ShoreRivers: The Shore’s Uncompromising Voice for Clean Rivers by Jeff Horstman and Isabel Junkin Hardesty

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The Eastern Shore’s rivers weave through farmland, forests, marshes and towns on their way to the Chesapeake Bay. Each river is unique, with its own character, but they share in common the fish, crabs, waterfowl and people that depend on them.

Much as these individual rivers ultimately come together as part of the Bay, three great Eastern Shore conservation organizations are uniting. Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association are merging into a single nonprofit, ShoreRivers, Inc., to serve as a leading voice for healthy waterways on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Through science-based advocacy, restoration and education, ShoreRivers will protect and restore Eastern Shore waters that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. We will work collaboratively with our communities, yet maintain an uncompromising voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

Our three legacy organizations each have a deep history of working collaboratively to improve the health of the waters in our communities, and that mission will continue. By joining together, we become more than just the sum of our parts – we will be one committed voice with more influence on policy, more capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large restoration projects that directly reduce pollution.

We will need that influence to tackle the major issues affecting our environment. ShoreRivers will now be a statewide leader on conservation issues so that when we travel to Annapolis to meet with elected officials or to testify for legislation, we will have the backing of our 3,500 supporters who care about our waters and our Eastern Shore quality of life.

We will also have increased capacity to implement bigger, better projects. That means expanded work with our agricultural partners, broader funding to encourage innovative technologies that reduce pollution, and region-wide restoration projects that capture polluted runoff before it enters our rivers.

From Kennedyville to Kent Island, from Cambridge to Crumpton, ShoreRivers staff, partners and volunteers will work together across the Eastern Shore. You’ll see us out on the rivers and creeks as well as in farm fields and forests. Our leadership, staff and board of directors are comprised of members of the three legacy organizations.

The main headquarters for ShoreRivers will be in downtown Easton at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. We will also maintain regional offices in Chestertown and Georgetown, the former offices of the Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association, respectively. And we will heavily rely on watershed advisory boards for each major river to continue our strong local connections.

An important part of our mission is our Waterkeeper program. Waterkeepers are full-time advocates who regularly patrol and monitor their local bodies of water. Including the ShoreRivers merger, there are now 17 Waterkeepers working in the Chesapeake Bay region – 11 in Maryland. Waterkeepers focus on their individual waterbodies, but frequently work together with other “Keepers.” ShoreRivers will have four Riverkeepers: Jeff Horstman is the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper; Emmett Duke is the Sassafras Riverkeeper; Matt Pluta is the Choptank Riverkeeper and Tim Trumbauer is the new Chester Riverkeeper.

Despite encouraging signs of clearer water and more grass beds in recent years, the waterways of the Eastern Shore remain polluted – they are still threatened with excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff. At ShoreRivers, we believe there are real solutions to these threats, and we are committed to developing projects and programs that will improve the health of our waters and keep them robust and beautiful for all of us – now and in the future.

Jeff Horstman is the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper and Executive Director of ShoreRivers and Isabel Junkin Hardesty is the former Chester Riverkeeper and new Regional Director of ShoreRivers.

 

 

Midshore Riverkeepers Receive Major Grant for Agricultural Conservation

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Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) was recently awarded a grant of $451,960 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund to create a regional program that advances the implementation of conservation drainage practices and tests new agricultural best management practice technologies that have great potential to reduce nutrient and sediment from entering the Chesapeake Bay.

Many local farms were initially drained using a system of drain tiles. Unfortunately, over the decades these structures have deteriorated. MRC will work with agricultural landowners to retrofit old and failing drain tile lines with the latest conservation practices and create a drainage water management plan to maximize the benefits of the new conservation drainage system. These innovations will reduce sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus losses from agricultural land that has drain tile lines. A goal of this program is to accelerate the implementation of the outlet and infield best management practices by incentivizing farmers through offering the replacement of antiquated existing drain tile and surface inlets.

MRC Staff Scientist Tim Rosen installs an updated conservation drainage system at an agricultural site.

This work will create a framework for a conservation drainage program that can be used to justify the funding of a state-run program administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. In addition, the program will provide a blueprint for other Bay states to adopt their version of a conservation drainage program. This program will help bring Maryland to the forefront in addressing agricultural drainage pollution and help position our farm community to be more economically and environmentally sustainable. MRC’s program will focus on four watersheds—the Choptank, Nanticoke, Pocomoke/Tangier, and Chester—that span eight Maryland counties.

Completion of this grant will result in the installation of eight separate projects that incorporate either a denitrifying bioreactor, saturated buffer, or structure for water control and blind inlets. It is anticipated that 2 denitrifying bioreactors, 2 saturated buffers, and 4 structures for water control will be installed with an estimated 14 blind inlets. In total, this will reduce a total of 3,456 pounds of nitrate-nitrogen per year, 49 pounds of phosphorus per year, and 46,666 pounds of sediment per year.

MRC has obtained commitments from private and state sources to provide a match of $467,980, enabling the organization to devote a total of $919,940 to this important work.

For more information contact MRC Staff Scientist Tim Rosen at 443.385.0511 or trosen@midshoreriverkeeper.org.

MRC Breaks Ground on Restoration and Stormwater Projects at Chesapeake College

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On June 28, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and Chesapeake College jointly hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on the college’s Wye Mills campus. MRC has been leading an effort in collaboration with the college and funding partners to develop a comprehensive initiative to address major stormwater challenges on the campus. A suite of 14 projects will materially improve water quality in the Wye River. The projects include a wetland restoration, bioretention facilities that filter stormwater, and a stream restoration that will reduce erosion and treat pollutants coming off hard surfaces and the agriculture fields surrounding the campus.

Kristin Junkin, director of operations for MRC, led the ceremony by describing the projects and the valuable partnerships with both Chesapeake College and the funders that are supporting the work. These funders include Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Queen Anne’s County. She thanked all of these partners and emphasized the importance and necessity of local leaders taking responsibility for restoring and protecting our rivers and Chesapeake Bay.

Photo: Pictured at the groundbreaking ceremony are (left to right) Rob Gunter (Queens Anne’s County Planning & Zoning), Ben Hutzell (Resource Restoration Group), Michael Mulligan (Chesapeake College), Sarah Hilderbrandt (Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources), Steve & Julie Burleson (MRC Advisory Committee), Barbara Viniar (former Chesapeake College president), Jim Moran (Queen Anne’s County Commissioner), Kristin Junkin (MRC Director of Operations), Evan Blessing (Blessings Environmental Concepts), Greg Farley (Chesapeake College), Bill Anderson (MRC Board), Timothy Jones (Chesapeake College), Michael Wiznosky (Queen Anne’s County Planning & Zoning), Dr. Clayton Railey (Chesapeake College), Lucie Hughes (Chesapeake College), Chris Oakes and Jess Lister (Environmental Concern), Tim Junkin (MRC founder) and Gus (Tim’s puppy). 

The college’s vice president of finance, Tim Jones,thanked MRC and all of the funder partners, saying,“Chesapeake College’s mission is to educate the residents of our five county region. Not only will these watershed projects allow us to enhance our classroom programs, they will also allow the college to serve as a working model of best practices for all residents on the Eastern Shore. The college is very appreciative of our partners on these projects. It is through partnerships like these that the college has become a nationally recognized leader in sustainability.”

Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran applauded the well-organized and thoughtful proposal MRC brought to the county, adding that,“Queen Anne’s County is ready to do our part in cleaning up our waterways. We are delighted to work with MRC and we look forward to more projects down the road.”

The attendees at the ceremony had the unique opportunity to explore with the contractors the keystone project in the group, a Regenerative Step Pool Stormwater Conveyance. This project uses shallow pools to slow down and treat runoff from the college’s hard surfaces and surrounding agricultural fields before the water empties into the headwaters of the Wye East River. Attendees got a behind-the-scenes tour on how these types of projects are engineered and constructed.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust funded MRC’s Wye River Assessment that identified the project opportunities, Queen Anne’s County and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funded the design work, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Queen Anne’s County are funding the construction. All of these projects are scheduled for completion by 2018.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and celebration of the watersheds of the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Miles River, and Wye River. For more information on these projects, contact Kristin Junkin at kristin@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443-385-0511.

Midshore Riverkeeper Erects Waterfront Signs

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Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC), in partnership with Talbot County, has installed informational waterfront signs at Oak Creek Landing, Bellevue Landing & Marina, and Neavitt Landing. The attractive signs are an outreach tool to help readers understand current threats to clean water and ways to take action to improve local water quality.

Sign(s) and location map.

“Talbot County and the Eastern Shore have some of the most beautiful rivers and waterfront in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” says Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta. “Because these rivers are such valuable natural resources, we all need to work together to protect and preserve them. These water quality signs are a great way to remind the public about the value of our rivers—socially, economically, and environmentally—while encouraging the reader to take specific actions that make a difference.”

Local vendors produced the signs, with design by Joanne Shipley Graphic Design, printing by Sharper Image, and frames constructed by Warren Woodworks.The project was partially funded by Chesapeake Bay Trust.

For more information, contact Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta at matt@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443.385.0511.

Riverkeepers Present 2016 Report Card at State of the Rivers Party

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Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) will host its annual Cambridge State of the Rivers Report Card Party on Thursday, May 25 at 6 pm at the Cambridge Yacht Club, located at 1 Mill Street, next to Long Wharf Park. Light fare and drinks will be served.The event is free and open to the public.

MRC is excited to partner again with the Cambridge Yacht Club for the evening. The yacht club also participates in MRC’s Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program.

During the State of the Rivers Party, MRC Riverkeepers will release the results of the 2016 State of the Rivers Report Card. Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, along with other experts and educators from MRC’s staff, will explain and interpret results from last year when scientists and MRC’s 50+ Creekwatcher volunteers collected water quality samples at over 115 sites.

The City of Cambridge is located on the shores of the Choptank River, which will be the focus of this presentation. Special guest speakers for the evening will be partners from the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee, including Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth, Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, City of Cambridge, and University of Maryland Extension. Each partner will give a short update about various initiatives underway in the region.

The 2016 Report Card results will reveal whether grades improved over the past year and how specific testing parameters contributed to overall scores.Production and presentation of the Report Card was supported by a grant from Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and celebration of the waterways that comprise the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Miles River, and Wye River watersheds. For more information, email matt@midshoreriverkeeper.org or call 443.385.0511.

Midshore Riverkeepers Announce Tour the Shore Kayak Series

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Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC)is pleased to announce the 3rd Annual Tour the Shore Kayak Series, which explores local rivers, creeks, and parks. Tours will be hosted by MRC Riverkeepers, educators and scientists on paddling trips along the rivers they strive to protect. Participants will learn about local ecology, history and water quality. Tour the Shore is open to the public and enables community members of all ages and paddling abilities to rent a kayak, or bring their own, for a guided tour of some of the Eastern Shore’s unique creeks and rivers that. MRC values time spent on the water connecting people to the waterways they drive past every day. This year MRC is introducing new paddles to the roster that highlight narrow creeks, flooded forests, and sunken marshes. Trips may combine water and land exploration. Whether paddling, hiking, or both, MRC wants to help paddlers reconnect to nature while meeting new people. Tours are $40 for non-members and $25 for members. A limited number of binoculars and guide books are available to borrow during the paddles.

Date: Wednesday, May 2
Time: 2 PM – 5 PM
Location: Tuckahoe State Park
Paddle the upper Tuckahoe River through a flooded forest filled with swamp maples, black gum, and green ash trees rooted in the sandy soil. A beautiful paddle when spring will be showing itself through floral blooms and emerging wildlife.

Date: Friday, June 16
Time: 10 AM – 2 PM
Location: Blackwater Wildlife Refuge
Pack a lunch and prepare to paddle one of the Eastern Shore’s most famous marsh systems, and for good reason. Be sure to bring or borrow binoculars for eagle sightings. The tour will stop off at a small island for lunch.

Date: Friday, July 21
Time: 10 AM – 1 PM
Location: Upper Choptank River
Leave from Greensboro and paddle past red clay riverbanks and gravely stream beds.

Date: Friday, August 18
Time: 10 AM – 1 PM
Location: Skeleton Creek
Launch at Windyhill Landing, cross the Choptank River to paddle the narrow and winding Skeleton Creek as it transitions from a brackish marsh to fresher waters with corresponding changes in plant and animal species.

Date: Friday, September 22
Time: 1 PM – 4 PM
Location: Miles Creek
Explore this undisturbed creek in Talbot County when pickerel weed and groundsel tree are beautifully blooming.

Preregistration is required. Space is limited, so don’t wait to get on the list. Contact Suzanne@midshoreriverkeeper.org or call 443-385-0511 to sign up and get all the details. In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Grab a paddle and get out there to tour the shore!

Melanie Jackson Joins Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy Board of Directors

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Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) is pleased to announce that Melanie Jackson has joined the organization’s board of directors. Jackson received her undergraduate degree from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in 2012. Following graduation, she served a term as the watershed ambassador for the Hackensack River, New Jersey, which is an AmeriCorps program, working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and alongside Hackensack Riverkeeper. In 2013, Melanie left her home state of New Jersey for the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, Maryland, to study algae blooms and nitrogen pollution for her Master’s degree. Jackson completed her Master’s degree in 2016, and is currently working toward her doctorate degree, specializing in oyster reefs and how they remove nutrient pollution. Jackson was selected through a new collaborative agreement with UMCES to have a board position available on a rotating basis for one of its Ph.D. candidates.

“I am so thrilled to be joining the board of directors of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy,” Jackson say. “Since meeting members of MRC’s energetic team, I’ve wanted to get involved in their outreach activities. After I volunteered in an AmeriCorps program, I have been passionate about environmental stewardship and sharing my knowledge and research at Horn Point Laboratory with future generations.”

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and celebration of the waterways that comprise the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Miles River, and Wye River watersheds. For more information, visit midshoreriverkeeper.org, email info@midshoreriverkeeper.org, or phone 443.385.0511

Walter Boynton at State of the Rivers Party

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Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) will host its annual State of the Rivers Party and 2016 Midshore Rivers Report Card Release on Friday, April 21 at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in St. Michaels, Maryland. This year, the launch party will be held in the Small Boat Shed, where guests can discover the re-created interior of a crab picking plant and boats once used in the fisheries.

27_2009_Gonzo3NPRResearcher Walter Boynton, who hails from UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, Maryland, will serve as honorary speaker for the evening. Boynton, in true scientist form, will make a few observations on the state of the Chesapeake Bay. Boynton says he has always enjoyed history and figuring out the “why.” Why is this happening in the Chesapeake? Why do we see increased “dead zones” in the summer? Why are we seeing an increase in aquatic grasses?During the evening, Boynton will highlight a few observations by early settlers about unspoiled water clarity on the Bay and the aquatic creatures found in those clear waters. He will also discuss issues facing the Chesapeake Bay today, and the prospect of good news for our communities. (Spoiler alert—there is good news!)

Starting as a research assistant in 1969, Boynton spent his career studying the Bay and offering new insights into how the Bay’s ecosystem works. In particular, Boynton and fellow researchers investigated the impacts of excess nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, flowing into the Chesapeake. Boynton co-authored one of the first scientific papers, still cited today, that stated excess nitrogen entering the Bay from parking lots, farms, and other human sources, was a key element to the creation of  low-oxygen “dead zones” that weaken the ecosystem. Since then, Boynton has become known in the Chesapeake Bay community for his slight New England accent and his ability to effectively communicate the science of the Bay to a wide variety of groups. From testifying in front of Congress, to talking policy with state officials, to giving talks to local watershed and school groups, Boynton is a formidable source of information on the Chesapeake Bay.

Boynton has been working on the Bay for almost 50 years. He recently was honored with the 2016 Mathias Medal recognizing his career of environmental stewardship. The award is named after U.S. Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias of Maryland, who championed efforts to clean up the Bay. The award recognizes outstanding scientific research that contributes to informed environmental policy in the Chesapeake Bay region. Since the Mathias Medal was established in 1990, only six have been awarded.

The State of the Rivers Party on April 21 takes place from 5-7 pm, beginning with a wine and cheese reception. The event is free and open to the public. MRC Riverkeepers will also release the results of the 2016 State of the Rivers Report Card. These results assess water quality data collected by MRC scientists and 50+ Creekwatcher volunteers in sampling jurisdictions on the Choptank River, Miles River, Wye River, Tred Avon River, Tuckahoe River, Harris Creek, Broad Creek, Island Creek, La Trappe Creek, and Eastern Bay on the southern tip of Kent Island.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and celebration of the waterways that comprise the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Miles River, and Wye River watersheds.For more information, email sarah@midshoreriverkeeper.org or phone 443.385.0511.

 

State of the Midshore Rivers Report Card Party Comes to CBMM

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Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) will host its annual State of the Rivers Party on Friday, April 21, the eve of Earth Day. The event takes place at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in Saint Michaels, Maryland.

The State of the Rivers Party is free and open to the public.

MRC welcomes and encourages the community to join an evening of conversation and informative discussion as they release their 2016 Midshore Rivers Report Card. The report card reflects data collected by MRC scientists, Riverkeepers, and more than 50 volunteers in MRC’s Creekwatcher water quality monitoring program, which runs from April through October. These results assess water quality at approximately 115 sampling jurisdictions on the Choptank River, Miles River, Wye River, Tred Avon River, Tuckahoe River, Harris Creek, Broad Creek, Island Creek, La Trappe Creek, and Eastern Bay on the southern tip of Kent Island. This is an opportunity for the community to learn about the health and challenges of our local waterways and how the most recent grades compare to previous years.

MRC staff will also discuss other current programs being undertaken in 2017. MRC is excited to launch two new programs, which will be announced at the event.

In addition, researcher Walter Boynton, who hails from UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, Maryland, will serve as honorary speaker for the evening. Boynton, in true scientist form, will make a few observations on the state of the Chesapeake Bay and what the future holds not only for our local waterways, but also for the overall Chesapeake Bay.

The evening will close with the presentation of the Andy Coombs Volunteer of the Year Award. Each year, MRC recognizes a volunteer who has gone beyond the call of duty in support of its programs and mission. Robust, continued support from the community allows MRC to continue to be a strong, effective voice for local rivers.

The party will be held in CBMM’s Small Boat Shed, where guests can discover the re-created interior of a crab‑picking plant and small, locally-built craft used around the Chesapeake Bay for fishing, oystering, and crabbing. The event will begin at 5:00 pm with a cheese and wine reception. The program will follow at 5:30 pm.

For more information, email sarah@midshoreriverkeeper.org or phone 443.385.0511.