“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.
Maryland will spend $28 million to study how to improve mobility in the U.S. 50/Route 301 corridor, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. announced on Friday.
The “Tier 2” study will build upon a preliminary review the state concluded earlier this year. That study concluded that the best way to make crossing the Chesapeake Bay easier would be to add a third span near the existing Bay Bridge.
Traffic engineers studied 14 “corridors” that ran the length of the bay before determining that Hogan’s preferred solution — a new crossing east of Annapolis — represented the best approach.
Although Maryland planners have settled on a two-mile wide corridor near the existing spans, Transportation Secretary James F. Ports Jr. stressed that the new study will be open-ended.
The analysis, which is expected to last four years, will look into how many lanes the crossing should be, where it should be built and whether it should be a bridge, a bridge/tunnel or a full tunnel. “We have to look at all these different factors because the federal NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] process does not allow us to predetermine what it might be,” said Ports, a former federal transportation official.
A new span would require both federal approval and federal funding, he stressed. Since it’s a federal process, state leaders are unable to say when construction might begin.
Hogan (R) said the decision to allocate money for the study represented “a critical next step, which is necessary in order to move forward so that we can make a new Bay crossing a reality in the years to come.”
He pledged the state will seek input from county governments, environmental regulators and the public.
Local leaders complain that residents who live near Routes 50 and 301 are effectively trapped in their neighborhoods when traffic is bad, particularly during beach season. Emergency vehicles frequently encounter backups. Officials say the situation has grown worse due to telework and is expected to deteriorate further as more homes are built on the Eastern Shore.
Anne Arundel County Council member Amanda Fiedler, who represents the Broadneck Peninsula, said the new study “gives us hope that we won’t be tackling stand-still traffic in our communities and local roads for generations to come.”
Fiedler attended Hogan’s press conference, as did Queen Anne’s County Commission president Jim Moran, who has publicly urged Hogan to fund the Tier 2 study. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) told reporters he was not invited.
Although Hogan has sought a third span, Fiedler and Moran have convinced county officials from around the state to sign on to a different concept — a new span, with eight or more lanes, that would replace the aging spans motorists rely upon.
By Bruce DePuyt
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.”
Minary’s Dream Alliance was buzzing with planting and gardening activity last weekend as kids and adult volunteers landscaped the MDA property on American Legion Rd. with a variety of trees and shrubs native to the area.
The group effort started Friday afternoon with canoe trips along the slough guided by Sultana Foundation followed by overnight camping on the premises and a full day of work planting trees under the careful direction of ShoreRivers Chester Riverkeeper Annie Richards and Tree Steward Paula Reeder.
ShoreRivers, an advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and restoring Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education started a tree steward initiative in partnership with Alliance of Chesapeake Bay last fall.
The new volunteer program, Tree Stewards attracted 40 volunteers who trained via a four-part webinar session resulting in a Shore Rivers and Minary’s Dream partnership for the planting project.
Sixteen kids from MDA and ShoreRivers Tree Steward volunteers planted 46 trees and six shrubs.
“We’re amazed and happy that the call for volunteers succeeded so well. I’m always a little anxious,” Shore Rivers Community Director Darran Tilghman says.
During the tree planting along the driveway entrance and roadside to provide windbreaks and shade, the Spy had an opportunity also to talk with Vanessa Holloway Truxon about MDA’s raised garden, its formation and how it will be a valuable addition to the organization’s food program.
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
Five years after conception, the privately owned Ferry Cove Oyster Hatchery is now producing millions of seed oysters for Maryland’s oyster industry. The high-tech, multi-million dollar facility located on Route 33 between St. Michaels and Tilghman Island moved into full production mode this spring after completion of construction at the end of 2021.
“We’re producing good quality larvae and have already seeded some leaseholds and grounds,” said hatchery manager Steven Weschler this week. “Now we’re scaling up even further, increasing production, monitoring and adapting as we go along. So far we have no issues; cross fingers and knock on wood. We’re pretty ecstatic with how it’s all functioning.”
Weschler said oyster farmers Ferry Cove has sold its product to so far are very happy with the quality of the product. ‘I’d say we’ve produced about 100 million seed oysters at this point.”
Stephan Abel, prime mover behind the Ferry Cove operation, said the Ferry Cove hatchery has the capacity to produce two to three billion eyed larvae – seed oysters – per year. Oyster larvae develop what is known as an eyespot which detects light and helps guide them to the bottom of the water column when they are ready to eventually attach themselves and grow into the bivalve creatures that most of us know.
Although the recent northeaster that hammered Delmarva’s coast cooled Chesapeake waters to below normal temperatures for this time of the year, that problem has now passed. With temperatures rising again, Weschler said demand for seed oysters will also begin increasing. Seed oysters do their best attaching to shells and other bottom structure when water temps reach into the mid and upper 60s.
After the seed oysters attach themselves and begin growing, they should reach market size in about two years.
Weschler said the greatest portion of oyster seed sales so far have gone to private producers working bottom leased to them by the state. The state requires leaseholders to plant oysters on a certain percentage of their holdings each year. That requirement is part of the master plan to help restore the Chesapeake’s historic oyster-growing capacity, for economic and environmental benefits.
One of the problems with that requirement has been a shortage of available seed oysters. Abel said part of his business plan is to help fill that gap.
Another portion of Ferry Cove’s anticipated annual production of seed oysters may go, said Weshler, to the various oyster-producing counties in Maryland for planting on public fishery bars. The state puts out contracts each year for oyster seeding but they haven’t been advertised yet for 2022.
Ferry Cove wants to join University of Maryland’s Horn Point oyster hatching facility near Cambridge as a major provider of seed oysters for the state’s growing oyster farming operations and to help make public fishery bars more productive.
Abel said there are currently 7,700 acres of Chesapeake bottom leased for oyster farming. “And,” he said, “recent reports indicate there are another 100 leases pending. Those same reports indicate further that 2021 was the best year yet for oyster farming, in terms of total bushels harvested, since the state started the program several years ago.”
Several individual leaseholders are increasing their leasehold acreage, according to Wechsler. Abel said a study a few years ago determined that a minimum of 100 acres is the threshold for making money in the oyster farming business.
Now that Ferry Cove’s facility has proven it can produce quality seed oysters, Weschler is ready to increase production from its current 50 percent capacity. “June, July and August are the prime planting months in the Chesapeake. Oyster seed attaches best when the water is warmer, and the little oysters need time to grow to the point where they can best survive the winter. That’s what we’re aiming for now.”
Dennis Forney has been a publisher, journalist and columnist on the Delmarva Peninsula since 1972. He writes from his home on Grace Creek in Bozman.
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.
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.
Emails addresses for Mayor and Councilmembers:
Mayor David Foster: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim O’Brien, Ward 1, email@example.com
Tom Herz, Ward 2: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meghan Efland, Ward 4: email@example.com
Jose Medrano, Ward 3, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.