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
Nov 19

University of Maryland Bay Survey

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

Countless small actions by individual Marylanders affect the health of our local waters. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has developed a very brief survey about the actions we take in our homes, on our farms, and in everyday life that can impact water quality.

Click on this link now to take this brief survey.  www.baysurvey.org

There are no "right" answers to this survey. Just give the answers that accurately describe your own situation. Your responses will be combined with thousands of others, and will play an important role in guiding our future work.

To provide the most complete picture possible, we are hoping you will encourage other Marylanders to take part, too.  Please share this survey link widely with your neighbors, friends, and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) contacts.

Thank you in advance for your participation!

Nov 04

John and Normans Creek Dredging

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

By Sam Hartman

John’s Creek and Norman’s Creek in the West River are currently undergoing a dredging project to help restore this tributary’s recreational boating areas. The project is being funded by the state through its Waterway Improvement Fund and by private homeowners who pay to have their own channels and boat slips dredged.

Dredging of creeks and rivers restores waterway depths and reduces groundings. Although dredging does improve navigation it can harm underwater grasses (seaweed) and wildlife. To lessen these damages dredging is normally completed from mid October to mid February to avoid disturbing spawning fish and other wildlife.

There are 2 main methods of dredging, mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical dredging removes sediment with heavy machinery normally using an excavator or a clamshell bucket. Hydraulic Dredging uses a pump that is normally mounted to a barge and sucks up the dredge martial using a pipeline. John’s creek dredging project uses Hydraulic Dredging. Dredge Spoils are then brought to a barge located at the moth of Parrish Creek that pumps the spoils to the Dredge Material Placement site (DMP site). This DMP site is located in Shady Side just off Idlewilde Road and called the Idlewilde DMP site. The county has only one other main use DMP site located in Pasadena.

Maryland has a long-term partnership with Anne Arundel County and will continue to complete projects like the John’s Creek dredging project. There is an inventory of 156 navigable waterways that will eventually need dredging. The projects get funding from the Waterway Improvement Fund which is funded from the boat excise tax so that boaters pay for the services they receive.

Dredging projects are expensive. If we can complete more erosion and shoreline restoration projects, then there will be less sediment entering our rivers and creeks in the first place. To help us install erosion control projects we’ll need your help! If you have an eroding shoreline or stream that is in need of attention then please don’t hesitate to contact us so we can help find a solution.

You can learn more about the Waterway Improvement Fund at the DNR website: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/boating/grants.asp


Below is a map showing the areas that will be dredged:

Oct 29

What To Do With All These Leaves

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

  • I use leaves to topdress vegetable beds in late fall after a few hard frosts. I especially topdress my garlic crop which I plant in late fall. Leaves keep the beds mulched-for free.  This regulates soil temperature swings and supresses any winter weeds. In spring, I turn whatever leaves are still there into the soil with a pitchfork. The worms love this (it is what they eat) and it attracts more of them to my beds. More worms equals more earthworm castings which is the best organic soil conditioner there is!
  • I use leaves to add organic matter directly to the lawn.  Use a mulching mower and mow them over the lawn in place-Chopped leaves break down very quickly.  The lawn can always use more organic matter. Organic matter means better water retention and more soil microbes. Soil microbes break down thatch naturally and fertilize the soil. This makes a happier, greener lawn for you.
  • For shade gardens, do not rake the leaves at all. It is that simple. If you have been raking your leaves out of a shade garden or from under a tree, just leave them this year and watch the magic happen.  See how much happier your trees and shade gardens will be.  Toads will appreciate this too. They burrow into the leaf layer for the winter. In spring and summer, they eat all the slugs and bugs that bother your shade plantings.
This toad is happy amongst the leaves in early spring that were left alone in a shade garden the fall before. He needs them for his winter habitat to keep him warm!
The spring wildflowers (like this Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum, come right up through the layer of leaves that fell the fall before.
  • I use leaves to layer into my compost bins with all the kitchen scraps. Leaves mixed with kitchen scraps and other green plant material, you can make and have beautiful compost available all season.
  • I use leaves to create new garden beds in fall. I outline the new garden bed, lay cardboard down on top of the lawn and add a very thick layer of leaves on top of the cardboard. I sprinkle a little compost on the leaves to help hold them down. In spring, the grass is no longer alive and I can edge and plant a new garden here without having to dig out the grass. Leaves make this job much easier! After planting a new bed using this method, if you do not like the look of the leaves as a mulch, simply spread a natural finely chopped mulch on top of the leaves. They will enrich this garden for seasons to come.
The cardboard smothering method.
A landscaper dumped leaves here for years. This helped smother the unwanted vegetation like Multiflora Rose and it has become a super rich soil, ready for planting. The leaf pile here was enormous-now it is gone and I need more! It broke down naturally and I fed some of it into my compost bins with the kitchen scraps.
Somehow we have been taught to think of leaves as something to “get rid of.” We rake them up, bag them and throw them away. We pay crews to use loud, gas powered machines to blow them off our garden beds and vacuum them up into trucks and cart them to the dump. Many towns spend a lot of money to take leaves from yards every fall. What if we could learn to recycle these, right on our property?

Right now is the ideal time to stockpile your leaves. Pick a spot in your yard and dump them all there-as many as you can get. In no time, they break down and the pile will be MUCH smaller and you’ll actually wish you had more! Add them to your gardens and enrich the soil. The wise arborist I used many years ago was right and I will always appreciate his advice. Leaves are nature’s mulch-Leave them be!
Sep 13

Osprey - The Ultimate Fisher

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

Click Here to see a beautifully done video of an Osprey fishing.
Osprey are migratory and will be heading south to spend their winter in Florida and South America.  Though recent studies by the College of William and Mary have shown that this migration pattern is being interupted by climate change.  Milder weather has caused some Osprey to not go as far south and spend their winters in southern Virginia.  Indicators of climate change such as this can be seen throughout the natural world.  Birds arrive earlier and stay later, flowers bloom sooner and insect species become active far earlier than in the past.  Just more reminders to be mindful of our carbon footprint; drive less, buy local produce and be mindful of where you set your thermostat to save energy.
Sep 05

Riverkeeper Report: Fall 2013

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

by Chris Trumbauer

If you travel up the Chesapeake Bay far enough, you will find the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River, near the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. “Conowingo” is a Native American word that means “at the rapids” and the dam is located at the site of the first rapids one would encounter when heading up the river from the Bay. Completed in 1928, the dam is currently owned and operated by Exelon, and is one of the largest hydro-electric dams in the country, not owned by the federal government.

A lot of water flows over the dam – and by a lot I mean a daily average of nearly 42,000 cubic feet per second. The Susquehanna supplies about 50% of the freshwater input to the Chesapeake Bay. The West and Rhode Rivers are tidal, and their water quality is significantly influenced by the water in the Bay. So, as you might expect, there is a link between the Susquehanna River water coming through the Conowingo, and the health of the West and Rhode Rivers. Studies by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center on the Rhode River demonstrate this, but you can also see it on satellite imagery after a major rainfall – when a visible sediment plume reaches our area from Conowingo.

Over the course of its life, the Conowingo Dam has trapped nearly 200 million tons of sediment behind it. This sediment consists of 85 years worth of upstream runoff, including everything from farm fields and construction sites to residential lands. The ability of the dam to store any more sediment is almost done – its just about full.  What happens then?

When the dam can no longer store sediment, it (the sediment) will simply continue down the river and into the Bay. More importantly, during a tropical storm or other large rain event, the raging river flow through the dam‘s flood gates can scour the sediment stored behind the dam. This can, as in 1972 with Hurricane Agnes, deliver a catastrophic amount of sediment to the Bay – far more than there would be in a big storm if the dam was not there. When too much sediment enters the Bay, it clouds the water, and impacts natural resources like oysters and underwater grasses. The nutrient pollution that accompanies the sediment will cause algae blooms and dead zones.

How do we stop this from happening? There is no easy answer, but we must address this situation before its too late. One opportunity involves the once-in-a-generation relicensing of the Conowingo by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The current license was issued in 1980 and is due to expire in 2014. Exelon has applied for a 46-year license to continue operating the dam.

Our partner, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, has been working on this issue since 2006 and participating in the relicensing process since 2009.  They asked West/Rhode Riverkeeper to join them in this effort.  As part of the Waterkeepers Chesapeake coalition, we have petitioned to be included in the relicensing proceedings. We believe that Exelon should share in the responsibility for cleaning up the millions of tons of sediment trapped behind their dam. The fact is that if the dam was not there, then the unnatural accumulation of sediment behind the dam would not exist. The State of Maryland has the authority to require certain conditions to grant a new FERC license, and we are urging them to use this opportunity to maximize our efforts to remove this sediment.

Some in Maryland are pointing to Conowingo as an excuse not to implement local measures to reduce stormwater pollution. Their reasoning goes something like this: “If the Susquehanna River is putting so much pollution into the Bay, whatever we do locally won’t make a difference.” That is simply untrue. While flow from the Susquehanna certainly is a major driver of water quality in the main stem of the Bay, just cleaning up the Susquehanna will not heal the Bay. Additionally, the local impacts are far more important to our rivers, creeks, and streams. Local stormwater runoff from developed areas and farm fields, and failing septic systems are what is responsible for our high bacteria levels and water contact advisories.

Let’s not use Conowingo as an excuse – let’s use it as an opportunity. Here is a chance to act that won’t come around again for 46 years. If we can require Exelon to remove at least some of the sediment from behind Conowingo, and reduce the threat of a catastrophic event, we can enhance and secure our local efforts to reduce pollution and improve water quality. Addressing all sources of pollution is the only way we can make true progress in our fight for clean water.

Sep 05

Restoration Update: Fall 2013

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

Restoration Update – Fall 2013

Summer is the time of year for everyone to get outside and enjoy the water.  We have certainly been enjoying getting out with our volunteers and restoring our greatest public resource!  Here are a few projects that we’ve been working on:

Jack Creek Park is Open for Business!   

Jack CreekAfter several months of working with Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks and the AA County Water Access Committee, Jack Creek Park is finally opened to the public.  This is a wonderful 60 acre piece of property located off of Snug Harbor Road in Shady Side and situated on the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay.  The county recently installed a parking area that fits 14 cars and a series of trails wrapping around in the inland portions of the park and extending all the way down to the water.  When visitors reach the water they can see the Bay Bridge to the north and wide open Bay to the south.  The park is currently being managed as a meadow so you can see all sorts of interesting wildlife.  Wildlife in the park includes Osprey, Heron, Bald Eagles, Wild Turkey, and a number of different species of songbirds.  This park is still a work in progress and we can’t wait to see what will happen next.  We would like to give special thanks to Anne Arundel County Rec and Parks and the Water Access Committee for their commitment to this effort! See more pictures of the park HERE.

To enter the park call 410-222-7317 between the hours of 8am and 4:30pm to receive a code to a combination lock connected to the gate.

Designs for the stream restoration project in a BGE right of way are well on their way.

BGE restoration siteEngineers are still hard at work drawing up designs for a stream restoration project to take place in a Baltimore Gas and Electric transmission line right of way.  West/Rhode Riverkeeper has been keeping close contact between the engineers and BGE to make sure that the final product is something that will both satisfy the needs of the power company and will help the environment.  The final designs will include relocating the channel so it curves more to dissipate energy, create floodplain benches so that flood waters can exit the main channel and slow down, create wetlands throughout the area and native plantings to provide sound habitat and stabilize the area.  The project is now entering into one of its final stages and will soon go in for permits while construction funds are acquired.

oystersFirst year of Marylanders Grow Oysters was a success; looking forward to next year.

Our dedicated team of 17 volunteers grew and planted an estimated 16,600, 1 inch long oysters in the Bay this year.  These oysters were raised on volunteer’s docks for one year and planted on a sanctuary in the South River. Growing them for one year gives the young oysters a head start before being planted in the wild.  This Fall, we’ve grown to 25 volunteers and we hope that we can continue to grow so we may help bolster local oyster population.

Plantings Abound!

West/Rhode Riverkeeper has organized a number of planting projects throughout the summer.  Wetland gardens were created at the Carrie Weedon Science Center and Chesapeake Yacht Club.  These gardens are a form of conservation landscaping that uses native plants to embrace the conditions of the typically moist and clay soils.  The underwater grass species, Redhead, was also planted in the cove next to Discovery Village.  Unfortunately, murky conditions in the water this year lead to poor survival of the grasses.  Murky water prevents the grasses from receiving light and is the main reason grasses cannot grow in the West and Rhode Rivers.  750 plugs composed of a mix of Spartina alterniflora and Saptina patens were also planted at Shady Cove Natural Area to help stabilize the shoreline.

Maintenance is crucial.

A critical part of all restoration projects is maintenance.  Without revisiting projects and fixing the small issues that arise, projects will not function properly and could eventually end up causing more harm than good.  Therefore, we will be organizing teams of volunteers to weed the Rain Garden in Galesville and stabilize some parts of the Camp Letts treatment wetland project.  We want to keep the projects looking and functioning great!  Maintenance plans will also be created for wetland garden plantings and some upcoming living shoreline projects.

To volunteer, contact Joe at or call 410-867-7171.

Sep 05

Conservation Corps'ner: Fall 2013

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

by Sam HartmanSam Hartman

My name is Sam Hartman. I am very excited about become apart of the West/Rhodes Riverkeeper team. This was only possible because of the Chesapeake Conservation Corp program that is funded by the Chesapeake Bay trust.  During this yearlong internship I will help with water quality fieldwork and annual report cards. I will also help assist with current restoration projects and create new ones to keep these rivers clean. By working on these rivers I hope to promote goals of the CBT that are to help clean and create a sustainable Chesapeake bay.

I have lived in Maryland all my life and I know how important the Bay is to our wonderful state.  I grew up in Chevy Chase Maryland and watched how dumping and polluting near DC still affected the Bay.  From an early age I knew that I had to do something to help this great watershed.  I have been apart of many restoration projects there and even was apart of a team of people that lay down anti dumping signs on storm drains that eventually lead to the Bay.

With the Bay in mind, I decided to go Washington College to study environmental science and do water quality research work. While there I conducted research projects that included determining if storm water runoff was washing away nutrient loads of the watershed that surrounded the town of Easton. For my senior thesis I researched the effects of a farmland that was overtop an exposed outcrop of what was thought to be the Columbia aquifer.

With all of this water quality research, I hope to promote cleaner waters and find out first hand what it takes to actually clean up a watershed and not just research the problems that are occurring. I know working for the West/Rhodes Riverkeepers I will have a chance to get my feet wet in cleaning up the water.

While not helping to clean up the bay, I love to be outside. I enjoy going fishing and being out on boats. I also long board around my area and play Frisbee with friends whenever it’s a nice day out. 

Sep 05

Public Access to our Waterways

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

by Mike Lofton 

The old sage Bill Burton said it best, “How can vital citizen support come about to save the Chesapeake without access to it? People must have a taste of the Bay before they are willing to fight and sacrifice for its well-being.”

I’m not sure when Bill first made this astute observation but I read it in a Bay Weekly article about 10 years ago.  It’s a timeless truth.  People take care of things that are important to them; that they are proud of; things that they love.

I am convinced that a significant element in our failure to “clean-up” the Chesapeake is the relatively small number of us that have that personal passionate relationship with the Bay that Mr. Burton described.

Simply put, citizens need abundant, convenient and varied access to the Chesapeake.  We have a lot of improving to do.  Bay-wide the National Park Service estimates the public has access to about 2% of the shoreline.  In Anne Arundel County the situation is no better.  Shockingly, with more than 500 miles of shoreline, Anne Arundel County offers its citizens not a single public boat ramp or a single public beach.  Thankfully, the State of Maryland provides boat ramps and beaches at Sandy Pt.  State Park.  However, the park often fills by mid-morning on summer weekends and Rt 50 at the Bay Bridge is often a problem.  The City of Annapolis has a boat ramp at Truxton Park.

There is hope!  A first-ever County ramp is in the works at Ft. Smallwood Park in North County.  The County Rec & Parks Dept has addressed the problem head-on in its new Plan for Public Recreation and has adopted the recommendations of a citizen Water Access Committee to create public access on both shorelines of every major river in the County.

Change is happening locally as well.  A new 58 acre waterfront Park is opening at Jack Creek in Shadyside.  Unnecessary permit requirements for access to Beverly-Triton Beach Park have been removed.  Take a look at a new interactive map to discover existing & potential access points,   https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/0/embed?mid=zd5StXLeFOcg.kVnj9hDuXR1U

If you have questions, ideas or would like to participate please contact Mike Lofton  msl49@aol.com







Aug 14

A Waterman's Heritage Tour

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

The Chesapeake Conservancy went on a Waterman's Heritage Tour with Commercial Waterman and member of out Board of Directors, John VanAlstine.  These types of tours are incredibly important to not only our Bay's heritage but also its health.  It seems like too many people don't understand where their food comes from; but when they go out into the environment and catch it themselves they become more connected to the whole system.  This will hopefully lead them to not only care about the value of their meal, but also the value of the beautiful and fragile waters from which it came.

See the Video Here.

Learn about taking a Heritage Tour of your own here.

Jul 24

Returning Oysters to the Bay

Posted by Chris in Untagged 


We’re working hard to restore these resources that are essential to the Bay’s health.  To increase the number of oysters in the Bay we coordinate the Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program in the Rhode River.  In the MGO program, volunteers receive their oysters in the Fall and care for them until early spring.  By caring for the oysters over the winter they are able to get a head start in life and are placed on sanctuaries when they are viable (about an inch long).  Year-old oysters are more resistant to parasites and not as susceptible to predation by crabs and cow-nosed rays.  This past year we were able to recruit 17 volunteers to grow 83 cages of oysters off their docks.  Each cage contains about 200 oysters and we estimate that our volunteers grew over 16,600 oysters!  Volunteers then planted their oysters in a sanctuary in the South River this past June where they will live happily and clean the Bay for years to come.




Want to help the cause? Volunteer this year to help us grow even more oysters! These little filter feeders can make a big difference in our rivers! Contact Joe for details.