Cambridge Alert – Yard Make-over at No Cost by CBF’s Alan Girard

Residents of Cambridge, this spring you can win an unusual prize: a yard make-over at no cost. And in the process you can help clean up the waters around the city, and the Chesapeake Bay. Oh, and everybody gets a free ‘rain barrel.’

The whole idea is the brainchild of the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee. The group wants to encourage practical, low-cost activities that can improve water quality in the city.

The process is simple. Interested residents must first attend a workshop that’s happening at the Dorchester County Public Library in Cambridge, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 22. You will receive information about what possible changes could be made in your yard that treat polluted runoff.

For instance, “rain gardens” are a type of beautiful garden that also soaks up rain running off your property. This is helpful because this runoff often contains pollution from the air or the landscape. The pollution usually ends up in local creeks. You won’t make any commitments at the workshops, just learn about possibilities for a make-over.

If you’re still interested, next you will receive a free visit after the workshop from a professional landscaper who will look at your yard, talk to you, and come up with ideas such as rain gardens, native plants, pavement removal and other possible modifications best suited for your yard.

You’ll pay nothing for the make-over if you are selected. Only five properties will be chosen in the first year of the two-year program. In the second year, financial support drops from 100 percent to 90 percent as a way to encourage early participation.

Both homeowners and renters are eligible to enroll. Those of limited means are particularly encouraged to step forward as the project is intended, in part, to respond to needs in underserved communities. A community survey accessible online here will further help reveal how much people know about water quality and ways to improve it. All survey respondents are eligible to enter to win a $40 Jimmie & Sooks Raw Bar and Grill gift card.

Pre-registration is required to attend the workshop on March 22nd. Each workshop participant will receive a free rain barrel and instructions on how to install it. For more information and to register, contact Hilary Gibson at 410-543-1999 or hgibson@cbf.org.

Fertilizers, soil, oil, grease and other contaminants run off private property when it rains. Until now, cities such as Cambridge have been left with the responsibility to deal with this problem. It’s difficult and expensive, especially to manage runoff from private property.

The work in Cambridge seeks to treat runoff before it becomes the city’s responsibility. Recognizing the burden of treating runoff once it reaches the city’s drainage system, the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee of private and public partners stepped in to try to demonstrate how runoff volumes and contaminants can be reduced before that point. Funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation was awarded to pilot a program that offers homeowners and renters incentives to install native plantings, swales and other practices that naturally filter runoff on private property – minimizing runoff volumes and pollutants for the city to handle later.

Alan Girard is the director of the Maryland Eastern Shore Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

CBF Poll: MD Voters Overwhelmingly Support Oyster Sanctuaries

An overwhelming majority of Maryland voters across party lines support maintaining existing Chesapeake Bay oyster sanctuaries, according to a poll by a bipartisan research team commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).

“The state is considering a proposal to open up a net of nearly 1,000 acres of oyster sanctuaries to harvest. ‘Don’t you dare!’ Marylanders are saying loud and clear,” said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of CBF. “Voters understand the value of leaving a quarter of the state’s reefs closed to harvest, so oysters can recover from decades of overharvest and disease.”

The results found 88 percent of Marylanders support existing sanctuaries, two-thirds of those voters “strongly.” The findings suggest strong support across party lines, with 91 percent of registered Democrats, 89 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Republicans in support.

Public support for the sanctuaries actually increased after the survey summarized the oyster industry’s reasons for wanting the expanded harvesting. Industry representatives have argued at Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) meetings that the state unfairly increased the sanctuaries in 2010. They say too much public money has been spent on restoring the oyster population of the Bay.

Understanding the industry’s position, voters were even more in favor of keeping sanctuaries intact, with support rising from 88 percent to 91 percent.

The poll found voters understand the value of undisturbed oyster beds. Fully 92 percent said that the ability of those sanctuary reefs to filter pollutants from the water, and to improve water quality was “extremely” or “very important” to them. And 88 percent of voters said they value the protection and habitat for fish, crabs, and other plants and wildlife that protected reefs provide.

The poll results come a little over a week after the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) compiled proposals submitted to date and presented a “strawman” proposal to the OAC to let the oyster industry harvest on 977 acres net of oyster reefs which currently are off-limits to harvesting. That proposal will be discussed by OAC members, and possibly adopted, changed or rejected in coming weeks.

A bill (HB 924) being considered in the Maryland General Assembly would require the state to hold off on any alterations of the oyster sanctuaries until a scientific assessment of the oyster stock is completed in 2018. That legislation will be heard today, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m. in the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

Sanctuaries are Maryland’s insurance policy for the future oyster population. By protecting a small portion of the state’s oyster bottom from harvesting, oysters on the sanctuaries can grow and reproduce. A DNR study published in July, 2016 found oysters thriving in much of the sanctuary system, but found scarce numbers of oysters elsewhere.

Three-quarters of Maryland’s oyster reefs are open to harvesting, under current regulations. The proposal before the OAC would shrink the sanctuary areas by 11 percent, and enlarge the harvest areas.

The poll was conducted by a bipartisan collaboration between Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, a Democratic polling firm, and Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm.

“Marylanders understand we must take the long view managing our oysters. That’s why it’s vitally important we wait for scientists to finish their stock assessment. We wouldn’t spend money without knowing what’s in our bank account. We need science-based management for Maryland oysters just like we have for every other fishery. We must wait to see how many oysters are at the bottom of the Bay before we randomly increase the harvest,” Prost said.

Op-Ed: The View of an Oyster Sanctuary from CBF’s Perspective by Tom Zolper

The fate of Maryland’s oyster population is being worked out in a church basement in Annapolis.

That’s where the state Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) meets the second Monday of each month. This is the group appointed by Governor Hogan to review the state’s oyster management system, and to recommend changes, if necessary.  

This past Monday night was perhaps the most important OAC meet so far. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) presented a proposal to open up about 970 acres of ‘sanctuary’ oyster reefs to harvest.

As I have on several occasions, I sat in on the OAC meeting. But it was difficult to sit still.

The makeup of the OAC is controversial, filled mostly with watermen and those who sympathize with their views. The direction the OAC is taking also is controversial.  

The controversy brings out the crowds. The OAC meetings used to take place in a meeting room at the DNR headquarters right next door. So many people began showing up, DNR had to move the meeting to the fellowship hall of the Calvary United Methodist Church on Rowe Blvd. Now even that room is often jammed.

Watermen feel the state has cheated them. Under prior governor Martin O’Malley the state increased the acres of productive oyster reefs set aside as sanctuaries—those areas that can’t be harvested. O’Malley himself was guided by scientists’ warnings that so few oysters remained in the Chesapeake that the status quo was no longer viable.

With input from everyone involved with oysters, the harvest industry included, O’Malley increased from nine percent to 24 percent the portion of oyster bars protected as sanctuaries. Three-quarters of reefs were to remain open to harvest. He also relaxed decades-old regulations to give watermen more opportunities to farm oysters rather than harvest them in the wild. In Virginia oyster aquaculture is a booming business, but at the time of O’Malley’s new plan it was negligible in Maryland. The idea was to boost watermen’s earnings, and simultaneously to take out an insurance plan for the future of oysters in the Bay.

There’s no doubt short term watermen took a hit. They had fewer places to harvest, although fortunately for them Mother Nature provided strong oyster reproduction for several years, resulting in strong harvests.  

Scientists and groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) where I work sympathized with the watermen. But we believed someone had to take the long view before oysters were wiped out completely.

CBF, along with a host of western and Eastern Shore groups such as the Midshore River Conservancy, St. Mary’s River Watershed Association, and others, believe the OAC proposal to shrink the sanctuaries is ill-advised. At a minimum, the state must wait till DNR finishes a stock assessment of the oyster population. You wouldn’t start spending more money without knowing what’s in your bank account. That’s exactly what the proposal would do.

It would open up 1277 acres of sanctuaries for harvest in the following rivers and Bay segments: Upper Chester, Miles, Wye, Upper Choptank, Hooper Strait, Upper Patuxent and Tangier Sound. It would expand sanctuaries by 300 acres in: Mill Hill/Prospect Bay, Eastern Bay, Lower Choptank and Nanticoke River. The net result would be 977 fewer acres in sanctuaries, an 11 percent reduction in those sanctuary acres.

It’s only 11 percent, you might say. But it’s 11 percent of the most productive, healthy sanctuary bars in the Bay. And it is giving away these protected areas before we have any idea the true size of the oyster population. That’s not scientific. That’s not sound judgment. Harvesting oysters on those 977 previously protected acres could do irreversible damage to the fragile population.

A bill in the Maryland General Assembly, HB 924, would freeze any alterations in the sanctuaries till after the stock assessment. Oyster harvesting is the only major fishery in Maryland that isn’t managed with a science-based plan. It pays us to wait till we have the science before we implement a major change such as OAC is considering.

The bill will be heard this Friday, Feb. 24, at 1 pm in the House Environment and Transportation Committee. We urge people concerned about the proposal to shrink sanctuaries to make their voice heard.

Tom Zolper is Assistant Director of Media Relations at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. For more information about CBF please go here.

 

  

Bay Conservationists and Legislators Attempt to Find Common Ground at ESCC Town Hall Meeting

There could not be a better example how useful the new Eastern Shore Conservation Center is for the Mid-Shore than last night’s Town Hall meeting between the Eastern Shore’s leading conservation organizations and members of the State of Maryland’s Senate and General Assembly.

While it was hard to say there was a breakthrough for the State’s conservation agenda, the fact that so many diverse parties could gather together under the same roof to share ideas on how best to protect the Chesapeake Bay was an encouraging signal that progress could be made over the next twelve months in Annapolis.

During the two-hour program, representatives from the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, The MidShore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Preservation Maryland, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters highlighted their top legislative priorities for 2017. And in response, Maryland State Senators Adelaide Eckardt and James Mathias, Jr. along with Delegates Chris Adams and Johnny Mautz, summarized where they saw common ground as well as a few differences in priorities and long-term strategies.

The Spy was there to capture some of the highlights.

This video is approximately thirty-five minutes in length 

Backing Up the Blueprint By Alix Murdoch

Ever since Congress established the Chesapeake Bay Program more than three decades ago in 1983, watershed states have worked in collaboration with federal partners to restore this national treasure, including its rivers and streams.

Although their efforts have progressed in fits and starts, the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, which includes both pollution-reduction commitments from states and critical federal oversight, rightly gives us confidence that the region will accelerate pollution reduction and significantly improve water quality in local rivers and streams and the Bay by 2025.

Already, the implementation of the Blueprint has reduced pollution and improved the Bay’s health. Report card after report card confirms this. And evidence in the water is compelling: Over time, dead zones have been shrinking, oysters are making a comeback and the Bay’s underwater grasses are covering more acres than they have in 35 years.

With so much progress and so much hope, now is the time to build on our success–to increase our efforts, not relax them. That’s why it was so discouraging this summer to see the House of Representatives add to its interior appropriations bill (H.R. 5538) a provision to bar funding for EPA “backstops,” a unique element of the Blueprint that gives each state certainty that the others will fulfill their commitments.

The provision, introduced on the House floor by Congressman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, would undermine the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. It would also undermine the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and the will of the Bay states, all of which unanimously and voluntarily signed the 2014 agreement understanding that it includes these backstops.

There’s no denying that progress under the Blueprint requires slow, hard work. But with the Bay states on board and the federal agencies committed to seeing the Blueprint through, the Goodlatte amendment simply makes no sense.

And, increasingly, members of Congress agree. In his statement to House colleagues urging them to reject the Goodlatte amendment, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, summed up the risks associated with a weakened Blueprint: “If Pennsylvania doesn’t meet its responsibilities, Maryland sees the consequences at the Conowingo Dam. If Maryland doesn’t do its job, it jeopardizes Virginia’s oyster population. We have a collaborative process in place, and our states have made significant investments and important progress.”

Although the Goodlatte provision to bar backstop funding was approved by the House, it was not supported by a straight party line vote. In an extremely noteworthy show of unity, a bipartisan group of 20 members from the Bay Watershed voted against it, including the entire Maryland delegation. Several Republicans from outside our watershed also voted against the provision. Many of these representatives were from states that are also dealing with difficult water quality issues, including Ohio and Florida.

Congress can still choose to exclude this harmful provision and fully fund the Blueprint in the final appropriations bill. But they need to know that the Blueprint is important to their constituents. As the Senate negotiates the appropriations bills of fiscal 2017, it will be incumbent upon all of us to urge our elected officials to maintain the region’s long-standing commitment to the extraordinary federal-state collaboration that sustains the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. We must encourage them to ensure full federal funding for this historic effort, with no limitations on the EPA’s use of funds in the Bay region.

Alix Murdoch is based in Washington, D.C., where she serves as federal policy director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Distributed by the Bay Journal News Service

Tests Find High Levels of Fecal Matter in Streams, Rivers

Excrement in local streams and rivers is not limited to big cities such as Baltimore, but is a problem in some suburban and rural areas outside the city, according to water monitoring this summer by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). Several popular swimming holes were among the sites where bacteria levels spiked after rainstorms to levels hundreds of times above federal safety standards.

“Clearly, several local governments have a problem with polluted runoff,” said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of CBF. “This isn’t an abstract problem. It puts the health of residents who swim, wade or come into contact with these waters at risk. Those governments need to work aggressively to reduce polluted runoff, and ensure the health of their residents.”

Upon learning of the test results, one couple in Baltimore County worried about their grandchildren swimming in the river in front of their home. A camp director in Harford County kept his children away from a popular swimming hole after storms. The Maryland Department of Environment says as a rule of thumb people should not contact any natural water in the state for 48 hours after a significant storm, because of polluted runoff.

Polluted runoff is water that runs off the land during storms and picks up contaminants. Those pollutants can include human and animal waste from leaking sewer and septic systems, pet waste and livestock manure. It also can include other types of pollutants, including weed killer, lawn fertilizer and petroleum residue. The runoff flushes into nearby streams, often with no treatment.

While local governments in populated counties and cities are required by federal and state law to reduce polluted runoff, several local counties have opted in recent years not to collect adequate revenues to address the problem. In recent weeks, several counties have informed the state they plan to do only half the work of reducing polluted runoff required by law. Most counties, as well as Baltimore City, fall far short of complying with goals for upgrading their stormwater systems.

CBF conducted tests in about 40 Maryland streams and rivers this summer in five counties, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Harford and Howard, and in Baltimore City. Most tests were conducted after storms. Additional sites also were tested in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Results of the tests, and a map of the test sites, can be found here.

Many sites had bacteria levels above government safety levels even during dry weather. But those levels often spiked after storms when water flushed animal and human waste into nearby creaks. Among sites with high levels were:

· White Marsh Run in Baltimore County had bacteria levels at least 400 times higher than safety standards after a rainstorm of .80 inches on Aug. 2. The stream feeds Bird River where people often swim and kayak, although the bacteria was diluted the further it traveled down the river.

· Glade Run, a rural stream that runs through Walkersville and Walkersville Community Park in Frederick County, had bacteria levels 324 times above safety limits after a .43 inch storm on June 16. Children reportedly play in water not far from the test site.

· Cascade Falls, a popular swimming hole on the Cascade Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park in Howard County, had bacteria levels 304 times higher than safe standards after a rain of one inch on July 5. Bathers were seen in the water when the water sample was collected at the site.

Health experts say swimming or ingesting water from water polluted by bacteria can cause a variety of intestinal illnesses, including stomach aches and diarrhea.

“It’s been discouraging. We had no idea that there was this much pollution in the water,” said Pete Terry, a resident of Stumpf Road whose home is on Bird River in Baltimore County.

“It’s getting to the point where we are so very concerned when we have company or when we have children in the water. We are hesitant to now allow them to go in,” said Terry’s wife Janet.

The high bacteria counts at these and other area steams were equivalent to, or higher than, levels found in several Baltimore City streams. Baltimore has been the focus of significant media attention for its sewer pipes that leak during storms, resulting in polluted streams and the Inner Harbor, and also sewage sometimes flooding residents’ basements. But the CBF tests indicate the problem of excrement in local water could be far more widespread.

CBF is conducting a pilot program in Fredrick County, in conjunction with Hood College, to try to determine the source of the fecal bacteria at test sites in that county. Those findings are expected to be available in September.

“Citizens need to contact their local and state governments and leaders to insist they take more vigorous steps to reduce pollution from animals in streams, failing septic systems and polluted runoff,” Prost said. “Cleaning up our streams and rivers will reduce the chances of people getting sick from unhealthy water, and will provide other environmental and economic benefits. Downstream areas such as the Chesapeake Bay also will benefit.”

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Hosts Riparian Buffer Tree Planting April 2

Spring has arrived on the Eastern Shore! Spring peepers are peeping, daffodils are blooming, and we’re all jumping at the chance to spend time outdoors in the warmer weather. What better way to celebrate the season than by getting outside to make a difference for clean water!

Join the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) on a Dorchester County farm at 9:00 a.m. April 2 to learn about the importance of forested streamside buffers (a.k.a. “riparian buffers”), soak in the sunshine, and help plant over 1,200 native trees. This farm stewardship project will complete the restoration of an 11 acre buffer that filters harmful polluted runoff before it reaches the Chicamacomico River.

CBF is partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help provide wildlife habitat, filter runoff, and enhance forests and salt marshes on a farm that is permanently protected from development. The property connects the river to the Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area, and is critical habitat for the Delmarva fox squirrel and coastal-dependent birds, including saltmarsh sparrows and American black ducks.

No tree planting experience is necessary and all materials and supplies are provided. Families and children welcome, although children must be accompanied by an adult. Free and open to the public!

Please register at cbf.org/events/watershed-tree-plantings. If you have questions, contact Hilary Gibson, CBF’s Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist, by email at hgibson@cbf.org or by phone at 410/543-1999.

Top Scientists Will Reveal What is Hidden Under Water at Harris Creek

Underwater photo of Cook’s Point oyster restoration site in the Choptank River. Photo by Nick Calyionias

Underwater photo of Cook’s Point oyster restoration site in the Choptank River. Photo by Nick Calyionias

With oysters mounting a mini-comeback in the Chesapeake, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) will hold an Oyster Expo in Easton next week to learn from some of the region’s top oyster scientists, oyster farmers and oyster restoration specialists about the progress and wonders of Crassostrea virginica. This is a public, family-oriented event, featuring videos, exhibits and speakers.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership recently celebrated the construction of the largest man-made oyster reef in the world in Harris Creek off the Choptank River. With over 2 billion oysters planted over 350 acres, the project is one of three massive oyster areas being created in tributaries of the Choptank.

But there is more good news for the Chesapeake oyster, the lowly, unattractive, but much beloved denizen of the shallows. Those who relish oysters on the half shell are more likely than ever to find the Chesapeake variety on their plates. In previous times, even Eastern Shore restaurants often served oysters from Louisiana or the Pacific Northwest, a real insult. But there just weren’t enough Bay oysters.  That’s changing, although the oyster population has a long, long way to go before it’s healthy.

Oyster harvest numbers in the Chesapeake last year were the best in three decades, about 900,000 bushels this past oyster season.

Oyster farming is another big story. According to recent reporting, Maryland has 4,000 acres under lease and 474 people working in shellfish aquaculture. The dockside value of those farmed bi-valves at $3 million is still well below that of so-called wild-harvest at $14 million in Maryland, but the aquaculture industry is surging.

It got a late start. Virginia has been farming oysters for decades, and demonstrates the potential of the industry for Maryland. Last year, the dockside values of Virginia’s farmed oysters and clams was nearly $56 million.

The Oyster Expo is an opportunity to learn about the state of the Chesapeake oyster. It will be held Nov. 18 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, the new home of CBF offices on the Shore, 114 South Washington Street in Easton.

Chief scientists scheduled to speak are Peyton Robertson, director of the Chesapeake Bay Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Bill Goldsborough, director of fisheries at CBF.

Other organizations also will be involved with exhibits, including: Oyster Recovery Partnership; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Horn Point Lab of the University of Maryland; Hooper Island Oyster Aquaculture Company; Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and Phillips Wharf Environmental Center on Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters.

The public is asked to register prior to the event at www.cbf.org/events.

Front image: Volunteer resting on Patricia Campbell, the CBF oyster restoration vessel.

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Farm Bureau Wants Supreme Court To Toss Bay Clean Water Blueprint

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and its allies, including the National Association of Homebuilders, made it clear that they intend to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn two lower court decisions upholding the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint.  The AFBF requested an extension of time to ask the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of their lawsuit challenging the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

The AFBF and the Homebuilders originally sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal district court in 2010. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) formally intervened in support of the Blueprint and EPA. In 2014, after losing in federal district court, AFBF and its allies appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which also ruled against them.

In response to the Supreme Court request, CBF President William C. Baker issued the following statement.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the Farm Bureau and its allies continue to challenge the plan to restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. Despite strong and well-reasoned decisions by the two lower courts, this filing shows the Farm Bureau’s determination to undermine efforts of six states and the District of Columbia to finally restore this national treasure.

 “As part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the states asked EPA to determine how much pollution must be reduced to restore local waterways and the Bay, and the states and District of Columbia each developed individual plans to achieve those reductions. AFBF’s argument that this is an EPA over-reach has been twice rejected by federal courts, and we will argue that the issues are settled and there is no reason for the Supreme Court to hear this case.

 “We and our members have repeatedly encouraged the Farm Bureau and the Homebuilders to put their energy and money into working with us to reduce agricultural and runoff pollution, the largest sources of pollution degrading the Bay. We believe working together to reduce pollution is a far more productive approach than re-arguing points that have been resolved. 

“Although the Farm Bureau often states that it wants clean water, its actions belie its words. Because CBF believes that the Blueprint is our last hope for clean water, we will continue to defend the Blueprint in the courts, in our states, and in our communities for the benefit of all who depend on and value clean water.”

CBF Reacts to EPA Assessment of Bay Cleanup Progress

Maryland generally is on track to clean up its portion of the Chesapeake Bay and the creeks and rivers that feed it, except for stemming polluted runoff, according to the latest assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Officials at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) said the analysis is good news, but the state still has a long way to go.

“Marylanders can feel proud of the progress we’ve made toward cleaner water. But now the road gets steeper. The toughest problem ahead may be polluted runoff from our cities and suburbs,” said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of CBF. “A new initiative agreed to by Governor Hogan and the state legislature this year should help reduce polluted runoff, but only if local officials carry it out.”

Most of the major sources of pollution that foul the Bay in Maryland are decreasing, and at a rate consistent with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. That’s the regional plan for having all pollution-reduction strategies for a clean Bay in place by 2025. The major exception to this positive trend is polluted runoff. In fact, excessive nitrogen flushed into the Bay by polluted runoff has actually increased by four percent in Maryland since 2009, according to the EPA’s data.

This type of pollution is expensive to reduce because the problem was neglected for decades. Now counties and municipalities face high costs for fixing and improving badly neglected drainage systems.

Good news came out of the state legislature this year, however. Governor Larry Hogan and legislative leaders agreed on a bill that will help solve Maryland’s pollution runoff problem. The bill, signed into law by the Governor on May 11, will require densely populated counties and Baltimore City, which already must reduce polluted runoff by state and federal law, to demonstrate they are devoting adequate resources to the job. The new law gives the jurisdictions flexibility in how they dedicate funds to the work, but holds them accountable for success.

“Reducing polluted runoff from streets, yards and parking lots will not only help the Bay but more importantly, will help the condition of our local rivers and streams. Holding local governments accountable for spelling out how they plan to reduce polluted runoff, and how they plan to pay for it will be crucial in the next few years,” Prost said.

Maryland agriculture is lagging slightly behind in its progress to meet goals to reduce nitrogen pollution from fields and barnyards, the EPA found. CBF encourages the state to reduce nitrogen pollution from fields by encouraging more livestock growers to raise their herds on pasture, and by better targeting winter crop subsidies.

The EPA noted several noteworthy improvements in Maryland’s efforts to reduce water pollution. Among those achievements in the past year was a regulation to better control phosphorus pollution. The rule requires farmers to reduce the amount of poultry manure spread on fields if the soil already is saturated with phosphorus. A compromise between farmers and state regulations, the regulation goes into effect over many years

Under the terms of the Blueprint agreement to clean up the Bay, states establish two-year goals, as well as long-term goals. The EPA assessment is an interim evaluation of Maryland’s progress meeting its 2014-2015 milestone goals. Key findings and recommendations of the assessment include:

Maryland is on track to meet the 2017 targets for phosphorus and sediment but, based on new information, is not on track for meeting the nitrogen targets. The state is on track to reduce phosphorus and sediment from sewage plants and agriculture. Progress reducing urban runoff is slower and is off track when compared to 2017 sector goals.

EPA commends Maryland for moving forward with the proposed Phosphorus Management Tool regulations, which is a key component of Maryland’s (Blueprint). The rule will help ensure farmers are properly managing phosphorus on agricultural lands based on the latest science.
EPA expects additional information about how Maryland plans to better reduce pollution from individual septic systems around the state.