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. (Bay Journal)
  • 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 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 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 or 757-622-1964.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

This Week in the Watershed

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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! 

A Tipping Point for Good

The following first appeared in Truth Out.

The Brock Environmental Center, located at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, VA

We've known for a long time that the Earth is warming, but it could be worse than we thought. A recent report from the World Meteorological Organization concludes that carbon pollution and the buildup of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are increasing much faster than projected. And this pollution is putting communities across the country at a higher risk of droughts, intense storms, floods, and other problems brought on by global warming.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, we're on the front lines of climate change. Streets in Norfolk, Virginia, home to nearly a quarter of a million people and the world's largest naval base, routinely flood during heavy rains. Wind-and wave-pushed storm surges make the flooding even worse. And scientists estimate sea levels in Norfolk will rise another foot and a half within the next 50 years.

Virginians are scrambling to prepare the region for these changes. The governor convened a special commission to recommend action; the military is looking hard at the future of its Hampton Roads bases—and local governments, businesses, and citizens are bracing for the worst.

But at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we're not blinking; we're creating a tipping point for the good by helping to develop solutions that could be a model for coastal regions across the country and the world where climate change threatens our livelihood and our future.

In November 2014, we'll open the doors to the new Brock Environmental Center—a 10,000 square-foot environmental education and community center in Virginia Beach, VA. By adapting existing technologies and utilizing old-school building techniques, we're building an energy efficient and environmentally smart building that will reduce damaging carbon pollution and adapt to rising sea-levels and a changing climate.

The solution starts with energy independence. To achieve that goal, the Brock Environmental Center is designed to use 80 percent less energy than typical buildings. The building will generate clean renewable energy from two wind turbines and rooftop solar.

Our designers curved the building and positioned it to maximize natural sunlight and maritime winds. The building features a "dog trot," an open deck in the middle of the building that promotes natural ventilation by allowing cool air to flow in and heat to flow out. It's an old trick used by Colonial builders in the South before the era of air conditioning. The highly insulated building significantly reduces the need for heating and air conditioning.

Together with the center's ultra-tight walls, windows, and doors, extra insulation and energy efficiencies, the Brock Center will truly be energy independent.

The building will also be water independent. Rainwater will be harvested from the roof and treated, allowing us to use our own water for drinking, sinks and showers, and other needs. Any excess rain water will flow into nearby rain gardens. "Gray water" will be used for native grasses, flowers, and shrubs. Even the center's bathrooms will use waterless toilets that compost waste in waterproof bins until the harmless compost can be spread on the grounds.

Anticipating more regional flooding, we have raised the building on pylons about 13 feet above current sea level and above any expected flooding in the coming decades.

Most importantly, we deliberately left the landscaping around the building as natural as possible in marsh, sand, shrubs, and trees. There are no paved parking lots; staff and visitors will park on nearby streets and walk to the center on a natural path through the woods. Any code-required handicap and emergency accesses will use permeable pavers that let water soak in rather than run off.

All of this natural, "soft" landscaping makes the Brock Center serve as a giant sponge, absorbing rainfall and storm surges and allowing flood waters to spread and recede naturally without harm to the center or nearby neighborhoods.

Researchers, students, designers, and architects will come to the Brock Environmental Center to learn about the Chesapeake Bay and environmentally smart building techniques to reduce carbon pollution and prepare our communities for climate change. As people take these techniques back to their communities around the country and the world, it will help create a tipping point for the good.

—Will Baker, CBF President

Watch this video, discussing the genesis of the Brock Environmental Center project and how it is a model for combating climate change and future coastal buildings. 

A Litigation Boost

Ariel-Solaski_180In our fight to save the Bay, the litigation team just received a boost, thanks to the recent addition of CBF's first Litigation Fellow Ariel Solaski. The fellowship is designed to give the litigation team increased capacity to identify and address legal issues surrounding the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—our best, and perhaps last, chance for real clean water restoration in our region.  

Jon Mueller, Vice President for Litigation, welcomed Ariel on board, saying, "Ariel comes highly recommended from Vermont Law School which has been identified with having the country's premier environmental law program. We are very excited to have her as Ariel has the smarts and training to provide CBF with superior legal counsel, plus, she has the right measure of grit and humor to work well with our team."

We sat down with Ariel to ask her a few questions about what drew her to environmental causes and to CBF.

Q: What first made you interested in environmental issues?
A: I spent every summer of my childhood at Watch Hill, Fire Island, a barrier island beach along the south shore of Long Island, New York. It is a federally designated National Seashore so there's very little development. The peacefulness and beauty of the undeveloped barrier beach, with the ocean on one side and the bay on the other side, is the most important place to me on earth. Then, as a young adult, I spent time in the private communities at the other end of the island that didn't have the same environmental protections. It was a very different scene and led me to realize the importance of protecting the natural environment.

Q: Why did you take this position as CBF's first Legal Fellow?
A: I went to law school to study environmental law and I knew that I wanted to participate in the environmental movement using legal tools. While in law school I found that water law was what really interested and excited me the most, and I took every opportunity to be involved in water law programs and courses. The Litigation Fellowship is perfectly focused on what I want to do in my career as an environmental lawyer.  

Q: What do you hope to achieve during your time at CBF?
A: I hope that as the first Litigation Fellow I establish the value of this position to the litigation team and the organization as a whole. In helping contribute to CBF's mission to save the Bay, I'm particularly interested in working on land use measures that preserve natural filtration systems. Examples of this include green infrastructure to filter out stormwater and other runoff, and filtration systems that encourage source water protection to protect drinking water supplies and habitats.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Getting "Run Off" the Beach Because of Runoff

The following first appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Daily Press earlier this week.

Beachsign, blog1
Beach goers in Virginia Beach "run off" the beach from dirty water. Photo by Andrea Moran/CBF Staff

The lower Chesapeake Bay has indeed been fortunate in dodging oxygen-starved dead zones this summer. However, Hampton Roads has seen its share of dirty, unsafe water in recent months.

Just last week, the Virginia Department of Health condemned oyster beds in parts of the James River off Newport News, banning all shellfish harvests there for the rest of September because the water "has been subjected to sewage spills likely containing pathogenic bacteria and viruses, and because the area is not a safe area from which to take shellfish for direct marketing."

Earlier this summer, health officials closed beaches along Ocean View in Norfolk, James River beaches in Newport News, Yorktown Beach, Gloucester Point Beach and the Virginia Beach oceanfront because of high bacteria levels in the water. As of last month, authorities had issued 31 swimming advisories for 16 different beaches, nearly all of them in Hampton Roads, spanning 74 days.

While unsafe beaches can be caused by natural factors such as bird droppings, more often it is the result of pollution running off streets, parking lots and lawns. Even a gentle rain washes pet waste, sewage, litter, grease, oil, fertilizer and other toxic substances off the land and into storm drains leading to nearby waterways. This pollution not only threatens public health, it hurts our local water-based businesses and industries.

Most importantly, runoff pollution is preventable. All of us can do our part to reduce runoff from our homes, yards, schools, businesses, and neighborhoods.

To learn more, go to Safe beaches are ours for the choosing. Choose clean water.

—Christy Everett, CBF Hampton Roads Director