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: 410-867-7171  ♦  4800 Atwell Rd, #6, Shady Side, MD 20764

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Anne Arundel moves to improve small scale water access


October 11, 2013

When it comes to helping the public to access the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways, Rick Anthony is considering many approaches, including “low-hanging fruit.”

For the Anne Arundel County recreation and parks director, that means making small-scale improvements at county parks on the water.

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Maryland oyster population rebounds in latest DNR study

By E.B. FURGURSON III, The Capital
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The annual Maryland Department of Natural Resources oyster survey shows growing numbers of oysters for the second year in a row and the highest count since 1999.

A high count of young oysters bodes well for harvests in the next couple of years, unless drought conditions spark a resurgence of disease.

The big news is the jump in oyster spat, young oysters of 1 inch or less. The count was three times the 28-year average and the sixth highest since 1985. It was the second consecutive year the spat number was up.

The 2012 Spatfall Index was 60 spat per bushel, a threefold increase over the 28-year-median. The calculation is based on the number of spat found per bushel dredged up in the study.

That means a there is a potential for a more abundant crop of oysters in a couple of years as those oysters mature.

“It’s almost all good news,” said Michael Naylor, the DNR’s shellfish program director. “It’s all relative considering the situation we are in since the big die-off (when diseases ravaged the oyster in the 1980s), but we are encouraged by what we are seeing.”

The annual oyster population report comes from data gathered over two months in the fall across 262 oyster beds throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Preliminary results were released in April; the full report was released Friday.

Four major factors are included in the study and report: The Oyster Spat Index, oyster disease measurement, the mortality rate of young oysters and a biomass index measuring the number and weight of oysters sampled.

There are two primary forms of oyster disease that have walloped the oyster population in the bay, MSX and Dermo.

Dermo was below the average prevalence for the ninth year in a row, but levels jumped from a 22-year record low in 2011. Both the prevalence of the disease and its strength were up. Most of the Dermo was in southern bay waters.

With overall lower disease rates, oyster mortality — the percentage of dead oysters per sample — was the lowest since 1985. Only 7 percent of oysters on the 43 bars were dead, compared to the worst disease year, 2002, left 58 percent of the oysters dead.

Though the study points to an slightly improved picture for Maryland’s watermen, there was good news last year. The commercial harvest grew by 10 percent to 137,000 bushels. Some 20 million bushels were taken per year at the industry’s peak in the 1880s.

But many watermen are miffed the state restricted their public harvest areas.

“They took 10,000 acres of our best bottom,” said Talbot County waterman Bunky Chance of the Maryland Oystermen Association. “Our harvest was up because we have been working what’s left. They took the steak of the table and left us the gristle. But now that gristle has turned to T-bone steak.”

The good news could be reversed by a drought which would boost salinity in bay waters.

“Drought conditions could trigger lethality. All oysters have the disease but they are surviving it in these conditions,” Naylor said. “But with the next serious drought many people, including watermen, will be holding their breath.”

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Gov. O’Malley recognizes Maryland horse farms for stewardship

By Whitney Pipkin, Bay Journal

August 19, 2013

Horses are a growing part of the Bay watershed’s agricultural landscape and a key component of any efforts to reduce water pollution coming from farms, as I wrote about in April. In Maryland, the horse industry is making a concerted effort to recognize horse farms that are stepping up conservation efforts on their land in hopes that others will follow suit.

And now the governor is recognizing those efforts as well. Gov. Martin O’Malley recently sent letters to 11 horse farms congratulating them on their participation in the Farm Certification and Assessment Program, developed in 2010 to acknowledge farmers who are good stewards of their natural resources.

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Waterkeepers Chesapeake seek to lessen impact of Conowingo Dam

by Michael Helfrich, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Conservation Groups Seek to Lessen Impacts of Conowingo Dam on Susquehanna River, Chesapeake Bay

The lower Susquehanna River hydro-dams produce low-pollution electricity, but that doesn’t mean they do no harm to the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay.  The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper has been working with scientists and other conservation groups since 2006 to find solutions to these impacts so that we can continue to produce efficient and clean electricity while reducing the damage done to our waterways, and reducing the amount of fees and taxes we are paying to try and clean up the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay.

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Wetlands are Life Support System

By Kathy Reshetiloff, Bay Journal News Service
July 18, 2013

Diversity is the spice of life. Nowhere is this more apparent than where land and water meet. The blending of terrestrial and aquatic environments creates a wetland, an ecosystem that often supports more life than either the land or water alone.

When thinking of wetlands, many people envision the marshes found mainly along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay and tidal portions of rivers. They recognize the value of these wetlands as spawning and nursery grounds for fish, shellfish and crabs. Waterfowl and wading birds nest and feed here.

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Red crabs could be seafood's next big thing


The cameras were rolling Tuesday when workers at a Hampton fish house wheeled a vat of glistening Chesapeake ray toward celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, who had come to Virginia for a taste of it.

The cameras weren't rolling a few minutes later when he put a forkful of Atlantic red crab meat into his mouth and proclaimed, "This is crazy good!"

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Eighteen Chesapeake Bay access sites open in 2012

Chesapeake Bay Program News
July 9, 2013

Last year, Chesapeake Bay Program partners opened 18 new public access sites across the watershed, putting residents and visitors in touch with the rivers, streams and open spaces that surround the nation’s largest estuary.

Image courtesy John Flinchbaugh/Flickr

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To be safe, surf the Internet before swimming at the beach

Monitoring programs finding dangerous levels of bacteria in Bay and many of its rivers.

By Rona Kobell
Bay Journal, July 04, 2013

Almost every weekend in the summer, sailboats crowd into the inlets of the Rhode River, just south of Annapolis. Teens cannonball off their bows, while younger children splash close to the beach. The grills come out, and the atmosphere is festive, like an ongoing sailing party.

Chris Trumbauer never wants to break up the mood. But as the Waterkeeper for the West and Rhode rivers, he questions whether these swimmers should be in the water — especially the day after a heavy rain. Have they covered up any cuts and bruises? Do they wash themselves off when they get out of the water? Are they aware that, on the hottest summer days, the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers resemble a simmering soup of bacteria, and contact with the water can lead to all sorts of infections?

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Like Watching Ospreys? Make It a Science


By Chuck Epes, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Bay Daily
Photo by Jerry Hughes
June 7, 2013

You may have read in Bay Daily about the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Osprey Cam, a live, real-time webcast from a camera hovering over the nest of Tom and Audrey, a Maryland osprey pair. It’s a very cool, non-invasive way to watch the family life of some of the most spectacular birds in the world nesting right here in the Chesapeake Bay region.

And if watching Osprey Cam inspires you to learn more -- and do more -- about these fascinating Chesapeake Bay “fish hawks,” here’s the perfect opportunity:OspreyWatch.

OspreyWatch is a global community of volunteer osprey observers who get outside and document nesting osprey in their own part of the world, then submit notes, data, and photographs to the OspreyWatch website for all to study and share. It’s a program of the Center for Conservation Biology, a research group at the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University.

According to its website, the purpose of OspreyWatch is to collect information on a large enough scale to be useful in addressing three pressing issues facing aquatic ecosystems -- global climate change, depletion of fish stocks, and environmental contaminants.

“Osprey are one of very few truly global sentinels for aquatic health,” says OspreyWatch. “They feed almost exclusively on live fish throughout their entire life cycle. They are a top consumer within aquatic ecosystems and are very sensitive to both overfishing and environmental contaminants. Nearly all populations breed in the northern latitudes and winter in the southern latitudes, effectively linking the aquatic health of the hemispheres. Their breeding season in the north is highly seasonal making them an effective barometer of climate change.”

Who knew these ubiquitous Bay icons are also “canaries in the coal mine” for global fish populations, environmental pollution, and climate change?

So in addition to enjoying the on-line family life of Tom and Audrey in Maryland, you can go outside and (respectfully and carefully) observe nesting ospreys in your own community and at the same time contribute to an important global science project.

To learn more and to sign up to become a volunteer for OspreyWatch, clickhere. Now get out there!

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Swim Guide 2013

West/Rhode Riverkeeper Launches Swim Guide Website and Mobile App for 2013 Swimming Season

CONTACT:     Chris Trumbauer, West/Rhode Riverkeeper
410-279-7577 or

May 23, 2013, Anne Arundel County, Maryland – For countless residents and visitors, Memorial Day signals the unofficial start of summer – and the summer swimming season. Getting information about the water quality of our local waterways has just become a whole lot easier with the launch of the Swim Guide, a new, free, smartphone app (available from App Store, Google Play, or www.theswimguide.org).

Provided and managed by member groups within Waterkeeper Alliance, a network of 207 water protection groups worldwide, the Swim Guide helps the user locate the closest, cleanest swimming area, view photos, and get the latest bacteria sampling data so they can determine if the water is safe for swimming.

The Swim Guide was first introduced last year and adopted locally by West/Rhode Riverkeeper and the South River Federation in Anne Arundel County. The Swim Guide is constantly growing and improving – this year the Assateague Coastal Trust joins the list of Maryland organizations and will include such vacation destinations as Assateague Island National Seashore and Ocean City.

"The Swim Guide gives our residents the information they need to make informed decisions about the health of our waterways in an easy, user-friendly application,” said Chris Trumbauer, the West/Rhode Riverkeeper. “Want to know the latest bacteria levels before you jump off of your dock? Now you can just check your smartphone. Empowering people with information will help build stewardship and awareness for our natural waterways.”

For the West and Rhode Rivers, Swim Guide utilizes water quality monitoring data from the West/Rhode Riverkeeper weekly monitoring program to determine the bacteria level at 14 locations representing public and private community swimming sites. The entire Swim Guide monitoring effort includes nearly 5,000 locations across North America with roughly 80 sites in Maryland and 30 in Anne Arundel County. Information is updated as frequently as the water quality information is gathered.

The innovative, free Swim Guide app also includes descriptions and photographs of beaches and employs a tool for citizens to report a pollution problem from their smartphone or through the website. The first 2013 results are now available, and will be updated weekly through the first week of September.

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West/Rhode Riverkeeper works to protect families and communities by stopping pollution. We strive for healthy and safe rivers and streams. We work together with communities to enforce environmental law, promote restoration, and advocate for better environmental policy. www.westrhoderiverkeeper.org 410-867-7171

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