ESLC’s Darius Johnson Would Like Your Attention on Bay Bridge Traffic Solutions

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While the Mid-Shore has been fixated on issues related to a third Chesapeake Bay bridge possibly landing in their backyard, The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s Darius Johnson would politely suggest that the region turn its focus on the problems that exist now with bridge traffic and the real consequences for our communities along Route 50.

As the recently hired project director with ESLC, Johnson has been tasked with managing one of the organization’s oldest traditions; its annual planning conference, now in its 19th year. And the one day program, suitably named “ReRouting,” will place most of the attention on “here and now” traffic and transportation challenges.  How appropriate it that it will be held at the base of Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the The Chesapeake Bay Beach Club.

The Spy caught up with Darius at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center last week to chat about the conference.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s ReRouting Conference on April 18 please go here.

 

 

 

 

ESLC’s Jim Bass Reports on Eastern Shore’s Preparedness for Rising Seas Levels

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Given the nature of things – literally – it won’t be surprising for the Eastern Shore to have several studies prepared in the decades ahead that record and evaluate the dangers facing its rural communities as sea levels continue to rise throughout the century.

With the Delmarva Peninsula being one of the country’s most vulnerable landscapes for flooding and erosion as the result of global warming, there is an ever growing concern on the part of local government staff, conservation organizations, agricultural associations, and state agencies on what is being done, and what could be done, to prepare the Shore for this extraordinarily dramatic shift in climate.

One of the first of these has just been prepared by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy with a new study to assist local governments to plan for the impacts of sea level rise. Titled “Mainstreaming Sea Level Rise Preparedness in Local Planning and Policy on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” the study is centered on sea level rise projections for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the years 2050 and 2100.

This report was written on behalf of the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership  – a regional workgroup of local government staff, partners from the State of Maryland, academic institutions, and nonprofits for that very reason.

The ESCAP assists communities in reducing climate vulnerabilities and risks; collects and shares information among communities and decision makers; and educates members, residents, and elected leaders on risks and adaptation strategies. It also serves to raise the visibility and voice of the Eastern Shore and rural regions in conversations about adaptation and resilience.

The Spy sat down last week with Jim Bass, ESLC’s Coastal Resilience Specialist, who helped manage the study, last week to find out what the significant takeaways were and what must be done in the future to protect and defend the Mid-Shore from this dangerous new future we face.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information regarding this study, ESCAP, or ESLC’s coastal resilience program, please contact ESLC Coastal Resilience Specialist Jim Bass at jbass@eslc.org.The study is available to view and download at www.eslc.org/resilience.

Pickering Creek… the Natural Choice by Tyler Redman

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Ever since I was young, I have loved the outdoors. The animals, plants and overall atmosphere that came with it captivated me. So, when I heard I could help out at Pickering Creek as a Junior Naturalist (JN), I was elated. I had already been going there for school trips, so I was eager to start as a JN in my 7th grade year. The staff at Pickering Creek do a wonderful job of preparing the JNs by offering Citizen Science classes throughout the school year, where we learn all about the environment around Pickering Creek, outdoor safety, and about nature in general. We also go on several field trips to other natural areas like Patapsco State Park, Calvert Cliffs Park and Cunningham Falls State Park. In addition to the field trips, we volunteer at a number of events, including at the public library and at Pickering Creek itself, where we get to teach the community about different animals, such as an assortment of turtles and share information about nature and conservation.

Tyler Redman

One thing I love about Pickering Creek is that there is a heavy focus on helping the environment we live in to thrive. I have participated in bird-banding and Monarch tagging to collect data for research being done on migration patterns. Pickering Creek also encourages JNs to invite their family to help volunteer at events organized by Pickering Creek such as marsh grass planting in Dorchester County.

Pickering Creek has prepared me well to instill my love for the environment in the youth who attend Pickering Creek Eco Camp. It’s thrilling to see the young campers just as excited about nature as I was at their age. Whether through showing them a type of animal or playing a fun game, there is always something to do that teaches them more about the environment. It is fun to see the same campers year after year and to meet new ones because that means they are having fun, want to keep coming back, and are telling others about their experiences. The summer ends on a sad but extremely fun note. Even though we have to wait another year until the next EcoCamp, all of the JNs are invited to one big campout where we share fun stories about the past weeks, develop lasting bonds, and enjoy the great outdoors at Pickering Creek.

After all of the amazing experiences I’ve had at Pickering Creek, I began to wonder, “What could I do to give back to a place that has taught me so much and helped me develop so many life skills?” That is when I decided to do my BSA Eagle Scout Project at Pickering Creek. So, after reaching out to the Pickering Creek staff, I chose to re-route and create new trails. During my time as a JN this July, it was fun to see the campers enjoying the new trails I built and it felt great knowing that I gave something back to Pickering Creek. As well as building trails, I constructed two benches which were placed at ends of trails that overlook the creek. The views from each bench are serene so people will be able to rest and enjoy the beauty of Pickering Creek. I also built a birdhouse that I placed in a tree at the end of the creek overlook. It has the image of a Blue Jay wood burned onto the front of it and is specifically meant to provide a nesting place for Blue Jays or other birds. This bird house is special because “Blue Jay” is my JN nature name that the campers call me.

I know I’ll always love the outdoors, whether it means pursuing a career that relates to the environment and animals, or just exploring and going on outdoor adventures. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in both Boy Scouts and Pickering Creek, which have increased my love and appreciation for nature. I’m excited to continue to make more memories at Pickering Creek. This exceptional place has impacted my life in such a positive and incredible way and I will always remember it.

If it hasn’t already, I hope someday Pickering Creek will impact yours as well.

Tyler Redman is a Junior Naturalist at Pickering Creek Audubon Center. For more information, please go here.

2018 Bay Health Score Drops as Massive Rains Increase Pollution

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The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) biennial State of the Bay report score decreased one point this year to 33, equivalent to a  D+. The drop was largely due to increased pollution and poor water clarity caused by record regional rainfall.

“The good news is that scientists are pointing to evidence of the Bay’s increased resiliency and ability to withstand, and recover from, these severe weather events. And this resiliency is a direct result of the pollution reductions achieved to date. In addition, we did see increases in scores for dissolved oxygen and Bay grasses since 2016, but the recovery is still fragile,” said CBF’s Director of Science and Agricultural Policy Beth McGee.

Established in 1998, CBF’s State of the Bay Report is a comprehensive measure of the Bay’s health. CBF scientists compile and examine the best available data and information for 13 indicators in three categories: pollution, habitat, and fisheries. CBF scientists assign each indicator an index score from 1-100. Taken together, these indicators offer an overall assessment of Bay health.

“This is a challenging time for Bay restoration. Massive environmental rollbacks in clean-water and clean-air regulations proposed by the Trump Administration may make achieving a restored Bay more difficult,” said CBF President William C. Baker.“Another restoration hurdle is the fact that science expects more extreme weather events in the future as the result of climate change.”

Two of the 13 indicators, dissolved oxygen and Bay grasses improved. In the pollution category, toxics were unchanged, while water clarity, and nitrogen and phosphorus pollution were worse. In the habitat category, scores for Bay grasses and resource lands improved, and buffers and wetlands remained the same. In the fisheries category, scores for oysters, crabs, and rockfish remained the same, while the score for shad declined.

This year’s score is still far short of the goal to reach 40 by 2025 and ultimately a 70, which would represent a saved Bay. The unspoiled Bay ecosystem described by Captain John Smith in the 1600s, with its extensive forests and wetlands, clear water, abundant fish and oysters, and lush growths of submerged vegetation serves as the theoretical benchmark and would rate a 100 on CBF’s scale.

The Clean Water Blueprint requires the Bay jurisdictions to decrease pollution to local creeks, rivers, and the Bay. State and local governments have committed to achieve specific, measurable reductions. The states agreed to have the 60 percent of the needed programs and practices in place by 2017, and to complete the job by 2025.

Of the primary Bay states, Virginia and Maryland were close to meeting the 2017 goals but need to accelerate pollution reduction from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff. Pennsylvania continues to be far short of its goals, mostly as a result of falling behind in addressing pollution from agriculture.

“Pennsylvania’s farmers are facing tough economic times and can’t implement the necessary practices on their own. The Commonwealth must join Maryland and Virginia to fund proven clean water initiatives to help farmers,” Baker added. “If the state legislature does not fund efforts to reduce pollution in its next session, EPA must hold Pennsylvania accountable. In addition, we are standing with The Maryland Department of the Environment to require that Exelon mitigates for the downstream water quality damage caused by their operation of the Conowingo Dam, which changes the timing and form of pollution reaching downstream waters. One cost-effective mitigation option is to help reduce the pollution coming down the Susquehanna River before it can ever reach the dam.”

CBF’s Virginia Executive Director Rebecca Tomazin said:

“The State of the Bay report comes as Virginia’s legislators are preparing to make decisions in the General Assembly that will determine the health of our rivers and the Bay for years to come.

“Governor Northam has proposed a historic investment in farm conservation practices and reducing polluted runoff from Virginia’s cities and suburbs. The General Assembly has long recognized the importance of restoring the Bay, and their continued support is vital to ensuring the Bay’s recovery doesn’t backslide. Legislation is also needed to increase the ability of local governments to use trees to improve water quality in local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

“The outcome of this General Assembly session is vital to the future of the Bay. By working together, we can restore our waters and improve the economy and protect the quality of life here in the Commonwealth.”

CBF’s Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost said:

“Cleaning up the Bay is long-term and difficult.  Setbacks happen. In Maryland, we’re grappling with heavy rains this year that caused extended high flows in the Susquehanna River, which flushed debris, sediment, and other pollutants into the Bay. We’re also beginning to understand the implications of the state’s new oyster stock assessment that showed the oyster population in Maryland’s portion of the Bay has fallen by half since 1999.

“Yet despite these setbacks, the ecosystem is showing resilience to this year’s environmental stressors due to increasing growth of underwater vegetation and robust investments in land preservation.  While we can celebrate these successes, we must also focus on making policy changes to ensure the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint can handle the realities of changing weather patterns that challenge the Bay’s long-term health. Expanding Maryland’s protections for oysters and forests are changes leaders should pursue to make the Bay more resilient.”

CBF’s Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell said:

“There’s a lot of work left to be done in Pennsylvania.  And the unprecedented rains of last year, which threaten to become the new normal, left farmers and families without their crops, their homes, or in some cases, even their lives.

“But there is a growing energy and enthusiasm that the Commonwealth can meet the challenge.  More farm conservation practices have been found than were known, communities are banding together to address stormwater issues, and long-term river studies are showing improving trends.  Poised to capitalize on this momentum, the Commonwealth has led a collaborative, stakeholder-based effort to create the third iteration of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

“Now is the time for Pennsylvania’s elected leaders to accelerate this momentum by investing in the priority practices, places, and partnerships that will bring the plan into reality. 

“Investing in nature-based efforts, like strategically placed trees alongside streams and streets, rotational grazing, and farm field cover crops will result in more productive farms, vibrant communities, healthy streams, and a saved Bay.”

In summary, Baker added, “The Blueprint is a road map to a restored Bay. If the states and EPA do their part, we can succeed in achieving the greatest environmental success the world has ever seen.”

Maryland Taking Steps Aimed at Addressing Climate Change

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While the Trump administration’s report last month detailing the effects of rising global temperatures said Maryland had begun feeling the consequences of climate change, lawmakers and state agencies already are taking steps aimed at combating it.

From 1901 to 2016, the global average temperature has increased by about 1.8 degrees, according to the report, and “without significant reductions” in emissions of greenhouse gases, the annual average global temperatures could increase by 9 degrees by the end of this century.

Those 1.8 degrees have resulted in documented issues in Maryland, including, but not limited to, warmer weather, rising sea levels and poorer air quality.

“There are several findings that raise concern,” Ed McDonough, spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), told Capital News Service in an interview. “One is the potential effects on our seafood and agriculture industries. Another is increased flood potential around much of the state and also the loss of coastal lands in some areas around the Chesapeake Bay. Finally, there is the potential for increased health-related issues.”

President Donald Trump dismissed the report’s dire warnings.

“I’ve seen it, I’ve read some of it, and it’s fine,” he told reporters. As for the severe economic impacts of climate change, he said, “I don’t believe it.”

All evidence, the 1,600-page report states, points directly to human activities as the cause of climate change. Without drastic action, meteorological conditions and noticeable impacts will continue to worsen, the report warns.

“In Maryland, we are facing climate change effects that place our ecosystems and our economy at risk and threaten to transform the coastlines many of our citizens call home,” Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said in a statement.

“The continued protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay also relies on a healthy climate,” he said. “It is crucial that we continue to work to address climate change through collaboration between our fellow states and the international community.”

Maryland lawmakers and agencies appear to be focusing on mitigating the looming threats that citizens could face.

Both Republican and Democratic legislators in the Maryland General Assembly plan to propose the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act next session. If passed, the act would set a new statewide standard committing Maryland to using 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Currently, the standard is set to 25 percent by 2022, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In addition to moving away from fossil fuels, the bill also envisions economic benefits for Maryland, according to Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, one of the measure’s lead sponsors.

By the end of 2030, Feldman said, the state would gain 20,000 additional solar jobs and $400 million in direct economic benefits every year going forward, beginning in 2030.

“To have 13 federal agencies, all with a consistent message, which is ‘if we do nothing and stand pat, we’ve got huge, huge problems down the road, both economically, as well as with the climate and the implications of that,’ it is a call to arms,” Feldman said.

“So, there is renewed interest in bringing in legislation in Annapolis and I don’t think we are going to be the only state,” the lawmaker said. “I think we are going to have action all over the United States on this subject.”

To help “coordinate mitigation, response and recovery activities” in Maryland, MEMA held a retreat last month that included nearly every state agency, according to McDonough, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Governors Association and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s Executive Council.

“We will continue our efforts to mitigate the effects of these changes,” McDonough said. “Agencies involved with natural resources, the environment, land use, insurance regulation, public health, and disaster response and recovery all play a role in making Maryland more resilient.”

MEMA also started the “Know Your Zone” campaign this year in areas of Maryland subject to tidal flooding or storm surge, working to simplify the evacuation process in case of flooding.

According to the federal report, flooding events are expected to become more frequent as a result of climate change.

“The danger is imminent if we don’t do anything,” Feldman said. “We need to take action right now in 2019; we can’t wait until 2020, 2022, etc.”

“The report that the federal government outlined includes things that we hadn’t even thought about, like (more) insects and (less) agriculture – all the negative implications of just standing pat,” he said. “I’m most concerned if we as a state do nothing.”

By Samantha Rosen

Nick DiPasquale, former director of EPA Bay Program, has joined ShoreRivers

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Nick DiPasquale, former director of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, has joined ShoreRivers as its Policy Advisor. Nick will work to elevate ShoreRivers’ mission for clean Eastern Shore waterways through State and regional advocacy efforts.

“We are delighted to have Nick joining ShoreRivers as a policy adviser,” Jeff Horstman, executive director of ShoreRivers, stated. “He has enormous experience and expertise in Chesapeake restoration issues and will add great value, strengthening our analysis and voice. His hire underscores the vital importance that ShoreRivers places on policy change.”

“I am thrilled,” Nick summed up, “with the opportunity to be working with ShoreRivers, an organization that is doing incredible work to reduce pollution and promote sustainability on the Eastern Shore.”

Nick served as the Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program from August, 2011 to December, 2017. The Program coordinates and provides administrative, technical, management and financial support for the overall Bay watershed restoration effort, and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, ensuring the six states and the District of Columbia meet their pollution load reduction targets.

Nick has over 35 years of public policy and environmental management experience in both the public and private sectors. He previously served as Deputy Secretary for Air, Waste & Radiation Protection in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; and, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Nick worked for 6 years in the private sector as a senior consultant on environmental and ecological restoration issues with an environmental engineering consulting firm in Delaware. He also served as the Director of Waste Management and Water Pollution Control Programs for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and as a Research Analyst with the Missouri House of Representatives.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the State University of New York, and a master’s degree in Energy and Environmental Policy from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Nick retired at the end of 2017 and lives in Chestertown, MD with his wife Becky and their two dogs.

Expert Witness: Former EPA Chesapeake Director Nick DiPasquale on Conowingo and the Problem of Pennsylvania

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It seems that more often than not, whenever the Spy seeks to interview an expert on the some of the topical issues of the day, one is just around the corner. This is one of the great benefits of serving a region that has become the home of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of retired professionals from almost every field of concentration. From members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, professors, scholars, CEOs, or government executives, the Mid-Shore is blessed with disproportionately well populated with people who really do know what they are talking about.

So when we were eager to find another expert to interview in our ongoing coverage of the Conowingo Dam and the impact of upstream pollution problems from Pennsylvania, as if by magic, the Spy was notified that Nick DiPasquale, who had recently retired as the Director of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, had just bought a house in the historic district in Chestertown.

Even if we only looked at Nick’s tenure running the Chesapeake Bay program, it would be interesting to learn first hand his impressions of the health of this critical ecosystem. But what turned out to be so beneficial in helping our readers understand the complexity of Bay challenges was his remarkable career before the EPA when he had also served as the Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and as Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The Spy sat down with Nick at the Spy HQ in Chestertown a few weeks ago to talk about some of the Bay’s most significant challenges with a specific focus on the Conowingo Dam and how Pennsylvania must dramatically change its policies to seriously regulate the damaging agricultural run0ff that contributes so substantially to the Bay’s poor environmental health.

This video is approximately twelve minutes in length. 

ShoreRivers Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Sassafras River

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Warning – a harmful algal bloom in the Sassafras River poses a health risk to people and pets. In conjunction with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Sassafras Riverkeeper at ShoreRivers, Emmett Duke, first identified the harmful algal bloom on September 17 in the large tidal pond between Turners Creek and Lloyd’s Creek on the Kent County side of the Sassafras. The blue-green algae, Oscillatoria lemnosa, is producing a toxin called microcystin, which can cause a skin rash and, if ingested, can cause liver damage.

Especially dangerous to young children and small animals because of the higher possibility of ingestion, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of Environment have established guidelines for exposure in a recreational setting – 4 parts per billion (ppb) and 10 ppb, respectively.

The most recent algae sample from the pond, taken September 17, contained 69 ppb of the toxin. For this reason, ShoreRivers recommends avoiding contact with water in the tidal pond until the level of the toxin has fallen below the guideline level.

Currently, a warning sign from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is posted at the river entrance of the tidal pond. Testing will be conducted at least weekly, and the sign will remain in place until the testing shows no more danger.

“Oscillatoria lemnosa is a naturally-occurring algae that lies in the river sediment. A combination of high levels of nutrient pollution and unusually high water temperatures contribute to this and other harmful algal blooms. It’s hard work and everyone needs to do their part, but we can prevent these harmful blooms by reducing nutrient pollution,” added Duke.

ShoreRivers is actively implementing restoration projects and advocating for strong clean water policies that will reduce nutrient pollution and help prevent similar harmful algal blooms. If you notice what appears to be a significant algal bloom on local waterways, please contact ShoreRivers at 443-385-0511.

Spy Moment: Adkins Arboretum Plays in the Meadow

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The weather gods were watching out for Adkins Arboretum last Saturday night for its annual Magic in the Meadow gala; an event far more dependent on good weather than most, given it celebrates the 400-acre native garden and preserve.

The gift of a perfect, cool evening was awarded that evening as guests enjoyed the hoop dance performance by Baltimore artist Melissa Newman and the jazz of the Peter Revell Band, while Adkins friends and supporters lined up for hiking trails, tours, plant shopping, and auction bidding all accompanied by a Piazza-sponsored dinner and wine selection.

The Spy was there with a camera to capture this reconnaissance video.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about Adkins Arboretum please go here.

 

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