Isle of Wight represented at ‘Businesses for the Bay’ forum

Published 10:49 am Friday, June 23, 2017

Representatives of Isle of Wight County’s government and Chamber of Commerce recently participated in a “Businesses for the Bay” forum at the Smithfield Center, intended to help businesses and municipalities located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed understand what voluntary actions they can take to protect the bay and local rivers and groundwater.

The forum was facilitated by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland. Businesses for the Bay (B4B) is one of many programs the organization administers.

“It’s a program that gets businesses working with community groups, governments, getting them to network,” said Corrine Stephens, the Alliance’s business partnerships manager, who also facilitated the day’s discussions. “We’re all in this together and we’re trying to come up with some very tangible to-dos that we can take home today. We like to say that nobody can do everything but everybody can do something.”

She emphasized that all of the “to-dos” would be entirely voluntary and intended for businesses interested in going above and beyond compliance with federal and state environmental laws.

“We don’t lobby; we don’t litigate,” she said.

Guest speakers at the forum included: Brian Ballard, regional community plans and liaison officer with the U.S. Navy’s mid-Atlantic region; Dr. Michelle Covi and Research Assistant Professor Emily Steinhilber, both with Old Dominion University; Jake Reily of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Ross Weaver of the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional Program: Benjamin McFarlane of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission; and Stephens.

“When we talk about this in Hampton Roads, I don’t think we ever say ‘climate change’ because that’s been so politicized,” Covi said, discussing her and Steinhilber’s research efforts at ODU on sea level rise. “It’s almost like a buzzword that will stop the conversation. I like to start out with, ‘What is your experience,’ and really hear from the people I’m talking to if the experience of flooding resonates with them. From that point, I will talk about, ‘Here’s what we have observed and how the flooding time has changed.’”

One topic Covi mentioned that was of particular interest to Andy Cripps, who represented the Isle of Wight-Smithfield-Windsor Chamber of Commerce at the forum, was the availability of natural disaster planning tools for businesses through ODU.

“I plan to follow up with the speakers from ODU to see how we can make those tools available to our businesses,” he said.

Isle of Wight County’s environmental planner, Kim Hummel, represented the county government at the forum.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed extends from upstate New York through southeastern Virginia and includes six states, plus the District of Columbia.

In Isle of Wight County, it extends from Smithfield and Carrollton through Windsor. It is the largest estuary in the United States and home to about 17.5 million people.