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January 2022

Introducing the New Prince George’s Rain Check Rebate Program Staff

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The Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate Program is a partnership between Prince George’s County Department of the Environment and the Chesapeake Bay Trust (Trust). This program offers incentives to homeowners, businesses, and others to install practices that will reduce stormwater runoff, reduce pollution, and improve the water quality of local streams and rivers.

The Trust recently welcomed Kathy Somoza as the new Rain Check Rebate Coordinator! Continue reading to learn more about Kathy’s background and experience so far.

Kathy Somoza, Rain Check Rebate Coordinator

Can you tell us about yourself?

I grew up and still reside in Annapolis, Maryland, though my family and I originally hail from El Salvador. As a longtime Annapolitan, I have been lucky to have access to and enjoy the beautiful resources of the Chesapeake Bay region through kayaking and hiking! I graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. I originally came to the Chesapeake Bay Trust as the Intern for the Rain Check Rebate Program, and I am so proud to now be administering this program.

What is your favorite story or project from the Rain Check Rebate program?

The stories and projects that stick out most in my mind are the ones that, for a multitude of reasons, do not follow a straightforward or linear process. These are the projects that encounter unexpected hurdles or delays, yet what impresses and inspires me is the perseverance that I see applicants demonstrate in getting their project to the finish line. This program is completely voluntary, so the commitment applicants demonstrate to their projects highlights just how dedicated these Prince George’s residents are to the protection, improvement, and beautification of their local natural resources.

What are your professional/environmental goals and how does managing the Rain Check Rebate Program align with those goals?

My long-term professional goals are to increase awareness of the environmental issues around the Chesapeake Bay region and share resources and mechanisms to address and manage these issues. I love managing the Rain Check Rebate Program because it helps me simultaneously accomplish the goals of building awareness on the issue of stormwater runoff and providing access to a solution.

What have you most enjoyed so far about your new role as the Rain Check Rebate Coordinator?

I have enjoyed seeing how the program has evolved since the time I spent as an intern, and I’m looking forward to working closely with our Prince George’s County Department of the Environment partners to bring the best and most accessible program to County residents, businesses, and nonprofits.

Anything else you want to share?

I feel very fortunate to administer this program on behalf of our County partners. It is a wonderful resource and I hope that more and more applicants continue to tap into this program to protect natural resources, beautify and strengthen communities, and improve local water quality!

Helping Kathy with the program is our Rain Check Rebate intern, Oliver Vasquez!

Oliver is a senior at Frostburg State University, pursuing a degree in Earth Science with a minor in Sustainability Studies. He is passionate about the sustainable aspects of local environmental issues such as soil, air, and water pollution. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career out in the field collecting data making others aware of environmental challenges and concerns to our society today. Oliver is excited about working with the Trust and supporting the mission and vision of restoring our local watersheds and natural resources.

Thank you to Kathy and Oliver for their hard work and passion in managing and supporting the Rain Check Rebate Program! Learn more about the program here.

Building Community Resilience in Southside Richmond through the Bellemeade Green Street Project

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After a decade of community engagement and planning, construction activities associated with the Bellemeade Green Street project began in spring 2021. The James River Association (JRA) in partnership with the City of Richmond, Groundwork RVA, Timmons Group, 3North, and Harbor Dredge & Dock broke ground in early May on the project that spans almost a half-mile segment of Minefee Street in the Bellemeade community of southside Richmond, Virginia. The project builds community resilience by managing stormwater, improving local water quality in Albro Creek, and mitigating the urban heat island effect. In the future, it will help to create a safer walking and biking route for residents of the community. The project was driven by ideas generated by residents of the Bellemeade community and funded by grants secured by JRA, including the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns Grant Program. This program funds projects throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, including Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Construction underway (Photo: James River Association)

The Bellemeade Walkable Watershed Plan was developed in 2012 by Skeo Solutions and the Green Infrastructure Center and established five primary goals: 1) connecting the neighborhood to the creek and the James River; 2) improving walking routes to the community center and school; 3) slowing flow, increasing infiltration and cleaning stormwater; 4) developing a sense of community around the creek and school; and 5) creating outdoor education opportunities. Green streets are at the heart of this plan and Minefee Street was selected as the pilot because of its key role in connecting residents from the Hillside Court neighborhood and the Bellemeade neighborhood to the adjacent Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School, Bellemeade Park, and the Bellemeade Community Center.

Green streets employ the use of green infrastructure practices such as street trees, bioretention, planter beds, and other green infrastructure practices to absorb stormwater runoff, reduce the urban heat island effect, and promote community resilience in the face of climate change. The Bellemeade Green Street project, designed and engineered by Timmons Group and 3North, features a large bioretention filter, two Filterra boxes and eight planter beds along Minefee Street. These practices replaced impervious asphalt and were planted with native trees, shrubs, and perennials that support pollinators. The bioretention filter and Filterras are capable of capturing 39,153.04 gallons (5,234 cubic feet) of stormwater and remove 11.11 pounds of Nitrogen, 1.81 pounds of Phosphorous, and 452.78 of Total Suspended Solids from stormwater before it reaches Albro Creek on an annual basis. Since 2019, 41 native street trees have been planted along Minefee Street using support from the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Trees for Clean Water Program and volunteer assistance. These street trees complement the infrastructure improvements and provide additional resilience for the community. The second phase of the project calls for a protected bike lane along Minefee Street and JRA intends to continue working with the community and partners to implement this in the future.

Bioretention area in progress (Photo: James River Association)

Harbor Dredge & Dock was selected to install the new infrastructure and Groundwork RVA installed and is currently maintaining street trees and plants along Minefee Street. Green workforce development was integrated into the project through JRA’s partnership with Groundwork RVA, a community-based non-profit working to transform the natural and built environment in Richmond. They work on community supported initiatives towards the goal of a greener and more resilient Richmond that works for all.

Volunteer helping create a bioretention area (Photo: James River Association)

Groundwork RVA Executive Director, Rob Jones, shared his thoughts on the project and the partnership:

The pandemic highlighted what many of us have known for quite some time – that there are huge gaps in our community. For many families in South Richmond, that includes a lack of access to fresh foods, green spaces and even shade from trees. All of this leads to serious challenges that make it harder to survive, let alone thrive.

Our partnership with the James River Association on the Minefee Green Street, is an important step towards helping young men and women, many of whom live in South Richmond “earn while they learn.” Our Green Workforce will have the opportunity to be side-by-side as the project proceeds, from the ground-up! Learning to do work that is not only vital for our communities today but that contributes to the survival of future generations, especially as we tackle climate change. Healthy communities need healthy people – physically, emotionally and economically. We appreciate JRA’s stepping up to help us create a full-spectrum learning opportunity for our young people and look forward to many other projects to come.

Finished Planter Bed (Photo: James River Association)

The Bellemeade Green Street project was supported by funding from Altria, City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O, Virginia Department of Forestry, United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 3, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust Green Streets, Green Job, Green Towns Grant Program.

The Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns Grant Program is currently accepting applications for proposals through March 3rd from entities in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. If you have any questions regarding the program, please contact Jeffrey Popp, at or at 410-974-2941 ext. 103.

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