A new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) looks at how local planners and decision-makers can incorporate the effects of a changing climate into their efforts to manage stormwater runoff.
Stormwater runoff, or rainfall that picks up pollutants as it flows across paved roads, parking lots, lawns and golf courses, is the fastest growing source of pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. And the effects of climate change—such as the amount and intensity of rainfall—can influence the amount of runoff that needs to be managed.
To look at how local stormwater managers can incorporate climate change adaptation practices into their work, EPA and NOAA hosted a series of workshops and community efforts throughout the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes regions. In the Chesapeake region, workshops were held in York County, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; and Stafford County, Virginia.
Throughout the discussions, several common themes and challenges emerged. Uncertainty can make it difficult to incorporate climate change predictions into planning efforts. Local-level professionals may lack the resources and interagency cooperation needed to design, construct and permit projects that deal with stormwater runoff. And because the benefits of managing polluted runoff can be difficult to quantify, managers need better information on the costs and benefits of different climate adaptation strategies. Further assessing these common challenges and opportunities will help planners and decision-makers better incorporate climate change into their stormwater management efforts.
The report, Stormwater Management in Response to Climate Change Impacts: Lessons from the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes Regions, is available online.
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the EJ 2020 Action Agenda (EJ 2020), a strategy to advance the agency’s environmental justice efforts. Over the next five years, EJ 2020 will serve as a framework to advance environmental justice—particularly in communities where a combination of environmental, health, social and economic factors disproportionally affect the community.
According to the EPA, environmental justice is the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.” Under the strategy, the EPA will work to improve results for overburdened communities, incorporate environmental justice in decision-making, build partnerships with states and co-regulators, strengthen their ability to take action on environmental justice issues, and demonstrate progress on critical national environmental justice challenges.
EJ 2020 will build on the groundwork laid by EJ 2014, the agency’s previous environmental justice strategy. The framework lays out a set of priorities structured around three goals. First, to deepen environmental justice practices within EPA programs. Second, to work with federal, state, tribal and community partners to increase positive impact within overburdened communities. And finally, to demonstrate progress on critical national environmental justice challenges, including lead, drinking water, air quality and hazardous waste sites.
The Chesapeake Bay Program is similarly committed to advancing environmental justice throughout the region and in its work. Environmental justice is one of the guiding principles of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, and through the Diversity Action Team, the Bay Program is working to identify groups that are under-represented in its activities and looking for ways to create meaningful opportunities for engagement.
For more information and to read the entire document, visit the EPA’s EJ 2020 Action Agenda page.
In 2015, Chesapeake Bay Program partners opened 22 boat ramps, fishing piers and other sites that grant public access to creeks, streams and rivers in the region. Virginia opened 10 sites along eight waterways; Pennsylvania opened six sites along the Susquehanna River; Maryland opened five sites along three waterways; and the District of Columbia opened one site along the Anacostia River. There are now 1,247 public access sites in the watershed for boating, fishing, swimming and other recreational activities.
The varied ownership of the region’s public access sites demonstrates the importance of establishing strong partnerships and public access initiatives at all levels of government and with nongovernmental organizations: nine of the new sites are owned by local governments, nine are owned by state governments, two are owned by the federal government and two are owned by nongovernmental organizations.
“As the state with the most public water access points in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Maryland will continue to seek out innovative partnerships to create, enhance and improve water access so more of our citizens can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the Bay,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton in a media release. “Expanding public access, either through creating new access points or improving existing sites, is a worthwhile goal for Bay restoration, our citizens and the state.”
Increasing public access to open space and waterways creates a shared sense of responsibility to protect these important natural environments. Through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, our partners have committed to increasing public access as part of a larger effort to engage communities in our conservation work. The number of public access sites in the watershed is on track to reach 1,439 by 2025. Since tracking began in 2010, our partners have opened 108 sites, meeting 36 percent of our goal to open 300 sites over the next decade.
In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the National Park Service—a Chesapeake Bay Program partner—encourages people to visit parks of all kinds to connect with history and culture and enjoy the natural world.
Zach Bruce, center, and fellow Maryland Conservation Corps members, from left, Taylor Lundstrom, Kevin McNamara and Rachel Werderits, remove invasive trees of heaven and garlic mustard plants at the site of a wetland restoration on Church Creek in Annapolis, Maryland.
Many wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay region have been severely altered by the presence of plants and animals that have been introduced there, whether accidentally or on purpose. Invasive species like the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) can cause harm when they establish themselves at the expense of native plants, encroaching on their habitat.
Once an invasive species is established, it can be incredibly difficult to eradicate; controlling invasive species takes resources, cooperation and commitment, which is why it’s crucial to prevent them from being introduced in the first place. Native trees, shrubs and flowers play a vital role in a healthy ecosystem, in part by serving as food and habitat for native critters and insects.
Learn about how you can choose native plants for your own backyard to provide food and habitat to native insects & critters.
Image by Will Parson