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Chesapeake Bay News: Science

Jun
24
2016

Photo of the Week: A Pennsylvania farm helps protect the Bay

Lightning strikes, signaling a coming storm at Schrack Dairy Farm in Loganton, Pennsylvania. Owner Jim Harbach practices no-till farming—a method that leaves the soil undisturbed from the fall harvest to spring planting—along with other sustainable efforts to improve soil quality on the farm that has been in his wife's family for 12 generations, since 1773. Close to one-quarter of the land in the Chesapeake region is used for agricultural production, providing us with food and fiber, natural spaces and a multitude of economic and environmental benefits.

But agriculture is also the largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution entering the Bay’s waters. Over-irrigating farmland, over-tilling soil and over-applying fertilizers and pesticides can push pollution into local waterways. Agricultural “best management practices,” or BMPs, are tools that farmers can use to reduce the runoff of pollution. Techniques like cover crops help prevent soil erosion, while streamside forest buffers can slow polluted runoff, stabilize stream banks and provide habitat for wildlife.

Learn more about how agriculture can affect the Chesapeake Bay and the tools farmers are using to help.

 

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.



Jun
23
2016

Best management practice verification programs in place across Bay watershed

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved programs in each of the six watershed states and the District of Columbia that ensure practices installed to reduce or prevent pollution are in place and operating correctly. These “best management practices,” or BMPs, can range from restoring forest buffers to planting cover crops to installing rain gardens. The state verification programs address all possible pollutant-loading source sectors: agriculture, stormwater, forestry, wastewater treatment facilities, combined sewer overflows, septic systems and on-site treatment systems.

Young planted trees line a stream running through Oregon Dairy Farm in Lititz, Pennsylvania, on May 1, 2015. The farm incorporates best management practices such as streamside buffers, manure management and cover crops.

It isn’t possible, however, to simply claim that a certain method is a BMP and should receive credit for pollution reduction. Chesapeake Bay Program partners developed and instituted a vigorous, watershed-wide verification process for these conservation and technical practices that includes initial inspection, follow-up checks and evaluation of performance. Each jurisdiction in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is required to have a comprehensive BMP Verification Program in place by 2018 to confirm that each practice tracked and reported for nutrient and sediment pollutant load reduction credit is in place and operating correctly. Previously, the EPA approved plans from the District of Columbia and Maryland but only conditionally approved Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. As of May 2016, all plans are now approved.

This is a milestone for the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership, as work can now begin to fully implement the components of these plans by 2018, connecting federal, state, local and non-governmental organizations with one common goal: the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its waterways.



Jun
20
2016

In review: Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week

In 2016, the Chesapeake Bay Commission worked with the legislatures of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to designate the second week in June of each year as Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week—a time to celebrate the culture, history and natural beauty of the nation’s largest estuary.

From June 4th through 12th this year, residents and visitors alike participated in this inaugural celebration by attending events, participating in restoration activities and learning about the importance of the Chesapeake Bay. Below are just a few of the ways communities marked the occasion.

Across the watershed, the first day of Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week coincided with National Trails Day. Events across the watershed encouraged hikers young and old, beginners and experts to enjoy the outdoors.

Mindy Ehrich, left, and Melissa Merritt of the Chesapeake Bay Program pick up trash in Annapolis, Md., on June 8, 2016. The cleanup was held to celebrate Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week. (Image by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

In Maryland:

  • The Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts hosted a screening of Beautiful Swimmers Revisted, a film by author Tom Horton, photographer Dave Harp and filmmaker Sandy Cannon Brown that looks back at William Warner’s 1976 Pulitzer Prize winning book about the Bay’s iconic blue crab.
  • Hundreds of kayakers took to the waters of the Inner Harbor for the inaugural Baltimore Flotilla for a Healthy Harbor, to draw attention to water quality in the city.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Foundation held its annual Bands in the Sand at the Philip Merrill Environmental Center.
  • Former State Senator Bernie Fowler measured a ‘sneaker index’ of 31 inches in his annual Patuxent River Wade-In.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, center, tours the Gross Family Farm in York County, Pennsylvania, on June 7, 2016. (Image courtesy Pennsylvania Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Program)

In Pennsylvania:

  • State Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding toured a family farm in York County, supporting the work that farmers in the area are doing to reduce agricultural runoff. The Gross Family Farm was highlighted as a model for best practices that help prevent excess nutrients and sediment from flowing into the Bay.
  • Hundreds of cyclists toured Harrisburg’s 20-mile Capital Area Greenbelt, which follows along the Susquehanna Riverfront, at the Tour De Belt event.
  • Dozens of Susquehanna sojourners set off from Laceyville on a five-day canoe and kayak trip down the river’s North Branch.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources hosted a variety of events, from guided hikes to birding workshops to educational talks.

As part of Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, conservation farmer Bobby Whitescarver gave a tour of where his land meets the Middle River in Swoope, Virginia. Left, a root wad is installed to stabilize a stream bank in 2004. Right, the same streambank on June 12, 2016. (Images courtesy Bobby Whitescarver)

In Virginia:

  • The Chesapeake Bay Foundation kicked off Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week with their annual Clean the Bay Day. According to the nonprofit, nearly 6,000 volunteers at more than 260 sites across the state cleaned up 138,000 pounds of litter.
  • State Senator Emmett Hangar visited with farmers from Augusta County to recognize their work to improve local water quality, such as using fences to prevent livestock from entering nearby streams.
  • Bobby Whitescarver—a conservation farmer in Swoope, Virginia—gave a tour of where the Middle River runs through his land, showcasing the buffers and fences he uses to protect the waterway’s health.
  • The Nature Generation hosted more than 70 guests for its Catch and Count Creek Creatures event, where participants worked to test and improve the water quality of South Fork Catoctin Creek.

 

How did you celebrate Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week? Let us know in the comments!



Jun
17
2016

Evaluations show continued progress in Bay cleanup

According to evaluations released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Chesapeake Bay Program partners are collectively on track to meet the phosphorus and sediment reduction commitments of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), but further reductions in nitrogen are needed to meet upcoming pollution-reducing goals.

Best management practices, or "BMPs," like the buffered streams at Brubaker Farms in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, can help can help towns, cities and states lower the amount of pollution flowing into local waters.

Every two years, federal agencies and the watershed jurisdictions—which include Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia—report on the progress made toward reducing the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution entering local rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay. Under the TMDL, jurisdictions must have all essential pollution-reducing practices in place by 2025, with controls in place to achieve 60 percent of the needed reductions by 2017. As a whole, jurisdictions are on track to meet the upcoming phosphorus and sediment commitments, but according to EPA, they are unlikely to meet the 2017 requirements for nitrogen pollution.

The EPA will continue to oversee the watershed jurisdictions’ pollution-reducing efforts, and will offer further attention to some pollution sectors—including wastewater in Delaware and New York; agricultural runoff in Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania; and urban and suburban runoff in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—to ensure partners remain on track to meet their 2017 targets.

Learn more about the milestone evaluations, or read about how the wastewater sector in the Bay watershed met its 2025 goals a decade early.



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