The Chesapeake Bay region has received $13.1 million in grants for environmental projects from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Six Bay states, DC get $13.1 million in grants to improve water quality, wildlife habitat

These Holstein heifers belong to an Amish dairy farm that supplies milk to the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association. As part of its contract with Turkey Hill Dairy, the cooperative must ensure that its providers not only have conservation plans but implement the practices contained in plans. (Jenna Mackley / Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay)

The announcement came on Dec. 3, the first day of the NFWF-hosted Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Forum, a gathering of practitioners and experts from around the watershed that took place in Lancaster, PA. The grants, combined with $21.9 million in matching funds, will support 49 projects to improve water quality and wildlife habitat across six states and the District of Columbia.

Most of the funds were distributed in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, which received approximately $6.7 million, $5.9 million, and $4.1 million respectively. The projects will be led by environmental groups, town governments, conservation districts, faith-based organizations, land use planners and educational institutions.

Many of the projects are designed to reduce runoff from farmland, which often carries high levels of manure-based nutrients into local streams and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. Nutrients are the largest source of pollution in the Bay, targeted for reduction under the regional cleanup plan known as the Bay’s “pollution diet.”

The Pennsylvania office of the nonprofit Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay received $1 million to add pollution-reducing features to dairy farms. The work will take place through an existing partnership with Turkey Hill Dairy, a nationally known distributor of ice cream, beverages and other frozen desserts that is also the largest buyer of milk in Lancaster County. As a commitment to sustainable milk production, Turkey Hill recently began requiring their suppliers to have plans in place to reduce nutrient-laden runoff and actively install related practices. The grant will help the Alliance provide technical assistance to help write the plans and offset approximately 75 percent of the implementation cost.

The Lancaster Farmland Trust, known for establishing relationships within the Plain Sect community, received $198,463 toward a project to install conservation practices on farms that could serve as a “learning farms” to engage other Plain Sect farmers.

Agricultural projects got a regional boost through a $850,000 grant to the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation to promote the practice of rotational grazing in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. Working with many partners, the foundation aims to transition 30 farms from barnyard feeding, where mud and manure can collect and wash into waterways, to a system that moves cows through different pastures, allowing the grasses to recover and be fertilized by manure.

To reduce pollution from stormwater runoff, the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake garnered $1 million to install green infrastructure on the property of 36 congregations in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Green infrastructure refers to spots of engineered green space designed to mimic and enhance natural systems — such as rain gardens and vegetated swales — that collect rainwater and allow it to slowly seep into the ground.

Nearly $1 million was also awarded to the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to support a regional partnership aimed at increasing green infrastructure in Richmond. Also in Virginia, the Elizabeth River Project received $750,000 to strengthen ecosystem management, including the creation of a leadership roundtable and summit to adopt a watershed action plan and improve the coordination of green infrastructure projects.

Maryland’s Choptank River will benefit from a nearly $1 million grant to Shorerivers, a nonprofit clean water advocate, to expand conservation practices on farmland.

On three tributaries of the Anacostia River, the DC Department of Energy and Environment will use a $200,000 grant to improve and study water quality conditions using the pollution-filtration power of freshwater mussels.

Other projects include fish surveys in unassessed Pennsylvania streams, improving habitat for brook trout, oyster restoration in Virginia and Maryland, shoreline protection and tree plantings in urban and streamside areas.

The grants were awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, a partnership between NFWF and the EPA’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program and Small Watershed Grants Program. Additional support is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Altria Group Restoring America’s Resources partnership and CSX Corp.

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