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Congress of Educators on Stream Restoration

Press Release

Location: Annapolis, MD

Thank you all very, very much for coming down here today, especially on a weekday in the summer, when I know there are many other things you could be doing.

I've seen the work that you do. Long before there was a state requirement of environmental literacy, I saw what you were doing to connect kids and their curiosity and their heart and their passion to the natural environment around them. And I've seen your kids' faces light up when you go to the trouble to figure out a way to get them on a bus and to get them out into nature. Or to take them down into a stream bed to do surveys. You're getting them to think empathetically and intellectually about the better choices and the better actions that we can take together to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and her tributaries.

One of those young people is with us today. You're here on a historic day. Genea Harrison, she is the first ever "Governor for a Day" appointed here in Maryland. Genea, is there anything you want to say to people? Okay, come on up.

Governor Harrison: I have something to say about the Chesapeake Bay and what we can change about it.

Cleaning up the Bay is really important to me because my Grandma lives close to it. In the summer, my little brother and I go to visit and go swimming at the Matapeake Beach. If we want to be able to keep swimming there and doing other things like fishing and boating, there are lots of things that we can do.

We can plant trees along to Bay to stop rain water from getting into the Bay; Trees also help the animals' environment and keep stream temperatures cool. Do not let people throw waste into the Bay from boats. Do no throw anything down storm drains because they go directly to the Bay. Also, clean trash up around storm drains so that it doesn't end up in the Bay. Help the Bay by only keeping the fish you will use and throwing the rest back. Encourage people to buy the Chesapeake Bay license plate. It costs $12 and goes to help protect the Bay. We can protect oysters because they help filter the Bay. Oyster gardens can be grown on floats attached to docks. I'm going to talk to my Grandma about making an oyster garden. Thank you.
Governor O'Malley: Governor, good job.

Here's the idea that I wanted to share with you, and thanks for your help in making it real. Over the last 7 years, we have been hard at work as an administration to take better actions, stronger actions, make better choices. Sometimes, individually, they're really unpopular. Whether it was the unpopular decision on the flush tax, or whether it was the difficult choices on the storm water restoration things, or whether it was cuts that were made, or taxes or anything else. The bottom line of all of this is creating the jobs that come about by improving the skills of our people, improving the security of our people, improving the health of our people, and improving the sustainability of our way of life. And there is no state that has a bigger or more beautiful sustainability challenge than we have with the Chesapeake Bay.

As you may know, Maryland is home to 10,000 miles of rivers and streams. 10,000 miles of water flowing through our cities, towns, fields, forests and backyards. All of it bound for the Chesapeake Bay. Whether that water is clean and life-sustaining, or laced with pollutants, is up to us. This is a choice.

As Genea just demonstrated there, you and your students have a critically important role in making this choice. The actions that we take, as a generation, are going to determine the health of the generation to follow. That generational understanding, if it's promoted, if it's fostered, and if it's pushed forward, will allow us to not only consolidate the gains that we've made in these last few years, but to get us to a point where we reach that healthier Bay tipping point. That point at which all of the individual tributaries of the Bay are getting little healthier every year instead of a little sicker every year.

Somebody once described the health of the Bay to me in this way. They said with the population growth, it's like trying to walk up a downward moving escalator. The more actions you take intentionally, the more population growth brings you down unintentionally.

It's against that backdrop that all of the Governors of the Chesapeake Bay watershed agreed to implement a program very much like Maryland's BayStat, where we apply GIS and the measurement of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sedimentary reductions to the map. For the first time ever, instead of having a 40 year aspirational goal, we actually set two-year milestones. And each of the 6 states adopted two-year milestones.

Will we hit every of the two-year milestones? No, occasionally we won't. Some of them we will, some of them we won't. And then we double back and say what can we do in order to amp up our effort on this score?
In our modern desire to rush to the solution, our minds tend to go right to the heart of the dead space in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. And we start imagining we can put a filter in there like an aquarium or something.
That's not the way it works. The way you eliminate that dead space in the center of the bay is to restore the health of the tributaries, the creeks, the Watts Branch, the Herring Run.

It's not the sort of work that can get done in one four year term of any Governor, or even in two 4 year terms. It's not the sort of work that can get done in a school year that runs from September to June.

But, if you're teaching at, say, Wooten High School, what are the creeks that through that area? If we can take stock together of the tributaries that run through the catch net area of our particular school zone, we can connect that stream restoration work in such a way that we put it together with the service requirements that we have in high school. We can put that together with a restoration project that might be years ongoing. That might involve tapping into your county government and helping the kids to advocate blacktop remediation or rain gardens. It might be as simple as going to a private landowner and saying "You know what, this part of the stream in your land is not buffered. You can do great things for our kids if you allow them to join with you and the state in replacing and restoring the stream buffers."

The options are many and the good news is this: Ever since we've been measuring the actions instead of just hoping 40 years from now we might wake up and see that it's all done…ever since we've started measuring the actions, people have been taking the steps necessary to complete them.
One of them is the cover crops that our farmers are planting. We've quadrupled, in the middle of a recession, the acreage that is now being covered during the winter so that the phosphorus and the nitrogen and the sediment don't run off the agricultural tracts that we are fortunate to have here in Maryland.

I believe that we have an opportunity now, because of the common platforms that we have built--with GIS, modern technology, and a more highly developed environmental science than we had 20 years ago. I think we have the ability to do a lot of crowd-sourced healing and a lot of crowd-source restoration that will really excite our kids. And I think that we can do it in a way that is not a one-off pilot project that we sort of pat ourselves on the back about and then move on to the next thing. I think we can do this in a really broad and impactful way.

And so I need your help, and I think together we can figure this out. There's not a more powerful group for the future of the Bay than all of you who chose to come down here on this work day in the middle of the summer when you could have been doing other things.

I think if we connect our institutions of learning; elementary, secondary, community colleges, colleges, we can guide this action. There are other initiatives that can help us get this done, through the Bay Trust and other things. And our work here could become a model for what can happen if we're entrepreneurial, performance measured, collaborative, and use that common platform for the good that it can marshal of our own humanity.

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