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
Sep 05

Restoration Update: Fall 2012

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

by Joe Ports and Chris Trumbauer

Underwater Grasses

redhead grassThe once expansive grass beds that formerly blanketed the bottom of the West and Rhode Rivers have been nonexistent for a number of years now.  Poor water clarity has prevented any robust grass species from growing.  These robust grass beds are important for a number of reasons.  To start, grasses provide food for a number of species of waterfowl.  The grasses also provide crucial habitat for young fish, crabs and other small organisms that call the Bay their home.  In addition to being excellent for wildlife, grasses also work to improve a number of other water quality issues.  They remove nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from the water which helps to reduce the frequency and severity of algae blooms.  They also improve clarity by holding bottom sediments with their roots and dampening wave action which can cause shore erosion.  This year there was a glimmer of hope for returning these important submerged grasses to the rivers.

A dry spring contributed to surprisingly clear water, and this allowed a species of grass known as Horned Pondweed to grow very well in many areas and persist for a longer period of time than in past years.  Unfortunately, Horned Pondweed cannot tolerate the warm waters that exist in our rivers during our hot summers.  The glimmer of hope provided by this great spring inspired us to take some action to get more robust grasses growing in our rivers.  Maryland Department of Natural Resources has had a system for growing submerged grasses in classrooms throughout the state.  Using this method we started growing 10 tanks of Redhead grass on the bottom floor of our Discovery Village office building.  These grasses will grow throughout the winter and will be planted in the West River next Spring.  Our hope is that if we plant this hardier species of grass alongside the areas with Horned Pondweed, then they will grow throughout the summer and last for a number of years.  With a little luck these grasses may even spread throughout the rivers and start to bring back the flourishing grass beds of the past.


MGO oystersOysters are arguably one of the most important natural resources in the Chesapeake Bay, and one that is only at about 1% of historic levels. This rapid loss of natural oysters prompted the state to start the Marylanders Grow Oyster (MGO) program.  This is a wonderful program that not only allows the state to expand their restoration capacity, but also gets those that have access to the water a way to take steps to improve the water quality in their own river.  With all these great benefits that come out of the Marylanders Grow Oysters program we decided this year to apply to the program.  We were recently accepted and now we will be giving out oyster growing cages and spat (baby oysters attached to shell) to a little over a dozen volunteers in the Rhode River.  We’ll also be teaming up with the South River Federation and hosting an oyster husbandry work shop where those interested can come and learn everything and anything about oysters from Chris Judy. Chris works for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and is the head of the MGO program. We’re really excited to be starting this program in our river and hope that it will continue to grow for years to come.

YMCA Camp Letts restoration

Great news about our major restoration project at YMCA Camp Letts in Edgewater.  This stormwater wetland project will treat the runoff from the equestrian area at the camp, which currently flows directly into Selman Creek on the Rhode River. Working with our partner the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT), the construction phase of the project finally went out to bid. This project is supported by a grant from CBT, as well as state funds from the Maryland Department of the Environment. Pending the approval of the bid from the state Board of Public Works, we hope the construction will begin in November.

New potential project in Harwood

BGE siteWe have some more good news!  We’ve received a $10,000 challenge grant from Constellation Energy in which they give us half of the grant award now and will give us the other half as match once we secure other funding.  We are submitting a grant application to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for the remaining funds to design a stream stabilization/meadow restoration at the powerline right-of-way in Harwood.  We’re really excited about this project, which will reduce sediment and nutrient pollution going into the Rhode River.

Sep 05

Riverkeeper Report: Fall 2012

Posted by Chris in strategic planning , riverkeeper , funders , Chesapeake Conservation Corps

Upward Trajectory
by Chris Trumbauer

ChrisIn 2005, West/Rhode Riverkeeper was founded by Bob Gallagher. Bob raised some money from his friends and colleagues, and got to work setting up a small organization to fight to keep pollution out of the West and Rhode Rivers. From those humble beginnings, West/Rhode Riverkeeper has grown and matured into a top-tier watershed organization in a very short time.

In addition to being the “eyes and ears” for the West and Rhode Rivers, we have been responsible for many tangible projects and programs to benefit the Rivers. These include several major policy initiatives (e.g. Critical Area reform, dedicated local stormwater funding), a number of important restoration projects (e.g. Shady Cove, Galesville rain garden), our annual Report Card, and various stewardship and outreach efforts. All of these accomplishments have been possible because of the support of our members, donors, and private foundations such as the Keith Campbell Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Now, thanks to new opportunities from the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network (CBFN) and the Town Creek Foundation, we’re ready to take the next big step. This year we will begin a new strategic planning process. Working with professional consultants, we will assess the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of the organization to best determine our vision for the future. We have currently been operating on a strategic plan from 2007 – a five year old plan for a much less mature organization. Since 2007, the world has changed, and our organization has changed. As we work to enhance our role in the community and set priorities for cleaning up our rivers, a new strategic plan to guide our work will ensure we are working efficiently and effectively.

West/Rhode Riverkeeper’s activities may be divided into four main categories: Advocacy, Enforcement, Restoration, and Outreach. Each of these four pillars is important to our mission. Prioritizing our existing efforts and deciding where to devote new energy is critical to our continued success. We plan to have a process where you - our members and supporters - can give input on what is most important to you. Help us become an even more effective organization!

In addition to the strategic planning process, funding from CBFN has enabled us to hire a part-time Fundraising Manager. I’m pleased to announce that Kate Mahood has been selected out of a pool of very talented applicants. Kate will be working with us on a contractual basis to help us update our fundraising plan and work with our supporters – both individuals and businesses. We’re really looking forward to having her help!

The final new addition to our team is our 2012-13 Chesapeake Conservation Corps member, Will Saffell. The CCC is a program run by the Chesapeake Bay Trust which places young adults with Maryland environmental groups. Will began his year of service with West/Rhode Riverkeeper on August 27. He lives in Annapolis and has grown up on the water. He has a degree in Biology and Environmental Science from Towson University. Will is looking forward to assisting with our water quality monitoring program, oyster growing operation, and working with communities to install restoration projects.

I’ve saved the best news for last: Many of you have gotten to know Joe Ports, our former CCC member over the last year. I am very pleased to announce that Joe has accepted a position with us and is now West/Rhode Riverkeeper’s Restoration Coordinator. He will be leading our water quality monitoring, our Marylanders Grow Oysters effort, and many other conservation and restoration efforts. Joe’s hiring was made possible by the Town Creek Foundation, which recently awarded us a grant to support the Riverkeeper/Executive Director position, thereby freeing up some salary funds that we can use to hire Joe.

up arrow

I want to take this opportunity to welcome Kate and Will to our team, and Joe to his newrole. Thanks to your support, we have developed into a regional leader in watershed and environmental issues. With these new additions, we are keeping our trajectory heading up and up. Now, we need to work hard to make sure the health indicators of the West and Rhode Rivers (and the Bay) are headed in the same direction.



Aug 24

Tell MDE You Want Effective Pollution Limits for Baltimore City

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

Original Post by Bluewater Baltimore

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is the state agency responsible for protecting our waterways from pollution and thereby protecting our health. One of the most important steps they can take towards fulfilling this responsibility is to issue clear and enforceable limits on the amount of pollution that cities like Baltimore are allowed to discharge into local waterways.

What is the problem?

MDE recently decided to issue a water pollution permit to Baltimore City to regulate the pollution discharging directly from Baltimore’s stormwater pipes into our rivers, streams and Harbor. Sadly, this permit lacks specific limits on the amount of pollution that is allowed to go into our waterways and also lacks enforceable deadlines by which these limits must be reached.

Why is it important?

Baltimore’s stormwater system (the infrastructure that carries stormwater and pollutants from the storm drains you see on the streets directly to our streams and Harbor) is a major source of pollution to Baltimore’s waterways. This pollution is one of the main reasons Baltimore’s waterways are currently suffering so badly and are unsafe for residents to swim, fish and crab.

Pollutants ranging from construction site sediment and toxic metals to untreated human sewage enter our waterways through the stormwater system, and lead to the fish kills, sewage spills, and algal blooms that we all observe on a regular basis each year.

The Federal Clean Water Act requires that our waterways be restored to fishable and swimmable pollutant levels and this permit must be strengthened in order to do so.

In addition, millions of taxpayer dollars have gone into restoring the Chesapeake Bay during the last few decades with little success. The latest plan to clean up the Bay—the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL or pollution diet)—is only enforceable through stormwater permits such as this one for Baltimore City (which will also serve as a template for the other permits across the State). It is imperative that this permit be strengthened in order to make sure this latest cleanup plan is different and results in actual improvements to our local waterways and the Bay.

For more information:  Tina Meyer’s public testimony [PDF] and David Flores’ public testimony [PDF]

What can you do about it?

In short, tell the Maryland Department of the Environment – loud and clear – that residents of Baltimore, Maryland, and the Chesapeake region are fed up with polluted waterways. The Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper is providing detailed technical and legal comments, but it is important that MDE also hear from you!

So, we have drafted a letter for you to sign, telling MDE to take a stand on behalf of your environment and your health. Tell MDE that you find this woefully inadequate draft permit unacceptable, and that you want a permit that will result in real improvements to our waterways.

Click Here to complete the form to add your signature to our public comment letter, which will be submitted on your behalf to MDE.

[Scroll down to fill out the form]

The comment deadline is quickly approaching, so read the language of the public comment letter and complete the form by September 19th at 5pm!

Jul 26

Celebrate Swimmable Action Day!

Posted by Chris in Swim Guide , clean water , bacteria


Today (July 26) is Swimmable Action Day. 2012 is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which gave citizens the power to enforce our clean water laws and hold polluters accountable. Today, Waterkeepers across the continent are joining together to remind everyone of the importance of clean, safe water. 

Swimmable Action Day poster

West/Rhode Riverkeeper is marking the occasion by launching Swim Guide, an online tool and smartphone app to display local bacteria monitoring data. The Swim Guide smart phone app, launched today in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the Chesapeake Region, will allow people to find safe beaches and swimming areas to recreate and enjoy their waterways. For millions of beach goers, swimmers, and surfers across the country, finding and enjoying beaches and local swimming holes will become much easier with the launch of the Swim Guide, the new, free, smart phone app (available from App Store, Google Play, or www.theswimguide.org). 

 Swim Guide app

Help support our work so that we may continue to bring you resources to keep you informed about our Rivers

CLICK HERE to donate to West/Rhode Riverkeeper!

Jul 06

POWeR to the Oysters!

Posted by Joe in Untagged 

On the first day of summer, a near 100 degree day, I was able to join the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in planting over 2 million baby oysters, called spat, on oyster leases held by POWeR.  POWeR stands for Project Oyster West River and has been maintaining multiple oyster leases that it keeps as sanctuaries to provide crucial habitat for oysters and countless other underwater animals.  The journey that these young oysters take is quite a story and really shows the great lengths that we will go through to restore this priceless resource.

The oysters that we planted started their lives’ at the University of Maryland Center for the Environment, Horn Point Lab in Cambridge.  Here the massive lab places adult oysters in shallow tanks and gives them optimal conditions for them to start breeding.  Once the oysters finish releasing their eggs and sperm into the small tanks the water/ egg mixture is transferred to huge ten feet diameter by over ten feet tall tanks to allow them to grow and mature for about two weeks.  At this stage in their lives these oysters have developed what is called an “eye” and a foot.  These eyed oysters are able to swim to seek out a hard surface to settle on and live the rest of their lives’ as the stationary adult that we are familiar with.  Of course the Horn Point lab doesn’t want these oysters to live out their days in the tanks so employees filter the larvae out of the water and cool them so they can be delivered throughout the Bay region. 

One place that the oyster larvae are delivered is the Oyster Recovery Center (ORC) located right behind the Riverkeeper office in Shady Side.  The ORC is run by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and serves as their center of operations for oyster restoration in this region of the Bay.  The ORC is composed of a small office/ workshop area, 4 large “setting” tanks, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s restoration vessel, the Patricia Campbell, and many piles of drying oyster shell.  CBF staff loads dried and cleaned shell into the large setting tanks and pumps water from the West River into them.  Once the water fills the tanks it is re-circulated through the tanks and heated to a temperature that allows the greatest number of larval oysters to set.  The refrigerated larvae are then allowed to warm up slowly underneath a microscope in the office and in five gallon buckets next to the tanks.  CBF staff then monitors the larvae under the microscope until they start swimming.  Once the larvae start swimming they are ready to be dumped into the tanks, so staff take their buckets and gently pour the larvae over the cages of shell in the tanks.  Larvae are allowed to swim freely in the tanks for 3 to 5 days; by that time they have settled onto a shell and glued themselves down.  This is called “setting” and what were once oyster larvae are now called spat, which are simply baby oysters that have glued themselves to a spot permanently.  The tanks are then opened back up to the waters of the West River so that the young spat can eat all the algae that get pumped through the tanks.

After a few days of eating well and getting stronger in the tanks its time for the spat to be “planted” on a reef.  To do this CBF staff and volunteers load the cages, which weigh several hundred pounds, onto the Patricia Campbell.  Fortunately the Patricia Campbell is well equip for this task and uses its very own crane to lift the cages of shell and dump the shell into giant hoppers on its deck.  After the shell is all loaded its time for the boat to depart and really get to work.  On the day that I was helping we took the young spat to POWeR’s lease in the West River and started to unload our precious cargo.  This is accomplished by uncovering a conveyor belt located below the hoppers on deck that pulls the shell containing spat to the front of the boat where there is a spreader that distributes the shell evenly throughout the location.

After a few hours of hard work getting the shell running smoothly down the conveyor belt and out to the spreader POWeR’s leases were the happy recipients of millions of new oysters.  These oysters may now live out their lives safely on the bottom of the West River, filter our water and provide happy homes for fish, crabs and countless other critters.
May 31

Fisheries and Water Quality Update

Posted by Chris in water quality , pumpout , honeydipper , fisheries , DNR , crabs

by Chris Trumbauer

Crab Survey Results Are Encouraging

The latest survey results for Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs were announced in April. According to the survey, which was conducted by Maryland DNR, an estimated 764 million crabs spent this winter in the Bay, nearly 66 percent more than last year. Juvenile crabs reached a record high of 587 million, nearly triple last year's 207 million. The previous record of 512 million was set in 1997.

However, there was a decline in the number of spawning-age females from 190 million to 97 million crabs. Nevertheless, the female population remains above the safe threshold level. According to DNR, preliminary estimates of the 2011 female harvest are below the target of 25.5 percent, again confirming that management measures have continued to be effective at constraining the fishery to appropriate levels.

The increase in crabs is encouraging. Certainly, some of the credit can be attributed to the 2008 decision by the Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission to restrict the female crab harvest. This is a demonstration that management actions can and do work – but we must be sure not to bring our fisheries to the brink of collapse before we take action.

In other “crab news,” DNR recently launched a new True Blue labeling and promotion program that will let restaurant-goers know whether their seafood dishes use meat from Maryland blue crabs or less expensive (less tasty) crabmeat from abroad.

water clarityWater Quality Monitoring for 2012 Is Well Under Way

Our volunteer monitoring teams are back out on the water keeping an eye on the health of our rivers. They go out every Wednesday morning to monitor both the West and the Rhode Rivers. Our program records water temperature, salinity, water clarity, pH, and dissolved oxygen. You can view the results in a map-based utility on our website. http://wrr.chesabay.org/. This data is also used each year to create our Report Card for the West and Rhode Rivers.

If you would like to volunteer to participate in this fun and important program, please contact Joe Ports at 410-867-7171 or joe@www.westrhoderiverkeeper.org.

“Mahogany Tide” invades parts of Anne Arundel

Algae blooms fed by too much nutrient pollution have caused “mahogany tides” in several creeks in northern Anne Arundel County, and also in Spa Creek in Annapolis. The algae species, prorocentrum minimum, is a dark reddish brown color, and large populations of the algae will turn make the water appear that color as well, hence the “mahogany tide” label. While prorocentrum is not harmful to humans, alage blooms can cause fish kills if they consume too much of the oxygen in the water, leaving insufficient oxygen for fish and other aquatic life. Estimates in the north county creeks exceed 100,000 dead fish as a result of these blooms. Fortunately, we have not seen similar condition in the West or the Rhode so far this year. The last major fish kill in our rivers was in the fall of 2008, in Bear Neck Creek.

Honeydipper Is on Patrol

HoneydipperOnce again this year, our pumpout boat is patrolling the West and Rhode Rivers. This program is supported by a Maryland DNR grant and allows us to properly dispose of boat waste. Each year, we collect about 15,000 gallons of waste from marine holding tanks, and discharge it into the sewer system where it gets properly treated. Boat waste is one potential cause of bacteria contamination in our rivers.

Got a holding tank and need a pumpout? Call Cap’n Michael on the Honeydipper at 410-940-3754 or hail “Honeydipper” on VHF 77.


May 31

Conservation Corps'ner - Summer 2012

Posted by Chris in SERC , Popham Creek , Living Shoreline , Joe Ports , DNR , Conservation Corps'ner , Cheston Point , CBT

by Joe Ports, Chesapeake Conservation Corps Member

If you have spent some time near the mouths of the West and Rhode Rivers this beautiful spring you may have noticed some barges and boats working on Cheston Point. This is not a new development going in, it’s a living shoreline!  Cheston Point’s living shoreline is being created by a partnership between the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), which owns the land.



For years, waves from wind and boat traffic have been battering Cheston Point, as you can see by the trees that are falling into the water.  The design of this particular living shoreline will include several rock structures known as breakwaters that will be both above and below water.  [See the design here.] These breakwaters are a series of horseshoe shaped piles of rocks that are meant to do two jobs; break up wave energy and collect sand behind them.  Sand will then be placed behind the breakwaters to create a beach to plant with grasses and shrubs. The breakwaters will defend the shoreline from the wave action, and prevent erosion and allow natural marsh grasses to hold the beach together.

living shorelineThe purpose of this shoreline, as is with many others, is to stabilize the shoreline while providing native habitat for animals.  To create this habitat the beach will be planted with native grasses; Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens) in the areas that are above the high tide line and Smooth Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) in the areas that get flooded with the tides. There will also likely be some woody shrubs added such as High Tide Bush (Baccharis halimifolia).

What is currently being done at Cheston Point is just the beginning of a larger project to create living shoreline all along the point.  The first section of the shoreline is expected to be completed in approximately one month and plants will be added 6 months to a year after the conclusion of the work to allow the sand and stone to settle.

The Cheston Point project is an example of what can happen when two very large organizations work together to build a shoreline, however similar projects can be completed by homeowners associations and even private homeowners.  An example of a project being completed by a private homeowner can be found in Popham Creek.  Here the homeowner has a severely eroding shoreline and sought to build her own living shoreline. She received an interest-free loan from Maryland Department of Natural Resources and a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust for about 25% of the total cost. West/Rhode Riverkeeper is pleased to partner with the homeowner, and is serving as the fiscal agent (to manage the grant).

Converting eroding shoreline or hard, bulkheaded areas to living shorelines can improve water quality and habitat. Living shorelines work to reduce resuspension of sediment by making the wave energy spread throughout a gently sloping shoreline and among all the plants that are growing on it.  This is very different from the use of bulkheads, which sharply reflect wave energy away from them and allow that energy to stir up sediment, reducing the ability of underwater grasses to take hold and grow.

These financial resources are available for everyone to take advantage of and West/Rhode Riverkeeper supports private efforts to improve the shoreline environment.  If living shorelines were widely adopted throughout the Rivers and Chesapeake Bay, fish, crabs and underwater grasses would be a lot healthier and a lot happy.  Lets all start to think what we can do to get the healthy rivers that we deserve.


Here is where you can find some great information on living shorelines in a hand-out created by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. http://www.cbf.org/Document.Doc?id=60

For some ideas of what you could do with your own shoreline check out this decision tree: http://www.ccrm.vims.edu/decisiontree/index.html.  This tree is a great way to think about what you and your neighbors may be able to do with old bulkheads or rip rap to build a more environmentally friendly structure.

To find out how to apply for your own living shoreline project you can look at DNR’s website here: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/ccp/sec/secforms.asp

May 31

Invitation to Maryland's Watermen

Posted by Chris in Watermen , General Assembly , clean water , advocacy

by Bob Gallagher

In Maryland waters of the Chesapeake sturgeon and shad are gone. Clams are virtually gone. Most of the few remaining oysters have been “seeded” by the state or by watermen. The perceived viability of crabs varies with natural cycles and conservation measures. The success of the rockfish moratorium, which engendered a false sense that any species can be brought back from the brink, is now threatened by the over-fishing of menhaden.

These setbacks affect the livelihood of watermen and the quality of life of everyone.

Most watermen agree that the causes for the decline of any species are complex and usually include fishing pressure and declining water quality. Many also agree that it is essential  that we make significant improvements to water quality.

Year after year organized watermen have demonstrated their considerable political power by challenging efforts to reduce harvests of threaten species. Last year they defeated a proposed moratorium on oyster harvesting. This year they defeated a ban on shark finning. The April Waterman’s Gazette reports that over one hundred watermen turned out in opposition to a proposed ban on gill nets.

This year the most comprehensive package of clean water legislation seen in decades was passed in the final minutes of the General Assembly session. The package included reductions in pollution from septics, waste water treatment plants and contaminated storm water runoff. Thousands of people and dozens of organizations worked tirelessly to accomplish this result. As far as I could tell, no waterman’s organization participated in the effort.

There is much that remains to be done. Organized watermen need to be a part of that effort. Riverkeepers throughout Maryland will be involved in local implementation of the new laws and in efforts to get tougher limits on pollution from agriculture. We invite all watermen and their state and local organizations to join us.

May 31

Riverkeeper Report - Summer 2012

Posted by Chris in Waterkeeper Alliance , River Rally , Portland , Conference


In early May, over 700 people gathered in Portland, Oregon for what may have been the largest meeting of river advocates in history. I was one of them.

For the first time, the annual Waterkeeper Alliance conference was combined with the River Network’s River Rally. Passionate advocates from across the globe convened to share their stories and learn from each other. This year’s conference included not only the 200 Waterkeepers that are like family now, but also a whole suite of other hard-working groups fighting for clean water and restored waterways. According to the organizers, there were attendees from more than 40 U.S. states as well as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Mexico, Peru, Senegal and the United Kingdom.

At the conference, we heard from a number of distinguished speakers, including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr (president of Waterkeeper Alliance), Alexandra Cousteau, and EPA Director Lisa Jackson. My favorite speaker of the conference, however, was Gerald Lewis, a Yakama Nation Tribal Councilman and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Chairman. Mr. Lewis gave a Tribal Invocation that opened the conference on the first night. He spoke of the humble beginnings of each waterway as a small trickle, and then described its path to the sea, combining

Gerald Lewiswith other streams, getting bigger and more powerful. “Along the way it gathers all these thoughts,” he said, “all these powers through the wind, through the sun, through the rain. It gathers this power. And this is what gives us the strength to continue on within our walk of life today.” He then sung an ancestral chant in his native tongue, and rung an ancient bell in an incredibly moving ceremonial invocation.

Part of the challenge that faces small groups like West/Rhode Riverkeeper is maintaining the drive and enthusiasm to affect positive change day after day with limited resources. Convening with other “water warriors” helps keep us inspired and motivated to work with our community to improve the health of our rivers. At the conference, we all share in the victories when we hear about a polluter being sued on the Hudson, or a dam being removed on a salmon river in the Pacific Northwest. And other groups appreciate our research and insight into what makes an effective Report Card.

The Waterkeeper model of local based advocacy to protect our waterways is a proven one. What makes us special is that we concentrate on specific rivers (or creeks, or lakes, or coastlines) to do everything we can to stop pollution from contaminating the natural resources that we depend on. Many other groups at the conference besides Waterkeepers are working to the same end. Convening with 700 people from across the globe that are all doing the same thing and practicing the same philosophy gave me a great optimism that working together, we can make a big difference.

However, even combining the efforts of these 700 river advocates is not enough to clean up the rivers, creeks, and streams alone. We need you. Our members, supporters and volunteers are the reason we are able to exist, and you help us do the critical work in our watershed to reduce pollution. Whether conducting our volunteer water quality monitoring, helping to plant a rain garden, or responding to an action alert by contacting our elected officials, YOU are the engine of West/Rhode Riverkeeper.

As much as I was inspired by the conference in Portland, I am inspired every day by the passion and efforts of our supporters right here in South County. Let’s keep up the good work!

May 30

Three Cheers (and Three Bills) for Clean Water

Posted by Chris in Untagged 

By all accounts, the 2012 General Assembly was a tumultuous one. The beginning of the session was dominated by redistricting and the debate on same sex marriage, and the end of the session arrived without a consensus on the budget. However, what did emerge (on the final day) was a package of very important bills that will help clean up our waterways and position Maryland to be able to meet its pollution reduction goals.

The three bills addressed three major sources of nutrient pollution: stormwater, wastewater (sewage), and septic systems. The stormwater bill requires Maryland’s ten largest jurisdictions, including Anne Arundel County, to establish a dedicated fee on impervious surfaces (such as rooftops, parking lots, and driveways) to fund in-the-ground projects to capture stormwater runoff from existing development. Each of these counties already has an obligation to reduce stormwater pollution from impervious surface according to their general permits under the Clean Water Act, but only Montgomery County had actually established a fee. This legislation levels the playing field and ensures that counties will have the funds necessary to plan, design, and build these important projects.

The second bill increases the so called “flush fee” from $2.50 per month to $5.00 per month. This revenue is used to complete the upgrades of major wastewater treatment plants, such as the one in Mayo which discharges into the Rhode River. The upgrades will update the plants to modern technology which can dramatically reduce the level of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution being discharged. There are three plants in Anne Arundel County that were dependent on this increased funding in order to be upgraded.

The third bill sets guidelines and limits on growth and development allowed to be built on septic systems. The law sets up four tiers for inclusion in local comprehensive plans, with various levels of controls. It will help local communities direct growth to where there is infrastructure to accommodate it, and help them preserve rural areas. Development on septic systems contributes much more pollution to our waterways than development on modern sewer systems.

As is so often the case with the legislative process, all three of these bills were somewhat weakened from their original forms. Some concessions were made, and some compromises were brokered out of necessity. But considering that so many other environmental bills were completely gutted or defeated, this package of bills is a giant step forward for clean water.

These victories were not easily won. A strong coalition of environmental and community groups, called the Clean Water, Healthy Families campaign, worked tirelessly to champion these measures. The coalition consisted of large state-wide groups, watershed organizations – including West/Rhode Riverkeeper, and grass-roots community organizations. Working together, we were able to underscore the value of protecting and restoring our waterways, and our elected officials got the message loud and clear.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4Pf0md0lY4 560x315]

The momentum is now with clean water. With these legislative victories, we are in a position to put policies in place to achieve the “pollution diet” and meet our obligations to reduce pollution. To be successful, we need to keep fighting and keep working. Our rivers, creeks, and streams, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay depend on it.