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August 2014
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Photo of the Week: Horn Harbor Sunset

10517004_10204388771864175_1733398867_n"Looking south off our pier over Horn Harbor." Photo by Scott Phillips.

We are fortunate to own a small cottage on the Bay in Mathews County, VA. The Chesapeake Bay is a place where our family can simply be a family againwithout any unwanted intrusions. No phones, no televisions, no computers! It's a place where we leave all the pressures and obligations of Richmond behind and just exist as four people who appreciate every small detail of what that incredible environment has to offer. It's the exclamation point on every week for us!

—Scott Phillips 

Ensure that Scott, his family, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these along the Chesapeake. 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!


Gym Floor Finds New Life at CBF's Brock Center

Removing the flooring from Campostella Elementary School in Norfolk. Photo courtesy of Chuck Epes/CBF Staff.

I doubt my CBF colleagues will shoot hoops or jump rope when they move into the new Brock Environmental Center, set to open later this fall in Virginia Beach.

But I wouldn't blame them for wearing sneakers to work and occasionally running through the building like it was, well, a gym. That's because much of the center's flooring is made from planks salvaged from the gymnasium floor of the former Campostella Elementary School in Norfolk.

Amanda Fulton of Fulton's Finest Flooring installs the planks from the old gym floor at CBF's new Brock Environmental Center. Photo courtesy of Chuck Epes/CBF Staff.

And while the maple hardwood will no longer host basketball and volleyball games, it will make a perfectly beautiful and durable floor for the Brock Center, CBF's new environmental education and community Center overlooking the Lynnhaven River.

When it opens in November, the Brock Center will become home for CBF's Hampton Roads staff, Lynnhaven River NOW, and CBF's Hampton Roads environmental education program serving Tidewater students and teachers.

But it will also be one of the most energy-efficient, water-conserving, environmentally smart buildings in the world. CBF intends the center to meet the strictest LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge environmental standards. Among others, those standards include maximizing the use of recycled and reusable materials to save natural resources, energy, and costs.

Enter the old gym floor. When CBF, builder Hourigan Construction, and architect SmithGroupJJR learned that the former elementary school was about to be demolished, they asked Fulton's Finest Flooring of Virginia Beach to salvage the hardwood before the wrecking ball arrived and take it to the Brock Center construction site. 

"We were under the gun to get it before the school was demolished," says Amanda Fulton, owner of Fulton's Finest Flooring. "We got in there, salvaged the floor, and got out in a week."     

Ripping up, then re-installing an old gym floor was a first for the company, and a bit of a hassle, Fulton acknowledged recently as she and a crew carefully sawed, glued, and nailed the 1.5-inch planks into the Brock Center. In fact, plenty of work on the floor still lay ahead. After the planks are installed, they must be left a few weeks to acclimate to the new building's air and humidity. They then must be sanded to remove old paint and gym markings, stained, and sealed with an environmentally friendly coating.

Still, Fulton said she'd do it all again, "for all the right reasons."

"One day my daughter will go on a Chesapeake Bay Foundation field trip here and learn about energy conservation and water conservation. I love this building."

Chuck Epes, CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

There's still time to be a part of what will be the greenest building in Virginia and an international model for sustainable building! Click here to learn more.

Old maple hardwood from the school gym going into the new Brock Environmental Center. Photo courtesy of Chuck Epes/CBF Staff.


Photo of the Week: The Bay Is Our Future

10643246_10152695274720336_252044845_nKent Island Sunset. K. Chick Photography.

I took this photo three weeks ago on Kent Island. The Bay is our future. I volunteer and teach my five-year-old son the importance of not littering, picking up other people's trash because it could harm the ecosystem and animals, [respect ing] all animals/insects of the Bay.

Living on the Shore you really appreciate the beauty of the Bay. Where I grew up in Prince George's County all I thought was that the Bay was dirty--I never wanted to go near it much less swim in it. I don't want it to be like that for future generations. Everyone should be able to enjoy the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. 

—Krystle Chick

Ensure that Krystle, her son, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these along the Chesapeake. 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!

Setting the Record Straight on MD's Stormwater Fee

Storm drain running into the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River. Photo by Krista Schyler/iLCP

Amber Athey's September 12, 2014 blog post for the Tax Foundation, ("Rain tax featured in Maryland gubernatorial campaign") seemed to be channeling—and parroting—a purely political message, rather than accurately reporting on a sometimes-controversial new set of fees for stormwater management in ten local jurisdictions in Maryland.  I'd like to set the record straight.

First, clean, safe water is part of the legacy we want to leave our children.  Polluted stormwater runoff is a major problem for local streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay; in Maryland, it delivers between a quarter and a third of our local rivers' three major Chesapeake Bay pollutants.  Science confirms that it is the only major pollution sector still on the increase, and today, the oily byproducts from cars and trucks, excess lawn fertilizers and pesticides, pet wastes, and various toxins wash off our driveways and streets and enter our streams and rivers without treatment. 

The result of unmanaged runoff is local beach and creek closures, fishing advisories, flooded streets and homes, in some cities overwhelmed sewage treatment plants and raw sewage dumping, higher costs for treating our drinking water, and a polluted Chesapeake.  But there are proven fixes available which can make our local waterways safe and clean.

Since new federal/state permits for Maryland's ten largest jurisdictions directly require them to remedy the polluted runoff problem, the legislature in 2012 decided that a locally-collected, locally-administered, segregated fee would be important to help provide the services necessary to reduce that pollution.  This is not a "state tax," but a locally-set service fee, based on the local budget necessary to clean up runoff problems, backed up to residents and businesses proportionate with their rooftops, driveways, and parking areas.  The nine counties and Baltimore City set their own rates, which is as it should be.  Baltimore City's is not "$144 per residential single family home," as they asserted, but rather ranges from $40-$120/year, depending on the amount of hardened surface; businesses pay proportionally as well.

Other doozies in Ms. Athey's piece?  How about "other Chesapeake Bay states have opted not fund the bay cleanup program?"  Pennsylvania's investment remains substantial: in 2010 alone, some $142M went to fund sewage treatment plant upgrades and other water quality measures; in 2012, the state funneled $69M to Bay watershed farmers to help put into place on-farm pollution-reduction practices; funding continues today.  Virginia (the Commonwealth only, not counting very substantial local funding) has appropriated almost a half billion dollars from 2011-2014 to upgrade sewage treatment plants, provide water quality assistance to localities, and help farmers reduce pollution.

How about this chestnut: "Marylanders are being asked to pay a tax …based on a law that was wrongly applied?"  The reference here is to a Virginia court decision that found that the volume and flow of stormwater are not themselves pollutants.  But there are serious pollutants in stormwater whose discharge, under federal law, must be regulated.  Maryland's law is intended to help local governments raise the money necessary to manage these pollutants, which are regulated under municipal federal Clean Water Act permits.

Finally, are these fees reasonable?  Again, the fees should be based on what it will cost local governments to undertake the remedies required under their permits, and then the local governments should make reasonable decisions about how to charge the residential and business users of those runoff management services, based largely on how much hardened surface their properties comprise.  One can always argue with the way this or that fee in a particular local jurisdiction was set in detail, but the principle makes sense.

No one likes paying money to the government.  But when urban and suburban flooding occurs, or when one's backyard stream or river is too polluted for the kids to play or fish in, or when the iconic, invaluable Chesapeake Bay isn't "fixed yet," the government takes the complaints.  Just as we invest in and pay for local wastewater and drinking water treatment, we need to pay to manage and treat local polluted runoff, and reduce flooding.  The best answer is a stable, locally collected fee, locally programed and spent for the services necessary.

Those are the facts.

—Lee Epstein, CBF's Director of Lands Program

A Litigation Boost

Ariel-Solaski_180In our fight to save the Bay, the litigation team just received a boost, thanks to the recent addition of CBF's first Litigation Fellow Ariel Solaski. The fellowship is designed to give the litigation team increased capacity to identify and address legal issues surrounding the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—our best, and perhaps last, chance for real clean water restoration in our region.  

Jon Mueller, Vice President for Litigation, welcomed Ariel on board, saying, "Ariel comes highly recommended from Vermont Law School which has been identified with having the country's premier environmental law program. We are very excited to have her as Ariel has the smarts and training to provide CBF with superior legal counsel, plus, she has the right measure of grit and humor to work well with our team."

We sat down with Ariel to ask her a few questions about what drew her to environmental causes and to CBF.

Q: What first made you interested in environmental issues?
A: I spent every summer of my childhood at Watch Hill, Fire Island, a barrier island beach along the south shore of Long Island, New York. It is a federally designated National Seashore so there's very little development. The peacefulness and beauty of the undeveloped barrier beach, with the ocean on one side and the bay on the other side, is the most important place to me on earth. Then, as a young adult, I spent time in the private communities at the other end of the island that didn't have the same environmental protections. It was a very different scene and led me to realize the importance of protecting the natural environment.

Q: Why did you take this position as CBF's first Legal Fellow?
A: I went to law school to study environmental law and I knew that I wanted to participate in the environmental movement using legal tools. While in law school I found that water law was what really interested and excited me the most, and I took every opportunity to be involved in water law programs and courses. The Litigation Fellowship is perfectly focused on what I want to do in my career as an environmental lawyer.  

Q: What do you hope to achieve during your time at CBF?
A: I hope that as the first Litigation Fellow I establish the value of this position to the litigation team and the organization as a whole. In helping contribute to CBF's mission to save the Bay, I'm particularly interested in working on land use measures that preserve natural filtration systems. Examples of this include green infrastructure to filter out stormwater and other runoff, and filtration systems that encourage source water protection to protect drinking water supplies and habitats.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Environmental Literacy Showcased in Virginia

DSC_0029Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe addresses Virginia Beach students and teachers as CBF Virginia Executive Director Ann Jennings (right, standing) looks on. Photo by Chuck Epes/CBF Staff.

Student environmental literacy got a big boost this week in Virginia Beach, Va.

Standing beside a CBF education boat loaded with Virginia Beach middle schoolers exploring the Lynnhaven River, Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe gave a rousing endorsement for outdoor environmental education Thursday morning.

"The Governor and I believe that giving our young Virginians environmental literacy and an understanding of their stewardship responsibility to our Commonwealth, nation, and planet is very important," Mrs. McAuliffe told the middle school students. "Educating our youth and engaging them in positive outdoor experiences, will continue to strengthen our efforts to Save the Bay in the years to come.

"The governor and I know firsthand as parents the lifelong impact the environmental literacy program has on students," she continued. "Our children have had the benefit of participating in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's environmental literacy program, and it made a huge impact."

DSC_0084Echoing the First Lady's enthusiasm for environmental literacy were two Virginia Beach high schoolers, Sarah Conley and James Hemphill. They urged their younger colleagues to take full advantage of their on-the-water experience that day aboard CBF's Hampton Roads education vessel, the Bea Hayman Clark. Both Sarah and James are CBF field trip veterans and have become active conservation leaders in their schools and communities.

Other adults at Thursday's dockside gathering got super-energized when the partners in a model environmental education project providing Bay instruction to Virginia Beach students and teachers announced they will renew the innovative program for another three years.

The program, called the Virginia Beach Systemic Environmental Literacy Partnership, was begun in 2011. It brings together a diverse group of public, private, and non-profit partners to provide hands-on Bay experiences and classroom activities for all Virginia Beach middle school students. It also provides professional development for middle and high school life science, biology, and oceanography teachers.

Partners include a coalition of respected outdoor education organizations—CBF, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Lynnhaven River NOW, First Landing State Park, the Elizabeth River Project, and Oyster Reefkeepers of Virginia.

DSC_0136Thursday, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Director of Education Louisa Koch announced that NOAA fully supports the project and announced it is awarding a $270,000 grant to continue the program. CSX Vice President Bryan Rhode also presented a $75,000 check to CBF to help extend and expand the partnership through 2017.

CBF Virginia Executive Director Ann Jennings said, "We are thrilled at the program's success, gratified by the funders' renewed support, and confident the initiative will continue to be a national model for systemic environmental education."

Following the speeches and announcements, everyone joined the students aboard the Bea Hayman Clark to examine a variety of fish, crabs, and other critters the students had netted earlier in the day. Their interest and enthusiasm was contagious, keeping the First Lady and the other grownups enthralled for an hour or more.

Chuck Epes, CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

Click here for more photos!

Rockfish: Down But Not Out

Rockfish for blogThe number of adult rockfish (striped bass) has been declining for 10 years and is about to drop below the level that means it is officially "overfished." This is the primary finding of the latest scientific analysis of the striped bass "stock," which includes fish spawned in the Hudson and Delaware Rivers as well as the Chesapeake. In fact, Chesapeake-born rockfish migrate all the way to Maine and make up about 75 percent of the total catch.

Recreational and commercial fishermen pursue striped bass from Maine to North Carolina, making it one of the most sought-after fish along the coast. However catches have been declining steadily in recent years. These states are currently working together under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to craft a response to the situation that will maintain the stock at a level that will support these valuable fisheries.

But the Bay's rockfish population is far from collapsing. A few things to keep in mind: 

    1. First, while the amount of spawning-age female rockfish (the "spawning stock") is dropping into the overfished range, this does not mean we face reproductive failure. The spawning stock threshold is set conservatively at the level it was in 1995 when the stock was declared recovered from the severe decline of the 1970s and 80s. Scientists knew that this was a level from which the stock could recover, because it did so very well. (In fact, we set a record for reproduction in 1993, and then we shattered that record in 1996.) A favorable spawning pattern continued in the Bay through 2003 and then dropped off until 2011. This period of lower reproduction is the main reason for the stock decline.

    2. Second, in 2011 Chesapeake rockfish had an excellent spawn producing the fourth highest number of juveniles on record. This very strong "year class" will mature in the next few years and join the spawning stock, helping turn the trajectory back upward

How much and how soon we need to conserve striped bass in the short term to boost this recovery is the question currently before the ASMFC. The Commission is deliberating the nature of the fishing restrictions that will be required under an updated fishery management plan for striped bass.

A draft striped bass management plan that includes a number of options for cutting back the catch is available for public comment through September. The goal is to reduce the amount of fishing to the level that will bring the population up to a healthier, more stable state over time (AKA the target level). The main decision among the options presented is whether to do it in one year, which would require a 25 percent cutback, or spread it across three years at a rate of 17 percent. We at CBF believe that the three-year phase-in at 17 percent is an appropriate management measure. It provides the same level of conservation after three years without inordinate socio-economic impacts. Click here for more information and to submit your own comments about this important issue.

Perhaps more critical for Chesapeake Bay is the quality of the habitat the Bay provides for rockfish during their first four to six years when they are year-round residents in the Bay before joining the annual coastal migration. Exposure to low dissolved oxygen, high summer water temperatures, diminished grass beds and oyster reefs, and lack of sufficient food, especially their favorite forage fish, Atlantic menhaden, has taken a toll on these fish. In fact, scientists have documented widespread occurrence of a serious disease called mycobacteriosisamong resident stripers that likely results from poor water quality and nutrition. And fishery managers now assume a higher mortality rate for those fish in their population modeling—in effect we are having to adjust to a degraded Bay.

Therefore, implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, restoring habitat, and conserving forage fish are essential to maintaining healthy populations of rockfish and all the other Bay fish and shellfish we value.

—Bill Goldsborough, CBF’s Director of Fisheries

Click here for a list of scheduled public hearings on striped bass management. 

Help us get the word out about the state of the rockfish by sharing the above infographic with your friends and family! 

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Getting "Run Off" the Beach Because of Runoff

The following first appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Daily Press earlier this week.

Beachsign, blog1
Beach goers in Virginia Beach "run off" the beach from dirty water. Photo by Andrea Moran/CBF Staff

The lower Chesapeake Bay has indeed been fortunate in dodging oxygen-starved dead zones this summer. However, Hampton Roads has seen its share of dirty, unsafe water in recent months.

Just last week, the Virginia Department of Health condemned oyster beds in parts of the James River off Newport News, banning all shellfish harvests there for the rest of September because the water "has been subjected to sewage spills likely containing pathogenic bacteria and viruses, and because the area is not a safe area from which to take shellfish for direct marketing."

Earlier this summer, health officials closed beaches along Ocean View in Norfolk, James River beaches in Newport News, Yorktown Beach, Gloucester Point Beach and the Virginia Beach oceanfront because of high bacteria levels in the water. As of last month, authorities had issued 31 swimming advisories for 16 different beaches, nearly all of them in Hampton Roads, spanning 74 days.

While unsafe beaches can be caused by natural factors such as bird droppings, more often it is the result of pollution running off streets, parking lots and lawns. Even a gentle rain washes pet waste, sewage, litter, grease, oil, fertilizer and other toxic substances off the land and into storm drains leading to nearby waterways. This pollution not only threatens public health, it hurts our local water-based businesses and industries.

Most importantly, runoff pollution is preventable. All of us can do our part to reduce runoff from our homes, yards, schools, businesses, and neighborhoods.

To learn more, go to Safe beaches are ours for the choosing. Choose clean water.

—Christy Everett, CBF Hampton Roads Director

Photo of the Week: The World to Me

I took this on August 31, 2014. It features a green heron fishing. I took it close to my home on Barrett's Creek that is off of the Great Wicomico River.

The Chesapeake Bay means the world to me. I was raised on Cockrell's Creek, and life on the water has shaped my world view. I understand there is a tenuous balance that must be achieved to ensure the health of the bay and the economics of the area.

—Marilou McCrosky   


Ensure that Marilou and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these along the Chesapeake. 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!

Angler Clean Water Story: Every Little Bit Makes a Difference!

HWD_6559-copy_edited-1Kendall Osborne carefully shows off (before release) a handsome fly-caught red drum from a shallow flat on the lower Chesapeake.

Growing up on a pond (that drained on overflow to the James River), I began fishing long ago. Fly fishing started in the teens and continues to this day. And today, I have the great fortune to live on the water and see a sliver of the Chesapeake Bay behind the house.

As an angler, it is easy to think of practicing catch-and-release as a primary conservation effort. That is indeed the case. But there is so much more we could do: We quit using fertilizer over a decade ago--our yard looks as good today as ever; we pick up the dog poop; we take kids to volunteer at CBF's Clean the Bay Day; we participate in the CBF's oyster gardening program; when we eat shellfish at home, the shells go directly onto our own "reef" by the dock and not into the trash.

Ten years ago, if you told me I'd see a redfish tail behind my house I would have bet the farm against it. Now I've seen it! The water quality in the Chesapeake is improving, and anglers can help on and off the water.

Practice catch-and-release, but also pick up the poop and eliminate the fertilizer. Get your favorite restaurant to donate shells to restoration projects. Pick up that stray holiday balloon you see on the water. It only takes a minute. We are heading in the right direction, and we need to keep going. Every little bit does make a difference!

—Kendall Osborne

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!