This year marks the 5th edition of the Best Urban BMP in the Bay Awards, or BUBBAs for short. Once you get past that lighthearted acronym, you might be thinking, “Wait, back up, what’s a BMP?” BMPs, or Best Management Practices, are techniques or methods for better handling stormwater problems. BMPs can either reduce the quantity of stormwater runoff by slowing it down and allowing it to soak into the ground naturally, or improve the quality of the water before it reaches our local waterways. These are especially important in urban areas where stormwater runoff can pick up multiple different chemical and physical pollutants while flowing over roads, sidewalks, and other impervious surfaces. To address stormwater problems, the Chesapeake Stormwater Network created the BUBBAs to recognize the most innovative and ingenious urban BMP projects in the Chesapeake Bay Region. Applications can fit into seven different categories. A panel of judges selects a winner in each category, then popular vote decides the Grand Prize winner of $5,000. Here are this year’s categories:

  1. Best Habitat Creation in an Urban Watershed
  2. Best Residential Stewardship Practice in the Bay
  3. Best Stream Restoration Project in the Bay
  4. Best Green Infrastructure Practice in Ultra-Urban Areas
  5. Best Retrofit in the Bay
  6. Best Outreach Campaign in the Bay Watershed
  7. Most Innovative Stormwater Permit Implementation

2019 Best Residential BMP, courtesy of the homeowner, Bona Terra LLC, and the RiverSmart team in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay)

The Alliance and our partners have been involved with the BUBBAs since their inception ten years ago. Our Green Infrastructure team has submitted several applications over the years.  The RiverSmart team in Washington, DC coordinates rain garden, Bayscaping, rain barrel, and permeable pavement installations throughout the city. Alliance’s teams in Richmond, VA and Lancaster, PA are also working to improve urban stormwater solutions for their communities. Alliance staff have also assisted Chesapeake Stormwater Network by serving on the judging panel for applications submitted by other organizations.

The BUBBAs are special for the Alliance, but also for our partners. For David Wood of the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, host of the BUBBAs, “It’s about learning, sharing ideas, and building a community across the stormwater sector. It means a fun break from the monotony of the day to day work; it’s a chance to step back and say ‘I’m really proud of this particular project.’” David has facilitated the growth of the awards over the past few years into an inspiring way to recognize not just the design, but the full-scope implementation of these projects. The BUBBAs are unique because the categories are meant to play into the Chesapeake Bay Program goals, established in 2014 to promote clean water, land and wildlife conservation, and equitable access to the Bay. Along those lines, David says ultimately, “Our goal is to bring together folks across the watershed…and make sure they have opportunities to connect and share information.”

Lou Etgen and Karen Stupski, Director of Development at the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy. (Photo credit: Lou Etgen).

For Lou Etgen, Executive Director of the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy (GVC) and one of the judges of this year’s BUBBAs, the awards serve the purpose of facilitating connections in the watershed, and putting projects on the map. “It expands what I think [GVC] can do…. It gives us the opportunity to have those conversations about other ways to achieve these [goals],” he shared. Seeing how others have tackled particular issues allows GVC to expand their own reach and creativity. This is true for other organizations that participate as well. We all face similar stormwater challenges in the Chesapeake Watershed, so why not work together and build on each other’s progress?

Storm drain in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

At DC’s Department of Energy and the Environment, the BUBBAs are a hit. RiverSmart Auditor Savannah Acosta says, “I think giving residents a chance to show off what they’re doing to help the Bay is a very valuable experience and helps foster genuine care for our watershed…. It’s refreshing to know that people in the District care about stormwater enough to do these extraordinary projects.” DOEE has taken home multiple winning titles in recent years. Personally, I love seeing how District residents and contractors have engineered unique ways of bringing nature back into the city.

Thank you to Lou, David, and Savannah for your dedication to urban stormwater solutions! You can stay up to date with this year’s BUBBAs here.