Kent School Students Certified as Chester Testers

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Emily Harris trains Eighth Grade students at Kent School to become Chester River water quality testers.

In mid-September Emily Harris, Watershed Coordinator of the Chester River Association, visited Kent School to train and certify Grade 8 students to become Chester Testers. The students will be responsible for testing and reporting on water quality samples they take from the Urieville Lake Branch.

Harris explained the role of the Chester River Association and its part in monitoring the health of the Chester River. After the overview, the students were trained to test for dissolved oxygen, nitrates, nutrients, phosphorous and turbidity. Students also discussed the potential cause and effects of imbalances in the water they test.

The students will travel to and test water samples at Urieville Lake Branch once a month starting in October. Their findings will help determine the Water Quality Index and the Chester River Report Card.

Hannah Richardson, Middle School Science Teacher at Kent School said, “I believe that the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries can provide an excellent outdoor classroom. I am excited to deepen Kent School’s nationally recognized Chesapeake Bay Studies program within the Middle School science curriculum. I plan to intentionally incorporate more Bay Studies experiences and learning opportunities into our earth science, life science and physical science curricula. We are so fortunate to have the Chester River in our backyard. Why not use it as an extension of our classroom?”

Michelle Duke, Assistant Head of School for Academics said , “The Bay Studies program at Kent School is unique in its in-depth, hands-on teaching opportunities. Our students from Preschool through Grade 8 engage in meaningful classroom and field experiences. It is gratifying and rewarding to see our students learn through, and with, nature. We are able to provide this unique program in part due to our relationships with other area organizations such as the Chester River Association, The Sultana Education Foundation, The National Aquarium, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Echo Hill Outdoor School and others.” Duke continued, “It is incredible to see how engaged our students are in their Bay Studies learning. It makes me hopeful for the future health of the Chester River and its tributaries.”

For more information about Kent School’s Chesapeake Bay Studies program or any other facet of the school visit www.kentschool.org or call 410-778-4100 ext. 110. Kent School, located on the bank of the Chester River in historic Chestertown, is an independent day school serving girls and boys from Preschool through Grade 8. The school’s mission is to guide our students in realizing their potential for academic, artistic, athletic, and moral excellence. Our school’s family-oriented, supportive, student-centered environment fosters the growth of honorable, responsible citizens for our country and our diverse world.

 

Oyster Shell Recycling Now Available at Rock Hall Recycling Center

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The Chester River Association announced on Aug. 22 that an oyster shell recycling bin is now located at the recycling center in Rock Hall. Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Shell Recycling Alliance is providing a dumpster for shell recycling and will empty it as needed.

The oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay is only a fraction of what it once was, and recycled shell is an essential part of restoring oyster reefs in the Bay and its tributaries. The shell is collected in bins and dumpsters all over the watershed and brought to Horn Point Lab’s oyster hatchery in Cambridge.

Once the shells are aged and cleaned they can be recycled for use in the Marylanders Grow Oysters program, aquaculture operations, private oyster gardens, or state and federal restoration efforts.

Any time you eat oysters at home, please recycle the shells at the nearest drop off location! In addition to the dumpster in Rock Hall, there are bins at the Washington College boat house in Chestertown. Local restaurants can utilize the public shell recycling bins or contact the Shell Recycling Alliance for more information on how to become a participating business.

For more information about the Shell Recycling Alliance visit the Oyster Recovery Partnerhsip’s website.. If you are interested in participating in CRA’s Marylanders Grow Oysters program or just want to learn more about oyster restoration efforts in the Chester River, visit the CRA website.

What’s Growing in Our Rivers? SAV Workshop in Millstream Park on Saturday, July 29th

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SAV Workshop in Millstream Park on Saturday, July 29th.

We’re seeing a lot of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), like the curly pondweed pictured on the rake! If you spend a lot of time boating on the river, paddling in a creek or stream, or wading near your dock, we suspect you’ve come across these aquatic grasses as well. If you want to increase your general knowledge about SAV, learn how to collect samples, and learn how to identify different species, join us for our first SAV workshop led by our Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer Lindsey Hughes!

Join Chester River Association staff for a morning of SAV sampling in Millstream Park! We’ve seen a major comeback in SAV in recent years, which are important for holding sediment in place, providing habitat, and producing dissolved oxygen for other aquatic critters.

The grasses in Old Mill Stream can be reached from the stream bank with the help of rakes and other sampling gear provided by CRA. We will meet in the park pavilion before heading to the stream to collect samples.

Snacks and water will be provided for all participants, please bring appropriate sun protection! This event is free and open to the public. If you’re interested in attending or have questions about the event, please call our office at 410-810-7556 or email Lindsey at lhughes@chesterriverassociation.org.   Check out the Chester River Association’s website for more information.

We hope to see you there!

SAV Workshop on Saturday, July 29th, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Millstream Park, Centreville, MD

Chester River Gets a High C+

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The Chester River got a C+ on its annual report card from the Chester River Association.

CRA Staff Proudly Display Rivers C+

CRA staff and musicians proudly display the river’s C+.  Kneeling – Paul Spies & Emily Harris Standing L-R – Tom Anthony, Isabel Junkin Hardesty, Tim Trumbauer, Anna Walgast, Tom McHugh

The CRA announced the grade – which watershed manager Tim Trumbaurer said was “a rounding error away from a B-“ – April 19 at its annual “State of the Chester” meeting, held this year in Washington College’s Hynson Lounge. The Washington College Center for the Environment and Society co-sponsored the meeting.

The evening began with wine, cheese and raw oysters from Scott Budden’s Orchard Point aquaculture operation near the mouth of the Chester River – a concrete example of the benefits of clean water.

Following the reception, CRA executive director Anna Wolgast, Chester Riverkeeper Isabel Junkin Hardesty, agricultural specialist Paul Spies, and Trumbaurer each delivered a portion of the report.

Wolgast opened the proceedings by recognizing all the volunteers and staff members whose work went into the report. Some 10,000 data points were compiled and analyzed for the report, which she characterized as “not subjective, but based on scientifically derived facts.” It is “the foundation for the best solution for cleaning up the Chester River,” she said.

“I can’t remember a more important time to fight for the environment,” said Wolgast. She thanked the CRA members present for their support of the group’s efforts to ensure the health of the river.

Trumbauer then took over, starting with a “year in pictures” slide show that might have been subtitled “The Good, the Bad and Bob,” the latter referring to CRA Vice President Bob Ingersoll, who is an energetic volunteer for the organization. The audience was encouraged to cheer for good images such as volunteers recycling, boo bad ones like sediment in a stream, and say “Ahoy Bob” when Ingersoll appeared.  The audience participated enthusiastically, cheering, booing, and “ahoying,” making it a fun introduction to the report itself.

Trumbauer then turned to the hard statistics on the river’s watershed, which comprises nearly 700 square miles, about two-thirds of which is in crop agriculture. That is the highest proportion of farmland in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, he said,

Because of the large agricultural component, the impact of runoff from the agricultural lands is more significant than in more urban areas. The nitrogen and phosphorus contained in fertilizers can put the river water out of balance when rainstorms wash them into it.

To monitor the levels of those nutrients and of sediment, 50 volunteer Chester Testers measure the water in 27 sites all over the watershed twice a month, year round. The testers accumulate some 1,300 volunteer hours annually. Equipment and chemicals supplied by the LaMotte Company allow precise determinations of the quantities of pollutants present in the water.

According to these tests, the majority of the pollution in the river comes from within its own watershed, not from the Chesapeake Bay, Trumbauer said. That is evident from the fact that the levels increase with distance from the mouth of the river. The sites showing the greatest pollution are Centreville wharf, Morgan Creek and Duck Neck, he said.  The latter two are upriver from Chestertown

The overall trend, over the ten years the CRA has been testing, is toward improved clarity. (The river’s initial grade, in 2007, was a D+.) “People are snorkeling in the river,” Trumbauer said – something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. And, except for the 24-hour period after a major rainfall, the river is safe to swim in. The CRA website (www.chesterriverassociation.org) gives updates on water safety, for those who want to be certain before plunging in, he said.

Trumbauer gave several suggestions on how property owners in the watershed can help improve the water quality. Reducing the area of turf grass lawns and the amount of fertilizer used can both help. So can planting native flowers and trees. Maintaining septic systems is also crucial. Residents should also let elected officials know their concern for the health of the environment. Call and write your local, state, and federal representatives. And, of course, joining and supporting organizations like the CRA goes a long way.

Hardesty gave a summary of the CRA’s programs that contribute to the health of the river. Among them are the wetlands restoration on Kent County High School land and Worton Park, a similar project at Gunston School, and the Natural Lands Project in collaboration with the Center for Environment and Society.

Spies gave an overview of the CRA’s work with the agricultural community, introducing new techniques to improve crop yield while minimizing fertilizer loss. For example, the GreenSeeker program allows a farmer to selectively apply fertilizer to the parts of a field that most need it. That reduces the amount that gets washed away in rains from fields where fertilizer is spread evenly across the whole field.

Similarly, Spies said, the use of cover crops and no-till agriculture saves soil that could otherwise wash away. Many farmers in Kent and Queen Anne’s are adopting these methods, and the river’s improved report card owes a good deal to them.

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session. David Sobers, a member of the Chestertown Environmental Committee, asked if the CRA planned to hold any meetings in Centreville. He also asked if the CRA is making use of drones to monitor water clarity and to spot possible sources of pollution.

Trumbauer replied that the CRA will hold its State of the Chester meeting in Centreville next year.

Junkin said the CRA has partnered with the Chesapeake Conservance Geographic Information System laboratory to investigate the use of drones in its programs. She said a test program on Ingersoll’s farm had given useful results.

Another audience member asked what other factors contributed to the improved results in 2016.

Trumbauer said the absence of hurricanes or other extreme rainfall was a large factor. Also, a cool spring inhibited the growth of algae in the river.

At the end of the question period, artist and writer Marcie Dunn Ramsey said a good way to introduce friends to the CRA’s program was to bring them to the Summer Solstice Gala, June 24 in Chestertown’s Wilmer Park. There, in addition to cocktails, dinner, live music by the High and Wides, and an auction to benefit the CRA, they can meet staff and learn about the organization and its programs.

As an added treat, the evening concluded with a well-received set of songs on Chesapeake Bay themes by Tom McHugh and Tom Anthony. The selections ranged from lyrical ballads to “Slow Train,” a harmonica solo by McHugh incorporating the sounds of a chugging locomotive and train whistles. McHugh interspersed jokes and anecdotes of the waterman’s life between songs.

It was a fitting conclusion to an important progress report from the Chester River Association.

The CRA Sets Date for Report on The Chester River

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The Chester River Association will release the 2016 Report Card at the Second Annual State of the Chester. The event, co-sponsored by the Center for Environment & Society, will be hosted in Hynson Lounge at Washington College on Wednesday, April 19th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Join us for beer and wine, appetizers, and oysters from Orchard Point Oyster Company from 5:30 to 6 p.m. The program will start at six with a review of the 2016 Chester River grade, water quality results for the year, and a programmatic update from CRA staff. A question and answer session will follow the presentation.

The Chester River Association’s sampling methods and grade calculations are based on the Mid-Atlantic Tributary Assessment Coalition’s (MTAC) guidelines. The 2016 Report Card will show grades for the entire watershed, as well as grades for each of the tidal and non-tidal tributaries where CRA staff and Chester Tester volunteers collect samples.

Tom McHugh and Tom Anthony will end the night with a musical performance celebrating the Chester River. This will be a night full of food, fun, and science that you won’t want to miss! The event is free and open to the public.

Current Threats to Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay

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Anna Wolgast, Executive Director of the Chester River Association

In Honor of Earth Day, on April 20, 2017, The Democratic Club of Kent County presents “Current Threats to our Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay-Can We Stop Them?”  Chestertown’s own Anna Wolgast, Executive Director of the Chester River Association (CRA) and former Environmental Protection Agency Deputy General Counsel of EPA and Appeals judge on EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board will share the proposals of the current administration and the impact on our local waterways.  Ms. Wolgast will discuss what the CRA is doing to combat the proposals and how concerned citizens can help.  She will also discuss additional efforts to improve water quality for the Chester and it’s tributaries being done by the Chester River Association.

The meeting takes place at JR’s Pub, 337 High Street in Chestertown.  Doors open at 5:30 pm, with the program starting at 7:00.

Project Clean Stream in Wilmer Park

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In coordination with the Sassafras River Association, CRA is hosting our first shoreline trash cleanup of the year on Saturday, April 1st in Wilmer Park. This event will be part of the larger Project Clean Stream effort organized by Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay every year.

The event will start at 9 a.m. and last until 12 p.m. All volunteers are welcome, and CRA will provide all necessary supplies. We will be picking up trash along the shoreline in the park as well is in the wetland behind the pavilion, so if you want to venture into the mud please dress accordingly!

Visit the Project Clean Stream website (https://pg-cloud.com/ACB/) to register for the Wilmer Park event. If you’re not in the Chestertown area and would still like to participate, look for another cleanup near you! There will be over 60 cleanups taking place throughout the Bay watershed on April 1st, with countless more planned throughout the spring.

If you have any questions about the event or want to organize a shoreline cleanup for your group in 2017, please contact Emily Harris at eharris@chesterriverassociation.org or 410-810-7556.

The Chester River Association is a non-profit organization that works for a healthy Chester River for our communities and for future generations through science-based advocacy, restoration, and outreach.

Letter to Editor: Sassafras & Chester Riverkeepers Say Keep Best Technology Septic Systems for All

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The Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association oppose the newly proposed regulation that eliminates the requirement for Best Available Technology (BAT) septic systems outside of the Critical Area. We oppose this repeal for one reason: it will result in more pollution to our local waters. Please share your views with your elected officials; we believe in investing in this technology because it will reduce pollution.

Current Maryland regulations require all new or replacement septics to utilize best available technology. These high-tech systems reduce nitrogen pollution by 50%-70%, while conventional systems do not reduce nitrogen at all – clearly, high-tech septics are the best choice for local water quality. Yet the proposal from the MD Dept. of the Environment would roll back these protections.

We cannot afford to go backwards in our efforts for cleaner water – everyone must do their part and homeowners with septics are no exception. Our rural area has many neighborhoods that depend on septics; it’s only fair that septic owners, like farmers and other landowners, participate in reducing pollution.

Some people oppose using the high-tech septics because of cost, but the systems are relatively cost-effective. A high-tech system costs about $7,500 more than a conventional system; if you spread this installation cost over its 20-year pollution-reducing lifespan, the cost-effectiveness of the high-tech system is $23 per pound of nitrogen removed. For comparison, the cost-effectiveness of agricultural best management practices ranges from $10 to $800 and of stormwater practices ranges from $100 to thousands of dollars, according to the MD Dept. of the Environment.

The Chester and Sassafras River Associations stand together in opposing this repeal because it puts at risk water quality, public health, and Maryland’s commitment to a clean Chesapeake Bay.

Isabel Hardesty, Chester Riverkeeper
Emmett Duke, Sassafras Riverkeeper

Chester River Association Coordinates Volunteers for Oyster Restoration

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screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-9-58-42-amThe Chester River Association staff and volunteers spent the morning of Thursday, September 22 preparing over 150 cages of oyster spat on shell for the Marylanders Grow Oysters program. The oysters will be cared for by volunteer oyster growers throughout the winter until we plant them on oyster sanctuaries in the Chester River.

Since 2012 CRA has planted over 200,000 oysters in the river. These oysters improve water quality and create vital habitat for fish and crabs. With spat and cages provided by the Oyster Recovery Partnership, CRA is able to work with volunteers in both Kent and Queen Anne’s counties to provide a hands-on experience for those interested in learning more about the Bay’s most important bivalves and improving local water quality.

Staff and volunteers from CRA, the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, the Chestertown Christian Academy, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service helped fill the cages at the two pick up locations. The cages this fall will yield around 40,000 spat for planting on sanctuaries in the spring.

If you want to participate in the Marylanders Grow Oysters program or simply want to learn more, visit the Chester River Association’s MGO page (http://www.chesterriverassociation.org/mgo) or email Emily Harris at eharris@chesterriverassociation.org.

The Chester River Association is a non-profit organization that works for a healthy Chester River for our communities and for future generations through science-based advocacy, restoration, and outreach.