The Chesapeake Bay Program has submitted a report to Congress outlining the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the effectiveness of the partnership’s management strategies.
Under Section 117(h) of the Clean Water Act, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must submit the report every five years in coordination with the Chesapeake Executive Council.
While the Bay remains in poor health, the report highlights several signs that indicate certain strategies will work to restore the treasured resource. The report notes, for instance, that the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Executive Order 13508 have been integral in spurring collaboration among cities, states, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations and citizens. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement that Bay Program partners plan to sign this summer will use clear goals and outcomes and increased transparency and accountability to continue this positive momentum.
“The… Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement is our preparation for the future—a future where the Chesapeake Bay watershed remains an economic engine for the region, rebuilds a thriving and diverse ecosystem and reclaims its status as a celebrated treasure for the citizens who live in the watershed and throughout the nation,” writes Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale in the report.
More than 60 organizations and two thousand people have commented on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, offering feedback that the Chesapeake Executive Council will consider when finalizing the restoration plan.
Image courtesy Jeff Weese/Flickr
Climate change and chemical contaminants were among the leading issues addressed. More than 1,000 individuals asked the Bay Program to integrate climate concerns and adaptation strategies into our work, while more than 300 asked us to set goals to reduce the pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other toxic contaminants in our rivers and streams. Residents from across the watershed submitted letters that described the potential effects of both issues, from rising water temperatures and eroding shorelines to intersex fish and human health impacts.
Other comments on the draft agreement addressed the need to control stormwater runoff in urban and suburban areas, increase the environmental education of the region’s students and establish more public access sites to connect citizens with local waterways.
“The Chesapeake Bay Program values citizen input,” said Joe Gill, chair of the Bay Program’s Principals’ Staff Committee and secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “More than 17 million people live in this watershed. One of the most important lessons we have learned in our decades of restoration work is that individual citizens, private businesses, watershed groups and local governments are our stakeholders—they are people who have a “stake” in what we do. They are key partners in the attainment of our restoration goals. The Executive Council will welcome and consider all of the comments we receive from our stakeholders when finalizing the new agreement.”
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement will guide signatories—which include the states of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Delaware; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—in the restoration of the watershed. It establishes goals and outcomes that address water quality, fisheries and habitat, land conservation, public access and environmental literacy.
Comments on the draft agreement were left between January 29 and March 17 by private citizens, nonprofit organizations, conservation districts, wastewater agencies and more. A previous comment period on a prior draft took place between July 10 and August 15, 2013, and generated comments summarized here.
Over the last four years, pollution controls put in place by Chesapeake Bay Program partners have lowered the amount of nutrients and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay. This is a critical step toward improving water quality and environmental health.
Each year, the seven jurisdictions in the watershed—which include Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia—report the steps they have taken to lower the nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment entering rivers and streams. Bay Program experts analyze this information using a suite of computer simulations, and the resulting estimates tell us how far these jurisdictions have come toward reducing pollution to levels that would lead to a healthy Bay.
Between 2009 and 2013, our estimates show that nitrogen loads to the Bay decreased 7 percent, phosphorous loads decreased 11 percent and sediment loads decreased 6 percent. As a whole, reductions in phosphorous and sediment are on track, but efforts to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution from urban streets, farm fields and onsite septic systems are lagging behind.
Excess nitrogen and phosphorous can fuel the growth of algae blooms that create low-oxygen “dead zones” that suffocate marine life. Excess sediment can block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses and suffocate shellfish.
But land-based actions—from upgrading wastewater treatment plants to managing nutrients on farmland—can reduce nutrient and sediment pollution. Jurisdictions will continue to put such actions in place in an effort to meet the pollution-reducing requirements set forth in the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or “pollution diet.”
In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to release an assessment of jurisdictions’ progress toward this diet’s milestones. By 2017, partners should have practices in place to achieve at least 60 percent of the pollution reduction targets necessary to meet water quality standards in the Bay. Jurisdictions’ strategies to achieve these goals are outlined in their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs).
The federal agencies leading the effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay are seeking feedback on a draft action plan that outlines the coming year’s cleanup efforts.
Image courtesy Craig Piersma/Flickr
The action plan was written to fulfill the directive of Executive Order 13508, which in 2009 called on federal agencies to work with state and local partners to restore clean water, recover habitat, sustain fish and wildlife, and conserve land and increase public access in the watershed.
For the first time, this annual action plan has been combined with a progress report on the 2013 efforts of the Federal Leadership Committee. The committee includes representatives from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Transportation, and is chaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
It’s been fourteen years since the last Chesapeake Bay agreement was signed, and much has changed in the decade and a half since Chesapeake 2000 was written. We have learned more about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to conservation. We have improved how we monitor our progress. We are aware of the impacts of climate change, which will make it more difficult for us to achieve our goals. And we have watched an Executive Order and a “pollution diet” be issued, the first directing federal agencies to step up their restoration work and the second calling on states to reduce pollution entering rivers and streams. In this time, we have also recognized the need to revisit our previous Bay agreements and better coordinate our future efforts to efficiently and effectively accomplish our restoration goals.
After countless meetings, discussions and a preliminary public comment period, the Chesapeake Bay Program is now seeking review and comment on a final draft of a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Like past agreements, this one is a result of negotiations and compromise, and will guide the six Bay states and the District of Columbia in their work to create a healthy and vibrant watershed.
This draft agreement is more focused than past versions. It contains seven high-level goals and twenty-two measurable, time-bound outcomes. These will allow our partners—which, for the first time, include West Virginia, New York and Delaware—to focus on top restoration priorities and better measure progress. Indeed, one of the agreement’s most significant improvements is its inclusion of management strategies, which will describe how and when we intend to achieve our outcomes as we engage local communities, develop indicators of success and report on our progress. Management strategies bring an unprecedented level of transparency to our work, and provide a higher level of accountability than previous agreements have done.
But to make this the best agreement possible, we need to hear from you. And we have tried to make the public comment process an easy one: the draft agreement is available here, and we will welcome comments until March 17, 2014. You can offer input at the March 13 meeting of the Management Board or submit an online comment or an email to the Bay Program. Learn more.
Note: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect U.S. EPA policy endorsement or action.
Three decades after the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement was signed, the Chesapeake Bay Program is seeking public input on a new agreement that will guide partners in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and recommit stakeholders to conservation success.
Image courtesy JoshuaDavisPhotography/Flickr
The draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement establishes a series of goals and outcomes that address water quality, fisheries and habitat, land conservation, public access and environmental literacy. Signatories will include the states of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Delaware; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
By signing the agreement, partners will commit to taking the steps needed to attain a healthy watershed: to lower nutrient and sediment pollution; to sustain blue crabs, oysters and forage fish; to restore wetlands and underwater grass beds; to conserve farmland and forests; and to boost public access to and education about the environment.
“Healthy, sustainable fisheries, plentiful habitats for wildlife, conservation efforts and citizen actions that support clean water and clean air—this is how we create a healthy Bay,” said Bay Program Principals’ Staff Committee Chair and Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Joe Gill in a media release. “Connecting our citizens to these resources through public access and environmental education completes the picture, instilling the personal sense of ownership key to our progress.”
“The goals and outcomes that are outlined in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement are interrelated: improvements in water quality can mean healthier fish and shellfish; the conservation of land can mean more habitat for wildlife; and a boost in environmental literacy can mean a rise in stewards of the Bay’s resources,” said Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale. “By signing this agreement, Bay Program partners will acknowledge that our environment is a system and that these goals will support public health and the health of the watershed as a whole.”
The draft is available here. The Bay Program welcomes comments on this draft between January 29 and March 17, 2014. Interested parties can offer input at the March 13 meeting of the Management Board or by submitting an online comment or an email to the Bay Program. Learn more.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has called on Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania to better control stormwater runoff and improve the region’s environment, economy and health.
Image courtesy brianjmatis/Flickr
Made worse by urban and suburban development, stormwater runoff is the fastest growing source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Once precipitation falls onto streets, sidewalks and lawns, it can pick up trash, oil and other pollutants before entering storm drains, rivers and streams. Each year, stormwater runoff contributes to fish mortalities and beach closures across the watershed.
In a report released this week, the Bay Foundation pushes watershed states to implement stronger pollution control permits alongside “cost-effective, common-sense projects” that will help cities meet the pollution limits outlined in the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or pollution diet. Planting trees, building roadside rain gardens and installing green roofs have been proven to reduce stormwater runoff—and can often be done at lower costs than some initially estimate.
The Bay Foundation cites several cases to illustrate this point. Frederick County, Maryland, for instance, used natural vegetation rather than pipes, culverts or other structural solutions to filter polluted runoff, and reduced its projected pollution control costs by 65 percent. A University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center analysis found that Calvert County, Maryland, initially over-estimated its stormwater control costs; by installing more efficient pollution control methods and offering private business owners incentives to reduce runoff on their own properties, the county could meet their cleanup goals at a cost that was 96 percent lower than projected.
“This is a local problem requiring local solutions that will provide significant local benefits,” said Bay Foundation President William C. Baker in a media release. “But there are important roles for… governments in tackling the challenges of polluted runoff.”
People often feel helpless when confronting the environmental concerns that face us today. They want to know, in simple and straightforward terms, what they can do to help. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the answer lies in our work to reduce the flow of nutrients and sediment into our waterways.
While we have made great strides in upgrading nutrient-removal technology at wastewater treatment plants, controlling power plant and automobile exhaust emissions, and putting conservation practices in place on area farms, we have not made as much progress in reducing stormwater runoff from homes and businesses. Rainfall continues to run across rooftops, driveways and lawns, picking up pollutants before it enters storm drains, rivers and streams. And we continue to look for ways to encourage homeowners to reduce their stormwater discharges.
Image courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/Flickr
Environmental regulations have not focused on runoff from homes because these pollution sources are too small, diffuse and numerous to manage effectively and efficiently. But the Chesapeake Bay Program is developing a system that will give homeowners credit for reducing their runoff and helping their communities meet the goals of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or Bay “pollution diet.” More than 30 stakeholders worked through the Chesapeake Stormwater Network to develop this crediting program, which will respond to the needs of both homeowners and government agencies and provide an accurate mechanism for verifying residential best management practices.
Rain barrels, rain gardens and permeable pavement are just some of the tools that can help a homeowner manage runoff and add color and character to his property. But it is important for us to ensure that these practices are installed correctly to reduce pollution over time. So a guide is in production that will show homeowners how to design, construct and maintain different practices, and an online tool will allow them to add their practices to a website, where the data will be checked and pollution reductions will be calculated.
Training and certification programs are being planned. Smart phone apps are being developed. And this initiative appears to be catching on among homeowners and in communities across the watershed, where people see it as an opportunity to improve their neighborhood, increase their property values and make a positive impact on their local environment and the water quality of the Bay.
Note: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect U.S. EPA policy, endorsement, or action.
The Chesapeake Executive Council named Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley its new chair at its annual meeting, held this morning at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.
The Chesapeake Executive Council was established in 1983, and is responsible for guiding the Chesapeake Bay Program’s policy agenda and setting conservation and restoration goals. O’Malley served two consecutive terms as chair in 2007 and 2008, and accepted this morning’s transfer of leadership from District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who became chair in July 2012.
At a public press conference, O’Malley promised to lead the Bay Program and its partners into a new era of progress and accountability, which he hopes will include the signing of a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The agreement, now in its draft form, will be the fourth of its kind and will set a series of goals and outcomes that will guide restoration across the watershed.
“I thank my fellow council members for the opportunity to once again take the helm of this partnership, and to help get a new Bay agreement signed, sealed and delivered to the 18 million souls who call the Chesapeake’s watershed home,” O’Malley said in a media release.
A longtime champion of the Bay, O’Malley has during his career developed an innovative restoration tracking tool, undertaken the largest oyster restoration project of its kind and spearheaded Maryland’s efforts to meet its milestones under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or “pollution diet.”
Former Chesapeake Executive Council chair Gray was also commended for his environmental initiatives, including his government-led plan to make the District of Columbia the healthiest, greenest and most livable city in the United States.
The Chesapeake Bay Program’s latest look at watershed health reflects the reality of an impaired Bay, where population growth and pollution could threaten stable blue crab, striped bass and shad populations.
Released today, Bay Barometer: Health and Restoration in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed collects and summarizes the Bay Program’s most recent data on water quality, pollution loads and other “indicators” of Bay health, from ecological markers like underwater grass abundance to measures of progress toward restoration goals.
According to the report, more than half of the watershed’s freshwater streams are in poor condition, almost three-quarters of the Bay’s tidal waters are impaired by chemical contaminants and just 29 percent of the Bay has attained water-quality standards.
But an absence of rapid improvement in Bay health is not an indication that our restoration efforts are ineffective. Instead, it is an indication that lag-times are at play. Knowing that we will have to wait before we see visible improvements in water quality gives officials hope that the work done in 2012—like the 285 miles of forest buffers planted along waterways, the 2,231 acres of wetlands established on agricultural lands or the 34 miles of streams reopened to fish passage—will lead to results in the watershed. In fact, long-term trends indicate nutrient levels in Bay tributaries are improving, with most showing lower levels of nitrogen and phosphorous.
“Bay Program partners have made significant strides in moving us ever closer to a healthy, restored Bay watershed,” said Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale in a media release. “We will have to exercise persistence and patience as the actions we take to rebuild balance and resilience… into this complex ecosystem… show up in the data from our monitoring networks.”
How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
William Shakespeare, Othello, Act II, Scene 3
Between fast food restaurants and speed-of-light cell phones, we live in a culture of instant gratification. But the environment around us doesn’t operate that way. Instead, it is slow to respond to changes—like the upsets or imbalances created by human activity.
Scientific evidence shows that many of the pollution-reducing practices we are placing on the ground now may take years to show visible improvements in water quality. One reason? Pollutants can be persistent. French and Canadian researchers, for instance, tracked the movement of fertilizer through a plot of land over the course of three decades. While more than half of the fertilizer applied to the land in 1982 was absorbed by agricultural crops like wheat and sugar beet, 12 to 15 percent remained in the soil. The researchers predicted it would take an additional 50 years before the fertilizer fully disappeared from the environment.
Much of the farmland in the Chesapeake Bay watershed sits over groundwater, now contaminated with high levels of nitrates following years of fertilizer applications above ground. Work by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has shown that it will take a decade for this nitrogen-laden groundwater to flow into rivers, streams and the Bay. On the Delmarva Peninsula, where deeper, sandy aquifers underlie the Coastal Plain, this so-called “lag-time” could take 20 to 40 years.
So what implications could lag-times have for the Bay restoration effort? Last year, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) released a report about the lag-time phenomenon. The team of experts concluded that lag-times will affect public perception of our progress toward meeting the pollution diet set forth by the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
The TMDL requires the six Bay states and the District of Columbia to implement their proposed pollution-reduction measures by 2025. There may be an expectation on the part of the general public and our elected officials that once these measures are fully implemented, the Bay will have met its water quality goals. But now we know that it may take some time before we can make that claim. As 2025 approaches, we must remind the public that lag-times exist and ask for their patience in seeing a healthy Bay. Because through patience—and vigilance—the Bay will be restored.
Note: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect U.S. EPA policy, endorsement, or action.
From the restoration of tidal wetlands to the greening of a town cemetery, 40 environmental projects across the Chesapeake Bay watershed have received more than $9 million in funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund.
Image courtesy Eric Vance/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Half of the projects will be funded by the Small Watershed Grants Program, which supports on-the-ground restoration, conservation and community engagement. Twenty more will be funded by the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program, which finances the reduction of nutrient and sediment pollution in rivers and streams.
The Anacostia Watershed Society, for instance, will restore more than 10 acres of tidal wetlands along the Anacostia River, improving area flood control and outdoor recreation. The Oyster Recovery Partnership will repopulate at least 40 acres of oyster reefs in Harris Creek, bolstering current restoration work in the Choptank River tributary. And the Town of Bath in West Virginia will bring green infrastructure into a local cemetery, increasing tree canopy and reducing erosion into the Potomac River.
Image courtesy Eric Vance/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The awards were announced this morning at the Earth Conservation Corps Pump House, where a wetland restoration project was funded by the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund in 2012.
Learn more about the grant recipients.
Three watershed organizations are marking three decades of Chesapeake Bay restoration with an initiative that links tree plantings, rain garden installations and other “green” events to encourage people to reflect on the Bay’s past and take steps toward securing its future.
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have named their initiative “30 Events for 30 Years: Planting Seeds for the Future.” It marks the thirtieth anniversary of the signing of the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement—which in 1983 established the Chesapeake Bay Program—and expresses gratitude toward citizens, educators, officials and others who have been part of Bay restoration ever since.
But above all, the initiative celebrates the hard work of the watershed’s volunteers. “Ordinary citizens… have volunteered their time in so many ways,” said Al Todd, executive director of the Alliance, in a media release. “Picking up trash, planting trees, restoring streams and monitoring water quality are just some of the ways that volunteers can ensure the health of our rivers and streams.”
More than a dozen organizations have joined the initiative, with more than 30 restoration events scheduled for the fall. Among them? An urban tree planting in Harrisburg, Pa.; a creek-side tree planting in Berkley Springs, W.Va.; and a rain garden installation in Baltimore. Find an event near you with this interactive map.
Protecting undeveloped land, planting native trees and monitoring forests for insects and disease: each of these actions can conserve critical forest habitat, and each has been put into practice across the region by this year’s Chesapeake Forest Champions.
A researcher, a forester, a teacher and a regional water provider were among the four award-winners in the annual contest sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
“The need for local champions of trees and forests has never been greater,” said USFS liaison to the Chesapeake Bay Program Sally Claggett in a media release.
Across the watershed, forests are disappearing at an average rate of 100 acres per day, which can mean less habitat for wildlife and more pollution flowing into rivers and streams. But the examples set by these Chesapeake Forest Champions are a “continual reminder of the positive local action and careful land stewardship that is taking place to restore our treasured natural resources,” said Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay Executive Director Al Todd.
Newport News Waterworks was named an Exemplary Forest Steward. The regional water provider serves 400,000 Virginia residents and manages 12,000 acres of land, more than half of which has been a certified American Tree Farm since 1947. Here, farm fields have been reforested, stands of timber have been improved and insects, disease and invasive plants have been monitored and controlled.
Maryland middle school teacher John Smucker was commended for Greatest On-the-Ground Impact in light of his talent as a volunteer organizer and environmental educator. Smucker grows trees and shrubs from seed in a Frederick County nursery, which he and his volunteers plant across the region. Smucker also remains involved in forest maintenance, watering trees throughout the summer, mowing tall grasses and replanting trees that have died.
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) District Forester Roy Brubaker was named Most Effective at Engaging the Public. Brubaker manages 85,000 acres of land and water at Michaux State Forest, where he engages stakeholders to resolve issues related to public use. As owner and operator of a grass-fed livestock farm, Brubaker is also involved in sustainable agriculture in the state, and has helped promote forest management to the region’s farmers.
Stroud Water Research Center President and Director Bern Sweeney received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his research and writing about the environmental impact of streamside forests. For more than two decades, Sweeney has worked to demonstrate the link between healthy forests and healthy streams.
The Chesapeake Forest Champions were celebrated at the Chesapeake Watershed Forum in Shepherdstown, W.Va. The eighth annual conference also commemorated the three decades of restoration work in which so much of the conservation community has been engaged. Learn more about the winners.
A federal judge ruled last week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can set pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay, upholding the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that has guided water quality restoration efforts across the region since it was issued in 2010.
The TMDL, also known as the Bay “pollution diet,” set limits on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment allowed to run into the Bay each year. It required the seven Bay jurisdictions to write Watershed Implementation Plans, which make clear the steps that each will take to reduce pollution from urban, suburban and agricultural runoff, wastewater treatment plants and other sources. Pollution-reducing practices are being put in place across the watershed, and are expected to help combat the excess nutrients and sediment plaguing the nation’s largest estuary.
In 2011, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau—who were soon joined by the Fertilizer Institute and a number of agricultural trade associations—filed suit against the EPA, claiming the federal agency lacked the authority to issue the so-called “arbitrary” and “capricious” TMDL. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and several local and national partners intervened in the lawsuit to protect the cleanup. Pennsylvania Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo has ruled the plaintiffs failed to prove their case.
According to Rambo’s ruling, the Clean Water Act grants the EPA the authority to set pollution limits on impaired waters: “The [Clean Water Act] is an all-encompassing and comprehensive statute that envisions a strong federal role for ensuring pollution reduction… Considering the numerous complexities of regulating an interstate water body, EPA’s role is critical.”
An EPA spokesperson called the ruling “a victory for the 17 million people in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”
More than 47,000 TMDLs have been issued for rivers, streams and other water bodies throughout the United States, but the Bay TMDL is the largest and most complex. Learn more on the EPA’s TMDL website.
For many people, the summer months are an ideal time to get outdoors and connect with nature. The 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed offers a wide range of recreational opportunities, but with the responsibilities of everyday life, some find it hard to set aside time to enjoy them. If getting outdoors is not an option, don’t fret! Here are eight ways to access the Bay from the comfort of your home or office.
Image courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1. NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) and Chesapeake Smart Buoy Application. The Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) is a network of observation buoys managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The buoys mark various locations along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, capturing real-time environmental and weather data such as temperature, wind speed and wave height. This information is available online and on the new “Smart Buoy” application for the iPhone and Android. It is also accessible over the phone: calling the toll-free “dial-a-buoy” number turns each buoy into a floating classroom, as a narrator offers up parcels of information about Captain John Smith’s adventures through the Bay.
We recommend: The data snapshot page for the most up to date data on all of the buoys.
Image courtesy Chesapeake Conservancy
2. Chesapeake Conservancy's Osprey Camera. Ospreys are one of the Bay’s most resilient creatures. After bouncing back from a nearly 90 percent population decline between 1950 and 1970, their growing numbers are now watched as an indicator of Chesapeake Bay health. They mate for life and always return to the same location come nesting season. This nesting habit inspired the Chesapeake Conservancy to place a camera in the nest of their “resident” ospreys, named Tom and Audrey, and stream a live feed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for anyone who is interested in getting a bird’s eye view of nature’s ultimate “reality show.
We recommend: The Osprey Camera Blog for all things Tom and Audrey. It's an informative and highly entertaining read!
3. Chesapeake Bay Program Website: The Chesapeake Bay Program website highlights the work of the Bay Program and its partners. News and feature stories shed light on our restoration efforts, while data tracks years of restoration work. The website also offers resources that are perfect for students and teachers, from a series of pages that offer an in-depth look at the issues restoration partners must face to a collection of photos and maps.
We recommend: Using our Field Guide to learn about the hundreds of critters that call the Bay watershed home!
4. From your phone! Chesapeake Explorer and National Wildlife Refuge Applications: In this age of innovation, technology is constantly evolving and changing the way we view the world. The widespread popularity of smart phones and tablets has inspired the National Park Service (NPS) and a small New York start-up called Network Organisms to create applications that allow people to explore the Bay from the palm of their hand. The National Wildlife Refuges: Chesapeake Bay application for iPhones encourages users to explore the 11 National Wildlife Refuges around the Bay, sharing wildlife sightings and connecting with other outdoor enthusiasts. Chesapeake Explorer is compatible with both iPhone and Android devices. It helps people find places around the watershed based on specific activities, trail names or types of sites. Both applications are free, so get your phone out and start exploring!
We recommend: Experiencing the region's beauty by planning a trip to one of the National Trails featured on Chesapeake Explorer.
Image courtesy National Geographic
5. National Geographic’s Chesapeake Bay Field Scope: National Geographic’s Chesapeake Bay Field Scope is a tool that promotes the exploration, sharing and analysis of the Bay. Users are presented with real-world data sets about rivers and streams, wetlands, elevation, water depth and more. The information on this site is collected from students and scientists that work directly with the Bay. The site also features a map layering tool, a set of student observations and real time data comparisons.
We recommend: Using Query Point to get instant information about any given point on a map.
6. Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network: The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network was created in 2000 by the National Park Service (NPS) as a resource to connect people to authentic Bay experiences, sights and places. Today, more than 160 parks, wildlife refuges, museums, sailing ships, historic communities, trails and more are part of the Gateways Network. The network allows visitors to search for sites, watch slideshows, make plans to visit and learn about the Bay.
We recommend: Listening to the Sounds of the Bay. These audio excerpts from Window on the Chesapeake: The Bay, Its People, and Places take listeners on a journey through the Bay.
7. Maryland Healthy Beaches: Plan on heading to a Maryland beach this summer? Be sure to check the Maryland Healthy Beaches' Beach Notification System before you go. This application is updated with the most current beach advisories, closures, and bacteria levels. The notification system also provides rainfall accumulation data for every beach location.
We recommend: Visiting the Healthy Beach Habitats page for helpful tips about how to enjoy the beach the healthy way.
8. National Geographic’s Exploring the Chesapeake: Then and Now. Are you a history buff? National Geographic’s Exploring the Chesapeake: Then and Now puts the Bay’s past and its present at a user’s fingertips. National Geographic launched the website alongside the 400th anniversary of the establishment of Jamestown, with the intention that it would be used to compare the world that John Smith lived in to the present day. The site includes lesson plans for educators, links to stories about the Bay, travel guides, field trip suggestions and more.
We recommend: Exploring the Chesapeake Bay as if it were the 1600’s with the site's interactive mapping tool.
UPDATED: The deadline for submitting comments on the draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement is this Thursday, August 15, 2013. Comments can be submitted here.
The Chesapeake Bay Program has developed a draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which outlines new goals and outcomes that will guide partners in the protection, restoration and stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay and which is open for public input until August 15, 2013.
The Bay Program has used agreements like this one to lead three decades of Bay restoration and protection, from the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement written in 1987 to Chesapeake 2000, which established more than 100 goals to reduce pollution, restore habitats, protect living resources and engage the public in environmental conservation.
The high-level goals and measurable targets found in the latest agreement address water quality, Bay fisheries and habitat, land conservation and public access.
An abridged draft of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement is available here; stakeholder input will be solicited again when a complete draft has been developed. Interested parties can offer input by submitting an online comment or an email to the Bay Program. Learn more.
Seven cities and non-profit organizations are set to reduce stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, using green development to combat the fastest-growing source of pollution in the watershed.
Image courtesy Isaac Wedin/Flickr
Grant funding administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) through the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns initiative will help cities transform impervious sidewalks, streets and parking lots into green corridors that will capture and filter polluted runoff before it can flow into storm drains, rivers and streams.
A total of $400,000 will go toward green development projects in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The town of Cambridge, Md., for instance, will use $75,000 to turn a paved surface into a park, while the District will use $95,000 to install bioretention cells and treeboxes along O St. NW.
Stormwater runoff is a growing concern in urban and suburban areas, where rainfall picks up pollutants as it flows across paved roads, parking lots, lawns and golf courses. But certain practices—including green roofs, rain gardens and permeable pavement—can help stormwater trickle underground rather than into the Bay.
Over the last three years, estimates indicate that communities across the Chesapeake Bay watershed have made big reductions to the pollution they are sending into rivers and streams.
As part of the Bay’s “pollution diet”—or Total Maximum Daily Load—the six Bay states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have curbed the amount of nutrients and sediment running off of land and into local waters. According to data released today by the Chesapeake Bay Program, simulations show that partners have achieved more than a quarter of their overall pollution reduction goals.
Excess nitrogen and phosphorous can fuel the growth of harmful algae blooms that create “dead zones” and suffocate aquatic life. Excess sediment can block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses and suffocate shellfish.
But a number of land-based actions can reduce nutrient and sediment pollution. Towns and cities, for instance, can make technological upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and “green” roofs, sidewalks and parking lots to better capture stormwater runoff. Homeowners can install rain gardens in their backyards or plant big trees to boost forest cover in their neighborhoods. And farmers can protect streams from livestock and plant cover crops to hold soil in place.
Read more about reducing nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay.
Over the past decade, smallmouth bass in five Chesapeake Bay tributaries have suffered from fish kills and perplexing illnesses—and nutrient pollution could be to blame.
According to a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), excess nitrogen and phosphorous in our rivers and streams could be behind two of the leading problems affecting smallmouth bass: first, the rapid growth of fish parasites and their hosts, and second, the expansion of large algae blooms that can lead to low-oxygen conditions and spikes in pH. When paired with rising water temperatures and ever more prevalent chemical contaminants, nutrient pollution seems to have created a “perfect storm” of factors that are making smallmouth bass more susceptible to infections and death.
Image courtesy Mr. OutdoorGuy/Flickr
In a media call, CBF President Will Baker called the smallmouth bass “the canary in the coal mine for the Bay’s rivers.” Because the fish is sensitive to pollution, problems within the population could indicate problems within the Bay.
Smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna, Monocacy, Shenandoah, Cowpasture and South Branch of the Potomac rivers have seen a string of recent health problems, from open sores and wart-like growths to abnormal sexual development. In the Susquehanna, smallmouth bass populations have plummeted so far that Pennsylvania has made it illegal to catch the fish during spawning season.
“Our fish are sick, our anglers are mad and my board and I—protectors of our [smallmouth bass] fishery—are frustrated,” said John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. “Our bass, and our grandchildren who will fish for them, are depending on us to fix the problem.”
Image courtesy CBF
While specific causes of smallmouth bass fish kills and illnesses remain unclear, CBF has called on state and local governments to accelerate their pollution-reduction efforts in hopes of improving water quality and saving the driving force behind a $630 million recreational fishing industry. The non-profit has also called on the federal government to designate a 98-mile stretch of the Susquehanna as impaired, which would commit Pennsylvania to reversing the river’s decline.
“This is the moment in time to save fishing in our streams and rivers, as well as the jobs and quality of life that are connected to it,” Baker said.
For the past decade, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has led Project Clean Stream--a vast network of organized annual trash cleanups along the Bay's many tributaries--to help clean up the Bay and connect residents to their local waterways.
During this year's unified day of service on Saturday, April 6, a group of 13 volunteers gathered near the small town of Marydel on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where resident Carol Sparks (not pictured) had reported an illegal dump site along a drainage ditch running adjacent to her property.
According to Sparks, residents from two nearby trailer parks often travel along the foot path adjacent to the ditch, and some have been dumping trash here for years. "I've called everybody and it seemed like nobody wanted to do anything about it. I finally contacted Debbie Rowe, the mayor of Marydel, and she's the one who organized this group, bless her heart."
"I got a call from the property owner that the ditch was in disrepair," said Rowe (below left, with volunteer Wilbur Levengood, Jr.), who had recently learned about Project Clean Stream through the Choptank Tributary Team, a volunteer watershed group from Easton, Md. "To be honest, I didn't know this was back here."
Jennifer Dindinger chairs the Choptank Trib Team, which was searching for neglected sites in neighboring Caroline County where they could make a bigger impact during this year's Project Clean Stream effort. "You don't see trash floating down the Choptank River, but there are places like this that, although it might not end up in the main stem of the Bay, negatively impact life along the tributaries to the river."
Despite the strong odor and armed with garden rakes and stainless steel dip nets, Project Clean Stream volunteers spent their Saturday morning combing through layers of algae in the stagnant drainage ditch. "It's just a nice thing to do on a sunny day," said William Ryall, a fellow Choptank Trib Team volunteer and wetland restoration engineer from Easton, Md. "All of these ditches are connected to the Bay, so it's really important to get this stuff out of here."
"We need everyone to understand how important the drainage is to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and what it will do health-wise and for the environment if we do it correctly," said Wilbur Levengood, Jr., president of the Caroline County Commissioners. "We don't need to bring huge machines in here and disturb a lot of earth to achieve the drainage, we just need to keep it clean."
According to Levengood, the many drainage ditches in Caroline County are an environmental compromise critical to this landscape. "Without these ditches, ponds and wetlands like the one next door to here would otherwise require chemical pesticides to control the mosquito population. Cleaning up the trash will lower the water level in this ditch by a few inches and get the water moving again."
While most of the trash collected from the Marydel site was of the household variety--36 bags total, including diapers, beverage containers and rotting food--a tell-tale oil slick is evidence of even more hazardous materials lying beneath the surface.
According to Levengood, non-salvageable appliances like television sets and mattresses, as well as toxic materials like motor oil and other automotive fluids that cost money to discard, are often thrown into the drainage ditches along Caroline County roads.
"It's not just necessarily that it looks bad. It's an all-around health hazard, and if we don't keep the water going it's just going to get stagnant and cause mosquitoes and more problems," said Mayor Rowe, who recruited local youth to help with the cleanup. "Now that we know it's here, we can all help as a community to help keep it clean and it'll be safe for everybody."
"My mom is friends with Ms. Debbie [Rowe], so she asked if I could come help with cleaning up trash from the ditch," said Gary Colby of Marydel (top), who in turn recruited his friend Daniel Santangelo. "I just wanted to help out Marydel," Santangelo said.
According to Rowe, part of the dumping problem stems from the challenge of cross-cultural communication. More than half of Marydel's population are Hispanic or Latino immigrants, but today's effort to reach the town's young people seems to be paying off.
"I just offered to help my buddies out," said Carlos Martinez (left), who moved to Marydel last year from Mexico City and volunteered with friends Omar Fuentes (center) and Jordy Cordova (right). "I know it's not young people littering because I know my friends."
"I think we just need to recycle more," said Cordova. Fuentes agrees. Like Mayor Rowe, he says "I never even noticed the trash in the ditch, and I've lived here for 10 years."
During a well-deserved break from the cleanup, Mayor Rowe and the other volunteers discussed the idea of posting bilingual signs to explain the ditch's importance in controlling the mosquito population, and to warn of health risks associated with litter and water pollution. Omar Fuentes and Jordy Cordova agree that signs in Spanish might help curb the littering problem, and promised to talk to their neighbors about the ditch. For first-time cleanup volunteer Wilbur Levengood, Jr., this point made the purpose of the day's effort overwhelmingly clear: "This project puts all aspects of people together working for the better, and we just need more of that."
Close to 15,000 acres of underwater grasses have disappeared from the Chesapeake Bay.
While robust grass beds on the Susquehanna Flats and expanding beds in the James River offer two examples of the Bay’s resilience, an aerial survey conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) showed a 21 percent decline in the Bay’s grasses in 2012. This so-called “alarming” loss—from just over 63,000 acres in 2011 to just over 48,000 in 2012—approaches lows last reported in 1986.
In a report released this week, Chesapeake Bay Program scientists attributed last year's decline in grass beds to warmer-than-normal water temperatures seen in 2010 and strong storms seen in the fall of 2011. The former "cooked" grasses in the Lower Bay, while the latter pushed excess sediment into rivers and streams, clouding the water and creating unfavorable growing conditions for aquatic plants in the Upper and Middle Bay.
These strong storms and episodes of heat stress have occurred alongside a widespread decline in water clarity, said Bob Orth, coordinator of the VIMS Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Survey. While Orth remains "concerned" over the decline in bay grasses, he noted that favorable growing conditions in the future could lead to quick signs of recovery in a species that is fast to respond to water quality changes—both good and bad.
"The best thing we can do [for bay grasses] is to improve water quality," said Lee Karrh, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and chair of the Bay Program's Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Workgroup. "If you improve water quality and reduce chronic problems, then the Bay should be able to deal with episodic events easier than it has been able to in the past."
Underwater grasses—also known as submerged aquatic vegetation or SAV—are critical to the Bay ecosystem, offering food and habitat to countless critters while absorbing nutrients, trapping sediment and reducing shoreline erosion. The Bay Program uses underwater grass abundance as an indicator of Bay health, and has this week released a data visualization tool that allows users to track changes in grass abundance over time, as dominant species ebb and flow and grass beds shrink and expand.
Read more about the 2012 Distribution of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay.
The federal agencies leading the watershed-wide effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay have released a progress report highlighting the work that was completed last year.
Federal agencies and state and local partners have added 20 new monitoring stations to the Bay and its tributaries, expanding their ability to track changes in water quality and pollution. They have established conservation practices across Bay farms and forests, installing streamside fencing to keep livestock out of waterways and planting cover crops to reduce the need for nutrient-laden fertilizers. And they have planted close to 100 acres of oyster reefs in a Maryland tributary and opened more than 30 miles of Virginia and Pennsylvania streams to eels, shad and other diadromous fish, restoring habitat for some of the watershed’s most critical critters.
But much remains to be done, and the Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay has outlined future work in a 2013 action plan.
“EPA and our other federal partners are pleased to report the tangible progress we’ve made over the past year, which will inform, guide and accelerate our collective actions going forward,” said EPA’s Nick DiPasquale, Chesapeake Bay Program Director. “The federal agencies and our partner jurisdictions are accountable to the citizens living near the local rivers and streams that also stand to benefit from this critical restoration work. Through our commitments, the prospects for increased momentum and improvements to the Bay’s health should be encouraging to everyone.
While the Chesapeake Bay Program’s latest look at watershed health reflects the reality of an impaired Bay, signs of the ecosystem’s resilience abound in the science-based snapshot the Program released today.
According to Bay Barometer: Spotlight on Health and Restoration in the Chesapeake Bay and its Watershed, water clarity and dissolved oxygen levels are low, a number of freshwater streams continue to be in poor condition and oyster populations remain at less than one percent of historic levels.
But even as these and other indicators of watershed health point to a stressed ecosystem, early information on how the Bay fared in 2012—from a summertime dead zone estimated to be smaller than normal to the boost in juvenile crabs entering the fishery—gives officials cause for optimism.
Recent restoration work and pollution cuts also offer signs of hope, although it will take time for such efforts to show visible improvements in water quality. The 240 miles of forest buffers that were planted alongside local waterways will stabilize shorelines, remove pollutants from runoff and provide much-needed shade to underwater habitat. The 150 miles of streams that were opened up to increase fish passage will allow migratory fish to reach their once-blocked spawning grounds. And the 15 new public access sites that were added to a list that includes over one thousand more will give watershed residents and visitors new opportunities to boat, fish, observe wildlife and connect with the Bay.
Bay Program partners also estimate that significant steps have been taken toward meeting the Bay’s “pollution diet,” as partners move 20 percent closer to their goal for reducing nitrogen, 19 percent closer to their goal for reducing phosphorous and 30 percent closer to their goal for reducing sediment.
“While we clearly have a lot of work to do, the Bay is resilient and we have reason for hope,” said Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale. “We know this complex ecosystem will respond to restoration efforts and we expect to see encouraging results in 2012 data as it comes in over the course of the year.”
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has measured a “modest” improvement in Chesapeake Bay health, giving the Bay a “D+” in its biannual State of the Bay report.
While the Bay’s score of 32 on a one-to-100 scale falls short of what the Foundation would like to see—70 points, or an “A+”—this does mark a progression of one point since the report was last issued in 2010, and of four points since 2008.
Image courtesy Chesapeake Bay Foundation
The report marks improvements in five of 13 “indicators,” or gauges of Bay health, which Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker attributes to sound science, renewed restoration efforts and the “Clean Water Blueprint,” or Total Maximum Daily Load, that is “in place and beginning to work.”
“Putting science to work gets results—especially when cooperation trumps conflict,” Baker said.
Image courtesy Chesapeake Bay Foundation
These results? According to the Foundation, the average size of the Bay’s annual dead zone is shrinking. Blue crabs are producing more juveniles and oyster spat are showing improved survival. And states like Virginia and Pennsylvania are planting trees and preserving land from development. Even as critical acres of underwater grass beds are lost—the one indicator to worsen over the past two years—the once-decimated grasses of the Susquehanna Flats offered good news, surviving Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.
Even so, Baker advocated caution: “Our greatest worry is that there is potential for improvement to breed complacency.”
The Chesapeake Bay Program will publish Bay Barometer, its annual snapshot of Bay health and watershed-wide restoration, later this month.
Read the 2012 State of the Bay report.
The federal agencies leading the watershed-wide endeavor to restore the Chesapeake Bay have outlined next year’s cleanup and restoration efforts in a 2013 action plan.
The work that the Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay has set out for fiscal year 2013 will build on established projects and begin new initiatives to restore clean water, recover habitat, sustain fish and wildlife, and boost land conservation and public access across the watershed. Supporting efforts will also expand citizen stewardship, respond to climate change and strengthen science.
The 2013 action plan includes a list of tangible efforts that federal agencies and state and local partners have pledged to undertake, from monitoring the return of migratory fish to streams in which passage barriers have been removed to helping landowners implement conservation practices on farms and in forests.
The action plan is meant to meet the goals set forth in the federal Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Bay, which in 2009 called for the restoration and protection of the watershed. Close to half a billion dollars has been requested for the work outlined in the plan; the plan will be followed this spring with a progress report.
In rural West Virginia, a fisherman casts his bright green line into a mountain stream. The stream is clear, the fish are biting and it takes just minutes to make a catch.
Dustin Wichterman, Potomac Headwaters Project Coordinator with Trout Unlimited, dips his net into the water and reveals a 10-inch brook trout. Its olive green body is flecked with red and gold, and its mere presence here is a welcome sign of health for the Pendleton County waterway.
Native to the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, the eastern brook trout is a sensitive species that needs cold, clean water to survive. But as regional water quality has declined, so, too, have brook trout populations, leading to lost revenue and diminished fishing opportunities for headwater states.
Brook trout play a critical role in the watershed: they are an important part of the region’s natural heritage, a driver of economic growth and an indicator of environmental health. For these reasons, brook trout restoration was a listed outcome in the federal Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Bay Watershed. And for the past two years, brook trout conservation has been a top goal for the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Through the Bay Program’s Habitat Goal Implementation Team, whose members work to protect and restore wetlands, woods and other habitats across the watershed, brook trout have benefited from stream restoration, fish passage renewal and tree plantings.
As odd as it might seem, the health of a fish depends not just on the health of the creek, stream or river that it calls home; it is also tied to the health of the surrounding land. And poor land management, increasing development and expanding urbanization have been cited as leading factors in brook trout decline.
“This fish is a living symbol of how actions on land affect the health of our local waterways,” said team coordinator Jennifer Greiner.
The removal of streamside trees, for instance, is a common consequence of agricultural or residential development, as seedlings are trampled by grazing cattle or trees are felled for suburban growth. But a missing forest buffer means bad news for brook trout when stream banks erode, excess sediment ruins spawning beds and an absence of shade pushes water temperatures into a range that brook trout cannot withstand.
When, on the other hand, trees and shrubs are allowed to grow along waterways, their runoff-trapping roots keep the water clean and their shade-producing leaves keep the water cold.
So Greiner and her fellow team members have worked to bring brook trout into the land-use discussion, pushing the latest brook trout distribution data out to doers and decision-makers in the watershed. Because when land managers know where brook trout are, they are more likely to take the fish into account in land-use decisions.
Land trusts in headwater states have also found that brook trout can push private landowners to conserve, and Goal Implementation Team partners—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture Partnership among them—are using the iconic fish to promote on-the-ground restoration of riparian forest buffers.
Whether a farmer installs a fence that keeps livestock out of local rivers or a landowner decides to plant a series of streamside trees, education and engagement are critical to conservation.
“By becoming educated and engaged, landowners are able to protect the streams on their land for future generations,” Greiner said. “By protecting and restoring stream habitat, the brook trout, along with other species, are also protected for future generations to enjoy.”
The federal agencies leading the watershed-wide endeavor to restore the Chesapeake Bay are seeking feedback on a draft action plan that outlines next year’s cleanup efforts.
From increasing public access to the Bay and its rivers to boosting conservation practices on farms and private lands, the action plan is meant to meet the goals set forth in the federal Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Bay, which in 2009 called for the restoration and protection of the watershed.
Some of the proposed restoration plans are extensions of established projects, while others are new initiatives.
The action plan is open for public comment through November 27. Comments can be submitted through an online feedback form.
Farmers, foresters and an active coalition of landowners and citizens have been honored for their efforts to conserve, restore and celebrate Chesapeake forests.
From planting native trees and shrubs to engaging students in forest conservation, the actions of the winners from across the watershed crowned them Chesapeake Forest Champions in an annual contest sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
Image courtesy Piestrack Forestlands LLC
Three farmers were named Exemplary Forest Stewards: Ed Piestrack of Nanticoke, Pa., and Nelson Hoy and Elizabeth Biggs of Williamsville, Va. Ed Piestrack and his wife, Wanda, manage 885 acres of forestland and certified Tree Farm in Steuben County, N.Y. The Piestracks have controlled invasive plants and rebuilt vital habitat on their property, installing nest boxes, restoring vernal pools and planting hundreds of trees on land that will remain intact and managed when it is transferred to their children.
Image courtesy Berriedale Farms
Close to 400 miles south in the Cowpasture River Valley sits Berriedale Farms, where Nelson Hoy and Elizabeth Biggs manage land that forms a critical corridor between a wildlife refuge and a national forest. Hoy and Biggs have integrated their 50-acre Appalachian hardwood forest into their farm operation, protecting the landscape while finding a sustainable source of income in their low-impact horse-powered forest products business.
Image courtesy Zack Roeder
Forest Resource Planner Zack Roeder was named Most Effective at Engaging the Public for his work as a forester in Pennsylvania’s largely agricultural Franklin and Cumberland counties. There, Roeder helped farmers manage and implement conservation practices on their land and helped watershed groups plant streamside forest buffers. Roeder also guided a high school in starting a “grow out” tree nursery and coordinated Growing Native events in local communities, using volunteers to collect native hardwood and shrub seeds for propagation.
Image courtesy Savage River Watershed Association
The Savage River Watershed Association in Frostburg, Md., was commended for the Greatest On-the-Ground Impact. In a watershed whose streamside trees have shaded waterways and provided critical habitat to Maryland’s rare reproducing brook trout fisheries, the organization has worked to conserve area forests, removing invasive plants and putting more than 4,000 red spruce seedlings into the ground.
Three Delaware towns have received grant funding and technical assistance to create habitat and improve water quality in Delaware's tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay.
The towns of Greenwood, Laurel and Bethel, located along the Route 13 corridor in Sussex County, have set their sights on curbing stormwater runoff to reduce the flow of nutrients and sediment into the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek.
When rainfall runs across paved roads, parking lots, lawns and golf courses, it can pick up pollutants before washing down storm drains and into local waterways. By using best management practices—think rain barrels, green roofs or forested buffers along the shores of streams and rivers—to target the fastest growing source of pollution into the Bay, these Delaware towns can help position the state to meet its pollution reduction goals.
The Town of Greenwood, for instance, will restore a buffer of native vegetation along a tax ditch that drains into the Nanticoke River, establishing habitat and reducing stormwater runoff from two industrial buildings in the heart of the community.
The neighboring towns of Laurel and Bethel will develop plans to bring green infrastructure to Broad Creek, stabilizing stream banks, reducing stormwater discharge and eliminating local flooding. Bethel might even implement innovative practices in the oldest part of town, bringing permeable pavement and living shorelines to the town's historic district.
"The projects in Greenwood, Laurel and Bethel will improve the water quality of our local streams and rivers, reduce flooding and enhance the quality of life for local communities," said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Collin O'Mara. "By ... working together, we are securing resources necessary to ensure that our waterways are safe, swimmable and fishable for current and future generations."
Funding for the Greenwood project, totaling $35,000, was awarded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's (NFWF) Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund.Technical assistance for the initiatives in Laurel and Bethel, valued at $100,000, was awarded through NFWF's Local Government Capacity Building Initiative. To learn more about the projects, visit the DNREC website.
During the Atlantic Basin's six-month hurricane season, wetlands along the edges of rivers, streams and Chesapeake Bay shorelines play a critical role in maintaining healthy waters.
Storms and hurricanes like Lee and Irene in 2011 or Isabel in 2003 can have serious consequences for the Bay region, as rains wash nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous off of farms, lawns and gardens; push sediment-laden runoff into local waterways; and inundate grass and oyster beds with suffocating silt. But this sort of storm damage is often temporary, and can be mitigated by abundant, healthy wetlands and ongoing efforts to restore them.
Wetlands stabilize shorelines, protect properties from strong waves and surging floods, soak up stormwater runoff and absorb sediment and chemical contaminants. While wetlands alone will not stop excess nutrients and sediment from reaching our waters, strong, healthy wetlands are vital to reducing the impacts of polluted runoff and supporting the Bay's resilience.
Last year, Chesapeake Bay Program partners restored more than 3,700 acres of wetlands in the Bay watershed--an acreage equivalent to about 2,855 football fields. These efforts build on the 14,765 acres of wetlands established from 1998 to 2010 and represent a solid step by Bay jurisdictions toward meeting the goal to restore 30,000 acres and rejuvenate 150,000 acres of these landscapes by 2025.
More than 6,800 feet of living shoreline will be coming to the Chesapeake Bay, thanks to $800,000 in federal, state and private funding announced this week.
Living shorelines provide coastal landowners with an erosion-control alternative, as grasses and trees replace hardened bulkhead and riprap to stabilize the shoreline and provide vital habitat to fish, crabs and other wildlife.
Sixteen homeowner associations, non-profit organizations and towns will receive funding through the Chesapeake Bay Trust's Living Shorelines program, a multi-state effort that promotes the installation and understanding of living shorelines throughout the watershed.
The Chester River Association, for instance, will restore 270 feet of shoreline in Centreville, Md., protecting a wetland and creating an outdoor classroom for children and adults. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission will design a 542-foot shoreline in a Woodbridge, Va., public park along the Potomac River. And Alice Murray and Susan Stricker will restore 410 feet of shoreline on their eroding Popham Creek property, thanks to an almost $40,000 grant administered to the West/Rhode Riverkeeper.
The non-profit organization, which advocates for the West and Rhode rivers as part of the Riverkeeper Alliance, will provide the mother-daughter pair with guidance throughout the project, which will be furthered by a significant cash match from a Maryland Department of Natural Resources loan.
"I have been wanting to do this for 50 years," Murray said. "It's a thrill!"
While Murray and Stricker often see shorebirds, waterfowl and even fox near their beach, both hope the new shoreline will bring more wildlife to the area and help restore the creek that seems to be missing the underwater grasses, plentiful fish and clear water of the past.
Now in its seventh year, the Living Shorelines program has awarded more than $4 million to 68 Maryland and Virginia projects, creating 28,000 feet of living shoreline and 18 acres of wetland habitat. This year marks the largest amount ever awarded to support this restoration technique.
From the restoration of streamside forests to the planting of a green roof on an historic District of Columbia house, 41 environmental projects from across the Chesapeake Bay watershed have received $9.22 million in grant funding.
The restoration and outreach initiatives will restore vital habitats and reduce the amount of runoff entering local waterways, leading to cleaner water across the region.
Funding for the projects was awarded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's (NFWF) Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund. Half of the projects will be funded by the Small Watersheds Grants Program, which funds on-the-ground restoration, conservation and community engagement. Twenty-one more will be funded by the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program, which funds the reduction of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment in local waterways.
Trout Unlimited, for instance, will restore stream banks and wetlands on 11 western Maryland farms, reducing agricultural runoff and benefiting brook trout. The Nature Conservancy will improve water quality and brook trout habitat in central and southern Pennsylvania, planting riparian buffers, restoring wetlands and establishing forest habitat. And the high-profile William Penn House in Washington, D.C., will install a green roof on top of the historic building, which will capture and treat almost all of the stormwater on-site.
In all, this year's projects will engage 9,000 volunteers; restore 176 miles of streamside forests and 158 acres of wetlands; and establish 170,000 square feet of green roofs and rain gardens.
"These innovative projects ... are an illustration of the incredible commitment people have to restoring our rivers and streams. With NFWF's invaluable support, these projects will make a difference, supporting progress toward a Bay that is increasingly healthy and resilient," said Jeff Corbin, Environmental Protection Agency Senior Advisor for the Chesapeake Bay and Anacostia River.
For a full list of grant recipients, visit the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund website.
What comes to mind when you hear the words “Chesapeake Bay?” Maybe you remember childhood summers spent mostly under water, on the shore making mud pies or even on the dock, catching crabs. Maybe you think of long days of crabbing with your grandfather, a recent kayaking adventure or something less glamorous, like the trash in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Each of the watershed’s 17 million residents has a different relationship with the Bay, and a different reason for protecting it. We rarely share these reasons in everyday conversation, but hearing why our friends and neighbors value this tremendous resource will help us realize the multiple reasons for Bay restoration.
Image courtesy Beth Filar Williams/Flickr
Hear what water quality in the Bay means to poultry farmers, watermen, developers and more Eastern Shore residents in a series of video interviews, part of “Let’s Be Shore,” a project recently launched by Maryland Humanities Council.
For more information, visit the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Blog.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its evaluations of the final Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The evaluations are available online at the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL website.
Each state and the District of Columbia developed its own cleanup plan, in collaboration with local governments and conservation districts. The plans outline steps each jurisdiction will take toward restoring the thousands of streams and rivers that make up the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“The Phase II WIPs represent a transition from planning to implementing the necessary practices at the local level,” said EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.
Through the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership, state and federal officials have committed to having all of the needed pollution control measures in place to fully restore the Bay no later than 2025.
A trip through the forested hills of Allegany County, Maryland may take you back to a time before interstate highways and blog posts like this one. Nestled between the largely uninterrupted landscapes of western Maryland, the Evergreen Heritage Center (EHC) honors the region’s past while showcasing environmental efforts of the future.
(Image courtesy Chesapeake Bay Trust)
The Evergreen Museum features the foundation of a home built by an early settler in the late 1700s, and the Evergreen Coal Trail traces the path of coal cars from the early 1900s.
The center’s environmental education programs encourage students to get outside and explore, rather than sit in front of their television or computer. Through partnerships with Allegany County Board of Education, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Maryland teachers can attend workshops that introduce ways to involve their students in interdisciplinary environmental activities. Also, students can participate in on-the-ground learning projects.
The center is also working with 300 students and experts to develop a “green” site project plan that integrates outdoor learning stations, gardens, trails, nature play spaces and wildlife habitats into EHC’s 130-acre campus.
To learn more about Evergreen Heritage Center, read this blog post by EHC’s environmental education coordinator on the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s blog.
Nutrient credit trading could significantly trim the cost of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, according to a new study released by the Chesapeake Bay Commission.
Nutrient credit trading is a system that enables one pollution source to meet its pollution reduction goals by purchasing those reductions from another source.
The economic analysis showed that nutrient credit trading could save 20 percent to as much as 80 percent of costs to meet pollution reduction goals called for in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, the federal “pollution diet” to clean up the Bay. State and local governments must reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from farms, wastewater treatment plants, stormwater systems and other sources to meet these goals by 2025.
The study recommends that governments define trading rules and protocols, provide information and technical assistance, and ensure compliance and enforcement to maximize cost benefits and guarantee trading programs actually deliver pollution reductions.
To date, four Chesapeake Bay watershed states – Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – have initiated water quality trading programs.
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s website to learn more about the study and download the full analysis.
Six of the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions – Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia – have submitted their final cleanup plans as part of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, a “pollution diet” that aims to put in place all restoration measures needed for a clean Bay by 2025.
The final cleanup plans, officially known as Phase 2 Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), were submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last Friday. New York submitted its draft plan, and is working with the EPA to finalize that plan.
The cleanup plans were developed by each individual state and the District, working closely with counties, municipalities and other local partners. The cleanup plans identify specific restoration measures each jurisdiction will take to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution to the Bay and its local rivers.
According to the guidelines set in the TMDL, at least 60 percent of necessary pollution reductions must be achieved by 2017. Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to putting all needed pollution control measures in place no later than 2025.
Visit the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL website to review and learn more about the cleanup plans.
Seven federal agencies involved in Chesapeake Bay restoration have released a progress report and action plan that detail achievements and initiatives toward the goals outlined in the federal Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
The federal government releases a progress report and action plan each year as part of the strategy, which was developed in response to President Obama’s May 2009 Chesapeake Bay Executive Order.
The fiscal year 2011 progress report details the steps federal agencies took toward achieving strategy goals. Although much of the year focused on setting a “road map” for the future, federal agencies also collaborated to eliminate duplication of efforts, enable best use of resources, and bring each agency’s unique skills to restoration projects.
The fiscal year 2012 action plan includes a list of tangible efforts federal agencies will tackle to improve the Bay’s health. Some of these initiatives are continuations of projects stared the previous year, whereas others are new initiatives that build on the past.
The seven federal agencies included in these reports are the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Transportation.
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order website to read the progress report and action plan.
Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia are generally on track to meet pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers by 2025, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) evaluations of the jurisdictions' cleanup plans.
The six Bay states and the District of Columbia recently submitted their Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and their 2012-2013 pollution reduction milestones. These plans lay out how each jurisdiction will meet pollution reduction goals set by the EPA in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
Overall, the jurisdictions built considerably upon their Phase I plans, according to the EPA. The Phase II plans provide more specific cleanup strategies and detail restoration actions on a local level.
EPA evaluations and feedback on each jurisdiction’s cleanup plan are available on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL website. The EPA is still reviewing New York’s plan, which was submitted after the deadline.
The EPA will continue to work with the jurisdictions between now and March 30, when the final Phase II WIPs are due.
The Chesapeake Bay Trust, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Maryland will award more than $400,000 to cities and towns throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed through the newly expanded Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant initiative.
The Green Streets grants will help communities that want to accelerate greening efforts to improve livability, economic vitality, and protection of local waterways and natural areas. Projects selected will improve watershed protection and stormwater management through low-impact development practices, renewable energy use and green job creation.
“Green streets and green infrastructure are investments that create jobs and save money while also providing multiple environmental and quality of life benefits,” EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin said.
Grant assistance of up to $35,000 is available for infrastructure project planning and design. Grants of up to $100,000 will be awarded for implementation and construction.
Last year, 10 cities and towns in Maryland were awarded grants to fund the planning and design of green infrastructure projects. This year, the program is providing double the overall funding.
The Green Streets grant program is open to local governments and non-profit organizations in urban and suburban areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
For more information about the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant program, visit the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s website. The deadline to submit proposals is March 9, 2012.
The Chesapeake Bay Program has launched a new, improved version of its website, www.chesapeakebay.net. The new Bay Program website provides students, educators and members of the public with the latest information about Bay science, wildlife, pollution pressures and restoration efforts.
Some of the new and improved features on ChesapeakeBay.net include:
I recently had the chance to sit down with Nick DiPasquale, the Bay Program's new executive director. Nick began his position in August, just a few weeks after I began with the communications team. So we’re both still learning to navigate the Bay Program’s world of goal implementation teams (GITs), total maximum daily loads (TMDL), Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), and host of other acronyms!
In honor of Nick’s 60th birthday earlier this month, I thought I’d ask him six questions so we can get to know him a little better!
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring really got me thinking about the environment back in 1963. The idea that we'd have a world where birds couldn't exist because of pesticide use was a huge shock to me.
But there's also Lewis Mumford, who lived in the early 20th century. He was a city planner, and an architectural and social critic. Mumford talked about livable cities and isolating the automobile to the fringe of communities. He designed homes with driveways and garages in the back, and front porches where you could engage with your neighbors. Mumford wasn't what we'd classify as an "environmentalist" today, but he certainly had an environmental ethic.
I was also quite struck by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv believes that children are suffering from “Nature Deficit Disorder”: lack of exposure to the outdoors and resulting physical and psychological problems. He’s concerned that children aren’t developing a sense of value toward the environment. Without it, they may not be inclined to protect nature in the future. His book has given rise to the environmental literacy movement in this country.
I'd have to say that everyone from school kids to retirees who spend time trying to improve their surroundings are all my heroes. They don't get recognition sometimes, but they're out there trying to make a difference in the environment and in their communities.
I hope to keep Bay restoration a priority. The TMDL has set very specific goals for water quality. We are attempting to stick to a schedule for implementing best management practices, which will reduce nutrient and sediment loadings to the Bay. There also is the larger Chesapeake Bay agreement, and what comes after that, as well as the president's executive order, which establishes goals in areas like fisheries and healthy watersheds.
There’s a lot we need to accomplish, and in a fairly short period of time. Restoring the Bay isn’t like flipping a switch; the ecosystem doesn’t immediately respond when you put a best management practice in place. In our world, things move at a quicker place; for example, when you send someone a message, you expect them to respond pretty quickly. An ecosystem doesn't do that. We will send it messages, but it will take a while to get back to us.
I've cared about the environment since I was very young, probably 12 or 13. I grew up across from the high school athletic fields, so I was always outdoors with my friends. We had an abandoned apple orchard right next door. And there was an old rail line we used to walk along...we would go out on these great explorations. There was a farm right by the rail line, with a farm pond where we used to play hockey during the winter. I was just a five or ten minute walk from a huge public beach on Lake Ontario. My brothers, our friends and I were outdoors all the time, so for me it’s really kind of natural to feel some affection for the Bay.
Since I moved to Annapolis, I have gotten out on the water a few times. I went kayaking on the South River with the South River Federation. We toured some shoreline restoration projects. Another one of my favorite places for kayaking is Wye Island on the Eastern Shore. Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge and Rock Hall are two others I enjoy.
In terms of communities around the Bay, I like St. Michael's, Oxford and Easton. The Eastern Shore towns really are picturesque and have many little attractions. One of my favorites is the St. Michael's Winery.
Most of the places I enjoy are on the Bay, but of course, the watershed includes a lot more than just the actual Bay. I recently took my first trip to Ellicott City's historic district. I enjoyed the quaint shops and restaurants along the Patapsco River.
My list of favorite places is long, and I'm sure as I get out more, I will find more.
There are a lot of good reasons to protect the Bay. Some believe the most important reason is economic: the Bay represents a huge resource in terms of tourism, fisheries, boating and recreation.
And of course, we should protect the Bay’s natural resource value. This is also related to economics because fisheries, for example, are an important economic sector. Natural resources also include the wetlands and upland areas of the watershed, which are equally important.
And then there is the Chesapeake’s sense of culture and sense of place. There is history here that is embraced by those who have been around for a while, and also, those who haven't.
I think there is also a value of having a place where you can go for spiritual renewal. A lot of people, myself included, experience a sense of calm and well-being when they go out on the water. This is more important than ever as our world gets a little bit crazier and a little bit busier. I go hiking in the woods a lot. There's something about a forest – maybe the smell of the trees, or the decomposition process – that lifts the weight of the world off your shoulders. My friend's grandfather used to go out walking after work; he would say he was "blowing the stink off" from the day. He thought that when you're inside all day, your body emits or attracts something harmful. So he would go out walking to "blow the stink off." But I also think he was talking about the stress of the day, and how you can't carry it around with you. Even if you can get out for 20 minutes over lunch, you'll feel more at ease.
I am an avid recycler. I also try to walk to work when I can. I drive a hybrid vehicle so I cut down on air emissions and gas consumption. I'll be volunteering with the Spa Creek Conservancy to take bacteria samples on Spa Creek, here in Annapolis. This information will be entered into a database to track water quality trends over the long term.
I try to involve myself in tree plantings, especially along riparian areas. I've participated in a few of those types of projects, and any other opportunity to go outdoors and help improve the Bay’s resilience. I'm a big advocate of planting trees because it is one of the best ways to stabilize shorelines. Trees sequester carbon, benefit air quality, and are simply pleasant to be around.
Nick served as secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control from 1999 - 2002. Nick was also deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and as director of the Brandywine Conservancy's Environmental Management Center. Most recently, he served as a senior consultant with Duffield Associates in Wilmington, Delaware.
The federal government is looking for feedback on the first set of short-term water quality goals, or “milestones,” as part of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order.
The “Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed” calls upon the federal government to join the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia – in establishing two-year milestones: short-term restoration goals set every two years that lead up to a long-term cleanup deadline.
The draft water quality milestones were selected because they represent activities that can result in large environmental improvements, need significant resources or directly support the states in meeting their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs).
You can provide feedback on the draft water quality milestones at the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order website by Nov. 30, 2011.
The final federal water quality two-year milestones will be announced by Jan. 7, 2012, along with the Bay jurisdictions’ 2012-2013 milestones and the federal milestones for the other four goal areas (habitat, fish and wildlife, land conservation and public access, and supporting strategies).
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order website to learn more about the federal strategy to protect and restore the Bay.
Four projects and individuals in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia have been recognized as Chesapeake Forest Champions for their contribution to Chesapeake Bay restoration through the promotion of trees and forests.
The inaugural Chesapeake Forest Champion contest honored recipients in four categories: most innovative, most effective at engaging the public, greatest on-the-ground impact and exceptional forest steward/land owner.
The "most innovative" award went to Adam Downing and Michael LaChance of Virginia Cooperative Extension and Michael Santucci of the Virginia Department of Forestry for their Virginia Family Forestland Short Course program. The team tackled a critical land conservation challenge: intergenerational transfers of family farms and forests, and the need to educate land owners on how to protect their land. Through the land transfer plans developed in this program, more than 21,000 acres of Virginia forests are expected to remain intact, family-owned and sustainably managed.
The "most effective at engaging the public" champion was ecologist Carole Bergmann from Montgomery County, Maryland. Bergmann created the Weed Warrior program in response to a significant invasive plant problem in the county's forests. To date, approximately 600 Weed Warriors have logged more than 25,000 hours of work removing and monitoring invasive weeds.
The "greatest on-the-ground impact" award went to David Wise of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for his leadership in restoring riparian forest buffers through the Pennsylvania Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) partnership. Since 2000, Pennsylvania CREP has restored more than 22,000 acres of forest buffers -- more than all the other Chesapeake Bay states combined.
The "exceptional forest steward/land owner" champion was Susan Benedict of Centre County, Pennsylvania, for her work running a sustainable tree farm. Benedict has implemented many conservation projects on her family's land, such as planting habitat to encourage pollination in a forested ecosystem.
The Chesapeake Forest Champion contest was sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay as part of the International Year of Forests. The four Chesapeake Forest Champions were honored earlier this month at the 2011 Chesapeake Watershed Forum in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Visit the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay's website to learn more about the Chesapeake Forest Champions.
Image: (from left to right) Sally Claggett, U.S. Forest Service; David Wise, Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Michael LaChance, Virginia Cooperative Extension; Susan Benedict, land owner, Centre County, Pa.; Carole Bergmann, Montgomery County, Md.; and Al Todd, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. Image courtesy Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay Program has launched a new tool designed to help states, municipalities, federal agencies and other partners quickly and easily assess various pollution reduction strategies for their Bay cleanup plans.
The Chesapeake Assessment and Scenario Tool (CAST) is a web-based tool that closely replicates the results of full Bay Program model runs. CAST will help partners understand and work with the Bay Program’s suite of models as the Bay jurisdictions develop their Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and two-year milestones.
CAST allows the Bay jurisdictions to:
Visit http://www.casttool.org to learn more about CAST and use the tool.
A new report by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) raises significant objections to a recent analysis comparing the Bay Program watershed model and a new USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) model of cultivated cropland in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
In its analysis of pollution load estimates from cropland, LimnoTech recommended suspending implementation of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL – a “pollution diet” for the Bay and its tidal rivers – until the differences between the two models could be resolved.
STAC convened a panel of scientific experts to conduct an independent review of LimnoTech’s findings. The independent scientists found that LimnoTech’s comparison of the two models was scientifically flawed and did not provide sufficient evidence to suspend TMDL implementation.
According to the STAC panel’s report, the two models’ predictions are in approximate agreement when factual errors in LimnoTech’s analysis are corrected. More importantly, results from both models indicate that more management practices on cropland are needed to protect the Bay and its rivers.
The STAC reviewers encourage the Bay Program and the USDA to continue and expand sharing of data and modeling results. These cooperative efforts could help the Bay Program improve future versions of its model. STAC also suggests that future restoration efforts could be enhanced by the application of multiple models.
STAC is an independent advisory committee to the Chesapeake Bay Program. The committee convenes external, independent, scientific experts to review technical documents, policy methods and programs.
Visit STAC’s website to learn more about the scientific study.
Twenty-one young people will volunteer with watershed organizations, county governments and other non-profits throughout Maryland as part of the second class of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, an environmental career and leadership training program led by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
The Chesapeake Conservation Corps was established by the Maryland Legislature in 2010. The program matches young people ages 18-25 with organizations throughout the state for paid, one-year terms of service. Participants gain valuable work experience and partner with local communities to advance conservation initiatives in Maryland.
“In today’s challenging economic times, it is important that we invest in our young people and provide them with the skills and training necessary for jobs that create a smarter, greener future for Maryland,” said Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, the lead sponsor of the legislation that created this initiative.
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s website to learn more about the Chesapeake Conservation Corps.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have placed 306 reef balls planted with millions of baby oysters in the Choptank River near Cooks Point.
Reef balls are three-dimensional structures that provide habitat for oysters and other aquatic organisms, including worms, mussels, striped bass and black sea bass. Reef ball plantings help restore oyster populations and promote thriving aquatic reef communities. Many reef-dependent species have not been seen in the Choptank River for many years.
Visit Maryland DNR’s website to learn more about the agency’s artificial reef initiative.
The Chesapeake Executive Council announced progress toward Chesapeake Bay cleanup milestones, discussed plans for meeting requirements of the Bay “pollution diet,” and encouraged individual Bay stewardship at its annual meeting on July 11 in Richmond, Virginia.
Executive Council members in attendance included U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and Executive Council Chair Lisa Jackson; Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell; Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett; District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray; Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair Sen. Michael Brubaker; U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan; and representatives from Delaware, New York and West Virginia.
Chesapeake Bay Program partners are currently working toward short-term pollution reduction goals called milestones. All seven Bay jurisdictions are currently on-track or ahead of schedule in meeting these milestones. The deadline for the current set of two-year milestones is December 31, 2011.
Executive Council members also talked about their watershed implementation plans (WIPs), local restoration plans that show how each jurisdiction will meet pollution reductions required by the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. The jurisdictions are now in the second phase of developing their draft plans, which are due at the end of 2011.
Additionally, the Bay Program’s three advisory committees – Citizens, Local Government, and Scientific and Technical – presented to the Executive Council about Bay restoration activities from their unique areas of expertise.
The 2011 Executive Council meeting was held at the Maymont Foundation, located on the James River in Richmond. Executive Council members spent part of the afternoon touring exhibits on topics such as native plants, Bay-friendly lawn care, and soil health and testing. The location was chosen to highlight the meeting’s “Get Grounded in Tour Watershed” theme, which stresses the importance of connecting people with their local waterways. Through its Nature Center and educational programs, Maymont offers local residents a place to learn about and connect with Virginia’s environment.
"The focus of our discussions today was on empowering every citizen in the Bay watershed to be part of restoring these important waters,” said Jackson. “The actions of federal, state and local governments are just the beginning of revitalizing the Bay. We are also counting on the partnership of millions of people who live in this region to join in protecting the waters that support their health, their environment and their economy."
The Executive Council sets the policy agenda for the Chesapeake Bay Program. Visit our Chesapeake Executive Council page for more information.
Nicholas DiPasquale has been chosen as the new director of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
DiPasquale served as secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control from 1999-2002. He also served as deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and as director of the Brandywine Conservancy’s Environmental Management Center.
Most recently, DiPasquale served as a senior consultant with Duffield Associates in Wilmington, Del., providing services and advice regarding regulatory issues, permitting and ecological restoration.
“Restoring our nation’s largest estuary presents an enormous challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity,” DiPasquale said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to working collaboratively with the states, local governments and all stakeholders in protecting the Bay, as well as local waterways throughout the watershed.”
DiPasquale graduated from the state University of New York and Washington University in St. Louis. He begins his position with the Chesapeake Bay Program in August.
“Nick has the leadership skills, experience and commitment we need to build on our progress in restoring and protecting one of our great natural treasures.” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin in making the announcement. “His expertise will serve us and our partners well as we accelerate efforts to safeguard the Chesapeake Bay and its living resources.”
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have launched the Native Plant Center, an online guide to help homeowners identify and choose plants that are native to the Chesapeake Bay region.
Users to the website, www.nativeplantcenter.net, can search for native plants by name, plant type, sun exposure, soil texture and moisture. Users can even find native plants with the same characteristics as some of their favorite non-native plants. The website also includes a geo-locator feature to identify plants suited to a user’s specific location.
Planting native plants is an important part of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Residents who replace their typical backyard landscaping with native plants use less fertilizer and pesticides, provide critical habitat for pollinators, and reduce polluted runoff to storm drains.
The portal uses the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s native plant database, associated with the publication Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
To learn more about native plants, visit www.nativeplantcenter.net.
Nutrient pollution in the majority of the Chesapeake Bay region’s freshwater streams and rivers has decreased over the last 25 years, according to data from scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Almost 70 percent of the watershed’s 32 monitoring locations show decreasing nitrogen and phosphorus levels, meaning fewer of these harmful nutrients are entering the Chesapeake’s local waterways. Approximately 40 percent of the sites show decreasing trends for sediment pollution.
Although this data may indicate long-term improvements in the health of the Bay’s streams and rivers, pollution loads to the Bay were higher in 2010 due to more rain, snow and river flow.
“These long-term trends indicate that pollution reduction efforts, such as improved controls at wastewater treatment plants and practices to reduce nutrients and sediment on farms and suburban lands, are improving water quality conditions in many areas,” said USGS scientist Scott Phillips. “However, nutrients, sediment and contaminants will need to be further reduced to achieve a healthier Bay and streams.”
Each day, billions of gallons of fresh water flow through thousands of streams and rivers that eventually empty into the Bay. This fresh water is known as “river flow.” In general, as river flow increases, more nutrient and sediment pollution is carried downstream to the Bay. Pollution levels in rivers vary greatly from year to year because they are influenced by rainfall. Scientists make adjustments to remove the effects of weather variations, allowing consistent measurement of pollution levels over time and better evaluation of long-term changes.
In the 2010 water year (October 2009-September 2010):
The Bay Program’s goal is to have a long-term average of 186 million pounds of nitrogen and 12.5 million pounds of phosphorus entering the Bay from streams and rivers.
In a different, shorter-term study conducted between 2000 and 2008, the health of individual freshwater streams across the watershed showed mixed conditions. Of the 7,886 stream sites sampled, more than half (55 percent) were found to be in very poor or poor condition. The remaining 45 percent were found to be in fair, good or excellent condition.
This study uses data on the tiny, bottom-dwelling creatures that live in freshwater streams and rivers as an indicator of overall stream health. This method provides a uniform evaluation of the health of local waterways across state lines and throughout the entire Bay watershed.
The USGS estimates how much river flow enters the Bay each year, monitors pollution loads in the Bay’s major rivers, and works with the Bay Program to estimate how much pollution reaches the Bay. To learn more about the USGS’s Chesapeake monitoring activities, visit http://chesapeake.usgs.gov.
The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has released a pilot study that contains science-based conclusions and recommendations to help the Chesapeake Bay Program evaluate its efforts to achieve nutrient reduction goals and clean up the Bay.
The study, “Achieving Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Goals in the Chesapeake Bay: An Evaluation of Program Strategies and Implementation,” validates and provides constructive feedback on the work the Bay Program has undertaken during the last 18 months to improve accountability.
“While supporting the program’s current efforts, the report also points out some critical challenges to consider in making decisions moving forward,” said Shawn M. Garvin, EPA regional administrator and chair of the Bay Program’s Principals' Staff Committee.
The NAS study results reinforce the partnership’s current work, including the Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet,” or TMDL; the Bay jurisdictions’ Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs); and two-year milestones. NAS recognized the Bay watershed’s complexity and the equally intricate tracking systems needed to accurately report on restoration progress, as well as the fact that the Bay Program is in the process of better integrating its voluntary and regulatory work.
The study also provides suggestions for strengthening processes for tracking and accounting of best management practices (BMPs); assessing two-year milestones; adaptive management; and implementation strategies.
“As the states continue to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, we must regularly review and take steps to improve the management of our resources to achieve the most cost-effective results for our citizens and the Bay," said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers. “We believe a healthy Chesapeake Bay is finally within our sights, and we look forward to working with our partners to determine how the Academy's recommendations can help.”
Within 90 days, the Bay Program will provide a written response to all of the study’s recommendations.
The Bay Program solicited this self-evaluation in 2009 after the Chesapeake Executive Council requested at its 2008 annual meeting that a nationally recognized, independent science organization evaluate the program’s efforts to accelerate implementation of nutrient reduction goals to restore the Bay.
The evaluation was jointly funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
West Virginia will invest $6 million annually for 30 years toward wastewater treatment plant upgrades that will reduce nutrient pollution to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
The money, which will come from excess state lottery funds, will fund about $85 million in bonds that will help pay for upgrades. The funding will cover about 40 percent of the expected cost for the upgrades.
The upgrades will help West Virginia meet new pollution-reduction goals that are part of the federal pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. West Virginia has 13 wastewater facilities that need to be upgraded to meet nutrient limits.
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed the bill into law on April 6.
Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week. Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.
This week’s question came from John, who asked: “What is the Chesapeake Bay Commission? Who are they and what do they do?”
The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a tri-state legislative body representing Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The commission was created in 1980 as a bi-state commission to help Maryland and Virginia collaborate and cooperate on Chesapeake Bay management. Pennsylvania became a member in 1985, after which time the Commission began advising each state's general assembly on matters deemed to be of Bay-wide concern.
The Commission also serves as the legislative arm of the Chesapeake Bay Program, advising each of the jurisdictions represented by the Bay Program partnership.
Since its establishment, the Commission has worked to promote policy in several areas that are vital to Chesapeake Bay restoration, including nutrient reduction, fisheries management, toxics remediation, pollution prevention, habitat restoration and land management.
The Commission has 21 members from the three states. Among those members are:
The chairman position rotates among the three states each calendar year. As of January 2011, Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Brubaker took over as Chairman of the Commission.
One of the Commission's main goals is to make sure that member states' common interests are thoroughly represented in regard to any federal government actions that may affect them. This has become a vital part of the process of developing the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Executive Order strategies.
To learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Commission, check out their About Us page.
Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week. You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a final “pollution diet” to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its streams, creeks and rivers.
The pollution diet, formally called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), spells out the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that needs to be reduced to bring the Bay back to health. The TMDL calls for a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen, 24 percent reduction in phosphorus and 20 percent reduction in sediment.
The TMDL is driven primarily by detailed plans created by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia to put all needed pollution controls in place by 2025, with at least 60 percent of the actions completed by 2017. Additionally, the EPA involved stakeholder groups and the public in TMDL development during the past two years.
“In the past two years we have made huge strides that will yield real results for millions of people who rely on the Bay for their livelihood and way of life,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Now we begin the hard work of implementing this pollution diet and building on the last two years.”
The EPA worked closely with the seven Bay jurisdictions during the past several months to address deficiencies in their draft plans. The final plans were improved enough that the EPA was able to reduce and remove most “backstops” that were in the draft TMDL.
Significant improvements in jurisdiction plans include:
The final TMDL still includes some backstops for jurisdictions that did not meet the EPA’s expectations or their pollution allocations. These include the wastewater sector in New York, the urban stormwater sector in Pennsylvania and the agriculture sector in West Virginia. Additionally, the EPA will keep a close eye on Pennsylvania agriculture, Virginia and West Virginia urban stormwater, and Pennsylvania and West Virginia wastewater.
The EPA will regularly oversee each of the jurisdictions’ programs to make sure they implement pollution control plans and remain on schedule for meeting goals and milestones. Each jurisdiction will be accountable for results along the way.
The Chesapeake Bay TMDL was prompted by insufficient progress in restoring the Bay, despite extensive restoration efforts that have taken place during the past 25 years. The TMDL is required under federal law and responds to consent decrees in Virginia and the District of Columbia dating back to the late 1990s.
The full TMDL, as well as evaluations of the state plans and EPA backstops and contingencies, can be found at www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed draft nitrogen and phosphorus limits, called allocations, as part of a “pollution diet” the agency is developing to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its local streams, creeks and rivers.
The watershed-wide draft limits of 187.4 million pounds of nitrogen and 12.5 million pounds of phosphorus are divided among the six watershed states and the District of Columbia, as well as the major river basins. The draft limits were determined using the best peer-reviewed science and through extensive collaboration between the EPA and the seven Bay jurisdictions.
Bay jurisdictions are expected to use the draft allocations as the basis for completing their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), which detail how they will further divide the limits among different sources of pollution and achieve the required reductions. Jurisdictions must provide the first drafts of their WIPs to the EPA by September 1, and final Phase 1 WIPs are due November 29.
“While we all recognize that every jurisdiction within the watershed will have to make very difficult choices to reduce pollution, we also recognize that we must collectively accelerate our efforts if we are going to restore this national treasure as part of our legacy for future generations,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.
The EPA expects the Bay jurisdictions to have all practices in place to meet their established pollution limits by 2025, with 60 percent of the effort completed by 2017. Progress will be measured using two-year milestones, or short-term goals. The EPA may apply consequences for inadequate plans or failing to meet the milestones.
The EPA will issue a draft Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – the “pollution diet” – on September 24, with a 45-day public comment period immediately following. The final Bay TMDL will be established by December 31.
In addition to these draft allocations, the EPA is committing to reduce the amount of airborne nitrogen that falls on the Bay’s tidal waters to 15.7 million pounds per year. This will be achieved through federal air regulations that will be implemented over the coming years.
The EPA will assign draft allocations for sediment on August 15.
For more information about the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, visit www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl.
On June 30, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved with bipartisan support the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009. The bill was introduced last fall by Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin and amended to remove provisions that would have codified a Bay-wide “pollution diet,” called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment.
The bill now moves on to the full Senate for approval.
The landmark legislation aims to expand federal resources, including funding, authority and enforcement tools, and set a legally binding deadline of 2025 for states to put all necessary measures into place to achieve a healthy, restored Bay. If passed by Congress, it would replace section 117 of the federal Clean Water Act, which authorizes the Chesapeake Bay Program.
The House of Representatives has not yet acted on a similar bill sponsored by Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Visit the following links to learn more about the Chesapeake Clean Water Act and how it could affect Bay restoration efforts.
Related News Articles:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed draft sediment limits as part of a “pollution diet” the agency is developing to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its local streams, creeks and rivers.
The watershed-wide draft limit of 6.1-6.7 billion pounds of sediment per year is divided among the six watershed states and the District of Columbia, as well as the major river basins. In 2009, an estimated 8.09 billion pounds of sediment flowed to and clouded the waters of the Bay and its tributaries.
Excess sediment suspended in the water is one of the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay's poor health. The culprits are the tiny clay- and silt-sized fractions of sediment. Because of their small size, clay and silt particles often float throughout the water, rather than settling to the bottom, and can be carried long distances during rainstorms.
When there is too much sediment in the water, the water becomes cloudy and muddy-looking. Cloudy water does not allow sunlight to filter through to bay grasses growing at the bottom of the Bay's shallows. Just like plants on earth, bay grasses need sunlight to grow; without it, these underwater grasses die, which affects the young fish and blue crabs that depend on bay grasses for shelter.
Bay jurisdictions are expected to use the draft allocations as the basis for completing their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), which detail how they will further divide the limits among different sources of pollution and achieve the required reductions. Jurisdictions must provide the first drafts of their WIPs to the EPA by September 1, and final Phase 1 WIPs are due November 29.
“While we all recognize that every jurisdiction within the watershed will have to make very difficult choices to reduce pollution, we also recognize that we must collectively accelerate our efforts if we are going to restore this national treasure as part of our legacy for future generations,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin.
The EPA expects the Bay jurisdictions to have all practices in place to meet their established pollution limits by 2025, with 60 percent of the effort completed by 2017. Progress will be measured using two-year milestones, or short-term goals. The EPA may apply consequences for inadequate plans or failing to meet the milestones.
The EPA will issue a draft Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – the “pollution diet” – on September 24, with a 45-day public comment period immediately following. The final Bay TMDL will be established by December 31.
The EPA proposed draft allocations for nitrogen and phosphorus in July.
For more information about the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, visit www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl.
Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.
This week’s question comes from Megan: “What is the difference between the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation? Are they the same organization?”
The Chesapeake Bay Program and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are not the same organization, although they are frequently confused.
The Chesapeake Bay Program is a regional partnership leading the Bay restoration effort since 1983. Our partnership comprises:
Bay Program partners work together toward Bay health and restoration goals in five areas:
Each of these areas includes goals set by the Goal Implementation Teams and reported on annually in the Bay Barometer.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in the 1960s and committed to the mission of “Saving the Bay.” The Foundation works to do four things: educate, advocate, litigate and restore. The Foundation hosts a comprehensive education program for students; actively advocates for issues the Bay faces; executes litigation to enhance enforcement, defines an agenda and enforce progress; and works hands-on to restore the Bay to its former beauty and health.
CBF actively accepts members into its organization and is an advocacy group, whereas the Chesapeake Bay Program is a partnership among government and non-government organizations working on the policy and regulations of Chesapeake Bay restoration. CBF works closely with the Chesapeake Bay Program on a number of issues and goal areas.
For more information about how the Chesapeake Bay Program works, go here for a listing of partners, organizational structure and actions.
Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events!
I grew up in Baltimore County, Md. I spent the first 18 years of my life living full-time in the Chesapeake Bay watershed before going to North Carolina for college. But it was not until this May, at the age of 23 and eight months after starting work at the Chesapeake Bay Program, that I took my first boat trip out on the Bay. I guess it’s better late than never.
Being one of very few people in this office with no science background whatsoever, my first eight months in this job was quite the learning experience. While my focus is in the communications office, I have to have a basic knowledge of the science behind what we’re doing here. I’ve read books and at this point have portions of our website nearly committed to memory, but none of that education compares to what I got out on the water that first day.
As someone who had never been on a boat other than a ferry or water taxi, I was nervous. But once we made it out of the South River into the Chesapeake Bay, my nerves gave way to excitement. I was out on the Bay for the first time, seeing what I’m working 40 hours per week for firsthand. The further into the Bay we got, the more it hit me: This is what I’m working to protect. I observed the shorelines, I watched the birds, and my heart sank when we passed a motor oil bottle floating in the water.
During the boat ride out to Poplar Island, my coworker and our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captain gave me a brief history of the island.
The island, which was more than 1,000 acres in size in 1847, was once used as a presidential retreat by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. But as time went on, Poplar Island eroded to less than 10 acres by 1990.
In 1998, a restoration project led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began, creating wetlands using dredged material from the Baltimore shipping channel. Since the project began, the island has been restored to more than 1,100 acres of land.
As they gave me my history lesson for the day, I couldn’t help but wonder how I had lived in Baltimore for so long and never knew about this. The fact that this island, once on the verge of disappearing altogether, has been restored so much and yet still has a long way to go to be complete by 2027 and was a complete mystery to me was amazing. I didn’t realize how ignorant I was to the world around me before starting this job.
After dropping off half of our passengers on the island to do some bird monitoring, I set off with my two coworkers and our guide, Pete, to do some sampling of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) or bay grasses. Pete told us about how the water had been “crystal clear” the day before when he was out doing sampling. I was skeptical of this assessment. I thought, “Crystal clear, huh? I can’t wait to see his version of ‘crystal clear.’”
I’ll admit that ever since I spent a semester studying in Australia, I’ve held water in the States to a much higher standard and every beach trip I’ve taken since that semester has been a disappointment. After swimming in clear water, watching fish swim past you and being able to see white sand everywhere you look, everywhere else has some big shoes to fill. But I was pleasantly surprised as we navigated out to some creeks and coves around the island. I was able to look over the side of the boat and, yes, see the bottom, covered in bay grasses.
Many of the areas where we did our sampling didn’t result in much SAV being pulled up with our rake, but it was definitely there. I couldn’t believe it. We could see little fish swimming through the baygrasses, see completely to the bottom and, in my mind, feel completely at ease swimming in that water – something I previously didn’t think about the Bay.
After we spent a long afternoon on the water doing sampling, some more bird watching and chatting, we headed back to Poplar Island to pick up our colleagues. We got to walk a bit around the island and Pete showed me the areas that used to be completely barren, all the progress that has been made on the island. He showed me before and after photos and identified vital habitats that weren’t there a short time ago. It was hard to imagine the island in these different stages – when it was in its peak and when it had hit rock bottom. But I’ll never forget those moments.
As we headed back to Annapolis, I felt a bit more adventurous on the boat. On the way out, I had been standing behind the captain’s chair, holding on for dear life and unsure of how I felt about this. On the way back in, I sat on the edge of the boat, still holding on for dear life, but enjoying it far more. I could see the changes in the water on the way back – from the clean and clear waters we’d been working on during the day to the more developed areas, murky and polluted, as we got closer to the shore.
That one day at Poplar Island, I learned what it is I’m working toward. I’m working toward a cleaner bay. That may be a common sense statement, but it’s not something I really grasped until that day because I didn’t know it was possible. Now, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen flourishing habitats and clear water that are fostering biodiversity. I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it and now, I’m working toward it.
I’m looking forward to my next experiences out on the water. Sometimes I think we all forget what we’re working for as we’re sitting at our desks in Annapolis. We go outside and look at Spa Creek when we eat lunch on the docks, but we don’t really see it. I finally saw the Bay that day, and I’m trying to keep that in my mind every day from now on.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland have announced a new draft “pollution diet” for trash in the impaired Anacostia River, only the second river in the country to get a daily trash limit.
Stormwater runoff, the fastest growing source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, delivers hundreds of tons of trash to the Anacostia each year. The amount of trash in the river is not only aesthetically unappealing, but it also endangers the river’s wildlife, which may eat or get tangled in the trash.
The draft pollution diet was developed in response to the federal Clean Water Act’s directions to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for polluted water bodies like the Anacostia. A TMDL establishes the amount of a given pollutant that a water body can take without compromising water quality standards.
The Anacostia River was added to Maryland and the District of Columbia’s impaired waters lists in 2006 due to excessive trash and polluted water. New stormwater regulations in Maryland and the District of Columbia will work in coordination with the TMDL to reduce the amount of trash entering the Anacostia.
The District Department of the Environment and the Maryland Department of the Environment, along with members of several non-governmental organizations, have worked collaboratively with the EPA to develop this draft trash TMDL.
The three agencies will hold a public meeting on the draft TMDL on May 6, 2010, in Washington, D.C., and take public comments on the plan through May 18, 2010. Visit the Maryland Department of the Environment’s website or the District Department of the Environment’s website for the full draft TMDL.
Homegrown energy could reduce millions of pounds of nutrients from entering the Chesapeake Bay’s streams, creeks and rivers and create more than 18,000 jobs in the region, according to a new report released by the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Chesapeake Biofuel Policies: Balancing Energy, Economy and Environment points out three major benefits of producing “next-generation biofuels” – energy derived from plant materials – in the Chesapeake region:
The team of scientists, economists and other experts who wrote the report predict that by 2020, the region could produce 500 million gallons of biofuels per year, using only land and practices that improve the health of the Bay and its network of local waterways.
“A next-generation biofuels industry can create major advances for the Bay region in economic growth, renewable energy produced sustainably right here at home, and improve water quality by reducing runoff to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the only full-time farmer in the Maryland General Assembly.
Over the past three years, Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay Commission have worked to position the Chesapeake region as a national leader in the evolution to sustainable advanced biofuels. Two previous Chesapeake Bay Commission reports released in 2007 and 2008 set the stage for regional biofuel production by presenting scientific information and policy recommendations on next-generation biofuels.
Chesapeake Biofuel Policies presents several recommendations from a select Biofuels Advisory Panel:
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s website to download the full report.
January 2010 -- The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been named chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council, assuming responsibility for the Chesapeake Bay Program’s policy-setting committee from outgoing Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine.
During a meeting of the Executive Council in Arlington, Va., EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson promised to continue the Bay Program’s positive momentum and lead the regional partnership into a new era of progress and accountability as Executive Council chair.
“It’s an honor to chair the Executive Council at this moment of unprecedented opportunity,” Jackson said. “Chesapeake Bay communities have spent years calling for cleaner water and a healthier environment. We have a renewed opportunity to show them real progress.”
Administrator Jackson noted that 2009 was a historic year for the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort, with the states’ commitment to two-year milestones for implementing pollution controls and President Obama’s Executive Order on the Chesapeake Bay.
2010, however, could be a turning point for the Chesapeake Bay through the completion of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and a new restoration strategy required by the Executive Order. The six states and District of Columbia will also receive $11.2 million in federal funding – more than double 2009 levels – to increase permitting, enforcement and other regulatory activities.
“Success in restoring the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways hinges on the collective effort of all stakeholders, and this partnership provides a vehicle for federal and state governments to collaborate and ultimately reach our common goals,” said Jackson, who also serves as chair of the Federal Leadership Committee established by the Executive Order.
Governor Kaine held the position of Executive Council chair since November 2008. His gubernatorial term ends this month.
"Last year, we charted a new, more effective course for improving the health of Bay waters by establishing critical two-year milestones that will serve as the foundation for future success," said Kaine. "I am pleased with what we've been able to accomplish by working together, and I have no doubt that Administrator Jackson will build on our progress in 2010."
As Governor of Virginia, Kaine permanently conserved nearly 400,000 acres of land, worked with Maryland to better protect the blue crab population, strengthened stormwater regulations, and launched climate change planning.
As chair of Executive Council, Kaine led the effort to create two-year milestones, which represented a fundamental shift in goal-setting, and worked with the White House on the Executive Order, the most significant federal action on the Chesapeake Bay in 25 years.
(Learn more about Governor Kaine’s environmental accomplishments.)
“The health of our Chesapeake Bay is critical to the environmental and economic future of the states that surround it and the people who enjoy it, and these regional partnerships have been invaluable to these efforts,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, past chair of the Executive Council. “Adding to these efforts the passion, partnership and authority of EPA Administrator Jackson will guide us through a new era of progress and accountability.”
“The Chesapeake Bay Commission looks forward to continuing the strong partnership we have established with the Bay Program and working closely with Administrator Jackson in finding new and innovative ways to clean our Bay and preserve this national treasure for generations yet to come,” said Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair, Virginia Delegate John A. Cosgrove.
Virginia Governor and outgoing Chesapeake Executive Council Chair Timothy Kaine
Maryland Governor and past Chesapeake Executive Council Chair Martin O'Malley
Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair and Virginia Delegate John Cosgrove
EPA Administrator and incoming Chesapeake Executive Council Chair Lisa Jackson
Media Question and Answer Session (two parts)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlined a series of consequences it could impose on the six Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia if the jurisdictions do not make adequate progress reducing pollution to the Bay and its local waterways.
The consequences, listed in a letter from the EPA to the governors of the six states and the mayor of D.C., is a follow-up to a November letter that set the federal agency’s expectations for the jurisdictions to reduce water pollution as part of the developing Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
Federal, state and local officials have been working together to develop the Bay TMDL, a pollution budget that will set limits for sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment to the Bay and its tidal creeks, rivers and bays.
While the six Bay states – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – and the District of Columbia have considerable flexibility in how they achieve reductions, the jurisdictions must meet milestones every two years for implementing pollution controls.
If any jurisdiction creates an inadequate cleanup plan or fails to meet its milestones, the EPA may impose a variety of consequences, including:
Within 60 days of receiving a deliverable – such as a plan, milestone or permit – the EPA will provide an assessment. If EPA finds a deliverable inadequate, the state or D.C. will then have 30 days to respond. EPA will deliver its final assessment and indicate any consequence the agency intends to impose within 120 days of the original submission.
By 2011, the EPA expects the states and D.C. to divide their allocated pollution loads to the local level so that counties, municipalities, conservation districts and watershed organizations understand their role in meeting Bay cleanup goals. The states and D.C. also must offset any increased loads from population growth and land use changes anticipated in the coming decades.
The EPA expects that by 2017, pollution controls will be in place that should result in approximately 60 percent of the required reductions. All measures needed to reach the pollution load limits must be in place no later than 2025.
To help the six states and D.C. improve their pollution control programs, the EPA will provide technical assistance and an additional $11.2 million in grants for fiscal year 2010 – more than double 2009 funding levels. The money will help the states improve permitting, enforcement and other key regulatory activities to reduce pollution.
“President Obama, EPA and the states want real, measurable results to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay. To get there, EPA is strengthening support for our partners, setting clear standards for progress, and ensuring accountability if those standards aren’t met,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
Read the full letter from the EPA to the states and D.C. for additional details about the federal consequences.
Greetings from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation and the American Water Research Association conferences in the beautiful Pacific Northwest!
Sometimes you just get lucky and it all just comes together. Right as we finished a major milestone of completing our initial nutrient target loads and began our watershed plans with those targets, the Bay Program modeling team goes off to two national/international conferences. In those conferences, the team chaired two sessions, presented eight papers, ran a session synthesis, and sat on a panel session. What an excellent opportunity to tell the larger research community about the progress we’re making on all fronts in the Chesapeake, as well as the challenges before us.
But while the execution looks smooth and planned, the reality is that when the abstracts were written a year ago for these conferences, we thought we’d be further along in much of our technical analysis. This isn’t unique to us; it’s by and large the standard operating procedure for all our colleagues in all conferences.
After all, presenting material at these conferences is a lot like painting the room in a new house. The presentation, like the painted room, is just the showy surface. To get to the point where we could add nice shiny paint, some people had to work on the foundation, some erected the framework, while others finished the walls. Finally, like the small visible tip of an iceberg or the fraction of the overall time of working on a house when a room is painted, the presentation is made.
Still, when making these presentations I’m reminded of how far we’ve come as we put together the largest and most complex TMDL ever developed. And I’m reminded too, as the last presentation is made and we pack up ready for home, of how many people worked to get us this far, and how far we have yet to go together.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – and the District of Columbia its expectations for the jurisdictions to reduce pollution to the Bay and its streams, creeks and rivers to meet federal water quality standards.
The expectations are part of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a set of pollution limits that will reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that flows to the Bay and its tidal tributaries.
The EPA expects the six Bay states and D.C. to show how they will reduce pollution loads to levels necessary to meet water quality standards. The jurisdictions will create detailed schedules with specific timelines for implementing and achieving pollution reductions.
By 2010, the EPA expects the six Bay states and D.C. to identify gaps in current programs that must be addressed to meet pollution limits. By 2011, the seven jurisdictions must divide allocated pollution reductions to the local level so counties, municipalities, conservation districts and watershed organizations understand their role in meeting pollution reduction goals.
The EPA will measure the jurisdictions’ progress through two-year milestones that lead up to 2025, when all measures needed for a restored Bay must be put into place.
Should a jurisdiction fail to create an adequate plan or meet its performance milestones, the EPA may impose federal consequences. These consequences will be identified later this fall.
Read the full expectations letter from the EPA to the seven Bay jurisdictions, and visit the EPA’s website for more information about the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
Twenty-four innovative projects in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia have received a total of $12.9 million in grants from the Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution to the local streams, creeks and rivers that flow to the Chesapeake Bay.
The grants for these projects were awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, which provides up to $1 million to innovative and cost-effective projects that dramatically reduce or eliminate the flow of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution into local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.
“These innovative projects will have lasting benefits for the Chesapeake Bay and its network of rivers and streams, especially when you consider that they can be duplicated in communities throughout the entire watershed,” said William C. Early, acting regional administrator in EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.
The Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and funded by the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program. This year's grant recipients provided an additional $19.4 million in matching funds.
“These projects continue to stretch how we think about agricultural strategies that are good both for the Chesapeake and for the farmer’s bottom line, and stormwater strategies that ensure that those of us who live in cities and suburbs do our part as well,” said Tom Kelsch, director of conservation programs for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The 24 grant recipients are:
At its annual meeting on May 12, the Chesapeake Executive Council set new short-term goals to reduce pollution to the Bay and dramatically accelerate the pace of restoration of the Bay and its rivers.
Instead of pursuing a distant deadline, the seven Bay jurisdictions -- Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, New York and the District of Columbia -- will now focus on short, two-year goals called milestones. The milestones announced at the 2009 EC meeting are set to be met by December 31, 2011. (View the 2011 milestones to reduce pollution.)
Many states will significantly increase the pace of cleanup.
By meeting these and future milestones, the Bay jurisdictions will put in place all pollution control measures necessary for a restored Bay no later than 2025.
“We have charted a new course for the Chesapeake Bay’s recovery that will succeed because it includes the short-term goals necessary to make steady progress and is backed by federal and state leaders who share a profound conviction to protect our environment,” said Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine, chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council.
Bay restoration will be intensified by an Executive Order, issued by President Obama, that declares the Chesapeake a national treasure and increases the federal commitment to restoring the Bay. The Executive Order includes:
Further federal action is coming from the U.S. EPA, which is creating the Chesapeake TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load). The TMDL is essentially a pollution diet for the Bay that will drive the six states and D.C. to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus entering the waterways in their states that flow to the Bay.
Under the Executive Order, the EPA will also be developing strategies to ensure compliance and enforcement with pollution laws throughout the watershed. Additionally, the Clean Air Interstate Rule will reduce nitrogen pollution to the Bay by an estimated 10 million pounds annually beginning in 2010.
The Chesapeake Executive Council establishes the Bay Program's policy agenda. Participating in the meeting were:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson has named J. Charles Fox as senior advisor on the Chesapeake Bay and Anacostia River.
Fox has an extensive and distinguished career as a champion for the environment:
Fox’s appointment is another signal that the EPA is renewing and deepening its mission to protect America’s environment under President Obama. The decision to name Fox as a senior advisor continues the EPA’s long-standing commitment to restoring the Bay and its rivers, such as the Anacostia.
“I look forward to working closely with Bay Program Director Jeff Lape and the talented and hard-working staff in Annapolis and EPA’s regional office in Philadelphia, who share my deep dedication to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Fox. “I also value the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Bay Program’s many federal and state partners to make great progress in restoring our nation’s largest estuary.”
The 2008 Chesapeake Exective Council meeting is just two days away, and agencies throughout the Bay Program partnership are busy finalizing details for this annual event. This year, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, and representatives from Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, West Virginia, the USDA and the Chesapeake Bay Commission will be on hand to review the past year's Bay restoration efforts and set a new agenda for 2009. You can read more details about the meeting at the Bay Program's website.
The meeting will be held at Union Station in Washington and is open to the public from 12:30-3 p.m. We're also planning to have a live webcast of the meeting on our website; stay tuned for that link.
The Chesapeake Executive Council adopted at its annual meeting on Nov. 20 a new strategy to speed up the pace of Bay restoration and become more accountable by setting two-year milestones to reduce pollution to the Bay and its rivers.
The Executive Council will establish the new two-year deadlines in spring 2009, when the most current scientific data about pollution levels becomes available through the Bay Program’s annual Health and Restoration Assessment. These milestones will focus the Bay Program partnership on achieving short-term goals, thereby intensifying restoration efforts. The two-year milestones will lead up to an overall deadline for Bay restoration, which will also be set next spring.
The decision to set short-term goals comes after the Executive Council confirmed at its 2007 meeting that the Bay Program partnership would not meet its Chesapeake 2000 commitment to clean up the Bay by 2010.
"Setting goals that are a decade out, for example, do not create pressure to produce results," said Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine, the incoming Executive Council chairman. "We're going to change the way goals are set."
The new two-year deadlines will be created at the 2009 Executive Council meeting, which will be moved to spring to coincide with the release of the Health and Restoration Assessment and allow Executive Council members to more effectively coordinate restoration initiatives with government budget cycles and legislative sessions.
In addition to the decision to set two-year milestones for restoration, the Executive Council also announced at its meeting plans to request support for the Bay from the President-elect, pursue development of next-generation biofuels in the Chesapeake Region and increase partner accountability for restoration of the Bay and its watershed.
The Executive Council, led this year by outgoing chairman Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and incoming chairman Governor Kaine, establishes the Bay Program’s policy agenda. Participating in the meeting, which was held at Union Station in Washington, D.C., were executives from the six Bay states, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The work of this partnership and the actions taken today reflect our unwavering commitment to restoring the health and beauty of the Chesapeake Bay for the millions of area residents and visitors who enjoy the Bay or make a living from it,” said Governor O’Malley.
Summary of 2008 Executive Council actions:
To accelerate progress toward cleaning up the Bay, the Executive Council agreed to set restoration milestones every two years. These milestones will focus the partnership on achieving short-term goals to reduce excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. The specific milestones will be calculated in spring 2009, once the most current scientific data becomes available, and will be announced at the next Executive Council meeting, which will also be held in spring 2009.
The Executive Council will also use the milestones and scientific data to establish a new deadline for implementing the restoration measures needed for a healthy Bay.
Bay Program partners have worked with the EPA to shape the Chesapeake TMDL, a federally mandated pollution budget for the watershed. The Chesapeake TMDL will allocate loadings of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment to all jurisdictions in the watershed. The two-year milestones will be used to assist the TMDL process. When complete in December 2010, the Chesapeake TMDL will be the largest in the country.
(Read more about the Chesapeake TMDL.)
The Bay Program is seeking a renewed federal commitment to protecting the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary. On behalf of the six Bay states, the District of Columbia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, Governor Kaine and Governor O’Malley will deliver a request to the President-elect and 111th Congress to elevate Chesapeake restoration to a top environmental priority and support regional and national legislative measures to accelerate Bay and watershed restoration.
The Executive Council launched a plan to position the Chesapeake region as a national leader in production of next-generation biofuels. This new sector of biofuels does not rely on food crops and can be grown sustainably to yield environmental and economic benefits while also advancing Bay restoration goals.
(Read the Executive Council directive to implement state biofuels action plans and recommendations included in the recent Next-Generation Biofuels report.)
Bay Program partners have made significant progress on the “champion” roles they selected at the 2007 Executive Council meeting. Champion issues include the promotion of low-impact development, support of agricultural conservation practices and improvement of wastewater treatment. Partners will continue to take this type of targeted action on vital issues in 2009.
To increase the accountability of the partners working to clean up the Bay, the Executive Council has requested the Bay Program be evaluated by a national independent science organization. The evaluator role is designed to identify shortcomings and recommend solutions for improving the Bay Program’s effectiveness.
The Executive Council signaled its support for Chesapeake Bay FieldScope, a project led by National Geographic to educate students about human-environment interactions in the watershed and to engage them directly in environmental monitoring. The Executive Council has agreed to explore opportunities to work with National Geographic to introduce the program throughout the watershed.
After decades of research and, more recently, advocacy, it probably isn’t news to learn that the earth’s climate is changing. Legions of scientists have documented a wide range of changes that can be directly and indirectly attributed to human activities, particularly the emission of greenhouse gases. These gases are heat trapping by-products of the combustion of fossil fuels. The question is, what does this global problem have to do with the Chesapeake Bay?
A new report from the Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) examines this question. (Download the full report in PDF.) The report reflects the combined efforts of two coordinating editors and 11 contributing authors that represent more than a dozen organizations. The team concluded that climate change is more than a future threat to the Bay – it is an issue with immediate consequences for today’s restoration and protection decisions. Climate change is likely to bring warmer air and warmer temperatures to the region, accelerate sea level rise, and potentially change seasonal precipitation patterns. These changes have the potential to exacerbate current stresses on the Bay ecosystem and complicate or potentially undermine restoration efforts.
For example, a changing climate may:
These changes mean that the Bay Program will need to anticipate and adapt to changing conditions to achieve its goals of protecting and restoring water quality and living resources. It is essential to recognize that the need to respond effectively to changing conditions is not a new requirement – it is an existing responsibility based on the Bay Program’s mandates and authorities. This means that Bay Program partners can and should take immediate action to include consideration for climate change in important management and policy decisions.
The STAC team concluded the report with a number of specific recommendations for next steps for the Bay Program, including:
In other words, the Bay Program needs to make climate change someone’s job and empower that individual to use existing authorities and resources to anticipate and prepare for changing climatic conditions. With this person in place, the Bay Program can begin to work with the STAC and other advisors and stakeholders to develop strategies to help protect and restore the Bay under changing conditions. At times, this will require focused research and development, and the Bay Program should help ensure that needs are clearly communicated and that resources are made available to support the work that needs to be done.
The bottom line of the report is clear: the Bay’s climate is changing and this will have significant implications for the mission of the Bay Program and the future of the Chesapeake Bay. It is incumbent on the Bay Program to take action to anticipate and adapt to changing conditions to ensure that efforts to protect and restore the Bay will be successful under future conditions.
Some people might say that riding a train for 12 hours from Annapolis, Maryland, to Providence, Rhode Island, and back to attend a conference about our nation’s valuable estuaries demonstrates real environmental dedication. Others might say, “Take the plane!” I, of course, traveled the route using the former method. Who needs to deal with extraneous baggage charges and cramped seating when you can pay the same amount to travel via train through the New England countryside and view the fantastic fall foliage, while also having ample time to catch up on that long-forgotten summer read? OK, in retrospect, I wish I took the plane. But no matter what mode of transportation, hundreds of participants from around the country gathered in Providence, Rhode Island, last week for the 4th biannual Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) Conference.
The four days of the conference were jam-packed with over 50 different sessions, workshops and plenary discussions pertaining to all things estuarine. Most of the sessions I attended were facilitated by organizations and speakers from outside the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Working here at the Bay Program, I often have a front-row view of how our partners are working to restore and protect our Bay. However, I felt by attending sessions led by, say, the Puget Sound Partnership or Save the Bay - Narragansett Bay, I might gain a different perspective on how to approach our efforts here in the Chesapeake Bay region.
This strategy worked! For example, while attending a session called “Creating Public and Political Will to Restore Our Coasts and Estuaries,” I learned that the folks at People for Puget Sound developed a fun, comprehensive social marketing campaign called MudUp. Almost since its inception, MudUp has been a huge hit with the local community through convincing poster ads and an endearing Mud Monster mascot that attends all MudUp events. Hmm, if the Chesapeake Bay Program had a mascot, what would it be?
As a side note, Providence and nearby areas are real delights to visit. A few co-workers and I had some free time to visit Newport, which is just a must-see. The mansions and Cliff Walk are truly spectacular. Oh, and you can’t leave Newport without a visit to Flo’s Clam Shack; you would regret it if you didn’t go and try their fish and chips -- so good!
All in all, my trip to Providence was extremely insightful (no matter how long the commute!), and I’m looking forward to the 5th biannual RAE Conference in Galveston, Texas, in 2010!
A new independent report released by the Bay Program's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee shows the Bay ecosystem will be significantly impacted by climate change during the next century.
Climate Change and the Chesapeake Bay: State-of-the-Science Review and Recommendations details the potential consequences of global warming for the Bay over the next 100 years and explains the need to adapt restoration to account for the environmental changes.
The report outlines several consequences of anticipated climate changes, including:
"It is difficult to imagine any aspect of the Chesapeake Bay –- biological, chemical or physical –- that will be unaffected by climate change, particularly if society continues the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Raymond Najjar, associate professor of meteorology at Penn State University and an author of the report.
According to the report, the Bay’s functioning will be affected by:
Climate Change and the Chesapeake Bay was written by the Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), a group of prominent scientists and experts that provide guidance on restoring and protecting the Bay and its watershed.
To factor climate change into restoration efforts and natural resource management, STAC scientists have recommended the Bay Program partnership develop a climate change action plan.
Eighty-five percent of the Chesapeake Bay’s shoreline is privately owned, and often lined with hardened bulkhead or riprap to protect the land from erosion and sea level rise. But scientists throughout the Bay region are giving waterfront property owners an alternative option to shoreline hardening that protects properties while also preserving habitat and clean water in the Bay.
Hardened edges along the Bay and its rivers reduces natural shoreline habitat that fish and other marine animals depend on for food and shelter.
To counter this trend, shoreline restoration efforts have moved towards the use of “living shorelines,” which use natural habitat elements like marsh grasses and oyster reefs instead of hardened structures to stabilize and protect shorelines. Popularity of the term “living shorelines” and its technique has now spread to coasts and estuaries throughout the country.
Living shorelines have been installed for more than 20 years in the Chesapeake region because they provide habitat and protect clean water. Today, research continues into how quickly living shorelines assume the “natural” ecological functions of marshes.
In 2006, scientists with the Chesapeake Bay Trust and NOAA Restoration Center began a study on the Severn, South and West/Rhode rivers near Annapolis, Maryland, and the Miles River on Maryland's Eastern Shore, to assess the ecological impacts of installing living shorelines.
"One of the reasons we conducted this study was to help determine how using living shorelines, instead of armor, would impact fish, crabs, and other wildlife in these tributaries and the Bay," said Dr. Jana Davis, chief scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Trust. "We think there is going to be a positive impact, both when living shorelines are used in new shoreline protection and in replacement of existing armor with greener techniques."
In one part of the study, scientists sampled fish, crabs and shrimp, as well as sediment grain sizes and water depths, at two sites on College Creek: a bulkhead slated to be turned into a living shoreline, and a natural marsh located nearby.
At the bulkhead, 14 different species were collected, while at the marsh, 18 species were collected. Not only were there more types of different species at the marsh, but they were present in larger numbers. In particular, spot, mummichogs and grass shrimp populations were much higher at the marsh.
Two months after the sampled bulkhead was removed and a living shoreline was installed, scientists found that densities of mummichogs and grass shrimp, as well as pumpkinseeds, had increased at the living shoreline site.
“The results of the College Creek study showed that certain species are able to respond almost immediately to the installation of living shorelines,” Davis said.
Results of another part of this study, which compared five different habitat types at two locations in the Rhode River, suggested that living shoreline designs should include multiple habitat elements to maximize the number of different species that can use the area. For instance, oyster reefs served as the greatest refuge for molting blue crabs, while vegetation was used as a nursery area more than the other habitat structures monitored.
These and other studies on living shorelines were presented at the December 2006 Living Shoreline Summit, which brought 10 organizations together for two days to discuss what is known and what still needs to be learned about living shoreline science, management and policy in the Chesapeake region.
Participants at the Living Shoreline Summit developed nine major recommendations for living shoreline research, management tools, planning and policy. These include using social marketing concepts to promote living shorelines; identifying financial incentive opportunities for property owners; and encouraging governments to install living shorelines on their lands.
For more about living shorelines and the findings of the Living Shoreline Summit, visit the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s website.
If you’re at the National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration in Providence, you can see the presentation “Next Steps in Living Shoreline Restoration: Taking Lessons from North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Florida to the National Level” on Monday, Oct. 14 at 1:30 a.m. in room 553, and the presentation “Moving Living Shoreline Policy Forward: A Panel and Audience Discussion” the same day at 3:30 p.m. in room 553.
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has launched the Chesapeake Watershed Network, an online networking community that will connect scientists, environmental professionals and local citizens working to restore the Bay region’s land and waterways.
The new online forum, which was launched as part of the annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum in Shepherdstown, W.Va., will enhance networking and collaboration between individuals and organizations that share a common purpose of preserving the nation’s largest estuary.
The Chesapeake Watershed Network is similar to other online communities such as Facebook and LinkedIn. It includes features such as profiles, groups, blogs and discussion boards that allow members to share ideas and projects with the community. Members can create and join groups related to specific regions, projects, topics and organizations, and use those groups to correspond with others that have similar interests.
The network also features a community directory of everyone in the network, which members can search to find colleagues by state, organization or common interest.
All individuals and organizations working to protect and restore the Bay are encouraged to join the network. Through collaboration with the greater Chesapeake community, we can strengthen our efforts to save our Bay and local waterways.
Join the Chesapeake Watershed Network at www.chesapeakenetwork.org.
The Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have released a new report that explains how the Chesapeake region can become a national leader in the shift to home-grown, environmentally beneficial biofuels.
“Next-Generation Biofuels: Taking the Policy Lead for the Nation,” outlined at the day-long Chesapeake Bay Biofuels Summit in Harrisburg, Pa., on Sept. 4, is the result of a year-long effort to explore the feasibility of cellulosic biofuels from sources including switchgrass, fast-growing timber and municipal wastes.
At the 2007 Executive Council meeting, Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay Commission agreed to “champion” the biofuels issue and position the Chesapeake region at the forefront of the evolution from corn-based ethanol to advanced biofuels. Commercial-scale development of cellulosic ethanol offers the Bay region environmental protection, economic opportunities and energy security.
The Chesapeake region is well-situated to become a leader in cellulosic biofuels over the next five to 10 years because it is:
The report offers 20 recommendations for the Chesapeake region and each state in the watershed to capitalize on the transition from conventional biofuels to next-generation alternatives.
At the regional level, recommendations include:
Recommendations for the individual states include:
Read the full “Next Generation Biofuels” report or view the announcement of the recommendations from the Chesapeake Bay Biofuels Summit.
Testimony provided at a congressional hearing this week acknowledged the Chesapeake Bay Program’s progress in improving restoration efforts and focused on the continuing challenges to restoring water quality throughout the watershed.
The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, held the hearing to gather testimony on recommendations for protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay from a variety of interested parties, including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and other stakeholder organizations.
The hearing specifically focused on the Chesapeake Bay Program, with members of Congress and witnesses offering strong support for the value of the Bay Program and its full range of partners throughout the watershed.
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) said the Chesapeake Bay Program is “absolutely essential to those efforts” to restore the Bay.
Several participants commented that the Bay Program is a model of the science and collaboration needed for such a massive restoration effort.
“The Bay Program is the best of its kind in the nation and the world,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. “…you must invest in the best.”
The Chesapeake Bay Program’s recent report to Congress, titled Strengthening the Management, Coordination and Accountability of the Chesapeake Bay Program, was also highlighted during the hearing. Outlined in the report is the Chesapeake Action Plan (CAP), which features tools that can strengthen and expand partnerships in the watershed, enhance coordination of restoration activities and increase the collective accountability for protecting the Bay.
The CAP responds to 2005 recommendations of the GAO and also addresses report language accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 that directed the Bay Program to create a Chesapeake Bay action plan for the remaining years of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement.
"We are listening and we believe we and our partners are responding to concerns and criticisms," said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water.
Testimony on the CAP submitted by the Government Accountability Office stated “The Bay Program has made important progress, and we believe that these initial steps will enable better management of the restoration effort. However, additional actions are needed to ensure the restoration effort is moving forward in the most cost-effective manner.”
During the hearing, witnesses outlined the tremendous challenges in the Bay watershed that hamper restoration progress. These include the impacts of continued population growth and development, from 130,000 new watershed residents each year to the loss of 100 acres of forest every day. Many witnesses also spoke of the difficulty in controlling pollution from agricultural sources, but added that the $188 million in new funding from the 2008 Farm Bill should allow for progress toward meeting goals.
Because restoration of the Chesapeake Bay is such an enormous and complex task, participants in the hearing questioned if the Bay Program and its partners had the necessary authorities, resources and tools, including the ability to engage local governments in restoration work.
Wade Najjum, of the EPA Inspector General’s Office, said “Given its limited financial resources and regulatory authority, EPA’s greatest role will be in facilitating and motivating states and local governments and watershed groups to address the challenges and consider the sacrifices that will be required.”
Other witnesses also testified that actions by all levels of government are critical to restoring the Bay.
“While we at the EPA have a critically important role ... so much of the implementation will need to occur at the local level and the state level,” Grumbles said.
With knowledge of the watershed’s problems and solutions, the Chesapeake Bay Program and its partners have made implementation of restoration activities the top priority.
“There is frankly little more we need to know about the Bay to know what actions to take,” said Bill Matuszeski, former director of the Bay Program.
Also at the hearing, Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.) announced that he is introducing a bill that would set requirements for budget coordination and adaptive management for Bay restoration.
View video of the hearing.
Read the testimony of witnesses:
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.)
Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.)
Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water
Anu K. Mittal, Government Accountability Office
Wade Najjum, EPA Inspector General’s Office
Don F. Boesch, Ph.D, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
J. Charles Fox, Pew Foundation
Roy Hoagland, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
William Matuszeski, retired director, Chesapeake Bay Program
W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr., former Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources and state senator
Ann Swanson, Chesapeake Bay Commission
Yesterday morning, a group of college students from Hampton University’s Multicultural Students at Sea Together (MAST) program came to our office to learn about the Bay Program. We the Chesapeake Research Consortium (CRC) staffers are generally only a few years removed from our Bachelor’s degrees, making us perfect candidates to represent CBP for this particular group.
As the group approached the Fish Shack, I couldn’t help but think they looked very clean and well put-together to have been sailing the Chesapeake for close to two weeks!
Everything about this group varied: one was a graduate student and another will be starting college as a freshman this coming semester. Majors ranged from marine biology to women’s studies and political science. English is not the first language of several of the students, and they allowed me to use my Spanish with them as we continued discussing CBP during the break. The students in this program create a fun and enthusiastic group — once they started talking, you could tell that they would continue talking about the summer of 2008 for a lifetime.
I and the rest of the CRC staffers were able to share with the group many of the opportunities afforded us by working here through the CRC Career Development Program: projects we have played a role in, people we have met, and volunteer activities we’ve completed. In addition to information about the subcommittees we support, we shared things from our own college experiences such as internships, research projects, study abroad…even ID pictures and school spirit. It was definitely a different feeling standing in the Fish Shack as the “seasoned veteran” passing on words of wisdom.
The world’s a pretty big place. So when a group of water resource experts from different parts of the world come together, and all describe the same problems (though seen through different lenses of geography, culture, and language), that’s a notable thing.
That’s what happened at the 2008 World Water Expo in Zaragoza, Spain, where water resource experts from across the globe — including Australia, Israel, Jordan, Spain, South Africa, and the United States — participated in a scientific symposium as a kick-off to the Expo. All invited speakers there spoke of problems with growth, water supply, water quality, and climate disruption. The water resource conditions in the various countries were as varied as the languages spoken, but the underlying problems were the same. Jordan, for example, is arid with a developing economy, whereas Australia is arid with a post-industrial economy — yet both face the same challenges of growth, water supply, water quality, and climate disruption.
Where does the Bay Program fit into this picture? As an invited participant, the Bay Program described our approach of integrating models, monitoring, and research for restoration of the Chesapeake. Our presentation of the linked airshed, watershed, estuarine, and living resource models, along with the supporting and corroborating monitoring observations and research was well-received, and was seen as a world-class example of the information systems needed to support water resources under pressure from population growth, climate change, and past environmental degradation.
All of the invited speakers spoke to problems of growth and water quality. In the Chesapeake, we’ve been working a long time to restore water quality despite growth pressures in our watershed, so these are issues we’re familiar with. But just like in other parts of the world, the issues of providing an adequate water supply and climate disruption are also emerging issues for the Chesapeake. Last year, the city of Fredrick, Maryland, had to curtail construction permits due to concerns over the sufficiency of water supply. This may be a harbinger, because our Chesapeake water supply infrastructure is designed for average annual flows different from the decreased annual flows we may see with future climate change, as the Bay Program has described in presentations at the 2007 American Water Resources Society and the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation.
At the World Water Expo we saw that the challenges of growth, adequate water supply, water quality, and climate disruption were ubiquitous. The world’s a big place and a watery place. How ironic that we’re all in the same boat.
On Wednesday, December 5, the Chesapeake Executive Council (EC) met at Maryland's historic State House in Annapolis to create history of their own by committing to “champion” specific measures aimed at accelerating Bay cleanup.
The Executive Council, which establishes the policy direction for the restoration and protection of the Bay and its living resources, includes the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia; the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the mayor of the District of Columbia; and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. This year, representatives from Delaware and West Virginia, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were also in attendance.
The purpose of each state choosing “champion” issues is to focus on those particular issues that are vital to restore the streams, rivers and Bay waters in their individual jurisdictions. The outcomes of the various projects or programs are intended to be models that can be used in other towns, municipalities, counties, cities and states. As each “champion” makes progress, it will report back to the partnership. The partners will be encouraged to consider the individual models and modify them for their respective uses.
The areas of focus for each state were:
District of Columbia
One area of focus that all members of the EC committed to champion was forest conservation. At the meeting, the EC announced a collective goal of preserving 695,000 acres of forestland throughout the entire Bay watershed.
Two reports released in September detail the wide-ranging potential effects of biofuel production and global warming on the future of the Bay and its watershed.
America 's desire to reduce greenhouse gases and become energy independent has turned our attention toward biofuels, a category of alternative energy products made from crops, such as corn, and other organic sources. However, if increased corn production in the Bay watershed is not handled correctly, more nutrients could flow into our already over-enriched Bay and rivers.
Biofuels and the Bay discusses what needs to be done to develop a “best strategy” for biofuels in the Bay region, as well as:
Download Biofuels and the Bay from the Chesapeake Bay Commission website.
Over the past 25 years, billions of dollars have been invested in restoration activities across the Bay watershed. But global warming may make it harder for Bay restoration partners to reach their conservation goals. The National Wildlife Federation synthesizes the many ways that fish and wildlife in the Bay region will be affected by global warming, including loss of coastal habitat, altered migration patterns and more aquatic diseases.
The Chesapeake Bay and Global Warming offers solutions and recommendations to reduce the impact of global warming on the Bay's habitats and wildlife, including:
Download The Chesapeake Bay and Global Warming from the National Wildlife Foundation Web site.
It's no secret that agricultural runoff in the Bay watershed contributes a significant amount of nitrogen and phosphorous to Bay waters. Excessive amounts of these nutrients spur harmful algal blooms that deplete dissolved oxygen levels, block out sunlight needed for bay grasses and, in some cases, produce toxic chemicals that can cause fish kills.
Farmers have been using cover crops as one way to reduce the amount of nutrients that end up in the Bay. Cover crops, which are planted in the fall after the autumn harvest, usually consist of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley that continue to grow during the winter.
Once established, cover crops absorb excess nutrients in the soil and reduce erosion from rain, snow and wind. For every acre of farmland planted with cover crops, an estimated 6.2 pounds of nitrogen and nearly one-quarter of a pound of phosphorous is prevented from reaching our waterways, according to Bay scientists.
Enrollment in cover crop programs has risen steadily over the past several years, showing farmers' support of the initiative. Besides for the notable benefits to Bay health, cover crops also help farmers by retaining nutrients and increasing organic matter in the soil. They also help block out noxious weeds and can inhibit weed seeds from germinating.
State and federal Bay Program partners have recognized the importance of making cover crop programs available for farmers and are expanding existing programs and developing new ones to meet the increased demand. For example, Maryland has more than doubled its funding for cover crop programs to a record $8 million and 290,000 acres.
Runoff from farmland is one of many factors that contribute to high amounts of nutrients and low dissolved oxygen levels in the Bay. Increased use of cover crops each winter is one way to lessen the human environmental footprint on the Bay and support the restoration of a healthy, balanced Bay ecosystem.