This Week in the Watershed

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This week herbicides, pathogens, and parasites were revealed as major causes of the downfall of the smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River. Photo by John Pavoncello/York Dispatch.

As we have said many times before, as goes the Susquehanna, so goes the Chesapeake Bay. With over 50% of the Bay's freshwater coming from the Susquehanna, no body of water has a greater influence on the health of the Bay. More than that, the Susquehanna is a vital economic resource and a bastion of cultural heritage, most notably in Pennsylvania. One example of this is the Susquehanna's smallmouth bass fishery, which once attracted anglers from all over the world. Pollution has taken a toll on this fishery however, as the Susquehanna is now yielding bass with lesions, sores, and in one well-documented case, cancer.

This week, a report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that herbicides, pathogens, and parasites are the two most-likely causes of diseased and dying fish in the Lower Susquehanna. Faced with evidence of this extent and magnitude, the only reasonable conclusion is that this river, the lifeblood of Pennsylvania and the heart of the Chesapeake Bay, is sick.

In recognition of this reality, we believe the Lower Susquehanna should be listed as impaired. This will designate the Susquehanna for additional study and new levels of investment in restoration. Stand with CBF and its partners in urging Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to save our river by listing the Lower Susquehanna River as impaired.

 This Week in the Watershed: A Dirty River, Raw Sewage, and A Backyard Brawl

  • Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is in a catch 22, desiring growth while not losing their rural identity. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • A report revealed that Baltimore has released 330 million gallons of raw sewage into Jones Falls, which flows into the Inner Harbor. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • The smallmouth bass population in the Susquehanna River is declining, and we now have a few clues as to why. (Patriot News—PA)
  • CBF is urging for Pennsylvania to declare the lower Susquehanna River as impaired. (CBF Statement)
  • What furry Chesapeake Bay critter has surprising ways to clean the water? (Bay Journal)
  • Virginia Beach is experiencing a brawl over a backyard. The conflict: where oyster harvesting should be allowed.  (Virginian-Pilot—VA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 6

  • Virginia Beach, VA: Small, silvery, and packed with nutritional value, menhaden are a critical link in the marine food web. But the Chesapeake Bay's menhaden population are facing some serious issues. Learn about why menhaden are vital to the ecosystem, their management history, and the next steps to restore the population at our event "Little Fish, Big Issues - An Evening Discussion on Menhaden." Click here to register!
  • VA Eastern Shore: Join CBF's monthly Citizen Advocacy Training to get a crash course on timely Bay legislative priorities and learn how they affect Virginia's Eastern Shore. This conference call will also allow time for you to ask questions and discuss opportunities to lend a hand or lift your voice for clean water. Contact Tatum Ford at tford@cbf.org or 757-971-0366 for more information.

January 16-February 6

  • Virginia: Help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Participants grow wild celery, a type of underwater grass, in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of grow-out, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click to find one near you!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Photo of the Week: Fishing for Brookies

_MG_1172_sml_cbf[I took this photo] on a tributary of the Juniata River in Pennsylvania.

Indeed, brook trout are an indicator species for the quality of the countless headwater streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. In Pennsylvania, we have an abundance of such streams as part of the Susquehanna watershed. I have friends who enjoy the resource immensely, spending some of their most quality time fishing small mountain streams for brookies.

—Hillel Brandes 

For far too long, agricultural runoff, acid mine drainage, and polluted urban runoff have contaminated the Susquehanna River and the brookies that depend on it. Take action now to save the river and all the critters that call it home! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, 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!


Pharmaceuticals in Pennsylvania Waters

The following first appeared in The Gettysburg Times.

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Victoria Switzer of Susquehanna County is concerned about her drinking water. With reports of high levels of pharmaceuticals in Pennsylvania waterways, her concerns are warranted. Photo by Tom Pelton.

In 2001, 14 percent of Pennsylvania youths surveyed admitted to taking someone else's prescription drugs. The state Coroner's Association reported that there were 2,500 drug overdoses in the Commonwealth last year.

As Pennsylvania works to remedy the scourge of prescription drug misuse and abuse, the presence of pharmaceuticals in our rivers and streams is a double dose of reality for those concerned about water quality in the Keystone State.

An investigation by the Associated Press in 2008, found a total of 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts—antibiotics, pain relievers, and heart, mind, and veterinary drugs—in the City of Philadelphia's drinking water. Small quantities of drugs, including antibiotics, sex hormones, and anti-seizure compounds, were detected in public drinking water supplied to over 40 million Americans across the country.

While 70 percent of all antibiotics are used are for agriculture and animal husbandry, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found in Pennsylvania that the greatest source of pharmaceuticals in the rivers and streams is sewage treatment plants.

Pharmaceuticals find their way into the environment through treated effluent from sewage treatment plants, farmland irrigation with reclaimed wastewater, septic systems, manure from treated livestock, raw sewage discharges, and leaching from municipal landfills.

Our bodies excrete portions of pharmaceuticals that we take and have not been metabolized. This includes metabolites that may have biological activity of their own. For many pharmaceuticals, about 90 percent of the drug is metabolized. In some cases, a significant amount of the parent pharmaceutical is released as human waste or sweat.

Scientists believe the main way a great majority of pharmaceuticals are getting into the wastewater, is through disposal. It was reported at the Susquehanna Water Science Forum in 2013 that 54 percent of medications went into the trash and 35 percent went down the toilet or sink.

Many people still believe that keeping drugs out of the wrong hands means flushing unused medications down the toilet. In fact, they are introducing portions of those compounds into rivers and streams and eventually even drinking water.

While treatment plants may remove 95 to 98 percent of pharmaceuticals from sewage, low concentrations are still active biologically. No one treatment method can currently remove all pharmaceuticals.

In Pennsylvania, the USGS found low concentrations of pharmaceuticals that are used for other than agricultural purposes, upstream of drinking water intakes. This suggests that most pharmaceuticals near those intake sites entered the stream environment via municipal wastewater-treatment effluent or on-lot septic systems.

Private wells, which may also harbor pharmaceuticals, often receive limited to no treatment before consumption.

So far, there is little evidence that human health is negatively impacted by pharmaceuticals in the water. But health experts are concerned that small amounts of so many pharmaceuticals could have a synergistic and negative effect in humans. On the other hand, the effects on aquatic life from these "contaminants of emerging concern" in the water are well-documented, shocking, and sad.

Intersex fish have been found in the Susquehanna River. According to USGS researcher Dr. Vicki Blazer, about 90 percent of male smallmouths sampled had sexual abnormalities that include eggs growing in their testes. This intersex condition is believed to be linked to the presence of pharmaceuticals in the water.

Smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna continue to bear lesions and sores from a "perfect storm" of factors such as abundant, harmful runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, herbicides, cosmetics, detergents, and hormones in animal and human waste. These can weaken the smallmouths' immune systems and make them vulnerable to disease.

A drug take-back program operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) manages 410 drop-boxes across the Commonwealth where unused pharmaceuticals can be turned in for proper disposal. Since the program began two years ago, 32,000 pounds of prescription drugs have been collected. For more information, visit the DDAP website at www.ddap.pa.gov.

Geisinger Health Systems and others also have turn-in programs. Each year for the past 10 years, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has hosted a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Clean water counts. We can all help protect our precious water supplies and rivers and streams, by limiting the amount of unused pharmaceuticals that get into the trash, sewers, septic tanks, and wastewater treatment plants.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director


It's Time for PA to Reboot Its Commitments to Bay Agreement

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.

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A promised "reboot" of pollution-reduction efforts in Pennsylvania is desperately needed to get the Keystone State back on track so that we have clean, healthy waters now and for generations to come. Photo by Daniel Hart at Pennsylvania's Ricketts Glen State Park.

As Pennsylvania's executive and legislative branches of government are embroiled in a budget stalemate that lingers well beyond the June 30 deadline, the commonwealth remains significantly behind in its commitment to meeting its obligations for reducing water pollution in the central Pennsylvania counties that are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

A promised "reboot" of pollution reduction efforts by the commonwealth has the Chesapeake Bay Foundation guardedly optimistic that water quality will rebound in the Keystone State.

Since 1983, Pennsylvania and the other Bay states have agreed five times to reduce pollution. It is unacceptable, then, that Pennsylvania's nitrogen and sediment pollution reduction commitments from agriculture and urban runoff remain considerably off-track.

The most promising of those agreements came in 2010 when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint was established. At that time, Pennsylvania and the other Bay signatories committed to specific actions, two-year incremental targets and a 2017 midterm mark. The commonwealth must greatly accelerate progress if it is to have 60 percent of pollution reduction practices in place by 2017 and 100 percent by 2025. Both are obligations of the Clean Water Blueprint.

The reboot will map out the commonwealth's plan for acceleration.

Gov. Tom Wolf inherited this challenge when he took office in January, but CBF has strong expectations that the new administration will enact the necessary reform to get the commonwealth back on track.

Among agency leaders, state Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding has acknowledged that a reboot is imperative. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley reiterated the commonwealth's commitment to accelerated efforts during his address to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council this summer. His agency is responsible for the draft plan of the clean water reboot.

The DEP has stated that a reboot of Pennsylvania's clean water efforts is imminent.

Three things are key if a reboot is to reinvigorate clean water efforts in the commonwealth: leadership, commitment, and investment.

  • Leadership. While Pennsylvania certainly has made progress since the mid-1980s, leadership by elected officials has been inconsistent. Renewed leadership will be necessary to bring sectors such as agriculture and urban communities into compliance with existing state clean water laws. Informal DEP estimates conclude that roughly 30 percent of the commonwealth's farms are meeting such standards.
  • Commitment. There is no simple solution. Meeting the commonwealth's obligations requires the commitment to solve the problem from all pollutant source sectors and all levels of government. Historically, Pennsylvania has attempted to reach its Bay goals without localizing responsibilities. As a result, for many the effort has felt as far away as the Bay itself.
  • Investment. Pennsylvania knows what needs to be done — decades of science and experience have led to the road map that is the Clean Water Blueprint. Investing existing resources where it makes the most sense and committing new resources to fully implement the blueprint will reap returns.

CBF is asking for an immediate infusion of at least $20 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be invested in agricultural best management practices. Since 2008, the USDA has directed more than $255 million toward conservation practice implementation in the Susquehanna River Basin.

CBF also believes that, in the revised plan for Pennsylvania, the legislature should provide more adequate funding by making a greater down payment in the second year of the Wolf administration, including efforts to ensure an accurate accounting of BMPs already in place.

The federal government has outlined a number of consequences should Pennsylvania continue to fall behind its clean water commitments. The EPA, for example, could require additionalupgrades to sewage treatment plants or more urban/suburban pollution reduction.

Pennsylvania needs a reboot that gets the commonwealth back on track to meeting its clean water promise to its citizens and to people downstream. We look forward to a robust plan from Wolf and working with the legislature and administration in ensuring its implementation.

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Are you a resident of Pennsylvania? Make your voice heard, and tell your County Commissioners to pass a resolution saying Clean Water Counts in Pennsylvania!


This Week in the Watershed

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CBF oyster restoration staff in Harris Creek.

Walking across a stage to receive a diploma at any level of education is a milestone achievement. While the accomplishment should be celebrated, in reality, graduation is announcing an individual's ambition and preparedness to make a difference in his or her field of interest. In much the same way, there are points in time when we celebrate success of Bay restoration efforts while looking toward what the future holds.

Recently, the oyster restoration project in Harris Creek, a tributary of Maryland's Choptank River, reached a milestone by completing the construction phase. While it's inaccurate to say the creek is "restored," the oyster restoration project has made significant progress, and the creek's oysters are now prepared to make a difference both in the water quality and the oyster levels in surrounding waterways.

CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) also celebrated a major milestone, marking its 25th anniversary. With Pennsylvania second only to Alaska in the number of miles of waterways flowing through the state, it is critical that future leaders are motivated to improve their local water quality. The work to improve environmental literacy and cultivate a reverence for clean water throughout the watershed is ongoing. But with accomplishments such as the Harris Creek milestone and the SWEP anniversary, there are times to celebrate our success.

This Week in the Watershed: Oyster Milestones, Education Anniversaries, and Tiny Trash

  • The endeavor to restore the oyster population in Harris Creek, a tributary of Maryland's Choptank River, is celebrating a major milestone. (CBF Statement—MD)
  • It's the 25th year of the CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program, where students get in touch with their local waterways. (Public News Service—VA)
  • The results are crystal clear—getting students outside improves learning and strengthens interest and respect for the environment. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • Finding bags, bottles, cans, and other visible signs of trash in our waterways is disturbing. But to grasp the bigger picture, you need to look closer. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Oyster restoration is tough work, but ultimately very fulfilling. CBF's Jackie Shannon can certainly testify to that. (Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • Two Hampton Roads area principals are bringing their experience with CBF this summer on Tangier Island back to the classroom. (Virginian-Pilot—VA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

September 19

  • Gambrills, MD: Help CBF and partner organizations plant shrubs and wetland grasses at the former Naval Academy dairy farm. This 800-acre farm is the largest organic farm in the State of Maryland. Volunteers will plant a newly graded wetland in what was the old manure pond back when the farm was a dairy. Click here for more information.

September 22

  • Melfa, VA: The Eastern Shore of Virginia VoiCeS Course, an eight-week adult education class on Tuesdays, starts September 22! The course will cover regional environmental issues affecting the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Bay watershed. The program provides information on subjects affecting the health of our community's natural environment and how you can take action. In-depth sessions are taught by Bay experts from CBF and other regional institutions and organizations. Click here to register!

September 26

  • Trappe, MD: Help CBF take out the trash! Join us in making the Choptank River cleaner and safer through a stream cleanup at the Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park. Click here to register!
  • Baltimore, MD: A vacant lot in West Baltimore is getting a facelift, with 4,000 shrubs, wild flowers, and grasses planted. Volunteers are needed for this urban restoration project that will reduce polluted runoff and beautify the neighborhood. Click here to register!
  • Solomons, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Solomon's Island September 26. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

September 27

  • Baltimore, MD: CBF's oyster gardening program is expanding to Baltimore Harbor! We're looking for 50 new gardeners to care for two cages of oysters each over the winter and then "plant" them on a reef in the spring. This unusual hobby is fun, educational and helps to clean the harbor waters. Register here!

September 30

  • York, PA: A good time is to be had by all at BrewVino. Residents can meet neighbors looking to protect local waterways and learn about new opportunities to get involved in ensuring clean water, healthy communities, and a thriving economy for York County. Oh, and there will be good food! Click here to register!

October 2

  • Annapolis, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Annapolis October 2. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

October 3

  • Easton, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Easton October 3. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


"Veterans on the Susquehanna" Event Honors Heroes and Local Waterways

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U.S. Marine Corps veteran Daniel Graff and his son, DJ, paddle the Susquehanna River, under the watchful eye of Joe Pegnetter of "Heroes on the Water" at Shank's Mare Outfitters in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. Daniel and his family joined other veterans and their families at our first-ever "Veterans on the Susquehanna" event. Guests were treated to kayaking, fishing, fly-fishing casting lessons, live music, dinner, and refreshments. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Veterans and their families enjoyed a day of paddling and fishing, food, and live music at the first-ever "Veterans on the Susquehanna" event in Wrightsville, York County, on Saturday, Aug. 29. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Heroes on the Water–Central Pennsylvania Chapter, and the Cumberland Valley and Muddy Creek chapters of Trout Unlimited joined forces to host the day.

Shank's Mare Outfitters, along the Susquehanna River, was the ideal setting to honor the sacrifices made by veterans, to spend the afternoon on the water, and to appreciate why clean water counts in York County and across the Commonwealth.

Our "Clean Water Counts: York" campaign is underway in York County. Its goal is to make residents aware of local water quality issues and solutions, and to build and motivate advocacy to reduce water pollution in the county and across the Commonwealth. There are 19,000 miles of impaired waterways across Pennsylvania; 350 miles are in York County.

"The iconic waterways flowing through York County's diverse community are a part of the local way of life," said CBF's Pennsylvania Outreach and Advocacy Manager Amanda John. "'Clean water counts: York' is bringing together individuals, businesses, and organizations from around the county to make sure elected officials are made aware of pollution protections those waterways need."

York County commissioners Doug Hoke and Chris Reilly attended the event.

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Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited volunteers Andrew Kimsey, left, and Alan Howe offer fly-casting lessons to Sue Farrell of Mt. Wolf, at Shank's Mare Outfitters in Wrightsville. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Veterans and their families paddled the Susquehanna and fished under the watchful eyes of guides from Heroes on the Water. Heroes on the Water, many of them veterans themselves, also provided kayaks and fishing gear.

U.S. Army veteran Francine Praught of Lancaster was all smiles as she paddled out onto the Susquehanna. Praught admitted to catching more grasses than fish, and that getting out and enjoying time on the river was the ultimate goal of her day.

Air Force veterans Daniel Schaan of Washington, D.C., and Sarah Shaffer of Etters, shared the Susquehanna experience in a tandem kayak. Marines Corps veteran Daniel Graff of York and his son, "DJ," were guided on the water by Joe Pegnetter. Graff and his son later added fly-casting lessons to their experience.

Muddy Creek Trout Unlimited volunteers Chris Haag, Kelly Warren, Andrew Kimsey, and Alan Howe of Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited, helped guests get into the swing of things, by sharing fly-casting techniques with all who wanted to learn them. Joe Myers of Wrightsville and Sue Ferrell of Mt. Wolf attended the event for the fly-casting instructions alone. Myers had recently gotten a fly rod and was anxious to learn how to use it.

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U.S. Army veteran Francine Praught of Lancaster, enjoys her time kayaking on the Susquehanna River. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Not able to attend in person, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey sent his best wishes in a letter recognizing participants and organizers. "For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have selflessly risen to answer the call of freedom," Senator Pat Toomey said. "From Lexington and Concord, to Gettysburg, Normandy, Korea, Vietnam, and most recently Afghanistan and Iraq; American soldiers have gone to the ends of the earth to fight oppression and tyranny, and to uphold the cause of freedom. Many brave Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice for defending our freedoms and never returned home to see their families."

Senator Toomey added that, "It is fitting that we gather together on occasions like these to express our gratitude for all that our armed service members, current and past, have done to protect our way of life and keep our nation free."

"We're thrilled to partner with Heroes on the Water and local Trout Unlimited chapters and to see nearly 100 local veterans and supporters gain so much from their experiences on and around the water," CBF's John added. "We look forward to hosting a second annual 'Veterans on the Susquehanna' in 2016 to honor and celebrate the sacrifice and bravery of even more of these local heroes."

— B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator


Susquehanna Odyssey Is Testament to a Struggling River

The following first appeared in the York Daily Record.

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Andrew Phillips paddles near the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant south of Harrisburg.

Andrew Phillips grew up a block from the Susquehanna River, in Selinsgrove. He watched bald eaglets in a nest that hung over the river and never got tired of exploring the "huge, magnificent vein" of water in his own backyard. In his senior year of high school, he and a friend kayaked the 120 miles from his home to the Chesapeake Bay.

But Andrew wanted to know more about the river he loves. So earlier this summer, he and a buddy, Mauricio Martinez, kayaked the entire 464 miles of the Susquehanna, from Cooperstown, New York, to Havre de Grace, Maryland, where the river meets the Bay. It was the steamiest and stormiest two weeks of the season.

It was not an unusual feat for the adventurous, compassionate young man who says he'd "already drained the worry out of my family." When he's not studying environmental health at West Chester University or disappearing for days with his backpack, Andrew manages a community garden on campus.

The 20-year-old's odyssey down the living laboratory that is the Susquehanna River provides a true perspective of the problems, pleasures, and promises of a river in peril.

They found wildlife to be plentiful along the way, noting river otters, and more eagles than ducks. They were amazed that an American shad had gotten as far upriver as Harrisburg, although it was dead when they found it.

Mauricio caught a 42-inch muskellunge in Towanda Creek.

The kindness of others provided fresh, clean water and portaging help around some of the more difficult dams. Andrew and Mauricio were awed at how the pristine trickle in New York became the mighty Susquehanna and almost a mile wide at Harrisburg. It even flowed northward at the Pennsylvania-New York border. Both remember the joy of reaching the wide expanse of the bay at Havre de Grace.

In the downstream transformation of the initial, crystalline stream they also saw firsthand the problems that plague the river that flows 20 miles per day, 18 million gallons per minute at Havre de Grace, and provides half of the freshwater to the Bay.

Andrew noted that the river seems burdened by pollutants, especially sediment. He noticed the effects of streambank erosion while still in New York waters.

Once into agricultural areas of Pennsylvania, they stopped using small portable filters and switched to bottled drinking water. "We passed through miles and miles of cornfields on both sides of the river, and the water is greener, less transparent, and more difficult to see through," Andrew says. "The agricultural lands were obvious from the river, as the steeply-eroded, muddy banks, and lack of trees create the feeling of being exposed."

Agriculture is the largest source of water pollution in Pennsylvania and the cheapest to fix.

The Commonwealth's nitrogen and sediment pollution reduction commitments from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are considerably off-track.

Andrew and Mauricio also found that kayaking near dams like Safe Harbor, Holtwood, and Conowingo was brutal for the lack of current. They also took note of the water quality at the impoundments. "You take this pristine river and build a wall in front of it," Andrew remembers. "Sediment builds up, and you end up with this shallow, hot, stagnant reservoir that's really not conducive to any life."

Millions of shad historically swam hundreds of miles up the Susquehanna, which once boasted the largest shad spawning area on the East Coast. But because of dams, the shad's ability to reach spawning habitats has dropped 98 percent in the river basin. Fish ladders exist to try to relieve this problem, but fisheries managers admit they haven't been nearly as successful as hoped. Yet there is some good news: For 12 straight years Pennsylvania has led the nation in the number of dams removed from rivers and streams.

Andrew's adventure down the Susquehanna left him with a greater appreciation for that and all rivers. "They are living bodies themselves because of all the life that relies on them, is immersed in them, and revolves around them. This is our sacred space and deserves so much respect."

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

The Susquehanna River is sick. Urge Governor Wolf and DEP to push for the Lower Susquehanna River to be on EPA's Impaired Waters list!


This Week in the Watershed

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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake makes remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony in the Bridgeview/Greenlawn community of West Baltimore, where a vacant lot is being converted into a green space. Looking on are community leaders and representatives from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Photo by Tom Zolper/CBF Staff.

At first glance, an urban city landscape appears to be the antithesis to the open space of nature. Indeed, the concrete jungle conjures up thoughts of skyscrapers, narrow alleys, and sirens, while thoughts of nature include green areas teeming with life, majestic views, and chirping birds. What if, however, we could bring nature into the city?

CBF, in collaboration with multiple organizations, are intending to do just that. In Baltimore, MD, a vacant lot is being converted into a green space. This will not only beautify the space, but will reduce urban stormwater runoff through the installation of rain gardens, trees, and wildflowers.

"Greening" our urban centers is a great step towards saving our local rivers, streams, and the Bay. And as often is the case with environmental restoration projects, this will not only help the environment but provide an invaluable service to the community.

This Week in the Watershed: Fish Lifts, Vacant Lots, and Governor Squabbles

  • New regulations on poultry houses are being considered in Somerset County, MD. The rapid expansion of chicken houses on the Eastern Shore may be threatening public health. (Bay Journal)
  • The Conowingo Dam is being called on to overhaul its fish lifts, allowing for easier migration of depleted fish stocks in the Susquehanna River. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • After a 464-mile paddle and two weeks on the water, there is no denying Pennsylvania college student Andrew Phillips is serious about learning more about the Susquehanna River. What he discovered provides both inspiration and concern. (The Sentinel—PA)
  • We're excited to be partnering with other organizations to turn a vacant lot in Baltimore into a green space. (WAMU—DC)
  • What unique challenges do rural communities face? Explore this story of collaboration and partnerships in protecting natural resources. (Chesapeake Bay Program)
  • Do Chesapeake Blue Crabs belong to Virginia or Maryland? The Governors of the respective states are battling to assert ownership over the beloved critters. (The Sentinel—MD)
  • Virginian agriculture has a long history of implementing best management practices. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

August 17

  • Break a sweat while saving the Bay! Come on out to the Maryland Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, MD for some shell shaking! This fun activity helps restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells (we call it "shell shaking") by shaking off the dirt and debris so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. RSVP to Pat Beall at pbeall@cbf.org or 443-482-2065. Learn more here.

August 18

  • Join CBF for a Bridal Showcase at the Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis. It promises to be an intimate evening on the Chesapeake Bay with hors d' oeurves, music, cocktail sampling, a raffle, and a parting gift. To RSVP please e-mail Marissa Spratley at mspratley@cbf.org.

August 22

  • Richmond folks, come on out for a streamside clean-up. Prizes will go to the neatest finds! Contact Blair Blanchette, Virginia Grassroots Coordinator, at bblanchette@cbf.org or call 804-780-1392 to participate.
  • Get an in-depth education of one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings in the world by getting a tour of CBF's Brock Environmental Center. Reservations are strongly recommended but not required. Call 757-622-1964 or e-mail BrockCenterGreenTours@cbf.org.

August 26

  • You're invited to an exclusive open house for oyster gardeners and oyster restoration volunteers at Horn Point Oyster Hatchery. Tour the facility, learn about opportunities for further volunteering, and chat with the Horn Point oyster experts! Afterward, join us at the nearby Real Ale Revival Brewery in Cambridge for happy hour specials and even more mingling with fellow oyster enthusiasts and CBF staff. Space is limited! RSVP's are required to Hilary Gibson at hgibson@cbf.org or 410-543-1999.

August 28

  • Get an in-depth education of one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings in the world by getting a tour of CBF's Brock Environmental Center. Reservations are strongly recommended but not required. Call 757-622-1964 or e-mail BrockCenterGreenTours@cbf.org.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


The Incredible Journey

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Andrew Phillips (left) with friend and fellow adventurer Mauricio Martinez.

Andrew Phillips grew up with a love of adventure and the Susquehanna River.

The 20-year-old environmental health major at West Chester University disappears for days with his backpack, wants to join the Peace Corps, and has a mission trip to Guatemala under his belt.

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Andrew Phillips, finds there’s nowhere to go but down river during yet another downpour, at Great Bend, New York.

Phillips' lifelong interest in water was piqued in high school on a paddling trip with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program, where students tested water quality and surveyed aquatic life in nearby Walker Lake.

His senior year of high school at Selinsgrove High School, Phillips and a friend kayaked 120 miles of the Susquehanna from Selinsgrove to the Chesapeake Bay. It left him wanting more.

So earlier this summer, Phillips and buddy Mauricio Martinez stepped into a crystalline stream at the southern point of Otsego Lake, New York, and began their trip down the entire length of the mighty Susquehanna. The 464 miles would take them from Cooperstown, New York, to where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Maryland, during the most steamy and stormy two weeks of the season.

Phillips describes his extraordinary experience below in a series of observations . . . 

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There were memorable sunrises during the journey. This one was along Towanda Creek, Pennsylvania.

River runs north: "It was kind of disorienting to be kayaking downstream and yet, due north. [The river enters Susquehanna County then curves back northward toward Binghamton, New York.] When we saw the sun setting, it was on the wrong side of us. The river is so winding, you really only see a quarter mile at a time."

Changes: "The murkier water as we headed downstream was so different from the pristine clear water that was at the headwaters. The river seems burdened by the pollutant load, especially the sedimentation. We passed through miles and miles of cornfields on both sides of the river and it is greener, less transparent, and more difficult to see through. The agricultural lands were obvious from the river, as the steeply-eroded, muddy banks and lack of trees create the feeling of being exposed. We could see so tangibly the problems we know exist."

Wildlife: "Peregrine falcons, snapping turtles, otters, a fox on the shoreline. Many species use the river so you are going to see a lot. I've seldom seen river otters so it was cool to see seven or eight. We saw more eagles than ducks."

River4
Andrew Phillips paddles the first few, narrow miles of the Susquehanna and past streambank erosion and farm fields.

A night like no other: "With only 100 miles to go, we were south of Selinsgrove in yet another storm--the straw that broke the camel's back. We took shelter in a duck blind and it had bees. We moved to under a tree that turned out to be poison ivy."

Flipped for Harrisburg: "I'd gone through that riffle before. It's kind of dangly and didn't leave much of an impression. It was the lowhead effect; you can't see it until you are on top of it. This drop was so abrupt that the nose of my 10-foot, 10-year-old recreational kayak went straight down. I wasn't embarrassed, 350 miles of brutal water tears that out of you. There were fishermen nearby and they were laughing."

Eats: "Spartan provisions. We anticipated catching fish but didn't due mostly to a lack of time. Mauricio caught a 42-inch muskellunge in Towanda Creek. Uncooked Ramen noodles was our chief staple. Every night [we feasted on] a stew made of beans, Ramen noodles, coconut oil, and some adobo. Paddling for 12-14 hours a day you need a lot of fuel." [They also found their favorite mulberries along the way.]

River5
The area below the dam at Goodyear Lake, New York, provided one of the journey’s toughest portages.

Shad: "We saw a dead American shad on the shore below the small lowhead dam at Harrisburg. For the shad to have made it upstream through those dams is incredible."

Smallmouth bass: "With strange growths found on fish [recently], especially in my area [Selinsgrove], which was the smallmouth capital of the world, it's a huge tragedy. Mauricio still catches smallmouth occasionally near Danville."

Under cover: "Campsites are hard to plan for. The bridges were a lifesaver with all the storms we had. It was arid until we left, and then it was heavy storm after storm. [We had] maybe four nights when it didn't rain. It was 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity."

Drinking water: "At the river's headwaters, a small portable filter is sufficient. As you move downstream it's recommended that you not use them after passing agricultural land. So we bought gallon jugs of water and refilled them along the way."

River2
A small cannon and plaque on a boulder near Cooperstown, New York, are the monument marking the official headwaters of the Susquehanna River.

Trip of the dammed: "The dams are a real threat to the [Susquehanna]. You take this pristine river and build a wall in front of it. Sediment builds up and you end up with this shallow, hot, stagnant reservoir that's really not conducive to any life."

Kindness of others: "We met interesting people along the way. When you are out on this trip and lacking human contact, it's easy to ask for help with portaging, water, and food."

Still waters: "Near the Safe Harbor, Holtwood, and Conowingo Dams, the kayaking is brutal. [The river becomes] essentially lakes where there's no help from the current. In the headwaters and open areas we covered 40-50 miles a day, easily. At the dam, 30 miles is a stretch."

Grand finale: "It didn't dawn on me until we unpacked. At Havre de Grace, it's incredible. It was the promised land of sorts. The sky opens up and you see this huge, open Chesapeake Bay after being closed by mountains and cliffs for almost 500 miles. It's a really incredible sight."

River30
Andrew Phillips paddles near the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant south of Harrisburg.

The Bay: "Everybody is downstream. The Bay acts like the dipstick for the whole region. There are so many different threats from so many different angles. We were kind of like flotsam going down the river and saw how this system impacts the Bay itself."

Lasting impression: "Rivers are conveyor belts that show the health of the entire land. [The Susquehanna] is more than a cause that you reluctantly write a check for. This is our sacred space. There are settlements along the way, and they are fixed, but this river runs through them and refreshes itself. You really get a feel for it, like it's an old friend instead of a body of moving water."

— B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator 


This Week in the Watershed

 Rock run_1200

Rock Run in Lycoming, PA, a tributary of the Susquehanna River, is one of many streams and creeks whose health dramatically impacts the Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

It has been said many times, as goes Pennsylvania, so goes the Chesapeake Bay. With half of the Bay's fresh water coming from the Susquehanna, Pennsylvania has a more dramatic impact on the health of the Bay than any other state. This reality makes the EPA's recent interim milestone assessment all the more alarming. While Maryland and Virginia are generally on track, Pennsylvania is on pace to fall significantly short.

In the coming months, we will continue to focus on reducing pollution from Pennsylvania, while not losing sight of the responsibilities all states in the watershed have in cleaning our rivers, streams, and Bay.

This week in the Watershed: Pennsylvania, Sneakers, and a Climate Change Encyclical

  • Pennsylvania is way off track in meeting it's pollution reduction goals. (Bay Journal)
  • Virginia's Lafayette River bi-annual survey reveals it's getting increasingly healthy. (Virginian Pilot—VA)
  • Former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler conducted his annual "Sneaker Index," where he waded into the Patuxent River until he could no longer see his white sneakers. The informal survey measured the clearest water since the 1950s! (Southern Maryland News—MD)
  • Pennsylvania really does need to step up their game. (Baltimore Sun Editorial)
  • While Pennsylvania needs to make major leaps in its pollution reduction goals, Virginia is generally on track. (Daily Press—VA)
  • Philadelphia County and numerous businesses and organizations joined CBF's Clean Water Counts! initiative in Pennsylvania, which calls on state officials to make clean water a top priority in the Keystone State. (CBF Press Release—PA)
  • The Pope released an encyclical Thursday, calling for a cultural revolution to combat climate change. CBF came out in support of his encyclical, applauding him for calling people to be better stewards of creation. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

June 20

  • Those who have been growing oysters can plant them in the Patuxent River.
  • Get outside and get your hands dirty, helping plant 400 trees and shrubs along Swatara Creek in Londonderry, PA. E-mail Kate Austin at KAustin@cbf.org to register!
  • Yet another opportunity for those interested in oyster gardening for the first time or those looking to pick up new baby oysters to attend an oyster gardening workshop, this time in Deltaville, VA.
  • The Clean Water Concert Series continues on Maryland's Eastern Shore, as the XPD's perform in Easton, MD.

June 21

  • Love paddle boarding? Then put on your calendar "Cape 2 Cape," a festival celebrating paddle boarding through a 19-mile race across the Bay and various Father's Day races. All proceeds benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

June 24-25

  • Interested in advocating for clean water in Virginia? Attend the 5th Annual Clean Water Captains workshop in Virginia Beach. E-mail Lori Kersting at LKersting@cbf.org for more information.

June 25

  • Get on the water with CBF on Susquehanna's West Branch, often described as a "recreation mecca." On this canoe adventure you'll learn about the native ecosystem and explore the verdant valley, paddling by plants and animals that call these unique ecosystems home. Click here to register!

June 26

  • Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells (we call it "shell shaking") by shaking off the dirt and debris so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. Registration is required!

July 11

  • Enjoy a leisurely guided hike along the Gwynns Falls Trail through Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. A guest speaker will bring to life the history of this the second largest urban park in the country. Click here to register! Deadline to register is July 7.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate