One-For-One Replanting Bill Will Help Preserve Maryland's Forests

The following first appeared in the Frederick News-Post.

Black-trees
Photo by Justin Black/iLCP

Pit a bulldozer against a tree and the tree rarely wins. But for four years, fiscal 2007 to 2011, Frederick County found a way to stem the loss of forests to new development: insist that an acre be planted for every acre cut down.

It was a sensible move that saved county residents money and protected local rivers and creeks.

Forests are natural sponges. A forest soaks up tens of thousands of gallons of water during a rain storm, and thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from the air.

Without forests, runoff from storms flows into and pollutes local streams. We expect Frederick realized how expensive it is to fix that problem. It made sense not to lose any more forests than necessary.

What if forests were cut down and taxpayers had to pay to plant rain gardens and other devices to soak up the runoff forests used to hold? How much would that cost? A 2015 study by the Low Impact Development Center in Beltsville concluded that Prince George's forest reduces polluted runoff by 4.3 billion gallons a year in the county, a service worth $12.8 billion annually.

Frederick County has more forest than Prince George's. So the benefits could be worth even more.

Frederick County's 2007 action set standards higher than minimal state requirements for how much builders have to replant if they cut down forest on a development site. The state Forest Conservation Act requires builders only to replant one acre for every four cut down. Frederick's ordinance required one acre replanted for one acre cleared.

The results were immediate. While other counties continued to lose forests at alarming rates, Frederick actually planted more acres of forest — 424 acres — than developers cut down from 2008 to 2011.

Save forests. Save money. And protect clean water and air.

Then, suddenly in 2011 the next Board of Commissioners repealed the replanting ordinance. Since that repeal, forest loss in Frederick County has increased, according to annual reports the county submits to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, although other aspects of the county's FCA program have encouraged a relatively high replanting rate.

Now, only neighboring Carroll County has the one-to-one replanting requirement. Not surprisingly, Carroll is the only county where forests are actually increasing, according to the DNR data.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes this is unfortunate. Thankfully, legislation in the Maryland General Assembly this session, (Senate Bill 365/House Bill 599), offers a solution. It would strengthen the FCA by requiring one-for-one replanting across the state. The bill effectively mimics what Frederick County successfully did locally in 2007 — before the repeal.

The state legislation also would give counties the option to charge a builder more who wants to clear more forest and not replant. Currently, developers often avoid replanting by paying a small fee that doesn't always cover the cost of replacement.

Frederick County Senator Ron Young is the lead sponsor in the Senate. We urge all Frederick County residents who value trees to support these bills.

—Erik Fisher, CBF's Maryland Assistant Director

Speak for the trees! Send a message to your legislators today letting them know you want them to support strengthening the Forest Conservation Act.


Forest Conservation Law Needs Bolstering

The following first appeared in the Capital Gazette.

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Maryland's forests remain at risk if the Forest Conservation Act is not strengthened. Photo by Tom Zolper/CBF Staff.

Thanks to the controversial Crystal Spring development project, Annapolis residents probably know more than most Marylanders about the state Forest Conservation Act, or FCA. They know that in a battle to save trees, the law can feel about as forceful as a wiffle ball bat.

Enacted in 1991, the law is intended to minimize how much forest a developer cuts down. The Crystal Spring developers proposed to clear about half of the woods on the property on the ironically named Forest Drive. They argued the FCA allows such large clearance.

The City of Annapolis is rewriting its own forest conservation ordinance, so it is stronger than the state law.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation feels the state law itself needs to be strengthened. It's time for Anne Arundel County and other jurisdictions across Maryland to realize the law isn't working as intended. Too much forest is coming down and not being replaced. State records show Maryland lost a net 14,480 acres of forest to development projects in the past eight years.

Inspired by Annapolis' effort, CBF is pushing the state legislature to amend the FCA. Just as it was passionate citizens from the Annapolis Neck, Eastport, and other neighborhoods in and outside Annapolis who educated city officials, we now need Marylanders to tell their state delegates and senators they support Senate Bill 365 and House Bill 599.

The legislation, scheduled for a hearing Wednesday before the House Transportation and the Environment Committee (with a rally at Lawyers Mall beforehand), would require developers to replant an acre of forest for each acre they cut down. It also would give local governments flexibility to charge builders higher fees when they claim they can't replant. Currently, those fees are so low in some places that they don't cover the cost of replanting.

The Crystal Spring project got substantial scrutiny in the past few years for proposing to cut down 43 acres of forest. But development projects beyond the city limits in Anne Arundel have received little scrutiny as they cut down forest — 410 acres in fiscal 2016, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

It's difficult to determine the total forest loss to development in Anne Arundel over a longer period. The county did not submit annual reports about its FCA implementation in five of the past eight years. The reports are required by the FCA. Maryland did not enforce the reporting requirement.

But the three reports available show Anne Arundel County allowed builders to clear an average of about 45 percent of all forests on their properties prior to construction, or 682 acres. The county required builders to replant only 61 acres in those years.

Many Anne Arundel developers have paid the fee-in-lieu instead of replanting what they cut. It's unclear how much of those funds the county has used to replant trees that were cleared.

The state legislation, SB 365 and HB 599, offers a better solution: require developers to replant more than they do now and give localities the right to charge higher fees if developers want to avoid replanting. Taken together, these changes will finally reflect the true value of trees to Anne Arundel citizens.

Forests provide enormous health, environmental, and economic benefits to communities. A single acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide annually, and produces enough oxygen in a day to support 18 people, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. A 2015 study by the Low Impact Development Center in Beltsville calculated the forests of Prince George's County provide at least $12 billion in public benefits. Anne Arundel forests likely provide comparable services.

Are we prepared to pay the piper for losing those benefits?

Let forests continue to help us. Support SB 365 and HB 599.

—Erik Fisher, CBF's Maryland Assistant Director

Speak for the trees! Send a message to your legislators today letting them know you want them to support strengthening the Forest Conservation Act.


CBF Building Exhibits a Resilient Future

The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.

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CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, VA was built with climate change in mind. Photo by Chris Gorri/CBF Staff.

This year's rough weather has battered Hampton Roads. It's not just the summer's brutal heat wave. It's the deluge of seven inches of rain that fell in just two hours in July, the high waters that surrounded buildings when Hurricane Hermine hit over Labor Day, and the 13 inches of rain that fell overnight in late September, or the massive amounts of rain that accompanied Hurricane Matthew.

Newscasts and the newspaper have been filled with images of water lapping around houses, submerged cars, and rowboats navigating flooded streets.

It's a window into the future.

But since opening nearly two years ago, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach has remained undamaged. Sometimes, even as rains fell and the winds howled, locals gathered there to watch storms roll in over the Lynnhaven River. They knew that the CBF building is climate-change ready, designed to be resilient in the face of the toughest weather.

"After a bad storm, community members visit the Brock Center to see how it weathered," said Brock Center Manager Chris Gorri. "Severe weather becomes a teachable moment. People ask questions about the wind turbines or want to see how high the water is on the Lynnhaven River." Some want to learn how they can adapt their own homes to better cope with recurrent flooding.

Designed and built to withstand the effects some of the worst weather in the world, the center is a model for a region increasingly at risk. According to Old Dominion University's Center for Sea Level Rise, sea levels have risen 14 inches in Hampton Roads since 1930. Low lying cities, rising waters, and sinking lands are why.

The Brock Center is ready. It is raised 14 feet above sea level, staying high and dry during flooding. Its windows can withstand a collision with a two-by-four hurled at 110 miles per hour. Its grounds are designed to eliminate runoff.

Gravel paths and permeable roadways and parking areas let water soak into the ground. The Brock Center's one-of-a-kind rainwater treatment system filters rain falling on the center's roof for use as drinking water.

The building is set far back from the river, with a wide sandy buffer of grasses and shrubs that absorbs storm surges.

In early October, Hurricane Matthew brought strong winds and up to 12 inches of rain in the region, inundating some roadways under several feet of water. Schools closed, power was out for days, and officials urged cutbacks on water usage because of stressed sewer systems.

At the Brock Center, that storm flipped over benches and knocked over a large sturdy sign. But the strongest flooding seen at Brock came a year earlier, as storms linked to Hurricane Joaquin sent water from the Lynnhaven River rushing knee-deep under the raised building. Neither storm damaged the building or its wind turbines.

The Brock Center also fights back against climate change with its residential wind turbines and solar panels, which produce far more energy than the building consumes and send clean excess energy to the grid. The center's energy conservation allows it to use 80 percent less energy than a typical office building of its size.

Thanks to these innovations, earlier this year the Brock Center achieved one of the toughest building standards in the world. Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute requires a building to produce more energy than it uses over the course of 12 consecutive months and meet a host of other strict criteria.

As we increasingly grapple with the effects of climate change, the Brock Center shines brightly as a solution. Sustainability means more than just energy efficiency. It means being able to sustain the extremes nature can and will throw at us. With Brock, we're proving that we have a choice to raise the bar, reduce pollution, and adapt to climate change.

And, we can do it in comfort and beauty.

—Mary Tod Winchester, CBF's Vice President for Administration


This Week in the Watershed: A Growing Source of Pollution

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Polluted runoff is one of the major sources of pollution growing in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

Seventeen million. That's the number of people living in the Chesapeake Bay region. This presents a natural obstacle to clean water, most notably in efforts to reduce polluted runoff. A major source of pollution that continues to grow, water flowing off our streets, parking lots, and building rooftops, picks up all kinds of pollutants like pet waste, sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, oil, and automotive fluids. As more houses, roads, and shopping centers are built, more of this polluted runoff makes its way through gutters and storm drains to the nearest river or stream and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.

Given this reality, it's disappointing Maryland's Department of Environment is allowing localities to skirt their responsibilities by not funding efforts to reduce polluted runoff. While polluted runoff improvements might not top the list of most compelling government expenditures, failing to make this investment will all but guarantee clean water will remain out of reach.

The more impermeable surfaces we develop, saving the Bay and its rivers and streams will only become more difficult. If we want to leave a legacy of clean water to future generations, we need to fully implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. With 17 million residents living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed—certain to only balloon further—failing to invest in efforts to reduce polluted runoff is a mistake we cannot afford.

P.S.- Our fall version of e-news just hit inboxes yesterday. Check out these state and program updates! Pennsylvania | Maryland | Eastern Shore of Maryland | Virginia | Hampton Roads | Federal Affairs

This Week in the Watershed: Reducing Runoff, Hungry Geese, and Pumping Water

  • Hampton Roads is taking an innovative approach to impede the slowly rising sea. (Washington Post—D.C.)
  • Canadian geese aren't receiving a very warm welcome in the Anacostia River wetlands, as they are hindering efforts to restore tidal marshes. (Bay Journal)
  • Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director, spoke to the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy, and Agriculture and Rural Affairs committees, advocating for a sustainable funding stream for Pennsylvania's clean water reboot. (CBF Press Statement)
  • The giant blue crab caught on a CBF Education trip in the lower Susquehanna Flats last week is still turning heads! (Bay Journal)
  • Throughout Maryland, many localities are not properly funding measures to reduce polluted runoff. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Bonus: CBF Press Statement
  • The proliferation of chicken houses on an industrial scale across the Eastern Shore has raised economic, environmental, and public health concerns among residents. (Bay Journal)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

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 tcouncil@cbf.org or call 757-622-1964.

October 29

  • Woodsboro, MD: Help CBF plant over 1,000 trees and shrubs along Israel Creek on a beef cattle farm in Frederick County. Approximately 5,000 feet of stream banks will be planted resulting in six acres of new riparian buffer. Israel Creek is in the Monocacy River watershed which flows to the Potomac River then to the Chesapeake Bay. Click here to register!

November 3

  • Easton, MD: Oyster season is here, and whether or not you're a fan of eating the Bay's beloved bivalve, you've probably noticed a growing number of farmed oyster varieties available in local seafood markets and restaurants on the Eastern Shore. This is a sure sign that oyster farming, also known as "aquaculture," is on the rise in Maryland. Join us for a forum on this rising trend to learn more about oyster aquaculture from experts in the field. The event is free, but click here to register!

November 5

  • Smithsburg, MD: Join CBF at this recently completed stream restoration project on Little Antietam Creek and help us with the final stages of restoring the stream banks and floodplain. Volunteers will install live stakes consisting of willow cuttings as well as native trees and shrubs.  Learn about stream restoration techniques used throughout the region by touring this recently completed project and lend your hand for the final touches. Click here to register!

November 6

  • Annapolis, MD: Join approximately 25,000 runners and walkers crossing the 4.35-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge as part of the third annual Across the Bay 10k. The dual-span bridge doesn’t allow pedestrian traffic at any other time of the year, so this is a unique opportunity—and the view is amazing! CBF is an official charity partner of the Across the Bay 10k and we are excited to offer Charity Bibs as part of that partnership. It's a win-win...you get a guaranteed entry into the race and help save the Bay with a donation to CBF! Get your charity bib now!

November 12

  • Virginia Beach, VA: Volunteer with CBF at Calypso Bar & Grill! We will be celebrating our favorite bivalve, the oyster, with an oyster roast. Volunteers are needed to help recycle the oyster shells, pour beverages, and take tickets. A portion of the proceeds will help CBF in its work to save the Bay! To volunteer, please email or call Tanner Council at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757-622-1964.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


This Week in the Watershed

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Flooding is just one of the many potential consequences from irresponsible development. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

Around the region, irresponsible developments are being approved at the risk of polluting our waters. These poor decisions are hitting a nerve. Last month, at a packed public hearing over the proposed rezoning of Virginia's Fones Cliffs, the vast majority of speakers spoke out against development. This week, more than 1,100 CBF supporters responded to our call to action, sending e-mails to Maryland's Board of Public Works voicing their disapproval for a Kent Island housing development on a wetland. Both of these proposed developments are examples of large-scale building in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Despite this citizen protest, the outside developers won each time. Their shortsighted appeals of economic stimulus to the communities were chosen over the long-term economic benefits that a healthy Chesapeake Bay would provide. A recent study commissioned by CBF revealed that if the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented, it will provide an increase of $22.5 billion (that's billion with a "B") in natural benefits to the watershed every year. Talk about an economic stimulus.

Nobody ever said protecting the Bay would be easy. While clean water didn't win at Fones Cliffs or Kent Island this time, the fight isn't over. We won't back down.

This Week in the Watershed: Dirty Development, Farm Nutrients, and Oyster Love

  • Agriculture and fisheries management have collided with the recent boom of aquaculture in Maryland. (Daily Times—MD)
  • An irresponsible development on Kent Island called Four Seasons was approved despite citizen protest. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Dealing with the tons of chicken manure produced in Maryland every year is messy in more ways than one. But could it be used to produce clean, renewable energy? (Think Progress)
  • Nutrient management plans have a history of controversy, a theme that will likely continue with the Bay Program approving nutrient reduction credits for farms. (Bay Journal)
  • The Baltimore County Council unanimously approved phasing out the dedicated stormwater fee, while not providing an alternate plan for the county to pay for federally mandated stormwater remediation. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Any oyster fan will love this editorial and its celebration of November as Virginia Oyster Month. (Free Lance Star—VA)
  • ICYMI: the Richmond County Board of Supervisors has voted to rezone Fones Cliffs, a treasured site on the Rappahannock River. (Bay Journal)

Lend Your Voice for Clean Water!

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

November 26

  • Watershed-Wide: Happy Thanksgiving!

November 30

  • The Internet: Cyber Monday is a great day to find online deals. Before you get started though, answer this—What if a simple click could help Save the Bay? Now it can. All you have to do is type www.cbf.org/amazon into your browser to shop on Amazon, and a percentage of every dollar you spend—no matter what you purchase—will go towards helping Save the Bay at no extra cost to you!

December 1

  • Watershed-Wide: Giving Tuesday is a global movement focused on giving, and it's the perfect opportunity to give something back to the Bay, the creatures that call it home, and your whole community. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation for our Bay on Giving Tuesday, and your gift's impact will be doubled!

December 2

  • VA Eastern Shore: Join CBF's monthly Citizen Advocacy Training to get a crash course on timely Bay legislative priorities and learn how they affect Virginia's Eastern Shore. This conference call will also allow time for you to ask questions and discuss opportunities to lend a hand or lift your voice for clean water. Contact Tatum Ford at tford@cbf.org or 757-971-0366 for more information.

December 5

  • Richmond, VA: Join us at the Virginia Conversation Network's General Assembly Preview. The event will cover topics like the Virginia Coastal Protection Act and the Clean Water Rule, with Delegate Lopez as the highlighted speaker. Lunch will be provided, but space is limited. Click here to register and learn more!

December 12

  • Virginia Beach, VA: With far more requests for speaker's than we have staff or time, CBF relies on its Speaker's Bureau volunteers to handle a variety of speaking opportunities. Whether you are current on the issues and ready to share our message, or just enjoy public speaking and would like to get trained, we welcome your commitment to this important and high-profile program. Join us to learn the facts and skills to share our mission to Save the Bay with local groups and organizations. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


City Leaders Doing Right by Business and Clean Water

The following first appeared in the Daily Times.

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Confronting the polluted runoff problem has been a contentious issue in Salisbury, MD, for decades. Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

Given the rhetoric flying fast and furious over taxes and fees, what happened last November in the Salisbury City Council chambers may seem surprising. The council voted unanimously to approve a new fee ordinance.

But many who live and work here rallied behind this fee because they understand what outsiders may not: it makes common sense. The ordinance will make the city more fiscally responsible. It will help promote economic development. It will protect citizens' health and property.

The ordinance will allow the city to collect a fee dedicated solely to upgrading its 105-year-old system of pipes, ponds and other drainage structures. Council President Jacob Day said the city for decades has neglected maintenance and improvements to the system. As political winds shifted, funding for fixing the problem shifted to various other priorities.

The result: Parts of the downtown business district and low-laying residential areas of the city constantly flood. Also, a polluted river runs through the heart of the city.

With stormwater utility, city's leaders doing right by business and clean water. The November vote authorized the fund, and the City Council is currently considering a fee of $20 a year per residential household. The fee on a business will be calculated based on the amount of polluted runoff that comes off its property.

Those fees are less than half the national average. And while council members recognized a new fee can be burdensome, they unanimously agreed doing nothing will cost more.

Councilwoman Laura Mitchell gave one personal example of the cost of polluted water to her family: swimming lessons for her son. "I learned to swim in Shoemaker Pond. He's learned to swim in a chlorinated pool at the YMCA. And that's not free either."

Day said over the years, business owners have demanded the city do something about flooding and the cost to business. He said he is fed up with sitting at those meetings, listening sympathetically and then explaining the city lacks funds for a fix.

Councilman Spies agreed, calling the fund "an economic imperative for us."

Day said in good conscience he cannot pass on "crumbling infrastructure" — and the debt that comes with it — to future generations. He added that the proposed ordinance generated more emails and comments to his office in support than any issue since the election.

The same support showed itself during the public portion of the meeting, when only one person testified against the ordinance.

One supporter said he recently read a story in an outdoor magazine about the best towns in the country to live or visit. All the towns shared one common feature: They all are near water, and all have taken drastic steps to improve the quality of their waterfronts and their water. The speaker said he was a small business owner who wholeheartedly supported the fee, if it does what the city says.

Judith Stribling of Salisbury University said water monitoring in the Wicomico River has clearly demonstrated how pollution running off city properties, as well as upriver farms and other areas, has degraded the river.

"The Wicomico River used to be the No. 1 bass fishing river on the bay, I think. It was a major destination at any point. Water quality has declined to the point where that is not the case...I commend (the Mayor and Council) for taking this on as a service to the citizens of city of Salisbury. This will increase their property values and increase their quality of life."

A list of priority projects already drawn up will ensure the city gets the biggest bang for its buck. The ordinance spells out that the money can only be used for stormwater projects and cannot be diverted for any other purpose. Day called for flooding problems on Main Street and Germania Circle to be addressed immediately.

Salisbury will join Berlin and Oxford on the Eastern Shore, which also have adopted stormwater utilities, as well as 21 jurisdictions in Virginia, six in Pennsylvania and about 1,400 nationwide.

Despite all the political rancor in our state and country, a chorus of agreement seems to be building on one thing: An investment in clean, safe water is an investment in our communities.

—Erik Fisher, CBF's Maryland Land Use Planner


On the Front Lines of Mitigating Climate Change

The following first appeared on EcoWatch.

Brock_1200CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach. Photo by Roberto Westbrook.

Sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia are rising at a rate more than twice the global average. Since 1960, the area has experienced a 325 percent increase in "nuisance flooding" that disrupts business by closing roads and flooding parking lots and putting undue stress on infrastructure, like storm water drains, roads and sidewalks.

Some of this recurrent flooding is due to the land settling, the geologic results of a massive meteor strike here 35 million years ago. But there's little doubt the Virginia coast is also on the frontline of climate change, surging waters and more intense storms. It's no longer a question if and when the sea will rise here; the challenge is how much and how to adapt.

The Chesapeake Bay is our nation's largest estuary and home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals, including thousands of acres of valuable coastal marsh and wetlands. Scientists anticipate Virginia will lose 50-80 percent of these wetlands in the next 50 years at the current rate of sea-level rise. And it isn't just the beautiful vistas we'll lose, but everything else these wetlands provide—protection from erosion near waterfront property; flood control; filtration of runoff and removal of pollutants; and the food, water and habitat for the critters that call the wetlands home.

The busy Hampton Roads area is the second most populated region at risk from sea level and related storm damage after New Orleans. And it is home to the world's largest Navy base. During a speech at the College of William and Mary, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) remarked that in another 25 years, the main road into Naval Station Norfolk, will be under water three hours a day.

Thus, climate change not only threatens our way of life, but it's threatening our national security as well. We need to mitigate its effects with short- and long-term strategies. We need to adapt to these changes by developing environmentally smart infrastructure that not only allows us to live in a rapidly changing world, but minimizes climate changing pollution for the future.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's new Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach is designed to do just that by minimizing CO2 emissions, limiting environmental impacts and adapting to rising sea-levels. The center is built on pilings more than 14 feet above sea level and 200 feet back from the river's edge (double the 100 feet clearance required by Virginia law), safe from both rising sea levels and storm surges.

The Brock Environmental Center also utilizes existing technology and common-sense design features to meet the Living Building Challenge, the highest standard for environmentally smart building. Two small wind turbines and roof top solar arrays generate enough energy to power the building. Geothermal wells, windows that open and close according to temperature needs, super-insulated walls and floors, and natural ventilation features—heat and cool the building.

And rain cisterns and a filtering system make the Brock Environmental Center the first project in the U.S. to receive a commercial permit for drinking filtered/treated rainwater in accordance with the federal drinking water requirements. In fact, the center uses rainwater for all its water needs.     
The builders also extensively used recycled and salvaged materials to reduce waste, and they excluded more than 300 hundred toxic materials typically found in common building materials.

Finally, the building was designed to prevent site disturbance—there is no parking lot on site, and it is landscaped in native trees, shrubs, and grasses to restore years of displaced wetlands. The natural landscaping allows flood waters to rise, settle and recede naturally without harm to the center or nearby neighborhoods.

Now open for business, the Brock Environmental Center allows the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to continue its groundbreaking work saving the Bay in Hampton Roads while providing a national model for smart building, energy efficiency, and climate-change adaptability.

—Christy Everett, CBF Hampton Roads Director

Click here to watch a drone fly through of the completed Brock Environmental Center!


Rethinking Coastal Development in Virginia Beach

The following first appeared in The Daily Caller late last week.

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The Brock Environmental Center at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Photo by Deanna Brusa/CBF Staff

Intense storms, winds, and waves increasingly threaten waterfront homes up and down the East Coast. But many communities refuse to recognize the risk. Instead, they are kicking the can down the road and leaving the problem to our children and grandchildren.

Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seems to be looking the other way. NBC News reported earlier this year that FEMA has remapped more than 500 waterfront properties from the Gulf of Alaska to Bar Harbor, Maine, "removing" them (at least on redrawn maps) from the highest-risk flood zone. That saves the owners as much as 97 percent on premiums they pay into the financially strained National Flood Insurance Program.

This remapping amounts to expanding the subsidy to the rich for building expensive waterfront properties or luxury condominiums in environmentally fragile areas. This is one issue where environmentalists and conservatives who favor small government should agree – government subsidized flood insurance wastes taxpayer's dollars and harms local ecosystems.

Such policies seem perverse. Sometimes it takes local citizens and community groups to take matters into their own hands and find smarter, more commonsense solutions to coastal overdevelopment. Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Va., could be a model for doing just that.

Pleasure House Point is a 118-acre peninsula of beach, marsh, and trees on the Lynnhaven River near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. One of the last undeveloped waterfront parcels in Virginia Beach, developers purchased it years ago and planned to build "Indigo Dunes," a massive development of more than 1,000 new high-rise condos and townhouses, despite the fierce opposition of nearby neighborhoods and the City of Virginia Beach. By 2008, Indigo Dunes and its thousands of new waterfront residents, cars, and streets seemed only a matter of time.

Then the housing market collapsed, the Great Recession loomed, and building plans came to a halt. Bankers eventually foreclosed on the property and took ownership of Pleasure House Point. "Indigo Dunes" was dead, but there was a silver lining.

Seizing the opportunity, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation partnered with the City of Virginia Beach, the Trust for Public Land, and the local community in a plan to buy Pleasure House Point. This public-private coalition rallied, raised $13 million and purchased the site from the bank in 2012, preserving it for passive recreation and education.

The City of Virginia Beach quickly designated Pleasure House Point as a natural area, creating a public green space of inlets, beaches, forests, and trails that today teems with wildlife. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation bought a small corner of the property, a sandy upland of old dredge spoils, and created the Brock Environmental Center. When this innovative environmental education and community center opens in November, it will be one of the most environmentally smart buildings on the planet. Our hope is that the Brock Center will be a model of energy independence, climate change resiliency, and super-low environmental impact. In fact, it's designed to complement the surrounding environment, not harm or fight it.

—Christy Everett, CBF's Hampton Roads Director


Dumpster Diving to Save the Bay

The following first appeared in the Huffington Post.

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A collection of salvaged materials were used in the construction of the Brock Environmental Center.

Imagine taking the world's largest cruise ship and dumping it into a landfill 700 times a year.

Every year.

That's how much trash new building construction and demolition produces in the U.S. alone - that's approximately 160 million tons of sometimes toxic trash.

When we think about building for the future and what kind of legacy we're going to leave for our children, we need to revisit simple solutions like reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Twelve months ago, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation broke ground on the Brock Environmental Center—what will be one of the most energy efficient and environmentally smart education and community centers in the world. When completed later this fall, the center intends to meet the strictest LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge environmental standards.

When people think about cutting-edge architecture and design, they often think about high-costs and space-age technology. But a key component of the Living Building Challenge is to use as many recycled and reusable materials as possible to save natural resources, energy, and costs.

So for past year and a half, we've been dumpster diving to salvage and use materials for the Brock Center that otherwise would go to the local landfill. Here are just a few of the materials we've been able to reclaim along with the help from our builder and the Hampton Roads community: used sinks, doors, mirrors, counters, and cabinets from office buildings about to be remodeled or torn down were salvaged and will find new life in the Brock Center; old wooden school bleachers were saved and used as trim for the new center's doors and windows; maple flooring in the gymnasium of a former elementary school was removed, reinstalled, and resurfaced as new flooring in the center; used bike racks came from a local parks department; hundreds of champagne corks were collected for use as knobs and drawer-pulls in the center; student art tables will be used as counter tops; and old wooden paneling will be made into cabinets.

Our most unusual find, however, was the "sinke2014-10-10-Picture2-thumbr cypress" logs recovered from rivers and bayous in the Deep South. The logs are from first-growth cypress trees cut down more than a century ago but lost when they fell off barges and sank on the way to Southern sawmills.

The recently recovered logs—some of which are 500 to 1,000 years old—have been milled and used for the exterior siding of our new building. Instead of lying submerged forever in the mud of a Louisiana river bottom, these ancient cypress logs provide beautiful, natural, chemical-free weather-proofing for the new building.

The biggest lesson I've learned from all of this work is that you don't need new materials to build a new building. Twenty-first century buildings should use as much salvaged materials as possible in order to reduce waste and pollution and ensure that we can pass along a healthy planet to our children and grandchildren.

Our salvage and recycling efforts at the Brock Center, along with other innovative, cutting-edge technologies (solar and wind power, rainwater reuse, composting toilets, and natural lighting and ventilation, to name a few) reflect a deliberate effort to live our "Save the Bay" mission. The goal of the Brock Environmental Center is to integrate and support the surrounding Chesapeake Bay environment.

By engaging the greater community in our recycling efforts for the Brock Environmental Center, we're also helping educate citizens on smarter ways to build, live, and work near sensitive ecosystems like the Chesapeake Bay. The Brock Environmental Center not only raises the bar on smart buildings; it can serve as a replicable model for raising community awareness in localities around the country and the world.

—Christy Everett, CBF's Hampton Roads Director


Pennsylvania Legislature Shouldn't Gut Streamside Protections

The following first appeared in the Patriot News.

Portlock
Stream with strong forested buffers. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

We all count on clean water . . . But, with roughly 19,000 miles of polluted streams and rivers in our Commonwealth, too many of our waters are considered polluted. We all pay the price—lost jobs, human health risks, taxes, and fees to purify drinking water. And right now the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Gov. Corbett have a choice about protecting Pennsylvania's rivers and streams.

One of the most cost-efficient and well-established practices to clean up waterways and to keep them clean is to plant trees along stream banks—what some call forested buffers.

These buffers soak up water, reducing runoff and keeping any pollutants it carries from draining into streams. Their roots hold onto soil, keeping it from washing into and clouding the water. Their canopies lower water temperatures, improving wildlife habitat for fish like the brook trout, which is crucial in many local economies. And their green leaves convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, improving air quality and lowering our health risks from, for example, asthma. Trees are one of nature's best methods to stop pollution and maintain clean rivers and streams.

Pennsylvania has a Blueprint for clean water and as part of that Blueprint set a goal of planting 74,000 acres of forested buffers by 2013. Recently, our state reported that we have achieved only 17 percent of that goal. That leaves us a very long way to go before we realize the benefits of forested stream banks to our rivers and streams.

Why, then, would our elected officials even consider approving a bill that allows land developers to cut down existing streamside buffers along our last remaining pristine streams? It makes no sense at all and should not be done.

This week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a peer-reviewed report detailing the economic benefits of cleaning up local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Public News Service featured that report: Putting a Price Tag on the Value of Clean Water to Pennsylvania (October 7, 2014). They said, "A new analysis of the potential financial benefits of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint finds a measurable return, with cleaner water adding about $6 billion a year in value to Pennsylvania's economy."

Pennsylvanian's own Thomas Hylton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the book "Save Our Land, Save Our Towns," was quoted in that article saying, "How much is something costing you, and how much benefit are you getting back? [CBF's] analysis indicates it's way less expensive to pay attention to Mother Nature and protect the environment, economically, than it is to let it go."

We need to protect our clean streams, as well as restore our polluted ones. It makes sense environmentally as well as, economically. We call on the General Assembly and Gov. Corbett to prevent this bad bill for Pennsylvanians from becoming law. Our waters will be cleaner and our legacy brighter if they do.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Tell your PA senator to vote "NO" on the devastating House Bill 1565! It will gut clean water protections across our state!