State Must Invest in Its New Clean Water Plan

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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The brook trout, which flourishes in clean, cold water Pennsylvania streams, stands to benefit tremendously if the Keystone State's new "reboot" succeeds. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

Pennsylvania has unveiled a new strategy for cleaning up its polluted waterways, and it will take the necessary investments from leaders in Harrisburg, and a unified effort across the Commonwealth, for the plan to succeed.

While this "rebooted" effort establishes a framework for success, it is just the first chapter of a long story.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) acknowledged that it alone cannot provide and protect clean water as called for in the new plan.

The plan's success requires a comprehensive approach involving the farmers, businesses, and homeowners. Resources, leadership, and commitment from Governor Tom Wolf and the legislature are essential to get Pennsylvania back on track toward its clean water goals.

Of the nearly 2,000 miles of creeks, streams, and the Susquehanna River that flow through York County, 350 miles are polluted. Agriculture is the source of pollution to 160 miles of waterways, and urban and suburban runoff is responsible for pollution in 130 miles of York County waters.

In 2010, the Bay states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, and each state developed its own plan to meet those limits. This came after more than 30 years of failed restoration commitments.

The states also made two-year milestone commitments to take specific actions to ensure progress toward reducing pollution. The goal is to implement 60 percent of practices to restore local water quality in the Commonwealth by 2017, and 100 percent implementation by 2025. Unfortunately, the state will not meet its 2017 goal, as acknowledged by DEP Secretary John Quigley.

Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania have been damaged by pollution. Efforts to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are off-track by millions of pounds.

The new plan defines six immediate and longer-term actions designed to get Pennsylvania back on track.

The Commonwealth intends to significantly increase the number of farm inspections and establish a culture of compliance. At current DEP staffing levels, it would take almost 57 years for each farm to be inspected just once. The DEP will use conservation district staff and its own staff to accelerate its inspection rate to meet the EPA recommendation of inspecting 10 percent of farms annually. DEP inspected less than 2 percent of farms in 2014.

A voluntary farm survey, conducted by a partnership of agricultural entities, seeks to locate, quantify, and verify previously undocumented pollution reduction practices that have been put into place. The plan also establishes a Chesapeake Bay Office within the DEP in order to improve management focus and accountability.

The new plan also calls for accelerating the planting of streamside buffers, the most affordable solution for filtering and reducing the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution.

The plan addresses the challenges of polluted runoff from urban/suburban areas, including updated permit requirements and implementation plans by local governments, and the development of innovative financing opportunities.

If this new plan has a weakness, it is in identifying sustainable funding sources. According to a Penn State study, it will cost nearly $380 million per year, or $3.8 billion over the next 10 years, to implement just the agricultural practices that would get Pennsylvania back on track to meet its clean water goals for 2025.

If Pennsylvania is to make progress in providing and protecting cleaner water, the Commonwealth must invest in the new plan, in Governor Wolf's 2016-17 budget and in the legislature's follow-through. A new Growing Greener initiative would be a down payment for such efforts, but more resources will be needed.

Investing in clean water pays dividends. Conservation practices not only improve water quality, but can improve farm production and herd health, reduce nuisance flooding in communities, improve hunting and fishing, beautify urban centers, and even clean the air.

A 2014 economic analysis found that fully implementing Pennsylvania's clean water plans will result in an increase in the value of natural benefits by $6.2 billion annually.

Adequate funding and technical assistance are critical to the success of this plan. The Governor and legislature must step up and ensure that the Commonwealth lives up to the clean water commitments it made to fellow Pennsylvanians.

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. Healthy families, strong communities, and a thriving economy depend on it.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Clean water counts. Lend us your voice and urge our leaders to implement Pennsylvania's new clean water plan, and to clean up York County's rivers, streams, and swimming holes.


Photo of the Week: My One and Only

Photo by Dennis Raulin.Photo by Dennis Raulin.

In honor of Saint Valentine and his official day a mere six days away, we started thinking—what's the most romantic creature in the Chesapeake region? Is it the seahorse that dances and twirls with its mate, intertwining tails and changing colors as they spin? The jellyfish that, in pure Shakespearean tragedy, promptly dies right after spawning?

We'd like to think it's the osprey. The osprey that mates for life and returns each year (often traveling thousands of miles) to nest in the same area where they were born and to be reunited with their one and only. As true with many relationships, ospreys develop a strong partnership as they build their "home" or nest together. As they continue to play house, females lay eggs, which they incubate for one to two months. The devoted parents stick together and feed and care for the nestlings for 40-55 days after hatching until they learn to fly. 

Very soon these osprey will begin their migration north for the spring and summer, many settling into nests in the Chesapeake Bay region—what's often called the "osprey garden" as it has the most concentrated population of osprey in the world. We can't wait to see these lovebirds again. 

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

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!


Student Challenge Promotes Water Quality Understanding

2-5-2016 10-45-43 AMNow through March 1, high school students have the opportunity to study and map nutrients in the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay watershed as part of the Visualize Your Water Challenge. The Grand Prize winner gets $2,500 (wow!) and a chance to head to San Diego in June for the Esri Education GIS Conference. Through this challenge, we hope that students learn more about water quality issues in our area and what they can do to combat them. For nearly 40 years, we have strived to show these water quality problems to more than a million students across the region through meaningful, hands-on education experiences. Now, through this challenge, students can take what they have learned out on the water with us one step further through interactive digital mapping technology. Below, high school teacher Mr. Kelly W. Garton talks about the value of this challenge. 

For the past 20 years, I have taken my Advanced Placement Environmental Science students to the Potomac River with Chesapeake Bay Foundation. There is simply no better way for me to provide a perspective on environmental issues affecting the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. By using the Water Quality Index, a 100-point scale that summarizes results from a total of nine different measurement (Dissolved Oxygen, Fecal Coliform, pH, BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand), Temperature difference, Total Phosphate, Nitrates, Turbidity, and Total Dissolved Solids), we have been able to evaluate and discuss environmental issues concerning the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

Over that 20-year timespan, I have seen signs of improvement in the water quality. For example, we now get lower readings of both Phosphate and Nitrate in the river and we see increased biodiversity. Unlike years ago, it is now common for us to see a breeding pair of bald eagles near our Nation's Capital. 

This contest would be a great visual to show that, although there is still a lot of work to be done in restoring the health of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, there is data to support the claim that progress is being made. 

—Mr. Kelly W. Garton, 
Walt Whitman High School,
Bethesda, MD

Ready to start the challenge?! Click here.

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An example of what students can create through ArcGIS software.

Cheers for Regional Stormwater Plan

The following first appeared in the York Daily Record.

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Reducing polluted runoff dramatically improve the health of local waterways. Photo by Neil Everett Osborne/iLCP.

York County has again taken the initiative to address clean water issues. Based on support from residents, the county commissioners approved moving forward with a study of how to establish a stormwater authority.

York County would join about 1,500 communities in the United States that are taking more cost-effective steps to better fund and manage polluted runoff and nuisance flooding. This often occurs in developed areas such as malls, housing developments, roads, and parking lots.  In doing so, the county will help itself and the rest of Pennsylvania get back on track toward meeting clean water commitments.

In 2010, the Bay states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency set pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, and each state developed its own plan to meet those limits.

The goal is to implement 60 percent of pollution reduction practices to restore local water quality in the commonwealth by 2017, and 100 percent implementation by 2025. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania will not meet its 2017 goal. Statewide, efforts to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are off track by millions of pounds.

About 350 miles of the nearly 2,000 miles of creeks, streams and the Susquehanna River that flow through York County are polluted. Agriculture is the source of pollution to 160 miles of waterways, and urban and suburban runoff is responsible for pollution in 130 miles of York County waters.

The commonwealth recently released its plan to "reboot" efforts to get Pennsylvania back on track, including addressing stormwater pollution.

Comprehensive stormwater management of the scale York County is considering offers three major advantages.  First, it allows communities to "start at the source" of the pollution problem, not just where it is showing its greatest impacts. Second, by working collaboratively communities can leverage expertise, equipment, and other resources to get the best results at the least cost. Third, pollution reduction practices that preserve and restore nature's ability to capture, filter, and infiltrate rain and snowmelt into the ground are often more effective and cost less than traditional practices. They also clean the air, reduce heating and cooling costs, and beautify communities.

With a countywide stormwater authority that addresses regular flooding from uncontrolled runoff that inflicts human, economic, and property damage, York County is again at the forefront of clean water efforts.

York County was the first county in the commonwealth to adopt the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's "Clean Water Counts" resolution, calling on state officials to make clean water a top priority for the Keystone State.

York County residents are also participating in the CBF's "Clean Water Counts – York" effort, raising their voices through phone calls and signing a petition, asking Gov. Tom Wolf and legislators to support the commonwealth's new plan to reduce water pollution.

In the spirit of intergovernmental cooperation, the York County Regional Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan involves 43 municipalities to better reduce pollution at lower cost.

Earlier this year, the Planning Commission finalized a countywide watershed plan that analyzes strategies and targets the pollution-reducing practices most appropriately suited for York County. The primary goal of the plan is to aid municipalities, citizens, and businesses in determining how to most efficiently reduce pollution from urban and suburban runoff.

By taking the lead in collaborative stormwater management, York County continues to demonstrate that clean water counts. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations of York countians.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Clean water counts. Lend us your voice and urge our leaders to implement Pennsylvania's new clean water plan, and to clean up York County's rivers, streams, and swimming holes.


Photo of the Week: A Place of Solace

ImageLone heron enjoys sunrise over the Chesapeake at North Beach, Maryland.

The Chesapeake, for me, is a place of solace to find quiet from the hustle and bustle of life in the D.C.-Baltimore region. I only wish there were more public access points along the Bay.

—Bob Garrigus

Ensure that Bob 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!

 


Farmer Spotlight: Whitmore Farm

Picture 1The opportunity to purchase a farm gave Maryland native Will Morrow a final push into a mid-life career change. From a residential landscape design firm in D.C. to the hills of Frederick County, Morrow credits his interest in eating well in the city to spurring him into organic- and pasture-based farming. 

Despite the weeds and abandoned structures, Morrow invested in a 30-acre farm property in the Valley and dedicated himself to restoring the land to its previous splendor. Upon purchasing the land in 2003, Morrow established Whitmore Farm as a way of honoring the successful pioneer years of Benjamin Whitmore and his family. The property, which lies within the Monocacy Watershed, is bordered by Toms Creek and now serves as a Certified Organic Production.

Morrow notes that a large part of the farm's success—both environmentally and economically—is approaching the business with a consumer perspective: "We were the people shopping at farmers' markets in the city. We were the people seeking out and eating at restaurants that sourced locally. So, as a producer, I was familiar with the venues I wanted to sell at. I was also comfortable navigating the tight urban landscape for deliveries. And, I knew my buyer well. I was selling to myself."

Picture 2Morrow works to emphasize sustainable agricultural practices while he raises acres of crops and livestock. The farm specializes in both Heritage and American breed pasture-raised livestock for lamb, pork, and poultry for eggs. Morrow's philosophy toward animals is not only evident in the pasture-raised system but through his Livestock Guardian Dogs, a team made up of five rescued Great Pyrenees and a central Asian Shepherd.

In addition to his pastoral operations, Morrow is always looking for new ways to improve the sustainable production of the farm. He remains steadfast in his philosophy that ". . . part of our farm's mission is to use sustainable ag practices that respect the land and provide healthy food to our customers."

Picture 3The small but mighty farm raises grass-fed and finished lamb, pastured pork, and pastured eggs. In addition to the livestock and poultry productions, Whitmore Farm is also home to a sustainable and certified organic produce operation. Morrow grows an assortment of tomatoes, peas, arugula, beets, carrots, and flavorful figs to distribute to restaurants and sell at farmers' markets.

What's more, Morrow is a huge advocate for clean water. During an interview with the Baltimore Sun in November, he stated that the American Farm Bureau Federation was "on the wrong side of history" when it and its allies petitioned the Supreme Court to review their challenge to Chesapeake clean-up efforts.

Picture 4"As I get older, I tend to focus more on the long view," says Morrow. "Society, culture, and values are not static. They evolve over time . . . people farming today farm differently than their parents did and different still from the way their grandparents did. To think that we have reached the apogee in farming and that our current agricultural system is beyond reproach is naive and arrogant. The Farm Bureau is ignoring the science and values that most of the farmers I know hold dear. The status quo is not acceptable. The sooner they accept that, the sooner we can focus on the solutions."

A staunch believer in the power of education, Morrow has hosted numerous field days and informative trips for teachers as well as served as president of the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) Board. "Education is key for the next generation of farmers," he says. Appropriately, CASA's mission is to provide education, networking, and advocacy to help build a sustainable Chesapeake foodshed—something Morrow does every day on his farm in Frederick County.

—Text by Kellie Rogers; Photos courtesy of Will Morrow

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

 


This Week in the Watershed: Blizzard 2016 Edition

Throughout much of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, all the buzz is the upcoming blizzard, set to strike Friday afternoon and persist through much of the weekend. With estimates of two-plus feet in some locations, traveling will be nearly impossible. In managing the preparation and aftermath of the storm, many safety measures will be implemented. Foremost among these will be treating roads and sidewalks with various chemicals. While this is necessary for safe travel, we can't help but ask, what affect do these chemicals, particularly salt, have on our local waterways? We sat down with CBF Senior Scientist Beth McGee to pick her brain:

Also, check out this infographic on snow and the Bay:

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It is necessary to treat our roads and sidewalks. But we should be cognizant of the impact salt and other chemicals have on our waterways and the critters that inhabit them. Using less salt and other safer materials, such as sand, can make a dramatic difference while still ensuring our safety. If we ignore the harm of overusing salt and other hazardous chemicals on our roads, the dangerous impact can strike long after the snow has melted.

By the way, this week was quite eventful in the fight to save the Bay. Pennsylvania released it's long-awaited reboot, detailing its plan for cleaning up the Commonwealth's polluted waterways. CBF and the U.S. Department of Justice filed briefs urging the Supreme Court not to review the case that would dismantle the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. And not to be outdone, CBF's Virginia office is hard at work lobbying to boost funding for programs that help farms and cities reduce pollution entering Virginia's waterways. Check out the press statements/releases below to get caught up:

CBF Press Release: Pennsylvania Releases New Strategy for Reducing Water Pollution

CBF Press Statement: CBF and Partners Argue Supreme Court Should Let Bay Restoration Rulings Stand

CBF Press Statement: CBF Statement on Virginia Budget Amendments

This Week in the Watershed: Pennsylvania Plans, Supreme Court Briefs, and Chicken Fights

  • CBF and several other environmental groups are pushing for legislation in Maryland that would hold large poultry companies responsible for excess chicken manure on the Eastern Shore. (Daily Times—MD)
  • Pennsylvania has released a new plan to clean up its rivers and streams. (Keystone News Service—PA)
  • CBF's Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough argues that oyster restoration should not be delayed in Maryland. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • Small communities on the Eastern Shore of Maryland face unique challenges in the work to Save the Bay. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • Phasing out the vital stormwater fee in Howard County (MD) has environmentalists in an uproar. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • CBF and the U.S. Department of Justice filed briefs urging the Supreme Court not to review the case that would dismantle the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. (Bay Journal
  • The advent of huge, factory-style chicken farms on the Delmarva Peninsula poses many consequences, especially for their neighbors. (Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • A new bill has been proposed in Maryland which would put a "lockbox" around funds designated for Bay restoration. (Southern Maryland OnlineMD)
  • New technology has changed the way we look at the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (Bay Journal)
  • Baltimore's antiquated sewer system is in desperate need of repair. Sewage leaks and failure to meet deadlines have led to fines from the EPA, which financially stress the city. We believe these fines should be tied to water quality improvement projects. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 16-February 6

  • Across Virginia: Help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Participants grow wild celery, a type of underwater grass, in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of growing, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click here to find one near you!

January 30

  • Annapolis, MD: Join oceanographer and international sea level rise expert John Englander, author of High Tide on Main Street, on January 30 for a talk about the future of shorelines in Annapolis, across the US, and around the globe. RSVP to histpres@annapolis.gov or call Shari Pippen at 410-263-7961.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Water Quality Plays Key Role in Return, Survival of Bald Eagles

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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A bald eagle snatching it's prey. Photo by Barbara Houston.

A new season of the Commonwealth's most popular, high-flying reality show is back online.

Millions are expected to log on to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) website and watch as live-streaming cameras show the drama of nature at several bald eagle nests in the Keystone State. The experiences open windows onto nature like never before.

People went online more than one and a-half million times last year to see a pair of bald eagles raise two eaglets in a nest near Codorus State Park. They saw the entire process, from "nestorations" in January, laying of the eggs in February, hatching in March, and the eaglets leaving the nest in June, as it happened. This is the tenth year for the nest and the second that cameras and microphones are there.

Another popular nest is in a Hackberry tree in the town of Hays, along the Monongahela River, near Pittsburgh. The camera and sound are sponsored by the Western PA Audubon Society. This is the third season a camera has watched the nest that eagles first used in 2013. Sadly, neither of the two eggs in the Hays nest were viable last year. But the year before, three eaglets thrived and successfully left the nest.

Those who lognon to the live cameras realize quickly that waterways play a key role in the lives of bald eagles and nesting sites are never far from water. Streams, lakes, and rivers are key habitat for bald eagles. In the winter, they congregate in tall trees near open water, to spot prey and shelter at night.

Fish make up almost 90 percent of a bald eagle's diet. Is there a more majestic sight than an eagle soaring and scanning open water, swooping gracefully downward, and then with their talons, plucking prey through the water's surface?

The Codorus eagles feed fish from Lake Marburg, Codorus Creek, and other York County waterways to their young ones. Bass from the Monongahela is often on the menu at the Hays nest.

So it's no secret that the survival and recovery of bald eagles in Pennsylvania are dependent on clean water, and the availability of healthy fish and other aquatic life. It is yet another reason we must make progress in restoring the 19,000 miles of waterways in Pennsylvania that are polluted. About 350 miles of waterways in York County are impaired.

The runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment is damaging our rivers and streams, and the Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its commitment to reduce polluted runoff.

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A screenshot of two bald eagles in their nest at Codorus State Park.

Also, consider findings of the latest multi-year study of the causes behind the deaths of young smallmouth bass, and lesions and spots on older smallmouths in the Susquehanna River. Some of those fish are served up in bald eagle nests throughout central Pennsylvania.

Endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides, and pathogens and parasites, are the two most-likely causes of diseased and dying fish in the Susquehanna. They are part of a perfect storm of compounds such as cosmetics, detergents, pharmaceuticals, and hormones in animal and human waste, that find their way into the diets of bald eagles and other wildlife.

On the bright side, the resurgence of bald eagles nationally and in Pennsylvania is an endangered species success story.

Habitat destruction, contaminated food sources, and illegal shooting took bald eagles to the brink of extinction. The road to recovery took major turns when the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, and in 1978 when bald eagles were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

In 1980, there were only three known pairs of bald eagles nesting in Pennsylvania. Re-introduction began in the 1980's when the Game Commission brought 88 eaglets to the Commonwealth from Canada, raised them on specially constructed towers, and released them into the wild. Bald eagles were removed from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the lower 48 states in 2007.

By 2008 the number of nesting pairs in Pennsylvania had grown to 150. In 2013 there were nests in all but a handful of Keystone State counties and more than 270 nesting pairs.

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations of humans and bald eagles.

Click here to access the Codorus cameras.

Click here to access the Hays camera.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Bald eagles, other critters, and humans alike, depend on the health of the Susquehanna River. Take action now by asking Governor Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection to add the Lower Susquehanna to the Impaired Waters List.


Photo of the Week: A Reason to Get Up Early

Seneca Creek sunrise

Seneca Creek sunrise. A reason to get up early!

For me the Chesapeake represents a sanctuary from the rest of the world. A truly wild place, the Bay gives us so much. It's a place to get away from all the insanity. Fresh wild fish, crabs, oysters, and clams . . . screeching seagulls chasing schools of rockfish, and gorging themselves on the ripped up chunks of alewife and menhaden.

The Chesapeake's health depends on us—the Bay will only give as much as we give. And if we take more than we give, she will let us know. The Bay is much like our own body and it responds to how we treat it. 

—Charles Allen Gardner 

Ensure that Charles 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!

 


What's Your Poo IQ?

CBF_FacebookAd01-PoopQuiz-560x292Think about it: There are hundreds of millions of people, livestock, pets, and wild animals that live in the Chesapeake Bay region. Every single one of us eats and that means every single one of us . . . well you know.

But do you know the impact of all that poop on our rivers, streams, and Bay? Take the quiz and find out!

You'll learn, for instance, how many of Virginia's rivers and streams are poop contaminated; how long it would take Pennsylvania inspectors to inspect all their farms; and how many tons of excess doo Maryland's chickens produce each year (Hint: It's a pretty insane number).  

Of course, in the wise words of children's author Taro Gomi: "Everyone poops." We can't avoid that necessary part of life, but we can make sure our water quality doesn't go down the toliet. So sit down, grab your #2 pencil, and take the Poo IQ Quiz!