One of the most concerning sources of water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is stormwater runoff. This is especially true in the Loch Raven watershed, where development has increased since the 1960s without requirement for stormwater management practices. This has resulted in stormwater runoff carrying dangerous amounts of pollution into the Loch Raven Reservoir, which supplies valuable drinking water to the community

To tackle this problem in Baltimore County, the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy’s (GVC) Clear Creeks Project works to control stormwater runoff by utilizing improved green infrastructure.

The Clear Creeks Project is a resident-based initiative aimed at restoring the water quality in the Middle River, Tidal Gunpowder, Bird River and Lower Gunpowder Falls watersheds of Maryland. Since 2013, the project has installed rain barrels, rain gardens and valuable conservation landscaping throughout Baltimore County.

However, GVC believes the solution to stormwater runoff lies not only in projects, but in community engagement.

“The Clear Creeks program has an educational focus as well as a stormwater management focus,” said Darcy Herman, assistant manager of the Clear Creeks Project. “The project will continue expanding on green infrastructure, but it will also motivate and educate the community on how to take restorative action themselves.”

In 2017, with a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), GVC began developing social marketing strategies to engage and educate residents, institutions, community organizations and other non-profit organizations to take restoration actions as a part of the Clear Creeks Project.

As part of the project, students at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Essex, Md. helped reduce stormwater runoff by planting a rain garden on their campus. The garden not only provided the campus with valuable green infrastructure, but engaged students and helped motivate the community to take similar restorative actions.

A rain garden captures stormwater at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Essex, Md., on Oct. 10, 2019. The school received a NFWF grant in 2017, which supported the construction of rain gardens and the planting of native trees, shrubs and perennials on its campus. (Photos by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

This year, a $200,000 grant from NFWF will allow GVC to expand its efforts even further.

“In 2019, our goal is to expand the Clear Creeks program into the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed,” said Lou Etgen, Executive Director of GVC. “The reservoir is an important drinking water supply for the area. We want to target residents, businesses and community associations in the area to help with the restoration.”

GVC will mobilize community members in the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed through organized tree plantings, watershed-wide workshops and stream cleanup events.

The Clear Creeks Project grant was one of 47 grants awarded on October 10 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and School in Essex. The grants, which totaled $12.7 million, were awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, a partnership between NFWF and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency that helps protect and restore the watershed’s natural resources, and reduce the amount of nutrient and sediment pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.

Check out a complete list of Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund grant awardees here.

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