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Volunteers "Liven-up" Pennsylvania Streams

YuVFwloe5G2TV26uVQBV78y7XmQoAUSJZHk3J19Q2fIPlanting season is here, and for many CBF volunteers, that means helping to improve water quality in Pennsylvania and downstream by planting trees along streams. Volunteers recently helped to plant not trees, but "live stakes," along the Conewago Creek near Elizabethtown, in Lancaster County.

Live stakes are cuttings that are harvested from new growth branches of tree species like black willow and red osier dogwood. These native trees commonly grow along stream banks, at or below the water line, providing great soil stabilization of the banks with their root systems, as well as providing habitat for aquatic life. 

This spring CBF will be working with Penn State Extension’s Lower Susquehanna Initiative to plant trees throughout the Conewago Creek watershed, and on March 21 volunteers got started by harvesting willow, dogwood, and elderberry stakes.

V0bBKAt9OBJB3zsLWH8jRfIoF_TVG9JO4Ea7kxvKKycMatt Royer, director of the Lower Susquehanna Initiative, taught volunteers the proper method to harvest  cuttings: pruning the young branch at a 45-degree angle at the base, trimming off the small shoots to a single, 18-24" live stake, with a straight cut across the top to encourage new growth. Royer says that it is important to harvest the live stakes while they are still dormant and have not begun to leaf out.  

Some of the cuttings were potted and sent to Davis Nursery, a partner of the Lower Susquehanna Initiative, for use in future streamside buffer plantings. Two days later, volunteers stepped into hip waders, got into the Little Conewago Creek at the Hanson Farm, and planted the remaining willow and dogwood live stakes. Using a piece of rebar to first drill a hole in the stream bank, they inserted the live stakes just above the surface of the water, spacing the stakes every two feet. Harvesting more live stakes from black willow and red osier dogwood stands along the creek as they went; the volunteers planted a considerable section of the creek.

Sherry McLain, a volunteer from Dauphin County said, "I had read about live staking before, but had never seen it done. I was excited to bring this new skill back to my local watershed group."

ORKufNF1QnQh_bN7FIz6yQBc1PcHC3UCbp1tgbn4cy0The relative ease and cost-effectiveness of live staking makes it an important tool for volunteer stream restoration projects.

The live staking workdays kicked off a busy season of spring volunteer restoration projects in south-central Pennsylvania. For a list of upcoming volunteer opportunities, check out our website. 

—Kate Austin
CBF's Pennsylvania Grassroots Field Organizer

Check out our Facebook Album for more pics from this fun and productive day out in the field!

CBF is proud to partner with Penn State Extension's Lower Susquehanna Initiative, Tri-County Conewago Creek Association, Lancaster County Watershed Manager, and other "Greening the Lower Susquehanna" partners in offering these opportunities to restore your local watersheds.

S_6IleAcp_4aeH1u9NkHVBGTh3yYo9NNhaaDmaP_RHgPhotos by Kate Austin/CBF Staff and Kristen Kyler/Penn State Extension.

Photo of the Week: Saving the Bay One Trash Pick-Up at a Time!

LitterPickUp_ChesapeakeBeach_ByChrisCareyPhoto by Chris Carey.

"I walked a jetty in Chesapeake Beach and picked up all this in 10 minutes. If we all did this once a month imagine the difference we could make. SAVE THE BAY!"

—Chris Carey

Learn about more things you can do to help Save the Bay, and be sure to sign up for this year's 25th Annual Clean the Bay Day!

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. We look forward to seeing your photos!

A Wastewater All-Star, Part 3

The following is the third and final part in a series about recent upgrades to an Easton wastewater treatment plant, and how these improvements have helped support our clean water efforts. Read the first and second parts in the series.

Comparison--raw sewage, final effluent, dried biosolids
A raw sewage, final effluent, and dried biosolids comparison. Photo by John Page Williams/CBF Staff.
It was clear in 2009 that the Easton plant was going to set a great example of enhanced nutrient removal sewage treatment, but we had an opportunity to stop by in May of 2012 to see how it was faring at the end of its fifth year of operation. "We learn every day," said Doug Abbott with a smile. "Enhanced nutrient removal is new. There isn't a lot of history yet. The challenge is still putting everything together to keep the processes consistent in spite of varying load and weather.


"There are many moving parts," he continued. "Every plant has its own characteristics. Our strong monitoring system allows us to tweak it, like fine-tuning a complex machine that also has living creatures that we must keep happy [the bugs]. We have to balance everything, resist the temptation to make changes too quickly when an alarm goes off, and build the history. We can't make a cookbook.

"We are, however, beginning to develop a computer model of the plant to use for predictions and as a 'flight simulator' for training new operators. MDE and the MD Center for Environmental Training (MCET) are supporting that project. And we're exchanging information and visits with other plant operators in both Maryland and Pennsylvania . . . the support we have received from the Town Council and the management of Easton Utilities has been very important. Because EU provides a wide range of services to the community in addition to sewage treatment—electricity, natural gas, drinking water, cable television, and internet connections, it can support our operation in many ways, especially in electrical work and information technology."

Eleven years into the project, Easton Utilities and its town appear to have used their Bay Restoration (AKA "flush fee") Funds well, to benefit the Choptank River and the Chesapeake as well as themselves. Planning ahead, piecing together the funding package, selecting capable engineering and construction firms, and then constantly striving to learn how to get the highest performance out of the plant's design, those elements together make for success. 

CBF's Eastern Shore Director Alan Girard commented further on "how progressive both Easton Utilities and the Town of Easton were in this project, from a process/adoption standpoint. The new treatment plant is a testament to how a few committed folks who want to do the right thing can build the momentum needed for success when they want to."     

It's no accident that both Doug Abbott and Geoff Oxnam bring special enthusiasm to their jobs in an area that many people would prefer not to think about. They are both confirmed water rats and racing sailors. Others on the staff are dedicated Bay anglers. All are proud that Easton's new plant is making a difference for clean water and a healthy Bay.

—John Page Williams
CBF's Senior Naturalist

Learn more about wastewater treatment plant issues here on our website.

A Wastewater All-Star, Part 2

The following is the second part in a series about recent upgrades to an Easton wastewater treatment plant, and how these improvements have helped support our clean water efforts. Read the first part in the series here.

Doug Abbott Checks a Gauge
Plant Manager Doug Abbott checks a gauge. "In champagne and sewage treatment," he says with a chuckle, "it's all about the size of the bubbles." Photo by John Page Williams/CBF Staff.
Because of Easton's foresight in planning for the new plant, it was at the top of the list when the Bay Restoration Fund process began. Despite the fact that the plant was the largest capital project Easton had ever undertaken, the town was able to finance it through a combination of BRF and federal grants (50 percent) and a revolving loan fund operated by the MDE (50 percent). Ratepayers are paying off the loan through their sewer fees, which remain low because of the BRF and federal grants. Easton Utilities and the Town Council planned for the plant to handle around 2.5 million gallons of wastewater per day (mgd) at first but for it to be able to expand to 4 mgd as the population grew.

Construction began in 2005, and the plant began operating on June 30, 2007, (the fifth and--at the time--largest BRF plant to go online). The design for the plant incorporates sophisticated new practices for removing phosphorus and nitrogen, the latter being especially difficult to catch because its waste compounds dissolve so easily in water. It includes advanced filter systems and twin five-stage bacteria-driven bioreactors, making Plant Manager Doug Abbott and his staff shepherds of livestock as surely as any dairy farmer.

Over the course of the 1.75 days (on average) that a batch of wastewater flows through the plant, the "bugs" process it in those five stages, gradually breaking down nitrogen compounds until the element vents off as a stable, odorless gas. In the bioreactor stages, the system alternately adds and takes away oxygen. Adding means spraying it in extremely fine bubbles, for more surface area to make it readily available to the bugs. "In champagne and sewage treatment," Doug Abbott remarked with a chuckle during the 2009 visit, "it's all about the size of the bubbles."  

Screens and filters remove solid material containing most of the phosphorus and some nitrogen. It goes through aerated holding tanks, de-watering centrifuges, and drying systems into a silo for storage for sale to local farmers, who use it as a soil conditioner.  Final disinfection comes from intense ultraviolet radiation. The plant is highly automated, with an alphabet soup of Supervisory Control sensors; Programmable Logic Controllers to optimize efficiency of valves, pumps, aerators, and chemical feeds; and alarm systems that allow the staff of six people to operate the plant on one shift, with members on call if an alarm goes off. Abbott noted that both monitors and sensors are rapidly becoming more sensitive and reliable. 

In just its second year of operation, the Easton plant won an award for operations and maintenance excellence from EPA's Region 3. By our 2009 visit, the plant was already running well below its permit loads of 4 milligrams per liter of nitrogen and 0.3 mg/l of phosphorus. "There's still a lot to learn about Enhanced Nutrient Removal," Doug Abbott said. He was referring to challenges like how to meet the discharge permit's goals on a daily basis, including how to adjust to varying inflow, fine-tuning for weather, and giving the bugs the consistent conditions they need to thrive.

—John Page Williams
CBF's Senior Naturalist

Stay tuned tomorrow for more on how this revolutionary new plant came to be, and what it means for our waters and Bay. In the meantime, learn more about wastewater treatment plant issues here on our website.

Student Council Reps Save a Creek, Do a Little Dance

This article originally appeared the AnneArundelPatch earlier today.

DSC_0619Photo by Collin Kroh and Alyssa Morris.

Dirt is cold in March. The Harlem Shake is harder in a crab costume. A sycamore tree sapling is taller than a pin oak sapling. Those are just a few of the things you might have learned this past Saturday if you were Collin Kroh.

Kroh, a senior at Chesapeake High School, was one of about 20 student council representatives from several county schools who volunteered to plant trees at a farm in Gambrills. The effort was part of a growing collaboration between student councils around the state and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"Most of my friends Saturday morning are still sleeping, but my friends here and I did all this," said Kroh with a wave of his hand.

"This" was nearly 1,000 trees planted along Towsers Branch Creek where it runs in a gully through the Maryland Sunrise Farm. Those trees will help buffer the creek—stop nutrients from cow manure from washing into the creek, and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay. A herd of black Angus cattle watched the crowd at work Saturday.

"It's like cleaning up my home," said Kroh, referring to the Chesapeake Bay.

And that's the type of realization the collaboration is meant to foster. Kroh lives on Bodkin Creek, a tidal creek in Pasadena. While his home is a 30-minute drive inland to Sunrise Farm, Kroh has realized that nutrients from inland sources make their way downstream and eventually to the Bay. Nutrients produce algae blooms which result in dead zones—low oxygen for aquatic life. And some types of nutrient pollution also carry bacteria which can make Bodkin Creek or any water body unsafe for swimming, or other recreation. So what happens on the land impacts the water which impacts each of us.

CBF and the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC) started working together formally this past year. MASC is a student-run organization composed of high school and middle school students from throughout the state. Many MASC members have taken CBF field education courses through their schools. Leaders in the group recognized many more students would benefit from the learning and service opportunities offered by CBF.  In turn, CBF recognized that a group of energetic, responsible youth could be great ambassadors for the Bay. The collaboration began.

Last year a core organizing group of MASC students took a trip to one of CBF's education centers on the Maryland Eastern Shore. Some also participated in a lobbying day at the Maryland General Assembly, learning how to advocate for strong Bay legislation. MASC chose CBF as its Charity of the Year for 2012.

Saturday's tree planting continued that collaboration, with the aim of providing a fun, hands-on learning experience, but also an opportunity to spread the news about Bay problems and solutions.

Sarah Lily, a senior at Chesapeake High School, said she had learned some things about the Bay in fifth grade at the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center. But it wasn't until ninth grade that she learned more. Then last year, she attended the multi-day experience at the CBF education center in remote Dorchester County on the Shore, and learned by doing: investigating crabs, sea grass, menhaden and other aquatic life from the deck of a workboat, or canoe, or on a marsh "muck." The trip sparked two questions: How can I can keep learning about this stuff, and what more can we do? She e-mailed a CBF staff member who led the Dorchester trip, Jeff Rogge. A second trip was planned—to CBF's Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro. And then the lobbying event.

Now Lily says the focus is getting more students involved. So she Tweets about tree plantings, and other happenings, and solicits blogs from students. Kroh attempted a time-lapse video of Saturday's planting to post on YouTube.

And together with other organizers they planned a Harlem Shake video shoot after all the planting was done Saturday, with all 20 students participating, complete with crab costumes and other props.

"The interest is there for fun," Lily says. "I think showing kids that helping out is fun is important."

Students came from Chesapeake High School, South River High School, and Arundel Middle School. In addition, about 20 employees of the Allegis Group, an equal number of "alternative spring break" students from the University of Maryland, and others also volunteered at Saturday's planting. The event was also part of a plan devised by CBF and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make Sunrise Farm more environmentally friendly. The farm is the largest organic farm in the state. The farmer also raises cattle. It is the former Naval Dairy Farm.

—Tom Zolper
Maryland Communications Coordinator
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Come out and join us at other tree plantings across Maryland!

Photo of the Week: Urbanna Sunrise

Sunrise 11=12Photo by John H. Whitehead.

"This is a photo I took on 11/12/12 of a beautiful sunrise over the mouth of Urbanna Creek in Urbanna, Virginia . . . I've spent most of my life on the Bay and never tire of the adventures and pleasures it offers."

—John H. Whitehead

Ensure that John and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these in our watershed. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!

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. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Larry Simns: The Bay Has Lost a Leader


President of Maryland Watermen's Association Larry Simns (left) with MD Governor O'Malley (right) at a press conference last year. Photo by John Surrick/CBF Staff.
We have known for months this day was coming, but it was still a shock when I heard that Larry Simns had left us. Maryland's watermen lost their spiritual leader. The Chesapeake Bay lost a piece of its spirit. 

I often said that Larry had the hardest job of any of us that worked on Bay fisheries.  Maryland watermen are as diverse as the state: Eastern Shore/western shore, upper Bay/lower Bay, fishermen/crabbers/oystermen/clammers. But somehow Larry was able to unite those voices around their common heritage of working the water. Just look south to Virginia where there are a dozen different watermen's associations to appreciate how hard that is. This unity of purpose aimed at preserving that heritage may be Larry's biggest legacy, and if the Maryland Watermen's Association is able to maintain it, that will be a fitting memorial to Larry.

Larry and I often disagreed. The MWA and the Bay Foundation often were at odds. We took our "turn in the barrel," as Larry called them, in his Watermen's Gazette editorials many times. Usually this was a result of disagreeing on short term issues, but in truth we shared the same long-term vision of a healthy Bay that supported vibrant fisheries. But even when our disagreements were strong, or even emotional, Larry could always find a way to put those things aside when we needed to work together on common interests like protecting the Bay. He was able to "agree to disagree" on some things and still work together on others better than anyone I know, and that trait served Maryland's watermen and Chesapeake Bay very well all those years.

Larry represented Maryland watermen. Sport fishermen and charter captain leaders represent those groups. CBF tries to represent the Bay. While there are plenty of differences between us, there is also a lot of common ground. In Larry's memory, I hope we can keep the focus on the common ground. That's the best recipe for saving the Bay and its fisheries.

—Bill Goldsborough
CBF's Director of Fisheries

A Wastewater All-Star, Part 1

The following is the first part in a series about recent upgrades to an Easton wastewater treatment plant, and how they have helped make the plant more efficient and Bay friendly.

Photo by John Page Williams/CBF Staff.
Where does the money from Maryland's Bay Restoration Fund (aka the "flush fee") go? Does it really make a difference to the Chesapeake?

As of the end of the summer of 2012, 25 of the 67 major wastewater treatment plants across Maryland had completed their upgrades, in the process reducing the amount of nitrogen they release by 1.36 million pounds per year and phosphorus by 198,000 pounds. The other 42 plants are in various stages of planning, design, and construction, with all scheduled to complete their upgrades by the end of the 2016 calendar year. The Bay Restoration Fund is a vital element in Maryland's Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

That is encouraging information, but it's dry. Much more interesting are the stories of the people behind the upgrades at individual plants. Those who do their jobs well are among the All-Stars of the Clean Water Blueprint. Here is the story behind one plant, operated on the Eastern Shore by Easton Utilities

In the 1980s, Easton Utilities built a model plant for the time, using Biological Nutrient Removal, in which the plant operators sprayed wastewater over a 70-acre, terraced field on which they grew hay. Biological and physical processes in the soils treated the wastewater as it flowed slowly toward the plant's discharge into the Choptank River below Dover Bridge. The plant was one of several of this type around the Bay watershed, all sited in areas where using agricultural land was less expensive than creating compact chemical/mechanical systems.

The plant served Easton well for nearly 20 years, but as the town's population grew and the discharge requirements got tighter under commitments to treat waste to the limit of technology, Easton Utilities and the Town Council recognized in 2001 that it was time to begin planning a new one. The terrace system had worked reasonably well for most of each year, but cold winter temperatures slowed the soil processes too much to meet the new limits. Hence they began conversations with Stearns & Wheeler, an environmental engineering design firm in Bowie, MD (now part of GHD, a global firm), and with the Easton community at large.

As is often the case with large infrastructure projects like this one, there was some apprehension in the community about issues like cost, siting, delivery systems, aesthetics, and growth politics. When we visited the plant in 2009, Geoff Oxnam, who was then Communications Manager for Easton Utilities (he's now VP/Operations) commented that Stearns and Wheeler, "did a great job working with the town and the public on design and construction, as well as overall wastewater issues. Between the firm's experienced engineers and Easton Utilities staff, we were able to bring in stakeholders early in the process, make our people available to the public, and create dialogue that brought citizens on board, especially through an open house in the Town Council meeting room." 

Alan Girard, Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Eastern Shore Program, commented that he "attended one of those open houses and was impressed with how they got the project out in front of the public. Rates were going to increase regardless, and they hit that point on the head by making the case for the need and assuring the public that they were committed to minimizing the impact on their wallets."

Stay tuned in the coming days for more on how this revolutionary new plant came to be and what it means for our waters and Bay. In the meantime, learn more about wastewater treatment plant issues here on our website.

—John Page Williams

Photo of the Week: The Old Cabin at Red Point

Cabin_0185Photo by Mike Redmond.

"This is a picture of the Redmond Cabin on the cliffs of Red Point back in 2005 . . . It TRULY was one of the coolest places on the Bay. Still is an amazing point to watch the most awesome sunsets of all time.

The photographer (Mike) and writer's (Eve) daughter Hannah at the cabin by day.
The cabin is sorely missed [deconstructed] but the owners (my sister and brother-in-law) have spent SO much time and effort to bring back the integrity of that cliffside, which was quickly falling into the Bay. It's a beautiful sloping hillside now, planted with indigenous trees and flora. Kudos to them!"   Eve Redmond

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. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Learn how we're saving the Bay for future generations through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

This Week's Take: Stormwater Fee Will Help Our Rivers

The following originally appeared this weekend in The Capital.

Schlyer-cbr-8488Photo by © Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

The health of our local rivers—the Magothy, Severn, South, West, and Rhode—is a reflection of the care that we take of them.

The sewage treatment upgrades that we pay for in the "flush fee" have brought valuable improvement in water quality in the last 10 years. But now we have an opportunity to care for our rivers in another way.

When our children who swim in our rivers get ear infections and intestinal bugs, or when we have to clean smelly, brown bathtub rings of algae scum off our boats' waterlines, or when our boats' fishfinders show fish suspended above the bottom to avoid oxygen-starved "dead zones," where has that pollution come from?

As with sewage, the answer is ourselves. It comes from stormwater, rainwater runoff from "impervious surfaces"—the roadways, rooftops, and parking lots of our suburban communities.

This problem isn't one we've created intentionally. Over the past century, we have gradually replaced Anne Arundel's natural pollution treatment systems—woodlands, wetlands and stream floodplains—with pollution accelerators—storm drains, culverts and pipes that speed up the flow of rainwater to the county's streams, creeks, and rivers.

That fast-moving water scours everything in its path, from sediment off a construction site to lawn fertilizer to dog poop that an owner didn't pick up.

This pollution has been sneaking up on us for many years. Who thinks about storm drains? They're out of sight, out of mind.

But now stormwater pollution is serious enough that we have to pay attention to it. It creates public health problems, damages our waterways as habitat for fish and crabs, devalues our land, and causes flooding.

And because we have neglected it for so long, reducing it now may cause some sticker shock over the next 12 years. And yes, by federal law, we have to face up to it.

So what to do? Civil engineers and landscape architects are working out promising new, less costly, and more natural techniques, sometimes called "green infrastructure," to turn the pollution accelerators back into natural treatment systems, and contractors are learning to use them effectively.

We're fortunate in this county to have a Department of Public Works that has both the expertise and the commitment to reverse the trend and reduce stormwater pollution. Moreover, a recent study by the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland indicates that the work will generate private-sector jobs and valuable economic activity.

Clean water, jobs and economic activity. Sounds like a winner. How much would you pay for this pollution-reducing program?

That's a challenge that a task force of County Council members, business leaders, and environmentalists took on last summer. The result is County Bill 02-13, the Stormwater Management—Watershed Protection and Restoration Special Fund and Program.

The bill would create an annual residential stormwater fee ($85 for most households, $34 for townhouses, $170 for rural homes, and businesses and non-profits paying according to the extent of their impervious surfaces). That's about $7 per month, or a couple of lattes, invested in cleaner waters and healthier Anne Arundel rivers. By law, the county cannot use this fund for anything but reducing stormwater pollution, and it will provide enough to get the job done.

Wouldn't it be great if we could swim and eat fish and crabs from our rivers without worrying about getting sick? It surely would be for me. If you agree, call or e-mail your County Council representative and ask that he vote Aye on Bill No. 02-13.

John Page Williams
CBF's Senior Naturalist and Arnold Resident 

Learn more about the harmful effects of stormwater on our website here.