As part of an expanded effort to rally local governments around the need to protect and restore local streams and rivers throughout the watershed, the Chesapeake Bay Program is expanding its Bay Partner Communities program to include additional local governments.

Now in its fifth year, the program works with towns and cities to implement Bay-friendly measures aimed at meeting the goals set forth in the most recent Bay restoration agreement, Chesapeake 2000. The agreement and its 103 commitments serve as a blueprint for the Bay’s restoration over the next 10 years.

“The Chesapeake Bay Partner Communities program aims to recognize, encourage and support local governments that demonstrate a commitment to the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams,” said Bay Program Director Rebecca Hanmer. “By encouraging local governments to incorporate Bay-friendly principles into planning decisions and local ordinances, we hope to encourage healthier, more sustainable communities and improve local water quality at the same time.”

Local jurisdictions are selected for the program based on their completion of a set of local programs and activities, or benchmarks, that aim to protect and restore their part of the watershed. Selection is based on the community’s population and percentage of benchmarks met in four categories: improving water quality, promoting sound land use, protecting and restoring living resources and habitat, and engaging the community.

Nominations will be accepted through Nov. 15. Applications may downloaded by visiting www.chesapeakebay.net or received by calling 800-YOUR-BAY.