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Music, Clean Water, and the Eastern Shore

Everyone is up and dancingThe Eastern Shore of Maryland has a great deal to be thankful for. From the rich history of the beautiful colonial towns that dot the landscape, to the farms and forests that stretch from Cecil to Worcester Counties, we are in a unique position to enjoy the "Land of Pleasant Living." 

Of course, we also have the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams right in our own backyard. The Bay has long supported the livelihoods of many who live and work here, but it impacts our lives far beyond our valuable fishing and tourism industries. The Bay brings us together as a community: It's part of our heritage, and we need to work hard to ensure that it is fishable and swimable for future generations to enjoy. 

Sharing ProduceTo help raise awareness about the Bay and involve the community in its restoration, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is partnering with the Avalon Foundation to host a series of concerts in downtown Easton. The series kicked off in June with a Farmer's Market concert featuring national recording artist Susan Werner, who wowed the crowd by singing and telling stories about her own agricultural background. The  event continued with a ticketed show at the Avalon Theatre with Susan, followed a week later by an outdoor, block-party-style concert featuring the XPDs on June 8. We conclude the series with a final concert on June 29, this one featuring the popular and fun Eastport Oyster Boys.

At each concert, CBF volunteers and staff are prompting people to share stories about the Chesapeake Bay and its value in their lives. It is amazing to hear about all of the ways in which clean water motivates us, from those who grew up fishing and swimming in the Bay, to people who came to this area because of the beauty and opportunity provided by this important resource. The Chesapeake Bay brings us together as a community, and we all have a story to share about the many ways it impacts our lives.

The Crowds Come OutAnd now with the science-based, multi-state, bi-partisan Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint guiding it's restoration, we can unite as a community around clean water. We may all have different backgrounds, and often we have different opinions. But our connection to the Bay and to this area is something we all have in common.

This is the moment in time for the Chesapeake Bay, and for the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This is the moment to restore our national treasure and ensure that the oysters, crabs, and finfish that call this area home will thrive. And most importantly, it is the moment to guarantee that future generations have their own stories to share with their children and grandchildren about the Bay. We'll see you Saturday!

—Photos and Text by Bess Trout, CBF's Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist 

Can't make it on Saturday? Tell us your own Chesapeake clean water story here!

Photo of the Week: Virginia Beach Sunrise

20130509_061812Photo by Ellen Bryant. 

Ellen Bryant captured this stunning photo at sunrise at the Pier Cafe in Virginia Beach

Ensure that Ellen 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!

The Ultimate "Senior Experience"

Boys with Michael on farmAlec Schadelbauer and Matt Slater with Clagett Farm Manager Michael Heller. Photo courtesy of Dave Slater/CBF Staff.

Learning Through Experience on CBF's Clagett Farm

At the end of every school year, the graduating seniors at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, participate in a program called "senior experience." For the last month of school, seniors get the privilege of experiencing life in the real world. Some choose to get retail jobs to earn money for college, while others decide to volunteer or do their own, unique project.

For our senior experience, we decided to do something completely different from your average retail job at American Eagle or dull desk job working at a cubicle all day. We had the opportunity to work at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. It turned out to be a memorable experience that brought our book-learning to life.

Before we actually started, Michael Heller, the farm manager, invited us and our families out to the farm to show us around and give us an idea of what we would be doing. After a quick hello, he threw all of us, even the moms, into the back of his pick-up truck and took us out to see the cows. When we arrived at the pasture, Michael greeted the cows with his signature "Hey guys!" which immediately brought roughly 50 cows gathered around him at the gate, mooing their reply. He then gave us the job of herding the cows into the next pasture (easier said than done!). Much to our parent's, and Michael's enjoyment, we quickly found out just how fast and stubborn cows can be. Within minutes, we had stepped in at least five fresh cow pies and learned that these cows weren't going anywhere that they didn't want to go.

As the day went on, Michael explained the goals of the farm and how it works. His knowledge and enthusiasm toward reducing pollution that flows into the Chesapeake Bay assured us that we had made the right decision to work on the farm.

Each day that we worked with Michael, the connection to "saving the Bay" became clearer and clearer. Although we may not have realized it from the beginning, Clagett Farm uses many techniques to preserve the environment, especially through the elimination of harmful runoff. According to Clagett Farm’s website, there are "no GMOs, no antibiotics, and no hormones" used with the purely grass-fed cows. This means far less harmful substances being carried off by rain and causing pollution to our waters.

We also were introduced to small, separate strips of land that are used to test the amount of runoff that is released from different types of land. For example, in one test, there is a strip of heavily forested land, a strip of parking lot land, a strip of contour plowing, a strip of grass, and a strip of an average farm field with no contour plowing. At the end of each short strip, there is a funnel that gathers and collects the runoff from each. This gives Michael and his staff an idea of what type of land possibly does the most damage when heavy rains come around. Although these are not the only techniques, they accurately reflect the objective of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and were without a doubt a great way to educate us about the dangers of polluted runoff.

In four short weeks of working with Michael on the farm, we were able to experience almost everything that goes into running a 285-acre farm with more than 50 cows and countless fields of fruits and vegetables. From fixing barbed wire fences to unloading hundreds of hay bales to wrestling with baby calves, we were able to get a grasp on what it takes to manage an organic farm. Although we have both taken an environmental science course in our school, it was nice to finally experience what we had learned about the entire school year in a hands-on manner. It was interesting to see the different methods that Michael uses to reduce runoff and other pollution, and how easy it is for farmers to have a great impact on the health of the Bay.

—Alec Schadelbauer and Matt Slater
We wish Alec and Matt luck next fall as they head to Virginia Tech and James Madison University, respectively. Both plan to pursue environmental studies.

Learn more about how we are working with farmers across the watershed to clean up our waters!


Water Quality Trading in the Chesapeake Bay: Partnerships for Success

The following originally appeared on USDA's Blog last week.

Water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay benefit the many species of wildlife that call it home. Photos by Tim McCabe, NRCS Maryland.
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the largest estuary in North America, covers 64,000 square miles and includes more than 150 rivers and streams that drain into the bay. Roughly one quarter of the land in the watershed is used for agricultural production, and agricultural practices can affect the health of those rivers and streams, and ultimately the bay itself.

While the health of the Chesapeake Bay has improved since the 1970s, excess nutrients and sediment continue to adversely affect water quality in local rivers and streams, which contributes to impaired water quality in the Bay.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with several agencies and organizations to test innovative water quality trading tools that will help improve the bay’s water quality, benefiting the more than 300 species of fish, shellfish and crab, and many other wildlife that call the Chesapeake Bay home.

In 2012, NRCS awarded Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to 12 entities to help develop water quality trading programs; five of these recipients are in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

USDA is excited about water quality trading’s potential to achieve the nutrient reductions necessary to improve water quality at a lower cost than regulation alone. For example, a wastewater treatment plant could purchase a nutrient credit rather than facing higher compliance costs if structural improvements are required on site. This is advantageous because it saves regulated industries money, and can provide additional income for the agricultural community by supporting adoption of conservation practices that reduce nutrient runoff.

The Chesapeake Bay grant recipients are the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay; the borough of Chambersburg, Penn.; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation; and the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

NRCS recently met with these organizations and agencies to share expertise and identify common obstacles and priorities. During the meeting, NRCS briefed recipients on trading tools and policies, and invited groups working on water quality trading programs across the country to share ideas. The Chesapeake Bay CIG awardees will continue to meet throughout the duration of their projects to share updates and collaborate on innovative solutions to water quality challenges in the Chesapeake Bay.

These grants are part of the largest conservation commitment by USDA in the bay region. NRCS works side by side with farmers and ranchers to improve water, air and soil quality through conservation. 

Photo of the Week: This Pretty Much Sums It Up

Photo by Donna L. Cole.

"I took this on May 20, 2013, about a mile from CBF's headquarters in Annapolis. As for what the Chesapeake Bay means to me, this pretty much sums it up!"

—Donna L. Cole

Ensure that Donna 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!


Changing the Flow: A Holistic Solution to a Stormy Problem


LSI colorful
The restored floodplain slows down the water, keeps the soil in place, and creates wildlife habitat. Photo courtesy of LandStudies, Inc.

Just a few blocks from Lancaster City is the home of CBF members Paul and Judy Ware. Their five-acre property along Marietta Avenue was falling prey to an all-too-familiar marauder—stormwater runoff

Velocity, as it turns out, was not only moving pollutants and debris downstream, but also the Wares' front yard.


Pre construct LSI credit
Before the Wares embarked on this project, rushing water during storms was eroding away their property. Photo courtesy of RGS Associates.

On any given day the flow of this spring-fed, unnamed tributary to the Conestoga River would be considered a lazy meander, but that's definitely not the case during heavy rain events. Velocity, escalated by the channeling-by-design function of a culvert beneath Marietta Avenue, transformed the gentle spring-fed stream into a roaring river. Over time, the Wares were left with an eroded, severely channelized stream with six-foot banks. The creek, the waterways downstream, and the Bay, were left with excess sediment and polluted run-off. 

Mr. Ware worried on several levels: for the safety of his 7-year-old grandson who loves to look for frogs and other critters; for the erosion of his property; and for the water quality of the creek itself. Mr. Ware, who also owns property in Maryland, understands the connection between our actions here in Pennsylvania and the potential impacts downstream. He decided that the solution to their stormwater woes was to transform it from a burden into an asset. 


This culvert continues to serve as the main transport of water beneath Marietta Avenue and onto the Wares' property, but it no longer has an eroding effect on the property. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.

So Paul and Judy called upon the expertise of John Hershey, Client Manager for RGS Associates, Inc., and LandStudies Inc., to design an alternative. The conventional solution would be to add-on to the already existing stormwater detention basin, which was situated near the culvert. Considered the status-quo for dealing with stormwater run-off, these basins are designed to hold onto the increased flow while allowing pollutants and sediment to settle out. But for the Wares, a bigger basin in their front yard was anything but palatable.

Looking through a big-picture lens, Mr. Hershey and LandStudies approached the project with a holistic mindset.

Their plan: deconstruct the existing stormwater retention basin, restore and reconnect the stream to its floodplain, plant native pollution-filtering plants, and establish wetlands for additional filtering and for enhanced wildlife habitat.

Their goal:  create a slower, healthier, meandering stream that would naturally handle increased flow, even during heavy rains, without eroding away the property. By re-establishing a natural floodplain the Wares would handle their stormwater in a natural, greener way.


Paul Ware (left) and John Hershey, Client Manager for RGS Associates, Inc. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.

To Paul, who enjoys the challenge of finding creative solutions to everyday problems, it was an investment that made sense. This was not just a solution to the problem on his property, but also an opportunity to inspire his neighbors and the community to maybe think a little differently about how we "handle" water. 

The Wares' next project: establishing a rain garden to help hold and filter water.

For Mr. Ware, he says that he no longer worries; the frogs have returned, the ever-changing colors of the plantings and flowers are a joy, and he knows that not only is his grandson safe, but that the water on his property and downstream is now cleaner.

Congratulations and thank you to the Wares' for their efforts to improve local water quality and the Chesapeake Bay.

—Kelly Donaldson

The project was supported by Lancaster Township, and it's believed to be the first of its kind in Pennsylvania where a municipality permitted the removal of a traditional suburban stormwater basin in favor of floodplain restoration. 




This project serves as an excellent reminder that keeping soil in place and out of our streams can have multiple water quality benefits. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.


Photo of the Week: Summer Storm

SummerStorm_byAdamJRybczynskiBy Adam J. Rybczynski.

Adam Rybczynski captured this striking (no pun intended) image of a summer storm a few years ago in Havre de Grace, Maryland. 

Stay safe out there as we prepare for the slew of storms today across the Mid-Atlantic!

Ensure that Adam 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!


Cecil Should Work With Bay Plan to Innovate, Not Litigate

A Talbot County ditch that helps slow and filter polluted stormwater runoff. Photo courtesy of "The Talbot Spy."
The following originally appeared in The Cecil Daily earlier this morning.

We urge county officials to look south for examples of what can be gained by working with, rather than fighting, the regional plan to reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.

Talbot County wanted to help the Bay, but also worried about estimated costs of ramping up this necessary work. Talbot officials decided to work with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and state and federal agencies. Working collaboratively, Talbot and the various groups are testing an innovative way to reduce pollution by using existing farm and street-side ditches to slow and filter polluted runoff. As a result, Talbot was able to cut part of its original cost estimate, which had been on par with Cecil, by more than 90 percent.

While the effort is still preliminary, we believe the idea is sound.

In Wicomico County, the Wicomico Environmental Trust and the City of Salisbury teamed up to look around town and find the most cost-effective opportunities to reduce polluted runoff. Encouraged by this progress, Wicomico approved $200,000 in capital funding to get started on the work.

The same ideas may not solve Cecil's water pollution problems. Each county and city in the Bay region has particular characteristics, problems and needs. But two tools will be common to any approach: a cooperative attitude and innovation. We commit to work even more closely with Cecil if officials believe, as we do, that the best results usually come from collaboration, not litigation.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director

Learn more about the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the best hope for a saved Bay!


Fee Will Help Pay for Cleanup Costs

The following originally appeared in The Carroll County Times earlier today.

Schlyer-cbr-7918Photo by © Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

Most people probably wouldn't let their child bathe in a storm drain. Yet allowing him or her to swim or wade in many of the creeks and rivers of Carroll County after a heavy rainstorm is virtually the same thing.

That's because of stormwater. It's not an everyday term, stormwater. But it's a genuine problem.

A special team of experts in Carroll is finishing studying a possible fee dedicated solely to addressing this problem. We think that's a good idea. It's also required by state law.

While no one likes additional fees or taxes, this is a serious problem in Carroll that needs attention now, or we risk simply kicking the problem down the road to our children.

Stormwater pollution is increasing around the region. Thanks to cooperation among government, business, and citizens, water pollution from farms, sewage plants, and other sources has been reduced. Not stormwater.

What is stormwater? Our suburban and city landscape is covered with all manner of filth and contaminants—dog waste, lawn fertilizer, oil, and pesticides to name a few. A storm effectively hoses this mess straight—and fast—into nearby creeks. Unlike sewage, polluted runoff isn't treated. The more parking lots, streets, and other hard surfaces, the worse the problem.

This polluted runoff is one of the reasons the federal government officially declared certain waterways in Carroll County impaired, meaning too polluted for safe recreational uses. Those waters include the Patapsco and Monocacy Rivers as well as Double Pipe Creek. This is not just a worrisome problem for fish and other stream critters. State environmental officials warn Marylanders not to swim in the state's waterways after a heavy rainstorm because of potentially harmful bacteria in the runoff.

For years Carroll and other populated counties in Maryland, as well as the City of Baltimore, have been required by Clean Water Act permits to reduce stormwater pollution. Each permit sets out expectations for this cleanup. Carroll has a good program to do so. But clearly it has not done enough, and the county will soon get a new permit which will be much tougher. The trouble is this is an expensive problem. To fix it, in part, means to go back and retrofit the system of ponds, culverts, and pipes that comprise the man-made drainage system.

Thankfully, Carroll isn't alone in this quandary, and scientists and entrepreneurs across the country are coming up with cost-effective solutions.

One of the solutions is "green infrastructure" that mimics nature to clean polluted runoff. In addition, the state has significantly increased its financial help, including tens of millions of dollars appropriated this year for local projects and technical assistance, help for which the Chesapeake Bay Foundation pushed hard.

Still, localities need to increase their contribution as well. Last year the state legislature wisely told counties already possessing stormwater permits to raise some kind of fee to help with funding. The size of the fee, and how it is assessed, was left up to the county.

Contrary to what some of the county commissioners allege, the level of funding Carroll County spends on this problem won't be sufficient. In fact, the most recent review of the county's program by the Maryland Department of the Environment said the county is expected to comply with the state law and raise a fee in order to meet its clean-up responsibilities.

But this investment will pay off. In Anne Arundel County, which has approved a stormwater fee, the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center estimates that for every $100 million the county invests in improvements, the county will gain $220 million in economic benefits and almost 800 jobs.

What's the alternative? Surely, no one wants to leave a much higher bill for our children to pay, or unhealthy local waters as our legacy.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director

Learn more about stormwater, and how it harms our waters on our website here.

Photo of the Week: Solomons Island Boardwalk

Photo by Angela Moland Wiggins.

"This photo was taken on January 13, 2013 on the Solomons Island Boardwalk.

My husband and I moved to southern Maryland in December. It's the first time I've ever lived so close to a body of water. There are so many beautiful parks [where you can] enjoy the water and be surrounded by nature. It reminds me that I belong to something larger and I have a responsibility to be respectful of this delicate balance of life."

—Angela Moland Wiggins

Ensure that Angela 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!