Against a backdrop of rowhouses in East Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced they would grant $11.5 million to 44 projects this year for restoration programs spread out across the Bay’s watershed - a record amount that is $2 million more than last year.
The projects will target stormwater, neighborhood greening efforts and habitat restoration. The bulk of the money, $8.8 million, is coming from the EPA. About $1.7 million is coming from the National Resource Conservation Service, the conservation part of U.S.D.A. The U.S. Forest Service is providing $240,000 for the programs, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contributed $75,000. The remainder of the funds came from corporate partners.
Additional funding for the Baltimore projects came from Baltimore City. The city’s Department of Public Works provided a $250,000 matching grant to Blue Water Baltimore so the group could continue its stormwater work and help the city meet its permit requirements.
The Blue Water Baltimore project will be a $500,000 grant that targets five city neighborhoods to “green” with tree pits, green infrastructure projects and education about trash. It is part of the group’s Deep Blue initiative, and yesterday workers were already installing tree pits for the dozens of trees that they are planting in east Baltimore.
Another big project is the Nitrogen Incentive Payment, which the Maryland Department of Agriculture will pilot to incentivize best management practices. It is also for about $500,000.
The Spa Creek Conservancy received $477,907 to install nine stormwater best management practices in an area with a large public housing population.
The non-Chesapeake tableau was not lost on congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, who grew up in Baltimore City and later moved to Baltimore County where he became county executive before running for, and winning, a seat in Congress.
“”Here we are in downtown Baltimore City talking about what we can do to protect the Chesapeake Bay,” Ruppersberger said. “Who would have thought it?”
The announcement was made at the Prince of Peace church in McElderry Park, a neighborhood that has been the focus of much greening work. The National Wildlife Federation, Baltimore Tree Trust and other groups have focused on the area over the past couple of years.
The interest in the city is not an accident. Baltimore’s proximity to the Chesapeake, its densely populated neighborhoods and its pockets of extreme poverty make it an attractive place for investment. Plus, many of the funders said, the city’s leadership is interested in fixing problems and wants to work with nonprofits and neighborhood partners to make it happen.
“There’s a density of folks trying to green the city and manage stormwater, and then there’s the Bay,” said Collin O’Mara, the CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
EPA’s Region 3 administration Shawn M. Garvin agreed.
“People think if you can’t see the water you’re not having an impact on it,” he said. “But investments in clean water, here, where we’re standing, have a lot more benefits than just cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. There are clean air benefits, the reducing of heat islands, community benefits…we know we can’t do everything with green infrastructure, but if you spend a little more to get broader benefits, it’s worth the investment.”
To see the official press release, click here.