Appreciating the Chesapeake Bay

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By Dana Aunkst

Critter of the Month – the Snowberry clearwing. (Photo by Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program)

Critter of the Month – the Snowberry clearwing. (Photo by Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program)

It’s Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week – a good time to learn more about our nation’s largest estuary and the commitment by EPA and its partners to restore it.

There’s a variety of information online – from quizzes for students to captivating videos for everyone.  Here’s a selection of offerings:

And for some fun student activities to learn more about the broader environment, check out these EPA games, quizzes and videos.

While it’s a week to become more aware of the Bay and its natural wonders, it’s also Effective Partnerships Month as part of EPA’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

EPA is working with six states, the District of Columbia and sister federal agencies, among other partners, to restore the Chesapeake Bay and the local rivers and streams that connect to it.  You can learn more about that partnership here and pick up some good tips on how you can help in the restoration effort.

 

About the Author: Dana Aunkst is the director of the Chesapeake Bay Program Office.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Mid-Atlantic Farmers Bring Food to the Table

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West Virginia Cattle Operation (Courtesy Will Parson, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay)

West Virginia Cattle Operation (Courtesy Will Parson, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay)

By Cosmo Servidio

March 27, 2020: This Week is National Ag Week – an opportunity for us to celebrate our farmers and ranchers for all that they do to ensure our food remains safe and plentiful for consumers.

Farmers produce food for our local communities – and the world – while being responsible stewards of the land. I always say that farmers and ranchers were the first environmentalists. They know that healthy farms depend on clean water and clean water depends on healthy, well-managed farms. The conservation practices they put on their land improve farm efficiency, the health of our soils, and the health of our local streams.

Every year, $15.6 billion of agricultural products are sold in the Mid-Atlantic region from over 135,000 farms and 21 million acres of cropland. Pennsylvania is number 1 in the country in mushroom production and number 2 for certified organic sales. The Delmarva Peninsula is home to many Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia farmers and a top chicken-producing region in the country. And West Virginia has the highest percentage of family-owned farms in the nation – with poultry and beef being a big part of their sales. Agriculture is a vital part of our region, our culture, and our economy.

Over the past year I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet with over 1,000 farmers throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. There is nothing like being out on a farm, talking to farm families, and seeing firsthand how farmers are stewards of the land, true innovators, and resilient in the face of many challenges.

During National Ag Week we want to show our gratitude to farmers and ranchers, and all those who are part of the food supply chain, for all that they do to put food on our tables and protect our land and water. Our federal family will continue to support their efforts to achieve those essential goals.

 

About the author: Cosmo Servidio is the Regional Administrator for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Taking Action to Improve Pennsylvania Streams

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EPA provides significant funding to help Chesapeake Bay states do their part in cleaning up their local waters, thereby helping to improve Bay health.By Dana Aunkst

EPA provides significant funding to help Chesapeake Bay states do their part in cleaning up their local waters, thereby helping to improve Bay health.  It’s important to us that the funds are used in the most timely and efficient ways.

That’s why EPA recently redirected funds within Pennsylvania that weren’t being spent quickly enough.

As a result, communities and organizations are now sharing $2.4 million for 14 stream restoration projects, and new state employees will be hired to assist with stream improvements in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The $2.4 million that EPA redirected to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for the restoration projects is being leveraged with $3.4 million in local matching funds for a total impact of nearly $6 million.

Three of the larger projects involve stabilizing streambanks and planting vegetation alongside streams to prevent sediment and excess nutrient pollution from entering the waterways during storms.  And each of these projects involves a substantial local match to a $200,000 EPA grant through NFWF.  Here are the Big 3:

  • The Conservation Foundation of Lancaster County will establish native vegetation and stabilize streambanks in the Little Cocalico Creek and Cocalico Creek watershed. ($1.02 million)
  • West Lampeter Township will create 4.4 acres of riparian habitat on a streambank of Big Spring Run on Groff Farm. ($922,649)
  • Manheim Borough will plant riparian buffers and stabilize streambank on a 3,000 linear foot section of Chiques Creek. ($1.14 million)

A full list of the funded projects is available here.

At the same time, EPA redirected $464,200 in grant funds to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to hire eight employees to assist with stream improvement projects, largely in the Susquehanna River Basin.

The grant funds will be used to employ eight staff in the Commission’s Stream Habitat Section. The full-time, part-time and seasonal employees will provide technical assistance to conservation districts and landowners to plan, design and install stream protection features on their properties.

For EPA, it’s a priority to help Pennsylvania advance its plans to improve Pennsylvania streams and, at the same time, meet its commitment to Bay restoration.

 

About the author: Dana Aunkst is the Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program Office.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Green Streets Improving Communities, Waterways

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by Tom Damm

In a park-like setting along the Susquehanna River in Marietta, Pennsylvania, picnic tables were arranged in a large rectangle to give speakers room to talk about how their new green streets grants would control stormwater and otherwise improve their communities.

Some of the grantees came from hours away to share plans for their funding under the 2019 Green Streets, Green Towns, Green Jobs program, sponsored largely by EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

With posters and flip charts held tightly against a breeze off the river, a dozen speakers relayed highlights of their winning projects to an attentive audience of their peers.

We learned, for example, that in Baltimore, they’re turning hard vacant lots into absorbant green spaces.  In Martinsburg, West Virginia, they’re designing green features to prevent flash flooding.  And on the Eastern Shore in Cambridge, Maryland, they’re redoing a parking area so that rain sinks in rather than runs off into sewers and waterways with pollutants in tow.

You can get a full list of the projects and more information on the program here.

Mayor Harold Kulman of the historic host community, Marietta, took to the podium during the official grant announcement ceremony to describe how stormwater improvements will create jobs, beautify the downtown area and reduce pollution to the Susquehanna – the largest source of freshwater to the Chesapeake Bay.

EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Trust have been providing these “G3” grants for nine years, helping communities design and build projects that offer multiple environmental, economic and quality of life benefits.  The funds – nearly $9.4 million since the program’s inception – have been matched locally by about 2-1.

This year’s grants alone are expected to support more than 200 green jobs and reinforce one of EPA’s top priorities – improving water infrastructure.

About the Author:  Tom Damm works in the Office of Public Affairs at EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, contributing strategic communications in support of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Delmarva Grain Farmer – Getting it Right!

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by Kelly Shenk

Farmer showing data to author

Have you ever heard of the “4R’s?”  It’s a new buzz in agriculture that’s all about farm efficiency and productivity.  4R’s stands for putting the RIGHT nutrient source on a crop, at the RIGHT application rate, at the RIGHT time, and in the RIGHT place.  Farmers often refer to the 4R principles as “precision agriculture.”  Whether you call it 4R’s or precision agriculture — I call it “Getting it Right!”

I had a great opportunity to see first-hand what all this means on a Delmarva farm.  I met Jonathan Quinn, a fourth-generation grain farmer in Kent County, Maryland.  Within minutes he took out his iPad and started showing me data – lots of data – weather patterns, crop yields, fertilizer application rates.  It was clear to me that every decision he makes on his farm is driven by this data.

He told me about a technology he tested on his farm recently.  He used a drone to collect data on crop vigor which allowed him to determine what areas of the field needed additional nitrogen fertilizer.  He was able to spot an area in his field that had leftover nitrogen in the soil from a previous spinach crop.  Knowing this allowed him to adjust his nitrogen application rates.  When you talk to any farmer, they will tell you that they don’t want to waste fertilizer.  And any time they can save on fertilizers and increase their crop yields – it’s money in their pocket.

Jonathan sees his work with precision agriculture going hand-in-hand with protecting the environment.  He told me, “I don’t want to waste any inputs as far as fertilizer and chemicals.  And I’m doing it to protect the Bay, protect the environment.  I like to fish and crab and I want it to be there for my kids and my grandchildren to be able to do the same thing I did.”  This is a sentiment I hear from so many Delmarva farmers who have grown up the Chesapeake Bay.

When you boil it down, this Delmarva grain farmer is using technology and data to maximize farm efficiency, increase productivity and save money.  And guess what?  When farmers put fertilizers on the crop at the right rate, time, and place, it means less fertilizers are left over to run into our streams or leach into our groundwater.  So whether you call it the “4Rs” or “precision agriculture” or something else … I call it “Getting it Right!”

 

About the author: Kelly Shenk is EPA Region III’s Agriculture Advisor.  She works with farmers to achieve healthy, well-managed farms and clean water.  EPA helps fund the Delaware-Maryland 4R Alliance’s precision agriculture work through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Planting Trees to Promote Healthy Farms, Clean Water

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by Kelly Shenk 

Riparian Restoration – author’s son

On a foggy Saturday morning, my 12-year old son and I were on a cattle and cropland farm in Carroll County, Maryland.  We joined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its 60 volunteers to plant 1,200 trees and shrubs along a creek.  The creek flows to the Monocacy River and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay. 

 We worked beside some seasoned tree planters who told us they had been planting trees along streams for over a decade.  Within that decade, they said the trees have grown up, shaded the streams, and helped bring the fish and wildlife back.  Seeing results like that has motivated them to keep volunteering.   

This project is part of the farmer’s long-term plan to plant 10 acres of “riparian forest buffer” to improve the water quality and wildlife habitat of his creek.  This buffer of trees and shrubs will help absorb nitrogen and phosphorus coming off his barnyard and his corn and soybean fields when it rains. 

Riparian Restoration

As we planted and talked, the creek water suddenly turned muddy.  We looked up the stream and saw that a cow had tromped down the streambank and was wading in the creek.  It was a perfect illustration of how cows with access to the creek can erode the streambank and cause sediment – another pollutant – in the creek.  

The landowner is in the process of fencing his cattle out of the creek.  The Chesapeake Bay Foundation explained to the volunteers that excluding cows from the stream improves the cows’ health because they will be drinking cleaner water from a trough.  Healthier cows mean lower veterinary bills.  And cows drinking clean water gain weight faster which means more money in a cattleman’s pocket. 

I asked my son what he thought about the day.  I expected him to focus on all the cow patties we stepped in – after all he is 12 years old!  But he surprised me.  “It was pretty cool that we were all working together to help the farmer and the environment.”  His focus was on “together.”  We truly can have healthy farms and clean water by working together. 

 I’m looking forward to a day, 10 years from now, when I bring my son back to this farm and see how our work together has improved this farmer’s business and our local streams.  

 

About the author: Kelly Shenk is EPA Region III’s Agriculture Advisor.  She works with farmers to achieve healthy, well-managed farms and clean water.  EPA is proud to be one of many partners who helped fund this work through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Cleaning Up Pollution from Old Mines

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by Tom Damm

Officials celebrate progress

Officials celebrate progress

It was a day of celebration along the water’s edge in West Virginia.

On a recent Friday afternoon, U.S. EPA, West Virginia officials and other partners marked early success in reviving a long-dead stretch of Muddy Creek in Preston County.

Hours later and a few miles away, the local folk group, Meadow Run, struck up its first song to kick off the 25th Annual Cheat River Festival, a tribute to sustained efforts led by the non-profit, Friends of the Cheat, to restore the Cheat River and tributaries like Muddy Creek.

The lower 3.4 miles of Muddy Creek had been ruined for decades by a pair of infamous mine blowouts and an orange tide of acidic pollution.

But an innovative regulatory approach by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and EPA is working to clean the troubled section and bring fish back to its waters.

Speaking at an event in the shadow of a creek-side treatment plant that scrubs a steady flow of polluted mine water, EPA’s Kate McManus praised the state-federal cooperation that led to the improvements.

“This is a great example of what we can accomplish when we work together and use common sense approaches,” said Kate, deputy director of EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Water Division.

Cleaning the water

Cleaning the water

The treatment plant is part of a strategy that includes a regulatory fix to treat mine water from all sources in the watershed. EPA approved a variance and worked with the state to develop a first-of-its-kind permit in West Virginia incorporating “in-stream” techniques to neutralize acidity and reduce metals.

EPA also provided Clean Water Act funding for Muddy Creek improvements, as it did when the agency financed projects to help restore the Cheat River.

Well before festival favorite, Stewed Mulligan, wrapped up the first day of the Cheat Fest, the crowd had been given the good news of improvements in the local waters, making the group’s “old backwoods sound with a string band tradition” that much sweeter.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

National Ag Day – A Time to Thank our Farmers

Cosmo Servidio, EPA Region III Administrator (center), meets with farmers in western Pennsylvania to learn about the successes and challenges of producing food and protecting local streams.

March 14, 2019: Today is National Ag Day – a day to celebrate our farmers and ranchers – the hard-working men and women who bring food to our tables every day. Farmers are the first environmentalists and we are so grateful for all they do to take care of the land and our local streams for generations to come.

I am proud of the agriculture community in our Mid-Atlantic region. Every year, $15.5 billion of agricultural products are sold in our region. Pennsylvania is number 1 in mushroom production in the country and in the top 5 for milk production every year. The Delmarva Peninsula is a top chicken-producing region where chickens out number people 6 to 1. West Virginia has the highest percentage of family-owned farms in the nation – now that’s staying power. Agriculture is a vital part of our landscape, our culture, and our economy.

Understanding where our food comes from is so important. Farmers and ranchers make up only 2% of the U.S. population. That means that most of us did not grow up on farms or even grow up visiting our grandparents’ farms. I have spent the first year of my job as Regional Administrator talking to hundreds of farmers and ranchers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region: meeting their families, learning about their operations, and hearing what they are most proud of and the challenges they face. Farmers are stewards of the land, true innovators, and resilient in the face of many challenges that are often out of their control – weather being the primary issue this past year.

I am grateful to our farmers for keeping the lines of communication open and engaging in this dialogue. By learning from each other, we can have a thriving agricultural sector and clean drinking water and local streams for our communities to enjoy for years to come.

About the Author: Cosmo Servidio is the Regional Administrator for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Monitoring Progress in the Bay

by Jim Edward

EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio observes underwater grasses growing at the Susquehanna Flats. (Photo by Jim Edward/Chesapeake Bay Program)

August and September were very wet and rainy months in most parts of the Chesapeake Bay region. But on September 19, there was a break in the clouds, which was fortunate for those of us going on a water quality monitoring “cruise” in the northern portion of the Bay.

Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Bolton invited EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio, Water Division Director Cathy Libertz, and me to join him and his staff on their research vessel to observe their tidal Bay monitoring team in action.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) monitoring teams do water quality monitoring cruises of the tidal Chesapeake Bay on a regular basis during the year. They take samples at numerous stations during three-day cruises beginning in the south at the mouth of the Bay and finishing up north where the Susquehanna River meets the tidal Bay.

We began by visiting one of DNR’s fixed monitoring stations where the team took various measurements including water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, Ph, turbidity and chlorophyll a. They also took water samples to test for levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, which are the three pollutants Bay jurisdictions are working to reduce under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

Monitoring the Bay and its tributaries allows the Bay Program to detect changes that take place, improves our collective understanding of the Bay ecosystem, and reveals trends that provide valuable information to policy makers.

The second leg of our cruise on a smaller boat enabled us to venture out into an area in the upper Bay known as the Susquehanna Flats. This is the longest contiguous bed of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay, spanning approximately 10 square miles near the mouth of the Susquehanna River.

Underwater grasses are important because they offer food to invertebrates and migratory waterfowl, shelter young fish and crabs, and keep the water healthy by absorbing excess nutrients, trapping suspended sediment and slowing shoreline erosion.

Our hosts were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to see much of the grass beds due to the unusually high amounts of rain we had this summer. Since June 1, more than twice the normal amount of rainfall has fallen over a broad swath from Washington, D.C., up through Maryland and central Pennsylvania, resulting in higher river flows into the Bay. Measurements show freshwater flows into the Bay this August were the highest ever recorded.

Despite these conditions, we saw many of the dozen or more species of underwater grasses that live in the Bay. While cloudier than usual, we still could pick out large stands of widgeon grass, wild celery and some hydrilla. I found it awe-inspiring to be out in the middle of almost 10,000 acres of underwater grasses.

It will be interesting to see next time what impact the record rainfalls and associated nutrient and sediment load increases will have on Bay water quality and the abundance of the underwater grasses.

We will see if the resiliency we are trying to build by putting best management practices on the land will help to minimize any potentially adverse impacts to water quality, underwater grass fisheries and habitats.

The Bay Program’s scientists will undoubtedly be making comparisons to Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, and other high-flow events to see if the resilience of the Bay ecosystem is improving as much as we have been working toward.

About the author: Jim Edward is the Acting Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He plays a lead role in coordinating the U.S. EPA’s activities with other federal agencies and works with state and local authorities to improve the water quality and living resources of the Bay.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Voluntary, partnership approaches reduce nutrients in Colorado’s Cherry Creek Watershed

By Ayn Schmit

In late September the Cherry Creek Stewardship Partners and the Cherry Creek Basin Water Quality Authority hosted managers from EPA Region 8’s Office of Water Protection for a tour of local efforts to address phosphorus and other pollution and to better manage stormwater. The Stewardship Partners organization was formed 20 years ago in recognition that solving water pollution concerns was only possible if the many jurisdictions and organizations in the Cherry Creek watershed worked together and pooled their resources and brainpower.

The Cherry Creek watershed is home to many people in the southeast Denver Metro area, including parts of Denver, Aurora, Littleton and Parker. We started our morning at the iconic Cherry Creek State Park (the most visited state park in Colorado!) and learned about the accumulation of phosphorus in Cherry Creek Reservoir. Soils in the area are naturally high in phosphorus, and as a result, erosion along many of the creeks brings this additional phosphorus into the reservoir. Add urban wastewater and the runoff of lawn fertilizer, pet waste, and other sources of nutrients into the mix and you end up with a complex set of challenges for local water and wastewater officials to navigate. The Cherry Creek Basin Water Quality Authority is at the heart of these challenges as it works with many partners to meet phosphorus limits in the reservoir.

Our next visit was in Parker, where the recently completed Reuter-Hess Reservoir provides for a growing demand for drinking water. Parker and other communities are looking to integrate their management of wastewater, drinking water and stormwater to enable multiple cycles of reuse. One innovative example is working with developers to use natural drainages to filter nutrients and other stormwater pollutants running off driveways and streets, and allow it to percolate and move more slowly down the watershed. Imagine a new house with your own creek out your back door! And — in a win-win for developers and the environment — local stormwater managers figured out how to do this without losing any housing sites at a large development coming into the area.

Southeast Metro Stormwater rain garden, Centennial, Colorado

Southeast Metro Stormwater rain garden, Centennial, Colorado

Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority model rain garden, Centennial, Colo.
Next, we stopped in to visit a rain garden in the ‘front yard’ of the Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority. Planted with native grasses rippling in the breeze, it is a beautiful oasis and a testament to designing with nature.

Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park, Centennial, Colorado

Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park, Centennial, Colorado

Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park, Centennial, Colo.
The final stop was the ‘crown jewel’ of the tour — a 25-acre park featuring restored riparian areas along Cherry Creek in the middle of the town of Centennial. The Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park blends restored riparian areas and wetlands, where the slopes of the Creek were reshaped and replanted with native vegetation. A wooden boardwalk winds through wetland areas, and playful ‘rock’ drop structures maintain the Creek channel while providing a place for kids to splash and play in the water. Sure enough, while we were visiting, a large group of preschool children and their teachers and parents were taking full advantage of the sunny day to enjoy the water and hop across the rocks.

This project is an inspiring collaboration between Urban Drainage and Flood Control, Arapaho County, Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority, Parker Jordan Metropolitan Authority District and others. The park’s features reduce erosion of phosphorus-laden sediment that would end up in Cherry Creek Reservoir, while providing a fantastic nature-based educational amenity for local residents. The pride that the watershed partners take in this project was very evident and well deserved!

EPA appreciated the opportunity to learn about the great work the Cherry Creek Stewardship Partners and their member organizations are doing. Seeing locally led water quality protection in action reminds us why we do what we do!

About the author: Ayn Schmit is Senior Adviser in the Region 8 Office of Water Protection.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.