EASTON — Stewards in protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay briefed the Easton Town Council on Monday evening, Sept. 16.

Those before the council were Alan Girard, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Eastern Shore director; Tom Leigh, Healthy Waters Working Group Regional Watershed Services provider and Joanna Ogburn, Envision the Choptank facilitator and principal of JBO Conservation.

Girard first outlined the progress of Maryland Phase III Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, a large-scale cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.

While Girard said the plan falls short in the stormwater sector and is relying on municipalities adherence to MS4 regulations in this regard, the third phase “has promise to get us in the right direction.”

Next, Leigh said he is working with Easton Town Engineer Rick Van Emburgh and staff to resubmit an initially declined application to the Department of Natural Resources’ Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund with more manageable goals in alignment with WIP and MS4 goals. Leigh is coined as a “circuit rider” for lending expertise and manpower to six jurisdictions across the Eastern Shore as they implement environmental restoration projects.

Partners include Cambridge, Easton, Oxford, Salisbury, Queen Anne’s County and Talbot County.

Ogburn then led a presentation about Envision the Choptank before the council.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided the funding and initial vision to develop Envision the Choptank.

Established in 2015, Envision the Choptank was created to further efforts such as the following:

  • According to a GIS analysis by the Chesapeake Conservancy, through the use of conservation easements and acquisitions by natural resource agencies, more than 119,042 acres in the watershed have been permanently protected from future changes in land use
  • By the end of 2016, local partners, landowners and farmers succeeded in establishing cover crops, an agricultural BMP, on 60% of eligible cropland
  • By the end of 2017, the multiagency effort to restore oyster reefs in Choptank tributaries restored over 670 acres of oyster reef
  • Though it is difficult to trace a direct connection, improvements in the health of fish populations, like striped bass, have followed the increase in restoration efforts

Ogburn discussed the Choptank Common Agenda, a plan to help restore swimmable, fishable waters to the Choptank River watershed, enhance the health and productivity of native oysters in a way that best meets the needs of the surrounding communities.

The full Common Agenda can be found at www.envisionthechoptank.org.

Ogburn brought the agenda before the town council to best understand the local waterways in an effort to conserve and protect them. She said Envision the Choptank can connect the municipalities to funding and data in the interest of healthy waters.

“We feel the strategies of the Common Agenda will knit together on-going efforts, fill in gaps, and help a variety of organizations and individuals achieve more together than any one can alone,” Ogburn said.

Local elected officials were invited on an Oxford boat trip in late October to learn about progress and opportunities to restore water quality in Delmarva’s rivers and streams. The program, Healthy Waters Briefing and Boat Trip, is co-sponsored by the Healthy Waters Working Group and Envision the Choptank to highlight and support county and town investments in clean water.

Participants will hear the latest on two major initiatives accelerating restoration progress on the Eastern Shore, see projects that improve water quality first-hand and interact with experts on the water and identify opportunities for collaboration among Eastern Shore local jurisdictions and partners.

@Kayla_StarDem

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