“Where Better to Watch a Sunset Over Water than from a Kayak?!”
When Gary and Justine Reinoehl retired from long careers at Amtrak and public schools respectively, they moved to Kent Island on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. With their passionate interest in the outdoors, as well as kayaking, it didn’t take them long to find the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC) and become active volunteers at the organization.
According to Volunteer Coordinators, Anne and Dave Brunson, the Reinoehl’s are a great fit for CBEC. “Friendly, engaging and experienced in the out-of-doors, they are happy to help out in whatever way possible.” Since they started volunteering in 2018, the Reinoehl’s have become invaluable contributors to CBEC in many ways.
Both Gary and Justine have been long-time kayakers who have travelled many waterways in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, including the Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. As CBEC volunteers, they have led numerous youth and adult trips around the Horse Head Peninsula – Marshy Creek, the Kent Narrows, and Prospect and Crab Alley Bays in Queen Anne’s County. Gary is well-versed in local Queen Anne’s County History and Justine, an experienced educator, they help out with CBEC’s numerous camps and outdoor adventures for both adults and students.
Thanks to a grant from Queen Anne’s County, the CBEC kayak fleet now consists of 11 double and 22 single kayaks. “We’ve had groups of as many as 20 or more from the Shore, the Baltimore and Washington, DC areas, and as far away as Colorado,” said the Reinoehls. “There are some weeks in the Spring and Summer when we’re at CBEC every day! Thankfully, we have several other capable folks who help us.”
“But, we could always use more!” Justine added.
Gary also serves as Head of CBEC’s Trail Maintenance Team, which has had a busy spring conducting clean-up of the existing trails and boardwalks. And, thanks to a grant from the Mountain Club of Maryland, Gary and his team have cleared and re-opened the North Point Trail. “We recently set-up an ‘Adopt a Trail’ program to help with ongoing trail maintenance and we’ve been pleased at the support CBEC has received so far,” said Gary.
Gary and Justine also worked with a group of volunteers from Chesapeake College to re-open two small nature viewing ponds behind the CBEC Education Building. “CBEC has always had a good relationship with Chesapeake College. Having those enthusiastic, young people here really made the job easy,” he said.
Justine’s background in education has proved invaluable to CBEC as well. Besides helping with popular school environmental education programs like ‘Catch a Bay Critter’, Justine often serves as a volunteer assistant with CBEC’s Raptor Program. “It’s so gratifying to watch student’s and adult’s reactions to seeing owls and hawks ‘up close and personal’,” she explains.
“Having committed volunteers like the Reinoehls is essential CBEC’s growth and success,” stated Executive Director, Vicki Paulas. “They are invaluable volunteers as well as great ambassadors of CBEC’s growing membership!”
“We just enjoy being at CBEC as well as being outdoors on this lovely, unspoiled piece of land,” agreed both Gary and Justine. “Where else can you be to watch the sunset over the water than from here, in a kayak?!”
Interested in becoming a volunteer at CBEC? In addition to helping with kayaking, trail maintenance, and education, CBEC volunteers and members help staff the Visitor Center, assist with fundraisers, and participate in citizen science programs. To learn more, go to: www.bayrestoration.org/volunteer.
In a sign that offshore wind energy production is moving closer to winning approval in Maryland, the federal government announced this week that it will hold three public meetings on one of two proposed wind turbine projects later this month as part of an upcoming environmental review.
This week, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will publish what’s known as a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the construction and operations plan submitted by US Wind, LLC.
The publication of the notice opens a 30-day public comment period through July 8 as part of the process to help BOEM determine the scope of its environmental review. During the comment period, the agency, which has final say over offshore wind projects in federal waters, will hold three virtual public meetings about the proposed project and the approval process on June 21 at 5 p.m., June 23 at 5 p.m., and June 27 at 1 p.m.
Registration for the virtual public meetings and detailed information about the proposed wind energy facility, including how to comment, can be found on BOEM’s website.
“If approved, this project will represent another step forward to creating a robust offshore wind industry here in the United States, all while creating good-paying, family-supporting jobs,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We are committed to using the best available science and traditional knowledge to inform our decisions and protect the ocean environment and marine life. We look forward to receiving input from our government partners, ocean users and other stakeholders, which is critical to a successful environmental review process.”
US Wind holds the lease rights to an area 12 to 27 miles off the coast of Ocean City. Under consideration, according to BOEM, is US Wind’s proposal to build and operate an offshore wind project with a total capacity to deliver between 1,100 and 2,000 megawatts of renewable wind energy to the Delmarva Peninsula, which could power as many as 650,000 homes in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia each year.
The project would include the installation of up to 121 turbines, up to four offshore substation platforms, one meteorological tower and up to four offshore export cable corridors, which are planned to connect to a substation at either 3 R’s Beach or Tower Road in Delaware Seashore State Park in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
On social media, US Wind called the federal government’s announcement of an environmental review “a significant milestone.”
“We’re thrilled for this exciting new phase in developing offshore wind projects that work for everyone,” the company said.
In the first phase of the lengthy approval process, US Wind was awarded Offshore Renewable Energy Credits (ORECs) by the Maryland Public Service Commission in 2017 for the first 270-megawatt phase of its lease area. Company executives hope to bring that phase, called MarWin, online in 2024. Last December, the PSC awarded ORECs to the second phase of US Wind’s proposal, the 808-megawatt Momentum Wind project, which is targeted to be operational before the end of 2026.
The offshore wind proposals continue to generate controversy in Ocean City, where some elected officials and business leaders fear the sight of wind turbines miles from the shore will be an eyesore and hurt tourism and the real estate market.
But after years of stagnation, offshore wind projects in general are gaining momentum in the U.S. and have become a priority for the Biden administration. And most Maryland officials are increasingly optimistic about their ability to create construction and operations jobs, both on the Eastern Shore and at the Tradepoint Atlantic industrial development in Baltimore County, where turbines are expected to be manufactured and assembled.
If approved, the development and construction phases of the US Wind project could support as many as 2,679 jobs annually over seven years, the federal government estimated. The Biden administration’s goal is to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030 and create about 80,000 jobs in the industry nationwide.
This is the 10th offshore wind energy construction and operation review initiated by the Interior Department since President Biden took office.
There are already small pilot offshore wind projects operating off the coasts of Rhode Island and Virginia, and larger projects are under construction off Cape Cod in Massachusetts and off the coast of New Jersey. Construction of another project, off the coast of Long Island in New York, has just gotten under way.
Meanwhile, an international offshore wind company, Ørsted, also has won leases from Maryland to build and operate offshore wind farms off the coast of Ocean City, and the company is hoping the federal approval process for those projects takes off soon. The Ørsted proposals, known as Skipjack 1 and Skipjack 2, would be slightly farther from shore than the US Wind developments.
The two companies’ projects have been roughly operating on the same timelines. Like the US Wind projects, Skipjack 1 received approval from the Maryland PSC in 2017, and Skipjack 2 was OK’d last December.
“Ørsted looks forward to building, owning, and operating Skipjack Wind for decades to come, while creating thousands of local offshore wind jobs and delivering clean, domestic energy to nearly 300,000 homes in the region,” Brady Walker, Ørsted’s Mid-Atlantic market manager, said in a statement provided to Maryland Matters on Tuesday.
“Development of Skipjack Wind is fully underway,” Walker said. “In May, Ørsted completed offshore geotechnical and geophysical surveys to provide a comprehensive picture of the sea floor and enable continued development of Skipjack Wind’s proposed offshore cable routes and potential landfall locations. Ørsted continues to have a productive dialogue with BOEM on the project’s permitting schedule and plans to submit Skipjack Wind’s construction and operations plan to BOEM this year.”
A veteran government scientist and meteorologist is poised to become director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which oversees federal and regional Bay environmental monitoring and cleanup efforts.
The EPA announced Thursday that Dr. Kandis Boyd will take over as director of the program on Monday. She’ll be the first person of color to hold a leadership position on government Chesapeake Bay policy — and the first permanent head of that EPA office in over a year.
“I’m thrilled to have Kandis join our leadership team as we are stepping up restoration efforts for the Bay in the face of emerging challenges,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz — a former state and local environmental official in Maryland. “Her experience as a strategic leader in the sciences and success engaging diverse communities and youth will help take the Bay effort to a new level as we focus on climate change and vulnerable communities.”
According to the EPA, Boyd has nearly 30 years of experience leading, teaching, advising and mentoring students and early career enthusiasts in environmental and atmospheric science. The first African-American woman to receive an undergraduate degree in Meteorology from Iowa State University, Boyd served most recently as strategic advisor for the Office of Equity and Civil Rights at the National Science Foundation (NSF). That position included serving as the first deputy division director of the NSF Division of Grants and Agreements, where she provided oversight and direction for 35 staffers, a $5 billion budget, and more than 12,000 new grants a year.
Boyd spent most of her career at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During Hurricane Katrina, she delivered around-the-clock on-site meteorological forecasts during the 2005 landfall of that hurricane. She served as the designated federal officer for the third National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee, co-chaired the first NOAA Environmental Modeling Strategic Plan, served as an adviser for NOAA’s $2 billion satellite portfolio, and was both acting director and deputy director of the NOAA Weather Program Office.
EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates activities and implements strategies for meeting the restoration goals of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which covers 64,000 square miles across New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
“I’m extremely humbled and excited to work with a forward-focused team of specialists and experts to advance the ongoing work of EPA and the Chesapeake Bay partners,” Boyd said. “I’m ready to dive in and get to work on the most pressing matters before us.”
The last permanent head of the Chesapeake Bay program was Dana Aunkst, who served from December 2018 to March 2021. Aunkst was a longtime official with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection before taking the EPA job. He served at a time when the Trump administration was regularly trying to cut Bay cleanup programs and was sued by states like Maryland for not doing enough to hold other states accountable for their pollution reduction commitments.
Hillary Falk, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which has been a plaintiff in some of those lawsuits, praised Boyd’s selection.
“Many challenges remain, time is running short, and climate change threatens to reverse the progress we’ve made,” she said. “The good news is we also have unprecedented new funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program and federal farm conservation programs that can help us make up ground quickly. Dr. Boyd has the leadership skills to help coordinate the efforts of the multiple federal agencies that play a significant role in Bay restoration, the knowledge to ensure we are guided by the best science, and the personal commitment to ensure that vulnerable communities are not left behind.”
By Josh Kurtz
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) has announced the results from the 2022 Baywide Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey which indicates a continued downturn in juvenile recruitment and a record low year of total blue crab abundance.
Total abundance of blue crabs in Chesapeake Bay declined in 2022 to 227 million crabs – the lowest abundance estimate in the 33-year history of the winter dredge survey. This decline is driven primarily by a third consecutive year of below average recruitment of juvenile crabs, even though the number of juveniles increased 18% from 2021 to 101 million crabs. The low numbers of juvenile crabs, and this year’s decline in the adult female crabs (which will spawn this spring and summer) will factor into decisions VMRC, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR), and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) make in regards to management measures for the 2022 blue crab season.
These three Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions, which are responsible for baywide management of blue crabs, have successfully managed harvest of blue crabs to prevent overfishing since 2008. Adult female crabs are the key to conservation, as each female can spawn an average of three million eggs per brood, averaging up to three broods per year. These adult females observed in the Winter Dredge Survey are likely to spawn from late May to mid-summer of this year, contributing to next year’s juvenile population. The number of adult female crabs (97 million) declined in 2022 and is below the target abundance of 196 million, but remains higher than in the period before 2008 when the Chesapeake Bay blue crab resource was declared a fishery disaster.
While the Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions have maintained fishing mortality of blue crab at safe levels, crabs still face many other challenges in the bay. Although Chesapeake Bay water quality and submerged aquatic vegetation continue to improve, blue crabs are still vulnerable to low oxygen levels from nutrient runoff and a lack of sea grasses which can leave vulnerable juveniles and soft crabs without habitat for refuge. Recruitment can be hindered by storms and currents which can wash crab larvae out of bay circulation, and growing abundances of predators, such as red drum and blue catfish, can increase natural mortality of blue crabs.
Virginia’s 2021 commercial crabbing season saw harvest of 18 million pounds of blue crabs, one of the lowest harvest levels in the last ten years, but baywide harvest remained well under the threshold fishing removal rate that would indicate overfishing. The 2011 benchmark blue crab stock assessment and subsequent updates establishes a threshold removal rate of 37%. This threshold is the maximum percentage of females that can be harvested annually without overfishing the population. The removal rate in 2021 of 26% by commercial and recreational fisheries indicates overfishing is not occurring. Juveniles observed by the winter survey contribute heavily to the next fall’s crab harvest, which could mean another year of low harvest for Virginia’s commercial crabbers in 2022. Although Virginia’s 2021 harvest fell 15%, high prices lead the total dockside value of crabs to increase 14% to $35 million.
The winter dredge survey is conducted annually by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and MD DNR. Since 1990, the survey has utilized traditional crab dredges to sample blue crabs at 1,500 sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay from December through March. By sampling during winter when blue crabs are buried in the mud and sedentary, scientists can develop precise estimates of the number of crabs in the Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC), an advisory group under the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team (Fish GIT) which brings together state managers and technical experts to address blue crab issues, will hold a working meeting next week to discuss the results from the 2021-22 Winter Dredge Survey. The results will be published in the full CBSAC Annual Report this June, and provide science based recommendations for management. The Fish GIT and CBSAC are also planning a fall blue crab science workshop to identify which environmental factors are likely driving the low abundances and evaluate the need for a new blue crab benchmark stock assessment.
“We are concerned with the two consecutive years of poor recruitment,” said Pat Geer, Chief of Fisheries Management for VMRC and Chair of CBSAC. Geer continued, “However, fishing pressure on our spawning stock is still at acceptable levels and the spawning stock remains relatively healthy. We are hopeful a workshop planned for September will help explain these concerns with recruitment and lead to a new benchmark stock assessment that will address blue crab abundance in the Bay.”
VMRC’s Crab Management Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting on May 23rd at 4 PM at the VMRC Main Office to discuss these results and potential management measures for the coming fishing year. These results and data on the 2021 blue crab fishery will also be presented at the monthly meeting of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission on May 24th at the VMRC Main Office. See MRC.Virginia.Gov for more information about these meetings.
Growing up in West Baltimore, Greg Burks never thought much about the lack of vegetation around him. But his younger brother suffered from asthma, and that was one of the family’s primary concerns.
“This is your brother’s inhaler,” Burks recalls his mother saying every time the boys went out to play. “Keep it with you.”
Only now does Burks realize that one of the reasons his brother needed an inhaler was that the level of ozone and other pollutants in their neighborhood was so high because there were so few trees around.
Now, Burks is poised to help families in Baltimore and other Maryland urban areas who struggle with their breathing because of air pollution. He manages the new Urban Tree Program for the Chesapeake Bay Trust, a nonprofit launched by state government in the 1980s dedicated to improving the watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Coastal Bays, and Youghiogheny River in Western Maryland. The trust’s mission is to plant 500,000 trees in urban areas over the next eight years.
“Marylanders’ lives depend on it,” Burks said in an interview. “That’s why this program exists. It’s for people who don’t have the resources to leave the city.”
Burks and his colleagues at the CBT are a small but important part of Maryland’s attempts to plant 5 million trees by 2030. That ambitious goal was set in legislation that the General Assembly passed in 2021, and it’s now up to a pastiche of state agencies, nonprofits, industry and environmental groups to make it happen.
On the one hand, it’s a bureaucratic process as all state government attempts to comply with new laws inevitably are. But on the other hand, it’s fused with optimism and imagination, and a sense that almost anything’s possible.
“If we can green our cities, we can improve our lifespan,” said Burks’ boss, Jana Davis, the president of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. “This isn’t just about science. This isn’t just about the environment. This is about human health.”
And while it may be a bit of a stretch to say so, some stakeholders believe the state’s execution of the tree planting law could be a template for how the government implements the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022, the ambitious legislation that passed this year to reduce carbon emissions in Maryland by 60% by 2031 and hit net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.
At a minimum, said Suzanne Dorsey, the assistant secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, who is helping to oversee the implementation of the tree planting measure, it can serve as a way of tracking the state’s ability to meet the provisions in the new climate laws.
“It’s about counting and accounting,” she said. “I think the new legislation will require us to track more and to do more.”
Throughout the country — indeed, throughout the world — there is a campaign to plant as many trees as possible as a key ingredient to combating climate change. One nonprofit, called 1T.org, aims to see 1 trillion trees planted worldwide over the next several years. The organization has already received commitments from major corporations around the world to plant 33 billion trees, and now the advocacy group is turning its attention to states like Maryland.
The Tree Solutions Now Act passed in 2021. A less ambitious forest conservation bill, sponsored by state Del. Jim Gilchrist (D-Montgomery), passed overwhelmingly in the House last year, but when it landed in the Senate, the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, which was wrestling with the larger climate legislation, amended the House measure to put the 5 million tree planting requirement into law, and that’s how it emerged from the General Assembly.
The amended legislation called for 500,000 trees to be planted in urban areas, and an additional 4.5 million would be planted as part of a process known as aforestation — establishing a forest on land not previously forested.
The legislation required the state to assemble a stakeholder group to figure out how to implement the law. It makes tens of millions of dollars available for initial tree inventories and purchasing. And it laid out specific tasks for various state agencies and other organizations.
“Five million trees is a lot of trees,” Dorsey said.
The Commission for the Innovation and Advancement of Carbon Markets and Sustainable Tree Plantings began meeting earlier this year. Its membership, spelled out in the legislation, features representatives of the Maryland Department of the Environment; the University of Maryland College Park; the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities; the Maryland Farm Bureau; the Maryland Association of Counties; the Maryland Municipal League; and three environmental groups: Blue Water Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, the Nature Conservancy, and the Patapsco Heritage Greenway.
Serving as ex-officio members: representatives of the State Treasurer’s office; the Maryland Department of Agriculture; the Maryland Department of Natural Resources; and the Maryland Forestry Foundation.
Beyond counting on the Chesapeake Bay Trust to oversee the planting of 500,000 trees in urban areas, the legislation spells out discreet roles for most of the state agencies: The Department of Natural Resources, which operates a tree nursery on the Eastern Shore, and the Agriculture department are responsible for most of the rest of the tree planting and will work with groups and local governments across the state to achieve that goal. MDOT is responsible for tree maintenance along state highways and for replacing whatever trees are removed for road construction. The Environment department is responsible for coordinating it all.
“I want to emphasize what a great collaboration this has been so far,” Dorsey said.
‘A game changer’
Several stakeholders praise the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s early planning for the new law, which will enable the nonprofit to begin handing out grants to other entities for tree planting as soon as state funds become available on July 1.
The irony is, trust leaders weren’t part of the early planning for the tree planting legislation.
“It was not our idea,” Davis said. “It’s the brainchild of other folks. But it’s an honor to be part of the process.”
As soon as they learned they were included in the bill, trust leaders mobilized to get ready, she said. “We knew if we didn’t start early we’d never be ready for the fall 2022 planting season.”
One of the first things they did was bring on Burks, the West Baltimore native who had worked for other nonprofits and institutions — most recently for Johns Hopkins University as a senior community programs manager focused on affordable housing, the digital divide and food deserts. He had never worked in the environmental space before.
Burks, who calls the urban tree planting program “a game changer,” convened a series of listening sessions around the city and state, to determine how to bring communities together, how best to implement the tree planting program, how to maintain the trees once they’ve been planted, and how to access civic resources.
“Greg Burks is a force of nature and a delight to work with,” Dorsey said.
The Chesapeake Bay Trust has already been sifting through dozens of grant applications from groups that want to plant trees. Some are seeking funding to plant just a few; others have the capacity to plant 10,000 trees in a fairly short time period. The applicants range from local governments and forestry boards to nonprofits to schools, churches and community associations.
The trust will have $10 million in tree planting grants to dole out this year — and has already received $14 million in spending requests. Davis said one of the things trust leaders like about the program is that it lets local leaders who know their communities best chart their own tree planting and maintenance strategies.
“The community interest in this program has been incredible — way larger than we thought,” she said. “Which speaks to the real community need.”
Other agencies are preparing to implement the law in different ways. The Department of Natural Resources has hired 12 tree planters and one assistant nursery manager.
And state agencies are putting private Maryland nurseries on alert that they’re going to have to increase their stock of saplings. Nurseries are among the biggest parts of the state’s agricultural sector.
“They’ve got to know that we’re about to order a lot more trees than we usually do,” Dorsey said.
Some local governments already have tree planting programs under way.
Baltimore County, for example, has had an unofficial goal of maintaining a 50% tree canopy for several years, and in an interview, County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. (D) said the number has gone up during his administration thanks to a handful of tree planting initiatives, including a new one called the ReTree program, which focuses on urban and poorer communities in the county
The county government traditionally gives hundreds of trees away to residents on Arbor Day, and it makes free backyard trees available to property owners whose lots are one-tenth of an acre or bigger, Olszewski said. But the ReTree program relies on data the county is already using for environmental justice and equity initiatives to plot out where the heat islands are in the county and where trees are needed the most.
“We’re really being more intentional about it,” he said.
The tree plantings started a few months ago in Dundalk and will expand over the next several weeks into Essex, Owings Mills and Randallstown. About 1,000 trees will be planted this year through the new program.
The idea of using statistical analysis for a tree planting strategy “is surprisingly new,” Olszewski said. “We know the imperative of the environmental justice movement, and this aligns it with the data.”
David V. Lykens, the Baltimore County director of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, is the Maryland Association of Counties designee on the state’s new tree commission, and Olszewski said Lykens will discuss the counties’ successes on the tree planting front with others on the panel.
“We think we have a story to tell,” he said.
Even with so many stakeholders involved with implementing the state’s new tree planting law, there are sure to be some skeptics.
Colby Ferguson, director of government and public relations at the Maryland Farm Bureau, is a member of the tree commission and a supporter of the 5 million tree goal generally.
“It’s an interesting discussion,” he said. “I’m always trying to figure out what we’re trying to do here and what we’re not.”
For farmers, Ferguson said, the issue is how and where the 5 million trees will be planted, and what kind of acreage of arable land will be involved.
“We don’t want to be trading our prime farmland and our food for environmental practices,” he said. “We can’t trade food for carbon sequestration.”
That’s just one of the many questions the state tree commission is going to try to answer in the months ahead. The panel is supposed to issue a written report to the General Assembly this fall, outlining how the state can hit the 5 million tree mark by 2030. Members of the commission aren’t just looking into how to plant them and making sure the right tree species are going into the appropriate areas. They’re also figuring out how to maintain them and how to prevent invasive vines, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in Maryland, from overcoming them.
State officials are also going to keep track of how many trees are being planted, because so many entities — and even individual landowners who may plant a single tree — are going to be involved. They have to figure out how to count the carbon mitigation when the trees are all planted and as they mature. And they have also been directed by the tree planting legislation to set up a Maryland-based carbon offset market.
Carbon offset markets are just being established around the country. They enable businesses, including power plants, to purchase vouchers when they are unable to meet short-term carbon reduction goals. while they transition to more sustainable business practices. The money spent on carbon offsets are traditionally put toward emission reduction projects — including the planting of a new forest.
So the challenge for Maryland officials is figuring out what kind of entities might want to purchase carbon offsets from the state that match the emissions reductions from all the new trees. And they’ve also got to determine how much revenue a carbon market can generate and how much of that they can plow into additional tree plantings.
“It’s wonky,” said Dorsey, the Department of the Environment assistant secretary, who is slated to become deputy secretary on June 1. “This market is new and volatile. People are just getting into it.”
Earlier this month, the state tree commission met virtually to discuss the offset market. It was a challenging discussion, with technical terms like “MS4 acres of credit,” “additionality” and “ease of access into the market” being thrown around liberally.
“Some of you are as wonky as we are or maybe even more in the weeds, and some of you, your heads may really be spinning,” Dorsey conceded.
Maryland officials believe any offset market they set up based on the tree program can become a national model. But Anne Hairston-Strang, acting director of the Maryland Forest Service, laid out a warning about the limits of the carbon offset markets that almost anyone could understand.
“The prices we’re seeing in the carbon market aren’t going to fund aforestation,” she said. “So we’re going to have to look for additional funding.”
By Josh Kurtz
Soon the droning hum of one of humanity’s most omnipresent predators and card-carrying dangerous nuisances will be wrecking outdoor activities everywhere a spoonful of standing water can sustain mosquito larvae.
In other words, anytime we go outside we’ll likely become a blood host to a squadron of mosquitoes despite the industrial strength cloud recently left by pesticide laced fogging trucks.
And again, our perennial questions: Why does the mosquito population seem to grow each year after incessant pesticide use; is the pesticide safe and effective; and are there alternatives?
Chestertown Environmental Committee member Darran Tilghman recently presented the Chestertown Town Council with studies disputing the effectiveness and safety of mosquito fogging and offered a new approach to the problem, one she feels could make Chestertown a model for dealing with summer mosquito invasions.
Tilghman and the committee gathered data showing that the pesticides being sprayed in Chestertown—banned in the European Union—may be doing more harm than good and that there are more effective ways to deal with the seasonal mosquito onslaught than spraying residential areas with Permethrin, a neurotoxin “strongly linked to respiratory disease, ALS, cancers, and childhood brain damage.”
The Chestertown Environmental Committee recommends that residents take ownership of the solution by maintaining healthy backyards. Eliminating mosquito habitats like standing water and also targeting mosquito larvae with the organic bacillus in “Mosquito Dunks” can keep a yard free of mosquitoes for the whole summer by targeting only the larvae of the mosquito, blackfly and fungus gnat. Mosquito Dunks are inexpensive and may be found locally.
Here, Darran Tilghman encapsulates her presentation to the town council. She encourages residents to email their ward councilmembers to support healthier and more effective alternatives to the fogging trucks.
This video is approximately eight minutes in length.
More highlights of the Chestertown Environmental Committee, Water & Habitat Work Group report:
Current strategy: Adulticide fogging with neurotoxin Permethrin
- Ineffective: Kills ~10% of adult mosquitos in spray range (only the ones alive that day); does not affect larvae or prevent mosquito-borne disease. Only about 0.0000001% of spray hits a target mosquito.
- Kills indiscriminately: Toxic to critically important pollinators including bees, bats, and butterflies, as well as birds & fish (many of these are mosquito predators).
- Impacts human health: Strongly linked to respiratory disease, ALS, cancers, and childhood brain damage; banned in the EU; spraying is not permitted near schools or restaurants (but it is permitted on my front lawn). In addition to Permethrin, PFAs (forever chemicals) were found at dangerously toxic levels in three pesticides used for mosquito control by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).
- Degrades water quality: Neurotoxins and PFAs stay in soils and groundwater, entering and damaging the Chester and the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.
- Expensive and creates dependence: Creates resistant “super skeeters”; the more mosquito predator population collapses, the more we pay to spray- $3,100 annually.
More projects to clean up the Chesapeake Bay are expected to get underway after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Monday the first release of funding from the trillion-dollar federal infrastructure effort to restore the estuary’s health and address climate change.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Biden signed last November, includes $238 million over the next five years for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program to support restoration projects.
“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides a once in a generation opportunity — actually, it’s been more than a generation since this country saw this kind of investment — investment in on the ground efforts to protect natural treasures like the Chesapeake Bay and to improve using green and nature based infrastructure,” Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said in front of the Patapsco River at MedStar Harbor Hospital in Baltimore on Monday.
McCabe announced that her agency will distribute $40 million directly to the six Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia as well as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation from which community based organizations can apply for grants for Bay restoration projects.
The figure represents 85% of the first-year funding for Bay cleanup efforts. The agency received the funding two months ago and is already allocating it to states, which is an “incredibly quick turnaround” in federal government, McCabe quipped.
The state of Maryland will receive $3.21 million, Pennsylvania will receive $5.59 million, Virginia will receive $3.14 million, New York will receive $1.28 million, Delaware will receive $750,000, West Virginia will receive $500,000 and the District of Columbia will receive $500,000. The state funds will mostly go to farmers to improve local rivers and streams that run to the bay, according to a press release.
“It’s a very, very big deal what we’re doing here today,” said U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D). “You’re here today delivering a big check; please come back often with big checks,” he told McCabe. “Seventy-two percent of Marylanders live in the Bay watershed — this is their life.”
The Bay Program’s annual appropriation last year was $87.5 million, but funds from the infrastructure bill will raise the program’s annual funding to $138.1 million this fiscal year, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“It is a cause for celebration,” Hilary Falk, the president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said in an interview. “These dollars are also important because they can leverage other money and we can then get more programs on the ground.”
This federal investment for Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts marks a shift from the Trump administration, which repeatedly tried to slash funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership that has existed since 1983 and aims to restore the Bay’s health. However, Congress blocked his proposals to gut the program.
Federal agencies within the Chesapeake Bay Program recently pledged to minimize the impacts of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. For instance, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service committed to leading a pilot study called Targeted Outreach for Green Infrastructure to prioritize public infrastructure needs in underserved communities at increased risk related to climate change, according to the pledge. And the National Park Service will conduct climate vulnerability assessments of all the coastal park sites of the Chesapeake Bay region and provide recommendations for climate resiliency.
“It is 400 years that we’ve been wrestling with the legacy of colonialism and over farming and suburban sprawl and industrialization, but in the last 40 years, we’ve made more progress than in the last 400 years — and that is a lot to be proud of,” said Adam Ortiz, the Mid-Atlantic Region administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D), who grew up in Turner Station, said many Marylanders have a personal relationship with the Bay. But work still needs to be done to abate “human indifference” from those who don’t have that same relationship and believe the Bay will fix itself.
When one of Troika Gallery’s artists suggested in passing that a great spring theme would be a celebration of ShoreRivers conservation work, gallery owner Laura Era jumped at the chance.
For Laura, the idea of highlighting the role of water with so many of her artists was a perfect one, but it was also a personal one. For almost thirty years, Laura and her husband worked on the water before she devoted all her time and energy to her art work and keeping the gallery thriving. As a Eastern Shore native, she knew first hand how important environmental quality was for the Chesapeake Bay and its “guts” to use her term.
So on April 22, AKA, Earth Day, Troika will play host for “ShoreRivers@Troika Gallery which will feature their artists depicting the waterways of the Eastern Shore with a portion of sales supporting the clean water advocacy, restoration, and education work of ShoreRivers.
the April 22 reception will include Choptank Riverkeeper, Matt Pluta, who speak about the risks to water quality in the area and the many ways each of us can play a part in ensuring healthy, fishable, swimmable waterways.
The Spy, a fan of both ShoreRivers and Troika, stopped by the other day for a quick chat with Laura and ShoreRivers Rebekah Hock to hear more and view some of the great art that will be on display for purchase.
This video is approximately two minutes in length.
Troika Gallery located at 9 South Harrison Street, is open Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11am until 6:00 pm, and Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday by appointment. 410-770-9190. For more information about Troika Gallery please go here.
For more information about ShoreRivers please go here.
It seems like everyone and their cousin is standing in line to qualify for ARPA funds to help their favorite project these days. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which amounts to almost $2 trillion of federal grants to states and local municipalities, is finally reaches communities in need, but the challenge doesn’t stop there.
All of these communities, whether it be county commissioners or town council members, are now in the delicate process of determining the best use for those funds. And, as expected, while ARPA funds are a remarkable blessing in so many ways, the number of needy projects significantly outnumber the funding available.
The City of Cambridge is now in the process of deciding where its funds will be going, and Alan Girard, the Eastern Shore director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, makes a strong argument that $4.5 million of those funds needed to be used to repair and improve the city’s sewer pipes and infrastructure.
Over the last several years, Cambridge has faced increasing evidence that its current sewer pipe system is way out of date. With some piping as old as the 1930s, residents have reported seeing sewer in the streets, dirty diapers, and other pollutants that impact the quality of life and underscore the long-term threat to clean water.
The Spy sat down with Alan a few weeks ago to discuss this environmental challenge and how those ARPA funds could be the only way Cambridge can afford to get this expensive work done in a timely manner.
This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake Bay Foundation please go here.