Healing Waters

DSC_0588Efrain Carcamo and his three children hop across boulders along the James River in Richmond, hunting litter lodged by the current among rocks and branches. "This place is like a huge filter," Carcamo says. "It traps a lot of trash."

The family moves methodically, using sticks hardened in the sun to flick beer cans and plastic bottles into trash bags. It's a routine Carcamo has repeated several times a month for years, his personal effort to clean up the river.

His connection with nature began during his childhood growing up on a farm in the shadow of the San Vicente volcano in El Salvador. Since moving to the United States as a teenager in 1989, he's been drawn to the rivers and streams that flow to the Bay. "I came up here and saw the beauty of this place, and I fell in love with it," he said, standing alongside the river's sun-splashed pools.

 

 

For Carcamo, healing the waters is part therapy. "We all have people who we love who have passed away," he said, listing family members killed in El Salvador's Civil War. Since losing his wife to an accident in 2008, the James River has been a source of peace. "I went back to nature," he said. "I truly believe it has the power to comfort your soul and for you to change your approach to a lot of things in life. I believe that it has therapeutic power."

A single father, he has passed on his love of nature to his daughters, Elysha, 13, and Emaya, 11, and his son Eljah, 8. Walking the trails of Belle Isle, the kids chase tiny frogs and eagerly point out where they once spotted a giant beaver. "I teach them to appreciate the environment," Carcamo said. "They get to explore, enjoy, and see who they share this planet with, not just other humans, but other animals that they need to take care of."

DSC_0592Others on the river are often inspired to action after seeing Carcamo. "I meet a lot of people from different backgrounds out here, from all levels of society, different races," he says. If they ask why he cleans up, Carcamo explains how litter damages rivers, how trash harms wildlife, and how important waterways are to everyone. "Somehow, they are affected by what I tell them . . . They bring their trash bags. They pick up," Carcamo said. "When they realize there is someone doing it, they get courage, and they start doing it themselves. That feels good."

—Text, photos, and video by Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

Carcamo recently volunteered for his first CBF cleanup at Día de la Bahía, the first Clean the Bay Day event promoted in both Spanish and English. Click here to learn more about this special event where more than 50 volunteers picked up about 36 bags full of trash and debris along the James River.

 


Photo of the Week: Then It Was Gone

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Looking east out over the Chesapeake [Stingray Point to the left, Gwynn's Island to the right] with crisp fall light in abundance! Could not believe the light so late in the morning (around 10 a.m.). Looks like fall . . . then it was gone. 

—Dixie Hoggan

Ensure that Dixie and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights and places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake 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!


Slowing the Flow: A Pioneering Parking Lot

How Virginia Can Stop Polluted Runoff with the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund

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An aerial view of the completed project.

A parking lot isn't usually something to get excited about. But believe it or not, the Ashland Police Department's new lot is pretty innovative when it comes to fighting pollution.

It started a few years ago, when it was time to repave the aging asphalt at the police station in Ashland, a small town north of Richmond. At that time, Ashland Town Engineer Ingrid Stenbjørn was beginning to look for ways the town could cut the amount of polluted runoff entering local waterways in an effort to meet new Virginia requirements.

Instead of just covering the parking lot with a new layer of asphalt, Stenbjørn suggested installing permeable pavers. On most paved areas, when it rains, water just runs off the hard surfaces, washing dirt, oil, grime, grease, and other pollution into nearby streams and rivers. However, permeable pavers allow water to pass through, effectively stopping much of this polluted runoff.

Stream Before
Before the project started.

The project at the police station was the perfect chance to upgrade the lot with something more environmentally friendly. "Every time we have a maintenance need here in the town, we consider if there's a way we can also reduce the amount of pollution that goes into our waters," Stenbjørn said.

There was just one problem. Ashland had a tight budget that year, and permeable pavers aren't the cheapest option upfront. Fortunately, the town was able to get support from Virginia's Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which provides matching funds to effective projects that reduce runoff. Together with a separate grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Ashland could pay for the whole effort. "It was a really bad budget year, but those grants made this project possible," Stenbjørn said.

Even better, the grants also funded the restoration of a small stream that runs next to the parking lot. Before the work, the stream was in bad shape. It had a huge drainage area, and storms would send polluted runoff gushing through its deep channel, doing a lot of damage in the process. There was almost no life in the stream.

Stream After
After the project was completed.

The restoration widened the channel, which now allows flow from storms to spread out and slow down. Native plants are now taking hold in the new floodplain, helping absorb more of the water. Frogs and birds have returned to the stream.

Since the project's completion in November 2015, it's not only cut down on pollution, but has also created a mini oasis next to the station. Ashland Police Department Chief Douglas Goodman said that the Department "was pleased to be a part of such an earth-friendly project. In addition to being environmentally sound, the new creek bed is such a pleasant sight to see and can be quite calming."

The Numbers

 
Total Project Cost $367,957 
Stormwater Local Assistance Fund Share $168,500
Construction Start June 2015
Project Completion November 2015

 

Stay tuned for more stories of how innovative projects like these can help Virginia stop harmful polluted runoff from entering our rivers, streams, and Bay!  

—Text by Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator; Photos by Ingrid Stenbjorn

 


Photo of the Week: A Really Nice Backyard

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[This] is a photo my wife Roberta took of us cruising across Nomini Bay on the lower Potomac leaving Shark Tooth Island and heading back to our summer place on the Lower Machodoc Creek [earlier this summer]. It took a few shots to get the boat waves to align with the sunset and clouds. 

We spend a great deal of time on the Lower Potomac and Bay around Point Lookout, fishing, crabbing, and pleasure cruising. Roberta always comments that we have a really nice back yard!

—Greg Sharpe

Ensure that Greg, Roberta, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake 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!


We Should Ramp up Bay Restoration, Not Roll Back Protections

The following first appeared in the Gazette-Journal.

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Gloucester County is considering reducing regulations for land use rules which protect water quality. Photo by Garth Lenz/iLCP.

After decades of restoration efforts, the Chesapeake Bay is finally starting to show promising signs. The oyster population is beginning to rebound. At times, water has been the clearest in decades. Underwater grasses sway in the shallows.

But this recovery is fragile. That's why it's troubling that Gloucester County's Board of Supervisors may back off from its restoration commitments. At its September 6 meeting, the board will consider weakening protections under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act that have been in place for decades, the first Virginia locality to consider reversing course in this manner.

Instead of rolling back protections, we need to remain on course to save the bay. Gloucester's rivers, creeks, and inlets have always been one of its biggest assets. Their natural beauty attracts people who visit and stay. Their bounty has long sustained watermen and is leading to the comeback of the Middle Peninsula's oyster industry.

In fact, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Virginia Oyster Restoration Center at Gloucester Point depends on a healthy York River to raise oysters for the bay.

Gloucester shouldn't put its waterways or the bay's recovery at risk. More pollution would threaten aquatic life and increase human health risks. The proposal to reduce countywide protections won't spur growth or reduce administrative costs. Instead, it would actually add costs and paperwork to citizens and businesses that buy and develop land.

The proposal would reduce the area within the county covered by the Bay Act's Resource Management Area (RMA), where current land use rules protect water quality. Right now, the Gloucester County RMA is countywide, meaning that everyone follows the same rules.

But the proposal in front of the board would reduce Gloucester's RMA to just about the smallest total area allowed. However, state law would still require sensitive areas like wetlands, floodplains, and places with erodible soil to be covered by the RMA. Defining these areas would cause headaches for developers, businesses, and homeowners. In the end, Gloucester would have a patchwork of development rules across property lines, creating uncertainty and adding to project costs.

Gloucester County staff have opposed the change. Likewise, the local realtors, business owners, and residents on the board-appointed Go Green Gloucester Advisory Committee recognized that the proposed changes would create "a regulatory landscape that is needlessly complex."

Even large commercial development wouldn't see benefits from the proposal. Development projects over an acre must meet state rules for stormwater management and erosion and sediment control. Given that, changes aren't likely to "have a great impact on economic development in the form of attracting new business," county staff said this summer in a memo to the board.

In short, the county has little to gain economically and a lot at risk for the environment. Fortunately, it's not too late. Gloucester residents can meet with their supervisor or go to the September 6 meeting to ensure that future generations have cleaner water than we do today.

—Rebecca LePrell, CBF Virginia Executive Director

Gloucester Residents: Contact your member on the Board of Supervisors and attend the meeting on September 6 to join us in defending the Chesapeake Bay Act rules.


Photo of the Week: Bioluminescence Beauty

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Possibly one of the coolest images I've ever taken in the Bay. This is a 30-second exposure taken at 11 p.m. in Peary, Virginia.

The color you see in the water is the result of bioluminescence. I had my tripod set up and while the exposure was taking place, I walked through the water in the image to create a disturbance that allowed the water to light up. Look closely and you'll see my footprints in the image where my body blocked the light from reaching the sensor in the camera.

It was magical.  You could see stingrays swimming six feet down. A pod of dolphins swam by, leaving a 30-foot trail of light. Crabs clicking their claws even lit up the water. Never seen anything like it. 

—Scott Phillips

Ensure that Scott, his family, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake 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!


Lea's Clean Water Story

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Girl Scout Lea Bonner with CBF's Heather North.

Since my early childhood, I have had a passion for marine science and protecting our coastal ecosystems. My interest started with spending lots of time on the beaches, bays, and sounds in California, North Carolina, and Virginia. I enjoy swimming, sailing, and surfing and am concerned about how human activities are impacting our coastal systems.

For the past two years, I have participated in Marine Science summer education programs at the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute on the Outer Banks. When I discovered that currently there is no oyster collection program in the City of Chesapeake, Virginia, I decided to create one. My hope is to create a collection program that will help sustain the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay and educate restaurants on the importance of oyster restoration.

The Chesapeake's native oyster population plays a critical role in the Bay ecosystem. Oysters filter algae and pollution from the Bay waters. In fact, one adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day! But with pollution and overharvesting, the Bay's oyster population has been reduced to more than 90 percent of its historic level.

2Through establishing a collection program for oyster shells in Chesapeake-area seafood restaurants, this project will assist in recycling shells to create oyster reefs to repopulate the Bay with healthy oysters. This project will also include an outreach and education program with restaurants and residents to support pollution prevention and sustainability of the Chesapeake's oyster population. 

As a member of Girl Scout Troop 643, I rely on a sound foundation of science, community service, and written/verbal communications. Working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and local restaurants requires teamwork and development of partnerships. Through this project, I hope to gain knowledgeable insights in marine science, ecological science, and public engagement as well as valuable leadership skills.

Recently, I went to different restaurants around Chesapeake, asking them to participate in the collection program. I explained the details, including pick-up information and why I am doing the project. I showed the kitchen managers or owners the size and type of bucket we are using, and showed pictures of the oysters and collection centers. I gave them my contact information, brochures, and stickers, and answered any questions they had. I also showed them the list of restaurants that already participate in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Hampton. The restaurants that agreed included The Black Pelican, Surf Rider, Pirates Cove, Red Bones, Butcher's Son, and Kelly's Tavern. I plan to start collecting the oyster buckets from the restaurants very soon!

—Lea Bonner

What does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your clean water story here!

Image1UPDATE: I have been picking up oyster shells from various restaurants around Chesapeake, including Black Pelican, Surf Rider, Pirates Cove, Red Bones, Butcher's Son, Kelly's Tavern, and Wicker's Crab Pot. I take the buckets to my house, rinse the shells and buckets, and keep them in oyster baskets. Then, I take them to either the Ernie Morgan Environmental Center in Norfolk, Virginia, or the Norfolk Public Library. There, I empty the shells so they can later be taken to Gloucester Point, Virginia, and then back into the Bay!

On July 27, CBF's Virginia Oyster Restoration Specialist Heather North and I presented to Junior Naturalists attending a camp at The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. We talked to them about the importance of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, such as what they do and how they help the ecosystem. I explained my project to them and we both answered any questions they had. Then, they helped us by unloading baskets, creating oyster baskets, and filled the baskets.

On August 6, I did a presentation at CBF's Brock Environmental Center. After creating oyster nets, Heather North and I did a presentation on saving oyster shells, my project, and oyster gardening.

 

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Photo of the Week: Summer Storm Over Horn Harbor

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This is a 30-second exposure taken from our pier last Friday evening in Peary, Virginia, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

This storm rolled down the Mobjack Bay and took direct aim at Cape Charles. The lightning strike is directly over Cape Charles.

I travel weekly for work all over North America. Likewise, my family is very active, going in different directions all week long. Every Friday when we cross the bridges in West Point on our way to Mathews County, we simply relax and begin to enjoy the peace, quiet, and solitude of the Chesapeake Bay. I grew up on the Bay as a kid, and I'm so thankful that I can raise my children on that same Bay today almost 50 years later!

—Scott Phillips

Ensure that Scott and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

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

 


Photo of the Week: "Love" at Cape Charles

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This is of my family at the Chesapeake Bay at Cape Charles, Virginia. This has been our vacation spot for years. I have been going there for about 30 years, [since I was two-years-old]. I now am blessed to be able to share it with my husband, 10-year-old son, and 5-year-old daughter. We love the "at home" atmosphere of Cape Charles, the semi-private beach, natural abundance, and fishing opportunities.

—Brandie Gilbert

Ensure that Brandie, her family, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake 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!

 


Underwater Beauty

I like to think of wild celery as an underwater plant fit for the Disney princess Ariel. Its Kelly Green color, smooth and straight blades, and undulating motion are inherent in the picture-perfect world of Disney—and in clean rivers and streams.

This beauty and unmissable ecological value drives hundreds of Virginians each year to grow wild celery at home, January through June, and then plant the vegetation at restoration sites in the late spring and summer. These grasses or Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) have a slew of benefits: They serve as habitat and food source for critters, reduce wave action to prevent erosion and protect shorelines, filter pollutants and sediment out of the water column, and oxygenate our waterways. Unfortunately, algal blooms and sediment block sunlight—reducing total acreage of grasses to roughly only 20 percent of historic levels.

That's where CBF's Grasses for the Masses program comes in! The process, while rewarding for growers and the underwater critters that depend on them, is an equally heartbreaking occasion akin to sending your 18-year-old off to college. The grasses, once planted, must go off into the world and survive on their own.

This year, 279 volunteers from all walks of life participated in our Grasses for the Masses program, devoting nearly a half of their year to growing 40,000 grass seeds and planting them across roughly 30 square meters in Virginia rivers! We are only more encouraged by the recent news of the rebounding of grasses, which are up by 20 percent across the Bay. Programs like these along with pollution-reduction efforts are working. 

No matter how long I've been a part of this critical program, its the passion and commitment of our volunteers to restoring underwater grasses and clean, healthy Chesapeake waters that never ceases to amaze me. Take a look at the photos below to see their extraordinary work in action, and make sure to join us next year!

—Blair Blanchette, CBF's Virginia Grassroots Coordinator 

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CBF VA Senior Scientist Chris Moore braved Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015 to collect grass seeds for the 2016 season. Seeds are located in a vanilla bean-shaped pod attached to the plant by a pig’s tail curly cue. Photo by Chris Moore/CBF Staff.
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After attending one of 10 CBF workshops across Virginia, growers take home their kits, grass seed, and new knowledge of how to grow underwater grasses. Albert Bingenheimer and his daughter prepare the soil/sand mixture for their grasses. Photo courtesy of Albert Bingenheimer.
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Grower Leslie Mead took full advantage of her ping pong table, which was capable of holding the weight of three kits and lamps. Photo courtesy of Leslie Mead.
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CBF's Outreach and Advocacy Manager Ann Jurczyk and Senior Scientist Chris Moore use a pole driver to repair the struts on the Mason Neck State Park grass enclosure that had been damaged during the winter freeze. The PVC struts hold netting that prevents geese from landing and eating the wild celery grass. Photo by Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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CBF Grassroots Coordinator Blair Blanchette repositions the "Bay Oyster" boat for use in repair of the Mason Neck State Park enclosure as Regional Coordinator Ashley Reams and CBF Staff Scientist Chris Moore look on. Photo courtesy of Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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Ready to plant underwater grasses at Mason Neck State Park! Photo courtesy of Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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Albemarle County Environmental Studies Academy teacher Adam Mulcahy leads his three students into the water to plant underwater grasses at Mason Neck State Park. Behind Adam’s students, you can see Heroes on the Water preparing for their own event. Needless to say, the fishermen were pleased with the plantings. Photo courtesy of Rock Kulisch.
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Grower and Arlington Mill High School teacher Sharon Ruggieri shows off her beautiful grass roots. Strong roots are critical to the restoration process. Photo courtesy of Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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First-time grower Al Bingenheimer proudly displays his record-setting underwater grasses during a Westover Plantation planting. Not even grey weather could dampen the spirits of this Proud Papa! Photo courtesy of Blair Blanchette/CBF Staff.
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After the grass plantings are over, growers clean their equipment to prepare it for next year's use. At this Mason Neck State Park planting on May 14, more than 50 kits were returned and more than 25 square feet of grass planted! Photo courtesy of Rock Kulisch.
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After the planting is all said and done, the grass restoration plots are left to grow and create seeds to restore the waterway. Turtles like these Eastern Painted Turtles benefit from the food and shelter provided by underwater grasses. Photo courtesy of Rock Kulisch.