Invasive Species - Exotic and Dangerous

Mention the Chesapeake Bay and you will hear quickly about pollution, run-off, and agriculture. There are countless threats our beloved Bay faces, however, the threat of invasive species is often overlooked. Perhaps this issue is somewhat misunderstood? We find ourselves preoccupied with other Bay issues like sediment and pollution, and the eradication of invasive species tends to not be on the front of our minds. Let us delve in to what exactly an invasive species looks like in the Chesapeake and how we handle the problem.

An invasive species is a nonnative organism that sets up shop in a new environment, causing damage and throwing off the natural balance of said environment. This could be a bacteria, a species of tree, or even a bird that reproduces quickly. So, what harm are we seeing because of these visitors? Our native animals are not used to contending with these invaders for food, and often they lose out in the competition. Intrusive creatures also bring with them diseases that animals here do not have immunity to. Two prevalent examples of this in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem can be found in the mute swan and nutria.

Photos from Chesapeake Bay Program

Photos from Chesapeake Bay Program

Mute swans are native to Eurasia and, to no surprise, are only here because humans brought them over for decoration in the 1800’s. The swans rapidly spread thanks to an aggressive nature that scares off most predators and since then have been consuming copious amounts of submerged vegetation, ruining the ecosystem and even killing off other waterfowl. Nutria, sometimes lovingly referred to as a “swamp rat”, arrived in the early 1900’s when Americans began to use them for fur farms. They reproduce incredibly fast and spread quickly across the Southeast. Similarly to the mute swan, they rip up large amounts of aquatic vegetation and throw off the food chain, as well as cause erosion. By tearing these shoreline plants out from the root, the surrounding soil becomes loose as it has lost its anchorage. The amount of erosion caused by both of these animals is irregular for this area and is filling our Bay with tons of sediment.

The only way to effectively remove the threat of these two species is with controlled extermination. The swan population was brought down to less than 200 in Maryland (as required by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources) and was fairly easy to control. On the other hand, multiple methods have been used on nutria to keep their numbers down, which at one point reached between 35,000-50,000 nutria in select parts of Maryland. Nutria went through mass population control as well as sterilization to control future booming. Blackwater Wildlife Refuge was hit hard by these nutria populations, however since their eradication, massive turn around and regrowth has been seen in shorelines previously destroyed.

Not everyone supports eradication as the best method to deal with invasive species, and rightfully so. However, these actions must be taken in favor of the bigger picture and for the entirety of the ecosystem. While humans are the original invasive species, we have to use our knowledge and self-awareness to make hard decisions, especially when the other option is the loss of our environment. Correcting the mistakes of bringing in these nonnative species is our duty as nature lovers.

The handling of invasive species is just as important as addressing run off, fracking, and every other threat to our Chesapeake Bay. We witness the direct and immediate damage caused by oil spills and run off, but for most of us it takes a keener eye to notice the damage done by invasive species. The shrinking of the shorelines to the deaths of other animals in the food chain, all play a large part in protecting the Bay. Without this one piece of the puzzle, the whole picture can never be completed.

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

Queers OUTdoors

The National Wildlife Federation was built on the principle that joint effort and solid cooperation are critical to conservation. Today we continue this great American ideal: bringing together people in their appreciation for nature to support conservation. The success of the Federation depends on people from all regions and backgrounds—cities, suburbs, and rural areas, young and old—who are empowered and committed to a better future for wildlife.

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Last month, colleagues of the National Wildlife Federation came together in solidarity to support the first ever LGBTQ Outdoor Summit hosted by REI in Seattle, WA. Attendees far and wide from The North Face, Patagonia, the National Park Service, the Wilderness Society, and the Sierra Club came together to celebrate our shared passion for the outdoors and wildlife conservation. The mission of the summit was to cultivate connections, build community, and inspire leaders from across the outdoor industry and beyond to create more accessible and affirming ways for the LGBTQ community to get OUTside. 

Elyse Rylander, the summit organizer and founder of OUT There Adventures, outlined the following reasons to organize and talk about LGBTQ people in the outdoors:

  1. Community: “It’s profound for folx* to connect. I have that warm fuzzy when I see it’s not just me.”
  2. Support: “I’m struck by how isolated queer folx in the [outdoor] industry are in trying to do this work. We are siloed—so how can we break down those barriers to support each other?”
  3. Growth: “I’m also hoping this will put the larger [outdoor] industry on notice. We are here, and it’s not just one or two people. It will continue to grow—the next generation will be the queerest yet. The [outdoor industry’s] customer base is changing. How can we can show them that, cultivate data and give them the numbers?”

*Folx is a gender neutral form of the word "folks"

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Throughout the Summit, attendees shared heartfelt stories about their experiences in nature and working in the outdoor industry. Panelists shared their own personal struggles and examples of what it's like to not fit in neither the workplace nor in outdoor spaces. For many of us, it can be hard to navigate the world and our niche in society. The Human Rights Campaign published a recent groundbreaking study surveying over 10,000 LGBTQ-identified youth aged 13-17 and found that 4 in 10 LGBTQ youth (42%) say the community in which they live in is not accepting of LGBTQ people. The good news is that over three quarters (77%) say they know things will get better. Infinity spaces like these are needed and provide much value for Queer people to learn, heal, and connect through opportunities in the outdoors. Overall, the Summit was a chance to not only feel safe, but also feel comfortable being simply ourselves. 

The Queer Caucus Breakout Session was a great opportunity to get to know and build relationships with new queer colleagues. We acknowledged those in our lives who have inspired us to be in this type of space and those who continue to support the good work that we are doing. We formed "families" and built alliances across a different aisle of the LGBTQ spectrum. In my new family, we quickly built trusted relationships and shared upcoming opportunities for us to work together and support each other. Supporting others who have a different gender identity from your own helps to harbor an inclusive environment where everyone can feel comfortable. If everyone practiced this welcoming behavior, we provide more opportunities for members of the LGBTQ community to rise above the obstacles they face and to find success and comfort in the world around them. 

Photo courtesy of Aer Parris

Photo courtesy of Aer Parris

All in all, I am grateful to have shared this inaugural experience with those who possess subordinate identities across the Federation. Given our current political climate, it is imperative that organizations continue to come together in solidarity to support one another and uplift the voices of those who continue to face injustice. We applaud the National Wildlife Federation for sponsoring this groundbreaking event and the Pride Foundation for their activism and legacy. Legislative attacks on both the federal and state level continue to jeopardize our human rights and dignities. These threats can have significant impacts on our workplace and in environmental spaces, especially for those who represent the global majority and people of color. The outcome of the 2016 presidential election has revolutionized grassroots movements for equity and social justice movements.

Despite obstacles and challenges ahead, the uprising we have seen for equal rights and the environment is remarkable to say the least. Maybe we need to replace presidents with queens!

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Mariah Davis is the field manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Potomac Pipeline

Big Oil always seems to find a way to threaten the environmental health of our communities, whether it be in the form of spills or through fracking. One of the most recent threats is from pipelines, which yield negative impacts from its construction and maintenance. An analysis by Richard Stover, Ph.D, found that, since 1986, pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels of oil per year, which is equivalent to 200 barrels every day.

The highly-publicized controversy of the Dakota Access Pipeline was a grave reminder of how vehemently the public opposes pipelines, and the lengths these billion-dollar oil companies will go to undermine these efforts.

In the Chesapeake watershed, a familiar figure to environmental injustice, foreign oil superpower TransCanada aims to run a fracked-gas pipeline from Bedford, PA, under the Potomac River and to Morgan County, WV. As one of the companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, TransCanada will yet again be putting communities at risk with this “Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project.”

via Skytruth.org

via Skytruth.org

This proposed pipeline poses immense threats to water quality and public health, which is why this pipeline project must be stopped.

Pipeline Effects Clean Drinking Water For Millions

The Potomac River is a source of water for six million people, so it should make sense to most that a fracked-gas pipeline has no place being built under such a vital resource. TransCanada spilled nearly 17,000 gallons of oil onto rural land last year, and had two other leaking incidents in 2011. The construction alone could put area wells at great risk as well. Placing trust in TransCanada to safely build and maintain an oil pipeline under the Potomac would be putting clean drinking water for millions at risk.

Pipeline Would Run Through Vulnerable Karst Geology

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

Karst topography is a sensitive geology characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. Easily susceptible to the transmission of pollutants through connected underground aquifers, Karst allows for the easy migration of pollutants into aquifers that run into the Potomac River. Hydraulic directional drilling under streams in this geology will create pathways for water to drain down and dissolve the limestone around the pining. This drilling can create sinkholes that would put the pipeline at risk, and can cause subterranean ruptures and even explosions. 

Pipeline Is An Example of TransCanada Using Misleading Tactics

TransCanada would have you believe that this pipeline is a necessity and that it would bring jobs to the area, but these are just outright lies. The construction of this pipeline would employ out-of-town workers, and the positions would be temporary. The application for this project also includes no evidence for a "need" for natural gas in the Eastern Panhandle, yet TransCanada continues to move along with the project. Using age-old scare tactics that have displaced many landowners in the past, TransCanada has been facing landowners and farmers with the dilemma of willingly selling their land or having their land seized through eminent domain.

Say NO to the Potomac Pipeline

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

Just because TransCanada thinks it has the right to build this dangerous pipeline, doesn't mean we have to stand by and let them. The #NoPotomacPipeline campaign, initiated by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, is already in full swing with the support of a few other organizations. Many of the same members of the "Don't Frack In Maryland" campaign — who saw victory in their efforts to ban fracking in Maryland though legislation and garnering support from Gov. Larry Hogan — are fighting to stop the construction of this pipeline.

Once again, Gov. Hogan holds great power in this situation, as he has the authority to reject the Section 401 Water Quality Certification for this project under the Clean Water Act. Although he did end up passing the legislation that the "Don't Frack" movement supported, we need to ensure he'll support us again by making our voices heard. A few weeks ago, hundreds of Marylanders and West Virginians united to demonstrate their resistance to the pipeline. Standing hand in hand on the James Rumsey Bridge, the "Hands Across the Potomac" demonstration was a reassuring display of unity against faceless corporations. We hope Hogan saw this demonstration and heard the voices of those who will be directly affected.

If you want to ensure that your voice is heard on this matter and would like to join the #NoPotomacPipeline movement, we suggest signing up for our partners' action alerts. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Waterkeepers Chesapeake are two organizations that are providing great resources to get dissenters of the pipeline involved.

On Monday, November 8th, those organizations will be hosting a meeting at the Washington County Free Library to discuss the pipeline and volunteering opportunities. Those who are interested can RSVP to the free event, which will take place from 6:30pm-8pm. 

Like the symbolic joining of hands on the James Rumsey Bridge, we must all join forces to stand up to Big Oil and Gas. We've won battles like this before, and we must work to make sure we do it again.

Joe DeWitt is a communications intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition. 

Five Tools That Will Change Your Communications Game

It feels like everyone has something to say these days — which isn't necessarily a complaint; there is a LOT to be talking about! An unfortunate byproduct of this is that getting heard is a lot easier in theory and not in practice. With the information and content overload that we sift through daily, employing different communications tools and strategies is a requirement to ensuring that your message is being transmitted as efficiently as possible.

While large organizations have communication departments at their disposal, smaller groups have to make due with what they have. Luckily, several game-changing communication tools exist online and can punch up your organization's communications to compete with the big guys. 


Hootsuite

A social media must-have, Hootsuite is an absolute necessity for any organization that interacts with social networks (So... every organization!). This platform, with a totally fine free package and optional premium features, syncs all of your organization's social media platforms into one headquarters. Gone are the days of switching tabs between your org's Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Wordpress, and Google+ profiles... it's all in one place!

Hootsuite's Publisher hub via Hootsuite

Hootsuite's Publisher hub via Hootsuite

Hootsuite Analytics via Hootsuite

Hootsuite Analytics via Hootsuite

With handy engagement tabs that display all of the mentions and interactions between other profiles and your own, Hootsuite makes having one unified voice on social media easy. It's also great for scheduling posts, so that your brand can maintain steady communication based on your needs. The premium suite of features has some great resources, the best one being the analytic reports. Their comprehensive reporting tools can narrow down your audience demographics to a T, which is essential to crafting content that will be noticed by your intended audience. 


Canva

So you have all of your social media in one place... but what do you post? You may have some messages you want to get across, but maybe you don't have a way to make them appear very interesting? Fear not, for Canva is here to make everything pretty and readable.

Another free service, with premium options that are way less significant than the previous platform, Canva helps you create beautiful graphics to liven up any social media post. You needn't be a creative genius; Canva has a crazy amount of templates with wide arrays of color palettes already selected (but they're customizable too if you're feeling inspired). The user-friendly service makes infographics, blog graphics, Instagram posts, event headers, and many more attainable for everyone. 

via Canva

via Canva


TweetDeck

Similar to Hootsuite yet a bit more focused, TweetDeck is a valuable resource to get the most out of your organization's Twitter. Keeping up with the theme of free services, this platform puts all of the most important pieces of your Twitter on one screen. Divided into columns, you can see all of your organization's mentions, follows, tweets, and other related activity. 

via TweetDeck

via TweetDeck

The best part of TweetDeck, however, is it's ability to throw you right into conversations you want to be a part of. By adding more columns — formatted to show you tweets containing keywords or specific hashtags — you can view the notable and ongoing pieces of the subject most important to your organization. Whether you want to measure the success of a campaign or gauge public response to an idea or product, TweetDeck is a godsend for making sense of your often over-saturated Twitter feed. 


Pixlr

Maybe the name "Free Photoshop" would've violated some copyright laws, but the Pixlr Editor might as well be called that for how close this complimentary service is to the classic program. Pixlr is the place to go when you need to make your photos ready for anything Communication related. It helps to have some background knowledge of how to use Photoshop, as Pixlr's features mimic most of PS's functionalities. 

via Pixlr

via Pixlr

Pixlr is great for quick edits, creative overhauls, and even branding images!


via MailChimp

via MailChimp

Last off is a service that targets the most-used communication platform of any organization: Email! MailChimp is an automation service that helps you build email lists like a pro. Whether your marketing something or sending out a newsletter, this program makes reaching lengthy contact lists simple!

While the sending of the emails is a huge help, the real fun comes with the analytics reports, which detail how many people opened your message and what links they decided to click while you had their attention. MailChimp helps you make the most out of your emails and gives you a great idea of what your subscribers want to see. 

via MailChimp

via MailChimp

MailChimp offers a great start of features for smaller businesses and has various levels of price plans for varying sizes of organizations. 

Communicating to your organization's best potential isn't difficult when you have the right tools! 

Joe DeWitt is a communications intern at the Choose Clean Water Coalition. 

Member Highlight: Lackawanna River Conservation Association

Photo: Lackawanna River Conservation Association 

Photo: Lackawanna River Conservation Association 

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA) prides itself in years of river clean up and watershed protection, specifically focusing on the Lackawanna River. They envision a community of consciously planned neighborhoods, a healthy river, sustainable industry, and multi-generational environmental support. We were excited to hear back from the LRCA director Bernie McGurl on what makes this organization such an important part of our Coalition. 

Tell us about your organization and your mission: 

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association, known to members and friends as the LRCA, just celebrated its 30th anniversary as a community based watershed conservation organization. Our mission is to promote the conservation, protection and restoration of the Lackawanna River and its watershed resources. We accomplish our mission by involving the community with projects and activities that are mutually beneficial to the community and the river.

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

We are conducting a “Water Quality Awareness” Public Outreach and Education Program (POEP) in 15 local municipalities in collaboration with the Lackawanna River Basin Sewer Authority. LRCA Staff and Volunteers attend community events, firemen’s picnics and festivals. We set up an outreach table under a popup canopy of festival tent and distribute water quality protection literature; How to booklets for installing rain barrels and rain gardens. We further engage the public in conversations about our river, its watershed and how we all can be better stewards of our local environment. These POEP events also provide us an opportunity to promote the establishment of a regional Stormwater Management Authority to consolidate MS4 responsibilities and build greater financial and management capacity into one central agency. We suggest in personal discussion taxpayer to taxpayer that centralized management of stormwater can save tax dollars and provide better service to local residents and businesses.Our response from the public and individual elected officials has been very supportive of the concept. We are still working to obtain a consensus among the 30 or so separate local municipalities to engender the intergovernmental agreements to bring a new stormwater agency into existence. We are optimistic that we will succeed in the long turn.

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

We announced a few weeks ago at our 30th Anniversary Celebration Dinner that we were initiating a Ten Year, One Million Dollar Watershed Conservation Fund Campaign beginning in 2018. The announcement was greeted with a rousing round of applause from a room filled with nearly 200 members, donors and sponsors. We are engaged in a determined effort to recruit and involve younger members of our community to become involved with our mission as members, volunteers and donors, The goal of our Fund Campaign it to establish a financial foundation to transition our staff leadership and retain new younger leadership with a more secure funding base to support family sustaining salaries for new staff that is competitive with other regional not for profit conservation agencies.When we created the LRCA in 1987 we developed a master plan to restore our river that had been damaged by 150 years of coal mining and industrialization. We have engendered a remarkable recovery of water and habitat quality along our river in the past 30 years. However, there is still a long list of unmet needs in our watershed for mine land and mine drainage reclamation, improvements to our ageing water and sewer infrastructure and conservation protection and acquisition of critical watershed lands. Our new fund campaign will help build our organization’s capacity to continue addressing these needs and our mission over the next 30 years.

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

The LRCA has been a member of the Clean Water Coalition for the past seven years. The Coalition continues to offer a way to engage with other local community based stakeholders across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Coalition provides opportunities to share information, educate others and become educated ourselves on a wide range of water resource issues. Membership in the Coalition provides opportunities to network with individuals and organizations working with common values to address our civic responsibilities for water resource conservation in non-ideological ways. We believe the our membership in the Coalition provides us with a collective, moderate, responsible and respected voice on clean water issues that can be heard clearly and distinctly in Washington and in our state capitols. 

For more information on the Lackawanna River Conservation Association, contact Bernie McGurl.

Clean Water Act at 45: Despite Success, It's Under Attack

This week is the 45th anniversary of the adoption of the Clean Water Act. This post takes a quick look at where we were, where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going on clean water policy.

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The Bad Old Days Before 1972

Congress enacted the law in response to rampant contamination of waterways and brought about important improvements across the nation. By the 1960s, pollution brought numerous water bodies to the brink of death. The Cuyahoga River, running through Cleveland, Ohio into Lake Erie, became so polluted with industrial waste in the 1950s and 1960s that it famously caught fire on more than one occasion.

Lake Erie itself received so much municipal waste and agricultural runoff that it was projected to become biologically dead. Unchecked water pollution in inland waterways accounted for record fish kills; for example, some 26 million fish died because of the contamination of Lake Thonotosassa, Florida. Industry discharged mercury into the Detroit River at a rate of between 10 and 20 pounds per day, causing in-stream water to exceed the Public Health Service limit for mercury six times over. Waterways in many cities across the country served as nothing more than sewage receptacles for industrial and municipal waste.  The rate of wetlands loss from the 1950s to the 1970s was approximately 450,000 acres per year.

To read more, please visit National Resources Defense Council's website.

The Effects of Hurricane Season on the Chesapeake

Floodwaters in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. (photo: David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

Floodwaters in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. (photo: David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

Agnes, Hugo, Floyd, Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy turned out to be dastardly souls. This year, we also had the misfortune of meeting those vile beings called Harvey, Irma, and Maria. These infamous characters are none other than the hurricanes that have had damaging impacts on the landscape of the United States in recent years. 

As global temperatures increase, scientists have been warning that hurricanes will occur more often and be more intense. In May 2017, NOAA predicted an above-average hurricane season with anywhere between two and four major hurricanes (categories 3-5). NOAA updated this prediction in August 2017, suggesting that as many as five major hurricanes could impact the United States.The storms that make landfall are more intense due to rising global temperatures. Warm air can hold more water vapor, therefore allowing storms to hold and drop more precipitation when they make landfall.

Graphic: CNN

Graphic: CNN

The 2017 hurricane season may go down in history for the unparalleled destruction caused by the frequent and intense storms. Hurricane Irma destroyed 25% of the homes in the Florida Keys and resulted in 65% of the homes having major damage. Hurricane Maria was the strongest storm to ever hit Puerto Rico. The damage from Maria decimated the energy grid and it will likely take months to restore power to the island. Hurricane Harvey, however, claims the precipitation title. The storm set the record for the most rainfall ever from a tropical cyclone in the continental United States, dropping 51 inches of rain. It is estimated that the storm dumped 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas and Louisiana.

While the Bay region has been relatively untouched by severe weather this hurricane season, we should be mindful that severe weather events could derail improvements made to the Bay. Hurricane season overlaps at least partially with the crop harvest season. Croplands are more susceptible to erosion when the crops have been harvested and the land is barren. Additionally, strong winds and flooding events virtually eliminate the benefit of soil capturing best management practices like vegetated buffers.  Strong storms also have the power to churn up and flush out legacy sediment that has been holding nutrients in place for centuries.

This photo (courtesy of Google) depicts the sediment clouds in the Susquehanna River leading into the Chesapeake Bay following Tropical Storm Lee.

The effects on the Chesapeake Bay of Tropical Storm Lee, which is by comparison a much smaller storm than either Irma, Maria, or Harvey, are well documented and informative. In September 2011, Tropical Storm Lee generated between 4 and 7 inches of rain throughout much of the Susquehanna River Basin, with some areas getting over 12 inches of rainfall and many areas experiencing flooding. The release of sediment, and therefore nutrients, from the Susquehanna River past the Conowingo Dam produced a 100-mile plume that was visible by satellite for several days. It was widely acknowledged that the nutrient releases to the Bay from this event were significant.

Multiple storms making landfall over the Chesapeake Bay in the same hurricane season could have compounded impacts.  We can look to the events in the Pamlico Sound of North Carolina in 1999 as illustrative. That year, three hurricanes hit the area and dumped approximately 1 meter of rainfall, which created 50-500 year flooding events. It was estimated that the combined floodwaters from these three storms decreased salinity in the estuary by 75% and delivered at least half of the annual nitrogen load. Other effects from these three storms on the estuary were: a creation of conditions within the water body that are not conducive for aquatic life, an increase in algae which exacerbates the poor conditions for aquatic life, the displacement of marine organisms, and an increase in diseases in fish.  

With two months remaining in hurricane season, the Bay Watershed is still at risk of experiencing a major storm event. Unanticipated releases of nutrients and sediment to the Bay could throw a monkey wrench in the progress that has been made to date. With Nate lurking around in the Caribbean and models suggesting a path over the Bay Watershed, threats posed to the Bay’s improvement by severe weather should not be discounted or ignored.

Kim Snell-Zarcone is the agriculture contractor at the Choose Clean Water Coalition

Getting Back To Our Roots At Fox Haven Farm

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Our State and Outreach Leads have a critical role in our restoration efforts across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They are six voices based in New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia and they play a tremendous role in the Coalition’s work coordinating our policy and advocacy priorities with members on the ground. They are vital to the success of the Coalition and have a deep passion for protecting our waterways.

Each year, our staff and the state leads convene for an in-person retreat to strategize bond, and discuss Coalition needs. This year’s annual retreat took place at Fox Haven Organic Farm nestled in the Piedmont hills of central Maryland. The wooded sanctuary hosted a dairy parlor, learning center, and a variety of gardens making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. We had a wonderful time exploring the farm’s orchard and tasted a variety of herbs and medicinal plants. Some were sour, some were sweet. Some were delicious and yummy to eat. We learned a lot and talked about best management practices used on the farm. We even pet some pigs!

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After some much needed R&R, we reflected on this year’s past successes. Our most pivotal moments were times in which we worked together and supported one another. We discussed ways in which we will continue to engage and support Coalition members as we face clean water threats at the state and federal level. Without a doubt, our work to maintain a healthy watershed took a turn on November 8, 2016. It is imperative now, more than ever, that we continue to advocate for healthy rivers and streams. Without the work of our members and our State and Outreach Leads, we'd be far behind in meeting our goals to improve and maintain the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The progress we've made is a reflection of our dedication to ensure clean water for all and future generations. 

Learn more about our state and outreach leads here.   

Mariah Davis is the field manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

“Hi, We’re from the Stormwater Workgroup and We’re Here to Help!”

As unlikely as the words in the title are to be spoken out loud, they would ring true if they were. Dealing with stormwater pollution, or “polluted runoff” - the more public friendly term- in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, has been a Policy Priority of the Choose Clean Water Coalition since our formation in 2009.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Our simple sounding goal is: “Strengthen policies and permits to stop polluted runoff in urbanized areas.” Anyone familiar with this issue knows that neither the problems nor the solutions are simple. Even narrowing down to “urbanized” areas is a bit of a misnomer, since there is polluted runoff on farms (think about what pops out of one end of a cow, and then what happens when it rains); from rural areas where drilling pads for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are located; and from the construction of pipelines and powerlines crisscrossing the rural parts of our watershed.  All are growing sources of stormwater runoff and pollution.

Let’s get back to the primary issue of stormwater pollution. This is the source of about 16 percent of nutrient pollution (both nitrogen and phosphorus) and 24 percent of sediment loads to the Bay. Far from the largest source of pollution to the Bay, but it is the fastest growing source in our region and one that tends to be very expensive to fix. That is why the Coalition decided early on to focus on this complex source of Bay pollution.

Much of the polluted runoff in our region though, does emanate from urbanized areas, and local and state governments, and the EPA, all have a role in regulating and reducing these sources of pollution. This is done primarily through a permitting system established through the Clean Water Act – the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, or “MS4” permits, for short. Kind of a cutesy acronym that engineers find comforting, and the rest of us roll our eyes about.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

But MS4 permits are a critical mechanism for dealing with stormwater runoff and that is why the Coalition’s Stormwater Workgroup has focused on this tool. In 2016, the Workgroup developed and adopted a “Model MS4 Permit” for our region, which clean water advocates could use, and have used, to lobby local, state, and federal governments to development stronger permits to reduce stormwater pollution entering local streams and rivers and eventually the Chesapeake Bay itself.

The Workgroup has also focused on mechanisms used by local governments to fund the actions that need to be taken “on the ground” to reduce pollution. Often, these funding sources are called “Stormwater Utilities” and are a user fee charged to residential and commercial properties for local governments to cover costs to fix stormwater pollution problems, many of which are caused by private development. The Coalition has put together an inventory of stormwater utilities throughout the six state (and D.C.) Chesapeake Bay watershed, with the intent of sharing success stories among local jurisdictions. These stories and “lessons learned” have been expanding around the watershed and more and more localities are considering, and implementing, new and innovative funding sources to pay for the work that is necessary.

There are no “silver bullets” to address stormwater pollution in the Chesapeake region – or nationwide for that matter. But the Stormwater Workgroup of the Choose Clean Water Coalition has been working hard to make a difference and to stop this growing source of pollution from growing any further.

Peter Marx is a federal contractor and the Stormwater Workgroup lead for the Coalition.

What's With That Damn Dam? The Conowingo Story

What is the Conowingo Dam?

The Conowingo Dam is a large, operational hydroelectric dam in the lower Susquehanna River near the town of Conowingo, Maryland close to the Pennsylvania border. As one of the largest non-federal hydroelectric dams in the United States, the dam has a surface area of 9,000 acres and a maximum length of 4,648 feet. Construction was completed on the Conowingo Dam in 1928 and it opened in 1929. The dam is owned by Exelon Corporation, an American 100 energy company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

Photo credit: Chesapeake Bay Program 

Photo credit: Chesapeake Bay Program 

How does it work?

Image Credit: WikideVega, Hydroelectric Power 2014

Image Credit: WikideVega, Hydroelectric Power 2014

The dam was built to generate electricity via hydroelectric power. When water from the dam passes through, propeller-like pieces called turbines spin. This then turns a metal shaft in an electric generator, which is the motor that produces electricity. The more water that passes through the dam, the more energy that is produced!

 

Why is the dam significant to the Chesapeake Bay clean-up?

Over time, the dam has unintentionally acted as a “pollution gate” stopping sediment (and attached pollutants) from going down stream into the Chesapeake Bay. However, at this point in time, the reservoir behind the dam is essentially full and is trapping smaller and smaller amounts of sediment over time. When the region experiences large storms that create strong floods, this scours the sediment and other pollutants behind the dam and sends them downstream into the Bay. Original estimates stated that the dam would not be at trapping capacity until 2030 or 2035, but the dam is approximately 95 percent full right now, and recent assessments have determined the dam is no longer stopping pollution at all.

The Susquehanna River flows south past Conowingo Dam, toward Havre de Grace, Md., on June 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program 

The Susquehanna River flows south past Conowingo Dam, toward Havre de Grace, Md., on June 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program 

This poses several significant problems to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup. First, the dollar amount that was considered enough to meet pollution reduction goals, around $19 billion, is not going to cut it. Second, even with full implementation of Maryland’s federally-required cleanup plan, it will not be enough to achieve water quality goals on its own. Because of this, Maryland is currently proposing to test dredge a small amount behind the dam to remove some sediment and determine whether this approach would help to improve the health of the Bay. Third, Pennsylvania is significantly behind their cleanup goals, but with the dam filling up, the Keystone State may be asked to do more. This issue may inevitably cause tension between the states about who is responsible for the extra pollution reduction because of the sheer cost of additional reductions.

You might be wondering what Exelon is planning on doing to support the removal of built up sediment and attached nutrients from behind the dam. The short answer is - nothing…yet. However, Exelon cannot operate the dam without a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC's current license for Conowingo was issued in August 1980 and expired in September 2014; Exelon is currently operating on a temporary annual license. Exelon has filed an application with FERC for a renewed long-term license. This offers us a rare opportunity to require Exelon to reduce some negative impacts of the dam and support the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

From my perspective, the Chesapeake Bay cleanup was and will always be a team effort among all of the jurisdictions - Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and the District of Columbia – and the federal government. We need to come together as a community to determine the  most effective and least burdensome course of action; one that leads us to a cleaner rivers and streams flowing into a healthy Chesapeake Bay. 

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

What can you do?

President Trump’s FY2018 proposal to cut 31 percent of EPA’s budget would eliminate the Chesapeake Bay Program and the people who coordinate it. Considering the impacts of Conowingo, it is more important than ever to keep the cleanup on track, including the crucial federal investments that improve local water quality. Please contact your Member of Congress and tell them how important the Bay restoration effort is to you!

To learn more, please visit the Chesapeake Bay Program's website.

Chante Coleman is the director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

People of the Global Majority in the Outdoors, Nature, and Environment

Photo: Mariah Davis

Photo: Mariah Davis

Last month, Choose Clean Water Coalition Director Chanté Coleman and I had the pleasure of visiting Berkeley, California for the 2017 PGM One Summit. This two day retreat provided a space for people of the global majority working in the outdoors and environmental spaces to heal, learn, and inspire together. Not only was this my first time on the West Coast, but it was an opportunity to meet and connect with other colleagues at the National Wildlife Federation who advocate for social justice in the outdoors.  

Although, people of color represent 80% of the global majority often times our communities become marginalized and have little representation in leadership. The PGM One Summit was unlike any other, because it gave us the opportunity to celebrate our uniqueness and capitalize on our strengths. Affinity spaces like this are especially important because they allow people of color to have dialogue and interaction that might not otherwise occur. Overall, the outcome was both positive and empowering.

The conference itself was quite the bonding experience. Every day, people of color are challenged to meet increasingly difficult and uncertain times with compassion when facing oppression. The “Colors of Compassion Mindfulness Workshop” breakout session was a space for us to engage in mindful practices. We discussed ways in which we self-manage and overcome challenging situations in work spaces. We read excerpts from mindfulness teachers and reflected on our experiences in peace and solidarity.

One of the most interesting concepts I heard was from a Latina who spends her free time teaching young women to surf. She described her experience catching big waves as both invigorating and intimidating. When cursing salty seas she felt free, yet… alone. The sport itself is heavily dominated by white men. It’s not only a challenge being a female surfer, but imagine being the only face you can relate to? At times, it can be difficult for people of color to develop a relationship with nature if they face socio-economic disadvantages. By the end of the conversation we learned that Polynesian women were actually some of the world’s first surfers prior to Western expansion.

Overall, the PGM One Summit was an enriching experience. My biggest takeaway was building new partnerships and embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion among my colleagues. We thank the National Wildlife Federation for giving us the opportunity to rejuvenate our cultural relationship with nature. Even though people of color make up the global majority we don’t always have an opportunity to come together and celebrate our narrative.

Mariah Davis is the field manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Forget Millennials, GenZ is Here

Just when you thought you had the selfie-sticking, social media obsessed, rose-colored glasses wearing generation of Millennials figured out, a new group has to come along and make things even more complicated. Meet Generation Z (Also, what are we doing after this generation? Switching to Roman numerals? Emojis?)

Generation Z is roughly defined as anyone born in or after 1998, making the oldest of that group 19 years old (Take a second to feel old - I am.) While it may seem that everyone who grew up with filters on photos and never experienced the sound of dial-up internet (shudder) all belong in the same generation, there are some big differences in how GenZ sees the world vs Millennials, which impacts how they should be targeted.

Millennials (the time frame varies, but generally people born between 1984 to 1997. Don't even get me started on Xennials.) tend to look at the world as their oyster and that opportunities are everywhere. They are optimistic , sometimes to a fault, and value a positive workplace over pay. GenZ has grown up in a time of global terrorism, climate change, violence in schools, etc., so to say they are a little more cautious may be an understatement. They watched their parents struggle during the Great Recession, so they are more realistic about opportunities and look for stability and security. GenZ also prefer face-to-face communications more than their Millennial predecessors, and favor tech tools that encourage that, like Skype, Facetime, and Snapchat.

Here are some more stats on GenZ:

  1. 26 percent have donated to a cause their own money, or allowance, to a cause. (Side-note: The average allowance of a GenZ is $70 a month. Yea.)
  2. The most important causes to them? Children and youth, education, and animals.
  3. They grew up in the Great Recession, making them cautious about money, more likely to save than spend, and they want to know their money is going to actually do something.
  4. They got their first social media account at 11 years old, on average.
  5. Gen Z believes that climate change is the biggest challenge facing the world in the next decade. 63% favor solar energy. 58% have recycled. 31% have boycotted a company that has hurt the environment. 
  6. They are the most diverse generation (over half will represent minority groups by 2020) and the most tolerant generation (56% of Gen Zs in the United States know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns.)

So what do we do with all of this information? It is important to remember who our target audience is and what appeals to them when creating communications strategies and campaigns. For now, it looks like the new generation of potential clean water supporters are primed and ready to be activated around issues that they care about, especially climate change and wildlife. We are challenged though to prove to this generation that their time and money are actually going toward making a change (X number of trees planted when you donate $X). 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to find this building where you can send mail by hand with something called a stamp? Weird.

Kristin Reilly is the communications manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Sources:

http://blog.ryan-jenkins.com/2015/06/08/15-aspects-that-highlight-how-generation-z-is-different-from-millennials 

http://www.nptechforgood.com/2017/06/26/what-your-nonprofit-needs-to-know-about-gen-z/ 

Cleaning and Greening with Meaning

The Stormwater Workgroup of the Choose Clean Water Coalition has done a lot of work over the past few years on “stormwater utilities” – or “stormwater fees”. Fees are a mechanism used by local governments to help cover the costs of fixing polluted runoff problems in urban and/or suburban areas.

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

A couple of years ago, the workgroup put together a Stormwater Utility Clearinghouse – effectively a spreadsheet listing every local government in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that had a stormwater fee, and included specific data about the fees; the fee structure, including exemptions; and contact information. The primary intent was to have a central document that other local governments could use to get ideas about efforts in their region to reduce stormwater runoff and meet clean water goals.

David Morgan, the water policy associate for the Coalition in 2016 and 2017, spent time refining the Clearinghouse and also sharing information with others across the country, including the Western Kentucky University which compiles a similar list stormwater utilities nationwide.

In order to improve information sharing with local government officials who might be interested in establishing a stormwater fee, a few members of the workgroup, Becky Hammer and Alisa Valderrama with Natural Resources Defense Council and David Morgan, sought to compile a helpful list of policy recommendations. This report, with a heavy emphasis on using green infrastructure to reduce stormwater pollution, was completed in June.  The “Paying for Stormwater Management in Chesapeake Bay Communities: Policy Recommendations” is now available for anyone to use.

The concise 15 page report provides a lot of basic information for anyone, or any community, interested in stormwater utilities. The report also contains a number of references to other sources for more detailed information in a number of areas. If you know of someone interested in learning about utilities, or if you want to spur your local government to consider something like this, feel free to share this report with them.

This report provides guidance for how to set a fee, how much it should be, who should pay it, who should be exempt or receive a credit, and other critical information.

Peter Marx is the federal affairs contractor with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: FracTracker Alliance

Oil and gas development is a major issue across the country and something the Coalition has prioritized in our work. With issues like pipeline development and fracking in the news almost everyday, it is important now more than ever for the Coalition to be kept up-to-date on the threats we face. This is why we are excited to welcome FracTracker Alliance to the Choose Clean Water Coalition! Read on to learn how their expertise and tools may be able to help you in your future work!

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

FracTracker Alliance studies, maps, and communicates the risks of oil and gas development to protect our planet and support the renewable energy transformation. We got our start as a project of the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. Now a registered 501(c)3, FracTracker has offices in Camp Hill, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Washington, DC; Cleveland, OH; Ithaca, NY; and Oakland, CA.

As our tagline – insights empowering action – suggests, our work in communities aids local groups with information critical to their fights against the impacts of extreme energy extraction. We examine impacts and risks related to oil and gas wells, injection wells, pipelines, sand mines, landfills, refineries, and many other types of energy infrastructure. More recently, we have begun to investigate the data and opportunities that surround renewable energy. Learn more at fractracker.org.

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

This spring we released a major update to our free mobile FracTracker app for tracking oil and gas development activities and associated impacts. We have been working on the update for some time, and I’m very excited to see it get off the ground. Oil and gas infrastructure - from wells to pipelines to refineries - has a variety of ways of affecting the communities and environment that surround it. The app facilitates the documentation and sharing of these experiences with others, serving as a tracking tool for reporters, residents, researchers, and groups concerned about the deleterious effects of this industry. In addition to an improved oil and gas map showing active wells and pipelines across the country, we have added an activity feed and a profile feature into the mobile app. 

In the next few months we will be working with a variety of partners to crowdsource oil and gas infrastructure and impacts using the app. In Maryland, for example, we are partnering with a local non-profit this fall to help residents document health concerns. With National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) we hope to work with volunteers to document oil and gas pipeline risks and impacts along the Appalachian Trail, similar to work we did with NPCA in 2016 in Mesa Verde National Park. You can learn more about the app on our website: fractracker.org/apps

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

FracTracker has covered oil and gas pipeline and pipeline rights-of-way issues, but we think the topic deserves even more of our attention. We hope to collaborate with more regional organizations to provide mapping and analyses that will benefit their advocacy and policy objectives. We also plan to look into ways we can highlight renewable energy opportunities so people better understand that there are safer, cleaner, and accessible alternatives to fossil fuels. Our mobile app may be a helpful tool in many of these exercises.

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

The Coalition is packed with talented, committed organizations doing impressive work to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In some cases, we may be able to supplement their work with the technical resources we provide, but we can also share and disseminate their successes or findings through guest blog posts and other means. Working in partnership, we know much can be accomplished. Through the Coalition, we can broaden our relationships, assist other groups, and aggregate knowledge to inform and inspire many.

For more information on the FracTracker Alliance, contact Sam Rubright.

The Power of Our Coalition

The role of the Choose Clean Water Coalition is to bring members of the Chesapeake Bay restoration community together to coordinate our work and messaging so that we can be stronger with one voice. With so much work to be done in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and with limited resources to do it with, most of the 230 Coalition members find themselves focusing solely on their own projects and watersheds. All of that changed in November of 2016.

A once friendly climate for our environment had turned uncertain and at times combative with the President’s proposed budget eliminating critical federal funding needed to restore the Bay and jeopardized other clean water rules and protections There was an immediate sense of panic among our members and it was in this moment that we as a community were forced to reevaluate not only how we worked on our individual issues, but also with each other.

Not long after, the Coalition began the planning process for our upcoming Choose Clean Water Conference. For the past eight years, the Coalition has hosted this conference in a different city in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with the purpose of bringing our members together for two days of networking, learning, and celebration. It was during the planning for this conference that we made the decision as a Coalition not to panic in this new political climate, but rather to show the strength in our numbers, and our theme was born – Think local. Act together.

Coalition members showing their 'power' at the 8th Annual Choose Clean Water Conference. Carolyn Millard/NWF

Coalition members showing their 'power' at the 8th Annual Choose Clean Water Conference.
Carolyn Millard/NWF

When the conference came this past May, there was every opportunity for the speakers, sessions, and attendees to focus on the negative implications of our situation. However, our keynote speaker, Mustafa Ali of the Hip Hop Caucus and National Wildlife Federation Board member, kicked off our conference with an incredibly motivating speech that ended with a beautiful moment. Our members were asked to stand up, join hands, and say, “power.” They were asked to say it again and a little louder this time, “power.” The last time, they were asked to raise their hands above their heads and say it as loud as they could, “POWER!”

This was the moment our members realized that no matter what happens at the federal level, our community will continue to make change on the ground. We will continue to install rain gardens in communities across the watershed to reduce pollution, we will continue to plant trees and increase wildlife habitat for threatened species, we will continue to engage and support under-served communities, and we will continue to fight for regulations that protect the water that we drink. When we work together, no one can take away our power.

Kristin Reilly is the communications manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: Upstream Alliance

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

We all love getting out on the water and enjoying this incredible Chesapeake Bay watershed that we are working so hard to protect, so why not have an organization dedicated to doing just that! Meet the Upstream Alliance, and their Program Director Erica Baugh. The name may sound familiar, and that's because environmental education is in her blood. Don Baugh, president and founder of the Upstream Alliance, spent 38 years directing environmental education programs at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. We asked Erica to tell us a little more about the organization and how they hope to work with Choose Clean Water in the future.

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

Upstream Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people to nature. We dream of a healthy relationship between people and the environment, where people understand and care for nature, making the world a healthier place for all inhabitants. Upstream Alliance’s mission is to provide significant outdoor environmental education experiences to prepare the next generation to be leaders and stewards of a sustainable environment.

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

One of our current programs, Conservation Expeditions, has recently been gaining a lot of traction and has successfully been expanding to our target audience. This expedition centered program is based on an existing network of distinguished Chesapeake Bay conservation leaders. The network will grow to include emerging leaders and ecosystems beyond the Chesapeake Bay region. Conservation Expeditions provide first-person experiences in an outdoor setting, as well as professional development and networking opportunities. We hope they will lead to advances in environmental education, and policy initiatives to help preserve the Bay and other coastal ecosystems.

Within the network, participants will become increasingly engaged over time. This will be achieved with emerging leaders growing and developing through professional relationships, eventually becoming distinguished leaders able to mentor and coach new leaders.

We have begun by seeking emerging leaders from environmental and conservation groups, philanthropic organizations, government agencies, and private corporations. We anticipate focusing our audience over time, as well as broadening the geographic locales where we work. We will pursue ethnic and racial diversity—traditionally a challenge in environmental work. 

Upstream Alliance led three highly successful spring trips:

1)      April 21-23, Delaware River, Theme: Celebrating the Clean Water Act on Earth Day Weekend (28 participants)

2)      May 5-7, Potomac River, Theme: Political Leadership, Looking Back and Forward (27 participants)

3)      June 9-11, Delaware Bay, Theme: Horseshoe Crabs (31 participants)

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

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

Upstream Alliance is gearing up to put a significant amount of energy into the Superintendents’ Environmental Education Collaborative (SEEC). SEEC was developed to take advantage of the interest in environmental education fostered by many school systems, and by the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Upstream Alliance launched the collaborative to help school superintendents advance environmental education and leverage opportunities provided by ESSA.

The purpose of SEEC is to create model environmental education programs that can be replicated across the nation. School superintendents learn about grant opportunities through ESSA, best practices for environmental education, and strategies for implementing plans. Superintendents network with each other through conference calls, webinars, and short wilderness outings during the annual conference of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

At the last conference in March 2017, 93 education leaders attended an immersion field trip and 60 superintendents attended a conference session that SEEC sponsored. These education leaders learned about model programs, partnerships and opportunities to advance environmental education in school systems. During the conference, 19 superintendents agreed to be state champions, leading and disseminating information to their respective states. In the next year, Upstream Alliance hopes to gain interest and action from additional superintendents that are invested in advancing environmental education in their community.

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

Upstream Alliance is delighted to be a member of the Clean Water Coalition in order to help support clean and healthy waterways. We see tremendous value in collaboration around shared goals. The Clean Water Coalition does a great job of uniting and advocating for healthy water through coordinated messaging. We appreciate the information dispersed on how we can participate, collaborate, and support the restoration of Chesapeake Bay waterways.

For more information on the Upstream Alliance, please contact Erica Baugh.

Where Are We in the Clean Up?

I’ve never been afraid to swim in the Chesapeake Bay. Granted, I only moved to Annapolis about two years ago, but I talk to people all the time who were afraid 10, 20, 30 years ago to step foot in the Bay (except for maybe Bernie Fowler). 

This perception of a 'dirty Bay' is changing, and for good reason: The Chesapeake Bay is getting cleaner due to the mandated clean-up plan. Under the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, watershed states are required to implement 60 percent of practices to reduce nutrient pollution and sediments flowing into the Bay by this year and 100 percent by 2025. 

In June 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released its Chesapeake Bay Blueprint Progress Report, which evaluates the short-term progress made by the six states and the District of Columbia to meet the longer-term pollution reduction goals. This report highlights the significant progress we have made toward these goals. It also highlights shortcomings so that we can direct our energy and take corrective action to make these improvements before 2025.  For example, we see progress in areas like reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plants and factories, while almost all of the states are behind in meeting their urban and suburban runoff goals.

State By State

While Virginia is on track to meet its phosphorus goal for agriculture and installed 6.7 million linear feet of stream exclusion fencing, it is slightly off track for nitrogen and sediment reductions. At the Coalition, we realize the importance of agriculture best management practices in order to reduce agriculture runoff to the Bay.  This is why we are launching a campaign called Our Water, which will focus on increasing clean water conservation funding in Virginia for the agricultural sector, so that farmers are able to install forest buffers and other conservation practices for little or no cost.

Maryland is slightly off track in reducing nitrogen pollution from agriculture and for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in urban/suburban areas, but efforts to upgrade sewage treatment plants are on track, with 67 upgraded so far. In order for Maryland to meet its 2025 goals, the state needs to implement more stormwater reduction practices in urban/suburban areas. Reducing runoff from rain events will prevent the amount of pollution entering Maryland waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, it is important that the state continue to stay strong on septic system requirements and upgrades.

Pennsylvania is has the most ground to make up when it comes to meeting its 2025 goals. To address this, Pennsylvania instituted a Reboot Plan, which includes a goal to plant 95,000 acres of forest buffers and inspect 10% of farms for nutrient/manure management plans. One of the main issues in Pennsylvania is budget short falls that are reducing the investment needed in agencies and technical services at the state and county levels. The Coalition will be working in Pennsylvania in order to ensure increased funding at the state-level for clean water goals.

But Where's The Good News?

The good news is: the clean-up is working. Wastewater treatment plants are being upgraded, conservation practices to reduce runoff are being installed, the submerged aquatic vegetation is returning to the Bay, and wildlife populations are increasing. The bad news is that we still have a lot of progress to make and the current Federal Administration is threatening to dismantle our cooperative clean-up plan.  In fact, President Trump proposed to zero out funding for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program in his fiscal year 2018 budget.

It is important to remember that the states cannot achieve these goals without support, and that the federal funding they rely on to make progress is under attack. Without these resources, the states stand to lose millions of dollars for on the ground restoration projects that are improving local communities. The Coalition will continue to work with members of Congress to ensure the restoration effort continues and critical federal funding is restored.

Remember, 11 million people get their drinking water from the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We urge you to contact your Member of Congress and ask them to support the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.

To learn more about the Coalition’s work to ensure the clean-up continues, click here.

Chanté Coleman is the director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Young Professionals of Color Meet in Annapolis

On Friday, January 27, the Choose Clean Water Coalition held the wrap-up for the inaugural session of our Young Professionals of Color (YPC) mentorship program. The informal happy hour was a blast. The food was delicious and the wine was flowing. But more importantly, the mood was one of camaraderie and excitement. The Coalition is very proud of what we were able to accomplish with the YPC program since the kick off at our conference last May, and on a personal level, I am extremely proud of the program as well. Chante was the brains behind the operation, but she graciously let me take the lead last year. It has been educational and enlightening every step of the way.

By all measures, the program was a success. We were initially unsure of how much interest there would be when we decided to start the program. Fortunately, we received requests to join from a robust group of people for the pilot program—eight mentor/mentee pairs all told. Not bad for a first go around.

We asked each pair to have at least one monthly call and at least three in-person meetings throughout the duration of the program, and by my count, participants went above and beyond; the pairs seemed to truly connect by exchanging regular texts, meeting for the occasional coffee, helping each other plan events, etc. If the conversations at our happy hour were any indication, it seems as though the mentors and mentees became trusted friends. One participant shared, “I really enjoyed the trusted relationship I was able to build with my mentor. It was really nice to have someone to vent to and ask for advice, knowing they would provide me with honest and experienced expertise.” That’s powerful, and that’s just the kind of relationship we wanted to foster through the YPC program.

Like any program, however, we want YPC to grow and get better with every iteration. We plan on rolling out the second session at this year’s Choose Clean Water Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia (breakfast kick off on the morning of May 24th). Based on input from this year’s participants, we’re going to have more consistent check-ins between mentors and mentees, more topic-driven goals, and will aim to have more program-wide get-togethers and team building exercises. Who knows, we may even have t-shirts!

We’re hoping to grow in size, too! If you or anyone you know would like to be part of this year’s YPC program, do not hesitate to drop me a line (morgand@nwf.org). Please note, all mentors from last year identified as people of color. We are opening up the mentor pool to those who do not identify as such for this coming year. We believe that this will go a long way in ensuring a rich group of experiences to share going forward. 

When Chante passed the YPC torch to me, I was admittedly a bit confused—why would a young professional of color hand the reigns of this program to someone who, while a young professional, is so obviously white? I think it’s critical for those of us who identify as white to keep learning about ongoing inequities in our environmental community and to keep doing our part to make ours the most inclusive community possible. Regardless of whether or not it was a measured move to put me in charge, I know my perspective allowed me to experience the program through a unique lens. I’ve learned about the lack of people of color in the environmental community, particularly in leadership positions, and I feel humbled to be but a small part of the solution.

Coalition Success: Maryland Bans Fracking

In March 2017, a number of successes came out of Maryland’s state legislature, including a ban on hydraulic fracturing. The ban to protect the precious Marcellus Shale formation, local waterways, and drinking water in the Western part of the state had overwhelming, bipartisan support and Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, signed and passed the ban into law noting that, “Protecting our natural clean water supply and natural resources is critically important to Marylanders, and we simply cannot allow the door to open for fracking in our state”. Maryland and New York are the only two states that have banned fracking in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.   

The threat of natural gas development within the Bay watershed has been a long contested debate. For the last nine years, the Coalition’s Shale Workgroup has pushed back at the local, state, and regional level to champion precedent setting policies to address the impacts of shale gas drilling. The significance of this historic ban speaks volumes to the work of Coalition members, specifically in Western Maryland. Efforts on the ground in favor of Maryland’s fracking ban legislation was seen from 37 diverse Coalition members, including faith groups, sportsmen, and conservation non-profits. Strong support was vocalized through a series of sign-on letters addressed to Governor Hogan and six state legislators whose districts would be impacted by fracked natural gas.

Maryland’s ban on fracking is not just a huge victory for  one portion of the Chesapeake watershed, it will also protect  drinking water for tens of thousands of people and species of wildlife. This victory signifies the importance of collaboration and working together. Each member of the Choose Clean Water Coalition -no matter how big or small- plays a key role in protecting the Chesapeake. The ban serves as a Coalition win and demonstrates the power of our ability to provide capacity to our members and drive strategic action for the protection of our natural resources.  

Mariah Davis is the field manager for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Coalition Success: Conservation collaboration in New York

Wendy Walsh of the Upper Susquehanna Watershed Coalition speaks at the Upper Susquehanna Watershed Forum in Oneonta, New York, on November 3, 2016. The event was organized by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and its partners to share local knowledge regarding restoration in the Susquehanna headwaters.

Wendy Walsh of the Upper Susquehanna Watershed Coalition speaks at the Upper Susquehanna Watershed Forum in Oneonta, New York, on November 3, 2016. The event was organized by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and its partners to share local knowledge regarding restoration in the Susquehanna headwaters.

On a peaceful, cloudy day in upstate New York on November 3, 2016, the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Oneonta played host to the first annual Upper Susquehanna Watershed Forum, a chance for upper watershed and Chesapeake Bay representatives to engage with one another and create connections for sharing watershed restoration and protection resources. Communication and collaboration, the unofficial themes of the day, were evident throughout. Opening remarks were a joint effort from Maryland and New York, with Lou Etgen from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Les Hasbargen from SUNY Oneonta addressing the crowd. They were followed by Mike Lovegreen of the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, who echoed much the same in his State of the Upper Watershed: “We need to address the whole watershed.” 

The Upper Susquehanna River forms the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and is unique in that 99 percent of its headwaters are protected and managed by a network of soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) working together as the Upper Susquehanna Coalition (USC). USC’s structure allows SWCDs, which are established by state law and work to develop locally-driven solutions for natural resource concerns, to enter into multi-district agreements with a memorandum of understanding. These SWCDs work within their own locality, but also use these agreements to share equipment and training with one another. Together, these districts voluntarily work to improve water quality and quality of life for the 7,500 square miles under their care. 

The area is overwhelmingly forested—close to 70 percent—which led farms to be built along the banks of streams, directly in the floodplains. “[Sediment pollution] is not running off the farms.  It’s the farmland itself” that is eroding away, explained Lovegreen. Following Lovegreen’s State of the Watershed was a local government panel and examples of successful best management practices, or BMPs, with much of the conversation focused on stream restoration. 

Attendees of the Upper Susquehanna Watershed Forum, including representatives of local watershed groups, tour Silver Spoon Dairy Farm and their BMP initiatives in Garrattsville, New York, following the conclusion of the forum sessions.

Attendees of the Upper Susquehanna Watershed Forum, including representatives of local watershed groups, tour Silver Spoon Dairy Farm and their BMP initiatives in Garrattsville, New York, following the conclusion of the forum sessions.

Communities take a local approach in the Upper Susquehanna, coming together to address streams in every way possible: at the source, across the landscape, in the stream corridor and with programs. Efforts are guided by the USC’s three focus areas: stream corridor rehabilitation, environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture and wetland restoration. “[The strategy] is a comprehensive public participation approach,” explained Tioga County SWCD’s Wendy Walsh. “Farms and communities have trust in the SWCDs, and that’s how we get things done.” Some restoration work might be triggered by forces of nature, but the effort to address it is personal and actionable.

Discussion of successful BMP efforts allowed opportunities for attendees to problem solve comparable programs in their own areas of the watershed; themed table discussions during the lunch hour provided networking and platforms for creative solutions. Participants left that day to return to their home organizations with individual commitments toward continued restoration and protection activities, and with a desire for more engagement in the future with their colleagues across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

With continued conferences that provide connections for the work being done all across the watershed and the actions that result from them, the vision of the Upper Susquehanna Coalition may be realized: a well-functioning Susquehanna River headwaters in harmony with itself and the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.


Caitlyn Johnstone is the Outreach Coordinator at the Chesapeake Bay Program.