This Week in the Watershed: A Major Investment

Scenes like this one of Pennsylvania's Pine Creek in Lycoming County are an inspiration to keep fighting for clean water progress. This week, it was announced that Pennsylvania will benefit from an infusing of more than $28 million to jumpstart clean water efforts throughout the Commonwealth. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

This week, the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council met in Boyce, Virginia. Composed of the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia; the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the mayor of the District of Columbia; representatives from New York, Delaware, and West Virginia; and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Council meets annually to discuss the state of water quality improvement efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

While most states throughout the watershed are on track to meet their 2017 commitments through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, Pennsylvania is seriously lagging behind, already acknowledging they will not meet their goal. With roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania damaged by pollution, and with the Susquehanna River providing 50 percent of the Bay's fresh water, the Bay cannot be saved until clean water is flowing through Pennsylvania's rivers and streams.

Given this reality, we are thrilled that members of the council have announced an investment of more than $28 million dollars to enhance and accelerate pollution-reduction efforts in Pennsylvania. This is great news not only for Pennsylvanians but for everyone who cares about the Bay and its rivers and streams.

Plenty of plans to save the Bay and its rivers and streams have been made in the past, but good intentions devoid of action left us in a vicious circle of empty words and dirty water. To leave a legacy of clean water to future generations, we need to fully implement the Blueprint. With greater investments in the right locations, targeting the most cost-effective pollution-reduction strategies, clean water is within our reach.

This Week in the Watershed: A Major Investment, BMPs, and A Growing Harbor

  • Anglers and conservationists are upset as their pleas for stronger regulations protecting shad and river herring have been rejected. (Bay Journal)
  • A farmer on Maryland's Eastern Shore has taken great strides towards sustainability, implementing several best management practices. (Carroll County Times—MD)
  • The Chesapeake Executive Council met on Tuesday. Pennsylvania was the focus, receiving an injection of $28.7 million to help fund their cleanup efforts. (Bay Journal) Bonus: CBF Press Statement
  • CBF's Burgers and Brews for the Bay gave attendees a firsthand look and taste of farm-to-table food. (Chambersburg Public Opinion—PA)
  • A Virginia restaurant is making good use of their used oyster shells, recycling them to help restore the Bay's oyster population. (USA Today)
  • Oysters are growing in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, helping clean the water and providing a great engagement opportunity with local residents and businesses. (Baltimore Fish Bowl—MD)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

October 8-9

  • Chesapeake, VA: CBF is looking for volunteers to tell others about the amazing bivalve that is the oyster at the Waterways Heritage Festival! Two people are needed per two-hour shift. Our booth will be displaying all of our restoration activities from shell recycling to reef balls to oyster gardening and more. Click here to volunteer!

October 9

  • Portsmouth, VA: Come on out to a fun-filled, family-friendly annual event that combines educational engagement and ecological stewardship. RIVER-Fest '16 will emphasize practices and activities that will sustain and improve the health of the Elizabeth River. CBF is also looking for six to eight volunteers to assist with a variety of activities. Shifts will be for three hours between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Please contact Tanner Council to register or for more information at or 757-622-1964.

October 17

  • Annapolis, MD: The Annapolis VoiCeS (Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards) class is back! Come "back-to-school" with CBF in a six-week, professionally taught course on all things clean water. Learn about Bay science and fisheries, pollution problems and solutions, and how volunteers can help restoration efforts in their local waters and the Bay. Click here to register! Deadline to register is October 13!

October 18

  • Easton, MD: The Eastern Shore VoiCeS (Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards) class is back! Come "back-to-school" with CBF in a six-week, professionally taught course on all things clean water. Learn about Bay science and fisheries, pollution problems and solutions, and how volunteers can help restoration efforts in their local waters and the Bay. Click here to register! Deadline to register is October 13!

October 19

  • Cambridge, MD: Join us at a workshop to learn more about best management practices (BMPs) to slow and filter polluted runoff. Facilitated by expert trainers with the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, this workshop is designed for local government managers and field operators with instruction in BMP inspection, maintenance, and facility failure decision-making, Participants will increase their knowledge of effectively treating polluted runoff while complying with local, state, and federal stormwater management expectations. Networking with colleagues in neighboring Eastern Shore communities enhances opportunities to learn about locally relevant problems and solutions. Click here to register!

October 22

  • Virginia Beach, VA: Come on out to a sustainable living expo. This fun, family-friendly event is designed as a showcase for eco-friendly, sustainable solutions, crafts, and food, with many participating organizations. See ideas you can use at your home from edible landscaping and urban gardening to beekeeping and alternative energy. CBF is also looking for volunteers to help staff a CBF display and share information with attendees at the expo. This event is suitable for all volunteer experience levels, so come out, share, and learn. Email or call Tanner Council to inquire and volunteer at or call 757-622-1964.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

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

The following first appeared in the Patriot News.

0913_Frances & Tim Sauder CBF Photo
Tim and Frances Sauder want to implement agricultural best management practices (BMPs) on their Lancaster County farm, but are in need of funding. The implementation of BMPs on farms throughout south-central Pennsylvania would make a major difference in cleaning the state's water. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

This Week in the Watershed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's Happening around the Watershed?

September 16-18

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

September 17

  • Trappe, MD: Help CBF take out the trash! Join us at Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park to help make the Choptank River cleaner and safer. This is a family friendly event, but all children must be accompanied by an adult. Groups are welcome! Please wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty, and bring sunscreen and water. Click here to register!
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the oyster stocks to save the Bay. Click here to register!

September 24

  • Annapolis, MD: Head out on the water for a morning of fishing, learning, and fun! Spend the morning aboard the Marguerite in search of whatever is biting! Our experienced crew will provide all the knowledge and equipment necessary—just bring your enthusiasm! Gear and licenses are provided. Click here to register!
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the oyster stocks to save the Bay. Click here to register!
  • Dorchester County, MD: Join CBF for a paddle! We will put in our canoes on Beaverdam Creek, and from there explore the waters surrounding Taylors Island Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This area is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore waterway, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh and pine forests. The wildlife is dominated by various species of bird life, including nesting bald eagles, ospreys, herons, and ducks. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up-close views of herons fishing in the shallows and ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels.  Click here to register!

September 25

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

October 1

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

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Photo of the Week: The Lifeblood of the Chesapeake

This photo was taken on the Susquehanna River just north of Harrisburg during a workshop with Pennsylvania teachers earlier this summer. 

I think it's a powerful image because the beauty of the land, water, and sky each play a key role in it. Simplicity and stillness allow for the reflection: an ideal metaphor for how the river's health reflects our actions. We need to preserve beauty, find simple elements like clouds and colors, and allow time for ourselves to experience the entire watershed. A historically valuable river and often ignored element of Bay culture, the Susquehanna is a lifeblood of the Chesapeake, providing roughly half of the freshwater to the system, and deserves our respect and adoration. 

—Allyson Ladley Gibson

The Susquehanna River is sick. Take action to save it! The Susquehanna is a powerful economic engine and one of our region's most important waterways. But agricultural runoff, acid mine drainage, and urban pollution have contaminated the river for far too many years. Stand up now to take action for this critical river.


This Week in the Watershed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's Happening around the Watershed?

August 9

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

August 27

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

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Teachers Connect Schools to Improving Pennsylvania's Water Quality

The following first appeared in The Sentinel.

Teachers take a closer look at a Dragonfly Nymph being held by CBF Educator Emily Thorpe, right, during a study of aquatic life along the Susquehanna River. The two-day workshop showed teachers what schools can do to reduce polluted runoff and improve Pennsylvania's water quality. Teachers are, from left, Sondra Picciotto of Harrisburg City, Abigail Frey of the Diocese of Harrisburg, and Nicolette Place of Northern York. Photo by Myrannda Kleckner.

A group of Pennsylvania teachers became students when the lessons turned to what schools can do to reduce polluted runoff and improve the Commonwealth's water quality. The two-day "Pennsylvania's Waterways: Real Change, Real Connections Workshop" was sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Susquehanna Watershed Education Program.

"The main idea of the workshop was for teachers to connect their schoolyards and communities to local waterways," said CBF Educator Emily Thorpe. "It is proven that urban and suburban runoff is the fastest growing source of pollution. These teachers will have the experience to learn what types of best management practices may be beneficial for their area and how they can go about proposing action to reduce pollution."

About 19,000 miles of Pennsylvania rivers and streams are polluted, and the Commonwealth has a Clean Water Blueprint to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff that is damaging its waters. But the Environmental Protection Agency reported recently that Pennsylvania is significantly behind in meeting its Blueprint goals of having 60 percent of the pollution-reduction practices necessary to restore water quality in place by 2017 and 100 percent in place by 2025.

Teachers who attended were asked to evaluate their schoolyards and identify water management strengths and weaknesses, so they might share suggestions for improvement, with students and the administrators.

"For most schools, we have too many paved surfaces that could cause problems with stormwater runoff," said Sondra Picciotto, a 7th and 8th grade science teacher in the Harrisburg City School District. "If schoolyards were able to add rain gardens and rain barrels to their campus, we would see positive effects in our local water."

"I believe that it would be better for schools to put money into programs like storm water practices," added Mary Catherine Sweeney, an English teacher at the Diocese of Harrisburg.

"A first step a school could do is to transform their open plots of land," said Jane Macedonia, a science teacher within Lancaster Catholic High School. "Turn them into rain gardens or add rain barrels that serve as biological functions that not only will be beneficial to your environment, but will be beneficial to the kids sitting in the classrooms."

Macedonia said, "There are so many types of programs that schools can adopt that conserve water quality. "Think about hydroponics. These systems recycle water throughout the process of growing plants, which later could be used within the school's cafeteria," she added. "No matter what type of program, though, the students will be having so much fun that they won't realize that it was meant to be a learning experience."

Nolan Canter, CBF educator for the Philip Merrill Center Education Program in Annapolis, MD, said, "For aquaponics, schools could raise trout or other fish inside the schools themselves and over time, be able to release them into local streams to help the populations. Also, students can learn about water chemistry while working on a project like this. It doesn't all have to be outside," he added.

During a session at the Wildwood Nature Center in Harrisburg, teachers learned more about water resources and the Chesapeake Bay, and how their schools measure up in preventing pollution. They also toured the Benjamin Olewine Nature Center and the Capital Region Water Treatment Plant. They spent the second day of the workshop paddling canoes down the Susquehanna River, stopping for hands-on lessons about aquatic life in the river, and water chemistry.

Teachers were from the Diocese of Harrisburg, Harrisburg City School District, Lancaster Catholic High School, Northern York School District, River Rock Academy, St. Catherine Laboure School, and St. John the Baptist Catholic School.

"If we emphasize water quality issues," said Nicolette Place, a teacher at Wellsville Elementary in the Northern York School District, "we will be able to come up with solutions that will continue to keep our environment healthy for the next generation."

—Myrannda Kleckner, CBF Pennsylvania Communications Intern

Trading Bad Habits for Better Water

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

Litter, which often finds its way into local waterways, is high on the list of environmental pet peeves among CBF staff. Photo by Krista Schyler/iLCP.

Why is it that, while watering a lawn, people allow lots of water to hit the street, sidewalk, anywhere but the lawn? It happens a lot with automatic sprinklers.

Why do they cut down street trees that infringe on sidewalks, but aren't diseased or otherwise a nuisance or danger?

Leaf blowers! They're noisy and leave drains clogged. Why not mulch the leaves with a lawnmower?

While venting about such annoyances helps clear our mind in a therapeutic sort of way, correcting such nuisances can, more importantly, clean our water.

The Environmental Protection Agency reminded us recently that Pennsylvania is still significantly behind in meeting its Clean Water Blueprint commitments to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in local rivers and streams.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation staffers in Pennsylvania shared some of their own pollution pet peeves, so that we might all consider some easy solutions that will reduce harmful runoff and address other practices that are damaging our waterways.

It peeves Emily "when people go out to 'enjoy' our waterways by fishing, paddling, and end up leaving behind their beer cans, trash, fishing line, etc.," she says. "If you can carry it in, please pack it out."

B.J. would like his neighbors to stop mowing their grass clippings into the street. "Are they too lazy to rake them up? Now the clippings may not only clog the storm drain, they add damaging nitrogen to the water. These are the same neighbors, by the way, who blow the snow from their sidewalks into the street in the wintertime, creating more stormwater runoff."

Bill says he has gone to great lengths with local township supervisors to slow the permitting of additional trucking warehouses/distribution centers in the Carlisle area. "In addition to the devastating diesel truck air pollution, another exhaust gas emission, nitrogen oxide, fills the air and is a source of the nitrogen pollution of local waters and the Chesapeake Bay," he adds.

Kelly O. notes that "When Harrisburg has heavy rains beyond what our ancient stormwater infrastructure can handle, raw sewage mixes with it and goes into the river. That includes everything that people flush down their toilets, like paper and pharmaceuticals," she says.

Ashley says litter is a huge concern, especially in Lancaster City. "It's a lack of common sense when people put out the trash. It's not tied down properly so it blows everywhere," she says. "Street cleaning is also important for a city and most people don't move their cars or care about it. It needs to happen to keep pollution out of the storm drains."

"The amount of excess salt applied to sidewalks and roads during a snowstorm," bothers Brent. "I understand this is a safety issue if the roads and sidewalks are icy, but I believe de-icing could be accomplished with less salt applied and in a more environmentally-friendly ways."

Clair isn't happy with people who don't pick up after their dogs. "Besides leaving landmines that everyone else walking in the neighborhood needs to dodge," she says, "animal waste left on sidewalks and lawns eventually washes into storm drains and then into local waters, contributing harmful bacteria that raises human health risks."

Frank wishes people would stop littering with their cigarette butts. "They end up in streams, storm drains and elsewhere," he says. "I do not enjoy it when I am fishing and a cigarette butt floats by me or I see one on the streambank. Having to put up with the stench of cigarettes is bad enough but seeing them in the water is even worse."

In fact, the same carcinogenic compounds in cigarettes that can cause disease in humans, leach into the water, some of which could be sources of drinking water.

About 19,000 miles of Commonwealth rivers and streams are polluted, and as we all have a stake in clean water, there is a lot of work ahead. People and government need to do their parts. Pennsylvania has a Blueprint to restore local waterways and we all need to make sure it's implemented.

Correcting our pollution pet peeves by working with others who are often at the root of them, can produce the legacy of clean water that we all deserve.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Trees, Pollution, and an Arbor Day Planting

A work detail of CBF PA staff, students, State Senator Rich Alloway, and others, planted 150 Arbor Day Foundation tree and shrub seedlings along Burd Run at Shippensburg Township Park on April 30, Arbor Day. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

On the day dedicated to appreciating the value of planting trees, that is exactly what a work detail of Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) staff, a handful of students, and a state senator did at a park in southcentral Pennsylvania.

The group planted about 150 Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) tree and shrub seedlings along Burd Run at Shippensburg Township Park on April 30, Arbor Day.

The planting was a few trees short of that achieved in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day in 1872. The state Board of Agriculture back then said "set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit," and offered prizes to those who planted the largest number of trees. More than one million were planted that day.

Planting the variety of sycamores, poplars, oaks, and shrubs into the wet Pennsylvania soil, under overcast skies this Arbor Day, was as important as any effort before it.

"One of the cheapest and easiest ways to protect and filter our waters is to plant trees," state Senator Rich Alloway (R-33rd District) said during a break from wielding a sledgehammer. He spent hours driving in stakes that support tube shelters to protect newly-planting seedlings. Senator Alloway's Chief of Staff, Jeremy Shoemaker, and Legislative Director Chad Reichard were also there to help.

Pennsylvania is significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitments to reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff into rivers and streams. Trees are an effective solution.

Trees and their roots can filter as much as 60 percent of nitrogen, 40 percent of phosphorus and nearly half of sediment in polluted runoff. A single mature oak tree can absorb over 40,000 gallons of water per year. Trees also provide flood control, cool water for brook trout, wildlife habitat, and even improve the air we breathe.

Senator Alloway represents Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties, and is a Pennsylvania member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. He has been a strong advocate for clean water and for planting trees to keep rivers and streams clean.

"We are behind in the number of trees we are supposed to be planting," Senator Alloway said. "I've challenged my colleagues in the Senate and my fellow neighbors to go out and plant trees." The Senator has set a goal to plant 10,000 trees in his district this year. "We are on our way," he added. "We've got quite a few in the ground already, but we need more help from you. All citizens can go out and make a difference."

CBF PA Restoration Specialist Kristen Hoke, explains proper staking technique to PA State Senator Rich Alloway, left, and CBF PA Grassroots Organizer Hannah Ison, during an Arbor Day tree planting. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Seniors from Shippensburg and Big Spring high schools helped with the Arbor Day tree planting, as did Marel King, Pennsylvania director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. Shippensburg Township Supervisors Linda Asper, Steve Oldt, and Marc Rideout were there to offer encouragement and appreciation.

The crew worked under the supervision of CBF restoration specialist Kristen Hoke.

The student involvement was also part of CBF's new Mentors in Agricultural Conservation job-shadowing program in Pennsylvania. About 25 students signed up for the mentoring program to do restoration work and learn first-hand about conservation projects on farms.

When they were finished with the planting, Big Spring senior Truman Heberlig wanted to know if he could get groups of students help plant trees at other projects.

With financial support from the Arbor Day Foundation, CBF purchased roughly 14,000 trees through local conservation district tree sales for planting this year. Last year, CBF gave away 12,280 trees to 148 landowners in 14 Pennsylvania counties through the same partnership. The trees are used to plant new buffers, as was done in Shippensburg on Arbor Day, and to repair existing streamside buffers.

The same evening the Arbor Day trees were planted, CBF Watershed Restoration Program Manager Clair Ryan was in Nebraska accepting the national "Good Steward Award" from the Arbor Day Foundation. It was awarded for CBF's efforts in planting trees, adding buffers to streams, and improving water quality in the Commonwealth.

Just weeks before that, CBF Pennsylvania received the prestigious Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence for helping landowners plant thousands of trees, and reducing pollution of rivers and streams in the Commonwealth.

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

Benefits of Soil Health Extend beyond Farm

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

Farmland in York County. Photo by John Pavoncello/York Dispatch.

Around the home and down on the farm, it's planting season. Prime time for digging in the dirt.

Gardeners are feeling the earth under foot and between their fingers. For farmers, the crop cycle is taking root with spring plantings.

Healthy soil is key to planting success and clean water.

As soil health improves, productivity increases. As soil health improves, it is better able to absorb rain and cycle nutrients, meaning less harmful runoff and cleaner, healthier water. It is an economic and environmental win-win.

Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania are polluted and the Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitments.

Two of the top three sources of that pollution are agricultural and urban/suburban runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. So keeping the soil healthy and in place, are important factors in reducing pollution.

The down and dirty on soil, is that we don't always think of it as having health. But soil can be so much more than a vessel for short-term plant growth dependent solely on the amount of water and fertilizer it can hold. Healthy soil is a living ecosystem and host to organisms of all sizes.

Soil health is influenced by many factors, significant among them is what is planted into it, and the benefits returned to the soil.

Cover crops, including grasses and a mix of broadleaf plantings like clover, are planted on many farm fields after the harvest and allow the soil to absorb, retain, and recycle nutrients, especially nitrates. Cover crops also reduce runoff of phosphorus, as surface water and soil otherwise carry it into local waters.

Increasing organic matter in the soil through cover crops and conservation tillage can increase crop resilience to climate change because it retains water in times of drought, reduces runoff during heavy rains, and moderates soil temperatures in hot weather.

For every one percent increase in organic matter, soil can hold 16,500 gallons of additional water per acre. Cover crops also improve the physical properties of the soil, reducing the degree of surface-sealing and increasing the ability of water to infiltrate the soil, instead of wash over it.

A farmer's quote often repeated in our office is, "We don't have a runoff problem, we have an infiltration problem." It goes to the root of the matter. Improving soil's ability to retain and recycle water greatly reduces the problem of runoff.

No-till planting can reduce erosion by more than 80 percent, compared to deep plowing and crop rotation where crop residue is left in the field.

The benefits of soil health extend beyond the farm.

At home, mulching the lawn pays multiple dividends. Grass clippings provide nutrients and can be an alternative to chemical fertilizers. The cuttings can provide half of the nitrogen the lawn needs in a year.

Before adding any fertilizer to the lawn, homeowners should have their soil tested. Penn State Extension offices in every county sell simple test kits. The results indicate how much, if any, fertilizer or lime might be needed in order to obtain the right balance.

At home or on the farm, maintaining healthy soil that can absorb moisture and cycle nutrients for plant use, that stays anchored in place, plays a key role in reducing pollution that enters our rivers and streams.

That's the dirt on how Pennsylvania can get back on track toward cleaning up its waters.

Clean water is a legacy worth leaving future generations.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

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

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.

York-county-reception-Hill Will Saylor
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