[Note: Elise Bruner is Blue Water Baltimore’s Community Organizer.]
On March 2, Blue Water Baltimore’s Executive Director, Halle Van der Gaag, Stormwater Program Manager Erin Bennett, and I traveled to Washington, D.C. for Choose Clean Water Coalition’s annual Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill.
Halle joined other environmental leaders from the coalition in encouraging legislators to fully fund the Chesapeake Bay Program as well as two important grant programs that fund on the ground restoration projects in Baltimore.
She also requested increased funding for low interest loans that help keep water bills affordable for Baltimore City ratepayers.
It was great to connect with U.S. lawmakers throughout the day, and Halle joined Erin and Elise for lunch and a poster session hosted by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).
NFWF is a key funder in both our Blue Water Congregation project and our Deep Blue project, so this was a valuable chance to show the work we’ve done and the pollution reductions we’ve achieved.
Erin presented a poster about Blue Water Congregations, our partnership with Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake to help religious groups identify and implement stormwater reduction practices.
Since the program’s inception in 2014, Blue Water Baltimore conducted 57 water audit site visits reaching 18 different denominations throughout Baltimore City and Baltimore County. More than 24 congregations have taken action in the form of rain barrels, cisterns, rain gardens, and impervious surface removal, or sought funding for these types of practices.
My poster outlined our newest initiative, Deep Blue. The program is building deep relationships between Blue Water Baltimore and five Baltimore neighborhoods over the course of two years.
Our goal is to ensure that community priorities guide spending and planning on green infrastructure.
Blue Water Baltimore is currently working intensively in Oliver, Greater Highlandtown, and Cherry Hill. We are planning workshops later in the spring in all three neighborhoods with the Neighborhood Design Center to better understand community priorities.
Information from these workshops will be compiled into a Deep Blue Master Plan, which will pipeline projects for Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works and Blue Water Baltimore to implement.
Throughout lunch, U.S. Representatives from the Chesapeake Bay watershed states addressed the attendees and thanked us for our work towards restoring water quality.
Maryland’s delegation included Representative Elijah Cummings, Representative Donna Edwards, and Senator Ben Cardin. They encouraged us to continue fighting for water quality, for the sake of public health and social justice.
The lunch and poster session were prized opportunities to learn about other NFWF-funded projects across the Chesapeake Bay watershed and to reflect on the importance of water quality at the national level.