Hollifield Station Elementary School fifth graders Rayan Overcast, left, and Mason Doan, center, joined Gov. Martin O'Malley in Ellicott City Tuesday to participate in some of the work being done to restore the stream beds along the Upper Little Patuxent River.
Hollifield Station Elementary School fifth graders Rayan Overcast, left, and Mason Doan, center, joined Gov. Martin O'Malley in Ellicott City Tuesday to participate in some of the work being done to restore the stream beds along the Upper Little Patuxent River. (Blair Ames, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Hollifield Station Elementary School students joined Gov. Martin O'Malley Tuesday along the Upper Little Patuxent River in Ellicott City to plant trees, roll out burlap matting and announce $600 million in bay restoration funds over the next six years.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is in the midst of a $1.7 million stream restoration project along the river that when completed in the spring will improve the floodplain area to reduce erosion, excess sediments, nitrogen and phosphorous discharged into the river.

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After speaking to students about the importance of this particular process and their role in protecting the Chesapake and educating others, O'Malley joined students in touring the site and participating in some of the work being done to prevent erosion along the streambed.

Hollifield Station fifth graders were chosen to participate in this announcement due to their work in state's "Restore and Explore Your School Shed" initiative, which encourages students to volunteer in bay and stream restoration programs.

At Hollifield Station over the past twoyears, fifth graders have adopted the Daniels area of the Patapsco River and have cleaned up the area by removing invasive plants and trash while also completing a stream survey to determine the health of the river, according to Lori Speelman, a gifted and talented resource teacher at Hollifield Station.

Recently, students removed more than 290 pounds of the environmentally damaging Kudzu plants and trash from the area.

"We are a very involved, environmentally green school ," she said, adding that the school has started a composting project, urges students to recycle and has built an outdoor classroom.

Speelman said students visit the Patapsco River site twice a year and stressed that Tuesday's experience gives students another opportunity to see the different methods of stream restoration.

"It's so important to get kids outside, to explore your school shed, because if we want kids to protect the bay they have to experience it," she said.

The $600 million in new funding for envrionmental projects is a combination of federal funds and state money from the Transportation Trust Fund and bonds. The funds will be used for projects over the next six years to restore more than 62,000 feet of streams, plant more than 679,000 tress, remove 76 acres of pavement, upgrade 13 stormwater outfalls and construct and upgrade 1,780 stormwater treatment facilities to improve the quality of water running off pavements and surfaces, according to a news release from the governor's office.

Alison Prost, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Maryland branch, lauded the announcement calling it a "win-win for Maryland's economy."

"This is a perfect example of the cooperation that we need to get the job done," she said. "It's not going to take any one private investment, any one public project, it's going to take all of us doing more on more streambeds that all feed into the Chesapeake Bay."

According to the Governor's office, the funds will help SHA "achieve significant strides" in reaching its 2025 goals designed to reduce pollutants reaching the bay. The expectation is that projects funded through this initiative will reduce the amount of pollutants entering the waterways by 6.5 million pounds of sediment, 113,000 pounds of nitrogen and 13,000 pounds of phosphorous.

Tuesday's event was part of the Governor's "Govering for Results" tour, which focuses on the state's efforts to improve in areas, such as the job market, schools, sustainability, public safety and health.
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