The Potomac Highlands Watershed School
Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum 2007
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The Chesapeake Bay, the jewel of the Atlantic seaboard, has a wonderful history. Mankind, however, has made the Bay its own personal playground; in that process, life in the ecosystem has all but been destroyed. There are two main problems that have stricken the Bay: pollution and over-population of the watershed. In order to save the Bay, all persons making residence within the watershed must address these two issues. The main problem affecting the Bay is obviously pollution. Silt, trash, drainage water have caused the endangerment of many species, especially the sea life inhabiting the Bay. There are many proposed solutions to the problems afflicting the Bay. Some will work and others will be difficult to implement due to the sheer size of the watershed, which borders six states.
Silt, a main water pollutant, settles into the water and affects the living conditions of the sea vegetation, and in turn, the sea animals. We propose that several changes be made to help combat this issue. A main cause of silt is that constant construction occurring all throughout the watershed. These developers are very important to the overall well being of the United States due to their jobs, but their sites cause a great amount of water pollution every year. We propose legislation be passed requiring the developers and builders to slightly raise prices in order to incorporate special barriers onto the site. These barriers would prevent the run off water from the site from flowing freely into the nearby tributaries; this raise in prices will obviously affect new home and business builders. On the grand scheme of the overall project, generally ranging over one hundred thousand dollars, one or two thousand dollars to prevent the pollution of the Bay would not be the biggest monetary problem. Next, the run off water stopped by these special barriers will have to remain on the construction site in sediment ponds. These ponds will need to be installed on each and every site. Developers are not the only professionals causing silt-pollution of the Bay.
Farmers, the backbone of the American food industry, also cause a great deal of pollution to the water. Farmers understand the problem of pollution and many have already taken measures to prevent further damage. We ask for the farmers to do more than they already are. More cover crops on the pastures to prevent the soil and fertilizer from eroding into the tributaries, mandatory riparian buffer zones on permanent water sources, and independent water sources on the property so animals do not have to use the creeks and streams for water usage. The federal government would offer incentives such as tax breaks and grants to the farmers to help with these changes.
The next pollution problem is trash itself. In Pennsylvania alone, over six million pounds of illegally dumped trash was salvaged statewide in one day from the water sources. This is a major problem that will continue to affect the Bay into the future; fortunately, measures have been proposed to hopefully reduce the amount of trash falling into the tributaries. First, we propose that there be a payment program like the state of Maine utilizes, be implemented nationwide. This would give small rewards to citizens that are actively taking part in cleaning the environment. The reward, although small, would be enough to give citizens a sense of accomplishment and importance so they keep participating in the program. Next, organizations like the Boy and Girl Scouts of America should be given a small grant of money through donations for taking the initiative to help clean the environment. Our next initiative, as mentioned in “POV” paper, we propose the “Adopt a Stream” program similar to the voluntary “Adopt a Highway” that is already in place in many states around the nation.
Next, we ask that the federal government create a new branch of law enforcement officers. “Trash cops” would have the power to fine individuals that are caught illegally disposing of trash. The fine would not be excessive but would be substantial enough to keep citizens from being repeat offenders. This program would create jobs and put money into the hands of environmentally interested people. Next, we propose the active usage of the prison system. Convicts are sitting in prison, getting three meals a day and using up our tax money to live a somewhat comfortable life. For those criminals that have not committed seriously heinous or violent crimes, we propose that these individuals be utilized for a work-release program, earning few cents an hour; this would allow them to actively contribute to society by cleaning up the roads and streams of litter. More guards would be needed to guard these convicts but this proposition creates more jobs for the unemployed.
A final problem affecting the Bay through pollution is the amount of runoff water caused by impervious surfaces flowing into the sources. The wastewater facilities within the Bay region are adequate but they are rapidly again. We propose that the treatment facilities be overhauled to perform at maximum efficiency to filter even more water to make the streams cleaner. After the renovations are complete, if, through policy evaluation, there is a need for more treatment facilities, then we propose that they be built.
Next, the sewer systems within each town that is close together, such as the Broadway and Timberville communities, be combined as a regional plan. This would make for less water flowing freely into the water sources around the towns because of the combined town’s efforts. This would be a highly expensive plan and would be implemented over an eight-year period and be funded using small and gradual tax increases in the affected towns only.
The next issue to be discussed is the over-population of the ecosystem and the effects of that over-population. One million people alone live in Fairfax County, Virginia. If one million people live in one county of one state within the watershed, how many total people live in the watershed? People need to be more conscious of their actions towards their environment and begin to donate to the overall benefit of the Bay. The first step is through legislation being passed limiting the overall pounds of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides spread on each acre of land each year. This would apply to both farmers and residential homeowners. Next, we propose as a benefit to the homeowners, an easier method of disposal and recycling programs with an emphasis on education. If more people know how their trash directly affects the environment, then more people would care about the proper disposal of their trash.
With regards to homeowners, specifically in the Chesapeake Bay, they must leave a riparian buffer zone on their property to keep run off water from eroding the soil. The draining of swamps and wetlands in and around the Bay would be outlawed, and a restriction of new houses directly on the Bay would be implemented. To appeal to all persons within America, the federal government utilizes a Social Security Program to provide for the welfare of senior citizens and those that need governmental help. Each person pays taxes to fund this program; they may also have their own 401-K retirement program. There are catches to these programs; the allocated money must be spent otherwise the funds are lost and never back in the hands of the person. We propose these extra funds be donated to the Bay Project if not spent extraneously. A portion of this money given to these projects would be refunded through the tax system.
Next, we discuss the corporation effects of over-population. Today, buildings are bigger, stronger, and better than the days of the past. This increases the impervious surfaces which creates more run off water flowing into the drainage systems, and eventually, in to the streams. For the corporations, we propose that the fashion of building structures “up” instead of “out” continues. This creates a massive building shooting skyward, yet a comparatively small amount sprawling across the land. Then, for buildings over the size of a large house, federal mandates would require the installation of forested rooftops on the buildings where appropriate. This would prevent run off water and keep water within the system. Prices would obviously increase, but a couple extra thousand dollars would not make a dramatic difference.
A large part of the income to the states bordering the watershed relies on business and theme parks. We propose to them making it mandatory that they participate in one of several options” having a portion of the total profit be donated to the Bay Project, having the forested rooftops, or by adding a one dollar surcharge dedicated to the environmental program. Finally, tourism is a major part of the Bay itself; therefore, it would be unwise to prevent the construction of condos, hotels, and resorts directly on the Bay. The existing hotels would be required to conform to he policies discussed in this paper; the structures being proposed would have to be at least one-quarter of a mile inland to provide for a riparian buffer zone throughout the entire Bay. On this buffer zone, no new construction would be able to take place, but the buildings already established would not be forced to move their location. The new buildings would have to abide by all policies and mandates discussed in this paper to prevent any new pollution or destruction to the Bay.
Saving the Bay will not be a cheap endeavor. Four hundred years of destruction will not be reversed in one year with a few million dollars. It will be an ongoing battle stretching well into the 21st Century that our children and grandchildren will have to continue. Hopefully, people will soon realize the treasure the Bay really is and what it offers to humanity. Measures need to be started now in order to actively and successfully save the Bay for the future generations.
The issues that involve the Chesapeake Bay are very important, and most of us realize these important issues. Though some still need to know what these issues are and what we can do about them. Some little things you could do could greatly change the environment, and if everyone does something, the results could change dramatically.
Obviously some farmers use pesticides to keep many insects from destroying their crops. Although these results are good for the farmers crops, it is not good for the environment. These pesticides run off into streams and rivers, which eventually go into the Chesapeake Bay. There are certain things that you could do that don’t use bad pesticides - there is something that you can use.
Okay, so some of us are not farmers, that doesn’t mean that you do nothing for your environment. Get a weekly group together in your community that can go once or twice a week that can go clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Not only does the pollution go down, your reducing the risk of Global Warming.
Stream Cleaner Consensus 2007
Our consensus consists of a detailed plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay that will involve all stakeholders. The stakeholder groups that participated were the commercial fisherman, fish and wildlife, farmers, developers, recreation and tourism, and the local residents. Although all of the groups agreed that the need to care for the Bay is prevalent, the groups all had different motives and degrees of concern. The fish and wildlife, of course, want the Bay to be cleaned up NOW by whatever means will get the job accomplished fastest. The commercial fisherman and tourism groups want the bay to be cleaned up for their own economic benefit. Farmers and developers are tired of taking the blame for the pollution of the bay and the blunt of the restoration costs. All groups, however, were willing to make compromises for the good of Chesapeake Bay.
Our consensus plan will need the help of all stakeholders for enforcement, developmental changes, financing, and the education of the public. Farmers will be using sustainable practices and moving away from the use of pesticides. The farmers that accept this plan will receive tax breaks and other financial benefits to help compensate for any extra costs that they may have put forth for the eco-friendly changes. The developers have decided to take some responsibility for the pollution of the Bay. They will not stop developing, but will be building communities that utilize environmentally friendly technologies and are low impact. This, in turn, will make the homes more expensive for potential residents, which will decrease the number of people moving into the area. The wildlife and tourism groups have suggested natural solutions. By using riparian buffers, wetlands, and grassways we can greatly reduce the erosion and sediment pollution. Riparian buffers will also help cool the water and prevent eutrophication, therefore increasing the Bay’s oxygen content. An increase in oxygen would be very beneficial to all plants and animals (including the fish). The fishermen are excited and willing to enforce these plans because healthier fish will help their business. They are also willing to abide to stricter fishing laws and green zones, where no fishing or gaming will be allowed. Another part of our plan includes the use of an environmental police force that will be strictly enforcing pollution laws with fines and credential consequences (for businesses). Overall, the plan should be a great success if everyone can work together.
Everyone will agree that cleaning up the bay is expensive, but the consequences will be far greater if we do not take action. The cost of neglecting the bay would be our health, heritage, and the beauty of our land. Is our vitality really something we want to put at risk? If we take action now, we can make the Chesapeake Bay a healthy functioning ecosystem for generations to come.