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February 2012
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April 2012

What's YOUR Clean Water Story?

IMG_9388The view of Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Forest, Virginia. Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.


My family only owns a small plot of land in a sub-division in a small Virginia town, but fortunately in that small plot we own the stream that runs through it. I've lived in the Chesapeake watershed my whole life, first in Pennsylvania and then in Virginia, all while owning a sailboat on the Patuxent River where I've spent every summer sailing up and down the Bay, my favorite place on Earth

Knowing that our stream eventually drains into the Chesapeake, I do my best to take care of this little trickling of water. I find myself cleaning up trash from the road and along the banks on a regular basis, knowing this is just a little effort but doing it anyways. A drop in the bucket eventually leads to a full bucket!

—Julia Newbold, Purcellville, Virginia


 Do you have a story about the river, creek, or Bay in your backyard? Tell us about the waters in your life and why they matter! Our rivers, streams, and Bay inspire and renew us. But some are against cleaning up our waters and the Chesapeake Bay. They say we can't afford clean water. But, your stories can help us show them they are wrong. Why are your waters important to you? Tell us YOUR story!


We Want YOUR Photos!

It's that time of year again: Our annual Save the Bay Photo Contest! From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Eastern Shore, what's your vision of the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

Our annual photo contest is open to both amateur and professional photographers who illustrate the positive aspects of the Bay and its rivers and streams through their photos. Images depicting people, wildlife, recreation, and farms within the watershed will all be considered. All photos must include water from the Chesapeake Bay or a river, stream, creek, or other body of water inside the Bay watershed. Submissions must be mailed to CBF and postmarked between March 12, 2012, and April 13, 2012.

Check out our top three winners from last year below! 

Storm Water ManagerA statuesque great blue heron poses among blooming water lilies in a pond in Easton, Maryland. Photo by CBF Member Steve Aprile, first-place 2011 Photo Contest Winner.

River colors.cbf2011Bright fall foliage is reflected in the quiet waters of the Piankatank River in Virginia. Photo by CBF Member Denny Motsko, second-place 2011 Photo Contest Winner.  
Elliott Island bridgeEarly morning rain clouds hover over the tidal wetlands of Elliot Island near Vienna, Maryland. Photo by CBF Member Graham Slaughter, third-place 2011 Photo Contest Winner.

For more information about the photo contest, visit our website.

Simple Solutions for Complex Challenges

Two weeks ago, a group of dedicated Virginia Tech students chose to spend their spring break learning about and restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Below is an excerpt from their experience on a farm in the early part of their Alternative Spring Break adventure with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

VTSpringBreak1CBF’s stream restoration biologist, Rob Schnabel, explains how cover cropping can fix excess nitrogen. Photo by Johnny Haworth. 

Some perceive the image of the Chesapeake Bay as a sun-tanned waterman hauling oysters and blue crabs into his boat as the sun peaks over the horizon. However, the Chesapeake Bay community extends beyond this common image. In fact, the community extends beyond the realm of saltwater and infiltrates into the areas of small freshwater streams. Many of which run through agricultural lands.

As new agricultural land is highly limited in availability, farms have increased intensive margins to meet growing food demand. Such efforts include increased fertilizers, pesticides, and technology. Streams that run through farms have been overloaded with excess nitrogen and phosphorous in recent decades. This excess produces abnormally large algal blooms, which ecosystems cannot compensate for. Once the blooms die, bacteria decompose them, using up a large percentage of dissolved oxygen. Thus, these nutrients are virtually “choking” the bay.

In order to understand these challenges, and how Best Management Practices (BMPs) offer solutions, students went to Frederick, MD to learn from CBF’s stream restoration biologist, Rob Schnabel. CBF helps organize farmers and educates them on BMP options available to them, such as the establishment of riparian buffer zones. Rob works to establish such practices with local farmers.

Rob had the students remove tree shelters from various red maples, tulip poplars, and river birches. The trees bioengineer a riparian buffer zone by absorbing and filtering excess nutrients from the farm as they pass into the local stream. Rob then gave a guided tour along the farm’s stream to discuss other BMPs and stream dynamics. Other practices include cover crops of nitrogen-fixing clover, rotational grazing, and well-structured fencing from streams.

Historically the Chesapeake Bay was assisted by extensive wetlands to filter such nutrients as they came from all over the watershed. Tragically, Maryland has lost more than 75 percent of wetlands, 90 percent of bay grasses, and 50 percent of forest buffers. Efforts to reestablish such natural filters are a necessity to bay quality.

Establishment of natural buffer zones, cover crops, nutrient management plans, and other pollution controls offer cost-effective methods to meet TMDL requirements. However, not enough producers have knowledge of such methods, or deter from them due to conflicting values. Organizations such as CBF play a key role in successfully working with producers of differing values so they may understand the economic, ecological, and social value of protecting water quality.

John Haworth, Virginia Tech Student

To read more about Virginia Tech's Alternative Spring Break with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, visit their website!

VT_AltSpringBreak7The 2012 Virginia Tech Alternative Spring Break participants on day three of their experience with CBF. Photo by Johnny Haworth.


Photo of the Week: Where in the World is Save the Bay Now?

0310121646-1Photo by John Page Williams/CBF Staff.

She's been to Iceland, Miami, Paris, and now the desert--land of heat and dust and 100-year-old Saguaro Cacti. Here she poses in the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains near what city? Enter your guesses as to where the "Save the Bay" sticker is now in the comments below...


Are YOU going on any trips in the near future? "Save the Bay" is on a quest to travel the world! So bring your sticker with you on your journeys. When you return, send us your digital photos of "Save the Bay" in front of different notable (or even not-so notable) scenes across your city, county, country, and worldNo place is too small or too ordinary, even your own backyard will do! If you don't have a sticker, e-mail CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] We look forward to hearing and seeing your travel stories!  


Chesapeake Born: Restoring our Waters Requires Vigilant Monitoring

  WaterTesting (2)Photo by CBF Staff.

In the highest tech hospital, one of the first things they still do is simply take your pulse.

And if I could go back to when the Chesapeake Bay’s health was better and make changes to keep it that way, a lot of them would focus on simply taking the estuary’s vital signs.

Comprehensive, long-term and well-publicized monitoring of trends in water chemistry, aquatic life, and land use throughout the watershed could have saved so much time and argument.

It could have saved money by preventing the worst declines and by guiding restoration more efficiently. Many of today’s best bay successes and restoration efforts sprang from excellent monitoring.

Monitoring will never lend itself to photo ops and glad press releases; indeed, it may initially reveal bad news. Measuring vital parameters like the density and variety of burrowing organisms in bay sediments is out of sight, out of mind, always a tempting budget cut.

Yet there are probably no ecosystems on earth where continuous data collection is more crucial for managing than in estuaries like the Chesapeake.

The extraordinarily dynamic nature of the bay, where oceanic saltwater tussles with freshwater rivers draining a good chunk of the whole East Coast, reflects the Latin root of estuary, meaning to heave and boil, to surge and be in commotion.

A wet spring — or a wet decade like the 1970s when many bay systems crashed — can dramatically increase pollutants from the land and the rivers; just as a dry time — like the whole 1960s — can reduce polluted runoff by millions of pounds a year, making things look better than they are.

An ill-timed summer wind blowing out the bay’s mouth as baby blue crabs hatch around the Virginia capes can wash them to sea, depressing next year’s harvests. Or the reverse can happen, as in 1995, when Hurricane Felix spun off the bay’s mouth and blew record numbers of blue crab larvae up the estuary.

Only good, long-term data can help sort an estuary’s natural ups and downs from those humans are causing. Using short-term data to make any point about Bay health should raise caution flags.

It’s daunting to think how much data would be ideal. Consider that Tropical Storm Agnes dumped 40 years’ worth of polluting, smothering sediments into the bay during five days in June of 1972; and such storms occur only every 100-200 years on average.

You could have monitored sediment to the Bay for a very long time before Agnes and thought you knew what was going on.

It was at around 30 years of age that an annual index of spawning success for rockfish came into its own. Done in obscurity by Maryland biologists since 1954, it provided the solid evidence of decline that political leaders needed to shut down fishing in 1984. The results: huge controversy, followed by historic comeback.

More recently, a blue crab survey carried out for more than 20 years by Virginia and Maryland compiled the evidence both states needed to enact controversial harvest limitations. The results: a halt to historic declines and the prospect we’ll savor Callinectes sapidus for generations to come.

Not coincidentally, a third major baywide species, the oyster, never the subject of good, baywide monitoring, teeters on the edge of commercial extinction. This year Maryland and Virginia launched an improved and coordinated oyster survey that may lead to a sustainable fishery.

Stream surveys done in Maryland over many years show that even a little development degrades nearby waterways and that restoration efforts may look pretty, but don’t restore a stream’s life.

Hard lessons indeed; but they are spurring efforts to stop developing our best remaining waterways — like Mattawoman Creek in southern Maryland — before they are irretrievably harmed.

New federal and state rules emerging to restore the bay will put a larger emphasis on controlling runoff from development and agriculture. Without the better monitoring of the results than what currently exist, we will waste a lot of effort and money.

Some of the data are already there, collected by farmers who sample their soils; but it is not available to the public or water quality managers.

Other available monitoring tells us a lot about solutions to farm manure and runoff — the Green Run study on Maryland’s Pocomoke River for example — but it is so little publicized I have to wonder who’s afraid of offending whom.

So here’s to the Bay’s pulse takers — the citizen creek watchers; Riverkeepers; bird banders; biologists probing deep bottom muds, sieving plankton from the shallows or aerially surveying submerged grassbeds; and all of the measurers and weighers and counters of oyster spat and juvenile herring, migrating silver eels and egg-laying diamondback terrapins.

You’re the way we make sense of the complex and ever-changing Chesapeake.

—Tom Horton


The above "Chesapeake Born" column appears monthly in the Bay Journal News Service. Tom Horton covered the Bay for 33 years for The Sun in Baltimore, and is author of six books about the Chesapeake. Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.

Photo of the Week: At Anchor

At-anchorPhoto by Jeff Nicklason.

"This image was made last spring during a week of incredible cloud formations. My 10-year-old daughter did the driving as I shot. I love this image because when I was her age I would put out from Bay Ridge near Annapolis and sail around massive tankers like these in my little sunfish. Talk about feeling small. The view is of the Annapolis anchorage looking North (Bay bridge in the background)." 

Jeff Nicklason

View more of Nicklason's works here: or

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Photo of the Week: Where in the World Is Save the Bay Now?

342Photo by Cathy Lukaszewicz.

CBF member Cathy Lukaszewicz recently took "Save the Bay" on vacation with her to the land of Northern Lights, volcanoes, and glaciers. A favorite destination for the Vikings back in the day, this country is the world's 18th largest island. Made up of fjords, warm springs, jagged cliffs, glacial rivers, and much, much more, this country is an outdoor lovers' paradise. So where in the world is "Save the Bay" now?! Write your guesses in the comments below.


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Are you going on any trips in the near future? "Save the Bay" is on a quest to travel the world! So bring your sticker with you on your journeys. When you return, send us your digital photos of "Save the Bay" in front of different notable (or even not-so notable) scenes across your city, county, country, and worldNo place is too small or too ordinary, even your own backyard will do! If you don't have a sticker, e-mail CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] We look forward to hearing and seeing your travel stories!  


Photo of the Week: Privateer's Night Sky

Privateer's night skyPhoto by Teanna Byerts.

I did a guest crew passage on the Pride of Baltimore II, from Baltimore to Chestertown, Maryland, on Halloween weekend. After a day of her cutlass-blade hull slicing through the waves under a vast cloud of sail, with Schooner Virginia appearing occasionally on the dark-blue horizon, Pride dropped anchor off Eastern Neck Island National Wildlife Refuge. I had paddled my kayak there often, but had never seen the island and her surrounding waters under a night sky in late fall.

I set up my Pentax K1000 (good ol' basic film camera with one 50mm lens) on a tripod on deck. Shivering in my parka, I watched the sky, glittering with thousands of stars not seen in more civilized places. The only lights were a few vague ones far away, the distant glow of Baltimore on the far horizon, and soft lights high on the masts, marking Pride, and Virginia at anchor. One meteor arced overhead (I had to capture that on Photoshop later). When I saw the print later, I wondered why the stars made arcs across the photo...I had used exposures of half a minute to two minutes...not long enough to capture the movement of stars across the sky.

Then it occured to me: I had captured the gentle swing of Pride herself at anchor on the Bay's night ripple.

I live in the Bay watershed, in farm country far from open water. I came to her shores late, carried there by my sea kayak, searching for green, open places to paddle. I've paddled her backwaters, and occasionally sailed bigger water on hulls that creak and groan with the waves, with rigging that sings in the wind...and dragged friends, relatives, and kids out on adventures with me. I've considered turning back when a huge cartilininous fin surfaced by my paddle (it turned out to be a cownosed ray). I've explored the fossil-laden cliffs, the big waves offshore. Eaten oysters and crabs and wondered if we can restore the sturgeon.

I can only hope the Bay will be here for the next generation, and the ones after that.

 Teanna Byerts

Ensure that Teanna and future generations have magical "green, open places to paddle" like the Chesapeake. Support the Bay pollution limitsour best hope for a saved Bay. 


Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. Please also join our Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Flickr group and post your pics to our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing your photos!