Susquehanna Odyssey Is Testament to a Struggling River

The following first appeared in the York Daily Record.

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Andrew Phillips paddles near the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant south of Harrisburg.

Andrew Phillips grew up a block from the Susquehanna River, in Selinsgrove. He watched bald eaglets in a nest that hung over the river and never got tired of exploring the "huge, magnificent vein" of water in his own backyard. In his senior year of high school, he and a friend kayaked the 120 miles from his home to the Chesapeake Bay.

But Andrew wanted to know more about the river he loves. So earlier this summer, he and a buddy, Mauricio Martinez, kayaked the entire 464 miles of the Susquehanna, from Cooperstown, New York, to Havre de Grace, Maryland, where the river meets the Bay. It was the steamiest and stormiest two weeks of the season.

It was not an unusual feat for the adventurous, compassionate young man who says he'd "already drained the worry out of my family." When he's not studying environmental health at West Chester University or disappearing for days with his backpack, Andrew manages a community garden on campus.

The 20-year-old's odyssey down the living laboratory that is the Susquehanna River provides a true perspective of the problems, pleasures, and promises of a river in peril.

They found wildlife to be plentiful along the way, noting river otters, and more eagles than ducks. They were amazed that an American shad had gotten as far upriver as Harrisburg, although it was dead when they found it.

Mauricio caught a 42-inch muskellunge in Towanda Creek.

The kindness of others provided fresh, clean water and portaging help around some of the more difficult dams. Andrew and Mauricio were awed at how the pristine trickle in New York became the mighty Susquehanna and almost a mile wide at Harrisburg. It even flowed northward at the Pennsylvania-New York border. Both remember the joy of reaching the wide expanse of the bay at Havre de Grace.

In the downstream transformation of the initial, crystalline stream they also saw firsthand the problems that plague the river that flows 20 miles per day, 18 million gallons per minute at Havre de Grace, and provides half of the freshwater to the Bay.

Andrew noted that the river seems burdened by pollutants, especially sediment. He noticed the effects of streambank erosion while still in New York waters.

Once into agricultural areas of Pennsylvania, they stopped using small portable filters and switched to bottled drinking water. "We passed through miles and miles of cornfields on both sides of the river, and the water is greener, less transparent, and more difficult to see through," Andrew says. "The agricultural lands were obvious from the river, as the steeply-eroded, muddy banks, and lack of trees create the feeling of being exposed."

Agriculture is the largest source of water pollution in Pennsylvania and the cheapest to fix.

The Commonwealth's nitrogen and sediment pollution reduction commitments from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are considerably off-track.

Andrew and Mauricio also found that kayaking near dams like Safe Harbor, Holtwood, and Conowingo was brutal for the lack of current. They also took note of the water quality at the impoundments. "You take this pristine river and build a wall in front of it," Andrew remembers. "Sediment builds up, and you end up with this shallow, hot, stagnant reservoir that's really not conducive to any life."

Millions of shad historically swam hundreds of miles up the Susquehanna, which once boasted the largest shad spawning area on the East Coast. But because of dams, the shad's ability to reach spawning habitats has dropped 98 percent in the river basin. Fish ladders exist to try to relieve this problem, but fisheries managers admit they haven't been nearly as successful as hoped. Yet there is some good news: For 12 straight years Pennsylvania has led the nation in the number of dams removed from rivers and streams.

Andrew's adventure down the Susquehanna left him with a greater appreciation for that and all rivers. "They are living bodies themselves because of all the life that relies on them, is immersed in them, and revolves around them. This is our sacred space and deserves so much respect."

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

The Susquehanna River is sick. Urge Governor Wolf and DEP to push for the Lower Susquehanna River to be on EPA's Impaired Waters list!


The Incredible Journey

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Andrew Phillips (left) with friend and fellow adventurer Mauricio Martinez.

Andrew Phillips grew up with a love of adventure and the Susquehanna River.

The 20-year-old environmental health major at West Chester University disappears for days with his backpack, wants to join the Peace Corps, and has a mission trip to Guatemala under his belt.

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Andrew Phillips, finds there’s nowhere to go but down river during yet another downpour, at Great Bend, New York.

Phillips' lifelong interest in water was piqued in high school on a paddling trip with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program, where students tested water quality and surveyed aquatic life in nearby Walker Lake.

His senior year of high school at Selinsgrove High School, Phillips and a friend kayaked 120 miles of the Susquehanna from Selinsgrove to the Chesapeake Bay. It left him wanting more.

So earlier this summer, Phillips and buddy Mauricio Martinez stepped into a crystalline stream at the southern point of Otsego Lake, New York, and began their trip down the entire length of the mighty Susquehanna. The 464 miles would take them from Cooperstown, New York, to where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Maryland, during the most steamy and stormy two weeks of the season.

Phillips describes his extraordinary experience below in a series of observations . . . 

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There were memorable sunrises during the journey. This one was along Towanda Creek, Pennsylvania.

River runs north: "It was kind of disorienting to be kayaking downstream and yet, due north. [The river enters Susquehanna County then curves back northward toward Binghamton, New York.] When we saw the sun setting, it was on the wrong side of us. The river is so winding, you really only see a quarter mile at a time."

Changes: "The murkier water as we headed downstream was so different from the pristine clear water that was at the headwaters. The river seems burdened by the pollutant load, especially the sedimentation. We passed through miles and miles of cornfields on both sides of the river and it is greener, less transparent, and more difficult to see through. The agricultural lands were obvious from the river, as the steeply-eroded, muddy banks and lack of trees create the feeling of being exposed. We could see so tangibly the problems we know exist."

Wildlife: "Peregrine falcons, snapping turtles, otters, a fox on the shoreline. Many species use the river so you are going to see a lot. I've seldom seen river otters so it was cool to see seven or eight. We saw more eagles than ducks."

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Andrew Phillips paddles the first few, narrow miles of the Susquehanna and past streambank erosion and farm fields.

A night like no other: "With only 100 miles to go, we were south of Selinsgrove in yet another storm--the straw that broke the camel's back. We took shelter in a duck blind and it had bees. We moved to under a tree that turned out to be poison ivy."

Flipped for Harrisburg: "I'd gone through that riffle before. It's kind of dangly and didn't leave much of an impression. It was the lowhead effect; you can't see it until you are on top of it. This drop was so abrupt that the nose of my 10-foot, 10-year-old recreational kayak went straight down. I wasn't embarrassed, 350 miles of brutal water tears that out of you. There were fishermen nearby and they were laughing."

Eats: "Spartan provisions. We anticipated catching fish but didn't due mostly to a lack of time. Mauricio caught a 42-inch muskellunge in Towanda Creek. Uncooked Ramen noodles was our chief staple. Every night [we feasted on] a stew made of beans, Ramen noodles, coconut oil, and some adobo. Paddling for 12-14 hours a day you need a lot of fuel." [They also found their favorite mulberries along the way.]

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The area below the dam at Goodyear Lake, New York, provided one of the journey’s toughest portages.

Shad: "We saw a dead American shad on the shore below the small lowhead dam at Harrisburg. For the shad to have made it upstream through those dams is incredible."

Smallmouth bass: "With strange growths found on fish [recently], especially in my area [Selinsgrove], which was the smallmouth capital of the world, it's a huge tragedy. Mauricio still catches smallmouth occasionally near Danville."

Under cover: "Campsites are hard to plan for. The bridges were a lifesaver with all the storms we had. It was arid until we left, and then it was heavy storm after storm. [We had] maybe four nights when it didn't rain. It was 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity."

Drinking water: "At the river's headwaters, a small portable filter is sufficient. As you move downstream it's recommended that you not use them after passing agricultural land. So we bought gallon jugs of water and refilled them along the way."

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A small cannon and plaque on a boulder near Cooperstown, New York, are the monument marking the official headwaters of the Susquehanna River.

Trip of the dammed: "The dams are a real threat to the [Susquehanna]. You take this pristine river and build a wall in front of it. Sediment builds up and you end up with this shallow, hot, stagnant reservoir that's really not conducive to any life."

Kindness of others: "We met interesting people along the way. When you are out on this trip and lacking human contact, it's easy to ask for help with portaging, water, and food."

Still waters: "Near the Safe Harbor, Holtwood, and Conowingo Dams, the kayaking is brutal. [The river becomes] essentially lakes where there's no help from the current. In the headwaters and open areas we covered 40-50 miles a day, easily. At the dam, 30 miles is a stretch."

Grand finale: "It didn't dawn on me until we unpacked. At Havre de Grace, it's incredible. It was the promised land of sorts. The sky opens up and you see this huge, open Chesapeake Bay after being closed by mountains and cliffs for almost 500 miles. It's a really incredible sight."

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Andrew Phillips paddles near the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant south of Harrisburg.

The Bay: "Everybody is downstream. The Bay acts like the dipstick for the whole region. There are so many different threats from so many different angles. We were kind of like flotsam going down the river and saw how this system impacts the Bay itself."

Lasting impression: "Rivers are conveyor belts that show the health of the entire land. [The Susquehanna] is more than a cause that you reluctantly write a check for. This is our sacred space. There are settlements along the way, and they are fixed, but this river runs through them and refreshes itself. You really get a feel for it, like it's an old friend instead of a body of moving water."

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


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 and Restoration 

 


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

 

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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!

 


Photo of the Week: Morning Mist on Spring Creek Canyon

_MG_2356-2362_stitch_50percent_cropSpring Creek is a tributary of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, and a first-class trout fishery in Centre County, Pennsylvania. You wouldn't know it from this picture, but below the mist, the terrain drops 400 feet or so to the Spring Creek streambed.

Of course, the health of the Susquehanna River watershed has direct and dramatic impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay has not only tremendous economic importance, but to me, is valued all the more for the nature, outdoor, and wildlife opportunities as an estuary. Even more than that, I value the Chesapeake Bay for the asthetic and spiritual values the landscape offers.

—Hillel Brandes

Ensure that Hillel and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Send a message to Bay cleanup leaders, who are meeting this week, urging them to fully commit to 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!


Teachers Get Their Feet Wet at Envirothon Workshop

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Brad McClain, Envirothon teacher from Warwick High School, takes a closer look for macro-invertebrates in Elder Run at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. The two-day teacher workshop was sponsored by Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Lancaster County Conservation District. The teachers studied water quality, aquatics, forestry, soils, and wildlife. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Fourteen Envirothon teachers from Pennsylvania and Virginia went paddling, turned over rocks, and studied forestry and soils during a two-day workshop, co-sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Lancaster County Conservation District (LCCD).

Envirothon is a natural resource environmental education program that combines classroom learning and outdoor activities. Teams of five high school students compete at the county and state levels, testing their knowledge of soils and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and environmental issues.

"One of our focuses is to provide professional development for teachers," said Tom Parke, CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) manager. "With this training, we work with teachers who are already passionate environmental educators, so they can work to bring out the best in their students."

SWEP conducts summer training for adults, as well as day-trips for students during the school year. In its 25 years, SWEP has conducted 2,000 programs and involved 43,000 participants with its spring and fall Environmental Education Days. It serves students in grades 6 to 12 in more than 25 central Pennsylvania counties.

Gina Mason is the Envirothon advisor at Palmyra High School in Lebanon County and a SWEP veteran. Palmyra students have gone on SWEP trips for more than ten years and the school's team placed second in the statewide Envirothon in May. Mason said the workshop for teachers was "without a doubt" a good experience. "If the teachers don't learn, how do they teach the students?" Mason asked. "If you have experts teaching the teachers, then the teachers become the experts teaching their students."

Mason and other teachers said they benefited greatly from networking opportunities and sharing of ideas over the two days in Lancaster County.

Brad McClain has been teaching Envirothon students at Warwick High School in Lancaster County since 2003. "I got ideas that I can use to get more field experience with my team," McClain said. "Ideas on how to get more hands-on, like canoeing, that would be great for us to do. Our problem is that our kids are busy after school, so we meet in morning. I need to take it to the next level and start meeting after school."

Forestry and soils were subjects for the teachers the first day of the workshop at the Masonic Village Pavilion in Elizabethtown. 

The group dodged thunderstorms and high waters on the second day. Plans to paddle the Susquehanna River pivoted to canoeing Swatara Creek, then ultimately shifted to "Plan C," spending the day at the Pennsylvania Game Commission's 6,200-acre Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.

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Envirothon teachers get a pre-paddling briefing from SWEP manager Tom Parke before going onto the lake at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Paddling on the 360-acre impoundment, the group spotted a bald eagle, conducted water tests, and heard about water quality in the lake and Lancaster County from LCCD watershed specialist Matt Kofroth. Middle Creek was built for waterfowl and in 2010 was designated as a Globally Significant Important Bird Area. Snow geese have slowly adjusted their routes north to include Middle Creek. About 110,000 snow geese were there on March 16 of this year.

The teachers also had the chance to conduct water tests, and collect and survey living organisms in nearby Elder Run, an exceptional value stream. Among the findings was a small native brook trout, hellgrammite, and a northern dusky salamander

In the afternoon, the teachers learned about waterfowl and mammals of Pennsylvania, and heard from Theresa Alberici, who coordinates the Envirothon on behalf of the Game Commission.

Ms. Alberici acknowledged that the Envirothon test is challenging and its lessons are lifelong. "There are kids who really do know a lot about the environment and this is the chance to show off their knowledge," she said. "Some kids might be involved in a career that involves the environment. But if not, they will think about the environment no matter what. So if they are a lawyer or accountant or on a construction crew, they will think about what they are doing and how what they are doing affects the environment. That's just as important as a career in the environment."

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


Trees: The Cool Solution to Water Pollution

The following first appeared in The Sentinel.

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Trees are critical to improving water quality throughout Pennsylvania's rivers and streams. Photo by Justin Black/iLCP.

These arid days of summer aren't so dogged, spent under the cool canopy of an old oak tree, a cold drink in hand and a refreshing breeze on your face.

While looking for relief and grabbing some shade, we might pause to appreciate the health, economic, and esthetic values that trees add to our lives.

Planting trees as stream-side buffers is one of the most affordable ways to reduce the harmful runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment polluting Pennsylvania waters. The commonwealth is lagging well behind in its goals to reduce pollution of its streams and rivers and ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.

To get back on track, the state must reduce nitrogen pollution by an additional 14.6 million pounds, or 22 percent, by the end of this year. Trees and their roots can filter as much as 60 percent of nitrogen, 40 percent of phosphorus, and nearly half of sediment in runoff. A single mature oak tree can absorb more than 40,000 gallons of water per year.

Trees are the answer to multiple pollution reduction challenges in the commonwealth. To meet its commitments by 2017, Pennsylvania also must add 22,000 acres of forest and grass buffers to Penn's Woods. Another very tall task.

Stream-side buffers also help reduce erosion and provide shade, critical food and shelter for wildlife. Trees stabilize stream banks and lower water temperatures, which are vital to a thriving aquatic ecosystem.

Enhanced by the presence of trees, microbes and insects such as caddisflies, stoneflies, and mayflies in cool, wooded streams consume runoff nutrients and organic matter. Some native mayflies, for example, thrive at 68 degrees but perish at 70.

Native brook trout flourish in cool, clean water and are returning to streams where buffers have been installed.

Trees also are valuable around the home. When included in urban and suburban landscaping, trees absorb pollution and provide shade. A single large tree in the front yard can intercept 760 gallons of water in its crown, reducing stormwater runoff. The beauty of trees is evident in every neighborhood.

Trees provide benefits wherever they stand. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that one acre of forest can absorb six tons of carbon dioxide and put out four tons of oxygen, enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.

Trees have economic benefits. The U.S. Forest Service reports that healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property's value, and when placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent.

Native plants are preferred and more than 130 native tree species grow across Pennsylvania. Popular types include the oaks, hickories, maples, dogwood, red bud, sycamore, and honey-locust.

Late summer and early fall are optimum months to plant trees in order to take advantage of cooler soil temperatures and the ability of trees to establish strong root systems.

In the meantime, enjoy the shade. Summer is the ideal time to consider new plantings and how and where more trees will make our lives better.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Take action now to ensure clean water restoration, like critical tree plantings in Pennsylvania, continues across the region. Take action for the Bay, rivers, and streams we all love!

 


This Week in the Watershed

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Fencing animals out of streams is one of the most effective solutions in improving water quality. Photo by Justin Black/iLCP.

The work to save the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams can be extremely complex. From wastewater treatment plant upgrades to stormwater retrofits, some of the solutions are big, intricate projects that are downright expensive. At the same time, many of the solutions—often in agriculture, the  biggest source of pollution and least expensive to reduce—are surprisingly straightforward and economical.

One of these solutions is fencing animals out of streams. This prevents streamside erosion and keeps manure out of our waterways, making a dramatic difference. In Virginia however, the state is failing to protect its streams, rivers, and the Bay by allowing animals from large livestock farms unfettered access to streams. We're taking the state to court, asking that stream fencing, one of the most effective best management practices, is implemented and enforced on all large livestock farms.

In the end, ideas are only as good as their execution. Throughout the watershed we will continue to fight for common sense solutions to save the Bay and its rivers and streams for us and future generations.

This week in the Watershed: Going to Court for Fences, Pennsylvania, and Solar

  • CBF's Merrill Center is getting 370 solar panels installed on its roof! The project will reduce the building's energy usage by 30 percent. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • CBF is suing the state of Virginia to require large livestock operations to fence off rivers and streams from their animals. (Associated Press)
  • More info on CBF's legal action to challenge Virginia's rules for large livestock farms. (CBF Press Release—VA)
  • As has been reported, Pennsylvania is off track on pollution reduction. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • There is a clear consensus that Pennsylvania needs to accelerate its pollution reduction efforts. (Republican Herald Editorial—PA)
  • Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director, writes that while Pennsylvania has fallen behind on its clean water commitments, there's still time for Pennsylvania to get back on track. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • CBF President Will Baker discusses the critical importance of the Susquehanna River and the need to save it for both Pennsylvanians and the Chesapeake Bay. (Huffington Post)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

July 9

  • 10,000 potted trees at CBF's Clagett Farm's Native Tree and Shrub Nursery need a little TLC! Come volunteer to help maintain these trees that will eventually be planted as a buffer against erosion, and a way to mitigate nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff into the Bay! Contact David Tana at MDRestoration@cbf.org to register.

July 11

  • Enjoy a leisurely guided hike along the Gwynns Falls Trail through Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. A guest speaker will bring to life the history of this the second largest urban park in the country. Click here to register! Deadline to register is July 7.

July 16

  • Attend the U.S. Green Building Council's National Capital Region's "A Midnight Summer's Dream" Gala. This annual fundraiser has been the premier summer networking event for the DC metro area’s green building community for over a decade. Click here for more information!

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!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Pennsylvania Leaders Must Step up to Meet Clean Water Commitments

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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Agriculture and polluted runoff from sprawl development are two of the leading causes of water pollution in Pennsylvania. Photo by Garth Lenz.

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) latest assessment of Pennsylvania's efforts to reduce pollution and restore its waterways that flow to the Chesapeake Bay, finds that the Commonwealth has fallen dangerously short of meeting its clean water commitment.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) believes now is the time to galvanize leadership from all sectors of government, including federal partners like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), farmers and others, to truly invest in correcting the current course and reducing pollution.

As part of the Clean Water Blueprint, Bay states developed two-year incremental pollution reduction targets, called milestones, with the goal of implementing 60 percent of the programs and practices necessary to restore local water quality by 2017 and finish the job by 2025.

EPA's review of Pennsylvania's reported progress in its 2014-15 milestones found that while on track for phosphorus reduction, there are significant shortfalls in meeting nitrogen and sediment pollution goals.

The EPA found the most significant shortfall to be in reducing nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture. To get back on track, the Commonwealth must reduce nitrogen pollution by an additional 14.6 million pounds, or 22 percent, by the end of this year.

The report also shows that reducing pollution fromurban/stormwater runoff is off track. Using 2009 as a baseline, Pennsylvania committed to reducing nitrogen pollution from urban/suburban runoff by 41 percent by 2025. As of 2014, practices were put in place to reduce nitrogen pollution by only one percent.

The wastewater treatment sector has exceeded its obligations.

Agriculture is the leading cause of stream impairment, damaging more than 5,000 miles as a result of polluted runoff and eroded streambanks. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), 166 miles of York County's streams are impaired by agricultural activities.

Agriculture is also one of the least expensive sources of pollution to reduce. Farmers benefit from measures that improve water quality. For example, valuable soils and nutrients are kept on the fields with conservation tillage and cover crops.

In York County, 134 stream miles are impaired due to polluted runoff from urban and suburban development, according to DEP. Recent efforts to develop a regional plan to address the issue, led by the York County Planning Department, promise cost-effective solutions which can reduce flooding and beautify communities.

After decades of missing deadlines, Pennsylvania faces federal consequences for falling behind its clean water commitments. If efforts to reduce pollution in the Commonwealth are not meaningfully advanced, there could be significant impacts to taxpayers from increased sewage treatment costs and other actions.

Clean water counts. The health and economic benefits of achieving our clean water goals are huge. A peer-reviewed report produced by CBF showed a $6.2 billion return on investment if the Commonwealth meets its commitments.

There's still time for Pennsylvania to get back on track, if the accelerated effort begins now. Restoring water quality is a legacy worth leaving our children and future generations.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Are you a resident of Pennsylvania? Make your voice heard, and tell your County Commissioners to pass a resolution saying Clean Water Counts in Pennsylvania!


This Week in the Watershed

 Rock run_1200

Rock Run in Lycoming, PA, a tributary of the Susquehanna River, is one of many streams and creeks whose health dramatically impacts the Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

It has been said many times, as goes Pennsylvania, so goes the Chesapeake Bay. With half of the Bay's fresh water coming from the Susquehanna, Pennsylvania has a more dramatic impact on the health of the Bay than any other state. This reality makes the EPA's recent interim milestone assessment all the more alarming. While Maryland and Virginia are generally on track, Pennsylvania is on pace to fall significantly short.

In the coming months, we will continue to focus on reducing pollution from Pennsylvania, while not losing sight of the responsibilities all states in the watershed have in cleaning our rivers, streams, and Bay.

This week in the Watershed: Pennsylvania, Sneakers, and a Climate Change Encyclical

  • Pennsylvania is way off track in meeting it's pollution reduction goals. (Bay Journal)
  • Virginia's Lafayette River bi-annual survey reveals it's getting increasingly healthy. (Virginian Pilot—VA)
  • Former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler conducted his annual "Sneaker Index," where he waded into the Patuxent River until he could no longer see his white sneakers. The informal survey measured the clearest water since the 1950s! (Southern Maryland News—MD)
  • Pennsylvania really does need to step up their game. (Baltimore Sun Editorial)
  • While Pennsylvania needs to make major leaps in its pollution reduction goals, Virginia is generally on track. (Daily Press—VA)
  • Philadelphia County and numerous businesses and organizations joined CBF's Clean Water Counts! initiative in Pennsylvania, which calls on state officials to make clean water a top priority in the Keystone State. (CBF Press Release—PA)
  • The Pope released an encyclical Thursday, calling for a cultural revolution to combat climate change. CBF came out in support of his encyclical, applauding him for calling people to be better stewards of creation. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

June 20

  • Those who have been growing oysters can plant them in the Patuxent River.
  • Get outside and get your hands dirty, helping plant 400 trees and shrubs along Swatara Creek in Londonderry, PA. E-mail Kate Austin at KAustin@cbf.org to register!
  • Yet another opportunity for those interested in oyster gardening for the first time or those looking to pick up new baby oysters to attend an oyster gardening workshop, this time in Deltaville, VA.
  • The Clean Water Concert Series continues on Maryland's Eastern Shore, as the XPD's perform in Easton, MD.

June 21

  • Love paddle boarding? Then put on your calendar "Cape 2 Cape," a festival celebrating paddle boarding through a 19-mile race across the Bay and various Father's Day races. All proceeds benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

June 24-25

  • Interested in advocating for clean water in Virginia? Attend the 5th Annual Clean Water Captains workshop in Virginia Beach. E-mail Lori Kersting at LKersting@cbf.org for more information.

June 25

  • Get on the water with CBF on Susquehanna's West Branch, often described as a "recreation mecca." On this canoe adventure you'll learn about the native ecosystem and explore the verdant valley, paddling by plants and animals that call these unique ecosystems home. Click here to register!

June 26

  • 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. Registration is required!

July 11

  • Enjoy a leisurely guided hike along the Gwynns Falls Trail through Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. A guest speaker will bring to life the history of this the second largest urban park in the country. Click here to register! Deadline to register is July 7.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate