recent EPA report said Pennsylvania is failing to meet its pollution-reduction goals.

CBF thanks the delegation, especially Rep. Chris Van Hollen who immediately went public to decry the amendment and urged his colleagues to take a stand. Rep. Andy Harris also has spoken out in favor of clean water by voting in opposition to his Republican colleagues who proposed the amendment.

All six states in the Chesapeake drainage area and the District of Columbia voluntarily agreed to collaborate on the Blueprint and to be held accountable for lack of progress. EPA is charged with imposing penalties for failure.

The collaboration among states and federal agencies is working. Oysters are making a comeback. Bay grasses and summer oxygen levels are increasing to levels we haven't seen in decades. Congress should maintain the federal commitment to the Blueprint and fully fund its implementation. If not, the bay may go the way of Lake Erie, once declared saved but now worse than ever.

—William C. Baker, CBF President

The representatives below stood by the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint voting against this bad amendment. If you live in their districts, please take a moment to thank them!

Representatives Beyer, Carney, Cartwright, Comstock, Connolly, Cummings, Delaney, Edwards, Forbes, Gibson, Hanna, Harris, Hoyer, Rigell, Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Scott, Van Hollen, and Wittman.