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

West and Rhode Riverkeeper Blog

Description of my blog
Mar 17

Restoration Update: Spring 2014

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

Phase 2 at YMCA Camp Letts has been planted!

We've been working with our partners at YMCA Camp Letts, Anne Arundel County's Soil Conservation District and Arlington Echo to stabilize the horse pasture at the camp and treat run off flowing off the fields.  On April 1st students from Southern Middle School were lead by the stellar staff at Arlington Echo to plant native trees on over 2 acres of currently eroding land.  In May contractors will install a new Horse Heavy Use Area to ensure the remaining paddock areas do not continue to erode.  The newly planted trees will stabilize the soil and filter some of the runoff from the new heavy use area.  The remaining runoff will enter the constructed wetland and be treated to ensure that all water entering the Rhode River is as clean as possible.  Then this fall more students from local schools will visit the camp and plant the remaining 2 acres of pasture.

This project could not be possible without grants from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and cost share assistance from the Maryland Department of Agriculture. 

Two New Living Shorelines Coming to the West and Rhode Rivers this Spring!

img 0217The shores of the West and Rhode Rivers will have two new living shorelines gracing the landscape this spring.  .  Popham Creek in the West River and Bear Neck Creek in the Rhode River will soon have over 600 linear feet of bank stabilized by these projects!  The projects will increase the amount of marsh within our rivers which will filter water and provide habitat for juvenile crabs and terrapins.  Keep an eye out for pictures and more details in future blogs!

These projects are possible thanks to grants from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and some very dedicated homeowners.

The stream restoration project in Harwood is moving along as planned.

We've met with BGE and gotten their final approval to finalize the design for our stream restoration project in their transmission line right-of-way.  We'll be submitting the project for permits and construction should begin by early next year.  This may seem to be a long time away but this is a crucial step in the right direction.  We're excited to see the project move forward and look forward to continue to work with BGE and Maryland DNR to ensure the project gets completed effectively.

Avalon Shores to get a stormwater makeover.

We've started working with our engineer to design a stream restoration/ stormwater retrofit project in Avalon Shores.  The engineer has surveyed the site and is compiling the data so that we can find the most effective way to reduce pollution flowing from the surrounding roads and neighborhood.  We are also looking forward to working with members of the community to increase best management practices on individual properties.

Oysters have had a rough winter but they should cheer up this spring.mgo 2013

It's been a rough winter for us but hopefully your oysters are still happy in their underwater homes.  Oysters can survive being frozen solid underwater but can not tolerate freezing air.  However, ice in the rivers could have cut the ropes holding up your oyster cages.  If this happened be sure to try and retrieve the cages from the bottom so that the oysters don't get smothered in bottom sediment.

Keep an eye out for details on oyster collection this June so that the oysters can be placed on their sanctuary. We are also looking to grow the program next year, so be sure to let your neighbors know about the program so they can get their own oysters.

Rain Barrels are a great addition to any home!

Time to reconnect your rain barrels to capture the spring rains.

If you don't have a rain barrel you can make one or buy one from Arlington Echo.



Mar 13

Advocacy 2014

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

With all of your efforts to reduce your impact on the rivers and all of Joe’s restoration projects, we still won’t reach our goal until we reduce the impact of contaminated runoff from our homes, roads, offices and commercial land uses. That is the point of the storm water restoration fund adopted by the County Council last year. The fund is now in place. We are all paying our share into the fund and a group at the AA County Department of Public Works, lead by former South River Federation Executive Director Erik Michelsen, is already putting the money to work restoring streams and decades old sediment ponds.

The West/Rhode Riverkeeper joins the Clean Water, Healthy Families coalition in thanking state legislative leaders for their work defending Maryland's 2012 law that reduces polluted runoff to help clean up local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. In this year's General Assembly session, 20 different bills were introduced to repeal or weaken the stormwater law, and none of them were passed. 

While no legislation advanced to modify the stormwater law, legislators did make a last-minute change to the state budget for next year, which will enable Frederick and Carroll counties to finance their stormwater obligations through other designated revenue sources, rather than a fee on hard surfaces. These counties are still under the same requirements to reduce polluted runoff.   

Each of the 10 jurisdictions required to have stormwater programs in place has federal clean water permit obligations to reduce polluted runoff. Local governments will use the revenue from the stormwater programs to fund much needed on-the-ground projects that capture polluted runoff, repair failing infrastructure and restore damaged streams.

Polluted runoff makes waterways unsafe for swimming, threatens Maryland seafood and causes localized flooding and property damage.


Mar 13

Spring 2014 Events

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

Volunteer Events

SERC BiodiversiTREE Volunteer Monitoring - April 15 to May 31st (with more help needed in beginning of project)

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) is looking for volunteers to help us track and monitor trees for our experimental BiodiversiTREE forest. Last year, volunteers helped us plant over 24,000 trees to create an experimental forest that will be followed and studied for the next 100 years. Now, we need help tracking, maintaining, and monitoring our forest. Come spend some time outside and be part of our 100 year experiment to better understand forest biodiversity! 


Time: Volunteers can serve for one or more days throughout the duration of the project and the time is flexible.  Volunteers are needed for weekdays (preferred) and weekends for half day shifts.


Training: No prior knowledge is required.  Necessary training will be provided.


Requirements: Volunteers will be working outside and activities involve a lot of bending and kneeling.


For more information, or to volunteer, contact Alison Cawood; (443) 482-2271, 

Muddy Creek Road Clean-up - April 26th - 9am - 11am

Meet at the empty parking lot across from Christopher's Fine Foods, south side of Shady Side Road.
5611 W Shady Side Road, Churchton, MD

Join your friends and neighbors to clean up the main road leading into the Shady Side peninsula.  Trash can clog stormwater colverts and eventually make it's way into our beloved West River, where it can harm the river's delicate ecosystem.  Bring water and and gardening gloves to help with this important project.


Project Clean Stream - Hot Sox Field at Wilson Park - May 3rd - 9am - 11am

johny pcs 12862 Galesville Road, Galesville, MD 20765

This historic site has been a dumping ground for years and now it's time to fix the damage that was done in the past.  Join us as we clean up Hot Sox Field at Wilson Park so that we can prevent the trash from entering Tenthouse Creek and the West River. Wear long pants and bring gardening gloves if you have them to restore this historic gem to its past beauty.


Dates to Keep in Mind

Scenic Rivers Land Trust - 9th Annual Walk in the Woods - April 13th - 7am - 4pm (participants welcome anytime before 3pm)

Bacon Ridge Natural Area, Crownsville, MD - Marbury Road/Farm Road entranceBacon Ridge Natural Area includes 900+ acres of preserved of woods, wetlands, streams and a historic cemetery in Crownsville, Maryland. Hikes range from one to four miles on trails marked for this event. Bird and nature guides, as well as tours of the historic cemetery, are available Sunday, April 13th. Enjoy a stroll through the upland woods or take on rugged terrain with adventurous friends in a seemingly endless forested stream valley.  
•Hike on your own on miles of trails marked for this event
•Reserve a place on a guided walk atwww.SRLT.org or call 
•Friendly dogs on leash welcome after 10 am

Free event with donations to support  work in Bacon Ridge greatly appreciated!

Report Card Release - date coming soon!

See how our river's did in 2013 with the release of our 2014 Report Card.  Our report cards are full of information about our rivers and ways that you can help fix them.  You can also participate in a volunteer event on the same day.


Honey Dipper Pumpout Boat Service Starts - April 26th


  Visit our Pumpout Boat page to get more information.


Ride for the Rivers - May 10th - 9am

ride4therivers2014West River Sailing Club - 911 Galesville Road, Galesville, MD 20765
This charity ride will have two routes, a metric century (60 miles) and a 40 mile course.  Both courses will start and finish at the Carrie Weedon Science Center in Galesville.  The courses will cover Southern Anne Arundel County and stretch along the West and Rhode River's and Herring Bay watersheds with two rest stops aong the way.
The rides will begin at 9am at the Carrie Weedon Science Center and finish in the same spot with a BBQ buffet after party starting a noon.
Registration fee is $40.
Includes food, one beverage and event t-shirt contributed by Under Armour.
Mapmyride.com and Under Armour are sponsoring an en-route contest to the first finishers for each course.
Prize packages donated by Under Armour.
For more information and to register Click Here.

Free Community Kayaking Starts - June 5th at 5pm.

Discovery Village - 4800 Atwell Road, Shady Side, MD 20764

Come out for your chance to explore the West River by kayak for FREE!  Visit our Community Kayaking page for more information.

Riverfest - June 14th - 12pm - 6pm

Discovery Village - 4800 Atwell Road, Shady Side, MD 20764

The River Fest will be an eco/heritage event gathering visitors from throughout the region to enjoy an experience of the ecology, heritage and beauty of southern Anne Arundel County. An afternoon of bluegrass music, fresh Chesapeake Bay seafood including a good old-fashioned fish fry, kayak rides, boat tours on the Historic Richard Lee, exhibits of fine maritime art, heritage sites and fun activities for the whole family. 
Anyone interested in exhibiting, volunteering or participating should contact Amy at WRK office, 410-867-7171 or .  
Tickets $10 per adult and $4 per child under 12yrs and FREE under 6 yrs.


Jan 03

FRIDAY EDITORIAL: Find common ground on ways to protect the Chesapeake

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

As for water systems, it is remarkable to think that a pollution incident in the Southern Tier of New York state can have a tangible impact on the cleanliness of our Chesapeake Bay, located hundreds of miles to the south. Water feeds into the bay from so many sources and from so large a distance that the multitude of causes and effects is seemingly incalculable.
Because of all this complexity, the human and the natural, it is not surprising that potential remedies for helping the bay are often contentious. An environmentalist looks at the phosphorus contained in poultry farmers’ fertilizer and wants to ensure that fertilizer doesn’t run off into tributaries and ultimately Chesapeake Bay. But a farmer looks at all the potential sources of pollution and expresses skepticism about the environmentalists’ conclusions. Again, we all have our own base of knowledge and our own self-interest.
What’s needed increasingly both on Delmarva and in Annapolis is a greater sense of collaboration among bay stakeholders. There are precedents for this elsewhere in the country.
Twenty years ago, preservationist groups and Adirondack Park residents in Upstate New York were greatly at odds over the best way to manage development in the enormous mountainous area. But over time, both sides moved toward compromise instead of confrontation, and the debates are far less bruising, the progress far clearer.
Chesapeake Bay belongs to all of us. It is a pearl that makes our entire region shine brightly. Protecting it is in all of our interests, as long as that “all” is taken into consideration when laws are made and regulations enforced.


Creating a spirit of collaboration in protecting an environmental and recreational treasure is in everyone’s best interests on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Dec 13

The American Eel: A Glimpse at a Long Journey

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

By Joe Ports

Everyone is familiar with one of the most unique and recognizable fish in the Chesapeake Bay, the American Eel. The American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) can be your favorite bait and that curious looking critter that slides out of your crab pot or oyster gardening cage. While eels may seem to be everywhere in the Chesapeake Bay, experts have observed a decline in the eel population along the Atlantic coast. A number of factors are contributing to the decline including over fishing to habitat loss. Some experts are now advocating placing the American Eel on the endangered species list.

A decline in the overall Atlantic population can have serious repercussions for the Maryland population.

The life of an American Eel starts in the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda. Mature eels, called Silver Eels, converge on the sea to mate, disperse their eggs and die. The eggs are carried by ocean currents like the Gulf Stream. The eggs hatch while drifting along and begin the first stage of life called the Glass Eel. Glass Eels are transparent. They continue to be carried by the tides and currents until they swim into estuaries along the Atlantic coast on their journey to freshwater. As the eels age they develop pigment, entering the next stage of life called a Yellow Eel.

Yellow Eels live in fresh or brackish water for as many as 30 years, until they reach sexual maturity. Yellow eels are the stage that most people are familiar with. After the eels are fully matured their anatomy changes so that they can survive in salt water and they become Silver Eels. Silver Eels then migrate back to the ocean to spawn and start the cycle over again.

Fishing pressure is a major concern for the American Eel population. Glass Eels, primarily caught in Maine and other northern states are incredibly valuable in overseas markets, for $2,000 per pound to foreign buyers who grow them out to market size. Yellow Eels are caught throughout the east coast and bring lower prices in the foreign and domestic markets.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is the regulatory agency charged with ensuring the sustainable harvest of American Eels. Unfortunately, coordinating the fisheries of the competing interests of multiple states has made it difficult for ASMFC effectively to manage the eel fishery.

Another major challenge facing the American Eel is habitat loss. Recent studies show that dams have obstructed nearly 85% of river and stream habitat throughout the east coast. Dams prevent eels from traveling upstream in their early life, resulting in an overcrowding of eels in the areas that are unobstructed. Overcrowding leads to a smaller individuals and a weaker population overall. The few eels that are able to enter the upstream areas are generally healthier and larger but reach new challenges while migrating back to the ocean.

Most large dams on the east coast are hydroelectric dams, like the Conowingo Dam, which have large turbines spinning underwater to produce electricity. The turbines can result in mortality rates of nearly 50%. Fish ladders and fish elevators designed to move eels past dams generally have not been very effective on larger dams.

Conservation groups are working in multiple ways to protect the eel population. Some states are considering stricter harvest limits. To be effective, harvest limits must be imposed throughout the eels range. Watermen often apply political pressure to defeat stricter harvest limits.

Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has begun a catch and release program to move eels from below dams and release them farther upriver. Though this increases the number of eels above dams, it does not address the issue of mortality while heading downstream to spawn. This problem can only be fixed by an improvement in fish passage technology or the removal of dams. Removal of large hydroelectric dams like Conowingo isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Some smaller dams have been removed from streams around the watershed and more are planned. The re-licensing of the Conowingo Dam presents the opportunity to seek the installation of more effective fish passage technologies.

Should the American Eel be placed on the Endangered Species list harvesting would be banned and more resources could become available for habitat restoration. But, most experts agree that it may be a long time before the American Eel is listed as endangered.

Until then, we’ll need to look for other opportunities to reduce fishing pressure and improve habitat. Waiting for a species to crash before taking action risks disaster. Yes, the rockfish population recovered after a ten-year moratorium but other species have not. Sturgeon and American shad, once major fisheries, may never come back in significant numbers.

The next time you find an eel on your line or in your crab trap, take a moment to think about its journey and the challenges it faces. Let it remind you what we need to do to protect it.

Dec 13

Restoration Update: Winter 2013

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

Some Exciting Upcoming Projects

West/Rhode Riverkeeper has been awarded two grants from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to do some exciting projects around the watershed. One grant is to fund the design of two retrofit projects to treat polluted runoff flowing through a Shady Side neighborhood, Avalon Shores, into Smith Creek on the West River. One design will include an in stream system to slow down rain water so it can be cleansed and also try to prevent some flooding that currently occurs in the neighborhood during large storms. The other project to be designed is a bioswale next to a community playground. A bioswale is essentially a series of rain gardens that will capture and treat polluted runoff as it flows off of yards and roads.

The other grant awarded by the Trust will go toward completing phase 2 of the YMCA Camp Letts horse pasture project. The treatment wetland that was installed at the camp last winter was phase 1 and will treat the runoff coming from the pasture area. Now we will stabilize the horse pasture by installing Horse Heavy Use Areas (HUA) and reforesting over 3 acres of currently eroding pasture. Horse Heavy Use Areas are an agricultural “Best Management Practice” (BMP) that levels out an area and places very fine stone dust on the ground to stabilize the area. Horses can walk all around this area and not cause any erosion. Water flowing off the HUAs will flow through the newly planted forest and into the treatment wetland so that any nutrients or horse waste can be treated before entering Sellman Creek on the Rhode River. Students from local middle schools will perform the planting whiling learning about the project and how they can protect the Chesapeake Bay at their homes. We are looking forward to working with our many partners on this project, including Soil Conservation District, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Maryland Department of Agriculture and Camp Letts. We’d like to extend a thank you to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for making this possible!

Some Young Helpers Were Hard at Work!

This autumn we had some wonderful volunteers help us clean up trash and maintain the Camp Letts treatment wetland!

25 students from the Saint Anne’s School in Annapolis joined us at Wilson Park in Galesville to help remove some trash from a very large dumping site. The park has been used as a dumping ground in the past and currently has a huge amount of trash throughout the surround forest. Students helped remove some of this garbage and learned about the fascinating history of the site from a county archeologist. We just put a dent in the garbage so keep an eye out for another project at the park; we’ll need your help!

Webelo Scouts from Pack 853 did a wonderful job maintaining the stormwater treatment wetland at Camp Letts. Some of the berms that hold back water had settled after construction. The settling made the berms too low to hold back all the water flowing into the site during large storms. The scouts helped build up these berms so that they would not overflow and erode during storms.

Thanks you to ALL of our volunteers!

Don’t Forget to Disconnect Your Rain Barrels

It’s time to give your rain barrels a break for the winter. Now that we are getting freezing nights and snow it is important to disconnect your rain barrels from your down spouts. When water freezes inside your barrel it can crack the sides or the nozzle, causing a leak. To make sure rain barrels stay strong for next spring we recommend you completely disconnect them and store them upside-down so water does not freeze in the delicate nozzles. You can also reconnect your downspout for the winter.

If you don’t have a rain barrel and want one you can order one from Arlingtion Echo. http://www.arlingtonecho.org/restoration-projects/rain-barrels.html

Dec 06

Leaves Cause Pollution? Really?

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

When Europeans first arrived here, we had a lot more trees and a lot more leaves. They fell to the ground and decomposed. Rain caused some of the detritus, which includes nitrogen and other nutrients, to run into rivers and streams but most soaked into the ground and nature was in happy balance.

Now that we have paved over much of our land, the situation is different. The rivers suffer from far too much nitrogen carried by runoff from our roofs, roads, farms and businesses. We need to think about all controllable sources of nitrogen runoff to the rivers. That means even picking up after pets and, yes, thinking about the best way to dispose of leaves. Don’t rake or blow them into the creek or river. Using a mulching mower to chop them up and leave them in place is good.  You can put them into your compost pile or use them as a great base for a new pile. Otherwise, bag them up and send them to the dump for composting.

You can also visit this Blog from Nature By Design to get more ideas for using your leaves.

Dec 06

Legislative Update: Winter 2013

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

By Bob Gallagher

The Maryland General Assembly will be in session from January 8, 2014 until April 7th. Here is a quick summary of the issues that are of interest to the conservation community.

Polluted Runoff. As I noted in the Riverkeeper Report, several legislators are expected to proposal a bill that would delay or repeal our Stormwater Restoration Fund. It will be one of our highest priorities to defeat that cynical effort.

Pesticides. Traces of certain pesticides are found in our soil, our food and our water. Some pesticides are suspected of of being involved in a number of concerns such as child development problems, cancer and killing bees and other pollinators. Many states require farmers and other pesticide applicators to report on their applications. The data is used by scientists to study possible harmful effects. A bill to require Maryland applicators to report such data failed last year. There will be an effort to pass a less ambitious bill this year.  You can see this article from the Bay Journal to learn about the link between pesticide use and large die-offs of bees.  This is just one reason why pesticide legislation is so important.

Fracking. Natural gas prices have dropped sharply over the last couple of years benefitting consumers and businesses. The drop results from the production of gas from shale by a technique know as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Fracking has also been associated with environmental problems in some areas such as polluted ground water and earth quakes. There will likely be a bill this year that aims to make sure that, if and when fracking come to Maryland, it will be done safely.

Renewable Energy. This year there will be an effort to strengthen the renewable energy rules by increasing renewable energy requirements and closing loopholes.

Other Issues. We will likely see efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags and to put a deposit on bottles. The administration will propose an expansion of state Wildlands. There may be an effort to put a fee on the producers of chicken waste. The fee would go to the Bay Restoration Fund. The idea is that, as a matter of fairness, chicken farmers should contribute to the costs of bay cleanup just as homeowners do through the stormwater fee.

Watch for another update during the legislative session.

Dec 06

Fish On! The Broadwater Point Invitational

Posted by Joe in Untagged 



I never realized how much fun a neighborhood fishing tournament could be until I was invited to participate in one sponsored by the Broadwater Point community. Here is a story about it that appears in the December issue of PropTalk Magazine.


Dec 06

Riverkeeper Report: Winter 2013

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

It has been more than a month since Chris moved on to greener pastures. I was drafted out of retirement to serve as interim Riverkeeper and Executive Director until his replacement takes office. My disappointment at Chris’ inevitable departure quickly turned into excitement at the prospect of his replacement.


On November 22nd we held our most successful general meeting to date. More than 50 supporters and most of our board of directors turned out on a Friday night for pot luck dinner, to hear from the Director of the AA County Department of Public Works about the implementation of the stormwater restoration fund (more below) and to meet Jeff Holland, Chris’ designated successor.

Jeff has lived in the area for decades. He is a boater, a journalist, a musician and an environmentalist. He has a strong track record of developing and leading non-profits. He transformed the Annapolis Maritime Museum from a storm damaged shell to a major institution and has helped the Captain Avery Museum expand its reach and programs. Jeff assumes the roles of Riverkeeper and Executive Director on January 1st.


No one likes new taxes or fees. We are grateful for your support over the past several years as we have worked to establish the Stormwater Restoration Fund which will be used to reduce contaminated runoff from our homes, highways and businesses.

With confidence in government at an all time low, many of you and your friends and neighbors probably have questions about how effectively the restoration funds will be used. That is why we invited Chris Phipps, the Director of the AA County Department of Public Works to speak at our meeting. First, Chris made it absolutely clear, and the county’s auditor has confirmed, that the Fund may be be used only for restoration purposes. Unlike some other supposedly dedicated funding schemes, the restoration fund is truly a “lock box.” Chris also described the process by which projects have been selected and ranked for priority based on getting the most pollution reduction bang for our buck.

While the Fund has been voted on and approved by a bi-partisan majority of the county council at least three times, opponents continue their attacks. The fight will now move to the General Assembly where a number of local delegates and senators, who usually are vociferous in their support of local control, will attempt to undo what the county council has repeatedly approved.


Please read on for Joe’s report on restoration projects and eels as well as Sam's report on dredging in the West River. If you were interested in Chris’ discussion of the Conowingo Dam in the September issue, we have included a link to a subsequent article by former Chester Riverkeeper David Foster. And, just for fun, we have included an account of the 23rd Annual Broadwater Point Invitational Fishing Tournament that I wrote for the December issue of PropTalk Magazine. We also offer a tip about disposing of fall leaves.

Finally, you should have received in the mail during the last week or two our year-end annual appeal letter. I can’t overstate how important the appeal is to our ongoing operation. We keep our dues low to encourage more members. But, dues alone will not cover our expenses. Most of our grants provide money for restoration projects but not for salary and operating expenses. For those we rely heavily on you and your response to the annual appeal. Please be as generous as you can.


Bob Gallagher