State Must Invest in Its New Clean Water Plan

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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The brook trout, which flourishes in clean, cold water Pennsylvania streams, stands to benefit tremendously if the Keystone State's new "reboot" succeeds. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

Pennsylvania has unveiled a new strategy for cleaning up its polluted waterways, and it will take the necessary investments from leaders in Harrisburg, and a unified effort across the Commonwealth, for the plan to succeed.

While this "rebooted" effort establishes a framework for success, it is just the first chapter of a long story.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) acknowledged that it alone cannot provide and protect clean water as called for in the new plan.

The plan's success requires a comprehensive approach involving the farmers, businesses, and homeowners. Resources, leadership, and commitment from Governor Tom Wolf and the legislature are essential to get Pennsylvania back on track toward its clean water goals.

Of the nearly 2,000 miles of creeks, streams, and the Susquehanna River that flow through York County, 350 miles are polluted. Agriculture is the source of pollution to 160 miles of waterways, and urban and suburban runoff is responsible for pollution in 130 miles of York County waters.

In 2010, the Bay states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, and each state developed its own plan to meet those limits. This came after more than 30 years of failed restoration commitments.

The states also made two-year milestone commitments to take specific actions to ensure progress toward reducing pollution. The goal is to implement 60 percent of practices to restore local water quality in the Commonwealth by 2017, and 100 percent implementation by 2025. Unfortunately, the state will not meet its 2017 goal, as acknowledged by DEP Secretary John Quigley.

Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania have been damaged by pollution. Efforts to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are off-track by millions of pounds.

The new plan defines six immediate and longer-term actions designed to get Pennsylvania back on track.

The Commonwealth intends to significantly increase the number of farm inspections and establish a culture of compliance. At current DEP staffing levels, it would take almost 57 years for each farm to be inspected just once. The DEP will use conservation district staff and its own staff to accelerate its inspection rate to meet the EPA recommendation of inspecting 10 percent of farms annually. DEP inspected less than 2 percent of farms in 2014.

A voluntary farm survey, conducted by a partnership of agricultural entities, seeks to locate, quantify, and verify previously undocumented pollution reduction practices that have been put into place. The plan also establishes a Chesapeake Bay Office within the DEP in order to improve management focus and accountability.

The new plan also calls for accelerating the planting of streamside buffers, the most affordable solution for filtering and reducing the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution.

The plan addresses the challenges of polluted runoff from urban/suburban areas, including updated permit requirements and implementation plans by local governments, and the development of innovative financing opportunities.

If this new plan has a weakness, it is in identifying sustainable funding sources. According to a Penn State study, it will cost nearly $380 million per year, or $3.8 billion over the next 10 years, to implement just the agricultural practices that would get Pennsylvania back on track to meet its clean water goals for 2025.

If Pennsylvania is to make progress in providing and protecting cleaner water, the Commonwealth must invest in the new plan, in Governor Wolf's 2016-17 budget and in the legislature's follow-through. A new Growing Greener initiative would be a down payment for such efforts, but more resources will be needed.

Investing in clean water pays dividends. Conservation practices not only improve water quality, but can improve farm production and herd health, reduce nuisance flooding in communities, improve hunting and fishing, beautify urban centers, and even clean the air.

A 2014 economic analysis found that fully implementing Pennsylvania's clean water plans will result in an increase in the value of natural benefits by $6.2 billion annually.

Adequate funding and technical assistance are critical to the success of this plan. The Governor and legislature must step up and ensure that the Commonwealth lives up to the clean water commitments it made to fellow Pennsylvanians.

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. Healthy families, strong communities, and a thriving economy depend on it.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Clean water counts. Lend us your voice and urge our leaders to implement Pennsylvania's new clean water plan, and to clean up York County's rivers, streams, and swimming holes.


This Week in the Watershed

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Fairness is a principle that virtually everyone endorses. Synonyms for fairness include justice, equality, and impartiality. These virtues are at the foundation of an ethical, righteous, and moral society. When fairness isn't present, people tend to get angry, feeling they have been exploited, abused, and manipulated. With this backdrop, we can't help but look at how poultry litter is handled in Maryland and come to one conclusionit's not fair.

Currently, large poultry companies require farmers who grow chickens under contract to dispose of the birds' litter at their own expense. Taxpayers also help foot the bill, with subsidies provided to the small farmers to transport some of the manure. Meanwhile, the massive poultry companies making record profits are getting off scot-free.

This week the Poultry Litter Management Act was introduced with the support of more than 50 legislators. The bill would require poultry companies to take responsibility for manure produced by their chickens. Farmers would still be able to keep and use any manure for which they have a state-approved plan.

The consequences of excess poultry litter are severe. While some manure can be applied to fields as fertilizer, many of the fields are over-saturated with phosphorus, and the excess nutrients runoff into local rivers and streams, ultimately reaching the Bay. The Maryland Department of Agriculture recently estimated about 228,000 tons of excess manure are currently applied to crop fields in Maryland.

These excess nutrients cause algae blooms that threaten public health; harm aquatic life like blue crabs, oysters, and fish; and create an enormous "dead zone" in the Bay. Throughout Maryland, residents and businesses are making sacrifices to help clean our waters. Stormwater management fees help fund upgrades to stormwater treatment plants and reduce polluted runoff, homeowners and businesses reduce runoff through installing rain barrels, and dog owners "scoop the poop," as a shining example to Maryland poultry companies. As Senator Richard S. Madaleno stated, "Everyone must do their part to mitigate pollution into our state's iconic natural treasure." We couldn't agree more.

Tell your elected leaders today that you support the Poultry Litter Management Act—and they should, too.

This Week in the Watershed: Poultry Poop, Dead Fish, and Crab Pot$$$

  • Maryland has lost $1 million in federal funding for oyster restoration due to the delay in the Tred Avon oyster restoration project. The Hogan Administration inexplicably asked for the project to be delayed in late 2015. The loss of funding also puts in jeopardy federal funding for future years. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A tragic fish kill in Maryland is directly tied to the onslaught of polluted runoff. The kicker? Only days after the death of 200,000+ fish, the County Council where the fish kill took place voted to cut funds to reduce polluted runoff. (CBF Press StatementMD)
  • The Poultry Litter Management Act was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly this week. If passed, the bill would require big poultry companies to be responsible for the manure produced by their chickens. Currently, the manure is the responsibility of small contracted farmers. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • This year's "Bay Barometer" from the Chesapeake Bay Program reveals that the Bay is making progress in several areas, but there is still work to be done. (Daily Press—MD)
  • Rescuing empty oyster shells from the trash can saves a valuable tool in oyster restoration efforts. A county executive in Maryland wants to further incentivize oyster recycling efforts. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Shortly after Pennsylvania released a new plan for cleaning up the Keystone State's waterways, the EPA restored $3 million in program funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. (CBF Press Release—PA)
  • With Maryland and Virginia legislative sessions in full swing, there are plenty of Bay-related issues being addressed. (Bay Journal
  • Turns out that all the plastic that is landing in the ocean has extremely negative consequences for baby oysters. (Washington Post—DC)
  • We love this editorial in support of the Poultry Litter Management Act. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A recent poll revealed that Virginians highly support funding for conservation and clean water, considering projects on these environmental issues top-spending priorities even when the state budget is tight. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)
  • A program to retrieve abandoned crab pots has proved to be a worthy investment. (TakePart)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 16-February 6

  • Across 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 growing, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click here to find one near you!

February 6

  • Salisbury, MD: Join CBF at Poultry Litter Management Act information session to learn more about this important legislation and what you can do to help. Coffee and pastries will be served! Please RSVP to Hilary Gibson at hgibson@cbf.org or 410-543-1999.

February 8-11

  • Western Shore, MD: Join us at one of our upcoming "State of the Bay" legislative briefings for an evening of information, discussion, and action. Learn about the current "State of the Bay" and your local waterways. Dive deep into the issues at play in the current session of the state General Assembly—including the Poultry Litter Management Act—and what you can do to be involved in those decisions. Information sessions are being held in Towson (2/8), Ellicott City (2/9), College Park (2/10), and Severna Park (2/11). Click here to register!

February 16

  • Annapolis, MD: The inaugural Annapolis "Save the Bay Breakfast" will feature an update on the current State of the Bay and the hottest topics affecting the future of the Bay and its rivers and streams in this year's Maryland General Assembly session. We hope you will join us and other fans and friends of the Bay for good food for the body and mind. Click here to register!

February 18

  • Richmond, VA: Join the CBF Hampton Roads office for a special "Lobby Day" in the state capital. Participate in the legislative process from the inside out. Meet your representatives, see the delegation in session and committee, and raise your voice for water quality issues in your community. Interested? Contact Tanner Council at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757-622-1964, ext. 3305.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Cheers for Regional Stormwater Plan

The following first appeared in the York Daily Record.

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Reducing polluted runoff dramatically improve the health of local waterways. Photo by Neil Everett Osborne/iLCP.

York County has again taken the initiative to address clean water issues. Based on support from residents, the county commissioners approved moving forward with a study of how to establish a stormwater authority.

York County would join about 1,500 communities in the United States that are taking more cost-effective steps to better fund and manage polluted runoff and nuisance flooding. This often occurs in developed areas such as malls, housing developments, roads, and parking lots.  In doing so, the county will help itself and the rest of Pennsylvania get back on track toward meeting clean water commitments.

In 2010, the Bay states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency set pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, and each state developed its own plan to meet those limits.

The goal is to implement 60 percent of pollution reduction practices to restore local water quality in the commonwealth by 2017, and 100 percent implementation by 2025. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania will not meet its 2017 goal. Statewide, efforts to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are off track by millions of pounds.

About 350 miles of the nearly 2,000 miles of creeks, streams and the Susquehanna River that flow through York County are polluted. Agriculture is the source of pollution to 160 miles of waterways, and urban and suburban runoff is responsible for pollution in 130 miles of York County waters.

The commonwealth recently released its plan to "reboot" efforts to get Pennsylvania back on track, including addressing stormwater pollution.

Comprehensive stormwater management of the scale York County is considering offers three major advantages.  First, it allows communities to "start at the source" of the pollution problem, not just where it is showing its greatest impacts. Second, by working collaboratively communities can leverage expertise, equipment, and other resources to get the best results at the least cost. Third, pollution reduction practices that preserve and restore nature's ability to capture, filter, and infiltrate rain and snowmelt into the ground are often more effective and cost less than traditional practices. They also clean the air, reduce heating and cooling costs, and beautify communities.

With a countywide stormwater authority that addresses regular flooding from uncontrolled runoff that inflicts human, economic, and property damage, York County is again at the forefront of clean water efforts.

York County was the first county in the commonwealth to adopt the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's "Clean Water Counts" resolution, calling on state officials to make clean water a top priority for the Keystone State.

York County residents are also participating in the CBF's "Clean Water Counts – York" effort, raising their voices through phone calls and signing a petition, asking Gov. Tom Wolf and legislators to support the commonwealth's new plan to reduce water pollution.

In the spirit of intergovernmental cooperation, the York County Regional Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan involves 43 municipalities to better reduce pollution at lower cost.

Earlier this year, the Planning Commission finalized a countywide watershed plan that analyzes strategies and targets the pollution-reducing practices most appropriately suited for York County. The primary goal of the plan is to aid municipalities, citizens, and businesses in determining how to most efficiently reduce pollution from urban and suburban runoff.

By taking the lead in collaborative stormwater management, York County continues to demonstrate that clean water counts. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations of York countians.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Clean water counts. Lend us your voice and urge our leaders to implement Pennsylvania's new clean water plan, and to clean up York County's rivers, streams, and swimming holes.


This Week in the Watershed: Blizzard 2016 Edition

Throughout much of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, all the buzz is the upcoming blizzard, set to strike Friday afternoon and persist through much of the weekend. With estimates of two-plus feet in some locations, traveling will be nearly impossible. In managing the preparation and aftermath of the storm, many safety measures will be implemented. Foremost among these will be treating roads and sidewalks with various chemicals. While this is necessary for safe travel, we can't help but ask, what affect do these chemicals, particularly salt, have on our local waterways? We sat down with CBF Senior Scientist Beth McGee to pick her brain:

Also, check out this infographic on snow and the Bay:

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It is necessary to treat our roads and sidewalks. But we should be cognizant of the impact salt and other chemicals have on our waterways and the critters that inhabit them. Using less salt and other safer materials, such as sand, can make a dramatic difference while still ensuring our safety. If we ignore the harm of overusing salt and other hazardous chemicals on our roads, the dangerous impact can strike long after the snow has melted.

By the way, this week was quite eventful in the fight to save the Bay. Pennsylvania released it's long-awaited reboot, detailing its plan for cleaning up the Commonwealth's polluted waterways. CBF and the U.S. Department of Justice filed briefs urging the Supreme Court not to review the case that would dismantle the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. And not to be outdone, CBF's Virginia office is hard at work lobbying to boost funding for programs that help farms and cities reduce pollution entering Virginia's waterways. Check out the press statements/releases below to get caught up:

CBF Press Release: Pennsylvania Releases New Strategy for Reducing Water Pollution

CBF Press Statement: CBF and Partners Argue Supreme Court Should Let Bay Restoration Rulings Stand

CBF Press Statement: CBF Statement on Virginia Budget Amendments

This Week in the Watershed: Pennsylvania Plans, Supreme Court Briefs, and Chicken Fights

  • CBF and several other environmental groups are pushing for legislation in Maryland that would hold large poultry companies responsible for excess chicken manure on the Eastern Shore. (Daily Times—MD)
  • Pennsylvania has released a new plan to clean up its rivers and streams. (Keystone News Service—PA)
  • CBF's Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough argues that oyster restoration should not be delayed in Maryland. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • Small communities on the Eastern Shore of Maryland face unique challenges in the work to Save the Bay. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • Phasing out the vital stormwater fee in Howard County (MD) has environmentalists in an uproar. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • CBF and the U.S. Department of Justice filed briefs urging the Supreme Court not to review the case that would dismantle the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. (Bay Journal
  • The advent of huge, factory-style chicken farms on the Delmarva Peninsula poses many consequences, especially for their neighbors. (Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • A new bill has been proposed in Maryland which would put a "lockbox" around funds designated for Bay restoration. (Southern Maryland OnlineMD)
  • New technology has changed the way we look at the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (Bay Journal)
  • Baltimore's antiquated sewer system is in desperate need of repair. Sewage leaks and failure to meet deadlines have led to fines from the EPA, which financially stress the city. We believe these fines should be tied to water quality improvement projects. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 16-February 6

  • Across 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 growing, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click here to find one near you!

January 30

  • Annapolis, MD: Join oceanographer and international sea level rise expert John Englander, author of High Tide on Main Street, on January 30 for a talk about the future of shorelines in Annapolis, across the US, and around the globe. RSVP to histpres@annapolis.gov or call Shari Pippen at 410-263-7961.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Susquehanna River: By the Numbers

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The Susquehanna River is unquestionably the most important river in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. To grasp the Susquehanna's sheer size and significance, take a glance at the numbers in the infographic above. Not only is this vital waterway a critical economic resource and a bastion of cultural heritage in Pennsylvania, it also has a tremendous impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, with the Susquehanna providing half of the Bay's freshwater flows.

In light of the importance of the Susquehanna, the current health of the river is concerning. Agricultural runoff, acid mine drainage, and polluted urban runoff are threatening this powerful economic engine. A glaring example of this is the health of the smallmouth bass found in its waters. One of the most prized freshwater sport-fish species, the Susquehanna's smallmouth bass fishery once attracted anglers from all over the world. Pollution has taken a toll however, as various diseases have wreaked havoc on the smallmouth bass, with bass being found with lesions, sores, and abnormal sexual development in which males grow eggs in their testes. When smallmouth bass are diseased, weakened, or otherwise stressed, we know things aren’t right.

It's long past time for the Lower Susquehanna to be listed as impaired. This listing would designate the Susquehanna for additional study and new levels of investment in restoration. Stand with CBF and its partners in urging Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to save this vital waterway by listing the Lower Susquehanna River as impaired.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


This Week in the Watershed

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This week the Legislative Sessions opened in Annapolis, Maryland, and Richmond, Virginia. Photos by Nikki Davis and Chuck Epes.

With the turning of the calendar to a new year comes new Legislative Sessions in two of the main Bay statesMaryland and Virginia. The outcomes of Maryland's 90-day session and Virginia's 60-day session will have a major impact on the Chesapeake Bay and each state's rivers and streams. Here at CBF, with the support of our members, we have several important priorities to advance.

In Maryland, CBF's top priority will be asking legislators to make big chicken corporations responsible for the excess manure their chickens produce. These corporations making big profits need to do their part to clean up the excess manure—instead of leaving small local farmers and Maryland taxpayers holding the (poop) bag. Some of our other priorities include working to ban plastic bags at retail stores, stopping unfair raids on funds for environmental programs that support the Clean Water Blueprint, and supporting efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Click here for a complete Maryland Legislative Session preview.

In Virginia, many of our priorities involve ensuring there is proper funding in place to implement best management practices to reduce pollution. These include supporting state funding for conservation practices to reduce pollution from farms, and increasing funding for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund. In addition to funding efforts, some of our other priorities include moving menhaden management from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, supporting upgrades at wastewater treatment plants, and advancing oyster restoration and expanding sustainable oyster harvests. Click here for a complete Virginia Legislative Session preview.

Not to be forgotten, while Pennsylvania's Legislature meets on a year-round cycle, we are still hard at work fighting for clean water in the Keystone State. Our top current priority is pushing for the promised "reboot" of water quality efforts which will accelerate pollution reductions to the level that will get Pennsylvania back on track. Other efforts include working with farmers to reduce pollution, advocating for adequate funding for restoration efforts, and pushing for the Lower Susquehanna River to be listed as impaired.

No matter where you live in the watershed, we'll need your support for the elected leaders of your state to uphold their commitment to clean water in the Bay and local waterways. Stay tuned for important updates and calls to action in the coming weeks.

This Week in the Watershed: Legislative Sessions, Oyster Uproar, and Coal Ash

  • Despite uproar from hundreds of local citizens, Virginia's State Water Control Board approved permits for Dominion Virginia Power to dump drain water from coal ash ponds into the James and Potomac Rivers. (Roanoke Times—VA)
  • A coalition of environmental groups are coming together in support of a Maryland bill that will require large poultry companies to take responsibility for the manure their chickens produce. (WGMD—MD) Bonus: CBF Press Release.
  • There is still major concern among the environmental community regarding the decision by the Hogan Administration to delay oyster restoration efforts on the Tred Avon River. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Bonus: Bay Journal recap of the Tred Avon oyster restoration delay.
  • Menhaden will be a central topic in the upcoming Virginia Legislative Session, along with several other environmental issues. (Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • CBF is lending a hand in the development of an artificial reef in Smoots Bay, off the Potomac River. Reef balls will be the building blocks for the reef. (ABC News WMARMD)
  • Nutrient trading is a new concept in the world of Maryland agriculture. Time will tell how effective it is in reducing pollution. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • With the Maryland Legislative Session now upon us, what's on the wish list of several environmental organizations? (Star Democrat—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 14-16

  • College Park, MD: Join Future Harvest CASA for their 17th annual Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed conference. One of the region's largest farm and food gatherings, you'll be able to experience seven different conference tracks, interact with other farmers and food lovers, and enjoy local fare. Click here to register!

January 16-February 6

  • Across 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 growing, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click here to find one near you!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


This Week in the Watershed

We love oysters. These water-filtering, reef-building bivalves can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day as an adult (check out the video above!).

Despite at one point falling to one percent of historical levels, oysters are making a comeback. This comeback however, is not without obstacles. Recently, Governor Hogan's administration asked the Army Corps of Engineers to delay its oyster restoration project on the Tred Avon River.

Reportedly, at the request of certain watermen, the Hogan Administration wants to wait for the results of a pending study before deciding if oyster restoration will moved forward. This action could delay one of the biggest restoration projects in the state for more than a year. We know the Hogan Administration wants to help commercial oyster harvesters. So do we. But based on available science, we firmly believe that restoration efforts are improving wild oyster production and harvest, and these efforts should not stop.

Let Governor Hogan know that halting oyster restoration is not in the best interest of Marylanders. 

 This Week in the Watershed: Oyster Delay, Clean Water Funding, and Sick Fish

  • Kudos to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe for proposing major investments in clean water measures, such as fencing livestock out of streams, upgrading water treatment plants, and boosting the state's commercial oyster harvest. (Daily Press—VA)
  • Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection has received a funding increase for the first time in seven years. The increase is not as much as Governor Wolf was hoping for, however. (Central Pennsylvania Business Journal—PA)
  • Representatives from all nine Maryland Eastern Shore counties have developed an action plan to restore their local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay. (Kent County News—MD)
  • CBF's Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough, weighs in on the importance of menhaden in this article. (Bay Journal)
  • Smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River are suffering from poor water quality, primarily from hormone-altering compounds and herbicides. (Bay Journal)
  • On December 24, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, under direction from the Hogan Administration, asked the Army Corps of Engineers to delay their oyster restoration project on Tred Avon River. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Bonus: CBF Statement.
  • Virginia's Legislative Session starts next week! There are several programs we're asking legislators to support in the the 2016 Virginia General Assembly to clean Virginia's rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 14-16

  • College Park, MD: Join Future Harvest CASA for their 17th annual Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed conference. One of the region's largest farm and food gatherings, you'll be able to experience seven different conference tracks, interact with other farmers and food lovers, and enjoy local fare. Click here to register!

January 16-February 6

  • Across 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 growing, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click here to find one near you!

Stay Tuned!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


A Wish List for the Watershed

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal

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Healthy, natural oyster reefs covering the Bay bottom is just one of CBF President Will Baker's wishes for 2016.

Dear Santa,

For this holiday season, I humbly ask for the following. I hope it is not an unreasonable list. It certainly doesn't seem so to me. After all, this is 2015 in the United States of America, a country which is quick to tell every other country in the world what they should and should not do.

Here's my list:

  1. An environmental literacy requirement for high school graduation in all Bay states, not just Maryland.
  2. Upstream users who care enough about downstream neighbors to make sure that they do not pollute the water.
  3. Regulatory agencies that actually regulate.
  4. Judges who impose penalties on polluters that actually deter future pollution.
  5. Cities with wastewater pipes that neither leak sewage nor allow stormwater to enter.
  6. All states are on track to fulfill their promises to meet the 2017 and 2025 Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals.
  7. Smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River free of lesions and disease. Ditto other fish throughout the watershed.
  8. Healthy, natural oyster reefs covering the Bay bottom—even creating a hazard to navigation.
  9. Farm lobbying associations that advocate for clean water, not fight against it.
  10. Healthy vegetated buffers filtering pollutants from local waterways and beautifying Chesapeake country.
  11. Surface waters and groundwater that are a safe source of drinking water.
  12. And for number 12—I know this is asking a lot—I sure would like a Bay that has water the way it was designed: without a dead zone!

—Will Baker, CBF President


CBF Pennsylvania Carries Restoration Message to Nation's Capital

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Standing outside the Washington, D.C., office of Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania are, from left: CBF PA Executive Director Harry Campbell; Lee Ann Murray, CBF PA assistant director and attorney; Liz Hermsen, senior policy advisor to Senator Casey; Clair Ryan, CBF watershed restoration program manager; and restoration specialists Steve Smith, Ashley Spotts, and Kristen Hoke. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Frank and Kandy Rohrer's proactive approach to improving the land and water quality on their Lancaster County farm, sets a positive example for others.

Since 2000, the Rohrers have installed two streamside buffers on their 200-acre farm, taking advantage of Pennsylvania's Conservation Resource Enhancement Program (CREP) to help reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into nearby waters. They also put in grassed waterways, cover crops, and employ no-till production.

Restoration specialists from CBF Pennsylvania carried the Rohrers' success story, and others, to the nation's capital Dec. 2 and 3, to demonstrate the importance and challenges of their work to the two U.S. senators from the Keystone State.

The Pennsylvania field staff took the opportunity to meet with staff members for Senators Robert Casey, Jr., and Pat Toomey, while in Washington, D.C. for a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Farm Service Agency's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Nationwide, CRP encompasses over 23 million acres, with 625,000 contracts on 410,000 farms. Pennsylvania's CREP is part of CRP.

CREP participants receive funding to create buffers, wetlands, wildlife habitat, grass filter strips, native grass stands, and more. The program pays up to 90 to 140 percent of the installation cost and annual rent, which is usually between $40 and $240 per acre/per year.

Through CREP, CBF and its partners have planted more than 1,800 miles of streamside buffers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In Bradford County, the partners under CREP planted over 3,000 acres of trees, making the county a conservation leader in Pennsylvania.

For Alix Murdoch, CBF's federal policy director, getting field staff together with top federal legislators was exciting. "It's the first time I've been able to bring in restoration staff, who I consider the source for where the action is really happening for us," Murdoch said. "Getting the final link in the chain in where our power, engineering and contributions come from, all the way up to the Hill where decisions are made on the federal level.

"Restoration staff spoke specifically about their experiences, where they work and what they do," Murdoch added. "It was totally relevant to the federal program and is the type of feedback that federal members need to hear."

Restoration specialists Steve Smith, Ashley Spotts, and Kristen Hoke emphasized the value of the CREP program, the importance of stream buffers, and the need for funding, when they met first with Liz Hermsen, senior policy advisor for Senator Casey, in the Russell Senate Office Building.

"It was a privilege to be asked to represent restoration staff and to tell them how CBF really does walk the walk and puts money into restoration," Hoke said. "We're not just telling people to put money toward restoration. For me, talking about the projects I've work on gives me new hope that my workload and the interest in CREP will pick up and I can be a method for that and help facilitate that."

Hoke works in Cumberland, Dauphin, and Franklin counties. Spotts works in York, Lancaster, Lebanon, and Chester counties. Smith is in Potter, Tioga, and Bradford counties. Restoration specialists Jennifer Johns and Frank Rohrer were unable to make the trip.

Other CBF Pennsylvania staffers making the trip to Washington, were Harry Campbell, executive director; Lee Ann Murray, assistant director and attorney; and Clair Ryan, watershed restoration program manager.

A key message delivered to top legislators from Pennsylvania, was that CBF's passion and commitment to clean water in the Commonwealth, is implemented by Pennsylvanians themselves.

"It's that local connection, understanding that we work for CBF, but we are Pennsylvania residents, concerned about Pennsylvania rivers and streams and that we want to work with farmers to get them to do what they ultimately want to do. And help their bottom line," Lee Ann Murray said. "It's that more local connection that maybe in the federal government gets lost in the process. It is important that they understand that what we are doing back home in the state is relevant and important and is a good use of funds. This visit puts a face to the work. That there are real people doing the work with real people who are constituents, and farmers."

The Pennsylvania contingent then met with Tyler Minnich, aide to Senator Toomey, in the Hart Senate Office Building.

Ashley Spotts spoke about the projects on the Rohrer farm, and detailed cooperative efforts to implement conservation practices on Amish farms in Lancaster County. "It was nice to finally be recognized that we are doing good things in our state," Spotts said. "I want to do right by my farmers and landowners and I want to help them as best I can."

Clair Ryan emphasized that CBF and farmers get good value when farmers participate in CREP funding. "It seems like the whole game with government programs is to do more with less and that is what we were explaining, how we do work on these programs, in a very efficient manner," Ryan said. "We bring private funds to the table that wouldn't be leveraged otherwise and we're committed to being good partners on these programs."

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CBF staffers met with Tyler Minnich, aide to Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

"These are the types of things that farmers by and large want. Most know it will be helpful to their bottom lines and to their operations," Harry Campbell told Tyler Minnich. "It's just that they don't have the time because of the demands of the work that they do, nor the resources necessary to do it on their own. Barnyard improvements, for example, are something that farmers recognize they have to get to, but when will they fit it in and get the assistance for it?"

Earlier in the day, Steve Smith attended a luncheon sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, honoring landowners participating in CREP. Smith and his family have owned land near Mansfield, Tioga County, and participated in CREP for 25 years.

Smith said there was a real diversity of conservation groups and landowners from different states at the luncheon. Smith had the chance to talk with USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse, about the need for additional funding. Smith was happy to tell the Undersecretary and senators about, "The importance of keeping CREP going and about the needs we have in Pennsylvania," Smith said. "The Bay situation and our shortfall in Pennsylvania is the most important thing to stress to them. We need funding to get there."

The Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitment. Agriculture is the leading source of pollution, specifically the runoff of harmful nitrogen and sediment into Pennsylvania rivers and streams. 

At a reception that evening commemorating the 30th anniversary of CRP, the CBF staffers heard Undersecretary Scuse say the program does what many hoped it would do when it was created. "It solved problems," he told the gathering. "But it also added improved qualities to many American lives. There are not many provisions in laws implemented that can lay claim to so many unanticipated benefits. I'm proud to that we can show that American farmers and ranchers are directly involved in addressing this very critical social issue of climate change."

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts was in his fifth year as a member of the House of Representatives, when he introduced legislation authorizing CRP as the Farmland Conservation Acreage Preserve Act of 1985. "CRP not only encourages producers to conserve marginal farm land, but proved a valuable safety net to producers during some of their most difficult times," Roberts said. "An important aspect of CRP now includes a variety of initiatives that address specific conservation challenges such as improved water quality, reduced soil erosion, and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species." 

Through success stories about working with landowners like the Rohrers and Plain Sect farmers, the message made clear to legislators by the restoration contingent, was that clean water counts in Pennsylvania.

"I would hope we continue to meet with other legislators within our PA delegation, while differentiating ourselves from other national organizations that are conservation or environmentally-minded, that they typically hear from," Harry Campbell said. "This sets us apart in their minds as to who we are and what we do, and also what we are trying to accomplish."

— B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator


This Week in the Watershed

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This week herbicides, pathogens, and parasites were revealed as major causes of the downfall of the smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River. Photo by John Pavoncello/York Dispatch.

As we have said many times before, as goes the Susquehanna, so goes the Chesapeake Bay. With over 50% of the Bay's freshwater coming from the Susquehanna, no body of water has a greater influence on the health of the Bay. More than that, the Susquehanna is a vital economic resource and a bastion of cultural heritage, most notably in Pennsylvania. One example of this is the Susquehanna's smallmouth bass fishery, which once attracted anglers from all over the world. Pollution has taken a toll on this fishery however, as the Susquehanna is now yielding bass with lesions, sores, and in one well-documented case, cancer.

This week, a report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that herbicides, pathogens, and parasites are the two most-likely causes of diseased and dying fish in the Lower Susquehanna. Faced with evidence of this extent and magnitude, the only reasonable conclusion is that this river, the lifeblood of Pennsylvania and the heart of the Chesapeake Bay, is sick.

In recognition of this reality, we believe the Lower Susquehanna should be listed as impaired. This will designate the Susquehanna for additional study and new levels of investment in restoration. Stand with CBF and its partners in urging Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to save our river by listing the Lower Susquehanna River as impaired.

 This Week in the Watershed: A Dirty River, Raw Sewage, and A Backyard Brawl

  • Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is in a catch 22, desiring growth while not losing their rural identity. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • A report revealed that Baltimore has released 330 million gallons of raw sewage into Jones Falls, which flows into the Inner Harbor. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • The smallmouth bass population in the Susquehanna River is declining, and we now have a few clues as to why. (Patriot News—PA)
  • CBF is urging for Pennsylvania to declare the lower Susquehanna River as impaired. (CBF Statement)
  • What furry Chesapeake Bay critter has surprising ways to clean the water? (Bay Journal)
  • Virginia Beach is experiencing a brawl over a backyard. The conflict: where oyster harvesting should be allowed.  (Virginian-Pilot—VA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 6

  • Virginia Beach, VA: Small, silvery, and packed with nutritional value, menhaden are a critical link in the marine food web. But the Chesapeake Bay's menhaden population are facing some serious issues. Learn about why menhaden are vital to the ecosystem, their management history, and the next steps to restore the population at our event "Little Fish, Big Issues - An Evening Discussion on Menhaden." Click here to register!
  • VA Eastern Shore: Join CBF's monthly Citizen Advocacy Training to get a crash course on timely Bay legislative priorities and learn how they affect Virginia's Eastern Shore. This conference call will also allow time for you to ask questions and discuss opportunities to lend a hand or lift your voice for clean water. Contact Tatum Ford at tford@cbf.org or 757-971-0366 for more information.

January 16-February 6

  • 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. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click to find one near you!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate