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.

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.

Eleventh Hour Passage of Stormwater Bill Caps Remarkable Session for Bay

The eleventh hour passage of a bill that helps reduce polluted runoff from cities and suburbs in Maryland capped a surprisingly successful session for the Chesapeake Bay in the Maryland General Assembly.

The House and Senate gave final approval to SB 863, which lets Baltimore City and the state's nine most populated counties decide how they want to pay for programs to reduce polluted runoff, but holds them more accountable for doing the job. That is a major victory for the Chesapeake Bay. Polluted runoff is the main source of contamination for many urban and suburban creeks and rivers. Yet for years local governments have neglected upkeep to their stormwater systems, and failed to meet clean-up goals set by state and federal law.

"We were holding our breath for the past few days and hours. The stormwater bill is a remarkable victory. What a turnaround for Bay issues this session," said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).

"We are grateful to Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch for their leadership on this bill. We also appreciate the help of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs and House Environment and Transportation committees," Prost said.

The session also was notable for work to reduce pollution from manure used on farm fields. Senator Pinsky and Delegate Lafferty were the chief sponsors of legislation to require farmers to apply only the amount of manure on their fields which crops can use. The bill was amended by the Senate environmental committee. That process helped bring farmers and environmentalists to the table. It also helped improve draft regulations Governor Hogan had announced. The Maryland Department of Agriculture published these improved regulations as draft on April 3rd. That initiative is expected to yield major improvements long-term in water quality in creeks and rivers on the Eastern Shore, and ultimately in the Bay.

Poultry manure contains high levels of phosphorus. Many fields of the Eastern Shore are saturated with phosphorus from years of over-application. Crops can't utilize the additional phosphorus. The excess phosphorus washes off into nearby creeks and rivers, and sparks dead zones of low oxygen. The Maryland Department of Agriculture estimated 228,000 tons of excess manure are applied to fields each year on the Shore.

Together, the efforts undertaken by the Maryland General Assembly and Governor Hogan address two of the biggest sources of pollution entering the Chesapeake–farms and urban areas.

But at the beginning of the session prospects were far from rosy. Hogan had vowed to repeal landmark legislation approved in 2012 to deal with polluted runoff. That legislation had been attacked unfairly and inaccurately for more than a year as a tax on rain. Some legislators sympathized with that attack. The governor also had rejected an earlier version of manure regulations.

"Legislative leaders heard our concerns on the stormwater issue. The original bill could have been a big setback for cleaning up waters in populated areas. They made substantial improvements in the bill," Prost said. "And Governor Hogan and lawmakers also listened to us on the manure issue. We started this session in rough waters and thankfully for the environment cooler heads and calmer winds prevailed."

Other environmental successes this session include the passage of:

Budget—Governor's Hogan's budget as introduced reflected the state's commitment to cleaning up the Bay and our local rivers and streams.  That funding has been largely left intact.  Under the leadership of Chairwoman McIntosh and the House Appropriations Committee, the budget as passed also partially restored funding for our critical land preservation funding.

SB200—This bill prohibits the manufacture and sale of personal care products that contain nonbiodegradable synthetic plastic "microbeads." These tiny objects pass through wastewater treatments plants and end up in local waters and the Chesapeake Bay. Once in the water these beads chemically attract additional pollutants and enter the food chain when they are consumed by marine life.

HB449—This bill prohibits the state of Maryland from issuing permits for the unconventional hydraulic fracturing exploration and production of natural gas until October 2017. During that time the state must explore and develop protective regulations.

HB287—This bill benefits the growing oyster aquaculture industry by expanding penalties for poaching. Aquaculture is beneficial to the Bay's health by increasing the natural oyster filtration function while decreasing harvest pressure on the natural oyster population.

CBF also helped defeat several bad bills that would opened up oyster sanctuaries to harvest and would have undone the state's highly successful oyster restoration programs.

More information on the final status of significant bills and legislation


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

Click image to view larger

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. 

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: My jurisdiction has a stormwater utility fee. What is that?
Q: Are stormwater fees required by the state?
Q: Why does the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program only apply to some places in Maryland?
Q: If we already pay taxes, why does my local government need to charge additional fees to restore the Bay?
Q: We already pay the Bay Restoration Fee ("flush tax"). Why do I have to pay a stormwater fee, too?
Q: Am I being charged the same amount as other property owners with more pavement or hard surfaces?
Q: What about the assertion that stormwater fees are a tax on rain (or a "rain tax")?
Q: Are the fees used locally?
Q: For places that have fees, why do they differ?
Q: Does the Chesapeake Bay Foundation receive funding from the "rain tax?"
Q: Can I have my fee reduced? I've heard some 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 stormwater utility fees or the cost of cleaning up polluted runoff 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 to prevent pollution from running off developed areas and into our local rivers and streams.

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. Tackling urban and suburban runoff remains a big challenge as our state continues to grow.

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—hard surfaces where water can't be absorbed by and filtered through the ground—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: My jurisdiction has a stormwater utility fee. What is that?

A: Just like other services, such as water and sewer or gas and electric, stormwater can be managed as a utility that is supported by a billed fee. A stormwater utility fee is based on the idea that all developed properties contribute to polluted runoff in their watershed and should help support efforts to reduce this runoff and the pollution that it carries.

Q: Are stormwater fees required by the state?

A: In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program. While this legislation originally required the 10 largest and most urban jurisdictions in the state to set fees to address their polluted runoff problems, revisions to the law in 2015 removed that fee requirement. It did not remove the requirement that these jurisdictions clean up stormwater pollution. In fact, it increased accountability for doing so by requiring that jurisdictions demonstrate they have adequate funding and plans in place to reduce their polluted runoff.

Q: Why does the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program only apply to some places in Maryland?

A: These 10 urban areas have the most land that doesn't allow water to filter slowly into the ground (impervious area). They are also the only jurisdictions in Maryland charged with meeting very strict federal Clean Water Act permits. Under the revised 2015 state law, these counties are required to have plans in place that demonstrate what activities they will undertake to clean up polluted runoff and how they will pay for it. Counties are required to have adequate funding set aside in a dedicated fund to be used only to clean up polluted runoff. How they come up with this funding is up to them. Some counties will allocate it from their general funds while others will keep their stormwater utility fees in place to ensure they have the funding needed.

Recognizing the water quality threat posed by polluted runoff, some counties and municipalities have taken a lead in addressing the problem without requirements from state law or Clean Water Act permits. Some have had similar fees and programs 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. Salisbury created a volunteary stormwater utility fee in 2014-15 to address poor local water quality caused by polluted runoff and aging storm drain infrastructure. A number of other areas implemented similar fees in the 1990s and 2000s.

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

A: With all the challenges they face, state and local governments have often chosen to do the minimum required to reduce polluted runoff. With adequate dedicated funding, local governments 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: We already pay the Bay Restoration Fee ("flush tax"). Why do I have to pay a stormwater fee, too?

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. Your stormwater fees go to upgrade the stormwater system—the ponds, pipes, gutters, and other structures that channel and treat polluted runoff before it reaches creeks, also reducing flooding. That spending will provide substantial, additional pollution reductions in each community.

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

A: Local governments are given complete freedom to decide not only the size of their fee, but how it is collected. Some opt to charge property owners with more "impervious surfaces" higher fees. Other jurisdictions use a "flat fee." Jurisdictions take different approaches to funding their polluted runoff cleanup.  Contact your local government for more detailed information.

Q: What about the assertion that these stormwater 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. If we delay this important work, in the end it will cost more to clean up polluted runoff and reverse its negative impacts to water quality and the Bay's economy.

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 often the best model to do this because the fee is connected to the cause of the pollution. Counties that don't have stormwater fees must raise the revenue by other means, such as property taxes or income taxes.

Q: Are stormwater fees used locally?

A: Yes! If your jurisdiction has a fee, it is collected by the county or city and used only in that county or city 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: For places that have fees, why do they differ?

A: Each county and city is unique, and so are their water quality problems. Counties and cities also have very different fiscal circumstances, which influence how they can pay for polluted runoff cleanup. 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 any of the fees?

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 jurisdictions are offering discounts.

A: Many local governments offer some type of credits or discounts if a property owner takes steps to reduce polluted runoff from his land, and some of those credit or discount programs are required by the 2015 legislation to ensure that fees don't pose an undue hardship on property owners. Contact your local government to learn more about credits or discounts that may be available where you live.

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 stormwater utility fees or the cost of polluted runoff clean-up hurt Maryland's business competitiveness?

A: Forward-thinking community leaders believe the benefits to communities from addressing polluted runoff far outweigh the speculative concern that businesses will relocate. These benefits include safe, swimmable, fishable water, as well as the economic benefits that come from having a clean and healthy environment. 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, nearly 1,500 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
Staff & Contact Info

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Tue, 13 Oct 2015
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Tue, 27 Oct 2015
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

VoiCeS Course (Eastern Shore MD)
Tue, 03 Nov 2015
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

More Events

In the News

09.25.15 - Teach your children well: Education mandate propels environmental programs in schools

09.25.15 - 'Stalking' tactics raise ire of charter skippers

09.21.15 - Farm Bureau Wants Supreme Court to Toss Bay Clean Water Blueprint

09.21.15 - Talbot County farmer among first in area to adopt two-stage ditch

09.21.15 - CBF Press Release: Farm Bureau Prepares to Ask Supreme Court to Throw Out the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint

09.13.15 - Md. gets schools, students involved in environment

09.10.15 - Farm tour highlights importance of Bay-friendly practices

09.08.15 - Should Md. put moratorium on poultry houses?

09.08.15 - Environmentalists call for moratorium on Shore poultry growth

09.08.15 - EPA analyzes animal ag regulations for Md., Del.

09.04.15 - EPA: Maryland farmers lead in pollution reduction efforts

09.02.15 - Maryland farmers attempt to reduce pollution

09.01.15 - Growing food on a farm for the Bay

09.01.15 - Md., Del. on different paths toward Chesapeake cleanup

08.31.15 - EPA praises Maryland's farm pollution control efforts, skip shortcomings

08.31.15 - Delaware farms can do more to keep water clean

08.28.15 - Want to help the Bay? Plant seeds in September

08.27.15 - Delaney hosts workshop on climate action

08.25.15 - Video Spending a morning on the Chesapeake Bay

08.25.15 - Chesapeake Bay Foundation educational boat trip

08.23.15 - Md. teachers get schooled in the envrionment at the Chesapeake Bay

08.19.15 - Water testing partnership finding high bacteria counts in popular swimming areas

08.17.15 - Remarks at recent fact-finding hearing on flooding weren't all that reassuring

08.16.15 - Many groups working for Bay cleanup

08.13.15 - Environmental literacy made Md. graduation requirement

08.13.15 - Green Gardens, Clean Water

08.13.15 - Salisbury Joins Healthy Waters Round Table

08.12.15 - Conowingo Dam fish-lift overhaul urged to restore Susquehanna's shad, eels

08.10.15 - Project turning a vacant Baltimore lot into a greenspace

08.08.15 - Crabby governors duel over Chesapeake delicacy

08.08.15 - Q&A with Dick Franyo: Boatyard Bar & Grill owner discusses his support of sailing, maritime events

08.07.15 - Teen of the Week: Annapolis High grad didn't take the easy route to the Big Easy

07.30.15 - Time to walk the walk on clean waters

07.29.15 - Watershed states gather to reaffirm commitment to bay cleanup

07.29.15 - Action needed on Bay cleanup

07.27.15 - Camp for teachers

07.22.15 - Manchester Valley High administrators turn focus to environment

07.17.15 - Environmentalists 'cautiously optimistic' for Maryland's bay cleanup

07.17.15 - Crews replenishing Wicomico oyster reefs

07.16.15 - Water tests indicate presence of fecal matter

07.16.15 - Report shows high levels of bacteria in Frederick county streams

07.16.15 - Stream testing shows high levels of bacteria in some popular Harford swimming spots

07.16.15 - Video Harmful bacteria found in Frederick, Md. freshwater lakes, streams

07.16.15 - CBF Press Release Water Tests Show High Levels of Harmful Bacteria in Some Fresh Water Streams and Lakes in Frederick, Howard, and Harford Counties

07.14.15 - Assessment tracks Bay states' environmental practices

07.14.15 - CBF Press Release Milestone Assessment Finds Mixed Results in Maryland

07.14.15 - Group collects shells in effort to save the Chesapeake Bay

07.08.15 - Federal appeals court upholds EPA's bay cleanup measures

07.06.15 - Appeals court upholds Chesapeake Bay cleanup

07.03.15 - Chesapeake Bay Health: The Good, the Bad, and the Flooding

07.03.15 - Bay improves, but far from saved

07.01.15 - Experts debate whether rays are fishery threat


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