The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued guidance to help federal agencies reduce polluted stormwater runoff from federal development projects to nearby water bodies.
Stormwater runoff is the fastest-growing source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. As rain falls and runs across roads, yards, golf courses, parking lots and construction sites, it picks up harmful pollutants such as nutrients, sediment and chemical contaminants. This polluted runoff travels into storm drains and local waterways that eventually flow to the Bay.
Under the new guidance, federal agencies must minimize stormwater runoff from development projects at federal facilities by using low-impact development practices, such as pervious pavement, green roofs and rain gardens. These runoff-reducing practices slow, absorb and filter rain water before it flows into storm drains and local waterways.
“By taking these steps to create more sustainable facilities, federal agencies can lead by example in reducing impacts in the local watershed,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water.
At its own facilities, the EPA has installed a 3,000-square-foot green roof and uses rain gardens and cisterns to capture and reuse stormwater.
Learn more about the new federal stormwater requirements at the EPA.
If someone were to ask you what an average twenty-something would be doing before noon on a Saturday morning, what would you say? I’m going to guess sleeping. Well, I am proud to say that a few Saturdays ago, some of my co-workers and I broke this mold.
When I started working for the Chesapeake Bay Program about two months ago and moved from just north of D.C. to Annapolis, a former co-worker recommended I look into attending St. Martin’s Lutheran Church. On my first Sunday there, I noticed a write-up in the bulletin about a rain garden planting that would be taking place a few months down the road, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved.
St. Martin’s received a $109,000 Small Watershed Grant from the Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to plant 23 rain gardens and 23 trees on its property. One rain garden and all 23 trees were to be planted on a Saturday in November, while the rest of the project was to be finished in the spring. The Spa Creek Conservancy, which is responsible for managing the grant, predicts that the new trees and rain gardens will reduce runoff from the property by 97 percent. The church’s day school plans on incorporating the plantings into its lesson plans and engaging the young students as much as possible in local environmental issues.
Most of the volunteers that arrived that Saturday were either senior members of the church community or children who attend the day school. This made the job of planting the 23 trees and rain garden seem like much more of a challenge. But I was surprised to find that everyone found a task to complete and the group finished the plantings on time.
I remember looking up from the tree we were planting and seeing all of the volunteers working together on this early Saturday morning. I thought that if everyone planted a rain garden, or even a tree, what a difference it would make for the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Many of my co-workers who joined me at the planting used the event for certain projects that they were working on for the Bay Program. Members of our communications team took pictures and video to post on our website, while other staffers were interested in learning more from the Spa Creek Conservancy about similar projects. Although we each came with our own agenda, in the end, our biggest accomplishment was that we did something positive for the Bay.
Sometimes when you work for an environmental program, like the Chesapeake Bay, you forget what it really takes to make a change. Sure, making policy or informational videos and collecting data have a large impact, but what is really going to save the Chesapeake Bay are voluntary actions made by people in communities around the watershed. That Saturday at St. Martin’s, we were actually practicing what we preached, and I think that was the best message of all. A Saturday morning well spent.
Welcome to this week’s installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week we'll take a question submitted through the Chesapeake Bay Program website and answer it here for all to read.
Alvina asked: “What role do oysters play in the heath of the bay? What role might oysters play in the Bay’s future?”
Every native species is vital to the health and survival of any ecosystem. The eastern oyster in the Chesapeake Bay is no exception.
One major role oysters play in the Bay is filtering the water. Oysters are filter feeders, meaning they pump large volumes of water through their gills to sift out plankton and other particles they need for nourishmnet. But this process serves a double purpose: As the oysters feed, they also filter out harmful pollutants from the Bay's waters, helping to keep the water clear and clean for bay grasses and other underwater life.
Oysters also provide habitat for many species in the Chesapeake Bay. By forming reefs, oysters create small ecosystems with nooks and crannies where tiny aquatic animals hide from predators. Reefs can create 50 times the surface area of a flat, muddy Bay bottom of the same size, which is vital to sponges, sea squirts, skilletfish and other organisms that live attached to a hard surface.
Chesapeake Bay oysters are also a food source for various other Bay creatures. Anemones and sea nettles depend on oyster larvae for survival, while flatworms and mud crabs feed on new oyster spat. Older spat and first-year oysters are consumed by blue crabs and some types of fish. Some adult oysters even end up as prey for shorebirds like oystercatchers.
The roles of this important species are dramatically affected by variations in the oyster population. A diminished oyster population is not the sole reason for the Bay's poor health, but it is certainly detrimental. One of the challenges of Chesapeake Bay restoration is to restore and maintain a healthy oyster population for ecological purposes while also supporting an oyster fishery.
The future of the Chesapeake's oyster population depends on restoration and management efforts today. For instance, Maryland just introduced a proposal to increase the amount of oyster sanctuaries to one-quarter of the remaining quality reefs in that state's portion of the Bay. Oyster sanctuaries are reefs where harvesting is off-limits, allowing the reefs to expand and provide the important ecological services.
As with every living thing in the Bay, there is a domino effect. Because of all their important roles in the Bay, if oysters suffer, other creatures do as well.
Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose it for our Question of the Week!
This time of year, everyone’s minds turn to giving and spreading holiday cheer. But how much are you giving back to the environment in the process? Read our tips on the 12 ways to help the Bay during the holidays.
Remember, everything we do as residents of the Bay watershed has an effect on our local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Every bit of waste we create, as well as the water and electricity we use, requires energy to treat and creates contaminants that could flow to the Bay via our local streams and creeks.
So while you’re appreciating all the things in your life you have to be thankful for this time of year, make sure you take a minute to reflect on the Bay we so often take advantage of and figure out a way to reduce the footprint you leave behind.