For Love of Land and Water: Essex County Farmers Practice Effective Conservation, Part Four

  Wheat
Photo by Claus Rebler. 

Just as several members of Congress are drafting a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs, we talked with several Virginia farm families who have learned how important these conservation programs are both for their and their communities’ livelihoods as well as the health of the environment. The following is the final post of a series of blogs from those conversations adapted from an article in the Essex County Countryside Alliance 2011 Report. Read Part One and Part Two of the series. 
 

 

Part 4:

Restoring the Chesapeake’s Health

“This view is my incentive for doing a good job,” said David Taliaferro as he looked out over the broad Rappahannock from a bluff next to his mother’s house. It’s clear that his family, the Baylors, and the Hundleys all share a deep commitment to healthy land and water. Bob and Waring Baylor especially love the Rappahannock’s waterfowl, and they are avid Bay anglers who trailer their 21’ fishboat to launch ramps in search of flounder, trout, rockfish, and croakers. “The way we were going [losing fertilizer and soil], it was going to be a disaster,” Jay Hundley said with some passion. “I want to get it [the Bay and its rivers] back the way it used to be, for myself, my kids, my grandkids.”

Indeed, the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program’s most recent Bay Barometer report (2009) shows that agriculture in the Bay watershed is making important, valuable progress. Farmers have reduced nitrogen pollution by 52 percent of the Bay Program’s goals, phos phorus pollution by 50 percent, and sediment pollution by 50 percent. Those numbers represent very good news, for which everyone who loves the Chesapeake and its rivers should be grateful to the region’s agricultural community. The bad news is that the Bay ecosystem is telling us it needs more pollution reduction from all sources—sewage treatment plants, urban and suburban stormwater and septic systems as well as agriculture. The challenge for those of us who like to eat is how to support the Bay region’s farmers in their efforts to reduce their remaining 50 percent.

In the end, the Baylors, Hundleys, and Taliaferros walk their talk, farming in ways that reflect their love of the Rappahannock and its creeks, as well as their need to keep their operations appropriately profitable over the long term. The Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay have certainly benefitted from their conservation practices. The question for them and the Chesapeake Bay conservation community at large is how to encourage other farmers to love their land and water the same way.

John Page Williams


In a matter of days, several members of Congress will pass along recommendations to the “Super Committee” for a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs. Please help us prevent this from happening. Protecting this funding in the Farm Bill means not only an opportunity for cleaner streams and healthier rivers throughout the Bay watershed, but stronger economies and a growing workforce as well. Please act today for a chance to save this critical funding for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.



For Love of Land and Water: Essex County Farmers Practice Effective Conservation, Part Two

ArielViewFarmGreenfield Farm. Photo by Brenda Gladding.

Just as several members of Congress are drafting a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs, we talked with several Virginia farm families who have learned how important these conservation programs are both for their and their communities’ livelihoods as well as the health of the environment. The following is the second of a series of blogs from those conversations adapted from an article in the
Essex County Countryside Alliance 2011 Report. Stay tuned for Part Three tomorrow. View Part One here.

Part 2:

Restoring the Great Green Filter

There’s an old saying that over the past 400 years, we humans have converted much of the Chesapeake watershed from “The Great Green Filter” (virgin forest that caught and filtered rainfall on 95 percent of those 64,000 square miles) to “A Greasy Gray Funnel” of roadways, parking lots, and rooftops that concentrate stormwater and send it flowing directly to Bay tributaries with little or no treatment. When practiced with conservation in mind, though, farming can serve as a surrogate Green Filter.

One of the very best techniques for protecting waterways like the Rappahannock’s network of high-value tidal creeks is planting buffers along field edges, especially where the soils are highly erodible. Twenty years ago, Bob Baylor enrolled a number of Port Tobacco’s buffer areas in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He has just renewed the contracts for another ten years.

Bob does not, however, depend entirely on government cost-share funds. He has actually gone above and beyond the minimum, installing beautiful warm season grass buffers up to 100-feet wide. They are sown with weeping lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). He also sows cover crops to protect his soils in the winter and soak up excess nitrogen and phosphorus left after crop harvests.

Jay Hundley crystallized “above and beyond the minimum” with the remark, “It just seemed like the right thing to do.” He was referring to fencing Clover Field’s few head of beef cattle away from the shores of the farm’s 32-acre pond that drains to Farmers Hall Creek. Jay might be accused of an ulterior motive there—he loves to fish for the big largemouth bass that live in that pond—but he simply cares about keeping the pond ecosystem healthy. His family’s stewardship of the pond also shows in the healthy tidal freshwater marshes full of wild rice just below the pond’s dam. Marshes like that one make this part of the Rappahannock a magnet for waterfowl each winter.

As with Port Tobacco, the land farmed by Clover Field Enterprises includes a number of grass water­ways and buffers, though the latter are not as wide as Port Tobacco’s broad swaths. The Hundleys plant cover crops and accept cost share funds for some of them, but some government programs do not make sense for their operations. “I don’t care whose money you’re spending, you’d better spend it wisely,” Jay remarked in a recent, wide-ranging conversation. He knows that cost-share funds are scarce and wants them spent as efficiently as possible, even if it means they go to other farmers and he plants buffers and cover crops without them.

The 1985 Farm Bill emphasized cost-shared planting of grass water­ways and buffers, laid out around a whole-farm conservation plan. David, Bill, and Bryan Taliaferro rented a no-till drill and sowed warm-season grasses on 31 acres of their operation. David says that at first, he resented taking that much land out of production, but over time, he began to see how much these practices helped to retain soil. On a recent tour of Montague Farms, he showed off several grass waterways built on highly erodible soils in hilly fields. “We located and shaped the waterways broadly so they’ll hold water and retain soil,” he explained. He maintains them carefully now. Preserving soil fertility has become one of his key farming goals.

John Page Williams

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for more on how these Virginia farm families have successfully incorporated strong conservation efforts—such as planting stream buffers and fencing cattle—into their farming practices. Read Part One.

In a matter of days, several members of Congress will pass along recommendations to the “Super Committee” for a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs. Please help us prevent this from happening. Protecting this funding in the Farm Bill means not only an opportunity for cleaner streams and healthier rivers throughout the Bay watershed, but stronger economies and a growing workforce as well. Please act today for a chance to save this critical funding for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.


Chesapeake News and Dos

Filling you in on the top stories of the week and letting you know how to make a difference!

IMG_2591 Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

This week in the Watershed:  Hypoxia returns, some much-needed funds, and good crab news 

 

Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities for the Bay

October 8

  • Help clean up the Anacostia, our nation’s “forgotten river!” Join the United by Blue crew to help rehabilitate this Potomac tributary. 

October 9

October 11

  • Voice your opinion on the future of menhaden, “the most important fish in the sea,” in Annapolis, Maryland. This meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is open to public comment so please attend. We need your help to let these officials know just how important this fish is to the Bay!
  • Join CBF and REI for a viewing of “Gasland” in Richmond, Virginia. Clips from this documentary about hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” will be shown followed by a conversation about possible fracking in George Washington National Forest.  

October 12

  • Help fortify stream buffers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania along Witmer Run by planting trees with CBF. Help stop sediment and nutrients before they get to our waterways.

October 15

Ongoing

 

Adam Wickline

 

If you have an upcoming Bay-related restoration event and you need volunteers, please let us know by contacting CBF’s Community Building Manager, Adam Wickline: awickline@cbf.org. Do you enjoy working with fellow Bay Lovers to help save the Chesapeake? Become a CBF Volunteer to receive notifications about upcoming volunteer opportunities. 

 



Ask a Scientist: A Turning Point for Menhaden, Part Two

MenhadenByJustin Photo by Justin Benttinen/http://www.justinbenttinen.com. 

Your Turn to Save the Menhaden

A few weeks ago we told you of an historic opportunity to rebuild the menhaden population, commonly referred to as “the most important fish in the sea.” Now, in a continuation of that blog, we delve deeper into why this fish matters, and what we can do now to help save it. Who better to ask than our own Bill Goldsborough, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) Fisheries Director.


Why should people care about this fish?
People should care about menhaden because the health of the marine food web depends on this fish. Many of the Bay species that we value very highly—striped bass, osprey, bald eagles—depend on this fish. Furthermore, the disease problem facing striped bass has been linked to the lack of nutritionally rich menhaden available for their food.

What’s happening to menhaden right now?
The latest data paint a bleak picture for menhaden. A new updated scientific assessment of the menhaden population has determined that overfishing has occurred in 32 out of the last 54 years, presenting an historic pattern of overfishing. The ASMFC convened the scientists that did these analyses from among the state and federal agencies it represents, and they are all acknowledged menhaden population experts. In addition, they convened a panel of independent fishery scientists unaffiliated with the commission to review the assessment and make recommendations. This independent panel said that we’re down to 8 percent of what the menhaden population once was and that that’s too low. They said we need to have more conservative reference points—targets for the population level and rate of fishing as well as thresholds for delineating when overfishing is occurring and when the population is overfished—to better protect and build up the stock.

Where does the menhaden catch go?
Right now roughly 80 percent of the catch, or about 150,000 tons of menhaden per year, are caught in the “reduction” fishery, cooked, ground up, and processed into oil and meal to be used for farmed fish and livestock feed, pet food, paints, cosmetics, and dietary supplements. The remaining 20 percent is used for bait in commercial and recreational fisheries.

There’s a certain irony to taking fish from the wild and feeding them to farmed fish. Can you expand on that thought?
Menhaden are a fundamental food for so many different kinds of fish and marine mammals and seabirds . . . to be going out in the wild and catching this important forage fish just to process it and feed it to farmed-raised fish, thereby letting the natural system suffer . . . it’s an outrage really. 

Why are there some people out there who still believe that menhaden are not being overfished?
It’s important in how you word it . . . to say they are being overfished is correct; to say they are overfished is incorrect. These are the most recent scientific findings, but these findings are determined relative to standards that fishery managers adopted years ago. With the tighter standards that scientists are now recommending, the population would most assuredly be classified as overfished and being overfished. After all, there’s no dispute that the population is at its lowest point on record.

Why now? Why is it important now for people to take action?
The fact that this critically important fish’s population is at its lowest point on record is a startling wake-up call. As a result, ASMFC is considering changing its management plan for Atlantic menhaden by tightening the standards used to manage menhaden fishing. ASMFC is currently seeking public comment on possible new standards or “reference points” that outline desirable population levels and allowable fishing rates. Once reference points are established, ASMFC will develop fishing rules, such as catch limits, fishing seasons, and area closures, designed to achieve population targets and avoid overfishing.

What should people say in their public comments to ASMFC?
CBF is recommending option F15% as the overfishing threshold, which ensures that 15 percent of the original, unfished menhaden population is left intact (instead of the 8 percent it is currently). CBF is also recommending a fishing rate target of at least F30%, as an appropriate interim target.

I urge people to tell ASMFC that menhaden are very important in their ecological role, and it’s simply outrageous how low we’ve allowed the population to get. The rapid decline of menhaden creates huge problems for the entire ecosystem. People should tell ASMFC they want new reference points for menhaden that are sufficiently conservative and will turn around this decline and increase the population. Furthermore, the population should be allowed to increase to a point where menhaden can support a fishery and fulfill their vital ecological role.

—Emmy Nicklin

 

View Part One of this series here. The possible options for targets and thresholds are outlined in Draft Addendum V to the menhaden management plan. To learn more about this important fish and what you can do to save it, please visit our webpage. Send your comments to ASMFC, tkerns@asmfc.org, urging the adoption of a new overfishing Threshold Option 2, a level corresponding to 15% of menhaden’s maximum spawning potential (MSP) as well as the adoption of Target Option 3, a fishing level corresponding to 30% MSP, by 5 p.m. November 2, 2011.

 


Notes from the Education Field, Part 1: Students Learn First-Hand About Stormwater Devastation

DSC_0024
Photo by Tiffany Granberg/CBF Staff.

September is a month of beginnings and endings. The long warm days of summer wind down; migratory birds prepare for departure. Of course, most notably is the beginning of the school year. Students all across the nation enter new grades, start new classes, and sport their new clothes for the year. 

Here at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), September means the start of the fall field season for our 15 education programs, some administering one-day trips, while others conduct three-day overnight excursions. Students from Pennsylvania to Virginia will load up CBF boats, canoes, and even tractors to go out and experience the Chesapeake and its watershed. They will learn about its natural treasures as well as its troubles, and what they can do to make change. 

DSC_0031 But this week, as the Merrill Center Education Program began its season with a group from Annapolis Area Christian School, things were different. The water from last week’s torrential downpour had finally made its way down from the Susquehanna and into the Bay, creating a brown milky mess strewn with tires, plastic bottles, trees, etc. Students saw first-hand a system dangerously out-of-balance as they loaded onto CBF’s 40-foot workboat Marguerite to investigate the waters. Without even pulling away from the dock, they could already see the impacts of last week’s flood. The water resembled chocolate milk. Logs, presumably from Pennsylvania, drifted by on this blue-sky day. As the Marguerite went further out into the Bay, the story did not change. Mats of debris, trash, and even what appeared to be a bowling ball floated all around. Tiffany Granberg, one of CBF’s educators, described the scene as a “cesspool.”

DSC_0015 After lunch, the students shifted gears and boarded canoes to explore Black Walnut Creek, the small tributary bordering the Merrill Center property. As they paddled past tree-lined shores, Belted Kingfishers flew overhead chattering away at each other. Small coves on either side protected pockets of lush marshes, just starting to turn from summer green to a golden fall hue. Jason Spires, another CBF educator, asked the students to compare the water quality of the creek to that of the Bay they had seen in the morning. After a few thoughtful moments, they conceded that even though the water here was still murky, it certainly was not as bad as the Bay. “Why do you think the water quality is better here?” Spires asked. “Look around. What do you see all along the shores?” This is what our educators call the “aha! moment.” In a mere instant, these students got the connection. In a creek surrounded by trees and marsh, the water is protected against pollution. Furthermore, with poor stormwater controls and reduced natural flood buffers and filters such as forests and wetlands, the Bay is taking a big water quality hit.   

This is the beauty of CBF’s environmental education. Within the walls of a classroom, it is hard to make real-world connections such as the one just described. For more than 40 years, our education programs have provided teachers in the watershed the opportunity to do exactly that and turn information in a book into a memory of sight, sound, smell, touch, and sometimes even taste.

—Adam Wickline 

 

To learn more about stormwater issues and what you can do to help, please visit CBF’s Clean Water, Healthy Families Initiative website: http://www.cleanwaterhealthyfamilies.org/. To learn more about CBF’s award-winning education program, visit: http://www.cbf.org/page.aspx?pid=260. Help us fight for clean water now! Click  here for more information. Visit our Facebook album for more pictures of the stormwater's devastation: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150366028460943&set=a.10150366027945943.398340.8914040942&type=1&theater

 SatelliteImage_en

 



The Bicycle Diaries, Part Two

Jb “Wow, there’s just two of you, doing that whole thing . . . you’re really out there,” said motel keeper Inez after hearing CBFers John Rodenhausen and Beth McGee tell their story as they were checking in after another long day on their bikes. That was day four of the duo’s 1,300-mile circumnavigation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

And indeed “out there” they were . . . riding through corn fields, biking up Skyline Drive, running into black bears outside of Hancock, New York, hopping on ferries across the James River (and the Bay itself), soaking weary legs in fresh mountain streams, and telling their personal stories, raising awareness and money for cancer, diabetes, and the Chesapeake Bay along the way.

“One thing that we really tried to get across to everybody especially when we were up north in New York and Pennsylvania was that clean water benefits everybody," says Rodenhausen. "It’s not about the Bay when we’re riding through New York…it’s about you guys and your clean water.”  

Algae Sadly, that message didn’t come soon enough in some places. “Toward the end of our trip, we were coming through Laurel, Delaware, crossing Broad Creek—a tributary to the Nanticoke—which feeds into the Bay,” says McGee. “And there was a huge Microcystis, which is a blue-green algae—an algae that’s extremely toxic. If dogs would drink it or people would swim in it and ingest it, it would cause gastrointestinal issues and actually it’s a neurotoxin . . . really bad stuff.” Rodenhausen adds, “the [clean water] issues that we’re talking about now are very pertinent and germane to everyone’s lives and livelihoods.” 


Read "The Bicycle Diaries, Part One," here!

—Emmy Nicklin

 

To learn how you can fight for clean water click here. To read more of Rodenhausen and McGee’s extraordinary journey, please visit their blog. Check out our Facebook page for more photos of their big welcome home and find out how you can both bike and save the Bay here

Finally, to donate to Rodenhausen and McGee’s causes, please visit the following pages:

 



Ask a Scientist: Understanding the Bay pollution diet and what it means for the Eastern Shore of Virginia

CBF_Kosek_1 Recently, we’ve had a lot of questions about why the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s required pollution reductions to meet the Bay TMDL or pollution diet are higher than the rest of the state. One individual asks, “What I don't understand is why the Eastern Shore of VA must reduce nitrates by 25 percent, but Virginia Beach by only 4 percent. The DEQ [Virginia Department of Environmental Quality] is placing an extreme burden on our locale by this mandate. Both our Board of Supervisors (Accomack and Northampton) are alarmed indeed.”

Because there have been so many questions surrounding this issue, we asked CBF’s Virginia Senior Scientist Mike Gerel to shed some light on the Bay TMDL or “pollution diet,” and what it means for Virginia:

Virginia made the decision (not the federal government) last November in their Virginia Bay-wide “Phase 1” Bay cleanup plan to assign a higher percentage level of effort to agriculture compared to other pollution sources. Since the majority of the nitrogen pollution load from the Eastern Shore is from agricultural lands (around 70 percent as of 2009), communities like Accomack were assigned more nitrogen pollution reductions compared to communities with fewer agricultural lands.

We believe there are several reasons Virginia chose to require more pollution reductions from agricultural lands in their Phase 1 plan. Mandated upgrades of sewage treatment plants serving urban communities have achieved substantial pollution reductions over the last 25 years (a 42 percent nitrogen cut, compared to a 28 percent cut for agricultural lands). Most large plants will be at or near state-of-the-art by later this year, so further reductions are not readily available with current technology. Next, the McDonnell Administration made it very clear during the Phase 1 plan development that they were going to pursue the most cost-effective solutions. The costs to install conservation practices to cut nitrogen pollution on agricultural lands (up to $100 per pound of nitrogen) are significantly less expensive than pursuing cuts on urban lands ($1,000s per pound of nitrogen). Lastly, as of 2009 across the Virginia Bay watershed, agricultural lands generate a greater percentage of the total nitrogen loading (32 percent) than do urban lands (10 percent), and thus, were assigned a comparatively higher percentage of nitrogen reductions moving forward.

Keep in mind that the percent nitrogen cuts noted in your question that were assigned to Accomack (25 percent cut) and urban communities like Arlington or Virginia Beach (4-5 percent cut) do not include additional nitrogen reductions required of some urban localities with large sewage treatment plants. For example, the Phase 1 plan requires seven large plants operated by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District that serve Virginia Beach and nearby cities—the majority of the remaining large plants that do not deliver state-of-the-art treatment—to complete upgrades by 2023 that will cut nitrogen pollution an additional 6 million pounds .

Virginia is currently working with localities to develop the “Phase 2” cleanup plan that will define local responsibilities under the Bay TMDL. The state has some flexibility in this plan to adjust locality-specific goals provided the overall Bay TMDL goals are met. Locality input on the Phase 2 plan is due to the state by October, with a final plan due for release in March 2012.

There is no question that the Chesapeake Bay system is complex, as are the new cleanup plans designed to restore it after more than 30 years of failure. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has been actively responding to questions from localities and other local stakeholders who are newly engaged in the details of Bay cleanup planning. To further assist this process, we are working with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to develop a series of workshops for Virginia’s Planning District Commissions (PDCs) in August. This will provide an opportunity for PDC and locality staff to voice concerns and seek answers to questions from the DCR staff who will prepare the final Phase 2 plan.

Some have said that pollution from individual communities represent “a drop in the bucket” for the Bay’s sad condition. The problem is there are drops into the Bay’s “bucket” from thousands of sources and communities across its massive 64,000 square-mile watershed that, in total, have led to an unhealthy Bay. The bottom line is that farmers, sewage treatment plant operators, towns and cities, developers, citizens—everyone—throughout the watershed will need to do more to help fully restore our local streams and the Bay. Virginia is working hard to pursue on-the-ground solutions that balance water quality, economic, and community needs across the 15-year implementation period of the new Bay cleanup effort.

We encourage you to contact your local officials and urge them to move forward on the steps necessary to ensure the cleanup effort delivers the healthy streams, productive shellfish waters, open beaches, clean water sources, and the restored Bay that is so important to Virginia communities, especially those on the Eastern Shore.

Thank you again for your interest in this important issue.

—Mike Gerel, Virginia Senior Scientist, Chesapeake Bay Foundation


Middle-Aged Tarzans Hurtling into the James? What Are They Thinking?

Today's guest blog is from Krista Schlyer, a professional photographer with the International League of Conservation Photographers who has been documenting the pollution issues plaguing the Chesapeake Bay. Last time we heard from Krista she was exploring the Anacostia River in Maryland. She has since moved on to Virginia's James River.

Remember when every kid had a swimming hole and every river a rope swing? I remember heading down to the creek swinging a metal pail with an apple and sandwich Ma made for me, fishing pole on my shoulder, Albert waiting for me at our favorite spot. Wait, no, that was Little House on the Prairie. But I swam in rivers once, I think. Don’t remember. But I do remember very clearly the day when I was about 9 years old and my mom wouldn’t let us go swimming with a group of kids in the St. Joe River in northern Indiana. A friend of hers had recently gotten a chunk of glass lodged in his leg while swimming in the river, and it was off limits to us ever after.

Not being able to swim in a river on a hot day is kind of like being dehydrated, having a glass of water right in front of you but knowing it is at least a little bit poisonous. It’s torture, the deepest kind of alienation from the earth. But I’ve always figured we were all in the same boat. I didn’t think people swam in urban rivers any more, which is why during my trip to Richmond to cover the James River for the Chesapeake Bay RAVE, my jaw dropped wide open when I saw a whole community of people swimming off the city’s riverbank. My first inclination was to stop the people around me and say, “Did you see this? What the crack are they doin?” Multiple rope swings were set up along a stretch of the river in downtown Richmond. Kids and adults alike waited in line for their turn at the rope. Grown men hollered Tarzan yells and tried to outdo each other when it came their turns. Is this Mars? 1950? A rerun of Gentle Ben?

Few people swim in the Potomac or the Anacostia Rivers, in part because it is illegal in the District of Columbia due to concerns about the health of the water. I once did a triathlon swim in the Potomac, but there were daily tests of the water quality leading up to the event. Had there been a good rain, the swimming portion of the event would have been canceled rather than risk illness of swimming in the river. So seeing these apparently normal human beings swimming in the James made my head spin. It looked like so much fun. It occurred to me, maybe the James is just that much cleaner than the Potomac.

No, not really. The sewage that flows into the river after large rains pours in downstream of where most people swim, which helps increase water quality for swimmers. But the suburbs and rural agriculture runoff that enter the James upstream ensure that unhealthy chemicals and fecal matter are part of the water here just as they are in the Potomac. Swimmers can get ear and intestinal infections, and who knows what else, but the idea of not swimming in the river must be worse than swimming in a polluted river. How’s that for a choice?

On a walk along the James the following morning, I happened across one of the signs the city of Richmond displays to explain the sewage overflow system to its citizens. In an unfortunate choice of colors, the brown sign has a caricature of a fish who looks quite pleased with himself for swimming above the outflows of sewage coming from urban Richmond. The text supports the contentment of the poster-fish, saying the fish and birds are not harmed by sewage because the pollutants are mixed into the river water by the rapids. Water + poo = smiley. The sign also reads: “Releasing storm water here two or three times a year is an economically and socially prudent way to combine the impact of a vibrant urban community with the need for a clean and healthy river.” I’m not sure how putting sewage in the river makes it cleaner and healthier, but I’m no expert. And that fish sure looks happy.

The reflections of the city off the river in soft morning light, combined with thoughts of a city of middle-aged Tarzans hurtling themselves into the James, highlight what an amazing resource the river is. This city seems in the process of a great revitalization. There are terrific restaurants featuring local foods, there are new galleries and river parks, the kind of things that lead to healthier living and greater quality of life. But soft-pedaling the impact of human waste, street and industrial runoff, and agricultural pollutants flowing into the river seems unnecessary. We have made strides on water quality. Many rivers are in better shape than they were a couple of decades ago, thanks to the Clean Water Act. But we have a long way to go before we can tell people they no longer have to make a choice between swimming in our rivers and their health. Pathogens with ominous names like vibrio, cyanobacteria and crypto sporidium, along with mercury from coal plants and nitrates from farm and lawn runoff, pose potentially serious health risks to people and wildlife. Back in the 1950s and 60s we may have had the excuse that we didn’t know the impact of human pollution on our watersheds. We no longer have that excuse. Now it comes down to a choice between making important changes, or continuing business as usual and accepting our alienation from our own rivers.

On August 23, 2010, Virginia released its latest 303d Water Quality Report. According to the report, the number of waterways on the state's "dirty waters list" continues to increase. Find out more about the report on CBF.org.

For more information about the continuing health hazardous posed in our waterways, read our Bay Daily Blog post, "Increased Risk of Dangerous Infections from the Bay" and download our 2009 Bad Water report, "The Impact on Human Health in the Chesapeake Bay Region."


CBF's Will Baker on WYPR Thursday

Tune into Baltimore public radio station WYPR 88.1 FM Thursday (September 17th) at noon to hear CBF President Will Baker on the Dan Rodricks show. Will will be Mr. Rodrick’s guest and will discuss the draft Executive Order reports issued last week. Those reports outline the federal government’s new leadership for the Chesapeake and the kinds of strategies federal agencies proposed to take.


Listen Thursday or catch the podcast, then share your thoughts with us here.


Clean Water for a Change

Map1The original title of this post was "Miles to Go Before I Sleep." That's virtual miles, via Google Maps, but it's still exhausting. I've been mapping the Chesapeake Bay watershed for hours, and I'm still not finished.

We asked members to send us bottles of water from their local river or stream and tell us about the quality of their waterways. We'll be taking the bottles with us to the Chesapeake Executive Council meeting tomorrow, May 12, to show our region's leaders that we all deserve "Clean Water for a Change." Check our website for more info.

I'm mapping out the locations of the hundreds of bottles and comments we've received.

We've heard from folks all over the watershed, from as far west as Monterey, VA, up to Stephen Foster Lake in northern PA and down to the mouth of the Bay at Norfolk, VA. Here are a few excerpts. Check out the rest on our map. And follow us on Twitter (#ecmeeting) as we follow the Executive Council meeting from Mount Vernon Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

I live on the Patapsco River in Anne Arundel County between Rock and Bodkin Points. Slag, coal and coke from Sparrows Point routinely wash up on our shores, as does trash from upstream. And that's just the pollutants we CAN see! 

I live on the Chesapeake and every day, I walk on the beach. I see the debris along the tide line...everything from construction materials to landscaping fabric...devastating to our ecosystem and something must be done to control this human carelessness!

The Piankatank River is free from industrial pollution but there are many irresponsible boaters. Gas spills, harmful cleaners, and not following "no wake" regulations has taken a toll on the health of this river.

When I first moved here, 16 years ago, there were native Brook trout in Beaver Creek. Now the developers are here & the Trout, along with the farms, are gone. Beaver Creek makes its now-degraded contribution the the Chesapeake.

We live in Glebe Heights between Mayo and Edgewater in Anne Arundel Co.  We love to swim in the South River but we are afraid most of the time due to the fact that every time our dog has gotten in the water he has ended up at the Vet w/ a severe skin condition.

The Shamokin Creek is polluted with acid mine drainage.  There are over 60 discharges throughout the watershed, with each discharge having unique properties.  Iron, manganese, aluminum, sulphur and low pH are found in unacceptable levels.

Share your waterway story and I'll add it to the map.