Eastern Shore, Maryland

An egret on the verge of taking flight in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Photo by Kevin Moore. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Kevin Moore.

About CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore Office

Since 1990, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has been committed to protecting and restoring the remarkable Eastern Shore waterways for us and future generations. Yet unhealthy development patterns and too much pollution from farms, stormwater, and sewage continue to threaten this special place. Right now is the most important moment in the history of CBF's Save the Bay™ effort, and the Eastern Shore is a critical place where these efforts to restore the health of our waterways must succeed.

The communities on the Shore can be models of environmental stewardship for the rest of the Bay region, and we can leave our children and grandchildren cleaner water, make our Bay and rivers once again teem with grasses, crabs, and oysters, and create jobs all at the same time. Our primary focus is to strengthen the work of Eastern Shore communities to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and to defend the Blueprint against attacks from those who want to see it fail.

Example of a large chicken facility in Maryland.(Google Earth) Inset - example of pens commonly used in chicken facilities. (iStock) (Left) One of several large chicken operations on Maryland's Eastern Shore. (Google Earth)   (Right)  An example of a common industrial chicken operation. (iStock)

Reducing Phosphorus Pollution in Maryland

Phosphorus is one of the three major pollutants affecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Excess phosphorus contributes to dead zones—areas with low levels of oxygen where marine life cannot live—in creeks, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.

One of the largest sources of phosphorus is manure. In fact, farm land where manure is applied as fertilizer has, on average, three times more phosphorus runoff than land not receiving manure.

phosphorus pollution by source

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The latest University of Maryland estimates show that nearly half of Maryland farm fields are polluting rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay due to excessive levels of phosphorus from manure. This problem is especially troubling on the Eastern Shore, where the Maryland Department of the Environment estimates that farmers apply 228,000 tons of excess poultry manure a year on Eastern Shore farm fields. The Eastern Shore's Choptank River is the only major river in Maryland where phosphorus pollution is on the rise.

As part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, Maryland is required to reduce phosphorus pollution 48 percent by 2025. The state's Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) includes methods for achieving that goal. One of the most important methods is reducing the amount of phosphorous applied to fields that have the highest risk of phosphorus runoff, which pollutes local waters, especially on the Eastern Shore. Enter the Phosphorus Management Tool, a science-based method of identifying the fields that contain the most phosphorous and have the highest risk of phosphorus runoff.

How the Phosphorus Management Tool Works

Phosphorus, like nitrogen and other nutrients, is vital to crops. However, like nitrogen, when there is more phosphorus in the soil than the crops can take up, the excess runs off the field and into nearby streams. Soil can be tested to determine how much phosphorus it contains, and is then classified as having "low," "medium," "optimum," or "excessive" amounts. In addition to how much excess phosphorus is in the soil, the Phosphorus Management Tool takes into consideration the slope of the land, type of soil, and proximity of waters—all factors that affect the likelihood that excess phosphorus will find its way into local waterways.

New Maryland state regulations use the Phosphorus Management Tool to identify hot spots where the soil is saturated with phosphorus and where other factors signify a high risk of runoff. Future applications of manure would be limited in such areas and farmers directed to implement techniques to remove some of the excess.

The Phosphorus Management Tool reflects more than 10 years of research conducted by University of Maryland scientists in collaboration with regional and national experts. Revising and updating the tool is an element of Maryland's Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), the federally mandated document created by the state to outline specific steps it will take to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay.

Implementation is Long Overdue

These regulations have been in the works for years, and the Maryland Department of Agriculture already delayed implementation twice in response to concerns by some farmers who may be affected. The most recent version of the draft regulations were issued in the Maryland Register on December 1, 2014. This version reflects a number of changes requested by farmers, including a six-year, extended phase-in period to allow farmers more time to transition to practices that reduce pollution.

Still, the Farm Bureau, Perdue and other chicken growers, and some farmers are continuing to fight implementation of these important regulations addressing a major source of phosphorus pollution.

Through our long years of cooperative problem solving with farmers, our devotion to supporting scientifically sound policy changes, and our own experience running Clagett Farm, CBF understands the trepidation some farmers feel toward the new regulations.

Some individual farmers may shoulder an additional financial burden under the PMT, which is why we have supported cost share programs to mitigate the potential of increasing costs to affected farmers. We continue to support these programs, and believe that, in addition, big agricultural corporations should help pay for the cost of cleaning up the manure their chickens produce.

At the same time, not all agricultural producers will be negatively impacted by the new PMT regulations, and in fact, some will benefit from greater availability of manure fertilizer that they can readily use on fields that need additional phosphorus. Costs and benefits will shift geographically based on the location of fields that can use additional phosphorus. A recent economic analysis on the regulations affirms that the PMT will not economically ruin the agricultural industry on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

The Economics of the PMT

Reducing pollution from agriculture is one of the most cost-effective ways—acre for acre, and pound for pound—to restore local water quality and the Bay. It's a much better "bang for the buck" than other, more costly solutions like wastewater treatment plant upgrades, which have already been done, supported by tax dollars.

Practices like the PMT that reduce pollution are also estimated to provide additional economic benefits in Maryland of $4.6 billion per year if the Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented. Thanks to improvements in soil health and productivity, benefits from Maryland's agricultural lands will increase by more than $73 million per year.

Additionally, the PMT presents an opportunity for economic growth and innovation through the potential for new technologies to process, transport, and export excess phosphorus once the new regulation is implemented. While restoring water quality, these new regulations also provide a reliable supply of phosphorus for new companies seeking to develop methods to make phosphorus more readily available and transportable to American and international markets where phosphorus is a limited commodity.

Likewise, companies have already successfully tested new technologies to convert manure into energy, and simply lack the positive economic pressure the PMT regulation would provide to invest in scaling up pilot projects to commercial scale—thus making these technologies into a cost-effective solution for our current manure crisis.

We all need to do our part to restore clean water across Maryland and on the Eastern Shore. If we don't begin to put these changes to agricultural practices into action—practices that we know cause a significant amount of pollution to local streams, groundwater, and the Bay—we will fail to meet the goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Without implementation of the PMT, Eastern Shore creeks and rivers will remain polluted, unsafe for swimming and fishing. Crabs, oysters and other marine life will continue to suffer from the pollution.

A Saved Bay = A Better Economy for Maryland worth $4.5 Billion per year

Report Identifies Natural Benefits of Restored Bay

A first-ever peer-reviewed analysis released by CBF finds that the economic benefits provided by nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will total $130 billion annually when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the regional plan to restore the Bay, is fully implemented.

Image of blue crabs and June 2014 milestone reports. Blue crab photo by Kristi Carroll/CBF StaffBlue crabs photo by Kristi Carroll/CBF Staff

Milestone Analysis: Pollution Reduced, Agriculture and Urban Runoff Reductions Falling Short

Many Eastern Shore counties report little effort to clean local creeks

Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) Milestones, two-year commitments made by the Bay states and District of Columbia to reduce pollution, are a key part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. An analysis of the 2012-2013 Milestones showed Maryland met its pollution-reduction goals for 2013. However, a closer look at the data reveals the state has a long way to go to meet the 2017 and 2025 goals. Maryland Assessment    Read the press release

On an even more local level, CBF's Eastern Shore Office and the Choose Clean Water Coalition (CCWC) released a two-page report that summarizes progress of counties on the Eastern Shore in cleaning the water in their local creeks and rivers over the past two years. The findings were not encouraging. Eastern Shore Assesment    Read the press release

Morley's Wharf on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Photo by Dianne AppelPhoto by Dianne Appel

Candidate Education on the Eastern Shore

The next four years will be pivotal in cleaning up local rivers, creeks and the Bay. How can Eastern Shore counties do their part? CBF is pleased to co-sponsor a new publication called 5 Actions Your Next Local Elected Officials Should take for Clean Water. It's a short, easy-to-read summary of proven, cost-effective measures that candidates for local office should be aware of this election year.

5 ThingsChallenges like polluted runoff, excess fertilizer, and growth management create local problems that need local solutions. Meanwhile on Maryland's Eastern Shore, nearly every seat on county councils and commissions is up for grabs in the general election. Where do candidates who might be our next decision makers stand on the issues that matter most to you? This pocket-sized checklist can help focus conversation around meaningful ways to make our local waterways and the Bay clean and healthy.

Download your copy, and share with your friends, family, and co-workers. Now more than ever, local leaders need to be prepared to deliver clean water solutions. As the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint continues to guide progress, our communities and those elected to represent us must be familiar with strategies that work to finish the job of restoring the Bay. Our children and grandchildren will benefit from good decisions made by county and municipal officials. 

5 Actions Your Next Local Elected Officials Should take for Clean Water is co-sponsored by local and regional conservation groups active on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Join us in working together to educate elected community leaders about things that can be done for clean water when they are in office. 

The capitol dome in Annapolis viewed from Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Donna Rice.The capitol dome in Annapolis viewed from Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Donna Rice.

2014 Maryland Legislative Session Wrapup

Sometimes status quo is a good thing. In an election year it can even be viewed as success.

This year's session of the Maryland General Assembly was a success because it sustained the substantial progress we achieved over the past few years. We fought off attempts to derail that progress. We kept important programs funded at current or expanded levels. Where necessary, we made compromises, but never on fundamental issues.

Reducing Polluted Runoff
Defense of the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program was CBF's top priority in the legislative session that ended April 7, and we succeeded.  Despite fierce attacks against the "rain tax" law passed in 2012 CBF and our partners helped defeat 20 bills to repeal or weaken that law.

CBF and its partners also blunted a last-ditch maneuver during the budget process that would have weakened the law.  In the end there was a compromise that clarifies only two counties—Carroll and Frederick—have flexibility on how they pay for critical, pollution reduction measures. But those counties still must do the work necessary to clean their local waters.  

The legislature also approved record state spending to help reduce polluted runoff, including 39.4 million in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund and 25 million in capital funding that will help local governments and an additional 45 million in the Capital funding for  Maryland State Highway Administration to address its polluted runoff. Attempts to scale back that funding were defeated.

Polluted runoff is the main source of pollution to many urban and suburban rivers and creeks. (See how polluted runoff affects your local rivers and creeks.) Dedicated local funding combined with substantial state funding to fix that problem will provide a huge boon to residents in our cities and suburbs, and to the Bay. With this funding local governments can repair badly neglected stormwater pipes and culverts, but also install modern "green infrastructure" at important drainage points to soak up and treat the runoff. 

Other Session Highlights

This session was also about balancing individual wants with the common good. These compromises will help watermen, farmers and others, but not at the expense of our progress toward clean water, healthy fisheries and sustainable communities.

  • Oyster restoration: Rather than passing a bill that would have put the state's oyster restoration plan at risk, a compromise was reached that addresses concerns of both watermen and restoration advocates. Local watermen will receive 60,000 bushels of fresh shell to use at will, whether for aquaculture or to set on reefs to grow new oysters in the wild. A joint pilot project between the Department of Natural Resources and the watermen will receive an additional 20,000 bushels of shell. The project will be used to determine if natural repopulation in the wild can produce more oysters than using fresh shell in the state's hatchery.  This compromise retains most of the 400,000  bushels of available shells for more scientifically sound oyster production on sanctuary reefs and through oyster farming. Learn more about CBF's oyster restoration efforts.
  • Wastewater:  Legislation passed that will permit the use of state funds to help pay for limited hook-ups to local sewer systems for houses on failing septics. These connections can only be made in instances where the public health is at risk. In order to use these funds, however, local governments must avoid opening up new areas to development and must demonstrate that running a new sewer line to a limited number of homes will result in a net reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.
  • Land preservation and renewable energy: Since 1977, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program has purchased easements for more than 295,000 acres of farmland, protecting that land from development and preserving Maryland’s rich agricultural heritage. Over the past few years, several bills have been put forward that would have opened up these protected farms to unlimited development for commercial renewable energy generation. CBF has worked to defeat these bills.  This year, a compromise policy passed allowing farmers who have land preservation easements to lease out a limited amount of that land (no more than 5 acres total) for renewable energy projects.  In return, the energy companies must provide additional funds for land conservation.  The policy has a five-year sunset period, after which it will be reviewed to see what impact it has had on Maryland’s land preservation efforts. 
  • Phosphorous pollution: Leading up to this session, and in its initial weeks, there was much debate over whether or not the science demonstrated that Maryland needed to better manage phosphorous on our farms. Many farms apply manure to their fields as fertilizer, often resulting in high concentrations of phosphorus runoff into nearby streams.  CBF stands by the science and are pleased that the debate seems to be shifting from whether or not we need a new tool for managing phosphorus levels to a discussion of the impacts that tool has on the farming community and what resources are needed to help transition to a new phosphorus management tool. In response to concerns over proposed state regulations of phosphorus application on farmlands, legislators agreed to an economic study of the impact the new regulations would have on farmers; no bills passed to do away with or delay the new management tool. This study will also examine the impact the regulations would have for reaching pollution reduction requirements by 2025.  

But there's never a chance to rest. In the coming months we will educate candidates in the primary and general elections for governor and legislative seats on efforts to restore the  Bay  and specific next steps they can take to advance progress. We will push the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection to hold local governments more accountable for progress reducing polluted runoff. And we'll attempt to fend off egregious sprawl development plans in Charles County, one of many local issues in which we'll be involved.

Residential stormwater runoff. Photo © 2010 Krista Schlyer/iLCPA brown river of sediment flows into a storm drain, taking chemicals, oil, and other pollutants from streets and yards with it. Photo © 2010 Krista Schlyer/iLCP 

The Facts About Polluted Runoff and Maryland's Stormwater Utility Fees

Did you know that the only source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that is still increasing is polluted runoff?

Q: What is stormwater/polluted runoff?
Q: Why has urban and suburban polluted runoff emerged as a national issue?
Q: Why has polluted runoff become a big issue in Maryland specifically?
Q: What is the Stormwater Utility Fee?
Q: Where did this fee come from? I knew nothing about it.
Q: If we already pay taxes, why does the government need to charge additional fees to restore the Bay?
Q: Why do we need a new fee? We already pay the Bay Restoration Fee ("flush tax").
Q: Why aren't other local governments beside mine included in those that must charge a fee?
Q: Am I being charged the same amount as other property owners with more pavement or hard surfaces?
Q: What about the assertion that these fees are a tax on rain (or a "rain tax")?
Q: What about the complaint that these fees represent a top-down mandate?
Q: Are the fees used locally?
Q: Why are all the fees different?
Q: Does the Chesapeake Bay Foundation receive funding from the "rain tax?"
Q: Can I have my fee reduced? I've heard some of the 10 jurisdictions are offering discounts.
Q: Don't we have bigger pollution problems to worry about? Isn't the water pollution that causes closed beaches and unsafe swim areas caused mostly by sewage spills, not polluted runoff?
Q: Do the fees hurt Maryland's business competitiveness?

Q: What is stormwater/polluted runoff?

A: As water flows off of our streets, parking lots, and building rooftops, it picks up fertilizers, pesticides, oil, and automotive fluids, pet waste, sediment, and other pollutants. This simple process—untreated stormwater flowing through gutters and storm drains—pollutes our rivers and streams and threatens our drinking water. It also causes problems like local flooding of streets and homes, beach closures, fish advisories, and sewage system overflows.

Q: Why has urban and suburban polluted runoff emerged as a national issue?

A: Up until about the 1980s, builders didn’t know much about the problems associated with polluted runoff. They just designed developments to flush the water off the property quickly. Now we realize runoff should be slowed down, and soaked up, where possible.

In fact, in the Chesapeake Bay region, this sort of pollution is the only major pollution sector still on the rise. Air pollution is down, as is pollution from wastewater treatment plants and agriculture. Urban and suburban runoff is the last nut to crack.

Q: Why has polluted runoff become a big issue in Maryland specifically?

A: Maryland's cities and suburban areas contain some of the highest concentrations of impervious surfaces in the whole Chesapeake Bay watershed. And, not surprisingly, the state also has a huge list of waterways that are officially considered polluted. In fact, the "impaired waters" list includes waterways in every county in the state. Damage from this pollution to the Chesapeake Bay is also dramatic, because Maryland's concentrated areas of urban and suburban development are close in proximity to the Bay compared to urbanized areas in most of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint requires each of the Bay states to reduce pollution or be subject to consequences for failure. But polluted runoff has ramifications far beyond the health of the Bay. This pollution damages local rivers and streams, is often responsible for expensive flooding, and, especially after a significant rainfall, can put human health at risk.

Q: What is the Stormwater Utility Fee?

A: In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 987, the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program. This legislation required the 10 largest and most urban jurisdictions to set fees to address their polluted runoff problems.  These 10 urban areas have the most land that doesn't allow water to filter slowly (impervious area), and they are also the only jurisdictions in Maryland charged with meeting very strict federal Clean Water Act permits. At the request of the Maryland Association of Counties, the law allowed localities to set a fee at whatever level they wished, based on their needs.

Q: Where did this fee come from? I knew nothing about it.

A: HB 987 was debated in the Maryland General Assembly in 2012. The media reported the debate. Also, nearly identical bills were debated in previous sessions of the legislature and reported by the media. Some counties and municipalities have been holding similar debates for several years as they tried to find a way to finance the upgrade of their neglected and outdated stormwater systems.

Some counties and municipalities have had similar fees in place for decades. For example, Prince George's County has assessed a tax for polluted runoff since 1986. Bowie has charged commercial properties a fee to address polluted runoff since 1988. A number of other areas implemented similar fees in the 1990s and 2000s.

Q: If we already pay taxes, why does the government need to charge additional fees to restore the Bay?

A: With all the challenges they face, state and local governments have generally chosen to do the minimum required to reduce polluted runoff. HB 987 gave a nudge to local governments to act, but left it up to them to determine the size of their local fee. With an adequate fee, the local government can implement practical, proven solutions that were previously too expensive, or that could have only been done if money was taken from other important social services. The fee also provides important leverage for financing projects with bonds or state revolving loans. Regardless of financing option, local creeks and rivers will get cleaner only to the degree local officials fund needed work. Little or no new funding will continue to mean dirty, unhealthy local waters.

Q: Why do we need a new fee? We already pay the Bay Restoration Fee ("flush tax").

A: The Bay Restoration Fund or "flush tax" money goes to upgrading sewage plants. The money is being well spent. Most major plants in the state have been upgraded or are being upgraded, reducing nitrogen pollution into local waters by more than six million pounds a year. The flush tax was doubled in 2012 to finish the job of upgrading sewage plants. The stormwater fee goes to upgrade the stormwater system—the ponds, pipes, gutters, and other structures that are supposed to channel and treat polluted runoff before it reaches creeks. That spending will provide substantial, additional pollution reductions in each community.

Q: Why aren't other local governments beside mine included in those that must charge a fee?

A: The problem is most severe in the 10 jurisdictions that were mandated to charge some level of fee, due to the large amount of impervious surface in those areas. And those are the only local jurisdictions already required by detailed Clean Water Act permits to deal with this problem. Many other counties in Maryland that are more rural don't discharge as much polluted runoff into local creeks and rivers.

Q: Am I being charged the same amount as other property owners with more pavement or hard surfaces?

A: Each of the 10 local governments was given complete freedom to decide not only the size of the fee, but how it was collected. Some opted to charge property owners with more "impervious surfaces" higher fees. Other jurisdictions opted for a "flat fee." The ten jurisdictions took different approaches.  Find more information here about your jurisdiction's approach, or contact your local government for even more detailed information.

Q: What about the assertion that these fees are a tax on rain (or a "rain tax")?

A: That moniker is catchy but blatantly false. It is designed to mislead and confuse. The truth is that we are talking about a fee to reduce pollution from water that washes off hard surfaces and empties into local waterways. Runoff pollution is real—it is responsible for no-swimming advisories and beach closures in local waters, fish consumption advisories, and dead zones in the Bay that can't support aquatic life. It also causes localized flooding and property damage. And in many areas, it is the largest source of pollution.

The bottom line is that this work must be done. There are federal and state requirements to reduce runoff pollution from urban and suburban areas. A fee on impervious surface is the best model to do this because the fee is connected to the cause of the pollution. If counties don't implement stormwater fees, they will need to raise the revenue by other means, such as property taxes or income taxes.

Q: What about the complaint that these fees represent a top-down mandate?

A: It is true that the General Assembly required the fee. But the General Assembly also gave the counties the flexibility to design a fee structure that meets our unique needs. This is not a "one size fits all" policy. Counties have the leeway to develop local policies to address their local runoff pollution problems.

Q: Are the fees used locally?

A: Yes! The fees are collected by the county or city, and used only in the county or city that collects them, to fix polluted runoff problems. The money will never go into a state fund, and there is accountability and transparency.

The fee are used for simple, proven solutions that work by slowing down and absorbing much of the polluted runoff. These solutions include planting trees, planting vegetation around streams, restoring stream beds, and using rain barrels and rain gardens. These local projects not only reduce pollution and improve water quality, but also make our communities more beautiful, reduce flooding, and create jobs. Scientific monitoring will verify that the projects are effective and efficient.

Q: Why are all the fees different?

A: Each county and city is unique, and so are their water quality problems. The Maryland Association of Counties, a non-profit association representing the needs of local government to the Maryland General Assembly, requested that the state law provide flexibility that allowed each jurisdiction to address these differences. Each county or city therefore can set its own fee. The approach taken by each county has varied, but the approach that provides the greatest benefit to local communities is setting a fee that reflects the jurisdiction’s estimated cost of compliance with Clean Water Act permits and cost of restoring local streams and rivers. Despite the amount of work needed to restore Maryland's rivers and streams, Maryland's polluted runoff fees are lower than those in quite a few other states.

Q: Does the Chesapeake Bay Foundation receive funding from the "rain tax?"

A: Absolutely not. Neither do we receive a penny of funding from the Bay Restoration Fund, or "flush fee." These are government initiatives. We are a non-profit, private agency.

Q: Can I have my fee reduced? I've heard some of the 10 jurisdictions are offering discounts.

A: HB987 required all of the 10 local governments affected to offer some type of credits or discounts if a property owner takes steps to reduce polluted runoff from his land. Find more information here, or contact your local government.

Q: Don't we have bigger pollution problems to worry about? Isn't the water pollution that causes closed beaches and unsafe swim areas caused mostly by sewage spills, not polluted runoff?

A: Polluted runoff from city and suburban landscapes is the only major type of water pollution that is increasing in the region. Pollution from farms, sewage plants, and other sources is decreasing. Thanks to the "flush fee," for example, we've dramatically reduced nitrogen pollution from sewage plants. A handful of sewer systems in the state are so old it will take many years more to stop recurring spills and overflows. Spills from those systems can play a major role in beach closings. But Sally Hornor, a microbiologist with Anne Arundel Community College who has tested county water for years, says bacteria from polluted runoff is the culprit in unsafe swim areas far more often. Sewage spills are occasional. Polluted runoff occurs after every storm generating about one-half inch of rain or more.

Q: Do the fees hurt Maryland's business competitiveness?

A: Forward-thinking community leaders believe the benefit to communities from addressing polluted runoff far outweigh the speculative concern that businesses will relocate. And if businesses consider relocating to Delaware, Pennsylvania, or Virginia instead of Maryland, they might be surprised to learn that 18 local jurisdictions in Virginia, eight local governments in West Virginia, at least two municipalities in Delaware (including the largest, Wilmington), and several in Pennsylvania already have stormwater fee systems in place—and these numbers are growing. Nationwide, more than 1,400 jurisdictions—including large cities like Houston and Tampa—have similar policies in place—and they are working.

Low tide off Kent Island. Photo by Michael Rhian DriscollTide pools cover the sand at low tide on Kent Island. Photo by Michael Rhian Driscoll

A Case Study in Where and How Not to Grow:
Four Seasons, Kent Island, Queen Anne's County, MD

Maryland has made progress managing development in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Unfortunately, the proposed Four Seasons project in Queen Anne's County, which illustrates what we shouldn't be doing, is a striking reminder that we still have a way to go.

If constructed, Four Seasons at Kent Island would be one of the largest major subdivisions in Maryland's Critical Area history.

First proposed by a New Jersey developer in the 1990's and approved more than 10 years ago, this subdivision—on 425 acres of farmland between the banks of the Chester River and Cox Creek—is the wrong project in the wrong place. It was ill-conceived then and it remains ill-conceived.  More than 1,000 units of housing are proposed within Maryland's Critical Area, on mostly flat land that is significantly vulnerable to current flooding during heavy rains and the certainty of more and more storm surges as sea level rises.

The problems here are scale (way too big), design (1980's sprawl instead of clustered and compact, with small-scale, green runoff practices), and location (where flooding is commonplace and will become more so, on the banks of two bodies of water). The other problem—a big one—is that development would occur in the face of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, which requires a reduction in polluted runoff, but which wasn't in effect when the project was approved. 

Developers and those in the county who support this project argue:

  • it complies with the Comprehensive Plan and zoning and has all local approvals necessary for the first phase;
  • it obtained a "growth allocation," permission from the Critical Area Commission to develop land which ordinarily is protected by law;
  • it has sewer and water;
  • and there is other development nearby. 

The developer has also agreed to "voluntarily" give up 131-acres across the creek, move polluted runoff outfalls out of tidal wetlands, and raise first floors a couple of feet.

But none of these statements means the project is a good one, nor in the right place.

The facts are:

  • even the Comprehensive Plan is unclear. While the project's development site is recognized, the Stevensville/Chester Community Plan language is actually critical of such major projects;
  • growth allocation was granted 11 years ago, before the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and the latest science on sea level rise;
  • there is development nearby, but the land targeted for Four Seasons is situated in a uniquely sensitive area between the Chester River and Cox Creek;
  • access to the 131 acres across the creek was problematic for the developer given that permission was denied for a crossing at the creek; 
  • it makes no sense to build stormwater outfalls where they could be overwhelmed and undermined by tides, but there will still be increased levels of polluted runoff to the Bay;
  • and, unless the buildings were raised, storm surge flooding would have become an even more destructive.

A final consideration is the developer's environmental record. Not too long ago it paid huge fines to the federal government for failure to manage polluted runoff requirements from its construction operations.

The bottom line is, does putting a project of this magnitude make sense for Kent Island,

  • where traffic is already a problem, with limited ingress and egress;
  • where flooding regularly occurs and more serious, climate-related flooding is a near-certainty;
  • and where the massive subdivision would drain into a river and a creek that are important tributaries of a Bay struggling—and under federal mandate—to recover? 

In other words, does this project make sense?

The straightforward answer is no.

What About the Next Development Proposal?

There are many steps citizens and state and local leaders can take to make situations like this less likely to occur.

  • Maryland's Board of Public Works, which must grant a license to projects disturbing any tidal wetlands, can be given the authority to look more comprehensively at a project of this size and location.
  • The Critical Area Commission could be given more authority to review, shape or reject applications for growth in sensitive areas.
  • There could be a more comprehensive review process for developments like this, which have potentially substantial public health and safety, and environmental implications.
  • A process could be developed to address grandfathered projects or those with old "development rights agreements" where circumstances have obviously changed.    

A living shoreline project in Salisbury, Maryland. Photo by CBF Staff.CBF has been supporting restoration efforts on the Eastern Shore for years. Above, volunteers plant trees as part of a farm conservation program at Harleigh Farm. Photo by Margaret Enloe/CBF Staff.

Engaging Eastern Shore Communities to Save the Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) educates and motivates Eastern Shore residents to support clean water efforts through a range of community events. From ice cream socials to public forums to planting trees in downtown Cambridge, CBF recognizes that in order to be successful, Bay restoration must start at the community level.

Last November, CBF and partner organizations initiated “Clean Water Week”—a week-long celebration of bringing back the health of local rivers and streams complete with music, film, art, and educational talks and clean water tips. The event drew and inspired hundreds of engaged citizens concerned about the health of our waters.

A few weeks prior, CBF participated in Fresh Coat Pine Street, a community building event intended to cultivate citizen interest and participation in stewardship by organizing volunteers to provide maintenance and repairs at downtown residence and business locations throughout Cambridge, Maryland.

Just recently, CBF participated in Plein Air-Easton! Competition and Arts Festival to reconnect with individuals about the importance of clean water, what we’re doing to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams, and how others can help.

Further, CBF continues to cultivate a strong group of clean water advocates to stand up for the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Earlier this year, we convened 13 conservation partners to initiate a citizen activist training called Clear Voices—Clean Water Call to Action, which offered an overview of why now is the moment in time for Bay restoration. More than 60 citizens participated from across the Eastern Shore.

CBF continues to organize citizens to communicate clean water messages to Congressman Andrew Harris. Harris has suggested that federal action to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is an impediment to local efforts by communities, counties and states to restore clean water for our children, families, and the next generation. However, many scientists agree that the Blueprint is the Bay's best hope for recovery after decades of failure and inaction. Residents of the area—where the Bay is so close to the places people live, work, and play—routinely tell us how important clean water is to their livelihoods.  CBF's efforts to highlight how out-of-synch Harri' views are with those of the many who live and work on the Shore in his district is a main focus of CBF's growing presence.

CBF's Eastern Shore Office

102 East Dover St.
Easton, MD 21601

Eastern Shore Director Alan Girard. Photo by Margaret Vivian.
Alan Girard
Eastern Shore Director

From the Desk of Alan Girard
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Tuckahoe Creek Discovery Paddle Trip (MD)
Sat, 16 May 2015
10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

More Events

In the News

04.17.15 - Bel Air High Students Have Class on the Bay

04.16.15 - Phosphorus reg, fracking, stormwater fees, plastics all win General Assembly action

04.15.15 - Chesapeake Bay's surprising wins

04.15.15 - Talbot should support roadside ditch program

04.14.15 - Still a 'rain tax' by any other name?

04.14.15 - Council opts for reason on stormwater

04.14.15 - Rain tax repeal enacted; lone legislator says bill repeals little

04.14.15 - Hogan and legislators veered close, but wound up far apart

04.13.15 - Talbot County should fund ditch project

04.11.15 - Clean Water Forum informs Talbot residents

04.10.15 - Debate Continues on Dredging the Conowingo

04.09.15 - Stormwater fee bill unloved, but deserves backing

04.08.15 - Chesapeake Christian School Students Help Turtle Population Thrive

04.08.15 - Tuscarora High biology students plan to protect the oysters

04.07.15 - Talbot County Ditches Can Help Save the Bay

04.07.15 - Court faults state oversight of storm-water cleanup efforts

04.05.15 - Will dredging alleviate the Conowingo Dam sediment issue?

04.03.15 - Clean water forum set for Thursday

04.02.15 - Miller Gets it Right on 'Rain Tax' Repeal

04.01.15 - Pilot ditch project starts in Royal Oak

03.26.15 - Chicken poop to power means winners on all fronts

03.25.15 - Midshipman honored for rain barrel project

03.25.15 - Bipartisanship efforts yield improved 'rain tax'

03.25.15 - Bill aims to temporarily stall county WIPs

03.25.15 - Sweet smell of success

03.24.15 - Hogan claims he has done more for Bay in '60 days' than O'Malley could 'in eight years'

03.24.15 - Agreement reached on Md. phosphorus regulations

03.23.15 - Maryland Has a Plan to Turn Chicken Poop into Energy

03.23.15 - Lawmakers reach PMT deal

03.22.15 - New plan seeks to turn chicken manure to energy

03.20.15 - City leaders doing right by business, clean water

03.19.15 - Video Hogan's PMT Moves Forward as Compromise is Reached

03.18.15 - CBF Press Release Join Environmental Statement on Hogan Administration's Revised Phosphorus Regulations

03.18.15 - Hogan, lawmakers reach compromise on chicken manure rules for farms

03.18.15 - Hogan, Democrats reach deal on farm pollution

03.18.15 - MD reaches compromise on phosphorus management tool

03.16.15 - CBF Press Release CBF to Help Midshipman in Barrels by the Bay Project

03.16.15 - Poll finds Marylanders confused over 'rain tax'

03.13.15 - The Bay matters

03.11.15 - Scientists: Road salts can harm water resources

03.09.15 - Take the Classroom Outdoors

03.04.15 - Video The Phosphorus Dialogues: Alan Girard and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

03.04.15 - Around South County: Shady Side 5th graders save the bay, one notecard at a time

03.04.15 - Hucker to Testify Against Bill to Repeal State's Stormwater Management Protection

03.03.15 - Alison Prost: Don't Backtrack on the Bay

03.03.15 - Video Rain Tax Hearing Gets Stormy in Annapolis

03.03.15 - Sen. Mikulski announces retirement

03.03.15 - Trailblazer's departure leaves multiple voids

03.03.15 - President Obama, others on Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski

03.03.15 - Sen. Mikulski announces retirement

03.02.15 - Mikulski to retire

03.02.15 - CBF Press Statement CBF: A National Treasure is Retiring

02.27.15 - CBF Press Statement Joint Environmental Statement on Hogan Administration's Proposed Phosphorus Regulations

02.24.15 - Senate bill counters Hogan's phosphorus regs

02.24.15 - Lawmakers scrutinize Hogan farm pollution rules, mull taking own action

02.24.15 - New Phosphorus Rules from Governor

02.24.15 - Audio available "Rain Tax" Repeal: Campaign Fodder But a Budget Headache

02.24.15 - Hogan announces 'enhanced' phosphorus management tool

02.24.15 - Gov. Hogan rolls out new phosphorus management plan

02.24.15 - Hogan announces fertilizer rules

02.23.15 - Let's follow Arkansas', Oklahoma's lead in controlling phosphorus

02.23.15 - Hogan proposes curbs on farm pollution

02.23.15 - Gov. Hogan to address phosphorus regs today

02.20.15 - Hogan names Neall, Brady as UM regents

02.17.15 - Prost: "Rain Tax"

02.17.15 - Compromise over PMT sought for Hogan in Md.

02.16.15 - MD lawmakers introduce phosphorus rules bills in both chambers

02.15.15 - Audio available "Rain Tax" Repeal Brings Debate, Possible Lawsuits

02.11.15 - Video Promise kept: Gov. Larry Hogan's bill would repeal rain tax

02.10.15 - Larry Hogan aims to kill Martin O'Malley's 'rain tax'

02.10.15 - Gov. Hogan: No more taxing the rain

02.10.15 - Hogan unveils bill to repeal 'rain tax'

02.10.15 - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wants to kill the hated 'rain tax.' But can he?

02.10.15 - CBF Press Statement Governor's Stormwater Repeal Bill Would Take State Backwards

02.07.15 - Governor Hogan, don't backtrack on the Chesapeake Bay

02.06.15 - Environmentalists criticize Hogan for waterway pollution regulation

02.05.15 - New survey finds higher menhaden totals

02.05.15 - Environmentalists troubled by Hogan's prescription for restoring Bay

02.04.15 - CBF Press Statement Environment Committee Members Co-Sponsor Manure Solution Bill

02.04.15 - Report: Chesapeake an ecosystem in recovery

02.03.15 - Students Urged to Play Important Role in Future of Environment

02.03.15 - Video Maryland's female blue crab population 'dangerously' low, Chesapeake Bay report shows

02.03.15 - Senate measure sees unlikely support over Conowingo Dam

02.02.15 - The first rule of the Phosphorus Symposium: No one talks about the PMT

02.01.15 - Phosphorus management is common sense

01.28.15 - Environmental group warns of water supply damage in light of Hogan decision

01.28.15 - Hogan halts O'Malley regulations on fertilizer, coal power

01.28.15 - Eastern Shore planners discuss vision of rural prosperity

01.27.15 - Obama administration proposes offshore Atlantic drilling

01.27.15 - Hogan misses Republican dad's lesson on pollution

01.27.15 - Hogan shelves chicken manure rules

01.25.15 - Counties reconsider stormwater fees

01.23.15 - New Maryland Governor Opens an Assault on Environmental Protections

01.22.15 - Hogan's budget cuts environment funds, phosphorus regs

01.22.15 - CBF Press Statement Sad Day for Maryland

01.22.15 - Backtracking on the Bay

01.22.15 - PMT among regulations pulled by Hogan

01.22.15 - Hogan pulls back O'Malley regulations

01.21.15 - Newly minted Maryland governor pulls stronger phosphorus regs at last moment

01.21.15 - A new day dawns: Gov. Hogan ditches phosphorus regulations

01.21.15 - Counties aren't waiting for Larry Hogan to take on the 'rain tax'

01.20.15 - Despite protest, phosphorus rules set to change Feb. 2

01.20.15 - Audio available Chesapeake Bay Foundation Challenges Stormwater Permits

01.20.15 - Environmental group prepares legal challenge to Frederick County's stormwater permit

01.17.15 - Baltimore County plan would cut stormwater management fee

01.15.15 - The Hogan environmental agenda

01.09.15 - Review of smart-growth strategies anticipated under Hogan administration

01.09.15 - Report on bay deserves attention

01.09.15 - A manure solution for the Chesapeake Bay

01.09.15 - Report: Chesapeake Bay remains largely unchanged since 2012

01.08.15 - Counties discuss Bay, water issues

01.08.15 - A chance to save the Bay

01.06.15 - Video Chesapeake Bay Foundation Releases 2014 Report Card, Says Phosphorus Management Tool Needed

01.06.15 - CBF releases State of the Bay Report

01.05.15 - Md. groups closely watching new Congress, political landscape

01.05.15 - Video Chesapeake Bay Health Improves, But Not Enough

01.05.15 - Bay grade remains D+ despite improvements

12.23.14 - Hogan names health secretary, other posts

12.23.14 - Clean Water Funding

12.21.14 - MD leaders protect funds for bay cleanup

12.19.14 - Concrete, informed solutions, not rhetoric, are needed

12.18.14 - Little Dobbins legal battle wasn't pointless

12.17.14 - Dunloggin efforts to improve health of Chesapeake Bay gain national recognition

12.14.14 - Pending chicken manure regulations fan debate in MD

12.09.14 - It Is Easy To Be Green

12.08.14 - Larry Hogan vows fight against Martin O'Malley anti-farm regulations

12.07.14 - UPDATED: Study: Dredging Conowingo would have less impact than thought

12.01.14 - CBF fisheries director calls for vertical oyster reefs

11.26.14 - Up with oysters

11.25.14 - New fee to pay for Salisbury stormwater fixes

11.25.14 - CBF Press Release CBF: Fracking Study Sets High Bar for Gas Drilling—On Paper

11.21.14 - New App, Website Let Anglers in Md. Track Their Fishing Catch

11.20.14 - Conowingo owner may lose permit over water quality

11.19.14 - O'Malley moves on poultry phosphorus pollution

11.19.14 - New report casts doubt on importance of removing Conowingo Dam sediment in effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay

11.18.14 - Storm Water Drainage Fee the Topic at Salisbury Roundtable

11.17.14 - Phosphorus rules pushed before Gov. O'Malley's exit

11.17.14 - O'Malley pushes PMT forward

11.14.14 - Conowingo report sees praise, criticism after release

11.14.14 - Study: Nutrients, not sediment, are Bay's biggest issue

11.13.14 - Report: Conowingo Dam not major threat to Bay

11.13.14 - Scientists: Conowingo sludge not the sole solution to Bay pollution

11.12.14 - Dredging Conowingo little help to Bay, study finds

11.12.14 - Variances denied for Critical Area development

11.11.14 - Environmental groups stepping up opposition to crude oil shipments in Baltimore

11.11.14 - Panel orders rockfish harvest reduction

11.10.14 - Runners take to Bay Bridge for inaugural race

11.07.14 - Manure curbs could cost Shore farmers, study says

11.07.14 - Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project

10.30.14 - CBF Press Release CBF Issues Statement Following ASMFC Decision to Reduce Harvest of Striped Bass

10.28.14 - CBF Press Release Maxwell Wins CBF Educator of the Year

10.24.14 - A Conservation Story: Restoring Chesapeake Bay

10.23.14 - A comprehensive cleanup for the bay

10.14.14 - Ellicott City students join Gov. O'Malley on stream restoration project

10.14.14 - Video $1.7M Little Patuxent River Restoration to Help Trap Pollutants

10.13.14 - Time to implement phosphorus management tool

10.13.14 - Wicomico candidates to take on environment

10.13.14 - Bay's benefits can be boosted

10.09.14 - Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner race returns for 25th year

10.08.14 - Report quantifies Bay blueprint economic return

10.06.14 - Video Study: Chesapeake Cleanup Would Bring $22B to Region

10.06.14 - Study: Cleanup plans would boost bay's annual economic benefits by $23 billion

10.06.14 - The Conowingo: The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Weighs in

09.30.14 - Why Maryland might not be the home of crab cakes much longer

09.26.14 - Commissioners should kill Western Parkway proposal

09.24.14 - York County approves a regional agreement to reduce Chesapeake Bay pollution

09.21.14 - Wetlands to preserve wildlife and protect waterways from nutrient pollution

09.20.14 - Environmental groups cleaning up sites across Baltimore

09.19.14 - Bay Trust grants to transform city neighborhoods

09.19.14 - 165,000 baby oysters are coming to the Inner Harbor in cleanup effort

09.18.14 - Sparrows Point owner, government reach cleanup agreement

09.18.14 - Citywide cleanup, reusable bag distribution planned for Saturday

09.18.14 - New Sparrows Point owners agree to $48 million clean-up plan

09.10.14 - Harbor oyster program expands

09.03.14 - Online fundraiser aids local organizations

08.27.14 - Bay dead zone spikes in August

08.25.14 - OysterFest scheduled for Oct. 25 in St. Michaels

08.22.14 - Why is Marley Creek so clean?

08.22.14 - Unhealthy Water

08.21.14 - Storm water is a public health issue

08.20.14 - Algae flourishes after record rainfall

07.25.14 - Anne Arundel could see early bay cleanup results close to home

07.24.14 - After surviving a year of wild weather, nearly 30,000 oysters are moving out of the Inner Harbor

07.23.14 - Chesapeake Bay Foundation teaches the teachers in Glen Burnie project

07.21.14 - Spat Planted in Harris Creek

07.11.14 - Maryland's storm-water pollution efforts faulted

07.10.14 - Registration opens for Tour de Talbot

07.01.14 - Bay agreement gets stronger (editorial)

06.27.14 - Carroll settles pollution case with EPA

06.25.14 - Video Tens Of Thousands Of Oysters Survive To Make Trip To Better Water

06.25.14 - Oyster program designed to help improve the health of the Inner Harbor

06.17.14 - Video Maryland Renews Pledge To Help Clean Up Chesapeake

06.17.14 - With historic votes, Atlantic marine councils seek to protect the ocean food chain

06.16.14 - CBF Press Release: CBF Issues Statement Following the Signing of the New Bay Agreement

06.13.14 - Oxford sets tone for addressing flood risks

06.12.14 - Baltimore's position in crude oil market grows as U.S. confronts concerns

06.12.14 - Video Study Finds Reduction in Pollution in Chesapeake Bay

06.11.14 - CBF Press Release: Milestone Analysis: Pollution Reduced, Agriculture and Urban Runoff Reductions Falling Short

06.11.14 - Bay cleanup progressing but not on track, groups say

05.28.14 - USDA designates Bay watershed as Critical Conservation Area

05.27.14 - Video Court battle rages over blueprint to clean up the Chesapeake Bay; states as far as Alaska weigh in

05.27.14 - Chesapeake Bay region eligible to compete for a share of $100 million dollars annually

05.20.14 - Oxford starts stormwater management fund

04.29.14 - CBF Press Release: Battle Lines Drawn in Appeal of Bay Restoration Efforts

04.22.14 - CBF Press Statement: CBF Issues a Statement on New Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of the Blueprint


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