Overlooking Peachblossom Creek

Peachblossom Creek winds through Talbot County between Oxford and Easton.

EASTON — Nearly $11 million in funding to improve water and habitat in the Chesapeake Bay was awarded to projects around the Bay watershed, including several dealing with the Eastern Shore and Delmarva, according to a Thursday, Aug. 25, announcement.

“The grants awarded this year through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund demonstrate just how important local water quality is to broader efforts to restore the Bay,” said Amanda Bassow, director of the Northeastern Region at National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

At least two of the 39 projects — from Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Washington D.C. — are being organized by Mid-Shore-based organizations and deal with implementing best management practices.

Best management practices, or BMPs, are conservation practices, technologies or treatments installed on land that limit nitrogen, phosphorus or sediment pollution to the Bay’s local and tidal waters. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, “the implementation, tracking and reporting of BMPs has been at the center of the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership’s restoration efforts for almost three decades.”

One project by the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance aims to implement best management practices to reduce pollution on residential properties in Cambridge.

The organization plans to engage homeowners and renters in Cambridge in an initiative to explore barriers and benefits to implementing residential BMPs in a community with significant socio-economic challenges, according to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which is partly administering the grants.

Nanticoke Watershed Alliance wants to install BMPs on 10 residential properties, and it includes rain gardens, conservation landscaping, tree planting and rain harvesting devices like rain barrels, according to NFWF.

The project was funded by the NFWF at about $85,800, with matching funds from the Environmental Protection Agency of $32,765.

For the second project, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and the Envision the Choptank Partnership — a partnership between the Chesapeake Conservancy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — want to develop a program to accelerate the rate at which BMPs are implemented in the lower Choptank watershed area.

According to the NFWF, the partnership plans to prioritize restoration locations in the watersheds of Harris Creek, Broad Creek and the Tred Avon River.

Jared Parks, conservation easement program manager with ESLC, said NOAA’s stake in the project is focusing on improving the water quality for the oyster sanctuaries it helped establish in Harris Creek and the Tred Avon River. The project looks to do restoration and BMP work on the land that impact water quality in the long term.

Parks said the project aims at both agricultural and residential BMPs in what he called the “expanded Bay Hundred area.” He said there will be analysis of potential pollution runoff hotspots in the area to gain a better understanding of where the pollution problems potentially are coming from for residential properties.

“It’s definitely a new partnership and a new attempt to reach a group on the Shore that hasn’t been, at least to my knowledge, tapped for BMP implementation, and that tends to be more on the residential side,” Parks said. “The farmers have been engaged for a long time on a lot of different agriculture BMPs and other practices that are aimed at increasing water quality ... Residential landowners, little less so.”

Parks said the partnership plans to engage both agricultural and residential landowners in the Bay Hundred area, work one-on-one with them and set up workshops for people to learn more about how they can install BMPs on their land. The outreach effort has yet to formally take shape, though, he said.

He also said they are planning to develop a a potential tax incentive program with Talbot County to incentivize residential BMPs, as well as create a fund through the grant to help put the BMPs on the ground. The hope is to take the framework of the project to other watersheds in the future, he said.

According to the NFWF, the project is estimated to result in annual reductions of 155 pounds of phosphorus, 3,650 pounds of nitrogen and 40,800 pounds of sediment.

The ESLC and Envision the Choptank Partnership project was funded by the NFWF at $152,074, with $74,509 in matching funds from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Funding for these projects was awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, which is administered by NFWF and financed primarily by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program and the Small Watershed Grants Program, with additional public and private funding provided by NFWF.

Follow me on Twitter @jboll_stardem.

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