CBF Introduces New Financing Tool to Help Bay Communities Reduce Pollution

Reducing polluted runoff from urban and suburban roads, rooftops, and parking lots is an expensive task. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), in partnership with Quantified Ventures and with support from The Kresge Foundation and other funders, is inviting municipalities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia to participate in a pilot project to implement natural solutions that reduce urban/suburban runoff that damages local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. The application process opened September 15 and closes October 31.

“We understand that reducing polluted runoff is often difficult and expensive and we want to make it easier and more effective for communities in the Bay watershed to meet their clean water goals,” said CBF Vice President Kim Coble. “Because some local governments and lenders may be less familiar with implementing natural solutions, these kinds of projects may be seen as riskier and more difficult to finance.”

For the pilot project, CBF is helping municipalities take advantage of a new financial tool pioneered by Quantified Ventures and DC Water called the Environmental Impact Bond (EIB). In 2016, DC Water used an Environmental Impact Bond structure to privately finance and share the risk for implementing natural solutions to manage stormwater runoff into the Potomac River.

The EIB allowed the utility to raise funds from impact investors Goldman Sachs and the Calvert Foundation to finance projects such as permeable pavement and bioswales—which mimic natural processes, may be more cost-effective than traditional “gray” infrastructure, and can provide additional community benefits such as reducing local flooding, improving climate resiliency, and creating local jobs.

“We think the DC Water example shows promise so we are excited to help CBF test this model around the Bay region at no extra cost to our municipal partners,” said Todd Appel of Quantified Ventures. “Polluted runoff is the only major source of pollution that is still increasing, and in some urban and suburban areas is the leading cause of damage to local rivers and streams.”

An Environmental Impact Bond provides up-front capital for environmental projects. In its most basic form, a municipality or municipal entity (such as a municipal utility) issues Environmental Impact Bonds and sells them to private investors to obtain financing to pay the cost of environmental projects.

The municipal issuer is required to pay interest on the bonds and to repay the principal amount of the bonds on scheduled payment dates.

The EIBs follow a Pay for Success model. After an evaluation period, if the project reduces significantly more pollution than expected the investor receives a higher rate of return. If the project reduces significantly less pollution than anticipated the investors will receive a lower rate of return.

“In our pilot program, we will coordinate with up to four local jurisdictions’ financial advisors toward the creation of an Environmental Impact Bond or loan tailored to their community’s financial and environmental needs to implement green infrastructure solutions,” said Coble.

“CBF has been a strong partner with our local government clients in supporting water quality funding, and we applaud CBF’s effort to pilot this idea in diverse localities across the watershed,” said Chris Pomeroy, president of the AquaLaw law firm and counsel to the Virginia and Maryland Municipal Stormwater Associations. For more information, go to www.cbf.org/eib where you can view an earlier recorded webinar about this project, download a brochure, or submit an application.

About the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

With offices in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia and 15 field centers, CBF leads the way in restoring the Bay and its rivers and streams. For more than 50 years, we have created broad understanding of the Bay’s poor health, engaged public leaders in making commitments to restore the Chesapeake, and fought successfully to create a new approach to cleanup that features real accountability—the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. For more information, visit www.cbf.org.

About Quantified Ventures

Quantified Ventures is a for-profit impact investing firm that helps clients finance specific and measurable environmental, health, and educational outcomes. Founded by Eric Letsinger, a “tri-sector” executive bringing 25+ years of leadership experience, QV pioneered the first ever Environmental Impact Bond with DC Water in 2016. Based in DC, the entrepreneurial team thrives on fresh thinking, measured risk, and strong coffee. For more information, visit www.quantifiedventures.com.

About Kresge

CBF’s Green Infrastructure Environmental Impact Bond project, assisted by Quantified Ventures, is supported in part by a generous grant from The Kresge Foundation. The Kresge Foundation is a $3.5 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development in Detroit. In 2016, the Board of Trustees approved 474 grants totaling $141.5 million, and made 14 social investment commitments totaling $50.8 million. For more information, visit www.kresge.org.

Diversity matters in this different kind of fishing tournament

A different kind of fishing tournament here on Oct. 7 will give anglers advanced notice of the best fishing spots in the area, and will award prizes for the diversity of fish netted, not just size. It’s the Rod & Reef Slam, a celebration of the Chesapeake Bay fisherman’s best friend: an oyster reef.

Sponsored by Coastal Conservation Association, Maryland; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF); the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative; and NOAA, the Slam is taking registrations here and at hgibson@cbf.org and 302-388-7659.

The late Clint Waters of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association (MSSA) used to tell his fellow anglers that “the best fishing hole” in the Choptank River was a place called Cook’s Point. Waters wasn’t telling fish stories when he reported that he routinely caught up to seven different species there: striped bass, hardhead, white perch, spot, and more. Some fishermen have even snagged legal black sea bass, fish rarely seen around the Chesapeake over the past 100 years.

Cook’s Point is an oyster reef near the mouth of the Choptank – a man-made reef at that. It is one of three such reefs that anglers will fish on at the Rod & Reef Slam. The others are Harris Creek and the Tilghman Island Artificial Reef just outside Knapps Narrows.

“Fish love oyster reefs like humans like a buffet line. As a result, recreational fishermen also love oyster reefs,” said John Page Williams, a CBF naturalist and widely known angler.

Oysters are called a keystone species in the Chesapeake. Oyster reefs are more than just mounds of shell; they form a foundation of the entire Bay ecosystem. They filter the water. And the intricate latticework of shells provides vital habitat for many small plants and animals that make their homes on reefs. Barnacles, mussels, and bryozoans attach to the oyster shells. Other animals like redbeard sponges, flower-like anemones, and feathery hydroids branch out into the water. Mobile invertebrates such as mud crabs, oyster drills and grass shrimp inhabit the nooks and crannies. Small fish like blennies, gobies and skillet-fish feed on the reefs, and attract larger animals such as striped bass and blue crabs.

But the benefits of these reefs are sometimes lost in debates about the cost of restoring oysters in Maryland. Some critics have questioned the tens of millions of dollars (mostly in federal money) that has been spent to restore over nearly 600 acres of oyster reefs in Harris Creek, the Little Choptank River and the Tred Avon River.

These man-made reefs are showing real promise in their primary job: growing oysters. The latest report about on the Harris Creek project, for instance, found 97 percent of the area meeting minimal density standards for a restored reef, and 80 percent meeting optimal standards.

But just as the Harris Creek reef seems to be doing so well, some critics are questioning the state’s plan to finish large projects on the Little Choptank, and Tred Avon, as well as man-made reefs planned for the future.

The Rod & Reef Slam is meant to remind us of the benefits from such projects. Recreational fishermen typically understand those benefits. For instance, the Dorchester Chapter of the MSSA (of which Clint Waters was president) partnered with CBF and the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative to submerge more than 650 “reef balls” with baby oysters below the Bill Burton fishing pier in Cambridge – to attract fish.

Where you find oysters, you’ll find fish, and fishermen.

The tournament cost is $50, which covers entry fee, after party food, giveaways, live entertainment and access to a cash bar. Youth ages 16 and under may participate for free with a participating adult. Tickets for $10 are available for after party food and entertainment only. Lines in will be 6:45 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 and lines out 2:30 p.m. Powerboat, kayak, and youth divisions. More information here or at 302-388-7659 or hgibson@cbf.org.

CBF on the Shore: Harris Creek Update and Rod and Reef Slam

It’s safe to say that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation – or anyone concerned with the health of our local waterways and its critters – is interested in how Harris Creek is doing. It’s the largest known man-made oyster reef in the world. While the project’s success will be measured over the course of many years, early monitoring reports out now begin to indicate whether the restoration is meeting expectations.

It was great news when reports showed that by and large oyster restoration is remarkably successful in Harris Creek. It is meeting scientifically determined thresholds for success, and then some. Eighty percent of the reefs in some areas of the creek are meeting the optimal threshold of 50 oysters per square meter. While the Spy has its doubts about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s claim there were no staff celebrations on this news, the CBF message was clear in talking to Alan Girard, CBF’s Eastern Shore Director, and Allison Colden, its Maryland Fisheries Scientist, that this is not the time for a victory party.

As Alan and Allison discuss in their Spy interview last week, the Harris Creek project still has many serious hurdles to pass over before any real success can be declared. Nonetheless, both Alan and Allison can’t hide their genuine excitement with the latest monitoring results.

Alan also talks about CBF’s upcoming, Harris Creek Rod and Reef Slam which turns out to be not your average fishing tournament.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Harris Creek project or the Rod and Reef Slam please go here

The Most Important Fish in the Bay Needs Help

Join the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on September 6, 6:30 p.m. at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in downtown Easton for an evening of all things menhaden. CBF is screening the short film Menhaden: The Most Important Fish in the Bay, followed by a discussion of the current state of the fishery in the Chesapeake Bay. CBF’s Maryland Fisheries Scientist Allison Colden will describe the critical role that menhaden play in the Bay’s food web and answer questions from the audience. One lucky audience member will walk away with a fun and fishy CBF gift basket.

Menhaden face potential new threats along the Atlantic coast. Right now, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is responding by considering revisions to its fishery management plan. One proposed amendment to the plan could help keep more fish in the water by including important guidelines—called “ecological reference points.” These will help fishery managers ensure that enough of these essential fish remain in the water, serving their role as a vital food source.

Any threat to this critical fish is also a threat to the countless Chesapeake critters who rely on it. Learn more about the current state of this fishery and what you can do to help on September 6. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required at cbf.org/MenhadenFilm. Contact Hilary Gibson at hgibson@cbf.org or 410/543-1999 with questions.

If you can’t make the event, you can still make your voice heard. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, September 18 from 6-8:00p.m. at Anne Arundel Community College, Cade Center for the Fine Arts – Room 219, 101 College Parkway, Arnold, MD. Written comments on ASMFC’s Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden will be accepted through October 20, 2017. Comments can be sent to comments@asmfc.org (Subject line: Draft Amd. 3).

 

Op-Ed: The Good and Bad News on Oyster Restoration by CBF’s Tom Zolper

New scientific information unveiled Monday, July 10 provides yet more encouraging news that the largest man-made oyster restoration project in the Chesapeake Bay is working. The project is in Harris Creek.

Unfortunately, just as the investment in Harris Creek seems to be paying off, efforts to duplicate that success in two other tributaries of the Choptank River are hitting snags. Political pressure and substrate shortages threaten to bring restoration efforts to a screeching halt if the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not act quickly.

First the good news. New monitoring data indicate that 30 oyster reefs created in 2013 in Harris Creek have high densities of oysters, reported Stephanie Reynolds Westby, Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Westby reported the findings at the monthly meeting of the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC). The NOAA report can be found here.

Scientists have developed specific metrics to determine when an oyster reef can be officially called “restored.” About 97 percent of the 30 reefs planted in 2013 in Harris Creek met the minimum metric for oyster density, and 80 percent met a higher “targeted” density. In fact, only one of the 30 reefs failed to meet the metrics. OAC members speculated someone could have poached oysters off that reef, or that the seabed underneath could have been too muddy for the oysters to thrive.

Despite data to the contrary, some OAC members challenged the conclusion that a restoration project is successful simply because it achieves metrics such as oyster density and biomass. They said putting oysters in the water and having them grow and prosper is not enough. The real success will be if oysters at Harris Creek reproduce, and their larvae help seed oyster bars miles away where oystermen harvest. Some scientific modeling from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has suggested that could happen.

Scientists at the OAC meeting said a restored reef is successful even if it doesn’t seed far-away oyster reefs. They said a massive network of reefs such as in Harris Creek will attract fish, filter the water and provide other ecological benefits. Harris Creek is a “sanctuary reef,” meaning oysters can’t be harvested there.
Now the bad news. Also at the OAC meeting, officials with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) revealed oyster restoration in the Little Choptank and Tred Avon Rivers have hit political snags. Those two projects were meant to duplicate the success in Harris Creek – building large networks of man-made reefs where oysters had once thrived.

Chris Judy of DNR reported that the plan for Maryland to restore 118 acres in the shallow reaches of Little Choptank is still on hold. For several years DNR has delayed requesting a permit for the work, most recently after complaints from watermen representatives. Restoration work at the mouth of the river has nearly been completed by various partners, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, but DNR has long delayed doing its part.

DNR recently asked NOAA experts to further survey the bottom of the river where restoration was planned to find additional suitable acres for restoration in deeper water. Initial estimates suggest that there may be as few as 20-30 acres of suitable area in deeper water, meaning a permit would still be required to complete the project. Because of these political delays and additional surveys, Judy estimated that construction in the Little Choptank won’t begin for a least a year, bringing restoration in the Little Choptank to a halt.

Also at the OAC meeting, Angie Sowers of USACE said her agency had to stop construction in the Tred Avon because of a shortage of mixed shell substrate. The Corps’ contractor was only able to complete 6 out of 10 planned acres. The use of mixed shell instead of other materials in the Tred Avon was a result of negotiations at the OAC after watermen halted restoration work there in 2016. When questioned at the OAC meeting, Sowers said the work could have proceeded with stone.

Ironically, within the new data on Harris Creek was a finding that oysters were growing to densities four times greater on rock substrate than they were on traditional oyster shell. The very thing that watermen object to in reef construction might be the best substance. A recent article in the Chesapeake Bay Journal reported that watermen in Virginia also have discovered the benefit of rock foundations for reefs. But Maryland watermen remain resistant because they claim rock substrate makes it difficult to catch crabs in the area with trot lines, or causes other problems.

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

Op-Ed: Why Cut a $73 Million Program that Provides Billions in Benefits? By Kim Coble

There is more good news for the Bay this year. The clear consensus in the scientific community is that the health of the Bay is improving. In the last five months, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s “State of the Bay” report, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s “Bay Barometer,” and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s “Bay Report Card” all show progress.

Female crab numbers are up, oysters are beginning to rebound and underwater grass beds have hit new records in each of the last four years. Pollution is down, the Bay’s dead zone is getting smaller, and at times, the water has been clearer than many can remember. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is working.

All three reports, though, show that much more needs to be done. The recovery is fragile. The EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, currently funded at $73 million annually, is the glue that holds the multistate restoration effort together. It coordinates Bay restoration science, modeling and monitoring. All are essential for measuring progress and guiding restoration activities forward.

The Bay Program also provides funding to state and local governments to help reduce pollution, as well as grants to universities and nonprofits to put practices on the ground to improve water quality.

In February, a bipartisan group of 17 Congressional representatives from Maryland and Virginia wrote to President Trump asking that he fully fund the Bay Program in his upcoming budget. “Significant progress has been made,” they wrote, “with six states and the District of Columbia, the 19 federal agencies, nearly 1,800 local governments, and more than 60 nongovernmental organizations working together to implement state-developed plans to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay.”

When the Trump administration released the highlights of its proposed budget in March, it requested that Bay Program funding be zeroed out.

When Congress voted on funding for the rest of this fiscal year, it provided $3 million more funding than requested by President Obama for this fiscal year. In the next few months, Congress will be considering the fiscal year 2018 budget. With a formal request from this administration to eliminate the Bay Program, bipartisan support will be critical to save it.

Without that investment, there is the very real chance that the Bay will revert to a national disgrace, with deteriorating water quality, unhealthy fish and shellfish, and water-borne diseases that pose a real threat to human health. The argument for that investment is not a difficult one to make: the financial support translates directly into improved water quality and improved local economies.

Many businesses depend on clean local waters and a healthy Chesapeake. The Bay is one of the foremost economic engines of the region, providing billions in annual economic activity in the travel and tourism, recreational, and seafood industries. Furthemore, the Bay and its countless tributaries support hundreds of thousands of jobs and are critical to our quality of life, our property values and the safe, drinkable water we need.

The value of clean water to our economies has been validated repeatedly. A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for instance, showed that the commercial seafood industry in Maryland and Virginia contributed nearly $3 billion and more than 31,000 jobs to the region’s economy. An EPA study found that for every $1 spent on source-water protection, $27 were saved in water treatment costs.

There are other benefits to restoring local rivers and streams. Every time a farmer fences cattle out of a stream, the fence posts, trees and shrubs are bought from local businesses. Every time a sewage treatment plant is upgraded, engineers and construction workers are employed. And then there are many indirect and less visible benefits: cleaner drinking water, cleaner air, hurricane and flood protection, recreation, and fresh, healthy food and seafood. These benefits extend to everyone in the Bay’s 64,000-square-mile drainage basin, from headwater streams to the Atlantic Ocean.

A peer-reviewed report commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found that the economic benefits provided by nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will increase by $22 billion annually if the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented. If the region relaxes efforts, however, and does little more to clean up the Bay than what has been done to date, pollution will worsen, and the value of Bay benefits will decline by almost $6 billion annually.

To ensure continued bipartisan support for the Blueprint, its critical for citizens of the region to let their local, state and federal elected officials know that clean water is important. Along with the benefits to our quality of life, our health and our economy, it is the legacy we can leave to our children and future generations.

By Kim Coble

Kim Coble is vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Her opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

CBF: Pennsylvania Still a Problem with Nitrogen in the Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) assessment of progress made implementing milestone commitments in 2016 found Maryland and Virginia largely on track to meet commitments for reducing pollution and Pennsylvania falling significantly short in reducing nitrogen pollution.

“While there is significant room for improvement in all the states, it is important to note that reduced pollution is benefitting the Bay. Over time, the dead zone is getting smaller, Bay grasses are at record levels, and oysters are rebounding,” said CBF President William C. Baker. “The success all three states have had in reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants is important, but it also masks shortfalls in each of the states’ efforts to reduce pollution from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff. Continued federal and state investments will be key to success on the state level, and we know the payoff will be significant.”

Under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the states have committed to implementing 60 percent of the practices necessary to restore the Bay by 2017, and 100 percent by 2025. Over the next year, the states and EPA will assess progress and develop new plans to achieve the 2025 goal.

The two-year milestones provide transparency and accountability for restoration efforts. This assessment is for the first year of the 2016-17 milestone period.

CBF’s assessment looked at the practices the states put in place in 2016, as well as selected programs each state has designed to achieve the long-term goals. (Attached to this email is a narrative summary of the Maryland assessment, and a chart summarizing findings for all six states in the Bay watershed and the District of Columbia.)

Pennsylvania practices

Pennsylvania is significantly off track in reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from agriculture as well as urban/suburban runoff. Progress in reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants is on track. Overall progress to reduce nitrogen pollution is significantly off track, but efforts to reduce phosphorus and sediment pollution are only slightly off track.

Pennsylvania programs

Pennsylvania’s re-boot committed the Commonwealth to develop and implement an agricultural compliance and enforcement strategy. As part of that strategy inspections were to be conducted on 10 percent of its farms annually. With funding from the Chesapeake Bay Program and other sources, over 1,100 farms were visited between October 2016 and March 2017, an inspection rate below what is needed to visit 10% of farms. However, the pace of inspections has increased now that the process is more established. Roughly 70% of the farms had the required plans. These inspections, however, only assess whether the required plans exist, not whether they are implemented – a major shortfall of state efforts to date.

Pennsylvania also committed to counting and reporting on agricultural practices that are not government funded. A recent Penn State study reported many practices that the Commonwealth had not counted.

Pennsylvania’s efforts to reduce pollution from urban/suburban runoff are showing mixed success. The Commonwealth is significantly off track in reducing pollution from nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. To help jumpstart reductions, the Commonwealth has implemented specific, numeric goals in permits for small municipalities.

“Pennsylvania’s pollution reduction strategy has shown some progress and the Commonwealth is in the process of developing a new watershed implementation plan to carry it toward the 2025 goals,” said CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell. “But the Commonwealth is considering yet another budget that falls well short of providing the investments necessary for success. Pennsylvania will only be successful with sustained investments in the right places and on the right practices.

Maryland practices

Maryland is slightly off track reducing nitrogen pollution from agriculture, while on track to remove phosphorus and sediment pollution. Urban/suburban efforts have fallen far short for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. Maryland’s efforts to upgrade sewage treatment plants are on track. Thus, overall efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution are slightly off track, while pollution reduction efforts for phosphorus and sediment are on track.

Maryland programs

While seeing success in wastewater treatment plants, Maryland is significantly behind in reducing pollution from septic systems. Technologies exist to significantly reduce nitrogen pollution from septic systems, however the state has stopped requiring those technologies to be used for new systems more than 1,000 feet from tidal waters.

There are requirements in Maryland for large municipalities to develop plans and implement technologies to reduce urban/suburban runoff by replacing 20 percent of impervious surfaces with practices that absorb and filter rainwater. While the Maryland Department of the Environment has reviewed those plans, it has not taken action to correct deficiencies. In addition, draft permits for smaller municipalities fail to require any restoration actions in the next five years.

Maryland is implementing its agricultural phosphorus management tool, which will limit the application of phosphorus on land that already has excess phosphorus. Current programs to match excess manure with farms where it can be used safely may need to be expanded.

“We can feel proud that Maryland got off to a strong start in this epic project to restore the Chesapeake and that state leaders remain committed to the Blueprint. From streams in Western Maryland to tidal creeks on the Eastern Shore, we see evidence of cleaner water. But the job is far from done,” said CBF Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost. “We must work together to find solutions for polluted runoff in our cities and suburbs, for failing septic systems in rural areas, and for problems from sprawl development. Given the uncertainties around federal leadership on this effort, we urge the General Assembly and the Hogan Administration to tackle the challenges head-on for our benefit and for the benefit of future generations of Marylanders.”

Virginia practices

Virginia is on track to meet its phosphorus goal for agriculture, and slightly off track for nitrogen and sediment. The Commonwealth is significantly off track in meeting nitrogen and sediment goals for urban/suburban runoff, while only slightly off track for phosphorus. Due to its success with upgrading sewage treatment plants, overall, Virginia is on track for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and slightly off track for sediment.

Virginia programs

Virginia’s efforts to reduce pollution from urban/suburban runoff are continuing to fall short of its goals. While new permits have been issued for both large municipalities and smaller jurisdictions, permit requirements are not sufficient to achieve the necessary pollution reduction by 2025.

Virginia’s agricultural programs have made steady progress, but there is room for improvement. A program funding 100 percent of the costs to fence cattle out of streams was so successful that there is a backlog of more than 400 farmers waiting for funding. And Virginia’s agricultural certainty program has resulted in the approval of 300 plans, covering more than 65,000 acres of cropland. However, implementation of these plans is lagging, Adoption of cover crops is below targets and implementation of forest buffers is also off track.

“It’s not often that we celebrate overachievements, but the incredible progress made in upgrading Virginia’s wastewater treatment plants allows the Commonwealth to remain largely on track for meeting goals to reduce pollution in our waterways,” said CBF Virginia Executive Director Rebecca LePrell. “However, the road doesn’t stop here. As we approach 2025, the success of wastewater treatment plants should serve as a model for addressing challenges in cutting polluted runoff from agriculture, cities, and suburbs. As state elections near, I hope Virginia’s next governor will work with legislators to ensure stable and adequate investment in farm conservation practices and support for local governments to reduce polluted runoff.”

CBF Notes: Catch the Last Two Clean Water Concerts by Erika Koontz

As the first official day of summer arrives, so do the final two Clean Water Concert Series performances here.

Photo by Erika Koontz

Sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Avalon Foundation, Harrison Street between Dover and Goldsborough will be blocked off again on June 24 and July 8 from 6-8:30 p.m. for this free summertime tradition on the Shore. You won’t want to miss this year’s line-up:

Saturday, June 24: U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters

The Navy’s official chorus performs pieces ranging from Broadway tunes to sea chanteys and everything in between.

Saturday, July 8: The XPD’s

A D.C. area favorite, the XPD’s groove to Motown, R&B, and funk tunes that get people dancing.

Now in its fifth year, the Clean Water Concert Series has gotten off to a fantastic start. People from around the Shore came out on June 3 to enjoy the first show! The Spanish and Portuguese songs of Cantaré, a Latin American group from Washington, D.C., drew in people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. An estimated 1,500 attendees danced, enjoyed the music from a comfortable lawn chair, or caught the up-beat melodies while visiting the exhibitor tables.

More than a dozen community organizations staffed the family-friendly exhibits to educate people about the environment, and to celebrate the progress being made toward clean and healthy waterways on the Shore. Each organization offered an interactive and family-friendly activity that had something for everyone. Side-walk chalk drawings of Chesapeake Bay critters and drips of delicious Nice Farms Creamery ice cream covered the street by the end of the night.

All concerts are free and open to the public. The wide variety of environmental and community exhibits staffed by experts will be on display for children and adults to enjoy. CBF and the Avalon Foundation are pleased to host this opportunity to learn more about the Bay and how you can be a part of the movement to restore it.

The concert series promotes community awareness about the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, a multi-state, science-based plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

Visit cbf.org to learn more.

Op Ed: Funding the Bay by Tom Zolper

Tax dollars at work. It’s a sign you occasionally see at road construction projects. But it also could be affixed to any number of valuable government services we take for granted as we sail, motor, fish, or swim in the Chesapeake Bay.

Keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean and safe is important to everyone, from boaters to businesses.

Say you are a recreational boater and you spy dark clouds building on the horizon. You need real-time information on weather and water conditions. You pick up your smart phone or device and presto, the information is provided through the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System.

You are a livestock farmer who wants to raise animals the way your grandfather did – on pasture. You’ve seen the economic data; you know you can increase your profit margin making the switch. But it’s expensive. So, you pick up the phone and secure some financial help from the Regional Conservation Partnership.

These are just two examples of countless services provided by federal programs. The buoys are funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The farmer program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA).

By now most people have heard that President Trump wants to eliminate all funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, one of the biggest federal efforts that help the Bay. But there are many other federal programs that benefit the Chesapeake, NOAA and DOA programs being two. Some seem relatively safe from the budget ax; some seem in danger. Congress will decide the fate of all these programs this summer.

Federal tax dollars help fund oyster restoration, among hundreds of other Bay-saving projects.Here, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation puts spat-on-shell (young oysters attached to old shells) into the Little Choptank River. The feds have contributed millions to local oyster restoration.

The Chesapeake Bay is an ecosystem, a complex network of living creatures. Three hundred years ago the Chesapeake didn’t need help from the federal government to sustain itself. But there weren’t 17 million people living within its drainage area. Human beings are hard on nature.

Today, federal tax dollars from those 17 million residents are part of the complex econ-system (my word) that keeps the Bay alive. One dollar contributed from the feds prompts local governments, businesses, and groups to contribute up to $4 more to the same Bay-saving project. That’s how you stretch tax dollars, create jobs, and boost the local economy. Your federal tax dollars are invested. They pay off.

For instance, the feds gave $114,850 to restore 20 acres of oyster reefs in the Tred Avon River. That investment prompted the Oyster Recovery Partnership to raise $300,000 for the same project.

Another example: the feds invested $54,320 for the restoration of 27 acres of wetlands on the Chester River. The money leveraged a contribution from Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage of $53,500.

Take the federal dollars away, and re-direct them say, to the military budget, and the Bay will decline. Make no mistake about it. It’s doubtful that individual states, counties or municipalities within the Bay region would raise their taxes or shortchange other programs to make up for funding lost through federal budget cuts.

Here are just a few more of the services to the Bay provided through one agency, NOAA:

Oyster Restoration: From larvae produced at the Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge to the giant man-made reef networks in the Choptank River tributaries, NOAA provides substantial funding for the herculean task of bringing back the Chesapeake oyster population.
• Oyster Aquaculture: Just like regular farmers get help from the federal government, oyster farmers in the Chesapeake get assistance from NOAA, especially in the form of research of what works best.
Environmental Education: If we are to save the Bay, we absolutely must educate the next generation to carry on the work. Students across Maryland are monitoring and caring for streams near their schools, growing baby oysters, and studying their watersheds, among other actions. President Trump wants to eliminate a key environmental education program funded by NOAA: Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET). What might be lost? One example of many: the Choptank Choices program by the Sultana Education Foundation allows 5th-grade students in Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties to study the Choptank both in the classroom and aboard the 1768 schooner Sultana.
Bottom Sonar Scans: these provide the data for navigational maps used by recreational and commercial boaters. The science also locates hard bottom where oyster reefs can be created.
• Oyster Reef Monitoring: Every year in Maryland NOAA provides about $130,000 so divers can carefully monitor whether man-made reef systems are working. These monitoring programs tell us if oysters are surviving, reproducing and more. Without these NOAA-funded dive, we’d be pouring tax dollars into the water with no way of determining results.

Eastern Shore Congressman Rep. Andy Harris sits on the House Appropriations Committee and will have an important voice in the future of these and other Bay-related programs.

Tom Zolper is the assistant media director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Op-Ed: Chesapeake Bay Foundation Says Teamwork is Needed

“We are stronger together than alone.” It’s an idea that can benefit many people and situations – even those who serve us in government.

In today’s political climate, it’s hard to imagine government officials standing together in unity on much of anything.

Yet just this week representatives of six local jurisdictions on Maryland’s Eastern Shore signed off on a proposal to work collaboratively to control polluted runoff – one of the few sources of Bay pollution that’s increasing.

The collaborative comes out of the Healthy Waters Round Table – a network of county and town officials on the Shore that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and partners helped launch in 2015. The network helps participating communities share resources to keep pollution out of local rivers and streams.

County and town collaboration is a win-win idea. Under the Clean Water Blueprint, Maryland’s local governments are partners in the multi-state commitment to get projects in place by 2025 that will collectively meet water quality standards for the Bay. The problem is that most rural communities like those on the Shore have limited resources at their disposal to contribute to the effort.

Leaders of some jurisdictions are charging new fees to help fund pollution control. Salisbury, for example, assesses homeowners about $20 per year to pay for street sweeping, new plants and trees, and other practices that filter and treat runoff near its source.

But even with this extra effort, Salisbury finds it difficult to get the necessary work done to protect local water quality. That’s why it recently joined Cambridge, Easton, Oxford, Queen Anne’s and Talbot in the new partnership to try share resources. (Round Table partners including Caroline, Cecil, Chestertown and Kent declined to participate.)

The time and effort it takes to bring a municipal or county pollution control project from conception to completion is not insignificant. Scoping out projects, ushering them through design and approval, and managing construction, can sometimes slow projects almost to a halt.

With CBF’s help, county and town partners agreed to work collectively to try to get through this bottleneck. For instance, localities this week partnered on a grant application to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to bring in new technical support staff and funding that can speed up project delivery.

If the proposal is approved, a “Regional Service Provider” will be hired who helps locals plan, prioritize and invest grant dollars in high-value projects. The process also will ensure that pollution reduction efforts get results, and that local governments get credit.

The Hogan Administration likes the idea. State agencies under the Governor’s purview have pledged resources of their own that together with cash contributions from participating local governments will provide some significant horsepower to get work done. If awarded, the three-year initiative would begin as soon as this August.

On the Shore, limited resources are a major impediment to county and town progress on controlling polluted runoff. The new collaborative may be just what’s needed here to get communities what they need to help them do their share to finish the job of restoring the Bay to health.

by Alan Girard

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