West and Rhode Riverkeeper

We work with our community to enforce environmental law, to
promote restoration, and to advocate for better environmental policy.
Contact us: 443-758-7797  ♦  PO Box 172, Shady Side, MD 20764

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Keeping our Rivers Clean

honeydipperThe Pumpout Boat is in operation now.  Capt. Mike will be working the Honeydipper boat Friday – Monday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. until October. You can expect to find him on the Rhode River in the mornings and on the West River in the afternoons.Call 410-940-3754  or on VHF Channel 71. Thanks to support from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the service is only $5 – but if you’re a $50 level member of West/Rhode Riverkeeper, you can get pumped all season long for FREE.  

We are happy to report that in 2013, the Honeydipper was responsible for keeping 15,000 gallons of sewage from entering our Rivers.  Thank you, Capt. Mike!

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New law limits lawn fertilizer: Better grass through less chemistry

By Pat Furgurson, Staff

Cut It Tall

One tip for a healthier lawn is to "cut it tall, and let it fall." Cut your lawn to a minimum of 3.5 inches and let the cuttings fall on the ground where they can help provide nutrients for the soil.

“As you begin working outside this spring, keep in mind that the way you care for your lawn can make a difference for the (Chesapeake) bay,” Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance said.

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Bill Calls for Study of Acidification of Bay

By: Bran Compere, Capital New Service



COLLEGE PARK — The General Assembly passed a bill last week that would create a task force to evaluate effects of acidification in the Chesapeake Bay and other state waters and make recommendations on how to address the issue.


House Bill 118, which would form the task force and charge it to make recommendations by Jan. 1, 2015, passed with bipartisan support on the final day of the 2014 session. The state Department of Natural Resources would be required to provide staff to assist the task force.

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True value of cover crops to farmers, environment

April 7, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Planting cover crops in rotation between cash crops — widely agreed to be ecologically beneficial — is even more valuable than previously thought.

According to a team of from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, benefits offered by cover crops cross more than 10 ecosystem services.

“As society places increasing demands on agricultural land beyond food production to include ecosystem services, we needed a new way to evaluate ‘success’ in agriculture,” said Jason Kaye, professor of biogeochemistry and research team member.

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Bill seeks truth in crabmeat, seafood labeling

Measure aimed at fighting 'bait-and-switch' in restaurants, markets


Did you ever wonder if a restaurant's crabcake was made with Maryland crab or some foreign import? Or if that was really red snapper you bought, or an impostor? 


A bill introduced Wednesday in Annapolis would make it illegal for restaurants or markets to mislabel the seafood they sell, and moreover would require them to specify where their crabmeat came from.


"If I go to a restaurant and order a 'Maryland-style' crabcake, I'd like to know if it's made with Venezuelan crabmeat," said Del. Eric G. Luedtke, the bill's sponsor.


Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat, said investigations have found a significant share of seafood sold in restaurants is mislabeled. Such bait-and-switch winds up costing consumers more, he said, and sometimes can even have health consequences.


A study by Oceana, a Washington-based conservation group, found through DNA testing that one-third of more than 1,200 seafood items bought in stores nationwide were mislabeled, according to guidelines form the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In the Washington area, 26 percent of fish was mislabeled, the group said. Snapper and tuna were among the most frequently misidentified products.


Luedtke said his bill is modeled on a seafood labeling law in Washington state.  It would require the species and common name of any fish or shellfish sold in the state be identified on a restaurant menu or on a sign in the market.


It would also require identifying the source of crab products by state or country, and bar selling anything as "blue crab" if it wasn't made from Callinectes sapidus, the species native to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The Department of Natural Resources, which already encourages restaurants and markets to carry locally caught seafood through its "true blue" campaign, would be directed to draw up labeling regulations.


"Any time we can improve the quality of information consumers are getting, it's a good thing," Luedtke said.

Oceana supports Luedtke's measure as an antidote to mislabelling that it says often amounts to seafood fraud. The group has petitioned Congress to pass federal labeling legislation, and gathered signatures in support from 450 chefs nationwide, including 25 from Maryland and 10 from Baltimore. With no action to date in Washington, Oceana's campaign director Beth Lowell said action at the state level can help.


"When ordering Maryland's famous blue crabs, I want to be certain that I'm actually having crabs from Maryland that were caught in the Chesapeake Bay and that I am supporting local watermen," Lowell said.

Jack Brooks, co-owner of J.M. Clayton Co., a crab processor in Cambridge, and president of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industry Association, welcomed the bill, saying Maryland consumers often unwittingly buy or eat crabmeat imported from South America or Asia, hurting local watermen and businesses like his.


"The poor consumer is the one really taking it on the chin here," he said. "It's so sad they really don’t know the origin of seafood."


But Brooks called "problematic" one provision in the bill that would require U.S.-caught crab products be labeled by their state of of origin.  He said his business processes crabs from Virginia as well as Maryland, and that some of the watermen he buys from have licenses to work in both states.


Melvin R. Thompson, senior vice president with the Restaurant Association of Maryland, said he couldn't comment on the bill until member restaurateurs have a chance to review it.

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Environmentalists want local, not state, government to decide on stormwater fees

Worried Senate president may be considering cap, exemptions

By Alex Jackson, The Capital
January 19, 2014

Environmentalists are trying to convince Maryland legislative leaders to not change a state mandate on stormwater fees, allowing local governments to take it from here.

Sources in the General Assembly say Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, is considering introducing legislation that would cap the fees the state’s 10 most populous jurisdictions were required to impose.

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Miller, Busch vow no repeal of stormwater fees

Talking about issues

Left to right, Senate President Thomas V Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch speak with public radio host Marc Steiner. They are at the Governor Calvert House to talk about some of the issues facing the state legislature which begins its 90 day session later today. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun / January 8, 2014)


The leaders of the Senate and House of Delegates predicted Thursday morning that lawmakers won't be repealing the stormwater fees in the state's largest jurisdictions this year.


At a breakfast hosted by the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. responded to a question about whether the fees would be repealed by saying flatly: "We're not going to repeal the stormwater fee."


House Speaker Michael E. Busch then quickly piped up: "Second!"


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Maryland Using Technology to Crack Down on Oyster Poaching

By: Sarah Polus, Capital News Service, January 2, 2014

The Maryland Natural Resources Police are relying on new technology and harsher penalties to help crack down on illegal oyster harvesting in the Chesapeake Bay.

Poaching includes harvesting undersized oysters, exceeding bushel limits and harvesting in areas designated as sanctuaries, NRP Capt. David Larsen said. 

Oyster poaching undermines attempts at restoring oyster populations. Mostly due to overharvesting and disease, “currently less than 1 percent of historic levels of oysters exist in the bay,” said Sarah Widman, a DNR fishery spokeswoman.

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Fishermen split over New Maryland rockfish quotas

LLoyd Fox/The Baltimore Sun - Rock Hall watermen spend all day setting and hauling in their gill nets for rockfish before returning to the dock in late afternoon.

By: Timothy B. Wheeler, The Washington PostDecember 30, 2013

Sharing is often considered a good thing. But ask fishermen to share their catch, especially of Maryland’s state fish, and things can get testy — with seafood consumers on the hook for how it plays out.

Maryland is changing the way striped bass are caught for sale, ending decades of regulating the popular Chesapeake Bay fish by limiting the times when it can be harvested. Starting Jan. 1, commercial fishermen will have individual quotas of striped bass they can catch almost any time, not just in the relative handful of days permitted this year.

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'Troubled Waters' series examines failures, successes of Chesapeake cleanup

By Tim Prudente, The Capital

December 29, 2013

After three decades of work and the spending of more than $15 billion, the Chesapeake Bay is far from being clean.

Deadlines for action have failed to sufficiently slow pollution. Most measures of water quality remain far below goals for a healthy bay.

The Capital’s week-long series, “Troubled Waters,” examined the “Save the Bay” movement during the 30th anniversary year of the first agreement to clean the polluted estuary.

The findings:

  • So much money was spent by so many federal and state agencies that, until recently, nobody could keep track.
  • Efforts have been uncoordinated and programs have been ineffectual, though better results are produced now.
  • Stormwater fees mean average Marylanders will pay more to clean the bay, but it’s uncertain whether it will be enough.
  • A 1980s moratorium saved rockfish, but millions of tax dollars haven’t restored oysters or stabilized blue crabs.
  • A new plan, based on tough enforcement, is praised as the best hope, but questions persist about paying for it.

“Troubled Waters” is a story told through videos and photographs, a database and interactive graphics. Officials in the “Save the Bay” movement, including three Maryland governors, offered opinions on the cleanup effort's greatest mistakes and successes.

Revisit “Troubled Waters” at www.capitalgazette.com/projects/chesapeake_bay.

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