“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.

Protecting the Potomac River from Pipelines

In 2016, behind the scenes, without public input, a West Virginia gas company called Mountaineer Gas quietly laid the groundwork for a fracked gas pipeline that would threaten the Potomac River and the National Park Service’s C&O Canal, one of the most visited national parks. Residents in Morgan County, WV became aware of the pipeline proposal only after landmen requested access to properties for routing of the pipeline. Mountaineer Gas began bullying residents with ultimatums and eminent domain after receiving conditional approval from the WV Public Service Commission to route their gas line. The route proposed would cross five streams, all of which is in Karst geology. Karst geology is limestone that can rapidly dissolve and form pathways between the surface and groundwater, including streams. Pipelines do leak and in Karst geology pose a risk to private wells, cause stream contamination and stream flow loss, and develop sinkholes that can threaten the integrity of the pipeline.

October 23rd protest rally in Hancock, Maryland

October 23rd protest rally in Hancock, Maryland

The proposal Mountaineer Gas submitted to WV Public Service Commission is for construction of a multi-million dollar pipeline from an existing line in the Martinsburg area west to Berkeley Springs and east to Jefferson County. This pipeline is contingent on the approval and construction of a TransCanada gas pipeline from PennsylvaniaThe TransCanada gas pipeline would route south from Bedford, PA to Hancock, MD, under the C&O Canal and Potomac River, finally ending in the Berkeley Springs, WV area. Columbia Gas is currently communicating with the National Park Service to be granted a right-of-way access to drill under Park property.

There is a real risk of this combined pipeline project to the Potomac River, the drinking water source for over 6 million people, and a risk to several high quality West Virginia streams and to private property in both Maryland and West Virginia.

BACKGROUND

Mountaineer Gas Pipeline

Mountaineer Gas works exclusively in West Virginia and therefore does not have federal oversight of this pipeline proposal. Once the route is secured, the pipeline has to receive a 401 state certification permit, a 404 ACOE permit, and state regulatory permits and authorizations. Mountaineer Gas has recently received authorization to proceed after an appeal of their application modification. Because the modification was perceived to be minor, public notice of the process was not initiated. However, Mountaineer Gas describes the pipeline as a distribution line mostly catering to two large companies. The distribution line would be a “redundant” line, essentially, a back-up gas line. This pipeline is contingent on the completion of the TransCanada gas line, which has yet to submit an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC’s One-sided Approach

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has a history of downplaying potential environmental damage and property rights as they analyze natural gas pipeline development projects. The TransCanada pipeline will fall under FERC jurisdiction since it crosses state lines. The project will involve numerous stream crossings, cross land that is geologically vulnerable to spills and unnecessarily threaten the source of drinking water for millions of people.

LOCAL RESPONSE

On October 4th, environmental groups, including Potomac Riverkeeper Network, filed a motion to intervene in the Mountaineer Gas appeal. Our intention was to bring the potential of environmental damage into the case. In addition, the community gathered and submitted over 60 letters of protest to the proposed gas line. On October 23rd, over 50 people gathered in Hancock to protest the pipeline.

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper and groups in West Virginia ran a success letter writing campaign targeted at the National Park Service to demand that the NPS make the right-of-way permit request from TransCanada a public process. The NPS responded by delaying a response to TransCanada’s request and promising to incorporate public participation in any consideration of the pipeline project. On February 9, 2017, TransCanada held an informational session in Hancock and over a 100 people participated in a “silent protest.

Member Highlight: Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing wetland and waterfowl habitats.

Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13.8 million acres thanks to nearly $3.5 billion in contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent.

DU got its start nearly 80 years ago during the Dust Bowl era, when North America’s drought-plagued waterfowl populations had plunged to unprecedented lows. Determined not to sit idly by as the continent’s waterfowl dwindled beyond recovery, a small group of sportsmen joined together to form an organization that became known as Ducks Unlimited. Its mission: habitat conservation.

The benefits of that habitat conservation work stretch beyond waterfowl. More than 900 species of wildlife live in freshwater and saltwater wetlands. Also, more than one-third of species on the endangered species list rely in some parts on wetlands.

The impacts to people of wetland conservation are immense. Wetlands improve the overall health of our environment by recharging and purifying groundwater, moderating floods and reducing soil erosion. Wetlands soak up contaminants caused by rainwater runoff, keeping waters clear for recreation and drinking.

Unfortunately, the United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands, and tens of thousands of wetland acres continue to be lost—at an accelerating rate—each year.

In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, DU is focusing on protecting and restoring wetlands that offer the best opportunities for improving the overall health of the bay.

DU is able to deliver its work through a series of partnerships with private individuals, landowners, agencies, scientific communities and other entities, such as the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Ducks Unlimited is a grassroots, volunteer-based organization. Its members are conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts who live primarily throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Its conservation programs have always had a strong biological foundation. That science and research tradition continues today with hundreds of studies to address the habitat needs of waterfowl. Although a great deal of work has been done and many important questions answered, there is still much to learn about how the birds respond to landscape, habitat and environmental changes.

DU has embraced an approach of constant monitoring and evaluation which allows for continual refinement of its habitat programs. In the end, such an approach ensures that each and every dollar invested in conservation programs is used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Ducks Unlimited Canada, Ducks Unlimited de Mexico and Wetlands America Trust are committed to making DU's vision of abundant wetlands a reality through the "Rescue Our Wetlands: Banding Together for Waterfowl" campaign. The $2 billion continental campaign was launched in 2015 and is more than halfway toward reaching its goal.

Coalition Success: Festival del Río Anacostia

Anacostia Watershed Society Announces the First "Festival del Río Anacostia"

Date: October 15, 2016 Time: 11am - 4pm Location: Bladensburg Waterfront Park, 4601 Annapolis Rd, Bladensburg, MD 20710 FREE!

(Bladensburg, MD – October 10, 2016)The Anacostia Watershed Society announced the first ever Festival del Rio Anacostia, a multicultural and bilingual celebration of the restoration of the Anacostia River.

“Bring the whole family to enjoy nature and the Anacostia River,” said Jorge A. Bogantes Montero, Stewardship Program Specialist at Anacostia Watershed Society. “We will have activities and demonstrations, arts and crafts, entertainment, delicious food and much more -- there is something for everyone.”

We are pleased that this festival is made possible by the collaborative work of different organizations and community groups, including: Anacostia Watershed Society, Chispa Maryland, Chesapeake Bay Trust, Departament of Parks and Recreation of Prince Georges County, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and many others.

Learn, connect, and explore! Bring your family, friends or neighbors and enjoy a day at the river!

About the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) The mission of the Anacostia Watershed Society is to protect and restore the Anacostia River and its watershed communities by cleaning the water, recovering the shores, and honoring the heritage. The vision is to make the Anacostia River and its tributaries swimmable and fishable by 2025, in keeping with the Clean Water Act, for the health and enjoyment of everyone in the community. Community involvement is critical to achieving this vision and AWS seeks strong partnerships and coalitions with all parts of the community, government, and other stakeholders. Anacostia Watershed Society’s programs include environmental education, stewardship, recreation, and engaging the community through advocacy and volunteer opportunities. www.anacostiaws.org ##

Environmental Justice Workgroup Seeks to Create Safe Spaces to Address Racial Injustice

“What I am asking is for your willingness to see a part of yourself when you see me.”  - Dr. Erica Holloman. 

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It’s a plea that pierced my heart.  Dr. Holloman is an environmental scientist and mother of three. She is someone I admire and view as an invaluable partner.  But she made me realize I never see her when I look in the mirror. 

Through our Environmental Justice Workgroup, the Choose Clean Water Coalition is challenging us to address today’s racial justice and civil rights issues, which are a result of centuries of structural and institutional racism and bias.  Our call last week when Dr. Holloman called on us to truly see each other centered on what our community, clean water advocates, can do to address the recent police shootings.  We talked about creating safe space in our offices for discussions and actions in the field that can contribute to addressing these injustices.  It was honest, raw, and insightful.

It is imperative that environmentalists take part in the fight against racial discrimination and injustice.  Many of us are engaged in efforts to diversify the environmental movement and advocate for environmental justice legislation, because we know that communities of color and low-income communities bear the brunt of environmental pollution.  The bigger challenge for many of us as part of a mostly white, mostly upper middle class movement, is to see ourselves in the victims of police shootings and racial discrimination. 

Wangari Maathai, the prophetic Kenyan environmental and human rights advocate, said “In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace.”  It’s these connections, these similarities between our social movements to save people and to save the environment that must become stronger. 

As temperatures and tempers rise in this increasingly divided nation, we can and must see each other in our shared goals for the planet and the people living on it, not in the phenotypic differences that have artificially divided us. We can and must build an inclusive movement; one that values equity and democracy for all.   

Rebecca Rehr is the Public Health Advocacy Coordinator at the Maryland Environmental Health Network

Coalition Success: Federal Funding Secured for Pennsylvania Agriculture

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

On October 4, at the annual meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council (EPA Administrator, Bay state governors, the mayor of D.C. and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission) it was announced that over $28 million would be available for targeted agricultural conservation practices in south-central PA. The breakdown of funds was approximately:

  • $12.7 million from the US Dept. of Agriculture
  • $11.8 million from PA state agencies
  • $4 million from EPA

This is a big deal! A small portion of these funds had already been announced and disseminated (e.g., $3 million of EPA money announced by NFWF in August at their Chesapeake Stewardship Grants press conference), but these very targeted funds are critical to pick up the pace on agricultural lands in south central PA.

The Coalition has been very active all year trying to obtain additional funds for agriculture in PA, working with various Members of the House and Senate, meeting with officials at the Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of the President, OMB, USDA and EPA.

Family, Faith, Farming and Clean Water

The Caseys and the Smuckers– two Pennsylvania families with a rich history in different lines of work, but with a lot of the same interests: family, faith, farming and clean water. I was lucky enough to be part of a great day where two scions of these well-known families spent a few hours together looking at conservation problems and solutions on an Amish farm in Lancaster County, PA.

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is the senior Senator from Pennsylvania and a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture. His father was governor of Pennsylvania. Joe Smucker has taken over his family’s dairy farm outside of East Earl; the farm has been in his family for generations.

casey tour.jpg

Jenn Quinn (PennFuture) and I laid the groundwork for the tour earlier in the year when we were visiting Pennsylvania Congressional offices on Capitol Hill. In our meeting with Senator Casey’s Senior Policy Advisor we first thanked the Senator for his past support for full funding for the Chesapeake Stewardship Grants.  Then, we pitched the idea of getting the Senator out to look at some projects that were already funded. That offer, after some lengthy negotiating and a few date changes, is what led to this tour on a perfect summer day in early August.

The conservation practices on the Smucker Farm came from many sources – funding and/or technical assistance from an array of agencies and organizations, as well as the vision of Joe Smucker and his family. We focused on a Chesapeake Stewardship Grant that had been given to the Stroud Water Research Center, which in turn worked with a number of farms and farmers in the region. We had folks from Stroud, TeamAg, Lancaster County Conservation District and PennFuture join with those of us who organized the tour. The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), who administers the grant programs, hosted the tour. We were joined by Russ Redding , Secretary of Agriculture for Pennsylvania, as well as a number of neighboring Amish farmers who wanted to see what was going on at the Smucker Farm. We were also joined by a reporter with the Lancaster Farming newspaper. Click here for his take on the day.

We were met by the entire Smucker Family – Joe, his wife Martha, most of their kids (some were still working in the field), Joe’s father (Joe Smucker, Senior) and their neighbors. Senator Casey arrived and spent time chatting with the Smuckers, including their children, and all the neighbors.

Joe Smucker led the tour and showed us a new manure stacking area. He told a story about the large open manure pile that served as the farm’s “storage” area right next to where we were standing.  He noted that every time he walked by the pile it bothered him because he knew that when it rained the manure washed down the hill into the creek in the valley on the farm. As soon as he was able to get assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), he fixed this problem. We also looked at a forested riparian buffer that was recently planted along the small creek (headwaters of the Conestoga) in the farm’s valley. We learned about the Smucker Farm use of no-till farming techniques and cover crops, and their conservation plan. All of these conservation practices depended on financial and technical assistance from an array of sources, including Stroud and NFWF.

Joe Smucker was asked if he would be going around talking to other Amish farmers and encouraging them to install many of the conservation practices that he had. He gave a calm, reasoned and eloquent response – that started with “No”, but that he was willing to “lead by example” and would be happy to show what he did and talk to anyone who contacted him about it.

Senator Casey was very interested in many of the aspects of the conservation practices that were being used on the Smucker Farm, including how to get more of those practices onto other farms in Pennsylvania.  Senator Casey also interacted with the Smucker children, including their young daughter, where he related a story about being the father of four daughters.

At the end of the day Secretary Redding and I had a few minutes to discuss a proposal by Governor Wolf(D-PA), where he was seeking $10 million from USDA for conservation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed portion of the state. We urged Senator Casey to weigh in with the Obama Administration in support of this proposal.  Shortly after this tour, Senator Casey sent a very strong letter to the heads of the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality, both in the White House, urging the Administration to provide additional support for conservation practices on farms in the Chesapeake Bay portion of PA. We’re hoping to learn the fate of this proposal by October 4, when the Chesapeake Executive Council (Bay watershed governors, EPA Administrator, DC Mayor and Bay Commission chair) has its last annual meeting during the Obama Administration.

Eastern Shore Farm Tour Shows it Takes a Village to Save the Bay

If you are anything like me, you didn’t exactly excel in the “hard sciences” while in school. Maybe that’s why you studied the humanities in college and ended up in law school? Yep, me too. If either of these realities sound like you, then you would probably react to someone showing you a handful of “bioreactors” and in-ground “phosphorus slag filters” the same way that I did: open-mouthed confusion and a profound realization that I should have paid more attention to Mr. Olsen in chemistry class. However, if you’re like me and crave opportunities to learn something new, I imagine that you would have had just as good a time as I did on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

On Monday, about two dozen environmentalists and I were given a tour by Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy of “On-Farm Water Quality Enhancement Projects” within the Choptank River Watershed. Despite the beating sunshine and oppressive humidity, the few hours we spent traipsing through tall grasses and down dirt farm roads were both exciting and fascinating.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy drove us to and walked us through three different farms in and around Ridgley, Maryland where Best Management Practices (BMPs for the uninitiated) have been installed. Mae Vue Farm, Mason’s Heritage, Cedarhurst Farm, and each of their respective owners were gracious hosts and were doing great things by allowing these BMPs to be put in place and continue to both monitor and filter harmful nutrients from entering nearby waterways.

Now, in addition to the heat, my head was spinning for a whole set of other reasons while on the tour. I frantically jotted down terms of art which I later Googled and Wikipedia[d] with equal fervor. Terms like: denitrification walls, woodchip bioreactors, anaerobic processes, and tile line. I will not go into any great depth about what these terms mean specifically—my own understanding is tenuous at best—but what I can tell you is that these practices and the interplay between them work. Since 2013, these agricultural best practices have seen annual reductions of roughly 15,941lbs. of nitrogen, 222lbs. of phosphorus, and 1,675lbs. of total suspended solids. These are impressive numbers, and with Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and their partners’ continued efforts, the numbers and ultimately the Bay will only get better.

I’ll say it again: I’m not a numbers guy. I want to save the Bay through persuasion and policy. Some do their part by developing devices which use bacteria underground to transform Nitrate-nitrogen into dinitrogen gas and release it safely into the air instead of surface waters (look at me now, Mr. Olsen). Others get their hands dirty and dig the trenches needed to house these devices. And some are farmers, providing for their family and their community, who take risks and allow these practices on their land for the greater good of the environment and the Chesapeake Bay. The point is, it takes all types of people to make a difference, and I for one am proud to be part of that group.