Time to Walk the Walk on Clean Waters

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Photo by Octavio Abruto/iLCP.

At the recent annual meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Program leadership, there was much talk about the importance of restoring local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, but a shortage of commitment to specific actions that will get Bay restoration back on track.

And it is clearly off track.

After decades of failed Bay restoration efforts, there is now a Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The Blueprint includes pollution limits, state-specific plans to achieve those limits with two-year milestones describing the actions each state will take, and the consequences that the Environmental Protection Agency said it would impose if the jurisdictions failed to take the actions they promised.

As part of the Blueprint, the Bay jurisdictions pledged to implement practices by 2017 that will result in a 60 percent reduction in pollution, but at the current pace it is estimated that they will miss that mark on nitrogen pollution by 50 percent. And 80 percent of that shortfall is from Pennsylvania.

That is unacceptable.

Gov. Tom Wolf inherited this problem, but the 2017 deadline will occur on his watch. At the meeting, John Quigley, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), did acknowledge that the commonwealth needs to "reboot" its restoration efforts, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) believes he intends to do that. But the devil is in the details, and we are calling for Pennsylvania to lay out, in the next 30 days, a meaningful plan and timetable for implementation.

We are pleased that Pennsylvania recognizes that it needs to improve compliance with agricultural laws and regulations as well as modernizing record keeping and data collection. The commonwealth has some of the strongest regulations in the region for agriculture, but recent on-farm inspections by the EPA and DEP found only one in three farms in compliance. With current staffing, it would take DEP more than 150 years to inspect each farm in Pennsylvania's Bay watershed once.

CBF supports the call by Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland and Robert Casey of Pennsylvania for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase the technical and financial assistance to help farmers implement conservation practices that will reduce pollution.

Maryland and Virginia are closer to being on track, but an assessment of the critical practices they have committed to implementing in their milestones finds progress short of the mark in those jurisdictions as well.

Virginia missed its target for both nitrogen and phosphorus from urban and suburban runoff. And because of changes in farming production and expected increases in Virginia's poultry industry, the state might have to achieve additional reductions from agriculture.

Because Virginia's plan calls for achieving 79 percent of its pollution reduction from agriculture, we call on the administration of Gov. Terry McAuliffe to ensure farmers across the state fence livestock out of streams and plant trees to create streamside buffers. These and other proven conservation practices not only protect streams and rivers but also boost livestock health and farm bottom lines.

Virginia also must increase funding to help localities reduce polluted runoff from streets, parking lots, lawns and buildings. Urban and suburban runoff is among the few increasing sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Virginia.

With regards to nitrogen pollution, Maryland missed its 2014 milestone from both agriculture and urban/suburban runoff. The job will not get easier, as new information from the USDA agricultural census, population and land-use data put Maryland off track to meet its overall nitrogen goals. As in Virginia, polluted runoff from streets, rooftops and other impervious surfaces remains a pressing issue.

Administrator Gina McCarthy, who was also at that meeting, spoke of EPA's support of the Blueprint, but refused to specify the actions the agency intends to take if the states fail to meet their commitments. If states fail to implement the plans each developed, EPA must impose consequences for failure. If not, we are at risk of yet another failed Bay agreement.

The leaders talked the talk; it is now time for them to walk the walk.

—Kim Coble, CBF Vice President for Environmental Protection & Restoration 

 


EPA Needs to Act on States' Inability to Reach Nutrient Goals

 

Bill Portlock
Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.

Since 2010, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has applauded the transparency, accountability and consequences built into the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. But like any three-legged stool, take one leg away and it falls.

It is the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council's job to establish the policies and financing for the restoration and protection of the Bay and its living resources and to be accountable to the public for progress, or lack thereof. The EPA's recent interim milestone assessment suggests that the Bay cleanup is dramatically off course: Since 2009, Bay states have achieved only 29 percent of the nearly 41 million pounds of nitrogen reductions needed by 2017.

When the council meets on July 23, its actions will determine if the stool continues to stand, or whether we are in danger of repeating the decades of failed restoration efforts from the first three Bay agreements. The disappointing progress to date suggests that the stool might soon fall. The council must soon take corrective action, or the legacy of an improving Bay will be lost once again.

Although both Virginia and Maryland are making progress, the EPA's recent assessment suggests that both states face shortfalls.

Virginia missed its target for both nitrogen and phosphorus from urban/suburban runoff. And because of changes in farming production and expected increases in Virginia's poultry industry, the state might have to achieve additional reductions from agriculture.

Because Virginia's plan calls for achieving 79 percent of its pollution reduction from agriculture, CBF calls on the McAuliffe administration to ensure that farmers across the state fence livestock out of streams and plant trees to restore streamside buffers. These and other proven conservation practices not only protect streams and rivers but also boost livestock health and farm bottom lines.

Virginia must also increase funding to help localities reduce polluted runoff from streets, parking lots, lawns and buildings. Urban and suburban runoff is one of the few increasing sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Virginia.

Maryland data show phosphorus pollution increasing in the Choptank watershed, and the EPA recommends that Maryland consider additional reductions.

With regards to nitrogen pollution, the state missed its 2014 milestone for both agriculture and urban/suburban runoff. The job will not get easier, as new information from the United States Department of Agriculture agricultural census, and population and land use data put Maryland off track to meet its overall nitrogen goals. As in Virginia, polluted runoff from streets, rooftops, and other impervious surfaces remains a pressing issue.

Pennsylvania is the greatest source of nitrogen pollution and missed the mark on its 2012–13 milestones and again in its 2014 nitrogen milestone goal. Not surprisingly, the largest shortfalls are in reducing nitrogen pollution from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff.

The shortfall in Pennsylvania is huge. When we look at how Bay states are coming up short, Pennsylvania is responsible for more than 75 percent of that deficit. And more than 80 percent of Pennsylvania's share of the shortfall comes from agriculture.

While Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration inherited the commonwealth's water quality problems, they are nonetheless responsible for implementing solutions. Pennsylvania needs to aggressively advance efforts to ensure farmers are complying with existing laws. At the current rate of inspections, it will take more than 150 years for each farm in the Bay watershed to be inspected once.

Given that Pennsylvania has repeatedly missed its nitrogen goals, CBF is also calling on the federal government to take action. In 2009, the EPA outlined the consequences that it could impose if jurisdictions do not implement the plans. It is time for the EPA to impose the backstops to ensure pollution is reduced.

The USDA also has a key role to play. President Obama's Executive Order committed the USDA to target funding to key watersheds to assist states in meeting two-year milestones. The USDA must, therefore, target technical and financial resources to help Pennsylvania achieve its goals.

The governors of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania will all be in office when the 2017 deadline is reached. Their legacy will be determined by the actions they take over the next two years. Their actions need to be solely focused on implementing the Blueprint. The Executive Council can never state that it didn't have adequate forewarning about the challenges we face.

—Will Baker, CBF President

Tell your Governor and EPA in advance of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council's meeting on July 23 that clean water restoration must move forward!

 


This Week in the Watershed

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Professor Tami Imbierowicz of Harford Community College oversees her daughter Stephanie as she takes a water sample at Kilgore Falls in Harford County. Their findings are part of a study revealing alarming levels of bacteria in popular Maryland swimming spots. Photo by Tom Zolper/CBF Staff.

It might be a bit cliché, but the truth still stands that you can't solve a problem until you recognize its existence. While polluted runoff is a problem we have been fighting for years, this week we found evidence that it is wreaking havoc on freshwater streams and lakes in Maryland. We also released milestone reports revealing that while progress has been made towards saving our Bay and its rivers and streams, there is still much work to be done.

Our response is continuing the work to save the Bay, through restoring the native oyster population, bringing teachers into the field so they can inspire the next generation of clean water advocates, and taking the fight for the Bay to the courtroom. Also this week we are working to raise the voices of the 17 million citizens who live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in advance of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council's meeting on July 23. TAKE ACTION: Tell your Governor and the EPA that clean water restoration must move forward!

This week in the Watershed: Dirty Streams, Restoring Oysters, and Teaching Teachers

  • CBF has partnered with Hood College, Howard Community College, and Harford Community College, in a study exposing alarming levels of bacteria in Maryland streams, particularly after heavy rain. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Read more about this stream study in our Press Release.
  • In efforts to fully implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by 2025, the states of the Chesapeake Bay watershed have committed to two-year incremental goals called Milestones. CBF and Choose Clean Water Coalition evaluated clean water progress for Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. (CBF Press Releases)
  • CBF President Will Baker and CBF PA Executive Director Harry Campbell discuss all things Pennsylvania water quality on WITF's "Smart Talk." (WITF—PA)
  • There are few activities more helpful in saving the Bay than oyster restoration. CBF is in the thick of building sanctuary reefs. (Bay Journal)
  • Speaking of oyster restoration, this group in Carroll County, Maryland is doing great work, collecting and recycling old oyster shells. (Bay Journal)
  • Recently we took legal action to challenge Virginia's rules for large livestock farms, arguing the state is failing to protect streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay by allowing farm animals unfettered access to streams. This week that lawsuit was unfortunately dismissed. Stay tuned for updates on this important issue. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)
  • Fourteen teachers from Pennsylvania and Virginia went paddling, turned over rocks, and studied forestry and soils during a two-day workshop this week, co-sponsored by CBF. (CBF Press Release)
  • The writers of this editorial deserve high-fives and fist-bumps all around for clearly and convincingly arguing the need for the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint in saving the Bay. (Frederick News-Post—MD)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

July 23

  • Join CBF for an evening of exploring the beautiful lower Susquehanna River. Explore a unique stretch of the Susquehanna, paddling by plants and animals that call these ecosystems home while discussing how land use and pollution have affected the overall habitat of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Click here to register!

July 25

  • Folks on the Eastern Shore of Virginia are invited to learn about native plant landscaping at an exciting, educational event: "Trees, Bees, and Clean Water: Connecting the Dots." Experts will help attendees learn about the pollinating power of birds, butterflies, and bees, how to landscape to reduce polluted runoff, how to build a rain garden, and more. Space is limited and registration is required. E-mail Tatum Ford at tford@cbf.org to reserve your spot!

July 28

  • In preparation for stormwater medallion placement on July 30, CBF will be distributing door hangers with information about how citizens can reduce their impact on the waterways! E-mail Blair Blanchette at bblanchette@cbf.org or call 804/780-1392 to participate.

July 30

  • Join CBF as we place stormwater medallions in Oak Grove, Richmond. This unique volunteer opportunity allows you to have a positive impact on the Bay while also using a caulk gun! E-mail Blair Blanchette at bblanchette@cbf.org or call 804/780-1392 to participate.

August 1

  • This annual benefit for CBF draws kayakers, paddle boarders and all kinds of other paddlers—from novice to advanced—from far and wide for a race at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. CBF is looking for 5-6 volunteers to assist in event/race logistics and share information with the attendees. To volunteer please e-mail or call Tanner Council at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757/622-1964. To join the races, click here!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Photo of the Week: After the Storm

AfterTheStorm_RickSchwitzerI took this with my iPhone last week at Lake Ogleton in Bay Ridge, Annapolis

The water pretty much defines my marriage and my family. I did not grow up near the water, but fell in love with it as young adult. My wife grew up on a small lake outside of Chicago, and she strengthened our love for the water and the Bay.

Fifteen years ago, we made the decision to move to the Annapolis area and the Severn River, and it was the best decision we ever made. Our daughter raced in college, and my high school son is constantly out puttering around with his friends on the Severn. We've sailed the Bay for 25 years as a family; we live on the water, and we spend as much time as possible being on or near it. Without it, I'm not sure we could survive.

—Rick Schwitzer

Ensure that Rick, his family, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprintthe federal/state plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite summertime Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

 


Photo of the Week: What Gives Life to the Mid-Atlantic

LanceYoungSunsetI took this photo near Still Pond, Maryland, the other evening. For me, the Bay means peaceful moments like this, endless recreational opportunities, and what gives life to the mid-Atlantic region.

—Lance Young

Ensure that Lance and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprintthe federal/state plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite summertime Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

 


Photo of the Week: I Speak for the Trees!

Trees"I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees!" My son, Aaron Doster-Dunyon (age 2), with his PopPop, Sterling Willis, this past weekend while camping at the Naval Station Annapolis. Thank you for all you do! 

—Jennifer Dunyon

 

As Dr. Seuss' Lorax would say: LET'S ALL SPEAK FOR THE TREES! Annapolitans, this week is your chance to tell the Annapolis City Council to invest in a clean, healthy, prosperous future for our city by passing a strong Forest Conservation Act. 

Trees are the backbone of our communities. They help filter our local waters, increase property values, reduce energy costs, provide clean air and wildlife habitat, and improve public health. AND they're beautiful!

Click here to take action and speak for the trees. 

 


Photo of the Week: The Golden Hour

11304297_10153253341645336_754126976_nThe view from Kent Island last week.

The Bay is our future. I volunteer and teach my five-year-old son the importance of not littering and picking up other people's trash because it could harm the Bay ecosystem and its animals.

Living on the Shore you really appreciate the beauty of the Bay. Where I grew up in Prince George's County all I thought was that the Bay was dirtyI never wanted to go near it much less swim in it. I don't want it to be like that for future generations. Everyone should be able to enjoy the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. 

—Krystle Chick

Ensure that Krystle, her son, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint! 

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Photo of the Week: A Favorite Destination

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I grew up in a boating family with the Chesapeake Bay being a favorite destination, in particular the St. Michael's and Kent Island area. Being able to move here as an adult has been a dream come true.

The Bay represents wonderful memories of crabbing, fishing, and family time. The tradition continues with our grown children and extended families. All of us are very lucky indeed to have the Chesapeake Bay to enjoy.

—Cindy Williams Sigmon

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

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos! 


Council Opts for Reason on Stormwater

The following first appeared in the Capital Gazette.

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Stormwater is an issue that can't be ignored. Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

Is it possible? Has the long stormy winter of "rain tax" propaganda finally passed? Is the spring of reasonable thinking here?

I hope that is the take-away from the April 6 vote by the Anne Arundel County Council to affirm the importance of the county's stormwater fee program. The council rejected two bills that would have repealed the county stormwater fee and the program it enables.

The program, three years in the making, is overhauling the county's vast but long-neglected drainage system. Prior to this program, public dollars traditionally focused on maintaining the sewer or water systems. But when your basement or street floods, or your local creek is too polluted for safe swimming, that's often at least partly due to the poor condition of the county's stormwater system. Runoff from storms doesn't properly drain or filter into the ground. It washes pollutants straight into creeks and rivers.

That all changed in 2013 when the county started collecting a fee dedicated exclusively to improving the stormwater system. Numerous projects are now underway throughout the county as a result of this revenue stream. Had the council voted differently, all those projects would have been canceled.

County Councilmen John Grasso, Andrew Pruski, Pete Smith, and Chris Trumbauer showed real leadership. In voting to continue the county's stormwater upgrade program, these four dismissed the rain tax rhetoric for was it was: electioneering. It swept into Maryland like a nor'easter in 2013, uprooting facts and flooding newspapers with misinformation.

A March 13 statewide poll by OpinionWorks found that the rain tax disinformation campaign in Maryland was clever and effective. The poll found one out of every two Marylanders still believes he or she will be taxed when it rains. Not true, of course. A stormwater fee is similar to any other public utility fee — like paying for garbage collection or sewer service. A stormwater fee charges a mall more than a mom-and-pop grocery because the mall parking lot produces more polluted runoff. But talk of a rain tax was brilliant propaganda.

That's why the April 6 vote was a breath of fresh air. The four councilmen who defeated the repeal didn't just stick their fingers up to gauge the prevailing political winds. Reasonable thinking won out. And there's evidence in other parts of Maryland of the same change in the political climate. The storm is passing.

On March 23, for instance, the Salisbury City Council voted unanimously to start collecting a stormwater fee. The vote was grounded in facts. The city hired the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland to explore ways Salisbury could finance an upgrade of its 105-year-old, badly neglected stormwater system. The EFC concluded a dedicated fee was the smart way to go. Salisbury joins nearly 1,500 communities nationwide that have opted for a stormwater fee to attack polluted runoff.

Also, representatives from Prince George's County spoke out forcefully in legislative hearings this spring to defend their own stormwater program from meddling. That county has estimated that by collecting a stormwater fee it actually could cut costs of upgrading its drainage system by 40 percent. Such fees typically are the preferred means of financing major capital expenses.

We just hope the leadership shown by Anne Arundel, other jurisdictions in Maryland, and across the country will inspire elected officials in places such as Baltimore, Howard, Harford, Carroll, and Frederick counties to finally face facts. Polluted runoff is the main cause of fouled, unhealthy water in many urban and suburban areas of the state. The Maryland Department of the Environment still warns us not to swim in local creeks and rivers for 48 hours after a rainstorm.

A campaign of distortions doesn't actually change the condition of our streams any more than a house of mirrors makes us skinnier. We can only do that by dedicating real dollars to put real projects in the ground.

Let's stop talking and get to work.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director


Barrels by the Bay

 

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Clinton Global Initiative Scholar and United States Naval Academy Midshipman Megan Rosenberger presentd her Barrels by the Bay Project to a packed house at CBF.

Clinton Global Initiative Scholar and United States Naval Academy Midshipman Megan Rosenberger shares what inspired her to create her Barrels by the Bay Project.

In 2004, my family and I were sitting at the dinner table discussing the never-ending rain from Hurricane Ivan. I took 10 steps "just to check" the basement with my dad and the water began soaking into my shoes a little more with each step. In a matter of hours, my community was flooded because of the immense amount of rain filling the streets.

Years later, I first learned about rain barrels while painting one at a local environmental fair. I remember my excitement when I cut the downspout and installed my own rain barrel at my home in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania. I even made it my first science project and spent hours in the backyard after school. In 2011, I was honored by President Obama to accept the President's Environmental Youth Award at the White House Summit on environmental education for the hydroelectric rain barrel science project that I built in my backyard.

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Young Megan with her first rain barrel!

When I started at the Naval Academy I experienced similar weather to my hometownthe fall and spring were full of rainy days. But, what I wasn't prepared for was flooded sidewalks and streets, sitting water that that had a film of contaminants suspended on top, and people unaware of how a rain barrel could change all of this. This past October, I was trudging through sidewalks in Annapolis and started thinking that maybe there was something I could do.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It has more miles of shoreline than the entire west coast, encompassing six states and D.C. But what you can't see on a map is that this watershed, which is home to 17 million people, has many streams and rivers on EPA's dirty waters list.

I truly believe Barrels by the Bay can change this. On March 23, I launched Barrels by the Bay at CBF's Philip Merrill Environmental Center. I established the non-profit to bring awareness to World Water Day and water resources. Together with students from 13 different schools, we are painting 22 converted Coca-Cola syrup barrels to reflect one of the past 22 World Water Day themes. We will then donate these rain barrels to public buildings around Annapolis to help collect rain water and prevent polluted runoff from running into our local rivers and streams.

Nearly a thousand students are involved in the painting of these barrels, and they are also learning about preserving water resources in the process through weekly curriculum prepared by the EPA. After the barrels are installed, 34,000 residents and 4.5 million visitors to Annapolis each year will see these barrels before walking into county buildings, senior centers, or even the Naval Academy gates.

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Students paint rain barrels at the Barrels by the Bay kick-off.

Barrels by the Bay will increase community awareness and improve the sustainability of Annapolis buildings. To combat the flooding and polluted runoff concerns, 631,400 gallons of potentially contaminated water will be collected with the 22 rain barrels.

In the coming months, I plan to expand this effort throughout Maryland to educate more students and individuals about the environment and the importance of restoring the Chesapeake. Two years from now, I hope for Annapolis streets free from contaminated runoff because there will be less water flowing off the streets.

There is so much we can do to educate individuals about the environment and to work together to solving polluted runoff problems. I am proud to share that Barrels by the Bay is doing just that. 

Megan Rosenberger