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Chesapeake Bay News

Jun
23
2017

Photo of the Week: Research meets recreation at Monie Bay

Marion Clement, executive director of the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership, listens for bird callbacks during a marsh bird monitoring survey conducted by Maryland Department of Natural Resources at Monie Bay in Somerset County, Maryland, on June 15, 2017.

Along with Otter Point Creek in Harford County and Jug Bay in Anne Arundel County, Monie Bay is a component of Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR). CBNERR Maryland protects and manages the three sites—which encompass more than 6,000 acres of land and water—to serve as living laboratories for research on issues facing the Chesapeake Bay. (Across the state line, CBNERR Virginia manages more than 3,000 acres at four sites.)

With limited nearby development, Monie Bay’s relatively pristine conditions have made it host to numerous studies on the health and function of marshes. Researchers like Clement monitor marsh bird populations to study their current status and document potential changes. Other researchers use surface elevation tables, or SETs, to measure changes in marsh elevation, helping to estimate wetland resilience against sea level rise. Staff and volunteers also monitor water quality, study marsh vegetation and band barn owls.

As a vast, undisturbed natural area, Monie Bay also offers abundant opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, through kayaking, fishing, hiking and more. But due in part to its remote location, public use of the reserve is fairly infrequent. To boost visits to Monie Bay, Clement—through her previous work as a Chesapeake Conservation Corps intern—spearheaded the creation of a network of three water trails. With funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Clement and others installed directional signs down nine miles of tidal creeks, which guide visitors along a unique view of Monie Bay’s salt marsh habitat.

Image by Skyler Ballard

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jun
20
2017

New guide aims to help local agencies increase green infrastructure in parks

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a new guide to help cities and towns increase green infrastructure in their local parks.

Controlling stormwater runoff can be a challenge in urban areas, where a high level of hard surfaces like roads, sidewalks and buildings prevent water from soaking into the soil. Instead, water is funneled into storm drains, usually after picking up pollutants such as motor oil and fertilizers. Fast-moving runoff that is exiting storm drains into local waterways can also erode stream banks.

Yards Park is situated along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail in Washington, D.C. The park used green infrastructure elements such as bioretention, rain gardens and cisterns to improve stormwater management and benefit water quality in the Anacostia River. (Image by Will Parson)

Green infrastructure—such as rain gardens, green roofs and pervious pavement—uses soil and vegetation to help slow the flow of runoff and manage rainwater where it falls. By capturing stormwater onsite and allowing it to slowly infiltrate back into the soil, green infrastructure can help prevent erosion and keep pollution from entering storm drains. When used in parks, green infrastructure can add recreational, educational, aesthetic and economic benefits as well. Amenities such as pervious biking trails create more reasons for residents to use parks; features such as native rain gardens and trees not only help control stormwater, but are also attractive; and improved drainage and the use of native plants reduce maintenance costs.

The step-by-step guide provides tips for identifying, funding and partnering on green infrastructure projects, including:

  • identifying and engaging partners,
  • building relationships,
  • leveraging funds,
  • identifying green infrastructure opportunities,
  • planning for maintenance, and
  • creating pilot projects.

A number of case studies and photos are also included, illustrating how nongovernmental organizations and federal, state and local governments partnered to incorporate green infrastructure into parks across the country.

The guide, “Green Infrastructure in Parks: A Guide to Collaboration, Funding, and Community Engagement,” is available online.



Jun
19
2017

Pennsylvania launches development of fresh plan to tackle water pollution

Close to 240 Pennsylvanians gathered in Harrisburg earlier this month to tackle a monumental task: meeting the state’s targets in the watershed-wide effort toward a clean Chesapeake Bay. Representatives from local governments, farm communities, river conservancies, businesses, schools and other industries spent the six-hour public meeting providing comments on Pennsylvania’s draft plan to reduce pollution and suggesting actions they believe are necessary to improve the health of the Commonwealth’s waterways.

The Susquehanna River flows past Fort Hunter Park near Harrisburg, Pa., on March 13, 2017.

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)—also known as the Bay “pollution diet”—which sets limits on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment allowed to run into the Bay each year. To meet these goals, the seven Bay jurisdictions of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, New York and the District of Columbia created a series of roadmaps, or Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), describing how each will achieve the pollution reductions called for in the TMDL. Phase I and II WIPs were developed in 2010 and 2012, respectively, and efforts to develop Phase III WIPs are currently underway.

Each jurisdiction will develop a plan tailored to their area needs. Pennsylvania, behind on its Phase I and II goals, is zeroing in on increasing reductions from the agricultural sector for its Phase III WIP. The state is responsible for 69 percent of remaining nitrogen reductions needed in the watershed, and roughly 80 percent of those reductions are slated to come from this sector. Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding praised the voluntary efforts already taking place in farming communities across Pennsylvania’s 43 Bay counties, but noted that efforts must be redoubled in the newest WIP to “recognize the co-equal goals of improving water quality while preserving healthy and viable farms.”

“We want vital communities. We need healthy farms. We need economic development, jobs and thriving businesses. All of this depends on clean water sources,” said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “[We need to] empower communities to create shared solutions.”

Three participant-led, self-managed breakout sessions allowed attendees to submit comments on flip boards set up around the room. They discussed such topics as key elements needed for success, groups or agencies that should be involved, how to ensure all voices are heard in the process, measurable outcomes to include and how to work together to reach them by 2025. At the end of the day, the participants’ comments were collected for consideration by workgroups that will be drafting the Phase III WIP.

Interested parties can offer additional comments through the Pennsylvania DEP website until July 7.



Jun
16
2017

Photo of the Week: A second chance for injured owls

An Eastern screech owl is exhibited at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center open house in Edgewater, Maryland, on May 20, 2017. The bird, which lost its eye after being hit by a car, lives with other raptors at the Scales and Tales aviary at Tuckahoe State Park on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Collisions with vehicles are an unfortunately common occurrence for owls: as hunters, the birds follow their prey, which often means following them to the edges of streets and highways. Rodents, bats and other small animals are drawn to roadways in part to feast on the discarded food and other waste that ends up along the side of the road. Streetlights and lamps can also attract bats and moths, which in turn draw predators like owls to the area. Once an owl locks onto its prey, it may not notice or be able to avoid rapidly approaching traffic.

While cleaning up roadside garbage and driving slowly in areas frequented by owls can help avoid these types of collisions, wildlife casualties from cars unfortunately remain quite common. A recent study estimated that injuries from cars and trucks kill between 89 million and 340 million birds in the United States each year. In 2012, two-thirds of the screech owls admitted by the Wildlife Center of Virginia had been hit by vehicles, and 68 percent of those had eye injuries as a result.

If you do happen upon an injured owl or other wildlife, contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. In some cases, injured owls may heal completely and be released; in others, extensive injuries may make the birds non-releasable, but they can live comfortably in educational aviaries like Scales and Tales.

Learn more about Eastern screech owls or find a wildlife rehabilitator near you.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



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