Burgers and Brews for the Bay: Getting to Know Your Neighborhood Market

 Clagett Cow Panorama

Photo by Kellie Rogers.

Did you know that you can eat your way to a cleaner Chesapeake Bay? That’s right! A few weeks ago, we hosted our first Burgers and Brews for the Bay event at our sustainable Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Guests gathered on a beautiful fall Sunday to enjoy craft brews and local food while learning about the importance of local, sustainable food and how it reduces our impact on the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

One event attendee recalled that she felt she had "stepped into a different world," surrounded by organic vegetables, herbs, and grass-fed animals. Clagett was the ideal location for the premier of this event as the farm demonstrates how agriculture can be made both profitable and sustainable.

Notable chefs traveled to the farm to feature grass-fed beef (provided by Clagett Farm Manager Michael Heller) in their own interpretations of gourmet sliders. Six food stations, each paired with a local craft brew, presented those sliders and other fresh ingredients like grass-fed lamb, organic herbs, and vegetables, all produced at the farm.

Today many people believe that we could not feed the world's growing population if every farmer were to switch to sustainable farming practices. But that simply isn't true. A research team from the Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC) group stated that contrary to popular belief, the global industrial food system uses 70 percent of the agricultural resources while producing a mere 30 percent of the world's food.

Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

In contrast, what the ETC group calls "peasant food systems" (or food from local, sustainable farming) are responsible for 70 percent of the world's food with access to only 30 percent of the agricultural resources.

What's more, through more local, sustainable farming practices, the consumer is able to have a better, more personal connection with their farmer and their food. 

Burgers and Brews not only helped educate and connect event participants with their own "neighborhood market," it also highlighted the fantastic work of various, regional programs through educational tables set up around the farm throughout the day:

  • Capital Area Food Bank is the largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and its companion problems. The food bank works with our Clagett Farm CSA to deliver fresh organic produce to communities in D.C. with otherwise limited access.
  • Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) supports local and sustainable food through existing and prospective farmers. Future Harvest CASA shared their mission to provide education, networking, and advocacy to help build a sustainable Chesapeake foodshed.
  • Attendees could also learn about local and sustainable farming opportunities through our Maryland Grazers Network. The Network, started by Farm Manager Michael Heller, is a farmer-to-farmer mentoring program that pairs experienced livestock, dairy, sheep, and poultry producers with farmers who want to pilot or switch to rotational grazing practices. Grazers Network mentors spoke with visitors who were interested in the benefits of grass-fed products not only for their own health but for the health of the animals and the environment.
  • The Chesapeake Chapter of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local Campaign, which CBF coordinates, was on hand to promote local and sustainable food sources for the betterment of the community, economy, and the environment. The Chapter's Eater's Guide to Local Food in Maryland is a resource, which includes a directory of sustainable farms, locally sourced markets, CSAs, craft breweries, and farm-to-table restaurants.
Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

Throughout the day at the farm, guests also enjoyed live music by local bluegrass band Fiery Deep. Clagett farm staff set farm equipment out on display nearby, while tractors pulled wagons for hay rides around the property. The six food stations featured Maryland, D.C., Delaware, and Virginia brews including Bold Rock Hard Cider, DC Brau Brewing, Devil's Backbone, Dogfish Head, Fordham & Dominion, and Mully's Brewery. The delicious food menu included items like the "Fire It Up" beef slider topped with spiced tomato sauce and fresh pesto, Moroccan ground lamb sliders with roasted garlic and tomato jam, and a pastrami and Swiss slider with local sauerkraut. Other farm staff cooked fresh homemade vegetarian and meat pizzas in the farm's clay oven. Children and adults sipped on local root beer floats in the main tent where rain barrels and Clagett's grass-fed meat were offered as raffle prizes. Next to the main tent, our Education Program entertained kids climbing on hay bales, painting pumpkins, and printing fish on T-shirts.

Most importantly, event participants learned of the health benefits of grass-fed meats, the major sources of agricultural pollution to our waters, and ways that farms can become more sustainable. Attendees returned to their own neighborhoods later that day, full from a day packed with fresh, local food, craft brews, and learning opportunities that offered insights into delicious ways to help Save the Bay.

—Kellie Rogers

Check out our Facebook Photo Album for more photos of this fantastic and educational day on the farm!


Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

We're Halfway There: Horn Family, Delta Springs Farm

FarmThis is one in a series of articles about farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed who have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and efficiency on their farms. As a result of these success stories, we're halfway to achieving the nutrient reductions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waters. View the rest of the series here.

At Delta Springs Farm near Harrisonburg, Virginia, three generations of the Horn family raise chickens, dairy replacement heifers, and beef cattle. Charles Horn and his wife Faye run the operation along with their son Chuck, his wife Jill, and grandchildren Joe and Olivia.

"In 1936 my grandfather owned 129 acres. They had a very diverse operation with just about everything—hogs, chickens, sheep, cattle, and horses," Charles explains. "Things are a lot different now. We are much more intense and have to farm a lot more acres to make things work. We are much more aware of our environment now too, and how our actions can affect people downstream."

For example, fences along waterways keep livestock from fouling streams. "All of our perennial streams are fenced so our cows don't have access to them," he says. "We used the soil and water programs to help us put in watering stations throughout the farm so we could rotate our livestock. Because of the way we constructed the fences it is much easier to get our cows into the barnyard now."

The fencing effort also includes neighboring farms along Freemason Run, a stream running though Delta Springs. All the farmers along the Run's entire six miles have fenced the streambanks, making the waterway livestock free and cleaner.

The Horns raise two million broiler chickens each year and grow all the roughage for their cattle including corn, hay, and small grain silage. They also use many Best Management Practices, including rotational grazing, cover crops, no-till farming, stream exclusion, nutrient management, and variable rate application of fertilizer. Much of their cropland is high in soil phosphorus so the farm is very limited in what manure and fertilizer they can apply. The Horns sell most of their poultry manure to areas in need of phosphorus.

"We are proud of the conservation practices we have installed on our farm," Charles says. "We could not have done it without the technical and financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District."

—Bobby Whitescarver  
Whitescarver lives in Swoope, Va. For more information, visit his website.

Learn more about how farmers across the watershed are working to improve both water quality and farm productivity in our Farmers' Success Stories series.


Fones Cliffs Rezoning Meeting This Thursday

1Along a pristine stretch of the Rappahannock River on the Northern Neck, a massive, proposed development threatens a place like no other in the Chesapeake watershed. Fones Cliffs is one of the most important bald eagle habitats on the East Coast and what many consider to be the jewel of the Rappahannock.

This Thursday the Richmond County Board of Supervisors will again consider a request from the Diatomite Corporation to rezone part of this extraordinary place. All to make way for parking lots, commercial development, and townhomes. 

Please join us on Thursday, November 12 to oppose this destructive, short-sighted development. Details are as follows: 

What: Richmond County Board of Supervisors Meeting on Fones Cliffs Rezoning

When: Thursday, November 12, 9 a.m.

Where: Public Meeting Room, County Administrator's Office 333-3415, 101 Court Circle, Warsaw, VA 22572

RSVP: Please let us know if you plan to attend the meeting by e-mailing: AJurczyk@cbf.org.

Yes, we're concerned about the eagles, but our concern extends beyond threats to the bald eagle population. It extends to the health of this land and community—both environmentally and economically. 

The proposed development would require extensive clearing of trees, exposing the land's highly erodible soils directly to rain and risking the stability of the cliffs. The health of the Rappahannock and nearby streams would be at risk, as sediment and polluted runoff from the new homes, roadways, parking lots, and golf course would flow directly into them. 

And for what benefit? Our experts believe the project would generate little net revenue for the county when you take into account expected increased costs for roads and schools.  

Thoughtful stewardship can preserve Fones Cliffs' unparalleled natural beauty and rich history for residents and visitors while creating economic opportunities that last far into the future. Please join us on Thursday.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

If you haven't yet, please sign our petition to Save Fones Cliffs!

Above photo: The Diatomite Corporation of America is threatening to develop part of this unspoiled place that is home to one of the most important bald eagle habitats on the East Coast. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.


Restoring the River of My Childhood

Chuck and James 4I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, in a home on the James River near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. I learned how to swim in the river, how to row a dinghy, how to fish and crab, how to read the wind and waves, and how to lose myself in the river's daily ebb and flow.

And like all kids, I knew every inch of my neighborhood. I knew every beach, pier, jetty, and seawall. I knew exactly where to wade to find soft crabs at low tide, on which rocks and pilings to net hard crabs at high tide, and under which Childhoof sunken logs lay fierce-looking (and biting) oyster toad fish. The river was truly a wonderland of life—clear water and vast underwater grass beds full of crabs, fish, oysters, mussels, and clams. In the fall, dozens of white deadrise workboats hovered offshore harvesting oysters. And during the winter, the river was black with waterfowl; on still nights the air was filled with their quacks and whistles.

It was an idyllic youth, a Huck Finn-Tom Sawyer childhood, and the James River was its focus and heart.

But as I became a teenager, the river changed. The water grew persistently muddy, making it impossible to see crabs and fish beneath the surface. Sandy beaches eroded away to rock and clay. The grass beds full of life disappeared. Tar balls and litter washed ashore. And the wintertime flocks of ducks thinned to just a few birds. The James River seemed to be fading with my youth, and while I had no clue why, I distinctly remember wishing it wasn't so but feeling helpless to stop it.

Eventually I concluded the changing river was just another difficult part of growing up, of letting go of childhood, of accepting those unfortunate realities of teen life like report cards, gangly bodies, and broken hearts. The older I got, the farther the James River of my youth receded into memory. Then it was off to college, adulthood, relocations, jobs, marriage, and family. I never solved the mystery of the river. I thought I never would.

Fast-forward 25 years and an 18-year career with CBF. There I learned about nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution, about excess fertilizer and manure, about wastewater, about sprawl development and urban runoff, about lost wetlands and forests, and about cloudy water and dead zones. And I learned that the health of the Chesapeake Bay had been declining for centuries, finally bottoming out in the 1960s—just about the time I noticed the James River begin to die.

And then it hit me. What was killing the Chesapeake Bay was the same thing that was killing the James River: too much pollution. I was thunderstruck. At last, a riddle that had frustrated me for decades was solved. Even more significantly, CBF was demonstrating every day that the James and Chesapeake were fixable. There was nothing absolute or immutable about pollution. It is caused by man; it can be stopped by man.

But most profoundly, CBF allowed me to be a part of the team working to ensure the Bay and the James River will be restored, so that one day another kid growing up beside another river can discover its wonders.

—Chuck Epes

Learn how we are working to restore the James and other rivers of the Bay through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Nourishment for the Soul on Virginia's Eastern Shore

Garden VolunteersThe Eastern Shore of Virginia is peppered with farms and waterways. But despite the Shore's predominantly agrarian landscape, a startling proportion of its 45,000 residents don't have enough to eat. According to the Foodbank's Eastern Shore Branch Manager Charmin Horton, an estimated 14,000 people on the Shore are served annually by the Foodbank of Southeast Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

Facing this challenge, local groups have taken action to assist struggling ­Shore residents. St. George's Episcopal  Parish (founded in Pungoteague in 1652 and considered the third Anglican church in the New World) together with its partner congregation St. James Episcopal Church in Accomac formed the Dos Santos Food Pantry Garden to grow fresh produce for those in need.

"We created the Dos Santos Food Pantry Garden out of a desire to feed our pantry clients fresh produce," Dos Santos Food Pantry Director Angelica Garcia-Randle explains. 

"We chose to name the pantry in Spanish as an indication of our primary objective—to assist migrant farmworkers and Latino immigrants on the Eastern Shore of Virginia by offering a resource where Spanish is spoken to clients and where food central to the Latino community is consistently offered," Garcia-Randle says. “Most of our pantry clients cannot afford to purchase fresh produce—even though a majority of them are harvesting in the fields. This seems ironic and unjust; a wrong that we could help make right." To that end, the pantry serves about 150 people per month and growing in an effort fully funded by donations. "We have a marvelous network of volunteers who help with maintenance, upkeep, harvest, and distribution," Garcia-Randle says.

Cameron Randle and Angelica Garcia Randle
Reverend Cameron Randle and Dos Santos Food Pantry Director Angelica Garcia-Randle.

Besides benefiting the community through the blessings of food distribution, the garden is also a model for how to grow food while minimizing damage to our Eastern Shore waterways. Hard impervious surfaces do not allow rain to soak into the ground, instead washing pollutants into local waters. But gardens allow water to soak into the soil, reducing damage by cutting the speed and amount of polluted runoff.

With such an interconnected relationship to our waterways here on the Shore, a sense of stewardship for the land and water is inherent within the Church's faith philosophy. "Our Episcopal/Anglican ethos is very much centered on a respect for all God's creation and a proactive sense of stewardship accountability for environmental resources," says Reverend Cameron Randle, rector of St. George's Parish. Quite literally practicing what he preaches, the garden at St. George's strives to incorporate environmentally friendly growing techniques.

After receiving soil test results from the local Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Dos Santos understood the nutrient needs of its soil, applying to the land only what was necessary—an important step that keeps excess fertilizer from polluting our local waterways. Often times, additional or improperly applied fertilizer washes into rivers and creeks creating harmful algal blooms, which in turn form dead zones that reduce underwater habitat and harm fisheries.

Peppers in HandThe Dos Santos Garden minimizes polluted runoff with gentle watering techniques such as drip irrigation and rain barrel use, and utilizes organic pest management strategies. It also composts waste, mulches the garden to reduce exposed soil, and plants a host of biodiverse crops. And the garden's bounty is right across the lawn from the food pantry, cutting the distance the food travels and reducing the amount of gas burned.

Reverend Randle is steadfast in his belief that the gospel message of unconditional love and hospitality extends to all manifestations of God's creation—the human and animal, the skies, earth, and waters. He explains that the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer includes a prayer asking God to "give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty." Through community outreach, enhancing local food security, and providing ample blessings to others while being mindful of impacts on the environment, the volunteers for the Dos Santos Community Garden are happy to get their hands dirty in the name of caring for creation.

—Tatum Ford, CBF's Virginia Eastern Shore Outreach Coordinator

Building the World's Largest Man-Made Oyster Reef

PC in Harris Creek"The world's tallest building stands in Dubai. The largest city is in Japan. Brazil's Amazon is the largest rain forest. And the largest airport sits in the middle of a Saudi Arabian desert. But Maryland can lay claim to the world's largest man-made oyster reef." That's how the Washington Post referred to a vast, multi-partner effort, of which we were a part, to restore the oysters in Maryland's Harris Creek.

Over the last four years, a partnership of agencies and groups led by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration planted an estimated two billion oysters on 350 acres of river bottom on Harris Creek on the Eastern Shore. 

The ultimate goal is a thriving network of reefs in Harris Creek where oysters have achieved a critical mass and reproduce without the help from man. After six years, if the oysters survive well and mature, the partners hope to declare Harris Creek as the first tributary of the Chesapeake Bay restored to self-sufficiency. 

The work started in Harris Creek in 2011. At the time, there was perhaps only one to three acres of healthy oyster reef remaining in the creek that once boasted 1,500 acres. The bottom had too much mud to support historic quantities of oysters. 

When oysters reproduce, the larvae need a hard substrate upon which to attach. Normally, they attach to existing oysters and shells. So, the first step in restoring the creek was to put down man-made beds of oyster shells and stone. Then, the partners started "planting" hundreds of millions of "spat" (or baby oysters) the size of a dime attached to old oyster shells. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DNR conducted most of this work. 

Then, other partners, led by the University of Maryland's Horn Point Laboratory and Oyster Recovery Partnership, planted hundreds of millions of "spat" (or baby oysters) attached to old oyster shells on the prepared beds. 

With the restoration effort, oysters in Harris Creek are now at densities they were 50 to 100 years ago. If you could snorkel over the reef, you'd see knots of growing oysters clustered together over hundreds of yards—a sort of massive, jagged, shag carpet.  

Achieving the impressive planting numbers and acres is a milestone for which we all should be proud. But it's just the beginning. Ultimately, the plan is to restore large oyster reefs in 10 tributaries of the Chesapeake over the next 10 years. Two other projects in Maryland and three in Virginia. And that's great news for the health of the Chesapeake as each adult oyster can filter and clean up to 50 gallons of water per day—gobbling up algae, and removing dirt and nitrogen pollution.

By 2025, the 10 super reefs should serve as oyster spawning dynamos that create rich habitat for fish, and filter billions of gallons of water in each tributary. To function properly, the reefs will need to grow vertically. Historic reefs in the Bay were more like jagged skyscrapers, but harvesting knocked them down. Right now, the Harris Creek reef is starting out relatively flat but will grow over time. While the reefs will be off-limits to harvesting, scientists believe they likely will help boost the population of oysters in general, including those in nearby harvesting areas. 

As CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore Director Alan Girard told the Post: "The Harris Creek sanctuary will serve as a reproductive engine, with the potential to repopulate wide areas outside the creek . . . [it is] a significant step in Maryland's plan to restore what was once a vast underwater food factory and water filtering system. Everyone will benefit from that restoration."

Learn more about our oyster restoration efforts.


It's Time for PA to Reboot Its Commitments to Bay Agreement

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.

A promised "reboot" of pollution-reduction efforts in Pennsylvania is desperately needed to get the Keystone State back on track so that we have clean, healthy waters now and for generations to come. Photo by Daniel Hart at Pennsylvania's Ricketts Glen State Park.

As Pennsylvania's executive and legislative branches of government are embroiled in a budget stalemate that lingers well beyond the June 30 deadline, the commonwealth remains significantly behind in its commitment to meeting its obligations for reducing water pollution in the central Pennsylvania counties that are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

A promised "reboot" of pollution reduction efforts by the commonwealth has the Chesapeake Bay Foundation guardedly optimistic that water quality will rebound in the Keystone State.

Since 1983, Pennsylvania and the other Bay states have agreed five times to reduce pollution. It is unacceptable, then, that Pennsylvania's nitrogen and sediment pollution reduction commitments from agriculture and urban runoff remain considerably off-track.

The most promising of those agreements came in 2010 when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was established. At that time, Pennsylvania and the other Bay signatories committed to specific actions, two-year incremental targets and a 2017 midterm mark. The commonwealth must greatly accelerate progress if it is to have 60 percent of pollution reduction practices in place by 2017 and 100 percent by 2025. Both are obligations of the Clean Water Blueprint.

The reboot will map out the commonwealth's plan for acceleration.

Gov. Tom Wolf inherited this challenge when he took office in January, but CBF has strong expectations that the new administration will enact the necessary reform to get the commonwealth back on track.

Among agency leaders, state Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding has acknowledged that a reboot is imperative. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley reiterated the commonwealth's commitment to accelerated efforts during his address to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council this summer. His agency is responsible for the draft plan of the clean water reboot.

The DEP has stated that a reboot of Pennsylvania's clean water efforts is imminent.

Three things are key if a reboot is to reinvigorate clean water efforts in the commonwealth: leadership, commitment, and investment.

  • Leadership. While Pennsylvania certainly has made progress since the mid-1980s, leadership by elected officials has been inconsistent. Renewed leadership will be necessary to bring sectors such as agriculture and urban communities into compliance with existing state clean water laws. Informal DEP estimates conclude that roughly 30 percent of the commonwealth's farms are meeting such standards.
  • Commitment. There is no simple solution. Meeting the commonwealth's obligations requires the commitment to solve the problem from all pollutant source sectors and all levels of government. Historically, Pennsylvania has attempted to reach its Bay goals without localizing responsibilities. As a result, for many the effort has felt as far away as the Bay itself.
  • Investment. Pennsylvania knows what needs to be done — decades of science and experience have led to the road map that is the Clean Water Blueprint. Investing existing resources where it makes the most sense and committing new resources to fully implement the blueprint will reap returns.

CBF is asking for an immediate infusion of at least $20 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be invested in agricultural best management practices. Since 2008, the USDA has directed more than $255 million toward conservation practice implementation in the Susquehanna River Basin.

CBF also believes that, in the revised plan for Pennsylvania, the legislature should provide more adequate funding by making a greater down payment in the second year of the Wolf administration, including efforts to ensure an accurate accounting of BMPs already in place.

The federal government has outlined a number of consequences should Pennsylvania continue to fall behind its clean water commitments. The EPA, for example, could require additionalupgrades to sewage treatment plants or more urban/suburban pollution reduction.

Pennsylvania needs a reboot that gets the commonwealth back on track to meeting its clean water promise to its citizens and to people downstream. We look forward to a robust plan from Wolf and working with the legislature and administration in ensuring its implementation.

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

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

Fones Cliffs: It Could Be Lost Forever, Part 2

BillPortlockAn aerial view of part of Fones Cliffs along the Rappahannock River in Virginia's Northern Neck. The Diatomite Corporation of America is threatening to develop part of this unspoiled place that is home to one of the most important bald eagle habitats on the East Coast. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff. 

You've been hearing a lot about Fones Cliffs lately and the potential development that threatens it.* To better understand this untouched place along Virginia's Northern Neck and just how much is at stake, we talked with CBF's Senior Naturalist John Page Williams, who is no stranger to this stretch of the Rappahannock. Williams recounted an experience (originally published on ChesapeakeBoating.net) that he had not so long ago on the river, in this special part of the world:

The combination of fresh and salt water, strong currents, marshes and deep water close to shore gives this part of the river a rich biological community of plants, fish, birds, and mammals. Combine that with fertile floodplain soils, and it is no surprise that this region has served humans well for several thousand years . . .

One element in the appeal of the Bay's upper tidal rivers is that there is something interesting going on at virtually every season of the year. Springtime brings spawning rockfish, white perch, American and hickory shad, catfish, and two species of river herring. In summer, the river's shallows teem with juvenile fish that make its great blue herons and ospreys fat and happy, while the marshes burst with seed-bearing plants like wild rice, rice cut-grass, smartweed, and tearthumb. Fall brings blackbirds and then waterfowl, while the hardwood trees along the river turn to blazing colors. Winter brings concentrations of Canada geese and bald eagles . . .

We rode First Light through the curves at Leedstown and Laytons Landing, which is a steamboat wharf site on the Essex County (south) side. Laytons Landing had been connected by ferry to Leedstown and stayed busy until the highway bridge at Tappahannock was built in the 1930s. Here the Rappahannock opens up into a long, straight reach that extends for four miles down to Fones Cliffs.

I told Jim [Rogers] about an afternoon 15 years earlier, when First Light and I had entered this reach on a clear, calm late-October day. With the sun low behind us, light streamed down the river, illuminating a corridor of blazing yellow, orange, scarlet, and purple colors in the sycamores, maples, sweet gums, and black gums before lighting up the tawny sandstone of the cliffs at the far end. I remember stopping the engine and drifting, drinking in the scene. Partway down the reach, I drifted past an empty osprey platform. As I watched, a mature eagle drifted down out of the sky and perched there. The view was the most stunning I have seen in all my years on the Chesapeake.

And yet for all this beauty and important biodiversity, a short-sighted, Miami-based developer is petitioning to rezone the land so he can turn this unique and fragile site into parking lots, commercial development, and townhomes. On October 8, the Richmond County Board of Supervisors will consider the rezoning request, which means we have just one week to speak out loudly in opposition. Stand with us in protecting this jewel of the Rappahannock. Sign the petition to Save the Eagles, Save Fones Cliffs. Because if lost, it will be lost forever.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

*The part of Fones Cliffs that is owned by the Diatomite Corporation of America.

Learn more about Fones Cliffs and why it's important in our blog series here.

Polluted Runoff Fees Help Fight Local Issues

The following first appeared in The Sentinel.

Schlyer-1200 (2)
Polluted runoff from agriculture and urban/suburban sources, are the first and third leading causes of impairment to roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania. Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

Hampden Township is the latest Pennsylvania municipality to address its flooding and clean water problems by implementing a polluted runoff fee, and asking residents to be part of the solutions.

Hampden Township is not alone. There are over 1,550 municipalities in the United States with similar fees, and local governments across the Commonwealth are lining up to implement their own. Philadelphia, Lancaster, Hazleton, Mt. Lebanon and Radnor townships, and Jonestown Borough have already instituted polluted runoff fees.

Polluted runoff fees are also referred to as stormwater fees, or the silly "rain tax." The term is deceptive, and downright inaccurate. While "rain tax" makes for a catchy headline, the term obscures real problems and derails honest discussions about how to fix them.

By any name, the stormwater fee is not a tax on rain, but a fee based on the amount of polluted runoff that impervious surfaces like roofs, streets, and parking lots generate and then shuttle into municipally-owned storm sewers. From there, it's often sent directly to the nearest river or stream, carrying with it dirt, garbage, animal waste, oils, lawn chemicals and other pollutants into streams and rivers, threatening drinking water.

Regular flooding from uncontrolled runoff inflicts human, economic, and property damage, which affects hundreds of communities across the Commonwealth.

For municipalities, the revenue is a local solution to local problems.

Hampden Township has more than 75 miles of storm pipes and 250 outfalls that must be inspected and maintained. Stormwater pipes in the area are failing in six locations and causing erosion. The township hopes to remedy flooding issues in at least one area.

The Cumberland County municipality of 30,000 expects the fee to generate about $1.5 million annually. Funds will be used primarily to comply with clean water laws, for new and improved stormwater infrastructure, and to meet planning and reporting mandates.

Revenues from runoff fees are usually dedicated to the stormwater authority, and used only for polluted runoff issues within the municipality.

Polluted runoff fees also tend make management of runoff more equitable, in that they relieve taxpayers from bearing the entire burden. Because it is not a tax, the fee provides that tax-exempt properties pay their fair share. Hampden Township has $1 billion in tax exempt real estate. John V. Thomas, vice president of the Hampden Township Board of Commissioners, says taxes would have to be increased by 30 percent to offset potential income collected from the Navy base and West Shore Hospital alone.

Rates vary with the municipality and many, like Hampden Township, offer fee reductions if homeowners or businesses build rain gardens, plant trees, or install rain barrels on their property.

Each Hampden residence, for example, will pay a fee of $13.25 per quarter, based on the average amount of hard surface for area homes. The rate for larger, non-residential properties will be scaled upward relative to their amount of impervious surfaces and the amount of runoff they create.

Polluted runoff from agriculture and urban/suburban sources, are the first and third leading causes of impairment to roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth is perilously behind its clean water goals. Measures funded by polluted runoff fees are among those that can get us back on track.

Clean water counts. Polluted runoff fees are an investment in solving our own local problems. It makes sense that we kick-in our fair share to clean up polluted runoff and to reduce flooding of our streets, basements, and backyards.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Photo of the Week: It Could Be Lost Forever

Cliff and river by Bill Portlock

All photos by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff. 

Roughly halfway between Port Royal and Tappahannock, along Virginia's Northern Neck in remote Richmond County, an incredible thing happens. Stunning white and yellow bluffs rise up out of the Rappahannock toward piercing blue sky. High above these cliffs bald eagles glide through the air, their extraordinary wings stretched long and strong. In the river below, striped bass, white perch, and other fish spawn each spring. And there in a 17-foot Whaler I stare up, mouth agape.    

EagleBut a large part of this remarkable place, this jewel of the Rappahannock called Fones Cliffs, is at risk. A short-sighted, Miami-based developer is petitioning to rezone the land so he can turn this unique and fragile site into parking lots, commercial development, and townhouses. In fact, the proposed development includes 718 homes, 18 guest cottages, an 18-hole golf course and driving range, 116-room lodge with spa, 150-seat restaurant, a commercial center, a skeet and trap range, an equestrian center with stables for 90 horses, a 10,000-square-foot community barn, and seven piers along the river.

I don't have to tell you that rezoning this site would destroy this unspoiled stretch of the Rappahannock and all the wildlife that call it home. 

Join with us to tell the Richmond County Board of Supervisors we can't let this happen. Sign the petition to Save the Eagles, Save Fones Cliffs.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media