Five Years Strong: Delaware's Water Warriors Continue to Rally for Clean Water

Clean Water; Delaware’s Clean Choice

Clean Water; Delaware’s Clean Choice

Delaware is no stranger to water quality and flooding issues; the need for sustainable clean water is growing. After all, 90 percent of Delaware’s waterways are considered impaired and communities across the state, many of which are underserved, face chronic flooding. As the need for clean water funding grows, state and local budgets decrease, leaving a large gap between funding and statewide needs. Delaware Nature Society (DNS) has studied and advocated for Delaware’s water quality for decades and concluded that it would take a grassroots advocacy and education effort to push for much needed funding. So, in 2015 DNS brought together a core group of conservation organizations and pitched the idea of building a statewide outreach and education campaign to grow a strong, unified voice for clean water funding.

With a resounding “yes!” Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and Delaware Center for the Inland Bays joined us to hit the ground running to build Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign. Ambitious and excited, we hosted our first Clean Water Rally that year. A group of around 50 people joined us in Dover to fight for clean water funding and to introduce our mission to decision makers.

Fast forward four years to our recent 5th Annual Clean Water Rally. We stood alongside over 150 blue-clad Water Warriors (our ever-growing group of clean water advocates), Clean Water Alliance members (our diverse clean water stakeholder coalition), legislators, community activists, and tv cameras as we rallied for House Bill 200, the Clean Water for Delaware Act. The legislation, which would dedicate funding for clean water and flood resiliency projects, features sponsorship by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride.

After the rally, our clean water community convened on the House Natural Resources Committee, where the bill was heard. Over 30 of our Water Warriors bravely stood up and testified in support of the bill. The rest of our advocates cheered from the House Chamber and gallery above as faith leaders, grandparents, conservationists and scientists discussed their support for clean water funding. Thanks in part to our ever-growing support, the bill passed out of committee unanimously.

Rally attendees pictured with Representative Sherry Dorsey-Walker

Rally attendees pictured with Representative Sherry Dorsey-Walker

Yet, even with how far we’ve come, we have a long way to go. Governor John Carney and his Administration expressed opposition to this bill, which has stalled its movement. Despite his opposition, it is widely known that additional funding for clean water projects is necessary for water quality and flood reduction in Delaware. Delaware’s draft Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) was released in April 2019. This plan detailed ways in which Delaware will reduce nutrient and sediment pollution for waterways that drain into the Chesapeake Bay. For each Best Management Practice (BMP) in the plan, challenges to implementing those practices are listed, most of which cite lack of funding or uncertain funding as a main challenge. Without sustainable funding, Delaware will not be able to meet the goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Chesapeake Bay health as acknowledged by the state, county, and local stakeholders who took part in drafting the draft WIP.

Though we were met with a setback to our goal of sustainable clean water funding, we will not stop here. With the relentless activism and dedication of the Clean Water Alliance and Water Warriors, we will continue to push for clean water funding. We will continue to advocate. We will continue to hold decision makers accountable and ask them to support the proposed clean water funding mechanism. In her recent Op-Ed, one of the campaign founders Brenna Goggin called upon legislative leaders to stand up for every single person in Delaware and commit to improving our environment, economy, and health for generations to come, either by supporting HB 200 or by proposing another sustainable clean water funding option.

The time for clean water funding is now. We have come so far in five years and we look forward to celebrating the culmination of our hard work with the creation of a clean water solution.

Laura Miller, Delaware Nature Society

West Virginia Rivers Coalition Welcomes a New State Lead

West Virginia Rivers Coalition’s mission is to conserve and protect West Virginia’s exceptional rivers and streams. We work in communities to empower people to protect rivers and public lands and we advocate for safe water for all West Virginians.

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In May 2019, I joined the West Virginia Rivers team as the Eastern Panhandle Field Coordinator to expand our impact in WV’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. One of my primary duties will be to serve as the state lead for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

There are over a dozen active Choose Clean Water Coalition member organizations in the Eastern Panhandle, many of whom I have had the pleasure to serve beside on a myriad of conservation projects over the past decade. I take pride in having the opportunity to foster their success and provide the support they need to protect local streams and rivers through my role with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

In addition to leading Choose Clean Water Coalition efforts in WV, I will also be leading our Safe Water for WV projects in the Eastern Panhandle, including the Safe Water Conservation Collaborative. This project focuses on the connection between land conservation and source water protection. We are collaborating with water utilities and conservation organizations to explore strategies to accelerate conservation easements that benefit Jefferson County’s public drinking water sources.

I look forward to getting to know my fellow state leads with the Choose Clean Water Coalition and to many years of success together. Please reach out anytime at thaid@wvrivers.org or by phone at 304-886-2665.

Tanner Haid, Eastern Panhandle Field Coordinator, WV Rivers Coalition

May the Forest Be With Us!

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This legislative session, we saw huge wins in Maryland for the environment.  We banned Styrofoam take out containers, paved a path for Maryland to produce 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, and protected oyster sanctuaries. But while these grabbed headlines, the two bills I am the most proud of are two small forest bills that you might not have even heard of. One provides for a study of forest loss in Maryland and the other fixes a loophole in Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act.  Why are these so important to me? They hit close to home.

Seeing the forest for the trees

I always loved the view from my bedroom – just over the property line a tiny forest of glittering green leaves and bouncing squirrels saved me from peering into the rowhomes behind mine. I was looking forward to teaching my new son the names of the birds flitting among the branches as my dad taught me. I’ll always remember the moments trimming back the invasive English ivy lapping up the sides of the trees with my dad as we talked about being a good man, the future, and nothing at all. In a few short years I could start to teach my son about this little patch of nature that gives us so much- air to breathe, water to drink, shade in the summer and protection from floods. But one spring day last year, ironically while I was researching forest policy for work, I heard the buzz of a chainsaw and saw my favorite blue jay fly frantically from her nest as one tree top after another disappeared from my window view. Within minutes, I could see through the last few trees to realize just how close the neighbors live to me.

I went out and asked the tree crew why they were taking down my little forest. They said someone at the HOA said it looked overgrown. The HOA later said that they did not think the trees needed to be removed, but by then it was too late. It might just be coincidence, but soon after the trees which drank so much water came down, my basement started having new flooding and mold issues. Meanwhile, two blocks away where I used to jog, dozens of acres of forests were being plowed down for a new development. Soon after the local forest was paved over, our neighborhood was plagued with rats, potentially fleeing from the felled forests with nowhere else to go. More forests were coming down on the surrounding roads to make room for new gas stations. As the developments rose, so did the congestion, and now I wait in 45 minutes of traffic on my way home on a once beautiful country road. My little wooded corner of Maryland is changing fast, and I was learning that my story in my town of Crofton was not unique.

When we see forests come down in our neighborhoods, many of us think the same thing- Did they have to take down this forest? Were the developers trying to protect as much of the forest as they could?  Are trees at least being replanted somewhere else? At Maryland LCV, I often get voters calling us to ask these questions. Unfortunately, when investigating each incident, I usually hit one wall after another. The more I investigate deforestation in Maryland, the more frustrating and complicated it seems.

The Forest Conservation Act falls short

For years, Maryland has had a landmark Forest Conservation Act and a ‘no net loss of forest’ goal on the books.  Under the Forest Conservation Act, developers are supposed to have a forest conservation plan and at least protect or replant an acre for every four they chop down where possible.  If they cannot replant or retain forests themselves, they have to pay their county government a ‘fee-in-lieu’ to replant or protect forests elsewhere. The ‘no net loss’ goal is supposed to keep the level of forested land in Maryland at 40 percent across the whole state. However, there are a lot of loopholes and problems with how the laws are working. 

The Forest Conservation Act is not functioning as it should. According to a study by the University of Maryland, our oldest, most contiguous, and highest quality forests are the least protected by the Forest Conservation Act. I talked to several county foresters and planners who also are frustrated with the current program. For example, developers must only maintain the forest for a few short years, then there is often nothing stopping vines or other invaders from choking out the forest. There is also almost no transparency required in the system. Some counties proactively have more stringent local ordinances, but in many counties, it is nearly impossible to see the forest conservation plan that developers are supposed to have or even to learn how the counties are using these forest funds they have been collecting. In some counties, literally millions of dollars have piled up in funds from developers preferring to pay fee-in-lieu rather than try to build around trees. In some cases, there are hardly any real county plans to use the money to replant or protect forests at all. In some cases, developers have been able to pay far less than what it costs to plant or protect a forest in that county. There was even a scandal where my previous county executive allegedly gave a huge amount of money meant to protect hundreds or thousands of acres to a personal friend for a small plot of land called Turtle Run.

Hogan’s ‘no net loss’ loophole

The Hogan administration has also exploited a loophole in the ‘no net loss’ of forest law to count every single area with a tree as a forest- even a single tree in a box in the middle of a parking lot could be counted as a forest.  By counting tree canopy including every street tree as a forest, suddenly Maryland is 10% above its 40% forest cover goal and the administration said there is no problem and nothing to worry about. For years, the Hogan administration has claimed that we don’t have enough data to prove we are losing forests and there is no way of knowing where the problem is coming from or the best way to solve it. 

Real forest loss

The truth is Maryland is constantly losing forests. According to the best available computer models at the Chesapeake Bay Program, we are losing on average a dozen acres of forests a day in Maryland and could lose 34,000 or more more by 2025. The individual county Forest Conservation Act annual reports only capture a small fraction of this loss, but even these incomplete plans show that developers removed a net of 17,168 acres from 2008 to 2016 without replanting them. 

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Fighting for the Forests

I was angry, and I was not alone. In fact, independent polling this year shows support among Maryland’s voters for saving forests and protecting trees.  84% of Marylander’s think it is important to save Maryland’s forests even if a development project must move or cost more.  Marylander’s have had enough.

More and more nonprofits around Maryland were becoming concerned about this forest loss. By partnering with Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Choose Clean Water Coalition, we organized dozens of organizations and over 100 grassroots organizers meeting regularly to strategize and share knowledge. It was time to change some laws. This legislative session, Elaine Lutz at CBF tirelessly led advocacy efforts every day in the halls of Annapolis, met with legislators and kept everyone up to date on the constant shifts and maneuvering through the State House. We had thousands of people sign petitions, call and email their elected officials, and many even came to Annapolis to talk to their legislators face to face. In fact, last year several officials noted they got more calls about forest conservation than any other issue. Not just traditional environmental organizations like Audubon Naturalist Society and Arundel Rivers Federation were fired up, but the faith community was incredibly active and effective as well thanks to the expert leadership of Jodi Rose at Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake. Different organizations and activists each had a key role to play. Choose Clean Water Coalition was also very useful in providing media and communications assistance throughout the process.  I was honored to be able to help coordinate the efforts and add a bit of my own flair- as a true geek and Star Wars fan, I decided to end every meeting, call and email with a simple uplifting message: May the Forest be With Us!

The Developers Strike Back

There was enormous pressure on legislators from the big money developer lobby to stop substantive forest legislation. This lobby stops forest legislation year after year, and this year killed the bill to fix the ‘no net loss’ loophole. These lobbyists confused elected officials with falsehoods and misconstrued data, and they reminded legislators just how much money this lobby puts into their campaigns. 

Our Work Pays Off!

Despite the big money, we emerged victorious last month in two of our three forest bills. HB272/SB234 finally fixes the fee-in-lieu system. Now a county can only accept the money from a developer if the county has a plan for how to use it. The counties will have to make their deals much more transparent and publish a public plan every year. This bill was passed with near unanimous vote and supported by the Maryland Association of Counties. Finally, we should start seeing real forests being replanted and protected as the Forest Conservation Act should have been doing all along.

The second bill, HB735/SB729, commissions a study to finally settle the debate on forests. The nonpartisan Hughes Center for Agroecology will look at how much forest we are really losing, determine the root causes of the losses, and explore ways we can fix the problem. The center will clear the issue of street trees vs. forests and better assess where we want to focus development vs. where we want to protect forests. Most importantly, elected officials who get huge donations from the developer lobby will not be able to hide behind their supposed confusion of the facts around forest loss.

These two bills are not the end but rather the beginning. The coalition we built can now move towards more and better forest policies in years to come- to better create local ordinances in key counties and major state level forest reform as early as 2020. We will be more thoughtful as we decide which forests to remove as we protect our best forests and plan for smarter development. These bills are about to go into effect, and someday soon I hope fewer people will wonder why a forest needlessly came down.  Fewer trees will be chopped down and fewer forests will be lost.

May the Forest Be With Us!

Ben Alexandro, Maryland League of Conservation Voters  

The Coalition's Response to the Phase III WIPs

That’s right folks - it is here. The Iast phase in the creation of the states’ watershed implementation plans (WIPs) is almost over. For some, this has been a long and arduous process and for others, they have already clicked out of this post. However, the reality is, what is included in these draft WIPs, that are scheduled to be finalized this year, will have a major impact on not just our water, but on what we as a community focus on in the years to come.

For those who need a little more background, the basic history is that there were three phases of WIP development that started in 2010 with the creation of the TMDL for the bay. Each round of development of these plans required the Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia) to come up with their plan for how they would reach their water quality goals. For the past 10 years, the Coalition has watched the development of these plans and given feedback and submitted formal comments when and where appropriate.

This final round, Phase III, is the final plan that the states are putting forward as their road map to success and serves as one of the last opportunities for us to formally comment on the plans before they come into effect in August 2019. The Coalition, our State and Outreach Leads, and other member organizations across the watershed, worked for weeks to produce a region-wide and six state-specific comment letters on the Draft Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans. The region-wide letter touched on common barriers to success, such as climate change and project verification, while the state-specific letters addressed the issues that are unique to each jurisdiction.

Even if you and/or your organization have not been involved in this work in the past, I encourage you to review the plans and letters below. The recommendations outlined in these plans will have a major impact on some of the priorities of our work here in the watershed, especially when it comes to state and local policy.

If you have any questions about this or would like to learn more, please do not hesitate to reach out, reillyk@nwf.org.

Kristin Reilly to Lead the Choose Clean Water Coalition

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ANNAPOLIS, MD (June 5, 2019) — Kristin Reilly will serve as the Choose Clean Water Coalition’s next director, the Coalition announced today. Reilly, who previously served as the Coalition’s communications director and led its internal and external communications strategies, will help guide the Coalition and execute its collaborative and innovative efforts to ensure clean water is returned to the rivers and streams that flow into a healthy Chesapeake Bay.

The Choose Clean Water Coalition is made up of more than 230 local, state, regional and national organizations from Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia that work together to restore clean water to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

“Kristin is a proven leader who will bring her experience, vision and collaborative approach to the Coalition and its work,” said Jen Mihills, Mid-Atlantic Regional Executive Director at the National Wildlife Federation and co-chair of the Coalition’s Steering Committee. “The Chesapeake Bay has made tremendous strides thanks to the efforts of a broad array of stakeholders coming together through the Choose Clean Water Coalition and other efforts. We’re excited to see how Kristin will continue to grow this critical partnership and transform its vision for a healthy and clean Chesapeake Bay into reality.”

The National Wildlife Federation is proud to host the Choose Clean Water Coalition and is fully committed to support its essential and unparalleled work for the Chesapeake Bay’s waters, wildlife and people.

“The progress we are seeing in our waterways is due in large part to the incredible work of the more than 230 Coalition members across the watershed,” Reilly said. “Now more than ever, we need a strong, diverse, and coordinated environmental community that will continue to push for clean water in our local rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay. I am honored to be part of this powerful force for clean water.”

Prior to her work at the Coalition, Reilly has worked at the intersection of communications and environmental policy for an array of leading conservation organizations. She helped lead digital communications, advocacy and marketing strategies at Oceana. Reilly also has worked for the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Izaak Walton League of America.

Reilly has a master's degree in Public Communications from American University and a bachelor's degree in Geography and Political Science from Miami University. 

Reilly succeeds Chanté Coleman who recently became the National Wildlife Federation’s first Director of Equity and Inclusion.

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association

The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association (LSRA) was formed to create a network of support and partners for the work of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper (LSR).  Ted Evgeniadis, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, is licensed by Waterkeeper Alliance at the request of citizens, including some within government, that thought we needed a stronger advocate for the Susquehanna watershed, an advocate that would hold polluters and the government to task. LSRA is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance and is rooted in the movement for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water.

The Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association is dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the ecology and aesthetic qualities of the Lower Susquehanna and Juniata watersheds.  The Lower Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® (LSR) works as an alliance builder, diplomat, and educator, but also, when the situation calls for it, an unrelenting defender and advocate of our right and the river’s right to be healthy and prosperous.  The LSR utilizes education, chemical and biological monitoring, pollution patrols, partnership building, public events, research and legal action to improve the health of the Susquehanna’s waterways.  LSR assists the government by reporting non-compliance of the law, and follows through where environmental protection agencies are unable to do their job due to politics or funding issues. 

In 2006, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper® teamed up with PennFuture to reduce thermal impacts of the PPL Brunner Island (PPL-BI) power plant on the Susquehanna River. The plant withdraws from the Susquehanna and later discharges up to 795 million gallons of once-through condenser cooling water each day. That uncooled wastewater reached temperatures as high as 123 degrees (F) in the discharge channel. PennFuture filed a Notice of Intent to Sue on behalf of Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper® against PPL-BI under the federal Clean Water Act for temperature violations. After intensified negotiations, on March 27, 2006, PPL-BI and DEP entered into a Consent Order and Agreement that was incorporated into a Stipulated Settlement filed before the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at No. 202 M.D. 2006 on that same date. The Commonwealth Court adopted the Stipulated Settlement as an Order of the Court on March 30, 2006. This settlement is historic for the Susquehanna and a national model for stopping thermal water pollution from older power plants. In the settlement, PPL committed $120 million to construct cooling structures to reduce the temperature of the more than 600 million gallons of cooling water it discharges each day into the Susquehanna River, which is expected to alleviate the violations of the law. The violations had caused several large fish kills and impairment of fish habitat. PPL made those large investments to stop the problem, and also paid fines assessed by DEP directly to the Lancaster and York County Conservation Districts for measures to protect streams in the lower Susquehanna watershed.

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The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association serves all communities in the Lower Susquehanna and Juniata watersheds, as well as the Chesapeake Bay which includes roughly 4.5 million people. LSRA has over 100 members, including organizational members that represent hundreds more. In the past year, LSRA has engaged hundreds of citizens, or “Stewards” on the Susquehanna Rivers and its tributaries regarding issues including coal ash contamination, landfills, CAFOs/slaughterhouses, public access, agricultural pollution, stormwater runoff, the requirements of the Chesapeake Total Maximum Daily Load implementation, diseases which effect Smallmouth Bass, and the relicensing of Conowingo Dam.

Written by Ted Evgeniadis from Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper.

Supporting Farmers in Pennsylvania

INTRODUCTION

Pennsylvania’s 58,000 farms produce $7.4 billion worth of crop and livestock products on 7.6 million acres. This represents only a fraction of the economic benefits — food manufacturing, support services, and related businesses generate approximately $135.7 billion in total economic impact annually, maintaining 579,000 jobs with $26.9 billion in earnings throughout the Commonwealth.

In addition to the economic impacts, what happens on this farmland directly impacts our communities and, most importantly, our local water quality. Pennsylvania’s 6,798 stream miles that are impaired by the results of agricultural activities — especially nutrient runoff, soil erosion, and unrestricted livestock access — need improved environmental stewardship on farmland.

BACKGROUND

Most farmers are working diligently on land and water stewardship, but often need technical and financial help. Agricultural producers are squeezed by low prices for their products and steep increases in the cost of fuel, real estate, and other operating costs, making conservation investments difficult to bear on their own. Federal farm conservation programs only meet a fraction of the annual need, so additional resources are imperative to help farms invest in conservation.

For almost 40 years, Pennsylvania laws have required farms to develop and implement plans to manage manure and other nutrient sources, and to prevent erosion and sediment loss. In addition to reducing water pollution, these plans improve crop utilization of nutrients and keep top soil in place to sustain long-term production. However, measures to ensure that farms have and follow these plans only began in earnest after 2010 with limited resources, so significant gaps remain.

Many farms are now focusing on production systems that reduce tillage intensity to maintain soil structure, responsibly incorporate manure, and sustain a cover of living plants to improve soil health and reduce water pollution. This increases water infiltration, retains soil moisture for periods of drought, and reduces stormwater runoff and soil erosion during heavy rains. Soil and nutrients stay in agricultural fields for production, rather than degrade local streams. When adopting new production methods, farms often need technical advice adapted to their soil, terrain, climate, and production goals.

FOUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO SUPPORT FARMERS AND CLEAN WATER

1. Increase funding for the following:

  • Cost-share programs to help farms invest in conservation practices and provide conservation easements, especially in watersheds impaired by agriculture;

  • Available Resource Enhancement and Protection tax credits to $12 million annually;

  • Conservation Districts, conservationists, land trusts, and private sector conservation and nutrient management planners to provide technical assistance to farms establishing conservation practices; and

  • The Department of Environmental Protection to adequately enforce state laws.

2. Restrict Clean and Green preferential tax savings to landowners meeting all state and federal regulations.

3. Restrict livestock access to streams through applicable legislation.

4. Provide more resources to support forested buffers and tree plantings.


For more information on protecting and restoring Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams, see the Pennsylvania Clean Water Briefing Book.

Chemung River Friends

Chemung River Friends have been a part of the Coalition for over a decade, so we figured this was a great time to highlight our long-time N.Y member. Chemung River Friends is a non-profit organization that teams up with municipalities to protect all waterways throughout the Chemung River. We spoke with Jim Pfiffer, director of Chemung River Friends for an inside scoop on the organizations endeavors.

Tell us about your organization and your mission.

Incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 2009.

Our mission: Protect and promote the 45-mile-long Chemung River and its tributaries, and encourage the public to better use, enjoy and respect our waterways for recreation, education and a peaceful commune with nature.

Photo courtesy of Chemung River Friends

Photo courtesy of Chemung River Friends

We helped build and maintain 10 public boat launches, three riverside trails and several fishing access sites. We lead guide paddle trips, hikes, bike trips and cross-country ski trips. We have removed more than 14 tons of trash and illegal dump sites along our waterways and trails. We developed and maintain a concise online river paddling guide that features real time river levels, safety tips and river history.

We teach paddling and safe water classes. We present public education programs about river ecology, the water cycle, pollution, river history and environmental stewardship. Because it is often difficult to bring the public – especially youth school classes – to the river for education programs, we purchased a portable and foldable 16-foot-square pool that we take to schools and community centers, fill with hydrant water, add kayaks and canoes and use it to teach water safety and basic paddling.  

We work with area farmers, golf courses and private land owners to help them use environmentally safe and clean water practices. We give free monthly public education presentations about river wildlife and plants at a riverside restaurant and bar in Elmira.

We developed a citizen scientist program to teach volunteers how to collect and analyze macroinvertibrates from our rivers and streams, and report their findings to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation who uses the info to monitor and remediate pollution issues in our waterways. 

Since our inception we have increased tenfold the recreational use of the river. Through our education and water safety programs we have drastically reduced the number of drowning (one in 10 years) and emergencies on our waterways.

We obtain grants and private funding to purchase river rescue boats, motors, trailers, rescue mannequins and cold water rescue suites. We donated this equipment to fire departments that respond to river emergencies. We provide river rescue training for firefighters and other emergency personnel – last year we did a night rescue training program for 23 firefighters from seven fire departments.

We erected four osprey nesting poles on our waterways, including a newly installed osprey camera that provides the public with 24/7 real time viewing of a pair of nesting osprey’s on the river in downtown Elmira.

Since our inception we have helped the local population to realize that our waterways are important assets to regional development and quality of life. We are proud to say the most of the public now have a better respect and understanding of the benefits that our waterways provide. The public is more environmentally conscious and works with us to keep our waterways and environment clean, safe and accessible to all.

Our philosophy: We’re all on this canoe trip together. Let’s paddle in the same direction.

What was your favorite part of Chesapeake Lobby Day this year?

Working with and learning from other clean water supporters as a group. I learned so much just talking with and hearing about the issues, problems and solutions that my cohorts face, that are the same as mine. The camaraderie and sense of “we are all on this paddle trip together” unity is refreshing and important in achieving our goals.

I discovered how to better lobby our elected officials, what to expect and what not to expect. I was surprised by the young age, and often times seemingly inexperienced, legislative staff members that we met with and talked too. I wasn’t  always confident that they fully understood what we were lobbying for and why.

Best of all, I enjoyed learning about the projects and program being done by my fellow coalition members. We really have a talented, experienced and passionate group of  advocates who work hard to protect and promote our clean water and environment.

 

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

Photo courtesy of Chemung River Friends

Photo courtesy of Chemung River Friends

We are installing an osprey camera to allow the public to view a pair of ospreys that have been nesting on an island in the Chemung River for the past six years (raised at least 15 offspring). We use those ospreys as an attention-getters and  calling cards to get members of the public, who might not otherwise care about the river, interested in the river and in protecting these amazing birds.

The camera will allow thousands of people – especially youth and schools – to watch and learn from the ospreys and realize the roles and importance we play in keeping the rivers clean, safe and appealing to future osprey nesting families.

The more people who watch and fall in love with the ospreys, the easier it is for us to raise funds, secure grant and in-kind support to allow us to continue to protect and promote our waterways and encourage the public to better use, respect and enjoy our natural resources.

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

Educating and informing the public about the TDML diet and what individuals, neighborhoods, and communities can do to help meet the anti-pollution requirements.

We are developing a 2019 year-long public education program, with a local TV news station and area water-quality organizations, to explain to residents how and why we need clean water and how it can help improve our economy, community health, quality of  life and environment.

Topics include: combined sewer systems, riparian buffers, rain barrels and gardens, don’t pour toxins down the sewers, lawn and landscaping chemical use and alternatives, flooding, non-littering and picking up litter, etc.

Result: Cleaner water in the Chemung River Watershed means cleaner water in the Chesapeake Bay.

How has being a member of the Coalition benefited your organization?

The networking, combined knowledge/experience, publicity, assistance with information and problem solving.  

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Virginia Association for Environmental Education

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We’re kicking off this month’s Member Highlight by welcoming our newest Coalition member, Virginia Association for Environmental Education (VAEE). VAEE is a Virginia based non-profit organization comprised of a web of environmental education professionals, working together to advance sustainability and environmental education throughout the Commonwealth. We had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Helen Kuhns, VAEE secretary and advocacy chair to gain insight into their organization.

Tell us more about your organization and your mission:

VAEE is the professional organization for environmental educators in Virginia.  Our organization represents a professional network of outstanding environmental educators, individuals and supporting organizations who work together to achieve our mission: to support environmental education capacity, professional learning and networking among our membership, as well as advancing Environmental and Sustainability Education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. VAEE offers conferences, trainings and support to regional EE teams and individual members throughout Virginia. VAEE is the official Virginia affiliate for NAAEE, the North American Association for Environmental Education.

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

VAEE has developed and recently launched the first cohort in the VAEE Virginia Environmental Education Certification Program which provides in depth opportunities to new and seasoned EE professionals who are focused on:

  • Building a strong foundation of environmental literacy.

  • Networking with other Virginia environmental educators.

  • Improving your organization’s programs with new environmental education techniques.

  • Supporting professionalism in the field of environmental education.

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

VAEE represents Environmental Educators across the Commonwealth who focus on a variety of issues unique to each region. Whether it is water quality, air quality, carbon emissions, sustainable energy, habitat, ecosystem and watershed preservation and conservation, equity, climate change, sea level rise, or any of the other pressing issues in Virginia, there are EE professionals teaching of needed changes and modeling behavior. There is no environmental issue that does not touch our EE community. Therefore, we wish to focus on those issues that impact our community’s lives regionally and locally towards a healthier environment in Virginia.

 

What are you most excited about joining the Coalition?

VAEE is looking forward to the opportunity become part of this network of environmental professionals, to strengthen its messaging and provide the added resources of the VCN community to its members. VAEE looks forward to having a stronger voice through the platform provided by VCN to take a stand on issues that impact our EE community.

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

 

Building a Lasting Voice for Conservation Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley

Tell us about your organization and your mission.

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Iconic rolling working farmland and expansive public forests. World-class rivers and streams. Friendly historic towns and a high quality of life. There is much to protect in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. In 2018, four local community organizations joined forces to form Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley to ensure the Valley way of life is sustained by our rural landscapes, clean streams and rivers, and thriving communities for generations to come. 

The Alliance is led by a talented and engaged volunteer board of directors, with deep community connections throughout the service area, and staffed by the seasoned community leaders who directed each of the legacy groups. And while the legacy organizations have now merged into a single entity, their important work and close community ties endure as part of the Alliance mission – to advocate, educate, and connect people to conserve the natural resources, cultural heritage, and rural character of our region.

 

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

Our work is so dynamic in nature it’s impossible to pick just one project, so here’s a bit about our current work.

County Level Advocacy. We are working closely with county-level Advisory Councils in three of our six counties to improve local land use and transportation planning, increase land protection and water quality measures, safeguard our rural communities, and promote compatible economic development in agriculture and tourism.

Alliance’s service area.

Alliance’s service area.

Supporting Communities That Oppose Gas Pipelines. Dominion Energy’s proposed 42-inch high pressure Atlantic Coast Pipeline continues to threaten Valley landowners and our water resources. The Alliance provides organizational and advocacy support to the local coalition of elected officials, residents, and landowners challenging the destructive and unneeded project.

Interstate 81. The Interstate 81 corridor and its future is a cornerstone issue for the Alliance, because it affects farmland, streams and rivers, Civil War battlefields, and the success of local businesses. The Alliance engages the public and lawmakers to seek sensible improvements to Interstate 81 that are compatible with scenic views of the working landscapes and natural resources you enjoy as you travel the corridor.

 Utility Scale Solar. The Alliance recognizes that scaling up renewable energy can be a significant positive step if properly implemented and can bring economic opportunities for businesses, utilities and landowners. We’ve recently developed a tool to assist localities and communities in consideration of several proposed utility scale solar projects in our area – to ensure projects are appropriately sited, considering designated land use and natural and historic resources.

 

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

MORE County Level Advocacy.  Our on-the-ground relationship with communities in our service area has been pivotal in our success, and we are excited to have expanded capacity to meet and engage communities in the northern part of our service area.

Work on the ground. With the headwaters of the James, Potomac, and the Shenandoah arising in the Shenandoah Valley and flowing towards the Chesapeake Bay, water is of great value to our communities. We’ve always advocated for land and water protection, and now we’re ready to get our hands dirty. We’re building collaborations to get more on the ground-- conservation easements to protect working farmland and forests and agricultural practices that improve water quality. We are proud to work with our partner agencies and organizations and their fine track record of engaging landowners and farmers in conservation.

Compatible Economic Development. Agriculture. Tourism. The sustained beauty of our landscape and our quality of life depends on those sectors being successful. We are exploring innovative approaches and building connections between farmers and local markets as well as supporting initiatives that will advance tourism, further preserving our landscapes and creating business opportunities in our towns and for communities.

 

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

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The support, encouragement and resources of the Coalition and its members was invaluable as we explored the creation of our organization. Now that we are scaling up, we find confidence in having Coalition members to call on for ideas, examples and best practice as we grow and implement new programs.

 

 

2019 Young Professionals of Color Mentorship

Young Professionals of Color Mentorship Program

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

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

When and where?

The program will kick off at the Choose Clean Water Coalition’s Annual Conference on May 20, 2019 at 5:00PM at the Marriott Camden Yards Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland. During a happy hour program, mentors will be paired with young professionals to begin a journey towards fulfilling a supportive professional relationship.

What you can do to get involved:

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

Responsibilities include:

o   Attend kick-off event on May 20th at 5PM in Baltimore, Maryland

o   Commitment to one year of engagement

o  Monthly conversations with your mentor/mentee

o  Minimum of three in-person meetings with your mentor/mentee

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

o   Desire to build and strengthen the environmental community

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

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

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

Virginia Association for Biological Farming

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This month we highlighted Virginia Association for Biological Farming (VABF), our newest addition to the Coalition family. Their community covers a wide range of farmers, gardeners, researchers, students, professionals and supporters of local and sustainable food systems. We spoke with Michael Reilly to learn what VABF is all about.

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Tell us about your organization and your mission.

The mission of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming (VABF) is to promote, educate about and advocate for biological and organic farming and food production.  Our diverse membership includes farmers, gardeners, seed growers, orchardists, livestock producers, large and small-scale vegetable producers, foodies, grain growers, compost makers and generally those interested in producing high-quality, nutrient-dense foods for their communities.  Our members focus on soil health practices and diverse production methods that regenerate the biological systems necessary to feed a healthy plant, animal and human population.

 

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

VABF is currently working with the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA) to develop a regional network of farmers and food producers to provide broader depth in training and mentoring programs and expand the notion of soil health and nutrient-dense foods beyond state borders.  The establishment of a Soil Health Collaborative is especially exciting as we connect with partners from within and outside the farm world to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers interested in growing high quality food using regenerative practices and soil health principles.

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

One of the primary goals of VABF is to provide a network for small, diverse family farms to connect for support, training and assistance with biological farming practices, including the marketing of high quality products.  Commodity-based agriculture gives little thought to nutritional quality of food products or the environmental impacts those systems have on local communities, and therefore have proven to be unhealthy and unsustainable.  We are excited about the resurgence of and focus on local, sustainable and biologically-grown products and their ability to add value to the income stream for small family farms.

Our ultimate goal is to build food systems that feed themselves.  Using practices that mimic natural systems, biological and organic food production allows for the reduction of off-farm inputs in farming, improving water quality and quantity management, sequestering carbon in our soils and reducing the impact that unnecessary use of fossil fuels in industrial agricultural systems has on our environment.

 

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

VABF is very excited to be part of the Coalition and trust we can add a valuable agricultural voice to the Coalition’s efforts. As part of this partnership we’d like to help raise more awareness about the dramatic differences between harmful, degenerative, chemical-based industrial agriculture, and beneficial, regenerative, organic, biological farming. Due to the pervasiveness of the former, the latter is usually overlooked, and we hope to foster a more informed dialogue about the realities of different farming practices.

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Coalition Members Head to the Hill

We have seen time and time again that when our work for clean water faces challenges and threats, our Choose Clean Water members show up – and we show up in numbers. This was evident in 2017 when the president’s budget eliminated funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program and it was on display this week, when more than 100 members of the Coalition gathered on Capitol Hill to meet with members and staff in 40 different congressional offices. This year, we as a community are fighting not just for the funding we have had in the past, but what we need to meet new challenges to restore the rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

On March 6, the Coalition formally requested that Congress increase funding for the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort, specifically $90 million for the Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program, up from $73 million. This is the first time in five years that the Coalition has asked for increased funding and the request was met with much enthusiasm from our supporters on the Hill. In our letters to Congress requesting the increase in funding, we had 144 Coalition member organizations signed on, a record number of signatures. This show of commitment was a powerful tool during the congressional meetings.

The biggest highlight of the day was our lunch briefing, where Coalition members, recipients of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Small Watershed/Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants, funders, and members of Congress came together to discuss the state of the restoration effort and our commitment to pushing the effort forward. 11 legislators joined us, including Senator Cardin (D-MD), Senator Van Hollen (D-MD), Congressman McEachin (D-VA), Congressman Trone (D-MD), Congresswoman Luria (D-VA), Congressman Wittman (R-VA), Congressman Cartwright (D-PA), Congressman Ruppersberger (D-PA), Congressman Raskin (D-MD), Congressman Connolly (D-VA), and Congressman Cline (R-VA). All talked about their support for funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration and the important role that our Coalition plays in moving this effort forward.

There are many reasons to ask for this increase, but two of them are climate change and the Conowingo Dam. When the Chesapeake Bay Blueprint was created in 2010, it was estimated that the Conowingo Dam would trap pollution through 2025. However, last year, new research determined that the reservoir behind the dam was actually full, and as a result more pollution was entering the Chesapeake Bay than had been originally accounted for. Now it is estimated that the Chesapeake Bay cleanup will need to reduce an additional 6 million pounds of nitrogen every year to mitigate water quality impacts from Conowingo. Also, the Chesapeake Bay region saw record amounts of rainfall this past year, resulting in increased flooding and runoff into local streams. These major rainfall events are only expected to increase with climate change, which will require on-the-ground pollution and flood reducing projects to adapt to new pressures.

In addition to increased funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Coalition is also asking Congress for a 50 percent increase in funding for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails Program and to fully fund the 2018 Farm Bill’s conservation programs to ensure responsible farms in the Chesapeake region remain economically viable. The Coalition is also requesting that Congress not ignore clean water issues when they put together a Federal Infrastructure Spending Package. The Coalition recommends tripling the funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to $5 billion to be included in such an Infrastructure Package. This Fund provides low interest loans for sewage treatment and stormwater control upgrades and retrofits for local governments and ratepayers in every state.

Congress and the Coalition are now waiting to hear from the Trump administration on the proposed FY20 budget and what it will say about our Chesapeake funding, but one thing is for sure, we will be ready to respond.

You can see our sign on letters here.

Patapsco Heritage Greenway: Member Highlight

Meet Patapsco Heritage Greenway! This organization based in Ellicott City, Maryland, aims to protect, preserve and restore the environment throughout the Patapsco River Valley. We spoke with Hannah Zinnert, who antiquated us more with their mission, projects and goals.

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Tell us about your organization and your mission:

Patapsco Heritage Greenway (PHG) is the managing entity of the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area, one of Maryland’s 13 certified Heritage Areas. Our mission is to preserve, protect, interpret and restore the environment, history and culture of the Patapsco River Valley.

PHG is at a unique intersection of the local environment, history, heritage, recreation, and tourism. We conduct both environmental and historic resource stewardship. Our environmental program consists of volunteer-based group stewardship events throughout the Patapsco watershed, including stream cleanups, invasive plant removals, tree plantings, tree maintenances, and environmental education events. We also run a Stream Watcher program, in which we train local volunteers to adopt a portion of the Patapsco River or Patapsco tributary by walking, cleaning, monitoring, and reporting on their area.

         

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

During the upcoming year, Patapsco Heritage Greenway will be working on expanding our outreach, specifically within the Latinx community. Patapsco Valley State Park, portions of which are located within our heritage area boundaries, has a large population of Latinx visitors who use the Patapsco River and its surrounding areas for various reasons. We want our outreach and stewardship efforts to be inclusive of all those who utilize and love the Patapsco River. Thus, we are really excited to be spending this upcoming year working on improving our Latinx outreach through online media, print, and on-the-ground efforts.

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

One of our goals for the future is to improve our water quality monitoring efforts in the Patapsco, specifically to understand the impacts that the quantity and quality of stormwater has on this watershed. Our current monitoring efforts focus on basic physical parameters of the various tributaries in the watershed. In the future, we want to be able to include more robust chemical and biological monitoring on a more consistent basis. With these improved monitoring efforts, we would create a well-rounded watershed report card as both a reference and public outreach tool.


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

We are really excited to be a part of the Choose Clean Water Coalition! We hope to use this Coalition as an opportunity to learn from other groups’ successes (and failures), as an opportunity to crowd-source information and discover new ideas, and to improve our partner network so that we may continue collaborating on future projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

All photos courtesy of Patapsco Heritage Greenway.

Farming in Virginia: Let the Earth Heal

In 2018, the Coalition was approached by its Virginia members to help communicate about the benefits of the Commonwealth’s Agricultural Cost-Share Program. This program helps farmers implement best management practices (BMPs), like stream fencing, tree plantings, and well installation, on their land by helping to offset the costs of these projects. The amount of money available for these projects varies from year to year and, in some areas of the state, the demand exceeds available funds. As part of our effort to educate the public about the importance of this funding, the Coalition embarked on conducting a series of recorded interviews with farmers who have used the funding on their land.

Driving through the hills of western Virginia, I couldn’t help but think back on everything that we had done to get to this point. For months, our Coalition members and the local Soil and Water Conservation District representatives had worked to find farmers who had benefited from the Commonwealth’s Agricultural Cost-Share program and were willing to talk about it to a total stranger (me) and on camera. I understand. I don’t know how much I would enjoy some random person coming to my home and recording me walking around my property while asking me questions about my work. However, once we were there it wasn’t hard to get folks talking about all of the work they had done on their land.

The first visit we went on was a late addition to our shooting schedule and I am SO thankful that we were able to make it work. Not only was it the only sunny day out of the two filming days, but the farm manager, Tony Pullaro, was incredible to meet. Tony grew up on a family farm in New Garden, Virginia, but has been managing Edgemont Farm for the past 25 years. I was shocked to learn that Edgemont Farm has been around since 1796 and is home to one of the last residential buildings designed by Thomas Jefferson. The property also includes more than 500 acres of farmland.

Tony has been working with the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District since 2003, when they installed their first stream exclusion fencing and planted their first buffer. Touring the property, you can see the difference 15 years of conservation makes. The trees are tall, strong and healthy, and Tony has noticed more fish and other aquatic life showing up in the stream. The last project was just installed in 2017, which installed more fencing to exclude all the remaining streams and, in partnership with the James River Association, planted trees in the new buffer.

In total, Edgemont Farm has received $63,531.92 from the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share Program, which has enabled them to install roughly 16,000 feet of stream exclusion fencing and created 40 acres of buffer. They also installed nine water troughs in conjunction with the stream fencing to create a 10 paddock rotational grazing system.

This is why the Coalition and its Virginia members support increased and steady funding for the cost-share program. To learn more about this program, visit www.vcnva.org/agriculture/

South River Federation meets West/ Rhode Riverkeeper: Arundel Rivers Federation

Jeff Holland and Jesse Iliff (Photo courtesy of Arundel Rivers Federation)

Jeff Holland and Jesse Iliff (Photo courtesy of Arundel Rivers Federation)

South River Federation and West/Rhode Riverkeeper joined forces late October to create, Arundel Rivers Federation (ARF). Soon after, we welcomed the consolidated organization to the Coalition family. ARF is based in Edgewater, Maryland, and is committed to protecting and restoring water quality and aquatic habitat in the South River, West, Rhode, and Herring Bay watersheds, through science, restoration and advocacy. We had the chance to speak with Jesse Iliff to learn more about the new federation’s mission and goals.

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

Photo courtesy of Arundel Rivers Federation

Photo courtesy of Arundel Rivers Federation

Arundel Rivers Federation uses science, restoration and community action to protect, preserve, restore and enhance the waters of the South River, Rhode River, West River and Herring Bay on the western shore of the Chesapeake.

Formed from the consolidation of the South River Federation and West & Rhode RIVERKEEPER®, Arundel Rivers Federation is an action-oriented organization, guided by science, providing aggressive advocacy, targeted and thoughtful restoration, and community action to pursue a holistic vision of clean, fishable, swimmable waterways for our local communities.

 

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

It is hard to pick which of the many irons in our fire is burning brightest right now. Whether the innovative Bacon Ridge project that uses in-situ woody material to slow stormwater and arrest erosion by imitating beaver dams, or the upcoming legislative session which may ban single-use Styrofoam in Maryland is most exciting depends on which staff member you ask. We are also halfway through an intensive monitoring experiment of layered stormwater management projects in an urban environment that will generate innovative scholarship to guide decision makers and restoration practitioners throughout the Bay watershed. Whether it is restoration, advocacy or science, Federation staff always have their hands busy and their boots dirty.

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

Photo courtesy of Arundel Rivers Federation

Photo courtesy of Arundel Rivers Federation

For western shore tributaries like those we protect, the largest source of pollution is urban and suburban stormwater. If we ever hope to meet our pollution-reduction goals and provide our communities and aquatic life with the clean water they deserve, we need to get a hold on development impacts and attendant stormwater pollution. In Anne Arundel County, we are working to ensure that the General Development Plan currently under development is as ecologically responsible as possible. Concurrently, the State of Maryland is developing a new Watershed Implementation Plan, and Arundel Rivers Federation is intent on ensuring that the proposals for stormwater management in that document are aggressive enough to arrest the growing pollution loads from stormwater. Finally, many jurisdictions across the State, including Anne Arundel County, are in the process of revising and renewing their MS4 permits, and Arundel Rivers will work closely with the County to ensure that Anne Arundel County sets the gold standard for stormwater management.

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

Each of the Federation’s founding organizations were Coalition members, and we hope now, as then, to benefit from the breadth of experience and wisdom in making positive environmental change in the Bay watershed. The Coalition’s membership provides an excellent sounding board for vetting ideas, developing strategies, and celebrating success, and we look forward to continuing that partnership.

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Transition Howard County: Member Highlight

Last month, the Coalition gained our newest member, Transition Howard County. Transition is an all-volunteer organization based in Ellicott City, Maryland, that focuses their work on building better communities throughout Howard County by means of sustainability and resilience. We had the pleasure of speaking with Steering Committee Chair Margo Duesterhaus, to learn more about the ins and outs of this local organization.

Photo courtesy of Transition Howard County

Photo courtesy of Transition Howard County

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

Transition Howard County is a nonprofit focused on creating sustainable and thriving communities within Howard County. We are part of the national Transition US movement that provides inspiration, encouragement, support, and networking, committed to building resilience across a wide range of social needs such as food, water, health, economics, and energy.  Transition US is in close partnership with the international Transition Network, a United Kingdom-based organization that supports the Transition movement worldwide. Transition Network provides a global platform for expressing and exchanging ideas and projects that demonstrate Transition principles. Transition Howard County is the 144th officially recognized Transition Initiative in the United States and is the first official Transition Initiative in Maryland. Our mission is to promote practical solutions for Howard County’s transition to greater sustainability.  Our tag line is “Live Local and Prosper!”

Photo courtesy of Transition Howard County

Photo courtesy of Transition Howard County

Transition Howard County has been in existence since 2012 and has over 1,000 members.  We partner with numerous other organizations that are focused on sustainability, including businesses, government agencies, and other nonprofits. Our activities include Repair Cafés, book discussions, movie nights, field trips to local farms, socials, leaf parties, and educational events on a variety of topics including easy gardening, climate change, healthy food, land use, community health, and community solar and other forms of renewable energy. We participate in other coalitions such as the Local Health Improvement Coalition and the Howard County Climate Action Collaboration. We publish an electronic newsletter that highlights our activities as well as other local sustainability events.  We have several active Google email groups that are focused on discussing different aspects of sustainability such as food and economy.  Our web site is www.transtionhoco.org and our Facebook page is www.facebook.com/TransitionHoCo.

 

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

Maryland Fibershed. Courtesy of Transition Howard County

Maryland Fibershed. Courtesy of Transition Howard County

Transition Howard County is very excited to create the Maryland Fibershed. A fibershed is a cradle-to-cradle system of creating clothes from regionally grown fibers, natural dyes, and local talent.  Similar to the local food movement, a fibershed is the new local clothing movement.  The fibershed concept started in California and is spreading around the globe with the creation of numerous regional fiber systems that build soil and protect the health of our biosphere, including our watershed.

Transition Howard County's goal is to grow a resilient and local textile supply chain in Maryland. The Maryland Fibershed will increase interest in using local, sustainable materials among fiber artists, hobbyists, and clothing makers.  Transition Howard County has created the free Maryland Fibershed Directory to promote the organizations that are part of the Maryland Fibershed to help people and organizations easily find local fiber suppliers and customers.  The directory includes farmers, ranchers, mill owners, felters, spinners, weavers, natural dyers, and more. Any organization that is primarily located in Maryland and participates in any part of the fiber lifecycle can be listed in this directory.

Transition Howard County wants to help local fibershed organizations thrive.  The directory is just the first step.  A variety of activities are being planned to increase interest in local fiber supplies and products, such as tours of organizations that are part of the Fibershed.  We are also exploring other ways to help connect Fibershed organizations with each other to share sustainable practices and develop a stronger local economy.

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

One issue area that we are planning to focus more on is agriculture.  We want to see more local food produced in Howard County so we are working on plans for a Transition Incredible Edible Garden. This will start as a small herb and vegetable garden in a public community space at a senior center in Columbia.  It will be a visually attractive landscape to show how lawns can be transformed to produce food and better manage stormwater. We want to start an inclusive conversation around a lifestyle of eating our landscapes. The motto is “If you eat, you’re in!” The harvest of the garden will be free to anyone who wants to stop by and pick some berries or take some herbs.

We plan to partner with other local groups to engage the community in the volunteer efforts to start and maintain the garden and share the produce. We hope this first garden will inspire many more around Howard County.  We are already in conversation with organizations about installing a Transition Incredible Edible Garden in their public spaces.  These gardens will enable people to participate in positive actions and be part of solutions that provide resilience in our own communities. Food can be a unifying action that helps people see the need to find new ways of living in conjunction with nature and wildlife for the benefit of our watershed.

 

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

Transition Howard County is very happy to join the Choose Clean Water Coalition.  Partnering with other organizations is the key to success.  While each organization has its own goals, we are all stronger and more effective by collaborating together.  We are impressed with the work of the Coalition, including the successful advocacy for the pipeline ban in Maryland.  Through the Coalition we hope to learn about and support activities of other member organizations that are in alignment with Transition Howard County’s goals.  We also hope to share information about our activities that may be of interest to other coalition members. Clean water is critically important to life on this planet and this coalition will help us keep up with the issues and advocacy in the Chesapeake watershed.

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Welcome, 116th Congress!

On January 3, members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition headed to Capitol Hill to connect with new and returning members of the 116th Congress. The Chesapeake Bay watershed has 12 new faces in its delegation on the Hill, including:

Congressman Delgado
Congresswoman Luria
Congresswoman Spanberger
Congressman Meuser
Congressman Brindisi
Congressman Riggleman
Congresswoman Wexton
Congressman Joyce
Congressman Trone
Congressman Cline
Congresswoman Houlahan
Congresswoman Miller

The Coalition will be heading to the Hill again on March 6 for Chesapeake Bay Day. Stay tuned for more information.

Supporting Virginia Farmers and Clean Water

There are approximately 46,000 farms covering 8.2 million acres (32 percent) of Virginia. Agriculture is also the largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution reaching local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. While many well-operated farms employ sound conservation practices that protect water quality, a lack of funding and technical resources prevent many farmers from implementing such practices.

The Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share (VACS) Program is designed to offset the costs of implementing best management practices (BMPs), like installing stream fencing and planting forest buffers, on farmland around the state. In October 2018, the Coalition interviewed three farmers who have utilized the program and have seen both the financial and environmental benefits first hand. While this program is essential to cleaning up our local rivers and streams, the amount of money available for these projects varies from year to year and, in some areas of the state, the demand exceeds available funds.

The Coalition and its members in Virginia support funding the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share Program at the documented need of at least $100 million per year according to the Agricultural Needs Assessment and upholding consistent and adequate annual funding to ensure certainty. 

For more information on this program, please visit the Virginia Conservation Network.

Let's Trash Talk

Micro plastics round table. Photo courtesy of AFF

Micro plastics round table. Photo courtesy of AFF

The Alice Ferguson Foundation held their 12th Annual Trash Summit on “Business Solutions for Plastic Pollution,” which united hundreds of community members, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, jurisdiction staff and public officials to discuss corporate entity’s influence on trash pollution prevention. Our host and Coalition member, Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF), aims to connect and educate youth with Mother Nature, the cultural heritage of their local watershed and teaches sustainable agriculture practices such as regenerative egg implementation. AFF found themselves in the trash business when their students noticed all the washed up trash while walking along the shoreline. From that moment, they set out to clean up the Potomac River and arranged necessary clean ups to remove the litter. 30 years later, AFF will celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Potomac watershed clean up this coming April!

The event had TONS of dialogue on solutions to keep our streams, rivers and creeks free of plastic throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, through lively roundtable discussions, informative presentations and knowledgeable speakers. Many speakers shared their concerns, successes and work their organizations are doing to prevent garbage, plastics, and micro-plastics from entering our waterways. My favorite part of the conference was the panel, where key speakers from corporate entities like Busboys and Poets, Farmers Restaurant Group and Marriott International, spoke about how their company has committed to sustainability.

Photo courtesy of AFF

Photo courtesy of AFF

Dan Simons, co-owner of Farmers Restaurant Group, talked about the successes and failures the company in D.C. has faced after committing to not serve or sell plastic bottles or bottled water to its customers. Farmers Restaurant Group prides themselves on being mission above profit and have kept millions of waste out of the waste supply chain by refusing to sell plastic straws, and instead opting for paper and hay straws.

Andy Shallal, the proprietor of Busboys and Poets, joked about how some of his customers actually believe that they “are too cheap to serve straws.” His main focus is stressing the importance of educating the customer about the companies ‘green’ initiatives and why they are implementing these practices.

Denise Naguib, who works for Marriott International, expressed just how huge Marriott’s global footprint truly is. Marriott, composed of 6,900 hotels in 122 countries, began a straw initiative this year to phase out the quarter of a billion stir sticks and straws used by a million and a half of people that come to their hotels every single day.

Thomas Sprehe from KCI Technologies Inc., a consulting engineering business, also spoke on the panel regarding their company’s responsiveness to their clients, by giving them solutions to their waste problems by means of science and engineering. KCI is co-responsible for creating the trash wheel that collects floating debris in the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and soon implementing the WasteShark, an aquatic drone that swims through the water collecting floatable plastics and other non-biodegradable materials from urban waterways. In addition to these devices, they also manage landfills and recycling centers.

Scott Surovell. Photo courtesy of AFF

Scott Surovell. Photo courtesy of AFF

Following the panel, Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell spoke on his work to clean up waterways since being elected. Senator Surovell works tirelessly with constituents, and has organized daunting clean ups for creeks throughout Northern Virginia. At one site upstream of the Potomac, 180 shopping carts were pulled out of local creeks in just one year, in addition to plastics, bags, containers, tractor tires, bottles and guns. He shared how much of a shock this was to him and the surrounding communities. Pollution of creeks and streams are a recurring problem for the state, that they are still trying to solve. However, Senator Surovell has gained a lot of knowledge regarding everything trash, and was even crowned the Shopping Cart Warrior of Mount Vernon, Virginia. He hopes to engage younger generations to volunteer and get active to build awareness and promote civic activism throughout the community.  

The Summit also gave special recognition to corporate entities that have a commitment to sustainability. One in particular that stood out to me was MGM National Harbor. MGM, taking up a million square feet of space, collects every single bag of trash and sorts them back of house, so that materials that need to be recycled are recycled. Every bit of food waste that MGM accumulates is taken out and placed in their biodigester. I had no idea that a huge company like MGM would be doing this, and hearing about their dedication pleased me tremendously!

Lori Arguelles. Photo courtesy of AFF

Lori Arguelles. Photo courtesy of AFF

The conference went over and above my expectations. The Trash Summit opened my eyes further to the universal problem surrounding trash, and left such a powerful mark on me. The businesses who spoke are models for their industry, and I am thankful for their hard work and dedication to help fix this problem. Additionally, there was no better way to end such an impactful conference than giving metal reusable straws to the attendees when one simply, traded in their name tag to be
re-purposed. This was the icing on the cake for me and a fabulous parting gift! I know that I am already looking forward to the next Summit and I highly recommend you experience it for yourself, too. Lori Arguelles, director and CEO of Alice Ferguson Foundation said it best, “There is only so much we can do as community activists, there are only so many laws that you can pass and policies that you can put in place, that, ultimately, without our business partners working in collaboration with our community activists and our nonprofit organizations, are we really gonna get there.”

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.