1. Baltimore Town Hall
2. College Park Town Hall
3. Ocean City Voter Education Town Hall
1. Baltimore Town Hall
2. College Park Town Hall
3. Ocean City Voter Education Town Hall
By Ben Alexandro, Water Policy Advocate
In my previous work, I would bring a dozen bright eyed kids on science adventures. I helped lead the ‘Stream Scholars’ summer camp. Under every river stone was a critter they had never seen before that taught them about the health of these cool; clean streams. But as we traveled down the Potomac River, we saw farms, factories, yards, and construction sites that caused the river to be a bit dirtier and murkier. On a blistering summer day we approached the Chesapeake Bay and saw dozens of dead fish floating on the surface, in water as hot as bathwater. The students were shocked. How could we let our national treasure get this bad? How could there be a dead zone in the Bay where fish drown?
We told them it was not just the Chesapeake Bay. The world’s dead zones were growing. Off dozens of coasts throughout the world, there are areas of water that have so little dissolved oxygen during the summer that most aquatic life can’t survive.
The Mid-Atlantic States decided to do something about this problem. They got together to create a blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay and in 2009, President Obama signed an executive order with a plan to reach a new goal: by 2025, have all the practices in place that will clean the bay. Each state has a ‘diet’ of how much nutrients and sediment they could release into our waterways. The goals are to meet the target and eventually restore the Bay. If it works, it will be a model for the whole world. The students found new hope on this, but a couple states were concerned that 2025 was too far off. When will we know if the plan is working? They decided to take the Chesapeake Bay to school and assess the progress. The Bay’s midterm results were slated for 2018, which brings us to today.
On July 27, the EPA released their midpoint assessment to assess progress on the states goal of reducing pollution by 60%. For the first time in years, we are seeing real progress. Bay grasses are coming back; the dead zone is starting to shrink. The water is getting cleaner, but we still have a long way to go. The question is, how is Maryland doing?
We are making some progress. As a result of hard work of many sectors including farming and wastewater treatment plans, we nearly met our sediment and phosphorous goals. And with the help of several cost share programs, many Maryland farmers are managing their land to reduce runoff by planting cover crops to hold soil on the farm better and planting forests to buffer streams. Maryland also implemented the flush fee and raised enough money to upgrade our big wastewater treatment plants and in many cases the water coming out of our treatment plants is cleaner than the water in the river.
We need to pick up the pace. We only reduced 40% of the nitrogen pollution we needed to by 2025. Many are pointing to Pennsylvania or the Conowingo Dam saying that they are the source of the problem- particularly after the deluge of debris that came over the dam in this summer’s storms. Pennsylvania does have the biggest lift but the job is not over in Maryland either. We need to stop one million pounds of nitrogen from getting into the Bay every year. We need to pick up the pace and move even faster.
Although agricultural land is still the largest source of pollution, there is only one source of pollution that is still growing in Maryland. Polluted runoff in our towns, cities, and suburbs is the most expensive source of pollution to fix and the one our state is struggling with the most.
This is particularly a problem because big storms are happening more and more often with climate change. Instead of water naturally soaking into the ground and forest roots filtering the water, it is hitting roofs and blacktops, picking up speed and pollution, and flooding local streams. The rushing stormwaters carve out streambanks and dump pollution filled sediment into our rivers and Bay. We saw this in the news time and time again this summer- in Ellicott City, in Baltimore, over the Conowingo Dam, etc.
We have figured out ways to clean up this stormwater. Some areas have even created funds that charge those with the biggest, most urbanized properties to pay more into this fund. Localities can use this fund to fix this problem while beautifying the community by building rain gardens, restoring streams, greening streets, and replanting filtering forests around streams. This improves the community and creates jobs.
Examples of great projects reducing pollution can be found throughout the state. We even helped create this case story map to show some case stories of great projects. However, some have used these polluted runoff fees to score political points and repealed them without a plan for how stop this pollution, restore our local streams, or save the Bay. Other places like Prince George’s County have found that their polluted runoff fee–the ‘Rain Check’ program–gives people good paying jobs that don’t require advanced degrees. They have already treated 2,000 acres through projects creating $132 million in total economic impact of local spending. Thanks in part to their work, the Anacostia River has gotten its first passing grade in this year’s report card.
However, polluted runoff grows as suburbia continues to sprawl across the landscape. According to the new Chesapeake Bay Model, we could be losing a dozen acres of forest a day. Forests are the gold standard for water quality and work hard to filter out the water running off the land. We are expected to lose tens of thousands of acres of forests by 2025 unless we work harder to protect them.
The challenge in front of us may seem large, but we have overcome large ones in our past. We’ve come a long way since the days when rivers were literally on fire. Now we have a new challenge, but need a renewed commitment and investment to get it done. We need more projects, strong permits to make sure everyone is pulling their fair share, more funding for reforestation, and policies that make sure we are smarter by the way we use land.
We have answered the easy questions, and now need to move on to the tough solutions and get the job done. The countdown to 2025 is on!
By Lance Davis, Maryland LCV Education Fund Board Member
The ability to take ideas from many different sources, and create a new and better concept. This seems to be a lost art in our institutions that make laws and govern. So what is to be done about our elected leaders?
My work week is made up of two special moments. Two days a week I walk past the White House as the sun rises, and regardless of who is sleeping there at the time, I am reminded that I have an opportunity to make a difference today. The rest of the week, I work from home which overlooks the South River and I am reminded that I must make a difference today. The difference I have chosen during my day is making our federal buildings some of the healthiest, efficient, and sustainable buildings in the world. Yes, I am a federal employee, and not all the news out of DC is bad.
In Maryland, we have a building that utilized this integrative process to solve several issues, but namely mitigating stormwater or polluted runoff. This might have been a typical building with a parking lot and office tower. But to do this, a large amount of stormwater would have to be managed to protect the Chesapeake Bay, and at great expense. The team literally flipped this idea over by placing the offices under a planted roof and the parking under the building. This reduced runoff, eliminating the need for additional stormwater management, provided iconic architecture, and most importantly for the taxpayers, saved millions of dollars. To solve hard problems, people have to come to the table.
Maryland LCV Education Fund is doing just that. We are bringing our elected leaders to the table. Literally. Republican and Democrat. Maryland is a place of hard working people that get to make a difference, from the waterman and farmers that provide food to our homes, to the executives at our financial institutions, and the many residents that are federal and state employees, we all make a difference.
Maryland LCV Education Fund recognizes that we can’t all be there for every issue though. That is why Maryland LCV Education Fund works to educate our elected leaders on the issues that will best enhance the environment in our great state. We also strive to make sure you are aware of what our officials are doing and we score them on how well they are protecting Maryland. We want to get more of our leaders to the table so that they spend time raising the quality of life for us.
We are asking for your help in nominating Marylanders you feel deserve statewide recognition for their conservation efforts in or about your legislative districts and/or geographic region. The Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund has created the President Theodore Roosevelt Award – to be presented annually – in recognition of the individual, group or organization whom through a specific action, event or body of work will leave a positive conservation legacy that mirrors the ethos of President Theodore R. Roosevelt.
We encourage you to scour your areas of interest for worthy individuals, groups or formal organizations that you believe reflect this positive conservation ethos, and thank you in advance for your efforts.
For any questions, please contact Kristen Harbeson, Political Director who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fill out the Nomination Form here. Nominations are due by September 1, 2018.
Pictured on the right is the 2017 Awardee, Emmitsburg Mayor Donald N. Briggs.
By Chuck Porcari, Board Chair of Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
I am excited to share with you our announcement that Emmitsburg Mayor Donald N. Briggs has been awarded the organization’s first annual President Theodore Roosevelt Award, acknowledging the community’s remarkable record of progress in publicly beneficial sustainable activities.
The President Theodore Roosevelt Award – to be presented annually on the October 27 anniversary of the birth of President Theodore Roosevelt – recognizes the individual, group, or organization who through a specific action, event, or body of work leaves a positive conservation legacy that mirrors the ethos of President Roosevelt.
Among the specific actions taken have been the construction of solar arrays – including one to power the Frederick County community’s new $19.5 million wastewater treatment plant, the installation of a solar-powered algae control system in Rainbow Lake – the local drinking water supply – the installation of LED lighting in streetlights and an ongoing Streetscape project focused on walkability and environmentally beneficial architecture. Check out their plan here.
Today, 95 percent of the energy required to power municipal buildings and other facilities in Emmitsburg comes from renewable sources, while the entire effort is overseen by the “Emmitsburg Green Team,” made up of elected officials, town staff, and interested members of the community.
Earlier this year, the State of Maryland awarded Emmitsburg with its Maryland Green Registry 2017 Leadership Award.
On behalf of our Education Fund board, thank you.
I only have one word for the incredible turnout at the Environmental Legislative Summit- W-O-W! This was my eighth summit with Maryland LCV, and I’ve never seen so many Marylanders attending the Environmental Legislative Summit. I can’t thank you enough!
Throughout the years, all the progress we’ve made as an environmental community has been because of you. So many people attended, that there were lines to get into the room and into the building. What an incredible force we are, I am so proud to be a member of this community with you.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was Speaker of the House Mike Busch proclaiming, “…No matter what happens in DC,… We are not going to back down one iota on the environment!” Protecting our natural resources is what makes us Marylanders, and I’m grateful to have local leaders who demonstrate my community’s values.