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Bay Blog: Howard County

Mar
03
2017

Six groups working to grow and diversify the green sector

The “green sector” is the part of the economy that includes jobs aimed at reducing energy, protecting ecosystems, managing natural resources, increasing efficiency and much more. It’s a growing part of the economy that includes a wide range of jobs, but will always be in need of people with the support and training to fill those positions. As the Chesapeake Bay Program takes steps to increase the inclusion of diverse communities in our environmental efforts, here are a few of the groups working to support and build skills among those who are entering, or are already part of, the green workforce.

Reggie Parrish speaks during the Chesapeake Bay Program Diversity Workgroup Meeting at Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center in Baltimore, Md., on Nov. 2, 2016. In February, the Bay Program released the results of its first-ever diversity profile assessment.

Green 2.0

Green 2.0 is an effort to increase racial and ethnic diversity within the environmental field. The group’s 2014 report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations, found that the minority composition in environmental groups has not broken through the “green ceiling” of 12 to 16 percent, despite the country’s overall increase in diversity. Members of Green 2.0 aim to change that statistic within the field by advocating for transparency and accountability, which includes tracking progress toward increased diversity.

Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences

Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) is one of many organizations working to break the “green ceiling” identified by Green 2.0. The national organization—with chapters at nine colleges in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.—promotes academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in the environmental sciences. With both student and professional members, MANRRS serves as a forum for professional development, networking and mentorship for students as well as a source of prospective and qualified employees for professionals.

Chesapeake Bay Trust

The Chesapeake Bay Trust supports engagement in restoration activities its many grant programs. One of those, the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) grant program, helps support the green sector by funding projects that require those services. The grant funds projects that increase green spaces and incorporate practices that help control stormwater runoff.

The G3 grant focuses on green streets, because by doing so—as its name implies—it also supports green jobs and creating green towns. Addressing stormwater runoff issues enhances local water quality and increases a community’s livability. Building and maintaining these projects can help support the green jobs market, and enhance economic vitality.

Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

In January 2017, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay formally pledged to foster diversity and inclusion in its structure, policy, goals, and staff and leadership. This commitment formally stated what the organization has been working toward in many of its projects and programs.

One of those programs is the Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth (READY) Program, which the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay began in 2012 in partnership with local organizations in Howard County, Maryland. The program has the explicit goal of developing job skills in young adults, while also helping the county meet stormwater needs. However, READY particularly focus on engaging communities that are traditionally underserved when it comes to environmental activities.

Aimed at residents between the ages of 16 and 24, the program is designed to provide jobs for young adults with limited or no access to environmental jobs, allowing them to develop the skills necessary for a future in stormwater management. Over the course of a summer, participants learn to install rain gardens, assist in tree plantings and engage with the community around improving local water quality. They come out of the program with the experience, knowledge and skills to continue down the path toward a career in the environmental field.

Washington Parks and People

Like READY, Washington Parks and People’s Green Corps program has two goals: increase employment among the residents of Washington, D.C.’s underserved Seventh and Eighth Wards while also addressing the city’s urban forestry needs.

This eight-week program provides trainees—many of whom are ex-offenders—with entry-level training in fields such as urban forestry, stormwater management and green infrastructure. Along with learning job skills, trainees build self-confidence, gain experience working on a team and work to improve their community. Upon completion of the program, trainees receive a certificate as well as help with referrals and finding job opportunities.

Civic Works

Video credit: Civic Works, Baltimore Center for Green Careers

Civic Works is a Baltimore-based organization that aims to strengthen the city’s neighborhoods through education, skill development and service. They operate a number of programs with a particular focus on creating jobs, growing and promoting healthy food, reducing and conserving energy and creating a more livable city.

One program in particular, the Baltimore Center for Green Careers (BCGC), trains participants to enter emerging green industries including solar installation, weatherization and brownfield remediation. Participants complete classroom training, a practicum and, in most cases, paid on-the-job training. Through the program, trainees receive industry-recognized certifications.

Along with learning the skills and techniques necessary for these career paths, participants learn skills such as financial literacy and conflict management to help them make the most of their placement after the program. BCGC partners with almost a dozen companies that have committed to hire exclusively BCGC graduates and pay “family-sustaining” wages.

 

Are you looking for an environmental job or to fund a green project? Our weekly newsletter, Bay Brief, is full of current job openings and grants available around the Chesapeake region.

What other groups provide job training or support in the environmental field? Let us know in the comments!

Image by Will Parson; READY video by Steve Droter

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Nov
22
2016

In wake of flooding, Ellicott City works to recover and adapt

Angie and Michel Tersiguel pose for a portrait in the space of the basement that used to be the wine cellar. Their restaurant on Main St. was forced to close for repairs after the devastating July 30, 2016, flood that hit Ellicott City.

The sound of a phone echoes through three empty floors of a restaurant under construction. Michel Tersiguel’s steps crinkle plastic sheeting on the ground as he walks past stacked tables and empty shelves to the phone hanging on the wall of the entry hallway. His face lights up, “Our phones are working! That’s the first time I’ve heard it ring.” For the first time since floods on July 30, 2016, pummeled historic Ellicott City, Maryland and forced his business, Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant, to close for repairs nearly two months ago, he picks up the phone to say, “Bonjour, Tersiguel’s, may I help you?”

Ed Lilley looks down the under-construction Main Street in his hometown of historic Ellicott City. His family has roots to this community dating back to 1878 and almost all of his professional life has centered around Main St. "I didn't lose possessions or a business but you still feel a loss when you've been here that long," he said.

The Flood

At 7:18 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning as a thunderstorm lumbered east across Maryland. Runoff coursed through the many tributary streams of the Patapsco River that carve down steep slopes around historic downtown Ellicott City.

Walls of water swept down driveways, streets and parking lots in downtown Ellicott City; it filled basements and first stories of buildings and launched cars into shop windows. At some point the bank of a retention pond at the Burgess Mill Station residential development breached, sending the water it was containing careening downhill towards Main Street. Just over six inches of rain fell in only two hours and by 9:00 p.m. the Patapsco rose 13 feet, turning a normally serene river into a tree uprooting, bank-eroding, debris-carrying monster for miles.

Part of a stormwater retention pond was fenced off at the Burgess Mill Station development on September 11, 2016. The bank collapsed during the July 30 floods.

Heroic citizens rescued a woman from her car on Main Street as the water surged around them, but tragedy visited the historic downtown area as well. Jessica Watsula, mother to a 10 year-old, left Portalli’s Italian restaurant after a night out when she was caught in the wall of water that had taken over Main Street. She was swept away and killed by the surge. Joseph Blevins and his girlfriend, Heather Owens, were in her car when the water overwhelmed them. She managed to escape but he did not; his body was found about 8:30 a.m. the next morning on the banks of the Patapsco River.

The large-scale damage on Main Street that the flood left in its wake was immediately apparent: cars belonging to patrons of restaurants like Tersiguel’s piled in the Patapsco River, debris lines that reached past the first story of some buildings and large chunks of sidewalk and building foundations eroded away.

The bridge over the Patapsco River in Ellicott City, Maryland, remained closed September 9, 2016, after stormwater runoff and heavy rainfall made the river rise 13 feet in 100 minutes during the July 30 flood.

Unique Problems

Steep slopes surrounding the historic downtown area that saw the most severe damage, adding a unique and recognizable landscape but also creating challenges during big storms.

Ed Lilley grew up in Ellicott City and has worked on Main Street most of his career. He is a longtime community organizer, sits on the board for the Ellicott City Partnership’s Clean Green and Safe Committee, works at the B&O Museum and was out on Main Street at 6 a.m. the morning after the flood signing up volunteers and taking donations.

“The unfortunate thing for Ellicott City is we are the bottom of the bowl,” he said.

The historic nature of a city founded in 1772 means that some of the development—and therefore impervious surface like roads, sidewalks and buildings—was built before managing stormwater runoff was considered a necessity. Impervious surfaces mean less water can be absorbed into the ground, and as water collects and moves more rapidly runoff becomes more hazardous.

The Tiber-Hudson watershed, which includes Ellicott City, is about 21 percent covered by impervious surfaces. According to Cecilia Lane, stormwater coordinator for the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, “Any more than 10 percent impervious cover in the watershed and you will begin to see impacts.” 

About one-quarter of the Tiber-Hudson watershed is covered by impervious surfaces. (Map courtesy Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning)

“We know that the storm and rainfall was exceptional, and that perhaps the best of systems could not have contained all of the runoff,” said Mary Catherine Cochran, executive director of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway. “But we don’t have the best of systems in place.”

Older developments and private property often have no way to manage stormwater runoff, Cochran explained. And although new developments have some stormwater mitigation in place, it may not be enough. “Even the newest developments have systems in place to handle 100-year floods, but not 1,000-year floods,” said Cochran.

The probability for a storm to bring such a large amount of rain in any given year was 1 in 1000 making it what experts call a 1,000-year storm. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean an event like July 30 will only happen every thousand years—in fact growing evidence shows that potentially flood producing downpours are happening more often.

Downstream

Downstream from Ellicott City, staff at the Patapsco Valley State Park are focused on flood recovery.

Maintenance coordinator Dennis Cutcher has seen the river go through many changes since he first began playing and fishing in it as a child in the 1960s and 1970s. He’s noticed more frequent flooding as more people have moved in and built homes around the river and its tributaries.

Aerial photos show the increases in development in and around the Tiber Hudson Watershed since 1943. (Images courtesy Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning)

“I would say I’m close to it because of the simple fact that I grew up in that river,” Cutcher said. “I played in there since I was a little kid. It’s sort of a part of me if you want to look at it that way.”

          

Dennis Cutcher, maintenance coordinator and park ranger at Patapsco Valley State Park, looks out over the Patapsco River at Bloede Dam September 21, 2016. He grew up playing in the river and has seen it change dramatically as more people move to the area around the Patapsco and its tributaries.

Evidence of the July 30 flood remains apparent.

More than a month after the storm, evidence of a flood still lingered: stray recycling bins, car tires embedded in newly-formed sediment islands, log jams piled high with uprooted trees that once stood 30 to 40 feet tall. Their intricate root systems seemed to grasp wildly in the wrong direction.

A large uprooted tree lays on the banks of the Patapsco about 40 yards from the water on September 21, 2016. It serves as an indicator for how strong and high the July 30 floodwaters got along this stretch downstream from Ellicott City.

“When we get those heavy rains like we had, the river changes from one side to another,” Cutcher said. Sediment gets moved around shifting the flow of the river, vegetation gets washed away thereby destabilizing the banks and new beaches and islands form, which disrupts fish and other wildlife.

A great blue heron walks past a car tire embedded in sediment washed down by the July 30 flood in Patapsco Valley State Park along the Patapsco River on September 21, 2016.

With the slightly above average rainfall that occurred in September, some of the logjams along the Patapsco have broken up, and the debris, including plastics and other trash, is headed downstream towards the Chesapeake Bay.

“As far as how debris affects the Bay, we know that the most persistent debris that will linger is plastic, since it doesn't fully break up,” said Julie Lawson, founder and director of Trash Free Maryland. “It may cause visual blight, but it also can absorb chemicals from the water and be ingested by aquatic life, both obviously negative environmental effects.”

Less visible but still concerning: a sewage overflow released more than 17 million gallons of untreated wastewater over about three days at Sucker Branch, a tributary to the Patapsco.

The July 30 flood swept the clock in downtown Ellicott City into the Patapsco River and it was thought lost until Bobby Barker, a kayaker, found it. It has proven to be a symbol of hope and recovery for the community.

Adaptation is Key

With Ellicott City’s placement directly over a stream and very near a river, floods have been occurring for a long time. The scientific consensus is that they will continue—and, as climate change continues its trajectory, occur with greater frequency.

Future climate projections look at two scenarios: one in which emissions like carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere are significantly lowered, and one that assumes a continued increase in emissions. In the scenario where emissions are reduced, extreme daily precipitation events would occur twice as often from 2081 to 2100 as compared to 1981 to 2000. But if emissions continue to increase, those events would occur up to five times as often.

Local groups and government organizations have been and are working to mitigate the impact of severe flooding. Tom Schueler, founder of the Chesapeake Stormwater Network based in Ellicott City, says adaptation to more frequent flood producing storms and a careful examination of the science behind the flood should be the focus moving forward. Also the county has put in place Clean Water Howard that incentivizes commercial and private property owners to treat or remove impervious surfaces on their land by providing reimbursements for stormwater projects and a reduction in their watershed protection fee.

Without preemptive efforts by Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth or READY, the flood may have been even worse. They employ young people throughout Howard County who work in Ellicott City to maintain stream channels from Route 29 down to the Patapsco River.

The sense of community responsibility and the instinct to rebuild no matter what is apparent in Ellicott City. As of October 20, 2016, forty-four businesses have reopened, including Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant, and another twenty-three have preliminary time frames for when they plan to reopen according to Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s Facebook page.

“No one fights as hard as these business people, and no one enjoys the town as much as those that live here. We have come back from floods, from fire and more floods,” Angie Tersiguel said as she and her husband Michel get their restaurant back up and running again. “We are still here. Striving and working to be the best we can be.” 

Photos and text by Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson

To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program's Flickr page



Dec
07
2011

Watershed Wednesday: Howard County Conservancy (Maryland)

Owl handler, goat walker, Monarch butterfly tagger…these are just a few of the roles volunteers take on with the Howard County Conservancy. The conservancy is headquartered in a 300-year-old farm house on a 232-acre property near Woodstock, Maryland, making it an ideal location for Howard County residents to escape from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives.

HCC volunteers

Image courtesy Chesapeake Bay Trust

The Howard County Conservancy’s mission is two-fold. Like most conservancies, it is dedicated to preserving natural areas. But the Howard County Conservancy is also committed to educating and engaging the public. The property’s historic buildings, four miles of trails and 140 species of birds make it a must-see for any Marylander. Who knows – you may enjoy it so much that you decide to become a volunteer!

For more information about the Howard County Conservancy, visit the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s blog to read how one man became an “accidental” conservancy volunteer.

Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



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