ShoreRivers Honored with Prestigious Environmental Award

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The Maryland League of Conservation Voters announced this week that it would honor ShoreRivers this year with its prestigious John V. Kabler Memorial Award, presented annually to Maryland’s most outstanding environmental leaders and organizations.

Past recipients have included such noteworthy environmental champions as Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen, former Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, former Maryland Governor Harry R. Hughes, and former Maryland DNR Secretary John Griffin.

ShoreRivers protects and restores the waterways of the Eastern Shore and the living resources they support. The organization was formed January 1, 2018, from the merger of three river-protection organizations, and now serves Delmarva from Cecilton to Cambridge, representing rivers and watersheds draining to the Chesapeake Bay.

Photo: Front row, L-R: Elle Bassett, Jeff Horstman, Tim Trumbauer, Suzanne Sullivan, Tim Junkin, Kristin Junkin, Matt Pluta; Back row, L-R: Kristan Droter, Isabel Hardesty, Laura Wood, Tim Rosen, Ann Frock, Kim Righi, Emily Harris, Emmett Duke, and Rebecca Murphy.

“As ShoreRivers, we are a powerful voice for clean water with a dedicated team of staff, board members, and volunteers,” said ShoreRivers Executive Director Jeff Horstman. “We are having a greater regional impact in advocacy, restoration, and education. We are honored and thankful for the recognition the Kabler Memorial Award brings to our work for healthier waterways and for all the great work the Maryland League of Conservation does for the environment.”

ShoreRivers employs 18 professionals including four Riverkeepers, scientists, educators, policy advocates, lawyers,and restoration specialists who work from offices in Easton, Chestertown, and Georgetown, Maryland. Its work is supported by over 3,500 community members and families and engages over 1,000 students and volunteers each year. The organization works at every level including policy and legislative advocacy, regulatory enforcement, agricultural outreach and restoration, education, oyster repopulation, and community engagement to improve our rivers.

The award ceremony will take place Tuesday, October 9 at the Westin Annapolis, located at 100 Westgate Circle, beginning with cocktails at 6pm, followed by dinner and program at 7pm. For program details or to sign up as a sponsor, contact Karen Polet Doory at kdoory@mdlcv.org or 202-281-8780.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

ShoreRivers Hosts First Annual State of the Chester, Wye, and Eastern Bay

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ShoreRivers will host its first annual State of the Rivers presentation focusing on the Chester and Wye Rivers and Eastern Bay on Wednesday, May 16 at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC), located at 600 Discovery Lane in Grasonville. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5:30pm for a reception with beer, wine and light fare. Mingle with representatives and learn about other local organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, CBEC, Kent Island Beach Clean Up, Corsica River Conservancy, Gunston School, and Washington College’s Center for Environment and Society. The formal presentation will begin at 6:00pm. Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett, and other ShoreRivers staff will present the 2017 Chester River and Midshore Report Cards and discuss the latest water quality trends.

This is a new location and the final in a series of five ShoreRivers State of the Rivers events conducted in April and May, unveiling the results of extensive water quality monitoring. Other presentations took place in St. Michaels, Cambridge, Chestertown, and Cecilton, detailing water quality results forthe Miles, Wye, Choptank, Chester, and Sassafras Rivers. If you weren’t able to attend any of the previous four presentations, the May 16 event will be the last chance to attend this year’s events.

The data for the Chester River Report Card and the Midshore Report Card was collected by a combination of experienced ShoreRivers water quality scientists and dedicated volunteer teams of Midshore Creek watchers and Chester Testers citizen-scientists. In addition to learning about tested parameters and grades, attendees will also gain insight on ways to lessen their yard’s impact on our rivers through the River-Friendly Yards campaign and Marylander’s Grow Oyster program.

ShoreRivers is a newly-formed entity resulting from the recent merger of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Chester River Association, and Sassafras River Association into a unified region-wide organization. ShoreRivers is now one committed voice for Eastern Shore rivers with greater influence on policy, increased capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large restoration projects. For more information about ShoreRivers, please visit shorerivers.org.

For more information about the May 16th State of the Rivers event, please contact Elle Bassett at 443.385.0511 or ebassett@shorerivers.org.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

shorerivers.org

Tour the Shore: ShoreRivers’ Guided Kayak Paddles

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Photo by Suzanne Sullivan

ShoreRivers is taking to the water and invites you to join our annual Tour the Shore guided kayak series on our local rivers. ShoreRivers is an environmental nonprofit whose mission is to protect and restore Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. Tour the Shore introduces residents and visitors to our local rivers, while sharing our mission of cleaner water for all.This year’s paddle theme is Serene, as we paddle quiet creeks and rivers across the mid and upper Shore region. Choose one or more from the list below.

Date: May 18
Time: 10 am – 1 pm
Location: Hillsboro Landing, Tuckahoe Creek
Paddle Tuckahoe Creek while everything is lush and green and the air is cool. A very relaxing trip, Tuckahoe Creek meanders quietly through shady forest and is the perfect location to pack a fishing rod.

Date: June 22
Time: 2 pm – 4 pm
Location: Cambridge Creek Heritage Paddle
See downtown Cambridge from a water view as we paddle into Cambridge Creek, at the heart of the city. Paddle guide Brian Roche of Choptank Heritage Trail will take us past the Choptank River Lighthouse, JM Clayton Seafood Company, and to the head of the creek, the site for the proposed Cannery Park.

Date: July 27
Time: 6 pm – 9:30 pm
Location: Turners Creek, Kennedyville
Paddle the serene Sassafras River as the sun sets and the full moon rises! Gather on the sandy shores for a BYO picnic dinner ahead of time.

Date: August 17
Time: 10 am – 2 pm
Location: Wye Island paddle and hike
A summer favorite, paddle the shores of Wye Island and hop out of the boat for lunch and a walk through one of the Eastern Shore’s old growth forests. Stay cool under trees as old as 300 hundred years as you hike the Schoolhouse Trail back to the boats.

Date: September 28
Time: 10 am – 1 pm
Location: Morgan Creek, Chestertown
Morgan Creek is a gentle paddle off of the Chester River that takes you past marsh lined farm fields and wooded shores. Borrow a pair of ShoreRivers’ binoculars to help spot bald eagles and wading birds.

Paddlers can bring their own kayaks or rent ShoreRivers’ kayaks. Reservations are limited, so contact Suzanne at 443,385.0511 or ssullivan@shorerivers.org to reserve your spot. Tours are $30 for non-members, $20 for members, and kayak rentals are an additional $30 per person.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

shorerivers.org

C+ Grade for the Chester River

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The Chester Packet Boat gliding smoothly along on the Chester River. Photo by Tyler Campbell

The Chester River earned a grade of C+ for 2017, according to ShoreRivers, the Riverkeeper organization for the mid-Shore area.

That was the key announcement at the annual State of the Chester meeting Thursday, April 26 at Washington College’s Hynson Lounge. The standing-room-only meeting was cosponsored by the college’s Center for the Environment and Society.

Isabel Hardesty, Regional Director for the Chester and Sassafras Rivers, acted as MC for the evening, which began with light hors d’ouvres featuring Orchard Point oysters from the Chester River and an open bar.

She began by introducing various ShoreRivers staff members, followed by Michael Hardesty, program administrator for the Chesapeake Bay Semester of the Center for Environment and Society – and also, as it happens, Isabel’s husband. Michael Hardesty gave a summary of the CES’s environmental programs, with a focus on the “pressing environmental issues and opportunities” currently facing the two organizations.

Isabel Hardesty, ShoreRivers regional director for the Chester and Sassafras Rivers

He noted the many organizations monitoring the health of the rivers and the surrounding environment, including the Sultana Education Foundation, Echo Hill Outdoor School, Sassafras Environmental Education Center, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Ducks Unlimited, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, and many others. “We reinforce each other in very powerful ways,” he said.

Washington College is committed to teaching the liberal arts and sciences with the goal of preparing its graduates to become “citizen leaders.” During the CES’s comparatively brief existence – it was founded in 1990 – it has become a national leader in undergraduate study of the environment, he said. It now has 26 full-time staff members and an endowment of some $10 million. And its students receive “real-world experience” aboard its research vessels and other facilities.

The college’s new environmental center, to be built on its riverside property beginning this fall, will make available an array of laboratories and classrooms to enhance the students’ learning experience. The building itself will be designed to “Living Building” standards, with solar panels and geothermal wells that produce 105 percent of the energy needed to operate the building. Any extra energy generated will be sold back to the grid, thus lowering the center’s costs and providing energy for other members of the community.

Another important ingredient of the CES’s mission is Chino Farms, where the college has operated several field stations for a number of years. Recently the farm’s owner, Dr. Harry Sears, decided he wanted “to see the students on the land for the next 100 years,” and gave the land outright to the college for its environmental programs. Among the environmental programs on the farm are a bird observation station that bands and records hundreds of birds annually, and the restored prairie that has become home to the highest concentration of the bob-white quail in Maryland. In addition, the prairie contributes to the quality of water entering the river by filtering rainwater runoff and serves as a reservoir of indigenous plant and animal species.

Hardesty concluded by recognizing the Chester Testers, who sample the water of the river and its tributaries, many of whom are alumni of the college. They “understand what it means to be a citizen in harmony with a place. George Washington would approve,” he concluded.

Chester River Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer

Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer then delivered the annual report on the state of the river. He began with a slide show – “The Good, the Bad, the ?,” alternating photos of positive aspects of the river, negative impacts including algae blooms, stormwater runoff, and unhealthy development, and photos of ShoreRivers volunteer Tom Pearson – with the audience urged to cheer the good, boo the bad, and shout “Ahoy, Tom!” They responded enthusiastically!

Trumbauer said the heart of the program is the water quality monitoring, which measures several variables including temperature, acidity, clarity, and the presence of nutrients, sediment and algae. There are more than 60 Chester Testers, sampling water at sites around Kent and Queen Anne’s counties using equipment supplied by the Lamotte Company and testing facilities at Washington College. Volunteers come from Heron Point, Kent School, Gunston School and other local organizations.

The three key points arise from the testing results, Trumbauer said.  One–there is pollution in the river.  Two–it derives from local sources; and three–restoration works to improve water quality. He noted that the Baltimore sewer system and the Conowingo dam are not significant contributors to the state of the river, whereas agricultural practices, residential lawn care and stormwater runoff from the towns in the two counties are major sources of the current pollution. But the water in the river and its tributaries has improved from a D+ grade 10 years ago to a C+ the last several years, largely due to restoration practices. Nitrogen and phosphorus have been reduced, and water clarity is noticeably improved. In another 10 years, he said, we can hope to see the grade improved to B+.

Trumbauer said there are 77 ongoing restoration projects in the Chester River watershed, which together have resulted in a reduction of pollution entering the river by 31,000 pounds of nitrogen pollution, 10,000 pounds of phosphorus, and 1.3 million pounds of sediment.

Slide from the presentation showed happy swimmers enjoying the river.

It can be safe to swim in the river, he said, as long as it is not within 48 hours of a heavy rainfall and the swimmer has no open wounds. However, swimmers should shower after leaving the river.  He also recommended checking out the current state of a river at the SwimGuide website.  This site covers water quality for over 7,000 freshwater and marine beaches and popular swimming areas in Canada, the USA, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, and the Bahamas.  They even have a free downloadable app for your phone!

To do their part for the health of the river, he said, farmers need to study and implement best practices for fertilizing their crops and for using pesticides. Homeowners should also reduce the amount of fertilizer they use, and introduce native plants into their lawns and gardens. “And tell your neighbors and support us,” he concluded.

Emily Harris, ShoreRivers watershed manager, followed up with hints for homeowners on making their lawns and gardens river-friendly. Reducing the use of turf grasses and fertilizers, and putting the emphasis on native plants – especially in rain gardens and buffers– can make a big difference, she said. ShoreRivers sponsors a series of yard workshops, conducted by master gardeners, that can help individual homeowners arrive at a plan that fits their own property.

A lively question-and-answer period concluded the evening.  It was clear from both the number and the detail of the questions asked that the audience members were well-informed and very concerned about the state of our waterways.

This meeting was one of five “State of the Rivers” series across the area. The final presentation which will cover the Wye and Chester Rivers and the Eastern Bay will be held at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, May 16 at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, 600 Discover Lane, in Graysonville.  Speakers there will include the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett and the Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer.

ShoreRivers has a large cohort of volunteers–citizen scientists, river testers, and others who help to gather data and work on the various projects.  Anyone interested in becoming a member, donating or volunteering for a project should visit the ShoreRivers website or contact Kristan Droter at kdroter@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511.

Volunteers regularly take samples of the river water and vegetation. The compiled data helps in monitoring water quality and tracking any changes in the river or the surrounding flora and fauna.

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ShoreRivers Needs Some Help: Development and Event Coordinator Position Available

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ShoreRivers seeks a Development and Event Coordinator to join their team and help fulfill our mission to protect and restore our rivers and the living resources they support. The ideal candidate will be an energetic, outgoing individual who is organized, detail oriented, and enthusiastic about the environment and the communities they serve. The position is located in our Easton, Maryland office at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center.

ShoreRivers seeks to protect and restore Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

We have a dedicated staff of educators, scientists, restoration specialists, and advocates focused on policies and projects that will improve the health of our rivers. Our staff includes four Waterkeepers who regularly patrol and monitor our waters and serve as key spokespersons: Chester Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, and Sassafras Riverkeeper. Our Waterkeepers and staff are a strong, collective voice for Eastern Shore waterways.

ShoreRivers was created in 2017 when the Chester River Association, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and Sassafras River Association merged. We have more than 3,500 members and supporters across the Eastern Shore who help us achieve our vision of healthy waterways.

For more information please click here

Senator Van Hollen to Speak at Inaugural ShoreRivers Event April 20

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ShoreRivers will host its annual State of the Midshore Rivers Party on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 5:00 pm. The event takes place at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in Saint Michaels, Maryland and will report on the current state of the Choptank, Miles and Wye Rivers. Admission is free and open to the public. The event is sponsored by the Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond.

This will be the first of five ShoreRivers events in April and May unveiling the results of extensive water quality monitoring. Other presentations will take place in Cambridge, Chestertown, Cecilton, and Grasonville. These events will detail the state of the Choptank, Chester, Sassafras, and Wye Rivers, depending on location. Visit ShoreRivers.org for more information.

ShoreRivers is a newly-formed entity resulting from the recent merger of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Chester River Association, and Sassafras River Association into one region-wide organization. ShoreRivers is now one committed voice for Eastern Shore rivers with greater influence on policy, increased capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large restoration projects.

ShoreRivers is pleased to announce that Senator Christopher Van Hollen Jr. will be the keynote speaker at the State of the Midshore Rivers Party. Van Hollen is U.S. Senator from Maryland and has worked to pass bipartisan legislation on issues of common concern, including protecting the Chesapeake Bay. He won the general election 60 to 36 percent to replace retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski in 2017. From 2003 to 2017, he held the position of U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 8th congressional district. In the House of Representatives he served as a member of the Democratic leadership and was elected by his colleagues to be the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee and protect vital interests like Social Security and Medicare. He serves as Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) for the 2018 elections cycle. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, the John F. Kennedy School of Public Policy at Harvard University, and Georgetown University Law Center.

“We are thrilled and honored to have Senator Van Hollen, who has been a tough and effective environmental leader for our state and the Chesapeake Bay,” says ShoreRivers Executive Director Jeff Horstman. “His defense of clean water, his fight for renewable power and his efforts to address and combat climate change make him an ideal keynote speaker for ShoreRivers’ inaugural event.”

ShoreRivers welcomes and encourages the community to join this evening of conversation and informative discussion as it releases its 2017 Midshore Rivers Report Card. The report card reflects data collected at 115 sites by ShoreRivers scientists, Riverkeepers, and more than 50 volunteers in ShoreRivers’ Creekwatcher water quality monitoring program. 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. Presentations and interpretations will be given by Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett, Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, and Watershed Scientist Tim Rosen. ShoreRivers staff will also discuss programs being undertaken in 2018, including the new RiverWatch real-time water quality online platform.

The State of the River 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 fresh farmed oysters on the half shell and a cheese and wine reception. The program will follow at 5:30 pm.

For more information, contact Eleanor Nelson at eleanor@shorerivers.org or phone 443.385.0511.

ShoreRivers seeks an Agricultural Specialist

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ShoreRivers seeks an Agricultural Specialist to act as the primary liaison with the farming community in our efforts to achieve healthy waterways across Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The ideal candidate will be committed to environmental conservation and have significant
experience in agricultural practices and with the farming community on the Eastern Shore.

This is a full-time position that will be based primarily in our Chestertown, MD, office. Salary range is $45,000-$60,000 and commensurate with experience; competitive benefits package. To apply, send cover letter and resume to Isabel Hardesty, Regional Director, Chester and Sassafras: ihardesty@shorerivers.org.

Op-Ed: Hydraulic Dredging for Clams on the Rise as is the Damage by Jeff Horstman

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Hydraulic dredging for clams in our rivers is on the rise. Many of us have witnessed the damage this practice causes.

Clamming licenses in Maryland have sharply increased over the past few years, from just eight in 2013 to over 30 in 2016, perhaps signifying a modest comeback of the soft-shell clam and reflecting the increasing popularity of clams as crabbing bait. Similar to oysters, clams are a vital filter feeder and key component in the ecological food chain. Historically, the clam population has been decimated by overharvesting and disease, and, without a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) management plan, is now at risk of another serious population downturn. Today’s clam populations mirror those of oysters, resting at only about 1 percent of historic levels.

The practice of harvesting clams with a hydraulic dredge is akin to underwater strip mining. High velocity jets of water strip away the river bottom, leaving trenches that can be two feet deep and three feet wide, while a mechanical conveyor belt attached to a long metal arm churns through the newly cut river bottom collecting clams. This action causes major damage to the river floor and irreversible damage to submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, ripping up their roots and leaving large sediment pollution plumes in its wake.

According to multiple studies, hydraulic dredging is catastrophic to SAV beds and the sediment kills oyster spat in surrounding areas. While there are regulations aimed at prohibiting hydraulic dredging in SAV beds, some dredging is allowed in and near oyster sanctuaries. Additionally, it is getting much more difficult to determine where SAV beds are located as they continually change and many large SAV beds are frequently not mapped at all, leaving them vulnerable to this destructive practice.

Hydraulic clam harvesting currently is allowed year-round and the practice is increasing without any assessment of the growing environmental damage it’s causing. Day after day, these hydraulic machines scour, scrape and gouge the river bottoms, producing thousands of pounds of sediment pollution. We think it’s time to develop a clear management plan for this valuable species, taking into consideration clam populations, their immense value to the ecosystem, the residual damage of hydraulic harvest, and the views of all stakeholders. Clams, today, represent a tiny portion of the Bay’s seafood harvest. As the demand for clams increases, we should answer some important questions before clam dredging grows into an even larger problem.

Our rivers are already listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as impaired for sediment pollution, among other pollutants.

Our rivers are virtually choking from sediment. So, the first question we might ask is: Should we continue to allow hydraulic dredging in impaired rivers when we know it causes catastrophic SAV damage and creates large areas of sediment pollution capable of killing oyster spat and all the underwater life it chokes out? The second question might become: Are there better ways to protect and manage our natural resources, to benefit all stakeholders, while insuring a healthy and sustainable clam population?

Our rivers belong to all of us. The current hydraulic harvesting practices hurt more of us than they help.

Jeff Horstman is executive director of ShoreRivers, Inc.

The Art of the Merge with ShoreRivers Jeff Horstman

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While it could be said that the proverbial writing was on the wall for some time, the Sassafras, Chester River and Mid-Shore Riverkeepers, and their affiliated organizations, were getting a pretty clear message over the last three years from their major institutional funders that these three, very similar enterprises must consider consolidation for the best possible mission delivery.

As a result of this welcomed nudge, representatives of each group began to meet eighteen months ago to discuss the logistics of this somewhat complicated merging of functions and governance. But inevitably the most exciting part was when these organizations could start to see the raw power that could be achieved by the change. Not only regarding protecting their beloved river sheds but also have a far greater presence in Annapolis and the halls of Congress to pursue their advocacy work.

It fell on Jeff Horstman, the current director of the Mid-Shore Riverkeeper Conservancy, to manage the process which ultimately led to the creation of ShoreRivers.  And he will become its executive director at the beginning of the new year.

The Spy felt it was a good time to sit down with Jeff and talk about how the process, as well as the delicacy and sensitivity needed as these three very different cultures with very similar goals, become a new nucleus.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the new ShoreRivers please go here