This Week in the Watershed

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Trees and underwater grasses are indispensable in the fight for clean water. Photos by Justin Black/iLCP (left), and Jay Fleming (right).

Today we want to take a moment to celebrate some unsung heroes of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. While we love blue crabs, oysters, and ospreys, there are other species that deserve our love. This week, underwater grasses are getting the recognition they deserve as a survey found that grasses are at their highest total in three decades. Underwater grasses are not only a strong indicator of water quality, they also help prevent erosion, absorb excess nutrients, trap suspended sediment, and provide critical habitat to critters in the Bay, including the beloved blue crab.

In addition to this good news, we can't forget today is Arbor Day. Trees are crucial to the overall health of the watershed—they slow down runoff and the erosion of soil, absorb pollutants to our rivers and the Bay, and help alleviate flooding through stabilizing the soil. Trees and forests also provide habitat for wildlife and help to cool stream temperatures.

Trees and underwater grasses are two of the best natural tools we have to filter pollution and help clean up our rivers and streams. In the fight for clean water, they are truly indispensable. Indeed, the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint relies on these natural tools to alleviate pollution. So raise a glass (of clean water!) today and celebrate trees and underwater grasses as unsung heroes of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

This Week in the Watershed: Soaring Grasses, Trucking Fish, and Transformed Surfaces

  • Thanks to efforts from Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 passed with bipartisan support from the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. This legislation will provide important tools and resources for states and municipalities to achieve pollution-reduction goals under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Additionally, it provides crucial support for oyster restoration efforts. (CBF Statement)
  • A Chesapeake Bay Program survey found a 21 percent increase in underwater grasses—the highest total in three decades. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Bonus: CBF Statement
  • With the creation of the dams, fish have been unable to complete their migration upriver to spawn. This week however, an agreement was reached to provide fish lifts and trucking of migratory shad and river herring on the Conowingo Dam. (Bay Journal)
  • We received good news a couple weeks ago that a winter survey found the blue crab population is up 35 percent, but scientists remind us the species has not fully recovered. (Smithsonian Insider)
  • While it is encouraging to see pollution reduction from agricultural runoff reforms and upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, there is still much room for improvement. (Lancaster Farming—PA)
  • We love this public-private partnership to transform impervious surfaces to green spaces in Washington, D.C. (Bay Journal)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

April 30

  • Upper Marlboro, MD: Join CBF for our Spring Open House at Clagett Farm! Members and the general public are invited to join us for farm tours, hayrides, and to meet our new baby calves and lambs! The event is free and open to all. Click here for more information!

May 1

  • Richmond, VA: Come on out for a Speakers Bureau training with CBF! With far more requests for speakers than we have staff or time, CBF relies on its Speakers Bureau volunteers to handle a variety of speaking opportunities. Whether you are current on clean water issues and ready to share our message, or just enjoy public speaking and would like to get trained, we welcome your commitment to this important and high-profile program. Join us to learn the facts and skills to share our mission to Save the Bay with local groups and organizations. We simply cannot do it alone! Click here to learn more and register!

May 3

  • Annapolis, MD: Join CBF for our spring "Save the Bay Breakfast" to learn about some simple things you can do to "Save the Bay at home," and to dive deeper into Bay-friendly landscaping and gardening with the smart, helpful experts from the Anne Arundel County Master Gardeners' "Bay-Wise" program team. Click here to register!

May 6

  • 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 by shaking off the dirt and debris 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. RSVP to Dan Johannes at DJohannes@cbf.org. Click here for more information!

May 12 and 19

  • Annapolis, MD: Join CBF for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack the Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the oyster stocks in order to Save the Bay. Click here to register! (Note: these are the only two dates that have not been sold out!)

May 14

  • Baltimore, MD: For nearly two years, CBF has been working on renovating a vacant lot in West Baltimore into a green space. Join us as we put on the finishing touches and celebrate! The morning will include final planting of perennials followed by an opening ceremony. Everyone is welcome to join the fun and help finish the planting, be inspired by our community leaders, and eat some hotdogs, potato salad, strawberries, and watermelon. Click here to register!

May 15

  • Norfolk, VA: The Blue Planet Forum is an annual, free environmental lecture series held in Hampton Roads. Its mission is to educate and engage the public on important environmental issues affecting Hampton Roads and the nation. In the next installment of this very popular series, the audience will be treated to presentations by an expert panel on the topic: Water, Water Everywhere: exploring how water inspires and influences us. The event is free, but space is limited so registration is strongly encouraged. Click here to register!

May 16

  • Baltimore, MD: Cruise the Inner Harbor aboard CBF's 46-foot workboat the Snow Goose as we explore the complex and fascinating relationship between the urban environment and the Bay's natural ecosystem. CBF staff will demonstrate the importance of this port as an economic lifeline for the state of Maryland and help participants appreciate the life cycles and needs of the thousands of birds, fish, crabs, oysters, and other organisms which share these waters. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


"Clean Water Counts" Is the Message at CBF Reception in York County

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Those who attended the reception shared their thoughts and ideas about how to address the 350 miles of York County rivers and streams that are polluted. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Concern for clean water in York County was at high tide when legislators, business leaders, and other guests gathered at the John Wright Restaurant in Wrightsville for a reception sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Pennsylvania office. The restaurant on Front Street was the ideal setting for the event; its outdoor patio overlooking the lower Susquehanna River.

"It was wonderful to see such a large and diverse group of citizens and leaders gathered to talk about why clean water counts," said Harry Campbell, CBF executive director in Pennsylvania and emcee for the evening.

Since last summer, CBF has been conducting its "Clean Water Counts: York" campaign in York County, to raise awareness of local water quality issues and solutions, and to motivate residents to take action to reduce water pollution.

The 70 people who attended the reception came together to talk about the successes and challenges of addressing the 350 miles of York County rivers and streams that are polluted by agricultural and urban/suburban runoff.

At the reception, CBF President Will Baker commended partnerships within the county, and hailed York County as a proven leader in conservation. He noted that York County was the first county to adopt the "Clean Water Counts" resolution, and lauded efforts to clean up Codorus Creek, work by the conservation district, and the planning commission's progress in managing polluted runoff.

Wrightsville teenager Brynn Kelly explained why, to her, clean water is a big deal. She grew up near the river and became excited about clean water after a trip to CBF's Merrill Center. The high school senior at Lancaster Catholic High School has spoken publicly about the value of reducing pollution, and wrote a letter to Governor Tom Wolf urging him to clean up Pennsylvania's waterways. Kelly also serves as president of CBF's Pennsylvania Student Leadership Council.   

York County Planning Commission Director Felicia Dell offered insight as to how the board views and plans to address clean water challenges. She reminded the gathering that streams aren't bound by municipal boundaries, and that the commission is working to help municipalities collaborate on ways to reduce pollution.

Growing Greener Coalition Executive Director Andrew Heath said his group is looking for "champions" in the state House and Senate who would be willing to put together a Growing Greener III proposal that calls for revenue to pay for conservation efforts. He said Growing Greener funds would be spent primarily on improving water quality in Pennsylvania.

Heath also highlighted the "Clean Water Counts" statewide campaign that urges county commissioners to pass resolutions encouraging leaders in Harrisburg to make improving water quality a priority. He said 16 counties have passed resolutions and efforts will be renewed next month to enlist the remaining counties.

State Representative Stan Saylor offered one of the highlights of the evening in announcing that the York County delegation will introduce a House resolution to declare May as "Clean Water Counts Month." Rep. Saylor said the resolution is intended to outline the importance of clean water and the number of streams that need to be cleaned up in Pennsylvania.

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CBF President Will Baker, center, spends a moment at the York County reception, with state representatives Kristin Hill, left, and Stan Saylor, right. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Roughly 19,000 miles of river and streams in Pennsylvania are polluted.

Other York County legislators in attendance were state representatives Keith Gillespie, and Kristin Hill.

Conversations about clean water took place throughout the two-hour reception.

A group of teachers met with CBF education staff to discuss strategy and messaging. "We discussed how CBF can be the storyteller for the incredible students that teachers bring on our programs every day," said CBF Education Outreach Coordinator Allyson Ladley Gibson.

"We want to tell the story about that student who has trouble participates in class, but comes alive when you ask them to help untie the canoes, paddle the boat themselves, find macroinvertebrates that will tell us about water quality, and be responsible for their own team that day," she added. "That student may start a whole new path because of the day with CBF and go on to find new passions, a certain type of education, and a career."

Staff members from "Heroes on the Water," attended the reception to show their support for clean water efforts. The veterans support group provided equipment and guidance at CBF's "Veterans on the Susquehanna" event in Wrightsville last summer.

CBF President Will Baker also told those at the reception that, "Clean water is unifier in a time when so much divides us."

The message was made clear by those who attended—clean water counts in York County and across the Commonwealth.

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


Filtering through the 2016 Maryland General Assembly

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State legislators only have to take a quick stroll from the Maryland State House in Annapolis before arriving at the banks of the Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Nikki Davis.

This year's Maryland General Assembly session was as expansive and varied as the Chesapeake watershed itself, covering the land, water, and air of this vast watershed we share.

We couldn't have covered such a sweeping agenda without the unflagging support of our members—thank you to all who advocated for clean water and the Chesapeake Bay right into the last hours of the session!

In the end, filters emerged as a key theme, with some of our most important bills covering the Chesapeake Bay watershed's natural filters for pollution—trees and oysters. These two bills went all the way into the evening hours on sine die (the session's last day):

The Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act (SB937/HB1603) passed in both the Senate and the House in bipartisan votes that reinforced the importance of oysters to clean water and the Chesapeake way of life. It requires the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to provide critical pieces of scientific data still needed to help inform management of Maryland's public oyster fishery. This information is essential to knowing what portion of the Bay's oysters are being harvested each year and whether those rates are sustainable for the population.

We also helped defeat several bills that would set Maryland back in the protection of our oyster population. Learn more about those bills here.

A bill (HB1197) that would have made an exception for specific development projects in Prince George's County to the Maryland Forest Conservation Act's replanting requirements never had a vote in the House Committee, effectively defeating it—proving that sometimes the best legislative action is no action. This bill would have set a bad precedent for others across the state arguing for the same exemption when replanting the trees cut down for development becomes too costly or inconvenient. We will continue to ensure that trees cut down for development will be replanted, renewing their benefits for water quality, air quality, wildlife habitat, and communities across Maryland.

Our biggest pre-session priority was the Poultry Litter Management Act (PLMA). While the PLMA didn't get beyond committee hearings this year, our work to bring clean water solutions to our Eastern Shore waters is far from over. As a result of the hearings, we achieved important goals in the effort to reduce phosphorus pollution in the Bay and Eastern Shore waterways. Learn more about what we accomplished.

Some of the other bright spots of the session that CBF helped achieve include:

  • The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act passed, and was signed into law by Governor Hogan while the General Assembly was still in session. This bipartisan bill commits Maryland to some of the strongest reductions in greenhouse gases in the nation.
  • The budget was passed by both chambers and includes stable funding for environmental agencies and programs that play key roles in Chesapeake Bay restoration.

We also defeated a raft of bad bills that would have endangered water quality and eroded the integrity of local waterways and the Bay. See here for a more in-depth list of key bills that CBF worked on this session, and how they turned out.

Looking ahead, we expect that our work on natural filters will be a highlight of the year to come, as we continue work to restore and help manage the oyster population to sustainable levels and to protect and replace Maryland's trees. Expect to hear more from us on policies and practices that impact these two important filters in the Chesapeake watershed, both within and outside of the legislative context.

Whew! And now it's done.

Thank you again to all our members who fought to keep clean water and the Bay front and center in the legislature!

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director

Take a moment to thank Maryland's legislators for demonstrating a continuing commitment to restoring our local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.


This Week in the Watershed

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Lovers of blue crab raised their hands (or claws) in triumph this week, after receiving the good news that a survey found Maryland's blue crab population has increased 35 percent. Photo by Brian Brown.

If the fight to save the Bay were a baseball season, there would be both victories and losses, with swings of momentum in every direction. These swings were witnessed in Maryland's General Assembly, presenting both successes and disappointments for clean water advocates over the 90-day session. Bad news first: the Poultry Litter Management Act (PLMA), a measure to hold large poultry integrators responsible for excess poultry manure, didn't get beyond committee hearings this year. Silver lining: the hearings for the PLMA started the conversation, and our fight to reduce phosphorus pollution in the Bay and Eastern Shore waterways is far from over.

Time for some good news: the Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act passed, which will provide critical pieces of scientific data still needed to help inform management of Maryland's public oyster fishery. Other good news: the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act has been signed into law, making Maryland one of the nation's leaders in greenhouse gas reduction; a budget passed favorable to many environmental agencies and programs that play key roles in Chesapeake Bay restoration, and several bad bills that would have endangered water quality were defeated. Learn more about the 2016 Maryland General Assembly.

In addition to the Annapolis happenings, there was more good and bad news from the watershed this week. Again, bad news first: we have known for some time the Susquehanna River is sick. The environmental group American Rivers agrees, declaring this week that the Susquehanna is the third most endangered river in the United States. A critical step to help the Susquehanna is officially listing it as an impaired waterway. An official impairment status will designate the river 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 list the Lower Susquehanna River as impaired.

The good news: a survey by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources found that the blue crab population has grown 35 percent. While science tells us the current crab population is still below recommended levels, the increase in population is a positive sign of improving water quality by implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

As all baseball fans know, the season is quite long, and no team ever has, or ever will, go undefeated. But we will continue to fight for the Bay, and work to ensure along the way there are plenty more victories than defeats.

This Week in the Watershed: MDGA Closing Time, Threatened Susquehanna, and Growing Crabs

  • Students got their hands dirty learning how to build reef balls, critical structures in oyster restoration efforts. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Maryland's General Assembly wrapped up this week, with both victories and disappointments for clean water advocates. (Bay Journal)
  • Oysters are a keystone species of the Chesapeake Bay, but scientists don't have any data on just how many oysters are in the Bay. That is going to change with the passage of a bill in the Maryland General Assembly which commissions a study to provide such data. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • How we produce and consume food in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has a major impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, this editorial effectively argues. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • The Susquehanna River, the largest source of fresh water to the Bay, was named the third most endangered river in the United States by the group, American Rivers. (Lancaster Intelligencer Journal—PA)
  • Lovers of Maryland blue crab received good news this week, as a survey by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources found that the blue crab population has grown 35 percent. We're not in the clear, however, as science tells us the current crab population is still below recommended levels. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Bonus: CBF Statement
  • The seemingly never-ending struggle between increased development and preserving open space has visited Howard County, MD. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

April 16

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

April 21

  • 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 call it "shell shaking") by shaking off the dirt and debris so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This event is a bit of a workout, but a fun hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with a bad back or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking. RSVP to Pat Beall at PBeall@cbf.org or 443-482-2065. Click here for more information!

April 23

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

April 24

  • Annapolis, MD: Check out the 2016 Earth-Water-Faith Festival—a fun, family-friendly, interactive, interfaith celebration of Earth Day. Enjoy live music from Third Sunday Band, The Harmonic Fifth, and The All Children's Chorus of Annapolis, as well as activities including a "Scales and Tales" animal program, an oyster water-filtering display, kids' T-shirt printing, and celebratory readings. Free and open to the public! Click here for more information!

April 28

  • Baltimore, MD: Join CBF at its 3rd Annual Baltimore Members Meeting! With trash ubiquitous in the streets and waters of Baltimore, the focus of this year's meeting is the trash epidemic, its connection to clean water, and some potential solutions. Special guest Julie Lawson, Executive Director of Trash Free Maryland, will talk about current efforts to reduce trash and waste through social marketing, good policy, and more. Food, beverages, and music included. Space is limited, register now!

May 1

  • Richmond, VA: Come on out for a Speakers Bureau training with CBF! With far more requests for speakers than we have staff or time, CBF relies on its Speakers Bureau volunteers to handle a variety of speaking opportunities. Whether you are current on the issues and ready to share our message, or just enjoy public speaking and would like to get trained, we welcome your commitment to this important and high-profile program. Join us to learn the facts and skills to share our mission to Save the Bay with local groups and organizations. We simply cannot do it alone! Click here to learn more and register!

 —Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Creating Jobs—and Environmental Awareness

The following first appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

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CBF's Snow Goose in Baltimore Harbor. Photo by Captain Craig Biggs.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is proud to be part of the BLocal campaign ("A commitment to 'BLocal' in Baltimore," April 8). While small by comparison to other partners, we recognize that our business choices can help support our city's economy.

CBF is uniquely qualified to assist in another way. We have committed to train BLocal interns through our on-the-water Baltimore Harbor Education Program. Interns will be exposed to a hands-on estuarine science curriculum on board our 46-foot bay workboat, the Snow Goose.

CBF's widely acclaimed education program was recognized by President George H.W. Bush with the nation's highest environmental honor—the 1992 Presidential Medal for Environmental Excellence.

The Baltimore Harbor program, one of 15 across the region, was launched in 1979 at the request of the late Mayor William Donald Schaefer.

For 49 years, over a million students have received training at one of our environmental education centers. Now, BLocal interns will have the opportunity to study the remarkable array of creatures that live in the harbor, conduct water quality tests, and discuss the challenges of an urban environment. It is a great investment in Baltimore's future.

—William C. Baker, CBF President


Millions of Gallons of Sewage-Contaminated Water Overflowing in Baltimore

How Baltimore City's Delayed Consent Decree Threatens Human and Environmental Health

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Photo courtesy of Blue Water Baltimore.

 It's horrifying: During heavy rains, Baltimore's failing sewer system continually overflows, contaminating residents' homes, local waterways, and Baltimore Harbor. In fact, after a recent February storm, 12.6 million gallons of sewage-laden wastewater steadily flowed into Baltimore's rivers, streams, and harbor. As appalling as this was, this wasn't the first time this has happened in Maryland's largest city.

We find this ongoing sewage overflow problem simply unacceptable. Baltimore City and its waters are still suffering from a 19th century problem in the 21st century. The city was supposed to have put an end to this problem by January 2016 yet the city's government, EPA, and MDE have let that deadline pass with little action.

CBF is demanding that a new consent decree be issued immediately with near-term, enforceable deadlines and that meet water quality standards. We have sent a letter to agency heads, city officials, and state legislators detailing what we hope to see in the new agreement. Click here to read it. It is our expectation and hope that current and future elected leaders in Baltimore make this the priority it needs to be.

In order to better understand this issue, we took a look back at how Baltimore got into this appalling situation...

What Is the Baltimore City Consent Decree?

Because Baltimore City's sewage system was allowing pollutants to enter local waterways and Baltimore Harbor, the United States and the State of Maryland sued the city to require that the problem be remedied to bring the city into compliance with the Clean Water Act. To avoid a court trial, the city entered into a Consent Decree (CD) with the United States and the State of Maryland on September 30, 2002. A CD is the settlement of a lawsuit in which a party agrees to take specific actions without admitting fault or guilt for the situation that led to the lawsuit. 

The Baltimore City CD required the city to eliminate all existing sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and combined sanitary overflows (CSOs) to prevent raw sewage from entering the waterways around Baltimore City. Additionally, the city was required to undergo comprehensive sewer evaluation and rehabilitation programs and perform continuous upgrades to their operations and maintenance.

Progress Toward Completing the Consent Decree

The CD provided a 14-year timeline, with all upgrades to be completed by January 1, 2016. The city missed the final deadline under the CD. According to a recent quarterly report, the city is a long way from completing the work required under the CD—it has only completed 31 of the 55 projects with deadlines provided in the CD.

Baltimore's failure to address the unresolved SSO and CSO structures is a significant water quality and human health hazard. Raw sewage from these structures flows into the Inner Harbor and Baltimore waterways and, on numerous occasions, has backed up into city homes. This not only leads to potentially harmful fecal bacterial and viral contamination, but causes financial losses, stress, and health risks to vulnerable residents in the affected areas. 

The sewage backups in homes pose a tremendous human health risk. What's more, those residents in Baltimore's wealthier suburbs do not see the same disregard from local authorities when sewage backs up in their homes. Baltimore City has challenged the majority of claims arising from damage caused by backed-up sewage (approving only nine percent of the damage claims). In the Grove Park, West Arlington, and Glen neighborhoods of Northwest Baltimore, residents filed 34 claims—all affected by sewage backups into their homes in the last three years and all of which were denied or unaddressed by the city for more than a year.

The Future of the Consent Decree

EPA and MDE are now working with the city to develop a new deadline to achieve the requirements of the CD. Baltimore has already asked for lengthy extensions in the deadlines for some of the CD's required construction projects, some reaching as late as 2019 and beyond. A short timetable and a new deadline for the CD is imperative to cleaning up the water around Baltimore and alleviating the harm to homeowners and residents of the city. Stretching the deadlines for construction projects many years into the future leaves residents susceptible to financial harm and health risks and puts the Inner Harbor and the waterways around Baltimore in danger of fecal bacterial contamination.

There is no reason to delay further. The current situation constitutes nothing less than a serious crisis for Baltimore City, the harbor, and the Bay. It is time to bring Baltimore into the 21st century with a sewage system that doesn't degrade its waters and the health and well-being of its citizens. 

—Gaby Gilbeau, CBF's Litigation Fellow

Take action right now to tell elected officials and environmental agencies that we must see a legally binding agreement that effectively tackles the sewage in Baltimore's streets.

And we want to hear from you! If you have experienced flooding in your basement, on your property, or on your street as a result of these sewer overflows, please send an e-mail with details to our Baltimore Director Terry Cummings at TCummings@cbf.org. We're working on documenting real stories and incidents related to these overflows, and your story could play a critical role in ensuring the new legal agreement to clean up Baltimore's failing sewage system is strong, timely, and has real consequences for failure.

 


This Week in the Watershed

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Oysters, a keystone species in the Chesapeake Bay, are the only public fishery not managed using scientific information. A new bill in the Maryland legislature seeks to change that. Photo by Dave Harp.

Oysters just might be the most important critter in the Chesapeake Bay. A keystone species, not only do they help clean the water (an adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water every day!), oyster reefs also provide critical habitat for other fisheries. Despite the unique and critical role oysters play in water quality, they are the only major public fishery in the Bay that isn’t managed using scientific information. 

To add science to oyster management, several Maryland legislators have introduced a bill called the Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act of 2016. The bill would put the public oyster fishery on the path towards more sustainable, science-based management by requiring a new study to determine the current oyster population and recommend appropriate scientific indicators for management.

Currently, scientists can only roughly estimate how many oysters are in the Bay. Compared with other fisheries, our lack of knowledge of the oyster population is startling. To ensure there is a sustainable oyster fishery in the Bay for generations to come, we need to incorporate sound science in our policy decision making. Take action by telling your legislator right now that you think science should play a role in how Maryland manages its oyster harvest.

This Week in the Watershed: Oyster Science, Pennsylvania Headaches, and Osprey Eggs

  • Laws are only as good as their enforcement, as evidenced by the lack of oversight of "mud pollution" leaching from construction sites in Baltimore County. (Bay Journal)
  • Live-streaming webcams are bringing the world of ospreys to life, including a recently installed webcam at CBF's Merrill Center in Annapolis. (Daily Press—MD)
  • A bill in the Maryland legislature to commission a scientific study to determine sustainable harvest rates for Maryland oysters is not without controversy. (Bay Journal)
  • Without a doubt, Pennsylvania has a long way to go in monitoring and regulating pollution from its farms. (WYPR)
  • Fort Detrick in Maryland is attempting to be a model for effective stormwater management. (Frederick News-Post—MD)
  • A controversial proposed development in Maryland has received preliminary approval to move forward despite environmental concerns. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • A survey of Pennsylvania farmers is attempting to identify how many farmers are implementing best management practices on their farms. (Reading Eagle—PA)
  • We couldn't agree more with this editorial advocating for using science in the management of Maryland's oyster fishery. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey revealed that ospreys are faring well despite traces of DDT and other chemicals being found in their eggs. Ospreys have made significant strides since an onslaught of DDT devastated their populations in the 1970s. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Good news out of Maryland, as Governor Hogan signed bills reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and restoring funding for a program to preserve open spaces. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • The rise of raising chickens on an industrial scale on the Eastern Shore of Maryland has made small family farms raising chickens a thing of the past. As residents are finding out, this is not without consequences to clean water and public health. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

April 9

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

April 14

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

April 15

  • Spring Mills, PA: CBF's Pennsylvania Restoration Program is partnering with the Clearwater Conservancy to plant trees in a streamside area near Spring Mills, PA. We are looking for volunteers eager to get their hands dirty helping us to plant trees to repair a forested riparian buffer. Click here for more information!

April 16

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

April 23

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

April 24

  • Annapolis, MD: Check out the 2016 Earth-Water-Faith Festival—a fun, family-friendly, interactive, interfaith celebration of Earth Day. Enjoy live music from Third Sunday Band, The Harmonic Fifth, and The All Children's Chorus of Annapolis, as well as activities including a "Scales and Tales" animal program, an oyster water-filtering display, kids' T-shirt printing, and celebratory readings. Free and open to the public! Click here for more information!

 —Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


This Week in the Watershed

Baltimore Harbor-1200
Millions of gallons of sewage have been dumped into Baltimore's Inner Harbor. We are calling fortransparency and accountability from elected officials and environmental agencies to ensure Baltimore's sewage problem is fixed. Photo by CBF Staff.

Transparency and accountability. It's hard to imagine having any success in the fight for clean water without those essential ingredients. Unfortunately, Baltimore residents are living proof of this. Despite increasing sewer bills, their city's sewage problem has only gotten worse. For the past 14 years, promises to fix the city's aging pipe system have gone unmet, leaving noxious sewage spills a regular occurrence, especially after major rain events. These spills are not only a smelly inconvenience but a significant threat to clean water.

We have heard this story before. For decades, voluntary agreements to clean the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams were signed between the Bay states. With no teeth behind these agreements, deadlines were inevitably missed, and no consequences were enforced. It wasn't until December 2010, when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was signed, that two-year, incremental pollution-reduction goals—known as milestones—were required, with consequences imposed for failure.

Baltimore needs similar transparency and accountability if they are ever going to fix their sewage problem. CBF is calling for deadlines for specific action on this issue to ensure the city is held accountable for progress. Baltimore residents have a right to a full and transparent accounting of money spent, work accomplished or not, and sewage spills still occurring. Take action right now to tell elected officials and environmental agencies working on this issue that we must see a legally binding agreement that effectively tackles the sewage in Baltimore streets without over burdening citizens.

This Week in the Watershed: Moving Ospreys, Potomac Grades, and Charm City Sewage

  • With spring gardening around the corner, weeds are inevitable. There are several environmentally safe, and non-back-breaking, methods to beating the pesky plants. (Northern VA Daily—VA)
  • Virginia has a reason to celebrate, with over $140 million allocated to clean water measures, such as funding to help farmers implement best management practices, and upgrades to wastewater treatment plants. (Bay Journal)
  • CBF is gearing up for its 28th annual Clean the Bay Day in Virginia. Volunteers are needed! (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)
  • Friends of the Potomac River received some good news this week when the Potomac Conservancy's report card declared the river has earned its highest grade yet: a B-. (Bay Journal)
  • With ospreys returning to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, some inevitably build their nests in inconvenient locations. One such location happened to be in the parking lot of CBF's headquarters in Annapolis. (CBS Baltimore—MD)
  • As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. In that light, we are excited the U.S. Geological Survey, along with state and regional agencies, are exponentially expanding the number of sites where they acquire water samples to assess pollution trends. (Bay Journal)
  • CBF's Alison Prost writes on the need for transparency and accountability in treating Baltimore's sewage problem. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • We're big fans of using modern farm technology to reduce polluted runoff, such as one farm in Frederick County, MD. (Frederick News-Post—MD)
  • As we celebrated World Water Day, we agree with this editorial that there still is a long way to go in cleaning up our waters. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

April 2

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

April 9

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

April 14

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

April 16

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

April 23

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

 —Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


No Public Accounting for Baltimore's Sewage Problem

The following first appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

Sewage-treatment-plant-1200
A sewage treatment plant in Baltimore County, MD. Photo by Garth Lenz/iLCP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore can't be exempted from that effort.

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

—Alison Prost, CBF Maryland Executive Director

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


This Week in the Watershed

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

March 26

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

March 31

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

April 2

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

April 9

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

April 14

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

April 16

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

April 23

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

 —Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate