Maryland

Stormwater Success Stories

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A key component of ensuring that we are consistently moving the needle forward when it comes to reducing pollution is telling the story of the importance of on the ground restoration projects. This can be difficult since the projects and practices the Chesapeake community are advocating for are often confusing and jargon-filled concepts. A goal of the Coalition is to work with our members to overcome these barriers and identify ways that our community can better communicate and promote clean water projects around the watershed.

To support this effort, the Coalition partnered with Maryland LCV and the MOST Center on a Stormwater Success Stories outreach campaign. Maryland LCV and MOST Center worked together to produce the “POLLUTION SOLUTIONS: Case Stories from the Chesapeake” website. This interactive site is a tool that allows users to search through more than 50 different real-life pollution reducing projects in Maryland based on location or project type. The purpose is to provide a one stop shop for visitors to access and even download information on projects that can then be used for their promotional or educational purposes. Many Coalition members have downloaded project descriptions for use in meetings with their local governments to encourage support for stormwater projects in their own communities.

September 2018 Stormwater Success Stories Training with Water Words that Work

September 2018 Stormwater Success Stories Training with Water Words that Work

Knowing that members were using these one-pagers in meetings with elected officials, we wanted to ensure that we were setting our members up for success. The Coalition partnered with Maryland LCV to apply for funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to train our members on best practices when it comes to communicating about stormwater projects using these one-pagers. In September 2018, the Coalition hosted its first training with Water Words That Work and more than 20 members of the Coalition. The day-long event focused on training our members through interactive role playing exercises and provided our members with takeaways that they could use in future meetings. Many of the attendees were from Montgomery County, Maryland, where almost all of their County Council members are term limited, meaning a whole new group of council members will need to be educated on the importance of funding stormwater projects. This will be the perfect opportunity for Coalition members to execute what they have learned.

In addition, the Coalition is working with members who attended the first training in September and utilizing existing meetings and forums to continue to train more Coalition members. In partnership with EarthForum of Howard County, who attended the training, the Coalition is presenting at a half-day event on communicating about stormwater success stories and Maryland LCV and Rock Creek Conservancy, who also attended the first training, will also be conducting a training at the Chesapeake Watershed Forum in November 2018. The Coalition is looking forward to seeing these new tools and skills executed in real-time in the coming months and years as we push for stronger support for these on the ground restoration projects.

Maryland's Fight for Forest Conservation

During this year's legislative session, the Coalition and its members in Maryland had a number of priorities, including improving the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). Between 1982 and 1997, the Chesapeake Bay watershed lost more than 750,000 acres of forestland. Today, there are about 24 million acres of forest and the watershed is losing about 70 acres each day. Maryland has not altered its FCA since 2013, which made this a priority for our members.

Our state lead, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, brought together more than 15 members of the Coalition around this issue to help coordinate and strategize around how to increase pressure to pass a new version of the bill. MDLCV held weekly calls where Coalition members would volunteer their time and support for writing op-eds, sending emails to state legislators, and even organized a lobby day. 

In addition, the Coalition used this as an opportunity to pilot the first joint petition among Coalition members. A joint petition is when a number of groups sign their organization on to the same petition and send it out to their supporters for signing. When people see that a number of organizations are supporting a common goal, it can be much more powerful and increase signatures. This also acts as a list building campaign, where the participating organizations receive a new list of names of supporters from their fellow participants. This is something that has been done in other neighboring watershed, and the Coalition has wanted to try it in the Chesapeake.

The FCA joint petition included 10 Coalition members: National Wildlife Federation, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Potomac Conservancy, Blue Water Baltimore, Clean Water Action, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, South River Federation, and Severn River Association. These organizations were selected due to their varying sizes, location, capacity, and member lists. After running the joint petition for a little over two weeks, the group received more than 3,700 signatures, and all participating organizations received new names to their lists.

In the end, the FCA did not pass this time, but the Coalition considers our effort a success. The ability for these different groups to come together and strategically work on a common issue and conduct a joint petition is something that would not have been possible without the framework of the Coalition. Our members will be ready to take up the banner once again in 2019!

Maryland Passes Ban on 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.

Festival del Rio Anacostia

Photo: Anacostia Watershed Society

Photo: Anacostia Watershed Society

On October 15th, alongside a mud-banked river usually empty of life, little children skip among brightly tented booths, carrying fishing lines and nature-inspired passport books. Community members watch water run clear through a root-planting demonstration or try to spot American eels in a cloudy-water tank teeming with fish. In the air, marimba music and the tantalizing smells of Latin fare mingle with the musical murmur of combined Spanish and English conversations. A few feet away, a paper mural of insects is constantly expanded as everyone tries their hand at drawing local bugs. This is the Festival del Rio Anacostia, and it’s impossible to decide whether you are at an environmental event or a cultural celebration. 

That perfect fusion is certainly true for Ricardo, an English-speaking local resident who heard about the event through a Spanish-scripted Facebook post.  Recognizing the word “festival,” he thought it’d be a nice way to spend an afternoon and enjoy some good food. Not until arriving did he realize the festival was heavy with nature awareness. “That’s good!” he exclaims. “We have to live in it. Anything we can do to make it better for me, for you, for the younger generation coming up, you know… be a participant. You learn and take it back to your own neighborhood.” He planned to take pictures and share them with people in his neighborhood that couldn’t make it that day—allowing them to witness the good food, dancing and environmental lessons alike.  

Coming together and collaboration were evident in the creation of the festival as much as the event itself. It began as an idea of the Latino Outreach Subcommittee of the Anacostia Watershed Citizens Advisory Committee. Before long, a diverse array of government bodies, citizen committees and environmental organizations offered their capacities and expertise. The space at Bladensburg Park was donated, along with the tents and chairs. Music was provided by Guate Marimba and entertainment by Despertar Maya Ma’am in conjunction with Asociacion de Guatemaltecos Sin Fronteras. Parks and Recreation Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Anacostia Watershed Society, Chispa, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, Friends of Sligo Creek, Chesapeake Bay Trust and Anacostia Riverkeepers were all heavily involved in making the festival a reality.

Being aware of your environment and learning to care for it go hand in hand, and organizers do their best to highlight that intersection. Most booths have both English- and Spanish-speaking personnel; at others, roving translators are available and happy to help. For those without readily available transportation, buses run throughout the day to pick up attendees for the festival and later take them back home. “In many cases due to language and economic barriers, Latinos do not have an opportunity to recreate in the Anacostia River,” wrote Chispa Maryland Program Director Ramon Palencia-Calvo. “[This festival] open[s] the river to this environmentally underserved community.”

Indeed it does, and plans are already underway for a Festival del Rio Anacostia 2017. For more information or to get involved with next year’s festival, contact rpcalvo@mdlcv.org.

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