This Week in the Watershed

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The Bay is rebounding from a reduction in pollution. But more work remains. Photo by Steve Aprile.

It's no secret that the condition of the Chesapeake Bay is a far cry from when Captain John Smith first explored its fruitful waters in the 1600s. Over the centuries, a burgeoning population led to the over-harvesting of its bounty, habitat destruction, and an onslaught of pollution. But the Bay and the rivers and streams that feed it, are resilient.

This week we received good news, as newly released data reveals that pollution is down. With this drop in pollution, Bay grasses are booming, water clarity is improving, and critter populations are rebounding. It's a delightful reminder that as humans reduce pollution coming off the land, the Bay responds in an amazing way.

This progress is a testament to the hard work of the steps taken to reduce pollution by the states, farmers, local governments, and citizens in the watershed. But this is just the beginning. We cannot become complacent; conversely, we need to double down on our efforts. New challenges will inevitably surface, but this will present new opportunities to create jobs, improve local economies, and build bridges with a diverse group of stakeholders. With full implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, we will leave a legacy of clean water to future generations.

This Week in the Watershed: Good News, Sick Fish, and Keystone Funding

  • Two thumbs up to CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program, which provides a platform for students to learn outdoors. (WMDT—VA)
  • Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway has fought for clean water in Pennsylvania for decades. His most recent fight is to declare the lower Susquehanna River impaired as a result of the failing condition of its once thriving smallmouth bass fishery. (Howard County Times—MD)
  • Data recently released found 2015 was the fourth-best year for overall Bay water quality since 1985. (Bay Journal) Bonus: CBF Press Statement
  • We couldn't agree more with the editorial arguing for the wise investment of cleaning up Pennsylvania's rivers and streams. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • A group of Pennsylvania state senators is working to provide extra funding for environmental conservation, recreation, and preservation projects around the Keystone State. (Chambersburg Public Opinion—PA)
  • While residents on Maryland's Kent Island are glad to see a public sewer system brought to their island, there are fears that it will spur expansive development. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Regulations on septic systems are being rolled back in Maryland, putting clean water at risk. (Bay Journal)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

September 24

  • Dorchester County, MD: Join CBF for a paddle! We will put in our canoes on Beaverdam Creek, and from there explore the waters surrounding Taylors Island Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This area is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore waterway, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh and pine forests. The wildlife is dominated by various species of bird life, including nesting bald eagles, ospreys, herons, and ducks. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up-close views of herons fishing in the shallows and ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels.  Click here to register!

September 25

  • Upper Marlboro, MD: Join us for a fun-filled afternoon with friends, live music, craft-brewed beers, and mouth-watering food created by area chefs using local ingredients at CBF's Burgers and Brews for the Bay. A family friendly event, it features live bluegrass music, hay rides, fish printing, and educational stations. Buy your tickets now! (online registration closes at 3:00 p.m. Friday, 9/23—tickets can be purchased at door if still available).

October 1

  • Westminster, MD: Join CBF to plant shrubs and wetland grasses for a recently constructed wetland at Chestnut Creek Farm. Volunteers will learn from the farmer about Chestnut Creek’s sustainable grass-based farm where sheep, beef cattle, and heritage pigs rotationally graze on pastures. Click here to register!

October 5

  • Chestertown, MD: A workshop for local government managers and field operators will provide instruction in best management practice inspection, maintenance, and facility failure decision-making regarding management of stormwater systems. Facilitated by expert trainers with the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, participants will increase their knowledge of effectively treating polluted runoff while complying with local, state, and federal stormwater management expectations. Click here to register!

October 7

  • Westminster, MD: Join CBF to plant 500 native trees and shrubs to restore 1,000 feet of streamside forest buffer. This new buffer will help filter and clean runoff from adjacent farm fields and reduce stream bank erosion into this first-order stream system in the Monocacy River watershed. The mix of native tree and shrub species like sycamores, maples, oaks, dogwoods, alders, and chokeberry are all great for wildlife habitat. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Our Vision for the Next 50 Years

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Photo by Bob Miller.

As CBF approaches our 50th year (2017), we are simultaneously encouraged, worried, and determined. Encouraged, because Bay water quality and species abundance are improving. Many scientists believe the Bay has turned a corner and is on the road to systemic recovery.

We worry, however, about complacency and low expectations. The Bay and its rivers could easily slip backwards. We are determined to push even harder — to accelerate our education, advocacy, restoration, and litigation work. We must avoid what happened to Lake Erie, once declared saved and now worse than ever.

When CBF began, Bay fin and shellfish were abundant and diverse. But water quality was already declining. Sewage treatment was in its infancy and industrial discharges were rampant. Agriculture was less intense and therefore less polluting than today, but the movement to more concentrated animal operations was just beginning to generate more pollution. And farming practices which required ever more chemical fertilizers and pesticides were advancing. There was less development, meaning fewer hardened acres and less polluted runoff, but residential and commercial sprawl was starting to take off, beginning the destruction of natural filters, such as wetlands and forests.

Such was the backdrop for CBF’s birth and our Save the Bay slogan. CBF founders were ahead of their time as there was little public, much less political, support for across-the-board pollution reduction. Few people foresaw the system collapse that was on the horizon.

Fast forward to today. Science has given us a thorough understanding of Bay processes, the six watershed states and the District of Columbia are working together, and a Presidential Executive Order has established mandatorypollution-reduction requirements.

Improvement? Absolutely.

Done? Hardly.

 

The key to real success lies in focusing on water quality in Pennsylvania. Currently, about one-quarter of its rivers and streams (19,000 miles) are designated by the state as impaired. CBF has 20 full-time staff in Pennsylvania. We are clean water advocates in the General Assembly, and promoters of state-of-the-art sewage treatment. On the farm, we not only help landowners establish proven, cost-effective practices that reduce thousands of pounds of pollutants annually, but we also advance policies to take those practices to scale.

We believe in working smarter: spending available money more effectively by targeting agricultural cost-share dollars to the areas of greatest need. While this simple innovation seems obvious, it will require government to interrupt the status quo. If done well, tax payers will save millions, and water will again flow cleanly in Pennsylvania and downstream to the Bay.

Our vision for the next 50 years is a Chesapeake Bay that serves as a model for the entire world.

We can be a regional, non-partisan success story. The Chesapeake Bay can once again be the most productive estuary in the world, teeming with abundant and diverse fisheries while stimulating the economy and serving as a source of great pride to all Americans. It is within our reach, and we plan to be here to see it!

—Will Baker, CBF President

This story was originally published in the the fall 2016 issue of Save the Bay Magazine.

 


Atlantic Sturgeon: A Perfect Poster Fish for the Blueprint

Juvenile Atlantic Sturgeon © Jay Fleming
Photo by Jay Fleming.

The following first appeared in the fall 2016 issue of Save the Bay magazine.

"They need our help," explains Doug Myers, CBF Senior Scientist and in-house sturgeon expert. "Sturgeon have had a lot happen to their habitat over the years. Today, the Chesapeake's only confirmed breeding population is in Virginia's James River. We need to expand their reach so if something disastrous were to happen on the James, the fish wouldn't be wiped out."

A lot has happened, too, since we featured sturgeon in the Summer 2011 issue of Save the Bay magazine. The year after our article ran, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries listed Atlantic sturgeon as endangered.

In our story, "Last Refuge of the Dinosaur Fish," Matt Balazik—at the time a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate student and sturgeon census taker—was pictured tossing a 70-pound sturgeon back into the James River. Today Matt, now Dr. Balazik, an integrative life sciences Ph.D., is a faculty researcher at VCU's Rice Rivers Center. The next step for the fish, he says, is habitat designation. "We've learned a lot in the James. As of a couple months ago," Balazik says, "we've identified two spawning groups in the James." According to Dr. Balazik, each group has different staging and spawning grounds. One group spawns in the spring, the other in fall. "I think it's massive to protect the spawning grounds that we are zeroing in on using telemetry data." Although protecting the area "where the magic happens," is important, he says, "the whole river plays an important role in the health of the fish, from the headwaters to the mouth of the Bay where they spend their first years of life."

On the case at CBF is Doug Myers. While the endangered species listing goes a long way toward protecting the fish, Myers says NOAA also needs to designate critical habitat for sturgeon. Under the Endangered Species Act, critical habitat is defined as "the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed on which are found . . . features essential to the conservation of the species." It can also include areas not currently occupied by the species but that are imperative to its restoration. In the Chesapeake Bay, 453 miles of river are proposed for critical habitat and include feeding and spawning grounds.

Rivers with areas under consideration for critical habitat include the Susquehanna, the Potomac, the Rappahannock, the York, and the James. But the question arises: How are sturgeon to get to these rivers, especially the Potomac and Susquehanna, for the fall spawning season when the main body of the Chesapeake Bay suffers from annual low-oxygen dead zones in the summer?

Myers argues there is a direct link between the fish and the goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint"Once the critical habitat is designated, we'll have the Endangered Species Act . . . adding emphasis to the Blueprint."

"Because of their oxygen requirements, Atlantic sturgeon are the perfect poster fish for the Blueprint," says Myers. The Blueprint is a federal-state plan designed to improve water quality across the watershed by reducing pollution from agriculture, runoff, air, and wastewater. In February, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the American Farm Bureau Federation's appeal attempting to throw out the Blueprint. The court's decision let stand two lower courts' rulings that the Blueprint stands on firm legal ground. Moreover, as a federal and state program, the Blueprint and its regulatory and funding provisions have a "federal nexus" to the sturgeon listing. So we expect that the critical habitat designation will force a more intimate coordination between federal agencies. 

Atlantic sturgeon require rough, gravely bottoms for spawning and clean, oxygenated waters. Polluted runoff, which carries toxins, bacteria, garbage, and sediment, flushes into our waterways after a rainstorm. This debris and sediment make its way to river bottom and threaten spawning grounds. By reducing the amount of pollution-laden sediment reaching these rivers, water quality improves for all species that reside and come to spawn. 

As bottom feeders, Atlantic sturgeon are dependent on benthic organisms like mussels, worms, and small crustaceans. And sturgeon depend on a minimum of 6 mg/L of oxygen in the water to survive. A NOAA Fisheries' critical habitat designation, however extensive and inclusive it ends up, is vital to sturgeon survival and will be another tool to combat the ills the Chesapeake Bay faces. 

Atlantic sturgeon doesn't reach maturity until age 10 to 15 and only spawns every two to three years, making recovery slow. Sturgeon are anadromous fish that enter the Chesapeake Bay in the spring and fall to spawn in the upper reaches of its rivers. At least that's what they use to do. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, driven by a demand for their eggs, otherwise known as caviar, Atlantic sturgeon were nearly depleted. The fish faced additional obstacles like dams blocking their way up river and reduced spawning grounds. Boat and ship strikes also threatened the large fish. The issues sturgeon have faced have brought the species near extinction.

Readers who want to witness a sturgeon, can contact Captain Mike Ostrander (mike[at sign]discoverthejames.com) and sign up for one of his sturgeon tours. The two-and-a-half hour, Thursday-night excursions are scheduled to leave Hopewell, Virginia, at 5 p.m. on September 1, 8, 15, and 22. Captain Mike has been a river guide on the James for 16 years. He "found it natural to want to share the opportunity to see a breaching sturgeon. When you see one," he says "it's like the end of a fireworks show."

This dinosaur-era fish has endured millennia. In spite of overharvesting and habitat destruction, we may be witnessing a comeback, but we need to protect and restore the historic spawning and feeding grounds and the sturgeon's pathways to and from those grounds so this species has a fighting chance.

—Jen Wallace, CBF's Managing Editor

UPDATE: On August 31, CBF submitted its official comments to the NOAA Fisheries office, urging them to make water quality a top priority as they designate critical habitat for the Atlantic sturgeon and manage it into the future. More than 8,000 advocates joined with us in standing up for this ancient and important fish—the Chesapeake's largest and oldest. Click here to see our letter and the signatures of those supporters. We expect to hear a final decision on the Atlantic sturgeon habitat designation by June 3, 2017. Stay tuned for updates!

 


Top 5 Facebook Posts of Summer!

Underwater grasses rebounding, horseshoe crabs crawling, Maryland winning (in Rio that is) . . . it's been quite a summer on CBF's Facebook Page! So, back by popular demand, we decided to look back at our top five Facebook posts of the summer. What's got people excited about our Bay, its rivers and streams? Take a look:

 

1. A River Reborn: Take a trip beneath the surface of the Severn where we see abundant grasses, scampering blue crabs, and thick, healthy oyster reefs—incredible signs of the Bay's recovery! With more than 212,000 views, this inspiring video has already secured a spot on Oscars' shortlist.  


2.
Do a Little Seahorse Dance



3. Did Someone Say Scallops? In the Bay?!



4. What's in the Water: Measurements of 450 times higher than federal safety limits?! That's what we found at some beautiful swimming holes across Maryland this summer when we tested the water for harmful bacteria after rainstorms. Watch our video (98,956 other people did) to learn more. 



5. Ches-a-peake Bay! Ches-a-peake Bay! That's what we were shouting during this summer's Rio Olympics when Maryland (the ninth-smallest state in the country, mind you) brought home a record number of medals, many of which were gold. Not only that—athletes from Virginia and D.C. certainly helped make the whole Chesapeake region the true champion (but it always was in our book). 

 
Be sure to follow us on Facebook (if you aren’t already) for the latest and greatest this fall!

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 


Slowing the Flow: A Pioneering Parking Lot

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

Aerial Completed Project
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

 


This Week in the Watershed

Lafayette River bloom-1200
Algal blooms, such as this one by Hampton Roads, Virginia on the Lafayette River, are caused by excess nutrients such as nitrogen. Photo by Christy Everett/CBF Staff.

We all love clean water, but sometimes the path to achieving it is not all that "sexy." From talk of septic systems to land use management, to excess nutrients, the science and policy of clean water can be rather tedious and boring. One of the excess nutrients that fall in this category is nitrogen. While discussion of nitrogen might give us flashbacks to a boring science class, a la Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it has a massive impact on clean water. Today, roughly 300 million pounds of polluting nitrogen reaches the Chesapeake Bay—about six times the amount that reached the bay in the 1600s. This excess nitrogen leads to a bevy of problems, including feeding algal blooms that block sunlight to underwater grasses and suck up life-supporting oxygen when they die and decompose leading to "dead zones."

Nitrogen comes from a variety of sources, including sewage treatment plants, animal feed lots, and polluted runoff from crop land, urban, and suburban areas. The inescapable truth is that we all produce nitrogen through everyday choices. Collectively, these make a huge impact on our Bay and its rivers and streams. Everything from how we get around to the food we eat contributes to the pollution affecting our region. But it can be tough to know just how exactly your day-to-day life affects the health of the Bay and its rivers and streams.

After partnering with researchers from the University of Virginia, CBF has released a Bay Footprint Calculator. This tool will show you how you stack up against other people in your area and offer tips on how you can improve your grade by making simple changes in your daily life. Find out how well you're doing to prevent harmful pollution from getting into our waters. Fill out the calculator now and get your score!

All of this is inextricably linked to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. If we want to leave a legacy of clean water to the next generation, the Blueprint needs to be fully implemented. And to rid our waters of excess nutrients such as nitrogen, we each need to recognize our individual impact and make changes. Click here to get your pollution grade and find out how you can improve.

This Week in the Watershed: Nitrogen Tool, Bacteria Testing, and A Mysterious Nutrient

  • The release of a new online tool allows citizens to identify the amount of nitrogen they produce. (UPI)
  • Environmental nonprofits are helping restore communities not only through improving the environment but by providing ex-convicts jobs. (Bay Journal)
  • Maryland's Harford County is implementing a multifaceted approach in their stormwater remediation efforts to reduce polluted runoff. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Bacteria testing conducted by CBF throughout Maryland also found unsafe bacteria levels, including fecal matter in White Marsh Run 400 times higher than safety standards permit. (Perry Hall Patch—MD)
  • Bacteria testing conducted by CBF throughout south-central Pennsylvania has found bacteria levels unsafe for swimming. (Patriot News—PA)
  • Scientists are attempting to solve the mystery of the ultimate destination of excess nitrogen from agricultural application. (Lancaster Farming—PA)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

September 10

  • Gambrills, MD: Come help the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and partner organizations plant shrubs and wetland grasses at the former Naval Academy dairy farm! Sunrise Farm is an 800 acre farm, the largest organic farm in the State of Maryland. Volunteers will plant a newly graded wetland in what was a wet less productive corn & soy-bean field. Click here to register!

September 13

  • Richmond, VA: The Richmond VoiCeS Course, an eight-week adult education class meeting on Tuesdays, starts September 13! This course will cover the history of the James, urban and rural runoff issues and solutions, practical methods to improve water quality in your backyard, and the critical importance of citizen action to saving the bay. Plus, there are field trips! Click here to register!

September 16-18

  • Oxon Hill, MD: During this three-day event (September 16-18), we will build concrete reef balls designed to help restore fish habitat in Smoots Bay on the Potomac River. The reef balls will be relocated to the bottom of Smoots Bay, where they will be intermixed with various woody structures to provide an ideal habitat for various fish species, such as our native largemouth bass. Come for one day or all three! Building reef balls is a fun and exciting way to help restore our Chesapeake Bay. Click here to register!

September 17

  • Trappe, MD: Help CBF take out the trash! Join us at Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park to help make the Choptank River cleaner and safer. This is a family friendly event, but all children must be accompanied by an adult. Groups are welcome! Please wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty, and bring sunscreen and water. Click here to register!
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the oyster stocks to save the Bay. Click here to register!

September 24

  • Annapolis, MD: Head out on the water for a morning of fishing, learning, and fun! Spend the morning aboard the Marguerite in search of whatever is biting! Our experienced crew will provide all the knowledge and equipment necessary—just bring your enthusiasm! Gear and licenses are provided. Click here to register!
  • Annapolis, MD: Join us for an upcoming trip aboard the CBF skipjack Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the oyster stocks to save the Bay. Click here to register!
  • Dorchester County, MD: Join CBF for a paddle! We will put in our canoes on Beaverdam Creek, and from there explore the waters surrounding Taylors Island Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This area is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore waterway, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh and pine forests. The wildlife is dominated by various species of bird life, including nesting bald eagles, ospreys, herons, and ducks. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up-close views of herons fishing in the shallows and ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels.  Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


We Should Ramp up Bay Restoration, Not Roll Back Protections

The following first appeared in the Gazette-Journal.

Lenz_1200
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.


Labor Day Picnic Recipes We Love (Without the Meat!)

Juicy burgers dripping with cheese, steak grilled to perfection, that hot dog crammed with pickles and ketchup and hot mustard . . . sounds like a Labor Day picnic (and heartburn) to us! But here's an idea: What if we were to swap the burger for some healthy and equally delicious (if not more so) meatless meals this Labor Day?

After all, as our new and improved Bay Footprint Calculator indicates, if everyone in the Bay region only ate the recommended amount of protein (instead of the 30 percent more than needed as the USDA reports), the resulting nitrogen pollution reductions would be equivalent to what is needed to Save the Bay. Seriously. It's as simple as that! That's enough to inspire us to back off the beef this Labor Day. How about you? To get you started, here are some of our favorite veggie-inspired and oh-so-yummy dishes perfect for that Labor Day picnic. Mouth, get ready to water!

 

Quinoa Salad with cherriesSpinach Quinoa Salad with Cherries and Toasted Almonds

Salad:
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 ½ cups quinoa
1 bag of baby spinach
2 cups of fresh cherries, pitted and chopped (sub 1 cup of dried cherries when fresh are not in season)
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
½ red onion, peeled and finely chopped (½ cup)
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Dressing:
¼ cup of plain yogurt
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (a citrus flavored olive oil would probably be great, too)
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the quinoa according to package directions (3 cups of salted water for 1 ½ cups quinoa should do it). Once finished, spread it out on a plate or baking sheet and put in the fridge to cool. Heat a small unoiled skillet over medium heat and add the almonds. Toast until almonds are lightly browned, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Once quinoa is cool, put all the salad ingredients accept spinach together in a large bowl and mix. Wisk together all dressing ingredients until smooth. Pour dressing over salad and mix to coat. Place salad in fridge for roughly 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Serve over a bed of spinach.


Image1Creamy Black Bean and Cilantro Dip

Ingredients:
2 ½ cups cooked black beans
1/3 cup vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 line
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped green onions (put aside a tiny bit for topping)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Sauté garlic briefly. Throw all ingredients except cheese into a food processor and run until creamy. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of chopped green onion. Serve hot, cold, or room temperature. For a vegan option, just skip the cheese!

 

IMG_0544Tomato-Corn Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons of olive oil
4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
½ cup chopped fresh basil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 3 ears) or frozen, thawed
1 ¼ pounds tomatoes
8 ounces pasta (such as bowties or penne), freshly cooked
½ cup of feta cheese

Whisk 4 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and basil in large bowl to blend. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add corn and garlic, sauté three minutes. Add corn and garlic to dressing in bowl. Add tomatoes, pasta, and cheese to bowl and toss to blend. Season salad with salt and pepper.

 

Grilled Eggplant Involtini with Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:
6 pounds heirloom tomatoes
Olive oil
One onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic minced
Large bunch of basil
1 bag of baby spinach
3 eggplant sliced long ways into ¼ inch slices
2 cups fresh dipped Ricotta
1 cup shredded fresh mozzarella
1 ½ cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs beaten
Zest of 1 lemon
4 cloves of chopped roasted garlic
1 tablespoons of fresh chopped thyme   
Salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce:

Cut the stems of the tomato, score the bottom with an X, and blanch. Peel the tomatoes and roughly chop. Sauté the onion and four minced cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes and simmer 15-20 minutes.

For the involtini:

Brush both sides of the sliced eggplant with olive oil, and generously salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant over high heat until browned and limp. Mix cheeses, roasted garlic, lemon zest, beaten eggs, and thyme. Place three spinach leaves, one leaf of basil, and cheese mixture on the large end of the eggplant and roll it up. Repeat with all slices of eggplant. Place a small amount of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a gratin dish. Put the rolled up eggplant on the sauce. Top with more sauce and any remaining cheese mixture. Bake at 350 until bubbling.

 

Asian Cole Slaw

Ingredients:
2 packages Ramen noodles (any flavor works)
2 packages of “broccoli slaw”
1 cup sliced toasted almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 bunch of green onions (chopped)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup white vinegar (you can also use rice vinegar or do half and half)

Crush noodles into large bowl. Top with slaw, onions, almonds, sunflower seeds. In separate small bowl, mix seasoning packets (from the ramen noodles), sugar, oil, and vinegar. Pour over slaw and chill for 24 hours or overnight. Toss before serving.

 

White Bean Roll-Ups

Ingredients:
1 can of white cannelloni beans
Soft flour or whole wheat tortillas
¼ cup finely diced cilantro
One (or more to taste) diced jalapeno pepper
1 cup of shredded cheese
Half a lime squeezed juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven at 425. Drain and mash the cannelloni beans and fold in the rest of the ingredients. Divide evenly among tortillas and roll them up. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes.

Optional Dipping Sauce:

1/3 cup mayo
1 tablespoon chili paste
Half a lime of lime juice
½ tablespoon basil paste (or finely chopped basil)
Fresh or dried cilantro to taste

Combine, then stir in fresh water to reach dressing consistency.

 

Cold Asian Noodles

Ingredients:
4 cups of fresh, crunchy vegetables like snow peas, bell peppers, cucumbers, scallions (combine a few vegetables if possible)
12 ounces pasta (Chinese egg noodles, linguine, or even angel hair will do)
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
½ cup tahini (or peanut butter if necessary)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon rice or white wine vinegar
A splash of Tabasco to taste
Pepper to taste

Cut vegetables in long strips (or peel/seed peas) while cooking pasta—toss cooked pasta with a little bit of sesame oil. Whisk together sesame oil, tahini, sugar, soy, ginger, vinegar, Tabasco, and pepper—thin the sauce with hot water until the consistency of heavy cream. Toss the noodles with sauce and add vegetables.

 

Happy cooking (and eating)! And don't forget to check out our Bay Footprint Calculator to get your pollution score. While there, you'll get tips for how you can improve your grade by making simple, healthy changes in your daily life, including eating less meat!

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 


What's in the Water? Part Two

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This summer, as an intern in the Communications Department at CBF, I helped with a bacteria-monitoring project to educate the public on the water quality in their own backyard rivers and streams and the harmful effect that polluted runoff has on them. When it rains, pollution pours off of yards, roads, farms, and other surfaces and flows into local creeks and rivers.

For the past few years, CBF staff and volunteers have collected water samples after heavy rains from popular swimming holes and urban rivers. The samples are tested for fecal bacteria. The project this year has grown from testing just a few sites in Maryland counties, to locations all across the region in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

6.22-8After heavy rainstorms when polluted runoff levels were at their peak, I collected water samples in six sites in Howard County, Maryland. All were on tributaries of the Patapsco River and were either popular watering holes where parents could take their kids on a hot summers day or located in residential areas:

  • Budd Run is located behind an apartment complex off Route 1.
  • Cascade Falls is a popular hiking and swimming area located in Patapsco National Park.
  • The Plumtree Branch is a small creek running behind Dunloggin Middle School.
  • The Tiber-Hudson Branch winds its way through a parking lot behind the cute shops of Ellicott City.
  • The Sucker Branch lies behind Our Lady's Center.
  • And the final site is a small section of the Patapsco where families come to swim, rope swing, and picnic.

All these locations provide a great respite from the concrete suburban world. But are they really the natural, healthy places we need when trying to get away from it all? I'd argue that for these sites to really fulfill our need for a getaway from the roads and buildings that surround us regularly, or provide a place to cool off during our hot and humid summers, they should be clean, at least to the point where water quality meets EPA's standards! Right now, that's not the case.

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Photo by Tom Zolper/CBF Staff.

Grappling with the desire for people to get outside and enjoy their natural surroundings and the need to educate them about what exactly they are swimming in or living next to was the hardest part of this project for me.

I first encountered this dilemma the first day of testing while visiting Cascade Falls. It was brutally hot on a late June day—a perfect place for lots of kids to come play in the cool waters of this beautiful waterfall. Or so it seemed. I myself enjoyed rock scrambling and wading in the waters. But the time came when I had to pull out my sampling bottle to collect water for the lab. Immediately someone asked me what I was doing, what I was collecting samples for. I turned to them, noticing the irony of what I was going to tell them while I myself was standing ankle deep in the water in flip flops. I explained CBF's project, telling this parent how we suspected the water to have incredibly high levels of bacteria and fecal matter as their kids splashed around nearby. Of course, he looked horrified and asked if there was anything he could do, any precautions he could take. I advised him to wait at least two days after a large rainstorm before swimming in his local waters as local health officials have said.

DSC_0399But what else can we do? We want to enjoy the outdoors and experience the respite of cool water these rivers and creeks provide. But how can we continue to do so knowing our waters are contaminated with high counts of bacteria and fecal matter? For now, we can each do our part to try and better the waters around us by reducing the amount of polluted runoff flowing into our rivers and streams. Cleaning up after your dog and properly maintaining a septic system are things homeowners can do to prevent fecal pollution. Farmers can also keep livestock away from streams. Other things we can do: picking up trash, installing rain gardens and rain barrels, and planting trees along streams. And remember to not swim for at least 48 hours after a heavy rainstorm.

CBF's bacteria-testing project is not designed to scare people away from enjoying our waters or to report water quality like the health department, but rather to educate and inspire us all to be vigilant stewards of our environment.

—Text and photos by Maryann Webb, CBF Communications Intern

Read Part One of our Bacteria Testing Blog Series here.

 


What's in the Water? Part One

It's for folks like Janet and Pete Terry that I thought CBF should start a water-monitoring program. They need information like the guys at the Alamo needed ammunition.

Our water testing project this summer also was for government leaders who need to better understand how polluted runoff is hurting people.

Pete and Janet are retired school teachers. Their lives now should be sweet and easy. They have a beautiful home on the Bird River in Baltimore County. They entertain family and friends on a terraced front deck with umbrella-shaded tables and a mini-bar. Grandchildren play in the river while grown-ups sip iced tea on shore.

 

But since they retired a year and a half ago the couple has been in a constant battle to save the Bird River and the life they planned there. You see, the Terrys and their neighbors are typical victims of upstream pollution.

After rainstorms, the Bird River turns reddish brown with mud. The dirt comes from upstream. It washes off construction sites, pours out of poorly maintained polluted runoff ponds built years ago at housing and commercial developments, and from eroded feeder streams. When Janet grew up on the river her father used to take the kids everywhere in his boat. Now, the river is so silted up, the Terrys can only launch for a few hours during high tide and only head downstream.

The remaining fish and other aquatic life in the river do much the same thing—search for deep water areas where they can survive the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from upstream that causes oxygen levels to drop.

A few years ago, the Terrys organized homeowners around the river. They call themselves the Bird River Restoration Campaign. They speak up at county council and other meetings, hoping their combined voices can limit at least some of the development that has paved over the upstream areas of the river.

They have achieved some remarkable success. For instance, in 2014, about 60 residents voluntarily patrolled construction sites after storms, and pressured the county to improve its own site compliance rates from 5 percent to 44 percent.

Still, Pete, Janet, and many of the residents feel they are David battling Goliath.

So I met with them over pizza. I asked if they would be willing to collect water samples this summer after rainstorms. CBF would pay for the samples to be tested for bacteria levels at a commercial laboratory in Dundalk. They wholeheartedly agreed.

Bacteria tests assess the amount of fecal material in the water. They can help alert people to leaking sewer or septic systems, or large amounts of pet waste, or in rural areas livestock manure getting into streams. The federal and state government set limits for how much bacteria can be in areas where people recreate, because fecal material can cause illness when ingested.

The Bird River bacteria results weren't good. Bacteria levels on the Bird and its tributaries spiked after average storms, according to the CBF tests. For instance, after dry weather readings in White Marsh Run near the Dugout Restaurant on Bird River Grove Road were only slightly above government safety levels for human recreation. Yet after a summer rain storm of less than an inch, readings at the site spiked to at least 400 times safety standards. Similar high readings the same day were found at other upstream sites. Clearly, poop was getting into the Bird upstream, and in unhealthy amounts during rainstorms.

More bad news for the downstream families: Now, in addition to losing their boating and fishing opportunities, the homeowners on the tidal portion of the Bird River worried their kids and grandkids weren't safe when they swam, kayaked and in other ways recreated on the water.  

"It's getting to the point where we are so very concerned when we have company or when we have children in the water. Now we are hesitant to allow them to go in," Janet said.

But CBF hopes the bacteria testing this summer will help drive home the seriousness of the problem of polluted runoff—not just to leaders in Baltimore County, but elsewhere. CBF organized volunteers to test in Frederick, Howard, Carroll, Baltimore, and Harford Counties, as well as Baltimore City. We made the results in all areas available to the public.

It's perhaps easy as an elected official to overlook dirty streams when you also are responsible for a host of other government services: education, police, roads, and more. But when you realize that dirty water can harm children, you might invest more energy and funds in clean water.

To date, several counties in our test area—Frederick, Carroll, Harford, and Baltimore—have opted not to collect a Polluted Runoff (or Stormwater) Fee to better fund projects to reduce polluted runoff. We hope that when folks like Janet and Pete Terry raise their voices, the cold calculations of government budgeting might include the value of the health of grandchildren who swim in the Bird River, and other streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.  

—Tom Zolper
CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

Read Part Two of our Bacteria Testing Blog Series here.