We boaters care about our lakes, bays, and rivers far more than the average person, and most of us do more than our fair share when it comes to reducing our impact on the nation’s waterways. But we’re only one part of the equation. The Chesapeake Bay region offers a good example of how businesses, government, and other parts of society can all work together to help improve the health of our waterways.
“The Chesapeake faces many challenges from human pressure, and we need more involvement from everyone, ranging from businesses to private homeowners,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Senior Naturalist John Page Williams. “We need to realize that we are the business, we are the malls...and we’re the ones who park in the parking lots.”
We also pay an environmental price for those parking lots. Runoff is one of the biggest issues in the Chesapeake watershed, since paved surfaces allow pollution to drain directly into the bay without any natural filtration. In fact, According to CBF, runoff is the only major source of nitrogen pollution in the bay that’s still growing. That’s one of the reasons why the Eastport Yacht Club re-paved its parking lot with porous pavement. And why the city of Lancaster, PA, has become a leader in partnering with different business and organizations to control runoff.
Can business in the marine industry make the same type of claim? A recent visit to Tri-State Marine, in Deale, Maryland, proved enlightening. They’re currently working on a retention pond that will mitigate runoff coming from their buildings and parking lots, and minimize the impact on the near-by Bay. And while modern building codes call for retention ponds and other forms of runoff mitigation, older buildings, like the one Tri-State operates from, were built before the impact of runoff was well understood—and before those codes were written.
Another big impact comes from what Williams terms the “air shed.” “We all talk about the watershed,” he explained. “But we need to start thinking in terms of the air shed, too. The Chesapeake’s air shed reaches west all the way to Ohio. Nitrogen and particulate pollution come from power plants all the way out there, and that’s why clean electricity is another major issue for the bay. We all need to pay attention to where our power comes from, so the market encourages the industry to move towards clean power.”
That’s one of the reasons why Mom’s Organic Market, which has over a dozen locations in the bay water and air sheds, specifically purchases wind- and solar-generated power and offers level II electric car charging at multiple locations. Tri-state has taken things even farther, installing 180 solar panels on their roof.
“You have to give the federal and state government a pat on the back,” said Tri-State President John Byrnes. “They made it much easier to do, and now (depending on the weather) we generate about 50-percent of the energy we consume here.”
“We like to do the environmentally friendly thing,” added Senior Sales Consultant Ron Young. “Since we enclosed an additional 8,000 square feet of showroom when we replaced the roof and added the solar panels, we can also keep more new boats out of the weather. We can make looking at the boats more inviting to people, whether it’s 35-degrees outside in February, or it’s raining. Everyone wins.”
One more way everyone wins: Tri-State’s test-tanks. Behind the showroom there are two 8,000 gallon tanks, which allows Tri-State’s service department to test the engines on boats up to 33’ just yards away from their service bays. One of the tanks was re-lined last year, and both are filled with crystal-clear water. Byrnes grins as he says, “Just look at that water—it hasn’t been changed since last spring. The filters separate out any oil, with what’s essentially a glorified pool filtration system. And testing in here not only prevents the oil from escaping, it also keeps the boats clean. Without the tanks we’d have to scrub off waterlines every time we launched or tested a boat.”
Less cleaning, of course, means using less water, fewer detergents and cleaning agents, and allows the entire operation to move more smoothly and efficiently.
“Ultimately, every region has its own environmental challenges,” said Williams, who is also a dedicated boater himself. “And in some ways, it’s still early in the game. Some stakeholders, like farmers, have worked miracles in a relatively short period of time. But of course there’s still work to do. And we need more involvement from everyone–people, government, and yes businesses, too.”
Editor's Note: Promotional consideration for this article was paid by Tri-State Marine.