Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

Part of our local watershed, Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

by Julie Clendenin

I spend a lot of time enjoying Rock Creek Park, which runs alongside my Kensington neighborhood. I drive through it every day on my way to work.  I run and walk regularly on the Beach Drive path. I have enjoyed the playgrounds and wetlands with my children and friends. I love it. Rock Creek is an oasis of natural beauty in the midst of our highways, lawns, houses, supermarkets, and sports fields. But sometimes, when the rains (and snows) are heavy, Beach Drive is closed due to high water, which reminds me that our suburban sprawl is a real threat to this precious natural wetland. We are slowly edging out the Potomac River’s natural filtration system of forests and wetlands.

Right now the water is running fast and the marshy grass along the creek’s banks is pocked with huge puddles. And all of our runoff — fertilizers, pet waste, de-icing chemicals, and other pollutants — is headed straight for the Potomac River (our main source of drinking water) and the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB), of the 14,650 square miles in the Potomac River watershed, 57.6% is forest; 31.8% is agricultural; 5% is water or wetlands (like Rock Creek Park); and just 4.8% developed land. While agriculture and development play important roles in our community, it’s important to understand their far-reaching affects on the local watershed. Everything we do on land has an impact on our river, which is the source for 90% of DC’s drinking water; in fact, 486 million gallons are taken out of the Potomac every day to provide drinking water for 5 million people in the DC metro area. We need to protect our river.

Recently, a number of water conservation groups organized a regional river clean up day. including the Alice Ferguson Foundation, which reports that more than 5,000 volunteers picked up over 1oo tons of trash. Here’s some of the things pulled out of the river banks:

  • 73,700 beverage containers
  • 7,800 cigarettes
  • 18,300 plastic bags
  • 510 tires

RWFFLogo_FullColor_EST2012All of this trash was rescued from the Potomac River watershed. How does that make you feel? Disgusted? Regretful?  Personally, I feel grateful to the many people who spent their weekend cleaning up after us. I also feel inspired by them, and I’m thinking that maybe you do to. The Reel Water Film Festival, Saturday, June 14 at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, is a great place to learn more about local water issues. Also, here are a few things, including some from Potomac Riverkeeper, that you can do to help protect the Potomac River:

  • Scoop pet waste and dispose of it properly
  • Plant a rain garden or use a rain barrel – Montgomery County residents are eligible for rebates of up to $2,500 through the RainScapes Rewards Rebate Program
  • Properly dispose of hazardous wastes like oil and paint
  • Use natural fertilizers and do not over-fertilize your lawn or use chemical pesticides
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle (don’t forget your reusable shopping bags)
  • Wash your car at an eco-friendly commercial car wash or use biodegradable soap
  • Safely dispose of unused drugs and other chemicals – DO NOT FLUSH THEM
  • Spend time enjoying  the river and show your friends and family why it’s important to protect it

Julie Clendenin grew up in Montgomery County and is happily raising her family here with her husband, Tom.  She enjoys having unlimited access to Rock Creek Park; tasty, cold water from her kitchen tap; and swimming in the ocean.

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by Dan Rudt

County RainScapes Rebate Program

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection’s rainscapes rewards rebate program offers financial incentives in the form of rebates to residential, commercial, multi-family and institutional property owners who install rainscapes techniques. Eligible projects include rain gardens, conservation landscaping, urban tree canopy, permeable pavers, pavement removal, green roofs, rain barrels, cisterns, and dry wells. Residential rebates range from $200 for installation of rain barrels to $1,200 for a rain garden, green roof retrofit, permeable pavers or pavement removal. Rebates for eligible projects may be combined until the homeowner reaches the maximum residential rebate amount of $1,200. The maximum rebate amount for commercial, multi-family, or institutional property is $5,000.

Rainfall does not penetrate roads, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots or other hard, impermeable surfaces. It runs off into storm water drainage systems (sewers) and streams. Unfortunately, water runoff carries pollutants such as oil, grease, excess lawn and garden fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste, trash and debris into those streams. In some cases, the pollutants end up in supplies of drinking water. The rainscapes techniques covered by the county rebate program are meant to reduce the runoff of pollutants into our streams, protecting the waterways, wildlife and public health.  

The RainScapes Rewards Rebate Program is funded by the county’s Water Quality Protection Charge that appears on property tax bills. Properties within the city limits of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park are not eligible for the county rebates. Rockville and Gaithersburg have rainscapes programs for properties within their respective jurisdictions.

Annual funds for this fiscal year’s program are limited and rebates are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. All applications must be made online and will be accepted beginning January 3, 2012. Further information and the online application form are available at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection Website.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Purchases 100% Wind Power

Rockville-based Clean Currents announced on December 8 that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has committed to purchasing Green-e Energy certified wind power from Clean Currents for 100% of its facility’s electricity needs.  

Since its founding 40 years ago, the CBF has been dedicated solely to restoring and protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers by reducing pollution. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s stunning headquarters (also known as The Philip Merrill Center) located in the Bay Ridge neighborhood east of downtown Annapolis, has won international acclaim as a model for energy efficiency, low impact design, and water conservation. It also has the distinction of being the first building in the United States to receive a Platinum rating through the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating program.

“CBF is one of the country’s leading environmental organizations, housed in one of the country’s greenest commercial structures – so it makes sense that they also receive their electricity from a clean and renewable energy source like wind power,” said Ron Rodriguez, Vice President of Business Development for Clean Currents.

The CBF’s energy purchase will avoid a total of more than six hundred thousand pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually – or the equivalent of removing nearly 100 cars from the roads for an entire year.

Update on the Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program

We have another update for you on the Montgomery County Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program. Eric R. Coffman, Senior Energy Planner for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, has told Bethesda Green that his office has approved 513 projects totaling over $630,000 in rebates to county homeowners. Rebates may range between $500-$3,000. Coffman says the average so far has amounted to $1,200 per household.

The county rebate program, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, offers incentives for owners of single family properties and condominiums who install energy efficiency improvements such as insulation, Energy Star home heating and cooling systems, and Energy Star appliances. Homeowner upgrades will conserve energy. They are also good for local energy equipment sellers and installers and energy auditors. The upgrades applied for so far account for more than $3 million in economic activity within the county since September. That is more than $4 in economic activity for every $1 of program funds spent.

The remaining program funding amounts to $467,000. As for rebate applications, Coffman says, “We are seeing substantial program volume,” at this time.

The rebate program has a website for information and online applications. Anyone who has questions or is struggling with the application is encouraged to email help@mcenergyfunding.com for assistance.

For those who have already applied, Coffman reminds you that you have 90 days to complete the work and file for reimbursement. If you have exceeded the 90 days, you may be able to get a 30 day extension at this point. “However,” Coffman stressed, “our ability to grant extensions after the first of the year will be much more limited due to the County’s grant deadlines.”

Upcoming Green Events

The Future of Ride-On, Tuesday, December 13, 7:30 – 8:30 pm, Silver Spring Center, 8818 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring. The Action Committee for Transit sponsors this talk by Carolyn Biggins, Chief, Montgomery County Division of Transit Services. The meeting takes place at the Woodside Conference Room in the Silver Spring Center. The Center is a 10-minute walk north from the Silver Spring Metro Station. Ride On #5 stops two blocks west of the Center at Spring and 1st. Metrobus “Q” and “Y” routes stop in front of the Center. If coming by car, enter the parking lot from Ballard Street. More information on the ACT website.

BG101, Wednesday, December 28, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

First Thursday Happy Hour @ BlackFinn, Thursday, Jan. 5, 5-8 pm, 4901 Fairmont Avenue, Bethesda. Ring in the New Year with Bethesda Green. Join us for casual conversation and social networking.

What’s your New Year’s Green Resolution?

Jot it down with your name and email address. Bring your Green Resolution to the Happy Hour for a chance to win a BlackFinn gift card. We’ll share ideas and publish highlights on our website.

* Hear about upcoming Bethesda Green events
* Meet members of our Green Business Incubator
* Learn what you can do to make a difference in your community

RSVP through Meetup

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group Meeting – Newcomers Welcome! Wednesday, January 11, 4:00 – 5:30 pm., 4825 Cordell Ave., above the Capital One Bank in Bethesda.A team of volunteers, EOM supports all of Bethesda Green’s communication efforts. From recycling to energy efficiency, sustainability to green building/design, EOM expresses the organization’s various areas of expertise in a clear and concise manner via various media.  New members are welcome to join. More information here, or contact Bethesda Green Communications Director Dave Heffernan, dvheffernan@bethesdagreen.org.

Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 13th Annual Conference, “Farm to Institution: Making Local Food Economies a Reality” January 13-14, National Conference Center, Lansdowne, VA. Two keynote addresses on local food economies, six learning tracks, pre-conference workshops, farmer panel on advocacy and much more! Information and registration here.

MLK Day of Service 2012, Monday, January 16, 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Montgomery County will be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Conference Center and at two satellite site locations (Universities at Shady Grove in Gaithersburg and the Silver Spring Civic Building). That is followed by a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. at Strathmore Hall at 4:00pm. Volunteers can sign up to participate in this exciting event and learn about the great work that local organizations are doing, find out ways to get involved, and make a difference. More information and registration here.

Help the Hungry Food Drive:  Support those in need by bringing non perishable food items to the Bethesda North Marriott.  Food collection will be located near the Montgomery County Volunteer Center table.  Donations will go to Manna Food Center.

Bethesda Green assembled a stellar panel Tuesday evening, March 16, to discuss storm water management issues in the region.  While generally accepting that restoring local watersheds to the pristine condition of yesteryear is a daunting task indeed, incremental improvements can be accomplished if individual landowners adopt techniques to retain more storm water on their property rather than continuing to allow it to flow into the streams.

Moderated by Peter Ensign, Executive Director of DC Greenworks, the panel (Dan Kulpinski, publisher of GreenListDC.org;  Steve Dryden, co-chair of Stormwaterpartners.org; Donna Evans, a Landscape Designer with American Plant; and Ann English, with Montgomery County’s RainScapes Program) provided an overview of the issues along with specific suggestions — such as installing rain gardens, rain barrels, permeable surfaces, and cisterns, along with planting more trees and deep-rooted native grasses — to stem the flow of water into the watersheds.

Dan Kulpinski, Steve Dryden, Donna Evans and Ann English (L-R) discussed regional stormwater management issues March 16 at Bethesda Green.

For the individual homeowner redoing their landscaping, the big take-away was to be sure to consider stormwater retention solutions in planning your project and check with County’s RainScapes Program about the cost-saving rebates they offer for various landscaping investments.

Also note that the assembled panel is making plans to install a community rain garden in the next month or so at the Clara Barton Community Center on MacArthur Blvd.  If you’re interested in being part of the project, please contact Marney Bruce (marneyb@earthlink.net).