The Chesapeake at the Midpoint

The Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort has become an example for other watersheds in the country, due to the collective efforts of the regional partnership. For the past two decades, federal, state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions and citizens have come together to secure a bright future for the health of the Bay and the millions of people and wildlife that depend on it.

Midpoint Assessment

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL calls for a Midpoint Assessment, where the jurisdictions will review their progress towards meeting nutrient and sediment pollution load reductions. As one can imagine, each state possess its own set of hurdles. Some jurisdictions have challenges related to stabilizing funding needs for projects like agricultural best management practices and innovative stormwater retrofits, which have proven to be some of the best solutions to address excess loads. Investing in these practices have been very beneficial to jurisdictions in the watershed, but can be tough to implement by state legislatures.

As our population continues to grow there is also a need to account for growth and climate change impacts. To make matters worse, pollution loads from nonpoint sources continue to be a growing issue in the watershed that has been difficult to manage. Lastly, there is a need to address the sediment and nutrient pollution coming over the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River, which provides the Chesapeake with 70 percent of its freshwater. These demands must be met in order to achieve our water quality goals.

As part of the TMDL, the states and the District are required to develop Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) – roadmaps for addressing their share of pollution reductions. In theory, the WIPs are supposed to be binding plans, although in practical terms, they are only as binding as EPA is willing to insist that the states live up to their commitments. Each WIP is developed in partnership with 

input from stakeholders, scientists, nonprofits, and local governments, and each jurisdiction is required to develop WIPs at three distinct phases before the 2025 deadline. Understanding where challenges lie within each of the respective jurisdictions will allow the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership to streamline implementation. Once released, the Midpoint Assessment can be used to better assess constraints that currently present themselves in the cleanup plan. Until then, let’s take a look at how each of the Bay states have characterized and evaluated prior WIPs, remaining challenges for meeting pollution targets, and how the public can engage in the next Phase of the WIP development. 

New York

 Photo Courtesy of Otsego Land Trust

Photo Courtesy of Otsego Land Trust

The WIP development in New York has been a collaborative effort between New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Upper Susquehanna Coalition and Cornell University. Implementation took place at the county level by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts who share more than 5,000 conservation projects. Pollution reduction from the agriculture, wastewater, and stormwater sectors have been a main focus in the previous phases of the WIP.

During the Phase II WIP, New York failed to fully implement its nitrogen and sediment reduction goals. While New York has comprehensive programs, particularly for agriculture, tracking best management practices (BMPs) and sharing that information across projects has been difficult.  Fortunately, some improvements were made to curb phosphorus leaching through wastewater and fertilizers. Through the legislature, several laws were passed to limit these pollutants in commercial use. Reinvestments in wastewater, sewer, and septic upgrades were also made to clean water infrastructure. For the Phase III WIP, advocates in New York would like to address the future impact of climate change and improve data tracking. The Upper Susquehanna Coalition is currently developing the National Environmental Information Exchange Network (NEIN) for future data reporting on the Chesapeake Bay Program. The data will be used for WIP III planning and specific data needs. 

Pennsylvania

Prior to the Phase III WIP development, Pennsylvania’s Phase II WIP had little teeth to enforce county targets leading to the state falling short of meeting its goals. Future improvements such as a county level scale and enforceable local TMDL efforts could prove beneficial for the Phase III WIP development. Pennsylvania faces a number of challenges to meeting its commitment to achieving pollution reduction. Insufficient funding resources continue to put a strain on common sense practices that benefit clean water in Pennsylvania. The state lacks a dedicated funding source to implement best management practices and clean water programs. Establishing a dedicated clean water fund, such as the proposed HB20 would be crucial. Along with this, state resource agencies have not received adequate funding over the last several years. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been slashed by roughly 40% over the past 14 years, which has increased wait times on permits and decreased and their ability to provide oversight. There is a dire need to revamp the agriculture cost share program and nutrient credit trading programs.

In addition to addressing these shortfalls, advocates are pushing for a comprehensive plan outlining public engagement to garner buy-in from the community and stakeholders for the Phase III WIP in four pilot counties (Lancaster, York, Adams, and Franklin County). Through this process, the state is hoping to better engage individuals from a variety of backgrounds to develop BMP's to help meet the TMDL. The DEP and the state are doing this from a local level, they want to make sure they allow the counties and their local governments are able to set forth goals that are quantifiably reachable for their region.  The state has developed a steering committee dedicated to restoring its rivers and streams via the WIP process, and the public is encouraged to engage in steering committee meetings to provide input on the WIP, which focuses on local government engagement. For any of that to succeed, however, it is imperative that EPA exerts its authority to implement backstops for pollution reduction goals at the state level, so that goals will be met even if the state’s efforts falter.

West Virginia

The implementation process of WIP II implementation in the state has been steered by the West Virginia Chesapeake Bay Tributaries Strategies Team, a partnership of agencies and non profits working with local governments, utilities, land owners, and the public. Coordinated by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with support from the from the Conservation Agency, Division of Forestry, Division of Agriculture, and the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning 

Development Council (Region 9). This effort has been primarily focused on finding connections among the goals and mandates of local governments with the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership. Pollutions reductions from the agriculture and stormwater sectors remain a particular focus in West Virginia. 

 Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation 

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation 

The Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council (Region 9) staffs the Region 9 Chesapeake Bay Program Coordinator, to work with local governments and utilities to develop projects across multiple sectors to include agriculture and stormwater, This role key is to identify critical matching funds for projects to meet the goals of the TMDL. Two projects in the City of Charles Town and the Town of Bath exemplify how the local governments leveraged existing funds for projects that reduce wastewater discharge and provide solutions to stormwater management through green infrastructure practices. While these projects have helped to mitigate pollution entering the watershed success lies in helping local government solve their identified problems by tapping into the Chesapeake Bay Program effort.

Inadequate funding for conservation practices continues to be an impediment in West Virginia.  For the Phase III WIP development, advocates in West Virginia aspire to see more capacity for local governments to enhance on the ground project coordination.  Planning for green infrastructure and innovative land conservation planning have funding needs, but would be ideal to consider in the development of WIP III. Additionally, there is a need for more robust public awareness throughout the state. Much of the focus on the WIP has been technical without a clear vision as to why these practices benefit local waterways which benefit public health and prosperity for the state.  

 

Delaware

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is leading the effort for WIP implementation in Delaware. The department has convened the Chesapeake Bay Interagency Workgroup made up of representatives from each DNREC Division, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Office of State Planning Coordination, County Conservation Districts, and other stakeholders. The Workgroups will focus on two selected sectors: agriculture and developed. They are responsible for recommending and reviewing sub-allocating methodologies 

to the various nonpoint sources within the basins, assessing current data tracking and reporting systems, determining maximum implementation goals and methods to fill program funding gaps.

Moving forward, targeted local partners and contractors will need to be involved with public forums and discussions as needed. During the next Phase of the WIP, targeted local partners and contactors will need to be involved with public forms and discussions as needed. DNREC has expressed a need for additional resources from the EPA to achieve expectations for milestones. Delaware is on track for Phase III WIP planning targets for phosphorus, but needs work on their targets for nitrogen. Accounting for future stressors, such as population growth and climate change, must be analyzed to ensure nutrients loads are met. During the development of the Phase III WIP, Delaware needs to ensure strong state best management practice verification plans and local government engagement in the WIP development to create clear numeric goals for localities.

Maryland

The state of Maryland has been actively engaged during the WIP development process. Every county in Maryland submitted a Phase II WIP focusing on nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reductions with a focus on agriculture, forests, atmospheric deposition, septic, stormwater, and wastewater sectors. Past WIP processes have provided invaluable information about local conditions and capacity to reduce pollution. The plans submitted by the counties have identified specific opportunities to increase the rate of progress towards cleanup goals.

 Photo courtsy of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

Photo courtsy of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

Advocates in Maryland would like to see a gap analysis from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) on where in fact the state stands on meeting its goals for 2025. In order to meet Bay TMDL goals, MDE and local jurisdictions need to accelerate the pace of projects, as well as provide proper verification of well-maintained best management practices. In order to truly reach and maintain our 2025 goals, Maryland needs to improve enforcement, adaptive management, and funding for execution long term improvements to water quality. In an effort to increase awareness and engage the public during the next Phase of the WIP, the state has been hosting a series of regional workshops. These meetings are intended to inform participants about the Phase III WIP process, provide opportunities for questions and feedback, and promote interaction between local partners 

and state agencies. Presentations will be made by staff of Maryland Departments of Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources, and Planning on topics such as the Conowingo Dam, wastewater, agriculture, funding, and more.

During the Phase III WIP development, advocates would like to see MDE request that counties undertake a program assessment that builds on their local Phase II WIP as the first step in local Phase III WIP planning. Planning should include county planning targets to close the gap. Additional tools and technical assistance could also provide more guidance and assistance to counties during the development of the Phase III WIP. In addition, there is a need to fill vacancies within the MDE and other agencies involved in pollution reduction efforts. Funding constraints continue to be a barrier within the state and at the county level to achieve water quality goals.  

Virginia

Localities in Virginia have lacked direction on how to best implement the WIPs and have expressed concerns to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). A recent statewide election cycle positioned Ann Jennings, an established advocate for the Chesapeake and the former Chesapeake Bay Commission Virginia Director, as the Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources for DEQ. Nonprofits in Virginia remain optimistic that the future of WIP development in the state will be successful with the new state leadership. Stakeholder groups have now convened under the new administration to prepare for local area planning goals.  

 Photo courtesy of the James River Association

Photo courtesy of the James River Association

This summer the Local Government Advisory Committee to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council is hosting a series of roundtables to hear from local elected officials. Each roundtable will include a facilitated discussion about the challenges, successes, and opportunities communities across the Commonwealth face in protecting and restoring waterways. The information provided will be shared with Virginia’s leaders in order to foster a better understanding of the connection between local issues and priorities and the state’s commitments to protecting downstream waters.

During the development of the Phase III WIP, Virginians are looking for more incentives and support from the state to guide and bolster implementation. A big goal for Phase III is to create local strategies rather than focusing on statewide goals. The conservation community will be making a push to enforce non-regulatory goals that will ultimately be effective in guiding efforts to achieve 

water quality standards. Local area efforts could ultimately be seen as a tool to improve accountability and help guide financial investment for cost-share programs. Overall, connecting the WIP to local water is critically important.   

Washington, DC

Unlike the other Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions, the District has limited space for farmland and green space. Much of the District is comprised of imperious surfaces from parking lots, large buildings, and sidewalks. Due to this, stormwater runoff continues to be the largest contributor to poor water quality entering DC’s combined sewer system. Luckily, stormwater runoff is being mitigated through a variety of efforts to include new municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permits, multi-sector general permits, federal facility stormwater compliance, wastewater treatments plant upgrades, and the stormwater reduction credit trading program. The District also has several outreach programs for residents designed to reduce stormwater contamination such as Canopy 3,000. This program was designed to expand the number of trees planted on private property and public spaces with a goal to cover 40% of the District with tree canopy by 2032. Each year, the District and its partners have continued to exceed annual planting goals of Canopy 3,000.

The nation’s capital has stringent MS4 permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which contains requirements for conversion of impervious surfaces to pervious surfaces through green infrastructure. This program is critical since federal facilities make up a large portion of impervious surface in the area. Federal facility compliance with stormwater requirements is a huge challenge in DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) and their combined efforts with be essential to enable DC to meet its pollution goals by 2025. The lack of DC authority to compel the development of effective stormwater control plans by the agencies or enforce them presents and important opportunity to help hold those agencies accountable. Keeping tracking of contaminated stormwater runoff from new commercial facilities and dwelling units will be a focus of the upcoming WIP developments.

Looking forward: Phase III WIP

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL Midpoint Assessment is expected to be released at any moment, and will be a reflection of how far the Bay community has come to meet our clean up requirements. Continued support from local elected officials, members of Congress, businesses, nonprofits and local communities is vital to achieving cleanup goals and to restoring the watershed to health. The region’s economy and its people depend on these efforts to clean up the thousands of rivers and streams.

 

Mariah Davis is the Field Manager at Choose Clean Water.

Member Highlight: Cacapon Institute

We had the opportunity to speak to Frank Rodger of Cacapon Institute to learn what makes this organization so wonderful. Not only were they awarded the Arbor Day Foundation’s Headwaters Award, but their continued work in educating the community and youth has made a big difference in their local West Virginia communities.

Tell us about Cacapon Institute, what makes you all unique, and your mission.

Since 1985, from the Cacapon River, to the Potomac, to the Chesapeake Bay, Cacapon Institute has protected rivers and watersheds using science and education.  The Institute is unique because we focus on hands-on education that engages youth and adults in real-world watershed conservation Best Management Practices (BMPs).  BMPs include tree plantings, and installing rain gardens and rain cistern. BMPs reduce non-point source stormwater runoff pollution at the source, before it can reach local streams.  We are a certified West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection laboratory. We do water testing regularly and, like many groups, we teach the importance of watershed protection.  What makes us unique is that, in addition to the instruction, we provide technical and material support so students, watershed associations, and civic organizations can engage directly in watershed protection and restoration.

Cacapon Institute has three hands-on BMP programs.  PHLOW, Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watershed, began in 2008 teaching “Watershed 101” to students and engaging them in BMP projects at their schools.  Thousands of students have learned the causes of stormwater runoff pollution, solutions to pollutions, and been personally engaged in mitigating runoff pollution.  Students are learning by doing and leading by example to protect rivers and watershed suing science and education.

Cacapon Institute inherited Carla Hardy West Virginia Project CommuniTree in 2011 and we have grown “CTree” into West Virginia’s largest volunteer tree steward program for planting on public lands. We have provided technical and material resources, including more than five-thousand no-cost trees to our volunteers across the eight counties of West Virginia’s Potomac Basin. The Institute is the “urban forestry” lead for the West Virginia Chesapeake Bay Program. Urban forests are the trees we live with, the trees that grace our towns, parks, schools, neighborhoods, and roadsides.

Cacapon Institute’s newest program “Your Community BMP” is engaging private landowners in tree planting and BMPs. The Institute provides planning assistance, education, and material assistance to private homeowners and businesses to help them reduce their “footprint” and better manage their property to have a positive impact to protect local streams, the Potomac, and the Chesapeake Bay. Private landowners in turn contribute financially and invest their time and energy to make their properties more Bay friendly.

Cacapon Institute’s unique blend of arboriculture, conservation BMPs, education, and science combines to engage youth and adults across all walks of life and backgrounds from the Shenandoah Valley, through West Virginia, and into Western Maryland.  We believe that, with education and the requisite technical and material support, private citizens can have the greatest positive impact to protect and restore local waters, the Potomac, and Chesapeake Bay.

What does receiving the Headwaters Award mean to you all?

 Photo courtesy of Cacapon Institute

Photo courtesy of Cacapon Institute

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Headwaters Award is the greatest honor ever bestowed on Cacapon Institute.  In 2008, Cacapon Institute won first place in the North American Adobe/Tech Soup “Show You Impact” design contest for “Environmental Impact.”  In recent years, the Institute has received the Chesapeake Bay Program’s “Forest Champion” and The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture’s “Green Leaf.”  West Virginia DEP recognized Cacapon Institute as a “State Champion for Partnership Building.”

In all our years, the most heartfelt recognition Cacapon Institute has received came from Finley’s Green Leap Forward. Elizabeth Finley Broaddus, an 18 year-old student at Highland School with plans to attend the College of William and Mary received the terrible news that she had a rare form of terminal cancer, Cholangiocarcinoma.  As she battled the incurable disease, Miss Broaddus set up Finley’s Green Leap Forward to “support local and global efforts that have a positive impact on the environment, moving us forward towards a healthy, sustainable planet.”  Shortly before passing, for Earth Day 2014, Miss Broaddus selected her first two “Green Leap” grantees, Cacapon Institute in West Virginia and The Green Belt Movement in Nairobi, Kenya.  Every day, we draw strength and inspiration from this heartwarming recognition from a powerful young lady.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future (500 words or less)?

 Photo courtesy of Cacapon Institute 

Photo courtesy of Cacapon Institute 

We will continue to protect rivers and watershed using science and education.  We will to expand Carla Hardy West Virginia Project CommuniTree to reach ever more communities and organizations.  Your Community BMP will engage more individuals and strengthen community organizations interested in environmental protection.  Hands-on engagement is the best way to teach the science of watershed protection and educate the public on the importance of personal action to protect the environment.

PHLOW has been teaching school students, at the classroom level, since 2008.  Going forward we want to see Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences become systemic in West Virginia’s Potomac Basin.  As we continue to work with individual teachers and classrooms, we will reach further to engage entire schools and, eventually, we will engage county school boards to make environmental education part of regular curriculum.  Moving environmental education into the mainstream of county programing will ensure all our youth are engaged and learn the value of river and watershed protection.

For more information on Cacapon Institute, contact Frank Rodger.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern at Choose Clean Water

 

 

Training with the Congressional Black Caucus

Mariah%20Davis%20headshot_preview.jpeg.jpg

Formed in 1971, the the Congressional Black Caucus Institute (CBIC) has been an influential voice for people of color in the American government. Using their leverage in politics, these inspiring people have worked to fix economic, social, and political disparities faced by their communities. Specifically, CBCI’s work includes, but is not limited to, reforming the criminal justice system, pushing back against voter suppression, making top of the line education available for everyone, and eliminating racial health disparities. Our own Mariah Davis, field manager for the Choose Clean Water, has been accepted to the CBCI Political Leadership Training – a program that creates strong and experienced future leaders. We sat down with Mariah to ask a few questions on her application to this program.

Why did you apply to join the Congressional Black Caucus program? What drew you in?

I decided to apply for a political leadership program, or at least was drawn to one, once I started to dive into my environmental career. I saw an alignment between the conservation movement and politics that I really wanted to explore. I was searching for a program that would not only help me build my skill set, but one that would challenge me and fit into my current campaign work. I was drawn to this program specifically because it works for my schedule and I personally align with the mission of the CBCI as a whole. I did a lot of research prior to applying and explored programs in the greater D.C. metro area before settling in on this one. Throughout my work in the environmental sector, I’ve developed a really great relationship with members of Congress who are also a part of the Congressional Black Caucus. I have worked with Congressman A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) and his staff on multiple outreach efforts over the last few years. Knowing that I already had great relationships with members of Congress involved in the CBCI, I felt encouraged to apply.

What do you hope to gain as an individual from this? What do you think you can offer them?

Mariah.JPG

I’m really interested in getting to know my peers from around the country who also have experience in campaign work. I think all of their perspectives will be unique, so I’m excited to learn about their backgrounds and skill sets in their respective careers. I’m hoping there will be a great mix of people I can network and build relationships with. This training is meant for those who either want to run for office or for individuals who are interested in supporting campaign work. Over the course of a week, we will develop winning strategies to execute successful campaign plans and fundraising tactics needed to win. Through this simulation, I hope to build upon my existing knowledge to help build out existing campaigns within the Coalition that brings clean water back to the region. In exchange, I can offer a tactful and strategic mindset, combined with a background on environmental justice issues.

 You mentioned the socioeconomic imbalance in neighborhoods of color, why do you think this injustice exists? How can it be improved or solved?

The reality is that racial discrimination has been embedded within our current policies and the way in which the American government is run. Overall, is it very challenging to address the many layers of how we ended up this way. Luckily, there has been an increase in the number of people of color that want to have a seat at the table and become decision makers - this is key to undoing the harmful policies that currently exist. Continuing to empower people around you to vote and to participate in the electoral process is crucial, as well as investments in programs that enable high performing students from undeserved communities to apply for higher education opportunities. From a more political lens, it is important that we support leaders who prioritize their constituents over corporations looking to influence decision making.

Congratulations on your acceptance, Mariah!

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with Choose Clean Water.

Looking Back at Lancaster

Chante Speaking.jpeg

Planning for the 9th Annual Choose Clean Water Conference began in July of 2017 with the selection of our host city. We knew it was time to return to Pennsylvania, but the question was, should we go somewhere new or return to a previous host city? It was pretty clear, after looking at several potential locations, that the only place that would fit our growing conference was Lancaster.

The last time the conference was in Lancaster, we were only in our third year, and the landscape of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort looked much different. With the pending results of the midpoint assessment coming,  Lancaster offered us the ability to talk about many of the issues we face regarding the clean up, especially when it comes to agriculture and stormwater runoff. After two days of sessions, workshops, speakers, and networking, it seems as if we all walked away with new ideas, connections, projects, and motivation, and, as shocking as it may seem, we are already starting to plan for next year's conference in Baltimore!

If you are looking for information from the conference, you have come to the right place! Below is a list of materials and links that you may find useful:

Conference Survey
Attendee List
Photos from Conference
Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck's Opening Speech
Nicole Lee's Keynote Address
Pipeline Video
Presentations

I wanted to thank everyone who helped put this conference together - our 12 person planning committee, the staff at NWF, the Coalition's steering committee, our incredible sponsors, and Chante Coleman and Mariah Davis, who went above and beyond in planning sessions and finding incredible speakers.

See you in Baltimore in 2019!

 

Pipeline to the CCW Conference

At this year’s Choose Clean Water Conference, we are putting on a special workshop to highlight the work of our members in addressing proposed natural gas pipelines in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. While pipelines may seem unstoppable, the workshop speakers will talk about how to get involved in the pipeline fight, activate your community, and use specific strategies and tactics in your campaign. Our six activists will discuss different approaches taken during the fight against multiple pipelines – analyzing what works and what doesn’t, so that you can walk away ready to make a real impact.

Our speakers have plenty of experience battling pipelines, and will provide all of us with a better understanding of the potential pipeline consequences. They are:

 Brent Walls

Brent Walls

Brent Walls, representing Upper Potomac Riverkeeper. Brent is responsible for defending the public trust of the rivers and streams in the Upper Potomac, and is an invaluable part of pipeline defense, thanks to his expertise in environmental science and GIS. His work has been made it possible for Potomac Riverkeeper to develop water trail maps of the upper Potomac.

 Kate Wofford

Kate Wofford

Kate Wofford is coming from Shenandoah Valley Network, a group that maintains healthy rural communities while protecting and restoring natural resources in the Shenandoah region. Kate has been a water resource defender for more than 15 years, bringing to our conference experience from multiple states and issues – including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Eve Miari is speaking for the Clean Air Council, inspired to fight against the Mariner East Pipeline project because, as a mother, she understood the risks posed by building a pipeline near an elementary school. Eve’s work focuses in on building relationships and helping people to understand how pipelines impact the lives of those around them.

 Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck

Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck

We are excited to have Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck from Lancaster Against Pipelines coming to speak at our session as well. Malinda’s most recent pipeline fight is against the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline in Western Pennsylvania, a battle that has been continuous for more than three years now. Her passion for grassroots activism and engaging new communities is invaluable for us as clean water activists. She is joined by another, equally passionate Lancaster Against Pipeline’s staff member, Josh Yoder.

April Pierson-Keating comes to us from Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, a group pushing back against the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia. April writes passionate and informative blogs to educate the public on the current status of these pipelines, as well as fighting for the female voice in environmental issues.

If you have not signed up for our conference, we suggest you do so as soon as possible! It would be a shame to miss out on the wonderful nuggets of knowledge provided by each of these speakers. Along with this pipeline session, our conference also includes sessions on healthy soils, engaging the faith community, equity – there is something for every kind of environmental activist!  We look forward to seeing you in Lancaster, Pennsylvania from May 22 -23.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with Choose Clean Water

Stormwater Tour of Carroll County

 Photo courtesy of Rick Scaffidi

Photo courtesy of Rick Scaffidi

This past Friday, more than 20 Coalition members visited Carroll County, Maryland, to check out their innovative stormwater projects. The tour was led by Tom Devilbiss, director and hydrogeologist for Carroll County, who gave us a brief run through on the county’s progress. This included learning about the Agricultural Land Preservation Program, where 70,000 acres of land are permanently preserved – with an eventual goal of 100,000. The county brings in $200,000 a year in agriculture, and has seen a dramatic decrease in urban sprawl.

 Photo courtesy of Rick Scaffidi

Photo courtesy of Rick Scaffidi

In 2008, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) went up for renewal leading to the hiring of more employees to increase the work being done, as well as an increase in budgeting in capital and operating from a little more than $1.6 million to just over $7.3 million. Since this review, the county has been at work retrofitting existing stormwater facilities to address new requirements. The idea is to capture, treat, and release stormwater runoff. “You can get a lot done on a few dollars” Devilbiss noted, highlighting the thriftiness of his county.

 Photo courtesy of Rick Scaffidi

Photo courtesy of Rick Scaffidi

On the tour, we learned about the water filtration systems, water monitoring systems, and geodatabase implemented in Carroll County – all part of working towards being a greener part of Maryland. They boast six retrofit locations that are routinely sampled and checked up on. The county also tries to gain ownership of all residential stormwater ponds to ensure they will receive the best possible monitoring and care. Their geodatabase keeps track of monitoring data, and in 2016 a position was created to allow for one person to focus solely on this database. They also boast a citizen reporting hotline and staff reporting hotline, encouraging community members to care about their rain water.

After the in-office rundown, we packed into vans and went out to explore the local projects in person. The sites we visited were all beautiful examples of stormwater management, including a farm museum with a bioretention cell, a stormwater drainage area at Westminster High School, and the Westminster Community pond, where the grasses around grew a healthy bright green.

 Photo courtesy of Rick Scaffidi

Photo courtesy of Rick Scaffidi

Like all of us, Carroll County still has work to do for its future generations – but the tour showed that they are working hard to reduce stormwater pollution with a modest budget and passionate people.

 

 

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with Choose Clean Water

What the Failure to Account for Growth Looks Like in Maryland

By Evan Isaacson, courtesy of Center for Progressive Reform

This post is part of an ongoing series on the midpoint assessment and long-term goals of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort.

In a recent post, I described the broad failure of Chesapeake Bay states to follow EPA's basic expectations to account for pollution growth under the restoration framework known as the Bay TMDL. This failure is one important contributor to the current state of the Bay restoration, which is years behind schedule. If states don't hold the line on new pollution by offsetting or otherwise accounting for growth, their jobs only become that much more difficult, and the final restoration of the Bay gets that much further out of reach. In this post and the next, I focus more closely on one state – Maryland – to examine how it responded to EPA's expectation to account for growth and demonstrate what a year of unchecked growth means for water quality in the state. 

Maryland's Historic Smart Growth Vision 

Maryland has earned its reputation as a pioneer in smart growth policy through the passage of a series of land use laws over the past several decades. The first of these laws, which served as the foundation for Maryland's smart growth vision, established a statewide map of "Priority Funding Areas" into which the state would steer funding and investment to avoid subsidizing development on increasingly scarce agricultural and natural areas. 

But after several decades, experts question whether Maryland's smart growth vision has successfully materialized. It is a difficult question to answer because it is impossible to know what would have happened in the absence of all of Maryland's smart growth laws, regulations, and policies. How much more sprawl would have occurred in this rapidly growing region? How many more acres of forests, wetlands, forested riparian buffers, and wildlife habitat would have been cleared for development? 

What we do know is that Maryland was losing its natural landscape at an astonishing rate in the mid-twentieth century. In the 1960s through the late 1970s, the state lost forested land at a rate of hundreds of thousands of acres per decade, according to federal estimates. This rate of forest loss tapered off through the 1980s and even reversed for almost a decade between the late 1980s and late 1990s. But by the turn of the century – ironically, just after the passage of the state's primary smart growth laws – the rate of forest loss began to surge again, hinting at a problem with the effectiveness or implementation of the laws. 

According to U.S. Forest Service estimates, between the late 1990s until the housing bubble burst, Maryland lost more than 10,000 acres of forest per year. That is the equivalent of an area the size of Baltimore City about every five years. And this level of habitat destruction is not expected to end any time soon. In fact, projections made by Maryland's Department of Planning, by the state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership, and by academic researchers all show a significant amount of forest conversion over the next several decades based on several independent analyses of demographic, economic, real estate, and other trends. 

Every year, the Maryland Department of Planning releases an annual report with an update on smart growth trends. The most recent report, which includes data for 2015, once again showed "mixed results," with some counties doing an excellent job steering new residential parcels into smart growth areas while other counties showed little or no ability to confine development into the areas they set aside for growth. The department concedes that, despite an uptick in the percentage of new residential development within smart growth areas since the housing bubble burst, the "long-term trend shows a decline." 

To read more, click here

Agriculture and Culture in Lancaster

Did you know, Lancaster, Pennsylvania is home to more than 5,000 farms – bringing in about $1.5 billion annually? The area boasts naturally rich soils and the perfect climate for productive dairy farming. The average dairy farm in Lancaster holds 65 cows and uses one billion gallons of water each year. That is a lot of water, and considering there are 1,700 dairy farms in Lancaster it is important that Pennsylvania finds a way to balance its farming tradition with modern ecological practices. The nutrient and sediment pollution from agriculture can upset watersheds, but Lancaster is becoming a leader on reducing agricultural pollution, and is bringing together different stakeholders to combat this issue.

 Photo Courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo Courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program

We are so thrilled to be able to organize this year’s conference in Lancaster. As a coalition dedicated to protecting and rallying for clean water, it is a great opportunity to reach an area that could benefit from our presence – and similarly, we will absolutely benefit from hearing what locals have to say! All of our conference sessions and field trips include a bit of Lancaster, and even the drinks and food provided are from locally based companies who understand that healthy water starts with hardworking communities who care.

Our agricultural sessions include “Restoring our Waterways with Healthy Soils”, a discussion led by prominent thinkers from multiple organizations in the Chesapeake area. Another key agricultural session is the “Turning Rooftop Runoff into Food”, which focuses on community gardens and the ways we can benefit economically and environmentally from them – specifically in Frederick, Maryland where the community is growing fresh vegetables for under-served residents. Not only are some sessions farm-related, but we could not have a conference in Lancaster without at least one farm tour! The “Good Food, Healthy Farms, & Clean Water” field trip gives attendees a chance to tour local farms and co-ops, while the “Plainsect Dairy Farm Tour” focuses on exploring agricultural BMPs on a local dairy farm, as well as understanding the values of communities to build strong connections with them.

What kind of future do we see for Lancaster? Will it be possible for the entire farming community to eventually balance tradition with environmental consciousness? We believe that Lancaster can become a hub of modern agriculture, and we are prepared to help Pennsylvania achieve this goal. We hope to see you all on May 22-23 for an educational and exciting clean water experience unlike any other. To register for our conference click here: http://ow.ly/U2YF30jxlqA 

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern at Choose Clean Water.

 

 

Increasing Transparency for Impacted Communities

It is hard to comprehend that we live in a world where your skin color and/or income level have a significant influence on your health and overall quality of life. The daunting truth is communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to live near a toxic waste site. This is especially the case when these two communities intersect. A 2016 study published in Environmental Research Letters lends credence to the idea of “environmental racism,” showing that the biggest polluters in the U.S. – factories, warehouse and other facilities using toxic substances — are overwhelmingly located in poor, non-white neighborhoods. Another supporting study showed that hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal plants also tend to be built in similar low-income, non-white areas. These findings are particularly true for residents living in Baltimore, Brandywine, and many other cities located in the Old Bay state.

The role of the Public Service Commission (PSC) is to, “ensure safe, reliable, and economic public utility and transportation service to the citizens of Maryland”.  The PSC creates standards and policies that protect the safety of the public by regulating gas, electric, telephone, water, and sewage disposal companies.  Maryland residents living near utility and infrastructure works found that they are the last to know about plans and applications for new generating stations or high transmission lines are approved by the PSC. In recent years, residents have voiced their displeasure with the Commission requesting vital reform.

  Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, Keisha Pollack Porter and Delegate Robbyn Lewis all provided testimony in support of the HB1632 bill.

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, Keisha Pollack Porter and Delegate Robbyn Lewis all provided testimony in support of the HB1632 bill.

What needs to happen?

Currently, there is no direct mandate that informs Maryland residents of new development projects located within miles of homes, schools, and local businesses. There needs to be more transparency between the PSC and residents about proposed activities and new plans coming into their neighborhoods. Maryland is an amalgam of various ethnic groups. For Maryland residents whose English comes as a second language, the information found on the PSC website can be inaccessible as it is formatted in English with a great deal of jargon. Even for those who are native English speakers, the lack of plain text on the PSC website creates barriers to accessing the information. The City of Baltimore is one of highest minority populations in the state and continues to face disproportionate environmental injustices. Increasing accessibility to notifications for proposed activities and health impact assessments during proposal review process are two crucial reforms that must be considered for new development projects. Health impact assessments would help ensure that communities are being protected from poor air and water quality. Health impact assessments are essential for public health because they evaluate the potential health effects of a plan or policy before it is implemented through various data sources. Health impacts of proposed activities should be known by the PSC and community members to help with decision making. Protecting communities near these activities is imperative and must be taken more seriously.

What legislation was considered?

This year, House Bill’s 0715 and 1632 sponsored by Delegate Lewis focused on introducing accessible notifications and health impact assessments at the PSC. HB 0715 required the PSC to directly notify community members and stakeholders when an application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity is filed for a proposed activity. This included notices to be easily available online and in terms for average people to understand.

HB 1632 demands that the PSC take public health into the consideration of all proposed activity through a rapid health impact assessment (HIA). HIA’s collect data from an array of sources including: stakeholder input, scientific data, and public health expertise. HIAs attempt to identify potential health effects of a proposed policy, project, or plan, and offer recommendations based on possible risks or benefits identified in the assessment.

The overall goal for the PSC reforms is for residents to easily gain information about what is happening in their community and know the proposed activities will impact their health. 

Moving forward

The denial of these bills has shaped a conversation about the need for change in the future. Moving forward, PSC bill reform is imperative for Maryland residents to be protected and informed. Without this, more PSC activities may occur without proper notice to community members. Residents may potentially be impacted by these activities, making health impact assessments necessary so proposed activity risks are known. These are priorities that organizations like the Maryland Environmental Health Network are focusing on in 2018 and beyond to make sure that the PSC is held to higher standards. Both of the proposed bills would’ve been big steps in the right direction; hopefully in the future changes are made

Member Highlight: Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper is a well-known group to those of us in the Bay watershed. Championing clean water for the Mid-Susquehanna area, they pioneer education programs of many kinds - including the education of their "Little Keeper" sewage sniffing puppy Sussey. We spoke to Carol Parenzan, riverkeeper, to learn more about the organizations work and how her one woman team is changing the Susquehanna.

In one sentence describe your mission as a group:

Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® is the WATERKEEPER® Alliance-licensed voice advocating for clean water in the headwaters section of the Susquehanna River watershed, defined by the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River, an approximate 11,000 square-mile area in North-central Pennsylvania.

Tell us a little about your work with Loyalsock Creek and what it took to help make it Pennsylvania’s River of the Year?

The Loyalsock Creek is a 64-mile-long treasure in a sparsely populated mountainous section of the Susquehanna River watershed, flowing southerly to the West Branch Susquehanna River. With the recognition of Pennsylvania’s 2018 River of the Year, this local legend will now receive state-wide focus, drawing visitors to the watershed for recreation while advancing economic development for the residents and businesses in the area.

To receive this honor, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), in partnership with Pennsylvania Organization of Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), solicited nominations from organizations around the state in support of select watersheds. Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® Association, Inc., in partnership with Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, submitted an application for Loyalsock Creek.

 Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

From many nominations, five waterways were selected, including Loyalsock Creek. For about four weeks, the public was invited to cast one vote per email address for their favorite waterway (river, stream, creek, lake). At the end of the voting period, Loyalsock Creek surged ahead, surpassing the other nominees from more populated areas of the state, and was formally recognized as the River of the Year.

This popularity contest for River of the Year has not been the creek’s only “challenge.” Logging stripped the mountains of its native natural resources, and its headwaters were impacted by coal-mining activity and now receive treatment for abandoned mine drainage (AMD) issues. The watershed sits in the heart of the Marcellus play and the area is home to active natural gas development including wells, access roads, and pipelines. In October 2016, an extreme weather event contributed to the rupture of a c.1937 gasoline pipeline, releasing an operator estimate of 50,000 gallons into the exceptional value trout stream, and causing wide-spread bank erosion and stabilization issues and road and bridge closures. And, in 2017, a 60,000-gallon flowback spill off an active natural gas well pad found its way into a tributary of the Loyalsock.

But the positives outweigh the negatives, as the Loyalsock Creek is home to the rare hellbender, one of the state’s most popular state parks – Worlds End State Park, the 60-mile Loyalsock Trail (and its breathtaking vistas), premier bird-watching spots, and historic covered bridges. For me as the Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER®, it is that go-to spot when I need to regroup and re-energize. It reminds me of why I do the work I do.

With this 2018 recognition, Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® will work to create opportunities for community members to connect with the creek. In addition to a paddling adventure, other programs include a music and arts festival, a family science day along the creek, small business spotlights, a floating classroom, a wellness workshop, educational walks and talks, a historic covered bridges tour, an artist residency with elementary school students, a youth fishing day, and even river snorkeling to take a peek beneath the surface.

The overall goal is to then transfer this local recognition and watershed appreciation to the larger geographic region that defines the work of Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER®.  We all deserve swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters in Pennsylvania, on the Loyalsock Creek and throughout the watershed of the Mighty Susquehanna River.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

One of our current focus areas is environmental justice, working with communities that have been historically underserved, such as the coal-mining communities.

First, Shamokin, an economically depressed but once prosperous city in the watershed, is my family’s home – but not where I was born or raised – that was in the “Willy Wonka World” of Hershey (Pennsylvania). My family moved from Shamokin to Hershey before I was born but family took me back to Shamokin on a regular and consistent basis.

 Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

As a child growing up witnessing these two geographic and economic extremes , it was difficult to understand why the Shamokin area creeks ran red, the coal-waste mountains were high and black and supported little life, and my cousins living in Shamokin had vastly different opportunities than I did in Hershey. This realization is what pushed me down the path of environmental engineering. I wanted to build a change.

I believe that everyone deserves to be an active player in creating this change, including our prison population. Last summer we launched our Environmental Steward Prison Pilot Project, where for one week, I was in residency with six inmates in a remote section of the watershed. They were my partners for the week. And although I shared my knowledge with them about water quality, macroinvertebrates, and community leadership in environmental stewardship, they taught me – about the fear of water and the darkness of the woods, about not being heard or recognized, and about the will to be the difference. Two of the six “residents” had never placed their toes in freshwater. The concept was foreign to them. By the end of the week, they were relaxing on boulders in the river, writing in their nature journals, exploring environmental career options upon their imminent release, and preparing to head home to be community leaders and protect their precious water resources. We will be returning in August for another week of partnership. We are also exploring hosting a green jobs fair for all of 500 prisoners at this facility. The world needs them, and they need to be a critical component of our environmental movement. It’s a global second chance.

Our work also focuses on engaging our youth that reside in underserved communities throughout the watershed. We work with them through schools, summer camps, and youth organizations, looking for opportunities to give them experiences, such as kayaking, fishing, and environmental exploration, that they may not have otherwise. Last summer, for example, using the flume lab at Bucknell University, we worked with underserved youth to create a whitewater kayak course and then transferred that experiential knowledge to our own river and witnessed the impact of local bridge construction. Through a scholarship program, we will be taking a contingency of teenagers on our River of the Year paddle. We are looking forward to this day on the water with them.
 

Now that you have been appointed to the State’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board (EJAB), how will the work you do change? What new role will you be playing in local environmental work?

First, we are not Philadelphia. We are not Pittsburgh. We are an area that includes a significant poor, working white population. We are not the typical face of environmental justice, and that brings about its own set of challenges as our struggles are not always acknowledged. We’re working to change that.

But, my role for the present is that of a student. I have much to learn about the history of the Pennsylvania Environmental Justice movement and the Board’s vision for its future.

The Advisory Board meets in person four times a year. I have now attended two of these meetings and have walked away inspired and energized. My colleagues are my teachers. I welcome their instruction. And I am depending on their guidance.

 Photo of Sussey, the "Little Keeper"

Photo of Sussey, the "Little Keeper"

As a member of EJAB, it is not my role to be the voice of my communities but to assist them in finding their voices. For now, I am uncovering those potential voices and partnering with them to share the message and engage in change.

This appointment also influenced our recent office relocation. We have purposely placed ourselves in the environmental justice community of Sunbury, where approximately 24 percent of the population lives at or below poverty level. Our new digs puts us along the Susquehanna River at the confluence of the West and North Branches. We are marketing it as the “Gateway to the Headwaters of the Mighty Susquehanna.”

At this location, we encourage community members to visit with us. We have created a resource library and we host nature book club gatherings there as another open door. (Our first book was The Riverkeepers by John Cronin and Robert Kennedy Jr., the leader of the Waterkeeper movement.) This location also allows me (and my conservation canine “Little Keeper” Susquehanna, who is being trained to detect sewage leaks in the watershed) to take walks along the river throughout the day and engage in conversations with community residents and business leaders. Wonderful words are exchanged when gazing at the water.

But being in Sunbury in the heart of historically disproportionate opportunity also provides us the entry to engage in conversations about economic development and entrepreneurship. Part of my background includes entrepreneurial consulting and teaching business development skills through a global consortium of over 2,700 colleges and universities. I want to bring this knowledge home to our watershed and work with residents to create businesses that will support growth up and down the river. We also want to extend this entrepreneurial movement to the prisons. We are in the beginning stages of developing an eco-preneurship program for prisoners to offer “green” business planning guidance and mentorship.

We have much work to do.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

There is nothing stronger than partnership and collaboration. As water warriors, our collective words are more persuasive, our actions more noticeable, and our energy amplified. Together, we give voice to clean water and the Chesapeake Bay.

As an organization of one person, I rely on the strength of many, especially my Coalition colleagues. I could not begin to do this work on my own – from your providing legislative updates and lobbying opportunities, crafting letters of support, partnering for legal guidance, offering ongoing professional education and updates, and more. Did I mention encouragement? Yes, encouragement. Thank you for your encouragement!

I regret that I can’t be more active with the many programs spearheaded by the Coalition. It is difficult at times to be on conference calls (especially when I’m in a mountainous non-cell-service area) or to attend in-person gatherings in the Bay area due to the distance. But I think of you often and read the minutes and reports as they appear in my inbox.

As I grow more comfortable in my role as the Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® and as a member of the CCWC, I hope to mentor the next new water warrior in the group. We all live both upstream and downstream, and this includes the flow of knowledge.

And I do look forward to my time with all of the CCWC members, and I’ll be welcoming “you-ins” (that’s coal-cracker talk) to Pennsylvania in May for the annual conference. We’ll know if you’re native or not by the way you pronounce Lancaster or how you respond when we ask you to “outen the lights.” Till then, thank you! Safe travels to Pennsylvania.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern at Choose Clean Water.

 

Top Five Mobile Analytic Apps

The internet as we know it is constantly expanding. For businesses and non-profits, managing social media and websites may seem daunting at times. Some may be curious about their following, user engagement and interactions. Luckily there are many tools and apps that are available, making it easier to find out the information you may be looking for. Analytics apps help to track your organization’s website and social media progress, and will provide insight about what is working and what is not.

In the long run, using an analytics tool it will save you time and most likely will provide you information you didn’t even know was available! This article will explore five amazing apps to help with tracking analytics. There are many tools and apps available and it’s important to find out which tool is the best for you. Here’s our top 5 mobile analytic apps in no particular order:

1. Google Analytics for Mobile

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Google Analytics is a well-known analytics tool and is available on two platforms – mobile and desktop. The mobile version is free for both iOS and Android users and the app provides a full dashboard for full performance insights.

This app is able to track various elements and reports are organized into four categories:

  1. Users: New and returning user information, their country and language are provided.
  2. Acquisitions: Provides information about new users. This tracks their location and how many times they have used the app.
  3. Engagement: Event tracking is available to receive reports about website speed, exceptions and crashes.
  4. Outcomes: There is an option to set up goals and see the goal flow.

2. Localytics

Localytics is another popular mobile analytic app. This is available on various platforms including iOS, Androis, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. This is an easy app for new users. This app is free, however there are also options for an unlimited version. Localytics has many customization features to let the user track what they want.

This app provides various analytics including:

  1. App usage and reports: Includes locations, device, carriers and users.

  2. Users and sessions: Provides time periods and new/returning viewers.

  3. Day-Part Analysis: Provides information about the most popular time of day frequent visitors log onto a website

3. Flurry Analytics

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Flurry Analytics is another free app that runs on iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. Flurry provides very detailed and extensive information and users are able to create up to 10 custom dashboards to track whatever they want. However, some users have explained that this app can be confusing due to the large amount of information to sort through. There are various analytics available on the dashboard including:

  1. Audience: Includes user interest, type of users and demographics.

  2. Events: Shows user paths.

  3. Usage: Provides information about active users, their sessions, average session lengths and frequencies.

  4. Technical: Shows the type of devices used, carriers and errors.

  5. Filters: Provides age, usage and country information

4. Appsee

appsee.png

Appsee is an app focusing on visual insight. Analytics and heat maps are available to see user behavior on the app. This is available on both iOS and Android. There is a free 14 day trial option. Appsee provides various analytics including:

  1. Heatmaps: Provides information on performance, user navigation and preferences. This aspect shows exactly how and where users visit on the site.
  2. Crash reporting and videos: Include in-depth, real time recordings and crash session if there are any issues with the website. This is a huge plus for new websites and apps.
  3. Real-time analytics and alerts: Provides insightful analytics on behavior. Also provides alerts for monitoring crashes and KPI changes.

5. GeckoBoard

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Geckoboard is another app that tracks key analytics. This app was designed to help improve major business indicators. Unfortunately, the app is only available for iOS users. There is a free 30-day trial and plans start at $25 per month after this time. Geekboard offers various analytic tools including:

  1. Flexible configuration: Helps to provide easy data integration.
  2. Intuitive drag-and-drop interface, which is customizable.
  3. Integration with Google Analytics to provide tracking information.
  4. Summaries with crucial data for your platform.

As you can see, there are many mobile apps that focus on tracking different app and website information. Whether you are interested in simple analytics, heat maps or customization – there are many options for you!

Lobby Day 2018 Roundup

 Congressman Donald McEachin  (VA-04) met with our dedicated lobbyists.

Congressman Donald McEachin  (VA-04) met with our dedicated lobbyists.

On March 21, more than 100 members of the National Wildlife Federation hosted Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed fought through a snowstorm to speak with their members of Congress about the importance of clean water.

This was the 6th annual Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill for Choose Clean Water, a coalition of 239 nonprofit organizations focused on restoring and protecting clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Despite the snow, the Coalition met with more than 20 members of Congress or their staff, to discuss federal threats, like funding cuts to the Chesapeake Bay Program. Coalition members also had the pleasure of hearing from 10 different members of Congress at the Chesapeake Bay luncheon, including: Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Congressman John Faso (R-NY), Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Congressman Don McEachin (D-VA), Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA).

The legislators spoke about life around the Chesapeake, where to find the best crab cakes, and of the future of clean water.

 Courtesy of Delaware River Coalition

Courtesy of Delaware River Coalition

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed simultaneously scheduled meetings with the entire congressional delegation that represents the Delaware watershed. The two Coalitions had joint meetings with a number of Congressional offices that represent both watersheds. Although the snowstorm disrupted several meetings, the tenor of those that did take place was overwhelmingly positive with congressional members pledging to champion the Delaware on Capitol Hill. The result of the Coalition’s two days on the Hill was a clear message to Members: fund the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act and its associated grant program the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP), a non-regulatory approach led by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. On March 23, the program received $5 million in funding as part of the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus spending bill approved by Congress. The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed worked with Congress on the authorization of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act in December 2016 that created the DRBRP, and through the newly funded program, money will finally begin flowing to local conservation projects throughout the region.

 Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) braved the snow to speak to us at lunch. 

Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) braved the snow to speak to us at lunch. 

The result of months of collaboration and hard work paid off with the rejection by Congress of Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which aimed to zero out the Chesapeake Bay Program. The spending bill that passed includes a fully funded Chesapeake Bay budget of $73 million and $5 million for the Delaware River. We owe a huge thank you to all of the members of Congress who voted in support of protecting the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River. The fight for clean water continues as the president’s proposed FY19 budget has only $7.3 million allocated for the Chesapeake Bay and nothing for the Delaware River. Want to help us keep robust funding for the Delaware and Chesapeake in FY19?  Tell your elected officials that you demand clean water for this generation and generations yet to come.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Virginia Groundwater Needs Protection From Pipelines

Sourced from NRDC

March 07, 2018

by Amy Mall 

In 2016, the Virginia Office of Environmental Health and Safety recommended a thorough survey of all private water wells and springs, as well as septic systems, within 1,000 feet of a pipeline—at a minimum—before construction starts. Water found beneath the surface is known as groundwater, or aquifers, and such a survey is essential to protect the aquifers that feed these wells and springs, and the people who depend on them for drinking, bathing, cooking, and farming.

This hasn't happened. Governor Northam can and should change that, and make sure the threats to groundwater from the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines are carefully examined.

The Army Corps of Engineers conducted a Clean Water Act permit review, but that doesn't consider potential harm to groundwater. They only looked at surface waters, like streams and rivers.

The state of Virginia issued water quality certifications for upland activities associated with MVP and ACP. While the state required a survey of drinking water wells and springs within 1,000 feet of the pipelines, it only did so for “areas known to have karst topography.” This requirement only applies to a small portion of the pipeline routes in Virginia: about 10 percent of the ACP route and 31 percent of the MVP route.

 Courtesy of NRDC

Courtesy of NRDC

 Anywhere outside of karst terrain, for the vast majority of the pipeline routes in Virginia, the FERC certificates approving these pipelines only require identification of private water wells and springs within 150 feet of the pipeline workspace.

This places the sources of drinking water for hundreds of families across Virginia at risk. For example, the Four Corners Farm in Rocky Mount is a multi-generational farm that raises pigs, chickens, turkey and cattle. The farm has a water well approximately 800 feet from the proposed MVP route that would not be surveyed or tested.

 

To read more, visit the NRDC website for the full article.

Why is $73 million for the Chesapeake important?

Since 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program has received $73 million in funding for the restoration effort. It is often said that this funding goes to "on the ground restoration efforts around the Chesapeake Bay watershed that are improving local communities." This is true, as the Bay Budget not only supports those who are managing the restoration effort, but projects that are having a positive impact on the Chesapeake Bay's rivers and streams.

But what exactly does spending the Chesapeake Bay Budget look like?

Our chart below lists the seven jurisdictions of the Bay region and how much each jurisdiction was granted through the Bay Budget in 2017.

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When breaking down the Chesapeake Bay Budget from FY2017, we are able to see that most funding goes directly to the states for on the ground restoration projects.

As you can see, more than a third of the $72 million in funding given to the Chesapeake Bay Program is then put back into the Bay states. This helps support local nonprofits and businesses, and improves communities. This is one of the reasons why ensuring continued funding for the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort receives so much support from members of Congress - people understand the benefits and can see the results in person.

  • In 2017, Maryland received more than $13 million in funding for projects that include installing buffers and restoring wetlands to reduce non-point source runoff and improving oyster restoration locations.
  • In 2017, Pennsylvania received $11 million in funding, going towards projects like the protection of critical habitat and manure management.
  • Virginia used a portion of its $11.5 million in funding last year to support oyster restoration in the Lafayette River, stream restoration design in Shenandoah County, and the installation of stormwater best management practices.
  • D.C. received more than $3 million, which went towards projects like Fort DuPont watershed restoration and stormwater management systems in the Anacostia River watershed.
  • Last year, Delaware received $2.8 million that was used to fund projects on accelerating wetland restoration and reducing phosphorus with thermochemical conversion.
  • In 2017, West Virginia used its $2.9 million to work on projects like building a conservation hub in the Potomac River headwaters, restoring trout habitat, and monitoring the Appalachian watershed. 
  • New York was granted $3.3 million and put that amount towards funding projects like low-cost methods for forested buffer plantings and reconnecting floodplains through streamside berm removal.

Potential Offshore Drilling Threatens the Bay

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the commercial seafood industry in Maryland and Virginia contributes $3.39 billion to the local economy per year. However, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, believes that this is not significant enough to exclude these states from offshore drilling. The proposal regarding offshore drilling presents an insurmountable threat to the east coast and especially the Chesapeake Bay. Blue crabs and striped bass are just two of many species that could be heavily impacted by offshore drilling – especially if there were a spill.

In the past, offshore drilling caused major complications for blue crabs. Three years after the disastrous 2010 Louisiana oil spill, the crabs living in the Gulf were still severely altered. Many fishermen reported that they were pulling up empty crab nets day after day. Even worse, the small amount of crabs caught commonly had no claws, points were burned off, and some had severe shell deformities. Dispersant, a chemical used to break down oil droplets, brought its own challenges for crabs after the oil spill. These toxic components were found in crab shells and many were killed as a result. Could you imagine this happening to our blue crabs?

 Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

But how would offshore drilling in the Atlantic impact our Chesapeake critters?

In the beginning of their lifecycle, blue crabs hatch into larvae where they are transported into the ocean. They grow, feed and molt in this area and the mouth of the bay from June to September. Another iconic bay species, striped bass, live throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, but part of their life cycle also includes returning to the ocean after they spawn. If an oil spill occurred in the ocean during these critical points, a year class of these species could be compromised.

Blue crabs and striped bass are not only ecologically important but they have a huge economic value. Every year, Chesapeake Bay watermen provide approximately a third of the nation’s crabs and striped bass bring in approximately $500 million from activities related to fishing. Clearly, offshore drilling’s threats would be devastating and widespread.

 Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Offshore drilling brings extreme threats to the Chesapeake Bay and everyone connected to it. Not only is it important for us to safeguard the bay for everyone now, but for future generations too. We can’t jeopardize the Chesapeake Bay, its wildlife, jobs, tourism, economic benefits and beauty on something that is so dangerous. This is why the Choose Clean Water Coalition submitted a sign-on letter to express our concerns to Secretary Zinke. Over 50 organizations signed this letter to show support in opposition to offshore drilling and our members plan to discuss this issue further with our members of Congress during our Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill.

It is important to remember the ocean and the bay are connected as a vital system, which provides a habitat for blue crabs and striped bass. Anything that happens in the ocean will eventually impact the bay and vice versa. We must say ‘no’ to offshore drilling to make sure no species are harmed during critical times in their lifecycle.

Taylor Stark is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: Clean Fairfax

Today we are happy to highlight our newest member group, Clean Fairfax, an organization out of Virginia that is changing what 'green' means to the area. We spoke to Sam Raasch, program coordinator, to learn more about this group and what makes them unique. With an active Facebook group to connect with the community, programs in multiple fields, and plenty of volunteer opportunities, this organization has much to share with its neighborhood. 

Tell us about your organization and your mission.

 Image courtesy of Clean Fairfax

Image courtesy of Clean Fairfax

The mission of Clean Fairfax is to encourage environmental stewardship and urban sustainability in Fairfax County, Virginia, through education, programming, and community involvement. Clean Fairfax seeks to reduce littering and to encourage recycling, reusing and reducing consumption, promote community action by supporting clean-ups and adopt-a-spots, and serve as a clearinghouse for environmental information in Fairfax County. We also coordinate Springfest, Fairfax County’s official Earth and Arbor Day event.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

Clean Fairfax’s Clean Streams Initiative is our favorite excuse to get outside. The Initiative, which is a partnership with Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, is a program that engages with the local environmental community to quantify litter pollution in local streams. It’s our hope that years of monitoring litter pollution (and cleaning it up) will help the community develop creative and sustainable ways to reduce the amount of litter in Fairfax’s streams through outreach and education to the public.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

 Image courtesy of Clean Fairfax

Image courtesy of Clean Fairfax

In the future, we hope to focus on consumption reduction. Conservation starts at home, in the supermarket, at school and at work. We want to help people make daily decisions within the framework of sustainability. Do I need to put these bananas in a plastic bag? Do I need to buy this 48 pack of disposable water bottles when the tap water at home is much cheaper and just as safe? Should I order the steak, the fish or the salad? Should I wash these dishes by hand? This bread has passed its sell-by date…should I automatically throw it out? Can I recycle this wrapper? These are the everyday decisions that quickly add up to a sustainable or unsustainable lifestyle.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

Clean Fairfax is an advocate for clean water, so being part of a coalition of like-minded organizations is an obvious benefit. We hope to use our time in the Coalition to learn more about the issues that impact our community, as well as how to address said issues.

For more information on Clean Fairfax, contact Sam Raasch, program coordinator.

Member Highlight: Baltimore Tree Trust

This week we are pleased to highlight Baltimore Tree Trust - an urban forestry group located in one of the most metropolitan parts of Maryland. We spoke to Sheila McMenamin, director of programs at Baltimore Tree Trust, to learn more about what their goals are and how they intend to make Baltimore a greener city. 

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

The Baltimore Tree Trust (BTT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2009 to make Baltimore a greener and healthier place to live. Our mission is to restore Baltimore’s urban forest through increased tree planting, community engagement, and advocacy. Since our inception, BTT has planted over 4,000 trees on private property and in disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout Baltimore City.

 Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

The Tree Trust spearheads efforts to achieve Baltimore’s 40 percent urban tree canopy goal by methodically planting up neighborhoods that have few existing trees, while engaging community leaders and stakeholders in the planting and sustainable maintenance of trees.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

We are really excited to be kicking off our pilot workforce development program in the fall of 2018, called the Urban Roots Apprenticeship. This full-time, 6-week program will focus on developing our city’s green workforce--individuals who plant and maintain Baltimore’s tree canopy. The tree care industry is a growing workforce, and there are ample companies looking for skilled workers. We are excited to train individuals in a way that properly prepares them for a career in this industry.

 Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

We are interested in getting more involved with local policy and urban planning, and seeing where we can be stronger advocates for tree planting and maintenance. If we can incorporate tree planting into early-stage planning for urban development projects, we can ensure that all neighborhoods have access to the countless benefits of a tree canopy.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

We are eager to be involved with a network of organizations and individuals who are passionate about our environment, but more so, how to bring that passion to all. There are so many potential ways in which we can intersect and support each other’s work, and we are excited to see what those possibilities are.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern at Choose Clean Water.

2018 Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program

Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program

Are you looking to improve your communication and personal skills? Are you interested in developing leadership and management qualities? How about increasing your confidence and reinforcing your own and knowledge? If so, then the Young Professionals of Color Mentorship would be a great fit for you!

The Choose Clean Water Coalition values our members, but more importantly the interpersonal relationships that are built when working together. Established in 2016, the Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program is a united effort to support individuals working in the environmental sector. Our program is intended to provide mentorship to individuals seeking to excel in their careers and strengthen a mentors leadership abilities. Participating in this unique partnership will foster better relationships among clean water partners and will help build a pipeline of diverse leaders interesting in advancing our watershed goals throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

When and where?

The program will kick off at the Choose Clean Water Coalition’s Annual Conference on May 23, 2018, at the Lancaster Marriot at Penn Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. During a breakfast program, potential mentors will be paired with young professionals to begin a journey towards fulfilling a supportive professional relationship.

What you can do to get involved:

  • Nominate a young person of color who might want to participate so we can make sure they receive an invitation to our kick-off event OR nominate yourself!
     
  • Agree to be mentor or a mentee, today! Responsibilities include:

o   Attend kick-off event on May 23 from 8AM-9AM in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

o   Commitment to one year of engagement

o  Monthly conversations with your mentee

o  Minimum of three in-person meetings with your mentee

o   Ability to be a thoughtful, effective, and insightful listener and communicator

o   Desire to build and strengthen the environmental community

This is a short term commitment to foster a diverse and long-lasting community.

Sign up today by emailing Mariah Davis at davism@nwf.org.

Please note that this program is open to all of our members- regardless of class, race, ethnicity, age, and gender.

Meet Mary Katherine

Some people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. Some people have always known exactly what they want to be. Some people want to be, well, everything. I’m the latter. Constantly overestimating how much I can fit in to my 100 year time card, I’m stuffed to the brim with far too many passions and expectations for myself – especially as someone who can barely reach the top pantry shelf. My college career began as a political science student, but by the end of my freshman year I was a sculpting major. I juggled all kinds of hobbies with my education and eventually realized it was necessary for my own sanity – as well as my parents’ - to go ahead and narrow down exactly what my role in life would be.

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The last semester of my sophomore year, I was required to take an environmental science class as the final step in my general education credits. I had no idea initially that this really would be the first step in my environmental career. This class showed me that I could study the natural world and make a difference; I could help be part of something bigger and preserve what I considered the most important part of life. With the guidance of a very involved teacher, I decided I wanted to improve communication in the environmental sector. It seemed to be a struggling part of the nonprofit world: how do we make something as everyday as a tree seem sexy and interesting?

 With little more than an associate’s degree and a part time restaurant job, I looked around for new opportunities that would put me down the right path. When I saw the intern opportunity for Choose Clean Water, I applied immediately. After some email tag and an interview, I had my first professional job. Choose Clean Water has taught me so much about the major and minor aspects of nonprofit work, communicating internally and externally, as well as how to convince people that they should care. I spend most of my time here formulating social media posts that are lively and interactive, as well as writing blogs on all of our organization topics.

 When I’m not working I can be found spending time with my pets, doing some sort of art, or traveling - though if I’m not working, there is a good chance I don't want to be found. I enjoy exploring the woods and Bay I grew up around, and that I now work hard to protect. The next few months of my internship will be important to becoming the influential person I hope to be one day, and I am beyond grateful that Kristin and the Coalition were able to give me this opportunity.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with Choose Clean Water