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.

Reflections: From International to Local Water Levels

I’m an Environmental Specialist in international development and although I’ve worked across the world, lately I’ve become interested in understanding the local water related environmental issues in my home base. So once I read about the Clean Water 2016 Conference, I knew it would be the perfect place to delve into the Chesapeake Bay environmental concerns. I started my career working for environmental engineering consulting firms in the US but for the past eleven and a half years, I’ve been working in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, South Asia and a bit in Europe. The following are some musings on my experience of the conference through the lens of my international background.

One of the first differences I realized is that in this conference, there were two very educational sessions and a field trip on stormwater management. This is a developed country concern. In most of the developing countries I work in, they are still working on getting water to more of their citizens and to a lesser extent, trying to provide some degree of sanitation.

Another issue that came up was that cash strapped local governments, already spread thin with many commitments, were looking to the private sector to bring in additional resources to deal with water pollution including stormwater treatment. This strategy of involving the private sector through public private partnerships to increase resources was a popular strategy in the 90s and beyond in many developing countries. We even studied it back when I was a Master’s student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. It could be useful to review how successful these strategies actually were in practice.

Ironically, I had quite the health scare after finding a stubborn tick on my belly two days after the stormwater field trips in MD. In the developed world, developing countries as often thought of as hotbeds for disease and sickness, but I’ve only gotten sick two times on work trips. Once with a cold in Bangladesh (as opposed to the diarrhea that visitors often get there) and food poisoning in Uganda. I guess I should have put on the bug repellent I spotted on the table where we gathered before getting on the buses…

Besides stormwater management, another topic that interested me was the nutrient (pollutants such as phosphorus and nitrogen) trading session in which practitioners reported on their experiences. I conducted a midterm review of a project in Hungary a few years ago which looked at reducing nutrients using both constructed treatment wetlands and a tertiary level wastewater treatment plant. The Hungary project was part of a series of other similar projects in Eastern Europe which aimed to reduce the pollution going into the Danube River and eventually the Black Sea.

All in all, the conference was extremely educational and very well attended by the main players in Chesapeake Bay Restoration efforts. Even the EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy showed up! If you care about clean water, the environment or the Chesapeake Bay, this conference is not to be missed.

About The Author:

Nicole Maywah is an Environmental Specialist Consultant based in Washington, DC focusing on environmental safeguards for international development and water resources/infrastructure. She holds a Master’s in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard College in Environmental Science and Public Policy.

Senator Barbara Mikulski and Jennifer Stanley Named 2016 Environmental Leaders of the Year

On May 24 – 25, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland, the Choose Clean Water Coalition presented Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and philanthropist Jennifer Stanley of Town Creek Foundation with the 2016 Environmental Leadership Awards.  The awards honor individuals in the Chesapeake Bay region who lead efforts in education, outreach, conservation, and contributions towards clean water. 

Through their dedicated efforts in cleaning up the local rivers, streams, and waterways, communities in the surrounding areas are now seeing positive outcomes in the Chesapeake Bay.  More recently, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science released its report card on the Bay – giving it a “C”.  For the first time in 13 years, the Bay saw an uptick from its “D” range.  Although this may not sound like a moment to celebrate, results are leading scientists to believe that we are now seeing the Bay move toward restoration. 

However, clean water advocates could not have accomplished this without leaders from Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia and across the Bay and its neighboring watersheds.  More specifically, leaders like Senator Barbara Mikulski and Jennifer Stanley dedicated many years advocating to ensure the recovery of the Chesapeake Bay.  

Senator Barbara Mikulski, alone, has spent over three decades serving Maryland.  Growing up in East Baltimore, Mikulski is passionate about protecting crucial water systems and its infrastructure.  Over the years, Mikulski fought to protect federal grant funding, investments in water and sewer infrastructure, and drinking water supplies for communities throughout Maryland.  

Furthermore, Jennifer Stanley is a longtime conservationist, volunteer, and philanthropist.   Through her passion for education, Jennifer founded and spent thirty-five years directing the Oxford Kids Camp, a summer program in her home community.  Additionally, she founded and directed the After School Program at the Oxford Community Center for underprivileged children.  In 1982, Jennifer and her husband Ted Stanley established the Town Creek Foundation where they became leaders for protecting the environment and conservation efforts.  

Although we know that there is much more work to do, we recognize that the set foundation and goals we’ve accomplished today would not have been possible without leaders like Senator Barbara Mikulski and Jennifer Stanley.  Moving forward, as we continue to work to ensure that all communities have access to clean water, it’s important to remember the fruits of your labors may be reaped two generations from now.  So you should trust, even when you don’t see the results. Let’s keep fighting the good fight!