Pentagon staff visits APG to sign 2024 Chesapeake Bay Strategy

By Maya GreenApril 29, 2024

Woman stands at podium with mic
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment Rachel Jacobson discusses the 2024 Chesapeake Bay Strategy at Aberdeen Proving Ground’s Earth Day Showcase April 22, 2024. (Photo Credit: Sean Kief, CEOM PAO) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Overlooking the Chesapeake Bay’s reflecting waters is APG’s premier restaurant, catering, and conference center, Top of the Bay. It was here on the beautiful spring morning of April 22, 2024, that APG Earth Day Showcase attendees watched the unveiling and signing of the strategy that seeks to improve the overall health of the nation’s largest estuary, the 2024 Chesapeake Bay Strategy. The Honorable Rachel Jacobson, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment, served as the ceremony’s distinguished guest.

The Earth Day Showcase was hosted by APG’s Directorate of Public Works with notable leaders in attendance, including Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army Mary Jane Jernigan, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command’s Deputy to the Commanding General Liz Miranda, CECOM Command Sgt. Maj. Michael R. Conaty, U.S. Army APG Garrison Commander Col. Philip J. Mundweil, and APG Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Denson.

Here at APG

APG is one of the Army’s oldest installations; established in 1917 as an answer to the nation’s need for defense after Germany launched their first gas attack on April 22, 1915. What began as a site for testing war munitions transformed into something greater: a research, development, testing, and evaluation facility for military weapons and equipment.

While the Army operates 14 major installations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, APG is one of three that actively use the Bay and its tributaries for training and testing in water settings. Due to APG’s proximity to the Bay and several of its major tributaries, the installation has a unique responsibility to protect the health of the waterways and ecosystems.

APG boasts more than 40,000 acres of forested lands, serving as one of the Army’s most diverse active installations in the nation. Protected lands at Aberdeen Proving Ground have limited development, advanced the protection of endangered species such as the bald eagle and northern long-eared bat, as well as supported the Army mission and Chesapeake Bay restoration goals.

“[More than] 17.5 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and APG is an important part of that,” Miranda stated. “In addition to APG’s thousands of acres, we are custodians of over 100 miles of shoreline and have federal jurisdiction over the Bush and Gunpowder Rivers. APG is also home to the most bald eagle nests of any [Department of Defense] installation; a distinction of immense pride.”

Conserving land both on its installations and outside their boundaries enables the Army to sustain its military mission and Bay ecosystems.

APG: at the forefront of readiness

By investing in Army infrastructure, installations are kept modern and able to support Soldiers and Army families. These investments are focused on environmental conservation, compliance, and restoration, which maximize the availability of training and testing land which enables readiness for Soldiers.

APG has had several conservation accomplishments over the last decade in accordance with the previous Army Chesapeake Bay Strategy:

·        APG completed the construction of a submerged gravel wetland that treats more than 35 acres of urban land. The best management practice was retrofitted from an existing dry pond to a submerged gravel wetland. The practice was selected based on site characteristics and the need for increased nutrient removal. Since the wetland was completed, inspectors have noted wildlife, including deer, blue herons, and frogs, congregating around the pond.

·        In cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, APG assessed sea level rise and storm effects on wetlands and low-lying areas for climate preparedness and resilience. The installation installed six surface elevation tables to measure changes in water level. The data was utilized to provide more accurate estimates of potential sea level rise. The installation would also undertake further monitoring with sensors mounted to pre-installed brackets to assess the time, extent, and magnitude of storm surge during extreme weather.

·        APG conducted surveys of northern long-eared bats across the installation’s 40,000 acres as part of the INRMP. The northern long-eared bat is federally listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

·        APG protected more than 2,146 acres of forest, agricultural land, wetlands, and shorelines through the REPI. The protection of this land limits development within the installation’s high operational noise area, supporting mission and Chesapeake Bay restoration goals. Additional benefits of this land conservation include the protection of bald eagle habitat, Maryland Critical Areas, forests, and wetlands.

·        APG conserved more than 400 acres of land by leveraging REPI and local partner resources. While REPI provided $895,000 to fund these easements, the installation partners, including Harford County, Harford Land Trust, and Maryland’s Program Open Space, provided $9.8 million toward these conservation efforts. The conserved land includes culturally significant landscapes, forested shorelines along the Chesapeake Bay, and forest interior dwelling species habitats. This land will also remove 206 development right options from the installation’s operational noise corridors.

APG continues to implement environmental stewardship practices in support of the battle against climate change. The 2024 Chesapeake Bay Strategy lays out concrete goals to work toward and APG eagerly accepts the challenge:

1.   Contribute to restoring and sustaining the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

2.   Restore and sustain living resources and healthy habitats on Army installations.

3.   Strengthen storm water management practices and maintain healthy watersheds.

4.   Foster Chesapeake Bay stewardship.

Earth Day

Earth Day is celebrated annually, across the globe, on April 22 to demonstrate support for the environmental conservation movement. This year’s theme for Earth Day is “Planet vs. Plastic.” This concept calls for a 60% reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040.

“Plastics are the most common form of marine debris,” Jacobson stated. “At least 14 million tons are added to the ocean annually. Plastic ends up being consumed by more than 200 species, which we know is terrible for the ecosystem.”

Jacobson announced the Army will be phasing out the procurement of single-use plastic and Styrofoam dishware used in installation dining facilities by 2030.

“This is a great way to kick off Earth Day, to demonstrate [the Army’s] commitment to lead in environmental excellence, but we have more to celebrate today,” Jacobson continued before announcing the Army’s 2024 Chesapeake Bay Strategy.

By unveiling and signing the 2024 Chesapeake Bay Strategy on Earth Day, the Army reaffirms its commitment to stewardship and investing in the world’s future. Jacobson emphasized that this commitment strengthens readiness and is compatible with military missions.

“It is important that our strategy stays dynamic to meet the current needs for Chesapeake Bay recovery because this is one of the nation’s most important watersheds,” Jacobson said. “Our commitment to working with the Chesapeake Bay’s stakeholders is absolute.”

Jacobson stressed the importance of APG’s role in the Bay’s health.

“From shoreline stabilization, to mitigating the risk of soil erosion, to cultivating submerged aquatic vegetation to support ecosystems in the watershed—the environmental division here at [APG] is just top notch and they’re dedicated to excellence.”