Posts Tagged 'chesapeake bay conservation'

Legislative Re-cap: 90 Days in Annapolis

government affairs and policy update national aquarium

Yesterday marked Sine Die, the adjournment of the General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session in Annapolis.

It has been a busy session, with 1,117 bills introduced in the House of Delegates and another 1,555 bills introduced in the Senate. Approximately one-third of those bills were passed before midnight and will eventually be signed into law by the Governor.

The National Aquarium’s Government Affairs team has been busy supporting a handful of select bills. Here is a brief look at how a few of our bills fared this session:

HB 118 | Task Force to Study the Impact of Ocean Acidification on State Waters – PASSED
The legislature gave final approval to a bill that will create a task force to analyze the potential effects of ocean acidification in State waters and State fisheries. This task force would report back to the General Assembly with recommendations on potential strategies to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification by 2015. The task force will consist of members from the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the National Aquarium as well as representatives from the watermen community, the Senate and the House of Delegates.

HB 296/SB 336 | Designation of New Wildlands – PASSED
Bills expanding State-designated wildlands from the current 29 areas to 38 areas (from 44,000 acres to 65,000 acres) passed both chambers and are now on the Governor’s desk. The bills seek to legally protect certain wilderness areas from development, cars and other impacts, which are legislative priorities for Governor Martin O’Malley.

$2.12 million allocated for National Aquarium in the Capital Budget
The legislature increased funding from what the Governor originally included in his Capital Budget ($1.5 million to $2.12 million) to fund critical infrastructure improvements and the renovation of the Aquarium’s Maryland: Mountains to the Sea exhibit.

$474,601 allocated for National Aquarium’s Education Programs
The Governor level-funded the State Aided Institution (SAI) portion of the Maryland State Department of Education’s budget. The Aquarium will receive $474,601 toward education programs to help bring tens of thousands of Maryland schoolchildren, teachers and chaperones to the Aquarium completely free of charge.

Polluted Runoff Bills | DEAD IN COMMITTEE, Budget Language Added
Twenty different bills were introduced to repeal or weaken the 2012 stormwater law this legislative session – and none made if out of committee. Language was added to the budget that allows Maryland’s Department of the Environment to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Carroll or Frederick counties to establish an alternative source of funding for meeting their polluted runoff goals.

HB 913 | Food Fish and Shellfish: Labeling and Identification Requirements – DEAD IN COMMITTEE
A bill that would require restaurants and grocery stores to label seafood with the common name of fish/shellfish and prohibited mislabeling did not receive a vote in the House Environmental Matters Committee. The bill would also have required restaurants and grocery stores to identify the origin of a crab product by state or country of origin.

SB 394 | Statewide Container Recycling Refund Program – DEAD IN COMMITTEE
The bill would have established a fully refundable 5-cent container deposit on beverage containers sold in Maryland. The bill would also have established redemption centers across the State. If it had passed, the bill had the potential to increase Maryland’s recycling rate of beverage containers from 22 to 76 percent.

SB 707/HB 718 | Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2014 – DEAD IN COMMITTEE
A bill that would have enabled county governments to pass county bag-fee laws that require retail and grocery stores to charge customers at least a 5-cent fee for paper and plastic bags did not receive a vote in either the House or Senate committees.

While this year’s legislative session in Maryland may be coming to a close, our Government Affairs team will be working diligently over the next 275 days to raise awareness and support for these important pieces of conservation legislation!

To stay updated on our efforts throughout the year, be sure to sign up for our legislative updates

sarah elfreth government affairs manager national aquarium

Bill of the Week: Capital Budget

government affairs and policy update national aquarium

Governor O’Malley submitted his Fiscal Year 2015 Capital Budget to the Maryland General Assembly in early January. The $4 billion Capital Budget includes nearly $700 million for public school and university construction, $450 million for projects such as land preservation and Chesapeake Bay restoration, and $2.5 billion for transportation projects.

The Governor’s Capital Budget also includes funding for the National Aquarium for the second year in a row. If approved by the General Assembly, the State’s $1.5 million will help the Aquarium address critical infrastructure needs while simultaneously redesigning the way we communicate the remarkable aquatic treasure just beyond the Aquarium’s walls: the Chesapeake Bay.

chesapeake bay watershed

Addressing these infrastructure pieces will allow us to completely re-imagine the way we communicate the unique beauty and diversity of the Bay. Interactive exhibits – both in the main Aquarium building and outside the Aquarium walls that reach the edges of Inner Harbor – will share the success stories of and challenges still facing one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures.

The exhibit will surely give the Aquarium’s 1.4 million annual visitors – the majority of whom reside within the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed – a sense of how water connects us all.

The General Assembly will be voting on the Capital Budget over the next few weeks. The 2014 legislative session adjourns on April 7th.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our legislative update emails and follow me on Twitter for real-time updates from Annapolis throughout session!

sarah elfreth government affairs manager national aquarium

VIDEO: National Aquarium’s Present and Future

Our CEO John Racanelli visited Center Maryland earlier this week to discuss the success of conservation and education efforts, our stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay and our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef.

In many ways, the creation of our newest exhibit is the mark of an exciting new chapter for our organization. As Center Maryland’s Damien O’ Doherty put it, “You’re not just seeing a new exhibit, in many ways you’re seeing a new Aquarium.”

As a 33-year-old institution, our hometown of Baltimore and the State of Maryland have integral parts of what we have been able to accomplish and what we continue to do in the community and the Chesapeake Bay region.

Watch John discuss our future in part one of his interview: 

Stay tuned for part two! 

Our Conservation Re-cap for 2013!

2013 has been an exciting year for our Conservation team! We continued our work at some of our existing restoration sites, and also celebrated some exciting new events and projects!

None of our success would be possible without the help of our volunteers and partners. With their help, we restored over 24.6 acres this year! This awesome feat required the help of 1,312 volunteers who spent 3,057 hours planting 50,845 plants and removing 54,227 pieces of debris.

national aquarium conservation debris

Many of our projects this year took place right in Baltimore City. We planted living shorelines at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center and planted a forest buffer at Farring-Baybrook Park, the largest open space in Baltimore City! At our wetland field station adjacent to Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine, we held our annual Spring Fort McHenry field day where we removed debris and planted trees to celebrate Arbor Day.

ft. mchenry

The National Aquarium spread conservation efforts outside of the city as well, with restoration projects all over the state of Maryland. In Salisbury, we worked with local students, community volunteers, and The Nature Conservancy to restore an Atlantic White Cedar swamp. In Southern Maryland we continued our long term efforts to restore shoreline on the shores of Naval Support Facility- Indian Head. In New York, the northern end of the watershed, we worked with local students to restore unique freshwater wetland habitats.

Here are just a few of the groundbreaking initiatives we participated in this year: 

  • In May, we congratulated our first class of Maryland Master Naturalists. This program is run by the University of Maryland Extension program, and trains volunteers in Maryland’s flora and fauna.
  • In June, the Choose Clean Water Conference was held in Baltimore, and the Aquarium hosted multiple field trips for participants to showcase our Chesapeake Bay Restoration work.
  • In May, we were joined by Maryland’s First Lady Katie O’Malley and our partners at the National Wildlife Federation, announced our part in a new initiative to make Baltimore truly a city for the birds! We’re cooperating to make Baltimore one of the greenest cities in the country by certifying Baltimore City homes and businesses as backyard wildlife habitats.
  • In September, The US Fish & Wildlife Service named Masonville Cove the first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. This new initiative is an effort to make more of our nation’s beautiful, natural areas accessible to all populations, including urban ones.

Want to join in the fun and be a part of our conservation successes in 2014? Sign up for our newsletter!

Volunteer Spotlight: Jillie Drutz, Chesapeake Conservation Corps

We would like to welcome the newest volunteer of the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!), Jillie Drutz! Joining the National Aquarium as the 4th Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) volunteer the department has hosted, Jillie will be dedicating a year to helping the Conservation department in their endeavors to conserve, restore, and educate about the Chesapeake watershed.

national aquarium volunteer jillie

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps, a program supported by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, was established in 2010 by the Maryland Legislature in order to provide environmental service-learning opportunities for young professionals interested in pursuing conservation careers. The initiative pairs around 25 Corps volunteers with environmental organizations focusing on Chesapeake Bay conservation all throughout Maryland.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Jillie graduated in May of 2013 from the George Washington University in Washington, DC where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biological Anthropology. She always knew that one day she would dedicate some time to working to protect the Chesapeake Bay, which is why she applied to the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. Jillie feels extremely honored to be assigned to the National Aquarium, where she gets to combine her love of fieldwork and education, and where she can learn more about how a museum institution can be involved in the local community.

Jillie has already had the opportunity to participate in wetland restoration at the Masonville fringe wetland and riparian buffer restoration at Farring-Baybrook Park and Indian Head Naval Facility. She has also worked with students in our Wetland Nursery Program. She enjoys working with community volunteers and students from various backgrounds during these projects, and is excited for the opportunity to give back to her city and her Bay. She cannot wait for the field season to start again in the Spring!

Sign up for one of our upcoming conservation events and come meet our new volunteer!

Thoughtful Thursday: 363 Days and Counting

government affairs and policy update

National Aquarium is a 501c3 nonprofit education and conservation organization and does not endorse any political party or candidate running for political office.

Maryland’s environmental community, five gubernatorial candidates, and the running mate of the sixth candidate gathered in Annapolis this week to lay out their visions for future environmental policy if they are elected on November 4, 2014.

Consistent themes throughout the debate (hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and 1,000 Friends of Maryland) included Maryland’s stormwater fee, transportation, fracking, and the re-licensing of the Conowingo Dam. All issues have a direct connection to the State’s greatest natural treasure – the Chesapeake Bay  and all deserve thorough discussion and debate.

The following is this reporter-for-a-day’s objective coverage of the debate collected from copious note-taking, sporadic live-tweeting, and ruminating over what real reporters have written in such esteemed publications as the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post.

The only bit of commentary I will make on the debate is this: I was deeply encouraged to hear a number of candidates speak to the importance of environmental literacy (creating an environmentally conscious and engaged citizenry) – an issue near and dear to the National Aquarium’s heart.

(The following reflects each candidate’s speech in the order in which they spoke.)

Charles County Business Executive Charles Lollar:

If elected, will: Fully fund the Chesapeake Bay Trust fund to the tune of $50 million annually; Address the pollution flowing into the Bay from other states; Engage with governors of other watershed states; Ensure that the important environmental research being done is used to educate Marylanders.

Harford County Executive David Craig:

Enviro credentials: Leader in Harford County on land use and recycling issues.
If elected, will: Support clean air and clean water; Keep farmers working.

Delegate Ron George:

Enviro credentials: Sponsored waterway improvement, energy net reading, and solar energy tax credit legislation while in the House of Delegates.
If elected, will: Establish a long-term plan for the Conowingo Dam; Champion oyster restoration.

Delegate Heather Mizeur:

Enviro credentials: Fourth generation farmer; Sponsored legislation to place a moratorium on fracking while in the House of Delegates.
If elected, will: Defend the stormwater law; Facilitate better dialogue between farming and environmental communities; Develop rural transportation plan; Invest in smart growth; Support a moratorium on fracking.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman:
(standing in for Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, who was unable to attend because his father was ill)

Enviro credentials: O’Malley/Brown Administration’s environmental agenda.
If elected, will: Strengthen environmental enforcement agencies; Create tracking system for pesticide usage; Improve public transportation; Mitigate effects of stormwater runoff; Remove “black liquor” from the State’s renewable energy portfolio; Work on community renewables and smart meters.

Attorney General Doug Gansler:

Enviro credentials: Led the charge to have phosphates banned from dishwasher detergent and arsenic banned from chicken feed.
If elected, will: Continue work on environmental justice issues; Strengthen environmental enforcement agencies; Ensure that fracking is completely safe; Protect female crabs and continue oyster restoration projects.

Tuesday’s debate was just a preliminary snapshot of how the six candidates/teams running for governor will approach environmental policy if elected 363 days from today. I encourage all who read this post to peruse each candidate’s website, study their official environmental policy packages (to be officially unveiled for all candidates), and make an informed decision come Election Day.

Blog-Header-SarahElfreth

A Blue View: Bringing Oysters Back from the Brink

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

August 21, 2013: Bringing Oysters Back from the Brink

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss the critical role
oyster reefs play in maintaining a healthy
Chesapeake Bay! 

Oysters are a huge part of the Chesapeake Bay culture—its past, present, and future. Even the name “Chesapeake” means “great shellfish bay” in Algonquin. Yet since the early part of the 1900s, oyster populations have been in crisis.

The health of oyster populations in the Bay is critical to providing habitat for aquatic animals, supporting feeding grounds for migratory birds, and enhancing water quality as oysters filter their food from the water. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. To put this in perspective, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration points out that oysters once were able to filter the entire Chesapeake Bay in a week. Today, it takes a year.

Researchers are beginning to understand the importance of oyster reefs in protecting coastal areas. Along with coral reefs, wetlands, dunes, and other coastal habitats, oyster reefs actually help prevent erosion, reduce the impact of storm surges, and protect against sea level rise. In fact, part of New York City’s $19-billion-dollar plan to combat the effects of climate change includes building large underwater oyster reefs around the harbor.

Over time, oyster populations have been devastated by overfishing, disease, pollution, habitat destruction, and urban runoff. NOAA reports that the oyster population of the Chesapeake today is less than 1 percent of its historical level. In fact, oyster harvesting peaked in the 1880s, when 20 million bushels were harvested in a single year. In 2012, only 135,000 bushels were harvested from the Bay…less than one percent of those historic levels.

Still, all hope is not lost, and efforts are underway to solve the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster problem. These include an ambitious plan to restore oyster populations throughout the area by spreading hundreds of thousands of tons of granite and old oyster shells along Harris Creek, a tributary of the Choptank River. Shells seeded with baby oysters are then placed on this substrate using a high-pressure hose. Then, nature is left to do its work. Watch this video to learn more about the project:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8TNeusghYs]

The Chesapeake Bay region isn’t the only one looking to improve the prospects for oysters. In New Jersey, for example, an advocacy group called ReClam the Bay is caring for seven oyster nurseries in the hopes of helping populations in Barnegat Bay to recover. Protected nurseries allow the oysters to grow without the risk of predators dining on them. Visitors are welcome to come by these nurseries and get their hands wet in what ReClam the Bay hopes will be an educational opportunity that will encourage people to make better choices for the health of the shellfish populations and the bay.

Out on the West Coast, efforts to save Oregon’s only native oyster species, the Olympia, have proven largely successful. Though previously declared “functionally extinct,” after 8 years of work by the Nature Conservancy and watermen, the 1.5 million oysters now inhabiting Netarts Bay seem to be reproducing successfully.

In Maryland, a “No Shell Left Behind” oyster recycling tax credit of one dollar a bushel became official on July 1. Its aim is to encourage the recycling of valuable oyster shells to help restore oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay. Empty shells, which are necessary for hatcheries to replenish the oyster population, are extremely valuable, as each shell can host up to 10 young oysters, known as “spat.”

You can play a part in this, too! Whether by recycling oyster shells, participating in Chesapeake Bay conservation events, or even running in next year’s “Sprint for Spat” 5K race, sponsored by the Oyster Recovery Partnership, get involved! A healthy oyster population helps us all.

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli


Sign up for AquaMail

Like us on Facebook!

Twitter Updates


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 263 other followers