Cleaning up the Ch­e­sa­peake be­gins in Rap­pa­han­nock

Rappahannock News - - NEWS - By John Mccaslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion has spent this sum­mer in­land — as in Rap­pa­han­nock County — work­ing to en­sure the clean­li­ness of the streams and rivers that wind their way into the bay’s 65,000-square-mile drainage basin.

More than 150 ma­jor rivers and streams flow into the 200-mile-long Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, sev­eral of the water­ways orig­i­nat­ing in Rap­pa­han­nock County.

“For the past few months the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion [CBF] has worked with Bean Hol­low Grass­fed farm in Flint Hill to pi­lot a so­lar pow­ered wa­ter­ing pump for live­stock,” ex­plains Kenny Fletcher, the foun­da­tion’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions co­or­di­na­tor in Rich­mond.

“It’s an af­ford­able, por­ta­ble, off-grid op­tion for graz­ing cat­tle in fields with­out a per­ma­nent wa­ter­ing sys­tem — which is also good for soil health and cleaner wa­ter in streams and ponds. Mike Sands at the farm has said it’s pro­vided real value to the farm. It just wrapped up its run at Bean Hol­low and was re­cently moved to an­other farm over in the Shenan­doah Val­ley.”

“This wa­ter­ing sta­tion is an ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion to keep­ing cat­tle out of rivers,” re­acts Sands, who owns Bean Hol­low Grass­fed.

“It pro­vides real value for farm­ers.”

The mo­bile unit uses the sun’s en­ergy to pump wa­ter from any nearby creek or pond to tanks that re­plen­ish wa­ter­ing troughs.

“This mo­bile wa­ter­ing sta­tion can be a real gamechanger for a lot of farm­ers here in Vir­ginia,” says CBF Wa­ter­shed Restora­tion Sci­en­tist Matt Kowal­ski. “It’s an af­ford­able, por­ta­ble, off-the-grid so­lu­tion for graz­ing cat­tle in fields that don’t have a per­ma­nent wa­ter­ing sys­tem. Farm­ers who lease land can move it be­tween farms. Plus, by keep­ing live­stock out of ponds and streams our lo­cal water­ways stay healthy.”

The unit’s mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits for live­stock, farm­ers, and the en­vi­ron­ment re­port­edly in­clude lower cost when com­pared to in­stalling a well and per­ma­nent sys­tem (a por­ta­ble so­lar unit can be built for less than $6,000); mo­bil­ity that al­lows it to travel be­tween fields and from farm to farm so that live­stock can graze new ar­eas; im­proved soil health as cat­tle don’t put con­tin­ued pres­sure around per­ma­nent troughs; and cleaner sur­face wa­ter as there is no need for cat­tle to ven­ture near streams and ponds to drink.

The CBF cites re­search show­ing that cat­tle don’t graze as well when they have to travel more than 800 feet for wa­ter. But with this unit cat­tle can avoid long trips to ex­ist­ing troughs, as CBF Field Tech­ni­cian Al­ston Horn ex­pe­ri­enced first­hand when test­ing the new wa­ter­ing sta­tion on a fam­ily farm in Mount Solon.

“By be­ing able to con­tain the cat­tle in one field and not mak­ing them go to an­other field for wa­ter, we can now al­low those other pad­docks time to rest,” said Horn. “When there is ad­e­quate for­age we can move the cat­tle back to those fields.”

The wa­ter­ing sta­tion also re­duces nu­tri­ent pol­lu­tion from live­stock to lo­cal rivers and streams. Healthy buf­fers of na­tive plants, shrubs, and trees along water­ways help ab­sorb and fil­ter waste from live­stock be­fore it can run off into streams. The wa­ter­ing sta­tion means cat­tle don’t have to get close to water­ways, keep­ing waste out of streams and al­low­ing these buf­fers to thrive.

For the first time in decades, the health of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay re­port­edly im­proved in 2015, ac­cord­ing to a Univer­sity of Mary­land re­port, mark­ing three years of gains over the past four years.

CBF is now ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for farm­ers who would like to try out CBF’s de­mon­stra­tion unit on a tem­po­rary trial run. Those in­ter­ested in ap­ply­ing can con­tact Matt Kowal­ski at mkowal­ or 540/233-1066. Two sim­i­lar so­lar wa­ter­ing sta­tions in the Shenan­doah Val­ley are in use un­der a pi­lot pro­gram by Vir­ginia Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion.

More than 150 ma­jor rivers and streams flow into the 200-mile­long Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, sev­eral of the water­ways orig­i­nat­ing in Rap­pa­han­nock County.


Mike Sands demon­strates an in­no­va­tive so­lar pow­ered wa­ter­ing pump at his Bean Hol­low Farm in Flint Hill.

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