Previous month:
June 2013
Next month:
August 2013

Nadine's Clean Water Story

Mom photo"I am the mother of four beautiful children. I am concerned not only about them but about their children and their children's children and their children's children.

What we do now creates all of their futures. Are they not going to be able to know the joy of crossing a stream by hopping from stone to stone? Are they never to peer down into the river and see crayfish at work? Will the stench of the river be too overwhelming that when they need to sit by its banks and listen to its music they will find no respite? I want them to have a world filled with all forms of life. I want them to hear and see the frogs and tadpoles in the spring and to be able to hone their reflexes by catching them instead of with video games.

We as people need wildness, and we need to cherish its message of inter-related individuality. I want that for our children and for the generations to come."

—Nadine Zsebenyi
Baltimore, Maryland

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!

Photo of the Week: Cousins in Summer

DockGirls2Photo by Doug Somervell.

[This photo was taken earlier this month on the] north shore of Tabbs Creek in Ocran, Virginia, not far from White Stone . . . the cousins got together for some fun on the Bay. 

What the Bay means to me? A picture is worth a thousand words . . .

—Doug Somervell

Ensure that Doug and future generations continue to enjoy summer moments like these on the Bay. 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!



Hating on the "Rain Tax"? CBF Rebuttal Will Make You Reconsider

The following op-ep originally appeared on Baltimore Fishbowl earlier this week.

Photo by © Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

Before this year the average Marylander probably knew little about stormwater. Environmentalists used the word. But then, environmentalists do weird things, like pay higher prices for food grown locally.

All that changed April 12. Comedian and Fox News commentator Steven Crowder used the phrase "rain tax" in a Fox Business News segment with anchor Neil Cavuto. They ridiculed Maryland (and its Democratic governor) and specifically utility fees dedicated to reducing polluted runoff.

You have to give it to Fox. They know how to make people sit up and get angry. Critics of the fees in Maryland started using the term "rain tax." Reporters picked it up in their stories. Suddenly it was in headlines across the state (first in quotes, then without), most recently in Robert O'Brien's blog in Baltimore Fishbowl, "Nobody Should Like This New Rain Tax, Here's Why."

The whole thing reminded me of when my social studies teacher called on a funny kid in class during a lesson on the Louisiana Purchase. His response got us all laughing. Suddenly we were all paying attention. But we didn't learn much more about the Louisiana Purchase.

In the same way, the "rain tax" hype has made Marylanders generally aware of stormwater, but much of the coverage of the topic doesn't really teach us enough about the problem. While people are still paying attention let me slip in a few facts:

  • This type of pollution is the only major source of water pollution increasing in Maryland.
  • Rain washes dog waste, litter, fertilizer, and other contaminants straight into local creeks, rivers, the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and the Bay. This polluted soup isn't treated in most places.
  • In many areas of the state, polluted runoff is responsible for a major portion of pollution in local rivers and streams.
  • The Maryland Department of the Environment cautions the public not to swim in ANY waterways of the state for 48 hours after a significant storm because stormwater carries harmful bacteria into those waters.
  • If we do this work, not only will our kids be able to safely swim in the water, but we'll create 178,000 full-time private sector jobs in the region, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
  • The state legislature last year budgeted tens of millions of dollars to help local governments reduce this problem, but also decided Baltimore City and the state's most populated counties should pony up, too, because that's where the problem is worse. The localities were asked to raise a fee dedicated only to upgrading their local stormwater systems.
  • Local governments asked that they be given flexibility to decide the size of the fee, and the way it was collected. So it was no surprise this year, when different counties passed different fees, one county as low as one cent per household per year.

And here's one last thing missing from most lampoons of the "rain tax:" an alternative solution. Should we continue to ignore this problem? Should we siphon off money from other government services to upgrade our stormwater systems?

I'm willing to pay a little more for a valuable government service, just as I'm willing to pay more for meat from a steer grown here in Maryland. I see value in that investment. But some people just want the least expensive product.

By setting its own stormwater fee, whether one cent or something higher, each local government made a similar decision.

—Tom Zolper, CBF's Maryland Communications Coordinator

Learn more about Maryland's stormwater fees here.

High Bacteria Readings for Local Waters

Mc swimming 8-17-12 008Four swim areas in Rhode River tested unsafe for bacteria this week, with water at the Whitemarsh Community Dock and Beach six times above safe levels. That’s somewhat surprising since it was a relatively dry week. Sorry Whitemarsh bathers. Take precautions.

Otherwise, most swim areas throughout Anne Arundel County were healthy and safe to swim, judging by bacteria monitoring.

For the first time this summer I have listed (below) high bacteria readings for upstream and midstream testing sites on Mill Creek and Dividing Creek on the Magothy River. These creeks traditionally test very high for bacteria, for unknown reasons. The area closest to the Magothy this week had safe readings but upstream levels were high.  One of my good friends lives midstream on Mill Creek and says she still swims despite the creek’s history. You go, girl.

Remember, though, the county health department and Maryland Department of Environmental caution bathers not to swim for 48 hours after a rain storm of half-inch or more. So regardless of test results this week, if we get rain this weekend, you might want to stay out of the water.

Swim areas with unsafe bacteria levels this week:


Oyster Harbor – 324


Forked Creek - 166

Mill Creek (upstream) - 1000

Mill Creek (midstream) – 312

Dividing Creek (upstream) – 980


Glen Isle – 384

Londontowne Beach 5 - 110

Pine Whiff – 136

Davidsonville Wildlife Sanctuary – 180


Whitemarsh Community Dock and Beach – 686

Riverclub Community Dock and Beach - 204

Holly Hills - 130

Cadle Creek Community Dock – 130


Galesville Pier – 106

Enterococci counts are expressed as cfu or colony-forming units.  Greater than 104 cfu/100 ml are considered elevated bacteria levels.

Enterococci are bacteria that are found in the GI tract of warm-blooded animals, which includes all birds and mammals.  Their presence in surface water indicates recent contamination with fecal waste.       

Both the county health department and a network of volunteers test over 100 public beaches and other areas around the county for bacteria. The results from the county tests are put online here, and for the volunteer tests here for Severn and Magothy rivers, here for South River, and here for Rhode/West River.  All the sites listed above were tested by Watershed Stewards.

Rain washes human and animal waste from the landscape. For that reason, county and state officials warn residents not to swim or come into contact with water for 48 hours after a significant rain.

Bacteria that is ingested can cause an upset stomach. In some cases more harmful bacteria coming into contact with open wounds can cause serious infection.

Have fun, stay safe!

—Tom Zolper, CBF's Maryland Communications Coordinator

Sam's Clean Water Story

SamSchoedel_photo1This [past spring] we planted a garden . . . to help reduce [stormwater] runoff to the Bay. The garden will help by sucking up [pollution] and stopping it from going into [our] rivers and eventually into the Bay . . . 

Our final project in science [class this spring] was to research a plant and make a presentation about it for our garden. Our group wanted to do something different, so we did the purple pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant. This plant would help the garden by absorbing runoff and eating pesky insects. The only downside to this plant was the constant pruning and babying that would go into it. Most of the other plants [for our garden] were perennials . . . but didn't have to be pruned constantly.

In the end, our plant was not chosen [for the garden], but it was still fun to [grow], and I enjoyed knowing that we were helping the Bay by planting a garden. [My close friend] David Deaderick said, "Every plant counts." It is very true.

—Sam Schoedel
Fredericksburg, Virginia

What does the Bay and its waters mean to you? Share your clean water story here!

Photo of the Week: Peace on the Severn River

PhotoSunset over the Severn River in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo by Laura Corby.

" me the Bay represents peace. When I was a kid, it was in these waters that I found my peace. As an adult, it is scenes like this that bring me peace."

Laura Corby

Help ensure that Laura and future generations continue to be inspired and rejuvenated by extraordinary sights like these. 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!

Good Things Are Happening!

Across the watershed, from Pennsylvania to Virginia, people are pulling together to restore the Bay and its waters. Through a variety of innovative, collaborative clean water projects, good things are starting to happen! Take a look below at this photo series of some of these successes . . .

Students from Manchester Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia, develop their own Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint during their Bay studies aboard "Baywatcher," CBF's James River education vessel. Photo by CBF Staff.
State Representative Todd Rock and Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher joined CBF, the Antietam Watershed Association, and Washington Township to plant 600 seedlings at Antietam Meadows, a community park located in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. CBF, the Antietam Watershed Association, and Washington Township are working to establish an 11-acre streamside forest buffer along the Antietam Creek. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.
On Maryland's Eastern Shore is a model for what a small rural community (4,200 people) can do. So far, the town of Centreville and nearby residents have built 350 residential rain gardens to slow down and soak up runoff; protected nearly 5,800 acres of farms and forests from future development; and increased the use of cover crops on farms to more than 5,000 acres a year. Forty homeowners also grow pollution-filtering oysters in more than 220 cages hanging from piers and docks. Photo by CBF Staff.
CBF, the Harrisburg Community Action Commission, Danzante Urban Arts Center, and the United Way of the Capital Region partnered to educate 25 Lower Dauphin High School students about stormwater, how rain barrels can help alleviate stormwater, and ways that communities can improve their environment and local water quality by implementing green infrastructure projects—like rain barrels. The students then constructed and painted 12 rain barrels to be used in a downtown Harrisburg community. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff.
Dairy Cow Grazing istock
Many livestock farms in Maryland are deciding to raise their cows, sheep, and other animals the old fashioned way—on pasture rather than in confined animal operations. The switch helps lower pollution to nearby streams and helps rural counties meet Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals for agriculture. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.
The Town of Ashland, Virginia, recently resurfaced much of its municipal parking lot with thousands of permeable pavers and installed a bio-retention basin to capture stormwater runoff. The project allows runoff to soak into the ground and be filtered naturally rather than run off into nearby Stony Run, a Chesapeake Bay tributary stream. One of several low-impact projects in the town, the "soft" parking lot reduces flooding, lowers nearby air temperatures, protects streams, and captures runoff pollution targeted by the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Photo by Chuck Epes/CBF Staff.


Greening the Capital: Harrisburg, PA

563189_10151571981180943_2049365520_nThis past spring, 25 students from Lower Dauphin High School volunteered to help create rain barrels for South Allison Hill residents in Harrisburg, PA. Photo by Kelly Donaldson/CBF Staff. 

Since the beginning of 2013, CBF has been working with community leaders young and old to green-up Pennsylvania's capital, Harrisburg. Harrisburg is a river city with a beautiful riverfront park that has steps leading down to the Susquehannaallowing residents to directly connect with the water. Even the city's minor league baseball team, the Senators, call the river homeits stadium is in the middle of the river on City Island

Although the Susquehanna is one of the city's greatest natural resources, an old combined sewer system overflows into the river more than 50 times a year. It overflows by design, but the leading cause of the excess overflow is the huge volume of stormwater created by impervious surfaces in the city.

This system and suburban development throughout the area has also led to the impairment of Paxton Creekwhich runs through the heart of the city.

Because these water quality issues ultimately flow directly to the Chesapeake Bay, and for many other reasons, CBF has made significant investments in greening-up Harrisburg to help make it an example for other cities in the watershed and state. 

Through this work, CBF has focused on putting community first and allowing residents, neighborhood groups, and city officials to drive the conversation. This conversation has led to new trees being planted in the city, not only for clean water, but for stronger communities. Harrisburg students designed and painted rain barrels, not only to restore clean water, but also to give young people an artistic outlet that many no longer get in schools.

By connecting our mission with other groups' priorities, we're able to get more work done, reach a broader audience, and provide more benefits to the community through our work. 

CBF will continue to expand its presence in Harrisburg, ultimately helping the city become a leader for green infrastructure. 

—Andrew Bliss, CBF's Pennsylvania Grassroots Coordinator

Check out our website to learn more about how you can get involved!

Photo of the Week: Beauty and the Beast



Guardian of the Bay
The old Cape Henry Lighthouse, Virginia Beach, VA. Photo by Eddie Weindel/

"The Bay is like a far off planet that most disregard and use as a means of self indulgences. Walking the varied shorelines in search of images . . . I find blight that takes me to a better self understanding and the role I play in the world. I find bottles, cans, clothes, plastics, and all other unwanted things tossed aside from the users of the Bay. I wonder where each of these items traveled from. Was it by mishap? Was it intentional? Did the last person to see these items understand the meaning of what they where doing?

Yorktownshoreline". . . I wish that someday we may take images of these things, the things that break the beauty of the Bay . . . [These images] will win no awards, but if it stops one person from tossing things into the Bay and its wonderful flowing streams and rivers, it will have done it's job. [Therefore, I'm including] in my submission a image I took at Yorktown, by far one of the cleanest shorelines I have seen to date, and still this was present . . ."

—Eddie Weindel

Help protect our waters and shorelines: 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!

Failure Is Not an Option

The following op-ed appeared in The Richmond-Times Dispatch earlier today.


It's report card time—time to see whether Virginia is making the grade on restoring the Chesapeake Bay and the local streams and rivers that feed into it.

Is Virginia flunking? No. In fact, halfway through the "grading period," the state is continuing to make progress on important aspects of its Bay cleanup assignments. However, Virginia is not showing adequate progress on other key subjects and must take this midpoint opportunity to make adjustments to stay on track toward its clean water goals.

Some background:

Recall that in 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Virginia, and the other Bay jurisdictions established science-based limits, or caps, for the Bay's most serious pollutants—nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment—as required by the 41-year-old Clean Water Act.

Virginia—as did the other states—created its own specific plan to reduce its fair share of the pollution. Together the pollution limits and the state plans are known as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

To ensure the blueprint was more than a paper promise, Virginia committed to setting two-year interim goals called milestones. The two-year milestones are specific, measurable, on-the-ground actions that Virginia pledges to take to keep Bay restoration moving forward. Every two years, Virginia and the other states announce what they intend to achieve over the next 24 months, and every two years, Virginia and the states publicly report what they have done, or not done, to achieve their milestones.

Most involved in the Bay restoration effort consider these two-year milestones critical to the Chesapeake's continued improvement. And the Bay is improving—underwater grasses and oysters are returning to some areas, and the Bay's 2012 oxygen-depleted dead zone was the smallest in decades. But the Bay remains seriously out of balance, and much work remains to be done to keep Bay health trending upward, especially in the face of regional population growth.

The milestones are the keys to continued progress. Earlier Bay restoration agreements set grand goals with far-off deadlines, identified no interim benchmarks to measure progress and held no one accountable for success or failure. The two-year milestones for the first time establish measurable, short-term goals and ensure transparency and accountability for achieving them. They also provide a critical learning tool to evaluate restoration programs, ramping up those that are effective and fine-tuning those that are not.

How is Virginia doing? The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Choose Clean Water Coalition recently examined eight key milestones that Virginia set for 2012-13. Generally, we deemed the state to be on track if it had achieved 50 percent of its milestone goals at this the halfway point in the two-year period.

The grades:

Virginia is on track for five of the eight milestones: fencing livestock out of streams, planting forested buffers along stream banks, restoring urban streams, using retention ponds and other traditional tools to catch and hold stormwater runoff, and upgrading local sewage treatment plants to reduce pollution.

Virginia lags in using newer, low-impact runoff infiltration practices to reduce polluted runoff in cities and towns, in planting grass buffers along farm streams and using farm conservation tillage. In each of these cases, there are opportunities to improve implementation, and Virginia must take action.

The progress on five of the milestones demonstrates Virginia's ability to achieve its goals when leadership and will drive implementation. Success is not an accident, and milestones give us the opportunity to correct course and address areas of weakness. The Commonwealth simply will not meet its short- or long-term Bay cleanup goals if it does not invest in the strategies that will achieve them.

To extend the report card analogy a bit further, who are the parents who must sign the state's clean water report card and hold Virginia accountable? You are—all of us are—as Virginia citizens and the ultimate stewards of state government and our natural resources.

Are you content that more than 13,000 miles of Virginia streams and nearly the entire Chesapeake Bay remain polluted? Or that the Virginia Health Department must close beaches and shellfish harvest areas because of dirty water? Do you want to see accelerated and improved progress in cleaning up your neighborhood creek, your nearby swimming hole or your favorite fishing spot? Will you hold Virginia accountable to its obligations under the Clean Water Act, State Water Control Law, and the Virginia Constitution? Do you believe clean water is vital to the state's economy, our health, and our children's future?

If so, tell your elected officials—and those seeking elected office this November—that clean water and a restored Chesapeake Bay must remain top Virginia priorities. Failure to act on the lessons learned from the milestone report card will entail worse than a trip to the principal's office. It means continued pollution, human health hazards and lost jobs, all at huge cost to society.

Ann F. Jennings, Virginia Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Jacob Powell, Policy and Campaigns Manager of the Virginia Conservation Network and the Virginia lead for the Choose Clean Water Coalition