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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West and Rhode Riverkeeper Blog

Description of my blog
Mar 06
2013

Conservation Corps'ner: Spring 2013

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

By Will Saffell

 

Reduction in Menhaden catch limits likely to Pass

Big things are happening for a little species of fish by the name of Menhaden. If you have not heard of these oily little fish, it is about time that you do. Menhaden represent one of the largest fisheries in the region and have been the subject of intense debate. Over harvesting has resulted in populations below 10% of historical levels and an uncertainty for the future of the industry. In an attempt to curb a crash of the fishery, bills that will reduce the harvest limit by 20% are currently working their way into becoming law. These bills are intended to bring the industry into compliance with the Menhaden management plan adopted by the Atlantic Coast Marine Fisheries Commission, and ultimately allow the fishery to rebound from decades of overfishing. Legislation has recently been approved by the Senate, and is awaiting approval from the House. After which, it is expected to be signed by the Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell. If these bills are passed, it will be marked as a major success and a hard earned win for environmentalists. If the bills are not, Virginia will likely face harsh sanctions that would have a significant impact on the industry. 

menhaden

So why so much commotion over such a small fish? Menhaden have been called “the most important fish in the sea.” While the fish itself is not appetizing to us humans, its role in the ecosystem is invaluable. Menhaden are filter feeders, and are a historically abundant fish.  Massive schools of Menhaden feed on phytoplankton (algae) at rates of 4 gallons/minute and do an amazing job of transforming plankton into millions of pounds of fish. Menhaden create a sort of “energy bridge” that links phytoplankton into a form that is edible by larger predators. This is critical, as Menhaden are considered a keystone species due to their role as an important dietary item for several species including rockfish, bluefish, weakfish, flounder, eagles, osprey, pelicans, and loons. Declines in Menhaden have resulted in less food for these predatory species and is believed to be linked to less robust predator populations. 

menhaden chart

A cause for the rapid decline of Menhaden is in part due to technological advances that have increased the fisheries ability to harvest Menhaden. A practice known as purse-seining has been coupled with airplane scouts that work in conjunction to locate and capture large schools of Menhaden. The practice is extremely efficient and results in immensely successful fishing. The long term application of the practice however has given the industry the ability to continuously land large harvests, which further dwindles Menhaden populations. 

Once harvested, the majority of Menhaden go through a practice called “reduction processing” in which they are ground and converted into a variety of products. Menhaden are prized for their high Omega 3 content, and reduction processing allows for the extraction of this desired compound, which is later used in dietary supplements. Reduction processing also allows Menhaden to be used in the making of products ranging from fertilizers, livestock feed pellets, cosmetics, and even lipstick. Menhaden that are not process are used in the fishing industry, as they are a staple bait fish that are used extensively by crabbers, lobsterman, and anglers. Currently, there is only one major industrial harvesting company of Menhaden in the Chesapeake region, Omega Protein Corporation. They are a Texas bases cooperation, with their primary facility located in Virginia. Omega Protein is an extensive operation that is involved in every step of Menhaden harvesting ranging from fishing, processing, to research. The Corporation is a important stakeholder in the proposed legislation due to that a 20% reduction in harvest limits would significantly affect business. 

The proposed bills are not focused on harming industry, but rather aimed to promote the long term sustainability of the Menhaden fishery. By alleviating harvesting pressures, Menhaden populations will be able to recover and ultimately benefit those dependent on this oily fish. Fortunately, these bills will decrease harvesting prior to a population crash and take steps to prevent Menhaden from becoming another example of a collapsed fishery.  This mean a long term bait supply for local watermen here on the West and Rhode Rivers. 

 

 

 

 

Mar 06
2013

Restoration Update: Spring 2013

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

By Joe Ports

It’s been a busy winter for us out on the West and Rhode Rivers!  Now that its already March its time for us to start gearing up for a busy Spring.

Camp Letts Treatment WetlandCamp LettsAfter 3 years of hard work attaining funding, creating a design and securing permits the treatment wetland at YMCA Camp Letts is finally completed!  This January the contractors, EQR, finished building the wetland and planted 150 native trees and shrubs through the project in mid-February.  Now the project will capture the sediment and nutrient laden stormwater running off the adjacent horse pasture and treat the water before it reaches Sellman Creek in the Rhode River.  We’d like to thank Camp Letts, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Anne Arundel Soil Conservation District, and the Maryland Department of the Environment for being so helpful throughout the process.

right of wayUtility Right-of-way Stream Restoration in Harwood – Contracted engineering firm, Sustainable Science, has been hard at work surveying and preparing a design for a stream restoration project to take place within a BGE transmission line right-of-way.  Funding for the design has been provided by CBT and a Constellation Eco-star grant. The design will include widening the floodplain to slow down water in large storm events, modifying the channel where it is eroding the banks, and creating some wetlands to treat some of the water passing through the site.  We should have the design completed by the summer and will then be able to start seeking construction funds. This exciting project has the potential to be used as a model for stream restoration in utility right-of-way areas around the region.

Stormwater Management in Avalon Shores – We are preparing to submit a grant to start designing a project that will help reduce some flooding problems while treating stormwater within the Avalon Shores neighborhood in Shady Side.  We are hopeful that we receive funding so we can get to work trying to reduce some of the flooding issues in the neighborhood while also treating the polluted stormwater before it reaches the West River.

Living Shorelines – There has been a great number of residents contacting us with interest in building living shorelines.  We’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with some of these homeowners to acquire grants from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to help off set some of the costs associated with installing this Bay saving practice.  We currently have two projects that are very close to construction and one project that is in the early phases.  Keep an eye out for these beautiful erosion control practices while riding around the rivers.

Galesville Tree Planting - This winter the Governor started an initiative called the Governors Stream Challenge.  This challenge provided grant funding to organizations that included students in the planting of forested stream buffers.  West/Rhode Riverkeeper applied to the program and received funding to involve students from a local middle school to plant 318 trees and shrubs in Galesville Park along Lerch Creek.

Jacks Creek Park – West/Rhode Riverkeeper recognizes that people need to have a connection to our rivers in order to want to save them.  A critical part of building this connection is having public land for people to visit and enjoy the water.  There are a number of these public properties that are located right on the water but due to the financial constraints faced by state and local governments many properties have been left unutilized.  Though many of these properties are left waiting for better financial times we have been able to form a partnership with the county government and Anne Arundel Water Access Committee to open up a local park in Shady Side called Jacks Creek park.  We will be working with the county to open up the park and provide parking and hiking paths down to the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay.

Jacks Creek

Underwater Grasses – We still have a couple tanks of the underwater grass species called Redhead growing in our basement.  We’ll be ready to plant this around May so get ready to come down to Shady Side and get wet!

Conservation Landscaping – This winter the Chesapeake Yacht Club contacted us with interest in reducing the amount of lawn that they had on their property.  We thought this would be a great opportunity to implement some conservation landscaping practices.  We’ve been giving them some ideas of native grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees to plant around their property to create beautiful, low maintenance, native landscaping that benefits wildlife and water quality.

Rhode River Marylanders Grow Oysters Program - Our dedicated oyster growers have been keeping a close eye on their baby oysters, called spat.  By now the spat that I've seen have grown from about a quarter inch long to over half an inch.  The spat will really start growing quick once the water gets warm.  They'll then be ready to be planted on an oyster sanctuary in the South River in June.

oysters

Oyster shell is an important resource! Now you can recycle it.  If you buy your oysters from a local waterman see if they'd like the shell back.  If they use aquaculture to harvest their oysters then getting shell can be an expensive part of the aquaculture process. Another option is to leave your shells at a drop off point close to you so that they can be used in restoration work.  Please visit this link to find a drop off point close to you (we have one right outside our office): http://www.cbf.org/how-we-save-the-bay/programs-initiatives/virginia/oyster-restoration/save-oyster-shell  "

Get ready to go outside and get dirty cleaning up the rivers!  This Spring we will have a number of volunteer events to help clean up the West and Rhode Rivers.  To get more details RSVP to Joe Ports at Joe@westrhoderiverkeeper.org or at 410-867-7171.

 

Dec 05
2012

Guest Column: Preserving Family Lands in Anne Arundel County

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

by Rick Leader, Executive Director of Scenic Rivers Land Trust

Land preservation offers families an opportunity to protect the lands they cherish.  Few people want to see their properties further developed, but financial challenges may force their hand.  Some have a general inclination toward land preservation, but they want a strong financial incentive to give up their development rights.  The preservation of forests and other open spaces is critical to the health of our rivers and our quality of life in Anne Arundel County.

 

Scenic Rivers Land Trust (SRLT) has been preserving land in Anne Arundel County since 1988. SRLT works closely with willing landowners who want to voluntarily restrict further development of their properties through land preservation agreements known as easements.

 

An easement is a binding agreement that forever limits the development of a property according to very specific guidelines.  It can remove all development rights, or allow room for limited expansion of an existing house or possibly the addition of a new structure.  An easement is permanent; it forever conveys with the property deed.

 

Along with the personal goal of protecting in perpetuity a property they value, landowners can realize several financial incentives for placing an easement on their property.  Easements can significantly reduce estate taxes, making it easier to keep land in the family.  Anne Arundel County waives a portion of annual property taxes on eased properties.  Easements that meet specific IRS requirements may result in large income tax deductions.  In rare cases, funding becomes available to purchase easements.

 

SRLT holds and manages easements on 52 properties in Anne Arundel County, protecting over 2,500 acres.  The organization has just released a draft expansion and fundraising plan that would double the number of acres protected by 2015.  To learn more, contact SRLT Executive Director Rick Leader at Rick@SRLT.org or 410-310-6541 and visit the SRLT web site at www.srlt.org.

 

Dec 03
2012

Two Rivers Auction Recap

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

by Amy Colhoun Memorial Hall

The Two Rivers Harvest Auction was held on October 20th at the Galesville Hall.  The event brought friends and supporters to the hall for an evening of great food, music and auction bidding on a wide variety of items graciously donated to help us raise critical funds to continue our work to protect, preserve, restore and celebrate the West and Rhode Rivers!

Complimenting the evening’s auction bidding was music by the Rob Levit Trio of Annapolis.  Whole Foods of Annapolis and Whitman’s Catering provided the food.  Oysters were shucked and served from waterman, Pat Mahoney, of Wild Country Seafood of Annapolis.  The wine was provided compliments of Ciminelli’s Landscape.

Matt Ciminelli, Ciminelli’s Landscape, a top level Event Sponsor, addressed the crowd and reminded guests of the importance that a local watershed has on a community and he thanked W/RR for their stewardship on so many important issues.

auction photo  Rob Levit Trio  spectators

Check out more photos from the event HERE.

We could not have had a successful event without all the hard work of our entire auction planning committee and every single dedicated volunteer. Many hours were spent preparing for the big night and everyone came together to make it a very successful event!  We want to thank each and every sponsor, donor, volunteer and attendee who made the event such a success!

Two Rivers Harvest Auction - Event Sponsors:

Ciminelli’s Landscape

Shorehouse Gardens

Cumberstone Craftsmen

West River Improvement Association

Whole Foods Annapolis

Honey’s Harvest

 

Dec 03
2012

Pelicans on Patrol

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

by Joe Ports

Autumn is a time of change. Leaves change from lively greens to brilliant reds, temperatures change from stifling hot to cool and crisp, and wildlife changes from the usual Osprey and Mallard ducks to Bald Eagles and migratory ducks of all species.  All these changes are expected, but this November we had some unlikely visitors.  The weekend of November 10th, Brown Pelicans decided to come up from their usual homes in southern Maryland and Virginia to visit the piers and pound nets of the West River.  They were even spotted as far north as the Severn River.  This area is much farther north than Brown Pelican’s usual territory, which in recent years has been around Solomon’s Island.

Brown Pelicans migrate up from the Gulf of Mexico in the spring to nest on small, isolated coastal islands along the eastern seaboard with the southern Chesapeake Bay being just about the last stop on their journey.  After their young have hatched and feasted on the fish that the Bay has to offer, Pelicans fly back down south in the fall of the year.  Our guests may have been blown up by Superstorm Sandy to end up this far north when they should be heading south. 

Pelicans
Photo by Linda Lawrence

Though visits like this are a rare occurrence now, they may become a bit more common in coming years.  Pelicans were placed on the endangered species list in 1970 but have made an astounding come back thanks to the ending of hunting the birds and the United States banning DDT in 1972.  The first nesting colony was found in Maryland in 1998 on Spring Island very close to the Virginia line and they have been moving north ever since.  So with a warming climate and this robust population growth Pelicans could become regular spring visitors to these parts of the Chesapeake.

Dec 03
2012

Legislative Update: Winter 2012

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

by Chris Trumbauer

The Maryland General Assembly session is fast approaching. Each year, West/Rhode Riverkeeper plays a key role in helping to shape the environmental community’s agenda.

This year, we are participating in two important coalitions. The first is Smart on Pesticides. This coalition of environmental groups, farmers, and health care professionals is seeking legislation to track the application of toxic pesticides in Maryland. The legislation would require pesticide applicators as well as sellers of restricted use pesticides to report the information they are already required to maintain. That way, research scientists and environmental/public health experts will have data they can use to determine if and when pesticides are affecting our health, our waters, and homeland security.

Smart on Pesticides

Also, we will once again be a leader in the Clean Water Healthy Families coalition. This year, CWHF will be advocating for repairing some “loopholes” within the stormwater bill (HB987) that passed last year, statewide legislation promoting a disposable bag policy, and general defense of the important environmental initiatives that were passed last year.

Members of West/Rhode Riverkeeper did an excellent job of responding to our “action alerts” this year. Grassroots support and constituent contact to key legislators made the difference in passing critical environmental legislation. I hope we can count on you again this Spring! 

 

Dec 03
2012

Conservation Corps'ner: Winter 2012

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

 

*** To get to the 2013 article about Dredging in John's and Norman's Creek Please Click Here,

Sorry for the Inconvenience***

 

by Will Saffell

Native Meadow project to Begin at Carrie Weedon Science Center

West/Rhode Riverkeeper is excited to announce a new project with the Carrie Weedon Science Center (CWSC) in Galesville. CWSC is an educational institute that hosts field trips for local schools with a focus on teaching students about science through hands on activities. This project will be the creation of a sizable native meadow on the grounds of the education center.  The construction of a native meadow is a particularly interesting project because it encompasses a number of environmental benefits ranging from Conservation Landscaping to education. Furthermore, it promotes an increasingly rare ecosystem in Maryland and will create habitat for a multitude of native species.  

Native meadow
Example of a native meadow

The land that will be used for this project was formally an old basketball court that has since been removed. The project will reduce the amount of impervious surfaces on the property and its contribution to stormwater runoff. The CWSC had the option of converting this space into additional turf, which has little habitat value and can be a potential source for fertilizer use. These fertilizers could add to the existing excess nutrient issues in the Bay's waters.  However, instead of installing the customary turf, CWSC decided to go a less traditional route and transform the area into a project that will have both wildlife value and be used as an educational tool for students.

 A diverse list of native plant species will be planted, which will in time attract important pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Other insects will follow along with songbirds and small mammals. The meadow will shortly become a dynamic and busy habitat exploding with life. Additionally, the list of plant species to be used has been carefully selected so that the meadow is blooming throughout the growing season. You will be able to watch the meadow transform over the course of the year as different species pass in and out of their blooming periods, painting the meadow from yellows to blues to pinks to purples. As the years go by, the meadow will mature. Some short lived and fast growing species will become less abundant as the longer lived species establish themselves. The species composition will continue to evolve and shift over the years, resulting in a dynamic habitat that is easy and fascinating to observe. Much more interesting than a standard turf lawn!

conservation landscaping
An example of conservation landscaping
 (photo from Chesapeake Bay Journal)

The creation of meadows in community settings and private properties is not a new one. It is part of a concept known as Conservation Landscaping. This technique aims to reduce fertilizers, fuel, pesticides, and water use while at the same time increasing habitat, water infiltration, native plants, water quality, and species diversity.  Essentially it offers alternatives to the traditional turf lawn that are aesthetically pleasing and have environmental benefits. Other examples of Conservation Landscaping are rain gardens, butterfly gardens, berry patches, forests/small arboretums, shrubs/understory, bogs, and wetlands. Each site will lend itself to a specific type of project so if you are thinking about expanding your yard with more turf or removing an existing structure; why not instead consider a form of Conservation Landscaping? Furthermore, some projects may be eligible for grant funding through various sources.

CWSC is embracing Conservation Landscaping and has long-term plans to implement several habitat types throughout the property in addition to the meadow. A swale on the property has created a small wetland near the athletic fields so instead of increasing drainage to get rid of the wetland; CWSC would like to make it a garden by planting native wetland species.  CWSC is also looking to remove invasive plants from a section of woods on the property and turn the area into a native tree grove with trails winding throughout it. The combination of all these habitat types on one property would form a microcosm consisting of several ecosystems inherent to Maryland`s ecology and function as an excellent educational tool.

If you are considering Conservational Landscaping in your own property, these resources may be helpful:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Schoolyard Habitat Guide: http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/pdf/habitatguide.pdf#page=103

Conservation Landscaping: A Bayscapes Homeowner`s Guide:
http://www.acb-online.org/pubs/projects/deliverables-85-1-2003.pdf

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Chesapeake Bay Field Office Website:
http://www.fws.gov/ChesapeakeBay/Bayscapes.htm

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Native Plants for Wildlife and Conservation Landscaping in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed:
http://www.nativeplantcenter.net/guides/chesapeakenatives.pdf

Dec 03
2012

Restoration Update: Winter 2012

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

by Joe Ports

It’s an exciting time for restoration around the West and Rhode Rivers!  We have several projects that are just getting started and some that are incredibly close to starting.

Ongoing Restoration Sites

Camp Letts

Camp LettsAfter years of work we are pleased to report that a large treatment wetland will be installed at YMCA Camp Letts.  Work began on November 26th and will last about one month.  This project will be located between the camp’s horse paddock and Selman Creek on the Rhode River.  The purpose of this project is to treat the sediment and horse waste that runs off the fields during rain events before it reaches the river.  We are very excited about his project and would like to thank the Soil Conservation District, Camp Letts, and Kirk Mantay for all their hard work to get this project started and as well as the Chesapeake Bay Trust for their hard work and for funding the project.

Living Shoreline in Popham Creek

We have been working with a private landowner to get her 410 feet of shoreline stabilized with a living shoreline.  Living shorelines involve adding stone breakwaters and constructing marsh behind that stone.  The county has just approved the project so we are in the home stretch and construction should be completed by the spring of 2013.

Living Shoreline in Bear Neck Creek

A new living shoreline will soon grace the shores near the mouth of Bear Neck Creek.  Thanks to a dedicated homeowner and a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust we are able to work to get a new living shoreline installed to protect an eroding property as well as the marsh that is planted up stream of the new property.

BGE Right-of-Way Stream Restoration

We have just secured enough funding to have a technical design created for a seriously degraded stream located in a Baltimore Gas and Electric transmission line right-of-way in Harwood.  This project will stop the current erosion on the site and provide excellent habitat for stream dwellers and many birds and small mammals.  We would like to thank BGE for their help in getting this project started as well as Constellation Energy and the Chesapeake Bay Trust for funding this crucial stage of the project.

Underwater GrassSAV

We are still hard at work keeping Redhead, a species of underwater grass, growing in the basement of our office building.  We have 4 tanks with very strong growth and 4 others that look like they are ready to take off soon.  We look forward to planting the grasses this spring! 

Rhode River Oysters

Joe with oystersWe are having a great first year of the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program in the Rhode River.  We currently have 18 volunteers growing 83 cages of oysters.  These volunteers will continue to care for these oysters through the winter and the oysters will then be planted on a local reef to help add to the population.  If you are interested in participating in this program next year please contact Joe Ports at joe@westrhoderiverkeeper

 

Dec 03
2012

Riverkeeper Report: Winter, 2012

Posted by Chris in Riverkeeper Report , Pollution Diet , Optimism

The Case for Optimism
by Chris Trumbauer

 ‘Tis not the season for “doom and gloom”. So often when we speak of the troubles facing the Chesapeake Bay and our rivers, the conversation focuses on past failures, astronomical costs, or who to blame for the condition of our waterways. But during the holidays, who wants to focus on the negative? This is a season of hope, a season of giving, a season for cherishing time with family and friends. So it is fitting that we approach the ongoing effort to restore our waterways with optimism.

Many times, with complex problems, finding the simplest solution can be the best way forward. The challenge of reducing pollution in our waterways is so massive and so daunting that it can seem overwhelming. But it really boils down to a very basic solution: we all have a shared responsibility to help restore the West and Rhode Rivers, and every waterway that flows into the largest and most productive estuary in the nation – the Chesapeake Bay.

I’m reminded of a catchy little song that parents and kids (including mine) sing when it’s time to pick up their mess, or clean their rooms.

 “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere

Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.” 

We could all take this to heart. What if, instead of developers blaming farmers, and farmers blaming developers, we all started working together? What if, instead of paying lawyers and lobbyists to figure out why we didn’t have to do something designed to protect our waterways, we all spent that effort trying to figure out what we could do to make things better? What if we all did do our share?

Our rivers are natural ecosystems that thrived for thousands of years. They are resilient. But humankind has been beating them up for a long time. Overfishing, pollution, destruction of wetlands, forests, and shorelines have all contributed to a sharp decline in their health. If we want to give the rivers a chance to heal, we need to make some changes.

That’s where my optimism comes in. For the first time since its inception, the Chesapeake Bay Program has mandatory pollution reductions in place, instead of the failed voluntary measures of the past 30 years. These pollution reduction requirements are based on proven science, and if implemented will finally give the Chesapeake Bay and our waterways a chance to begin their recovery.

Will it be easy? No. Will it be cheap? No. Will it be worth it? Yes. A recent study estimated the value of the Chesapeake Bay at $1 Trillion. This seems surprising until you remember all of the industries dependent on a healthy Bay: fishing, tourism, boating, and shipping – not to mention property values.

Surely there are those that don’t want to make the investment in our #1 resource. Their voices may be loud – but do they speak for you? They don’t speak for me. I’m rooting for the Bay and I think we can win.

At West/Rhode Riverkeeper, we fight every day for our rivers. We advocate at the General Assembly for good, common-sense policies to reduce pollution and hold the state and counties accountable for their goals. We go out into communities to educate our neighbors on simple everyday actions we can all do to reduce pollution. We patrol our rivers to guard against violations of environmental laws. And, increasingly, we are building on-the-ground restoration projects and living shorelines in our communities to restore habitat and capture pollution before it goes into our rivers.

In the words of John F. Kennedy, “We choose to [do these] things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard… because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” We do these things because we know we can restore our rivers. We want to be part of the great effort to bring our rivers and the Bay back from the brink. And we are optimistic that, finally, we are prepared to do it. 

Sep 05
2012

Cute Little Things

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by Bob Gallagher

I would guess that most readers of this newsletter prefer fresh fruits over caned and frozen. Unless you buy them straight from the farm, a terrific option at this time of year, each piece is likely to have one of those colorful little stickers. Until we ran out of space, Cate used to paste them on the door jamb in the pantry. I usually stick them to something headed for recycling but, I confess, a few have ended up going down the drain.

fruit sticker

A New England Waterkeeper recently discovered that the bottom of the harbor in his town was littered with them. Apparently, they slip through the waste water treatment process. We will have to get larger door jambs or make sure they make it into the recycling bin.