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Federation Blog

Feb 23
2015

Guest column: Runoff fee at work across Maryland

Posted by Jennifer in Untagged 

By Kate Fritz and Michael Hollins
February 21, 2015

There is something extraordinary happening across Central Maryland, where local governments are working hard to reduce pollution and clean up their rivers, creeks and streams. The "rain tax" is working.

While opponents deride these stormwater management fee programs, local governments are putting projects in the ground that protect communities from flooding, keep pollution out of our waterways and repair out-of-date or failing drainage and sewer infrastructure.

Baltimore and Maryland's nine largest counties have federal Clean Water Act permits that require them to reduce pollution from stormwater. This is because water running off roofs, driveways, lawns and parking lots contains pollutants like motor oil, grease, lawn chemicals and pet waste. This polluted runoff enters small ditches and local waterways, making them and their parent rivers unsafe for swimming, threatening Maryland seafood and causing localized flooding and property damage.

Prince George's County has entered into a first-of-its-kind partnership with a private-sector company to design, install and maintain the county's upgraded stormwater management system. Besides bringing new jobs to Maryland, the company has also committed to using local small and minority-owned businesses for at least 35 percent of the total project.Of course, Maryland is not taxing the rain, but local governments are assessing fees on pavement and other hard surfaces. These fees enable local governments to finance and construct the repairs and restoration projects needed to stop this pollution before it causes harm to our waterways. This important work is being done by local design and construction firms, working with communities, places of worship and other partners to get projects in the ground in ways, and at a speed, that government could not achieve alone.

In Anne Arundel County, the utility fee is spawning project implementation by watershed groups like the South River Federation in partnership with private industry to design, construct and plant restoration projects at different scales. In 2015, the federation will be submitting proposals for upward of $400,000 in projects to be implemented in our communities. The sustained and predictable nature of this fee means the South River Federation and other nonprofits can do more work and engage the private sector in a more predictable way to make these local improvements with local dollars.

The fact is that community-scale watershed restoration is a new, frontier-setting field that is bringing new jobs to Maryland companies and new employees (and residents) to Maryland from other states. Engineers, horticulturalists, landscape architects and stream biologists are all working in aggressive teams to identify and install measures that reduce our impact on our local waterways.

This should be welcome news for an administration that lists jobs as a top priority and announced that "Maryland is open for business." It certainly doesn't jibe with political rhetoric to repeal the polluted runoff legislation. These are real projects and real jobs. Our economy needs more work, not more layoffs.

In the horticultural sector alone, the interest in growing and selling native plants for restoration projects has become a booming business in Maryland. The business is growing, in no small part from the projects funded by the polluted runoff fee. If Maryland is truly "open for business," then we must not close down this growing sector of our economy.

The opening days of Maryland's General Assembly session brought an optimistic tone of bipartisanship and cooperation. All Marylanders enjoy the ecological, economic and recreation benefits that the Chesapeake Bay and our local waters provide, and we should all have a role in protecting this valuable resource. Let's drop the rain tax rhetoric and let these programs do what they do best: Spur jobs that reduce pollution.


Kate Fritz is the executive director of the South River Federation. Michael Hollins is the owner of the Envirens Inc. consulting firm and Sylva Native Nursery, both based in Baltimore County.

Copyright © 2015, Capital Gazette

 

- See more at: http://www.capitalgazette.com/opinion/columns/ph-ac-ce-guest-column-south-river-20150221,0,4868087.story#sthash.FvRPt9Lh.dpuf

Jan 23
2015

Building business through restoration

Posted by Jennifer in Untagged 

By Kirk Mantay, Published in The Maryland Natural Resource Winter 2015

M aryland’s Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund works to accelerate Bay restoration by focusing limited financial resources on the most effective non-point source pollution control projects. Dollars for the Trust Fund are generated through Maryland’s motor fuel and rental car taxes. 

To date, through the Trust Fund, the State has invested roughly $6 million in improving water quality in the South River — $3.3 million of which has gone directly to reducing non-point source pollution in the Church Creek watershed. Such projects are wise investments for Maryland’s taxpayers, creating local jobs through State funding while improving our waterways. But how did this marriage get started and what do private sector businesses have to say about it?

Click here to read the article: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/Documents/natural_resource_magazine/2015/Winter/srf.pdf

Dec 31
2014

Happy Holidays from the South River Federation Team

Posted by Sarah in Untagged 

It's the final countdown!  Yes, I quoted the song title by the band Europe.  With less than 12 hours to go before the end of the year, I wanted to take the time and say thank you to each and everyone of our members, donors, volunteers, board, committees, staff, who have made this past year such a success. 
As I reflect on 2014, I realize that this year brought a lot of leadership change to the Federation.  We welcomed Kate Fritz, as our new Executive Director, we thanked four Board members for more than 30 years of collective dedication to the South River, and welcomed on four new, energetic Board members.
 
In 2014, we accomplished some amazing things, including,
  • Completing five major restoration projects in the Church Creek sub-watershed alone.
  • Planting over 11,000 native trees and shrubs.
  • Engaging over 800 volunteers watershed wide.
  • Publishing the 8th Annual South River Report Card.
We continue to maintain this success and  momentum because of your support. We have approximately $3.2 million of restoration projects ready to go in the ground in 2015, and we need your support more than ever.
 
Today I ask you to consider renewing your support and join me as a member of the South River Federation. Your gift yields a 20:1 return on investment on local, state, federal, and private grant money that goes directly into scientific monitoring and restoration projects in the South River watershed.
 
From the South River Federation, we wish you a prosperous and healthy new year.  I look forward to seeing each of you in 2015!
Sep 29
2014

AARP Rescues a Rain Garden

Posted by Jennifer in Untagged 

Did you know there is a big rain garden at the Annapolis-Eastport Library?  If you didn’t, we can’t blame you.  The garden was incredibly overgrown and a bit off the beaten path.  Once we learned about the garden and found out about how badly the garden needed maintained, we knew we had to act!

Last year, a volunteer group from the National Aquarium in Baltimore came down for a day and started to clear out invasive plants.  But there was plenty more work to be done!  Thanks to a hard working crew from AARP, we were able make the rain garden look much more like, well, a garden.

Volunteers started by clearing out invasive brush from the rock-lined swale and trimming back the aggressive blackberry.  After a significant amount of brush was cleared, volunteers mulched the berm, parts of the garden, and a path around the garden.  To help keep down the invasive herbaceous layer, AARP volunteers planted dozens of native flowers, shrubs, and trees.  Over time, as the trees and shrubs grow larger, they will crowd out the invasive plants making it more and more difficult for them to grow.  Our hope is that we can create a beautiful native shrub garden over time.

The rain garden will continue to need weeding over time so if you live in the area and are interested in adopting this project, please contact Jennifer at jennifer@southriverfederation.net.  We cannot thank AARP enough for their help and for continuing to volunteer with us every year on September 11th!  Thank you!

 

Aug 26
2014

We Are Waterkeepers Chesapeake

Posted by Jennifer in Untagged 

Meet your Chesapeake Bay Waterkeepers here!

Around the World - Waterkeepers Chesapeake

Aug 06
2014

Maryland health officials warn of flesh-eating bacteria in the Chesapeake Bay

Posted by Jennifer in Untagged 

WEDNESDAY, 06 AUGUST 2014 19:18

Don Harrison, ABC 2 News

ABC Channel 2 News interviews Riverkeeper Diana Muller.  Watch the video here.

 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - This morning the health department is sounding the alarm. This summer alone there have been five cases of people being infected with flesh-eating bacteria that came from the Chesapeake Bay.

The bacteria, called vibrio, can infect the body through open cuts and wounds.

Diana Muller and Caroline Rodriquez from the South River Federation were out on the South River taking water samples.

Muller says that the increased levels of vibrio bacteria happen when the water heats up and run off pollutants are increased, like after heavy rains.

"Think of it as turning your refrigerator off for a week and leaving food in there," she said. "Bacteria grows rapidly and that's the same way in these tidal estuaries."

Although the Bay may be showing might be having better oxygen levels than they've had in the last 30 years, we ourselves are having problems.

Low levels of oxygen can be caused by over fertilizing your lawn which will put nutrients into the river. "Just let nature take it's course," Muller said.

"Enjoy the dandelions, save the dandelions."

The Anne Arundel County Health Department has some suggestions if you do go in the water. "Wash your body and dry it off and you should be OK," said Gerry Vitnik with the health department.

With all this bad news out there Muller said there is some good news. The water quality can be made better if we change our habits around the bay and in its tributaries.

Click here to read the article on ABC 2 News website.

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Aug 04
2014

As officials warn of flesh-eating bacteria, local advocates monitor water tests

Posted by Jennifer in Untagged 

By Tim Pratt, Baltimore Sun Media Group

Five cases of flesh-eating bacteria infections have been found this year in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, prompting local organizations to test waters frequently and warn people of the dangers of water pollution. "We're certainly monitoring for that (bacteria)," said South River Federation Executive Director Kate Fritz, an Anne Arundel organization. "I think, for the most part, we haven't seen any incredibly dangerous levels of bacteria." 

 The Chesapeake Bay Foundation on Friday reissued a 2009 report warning of an increase in vibrio bacteria infections in the bay and its tributaries. Vibrio is a salt water bacteria, some varieties of which can cause life-threatening skin and blood infections and intestinal illnesses.

 

A 66-year-old man nearly lost his leg last month after contracting an infection while swimming in the bay, according to media reports. Men from Washington, D.C., and Virginia also got infections.

 

Jeff Holland, river keeper for the West and Rhode rivers, said he has only seen three or four spikes in bacteria counts so far this summer. Those have been after heavy rains — which traditionally do increase the counts.

 

Still, reports of vibrio bacteria infections elsewhere have caused some concern, he said.

 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker said the recent health problems "signal the urgent need to continue reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries."

 

The Foundation report, "Bad Water 2009: The Impact on Human Health in the Chesapeake Bay Region," documented an increase in the number of vibrio infections in the bay area, saying it may be an indirect result of warming water temperatures combined with pollution.

 

In Maryland, the number of vibrio cases reached 57 last year, a 10-year high, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The Calvert County Health Department says there have been five confirmed cases in the bay and its tributaries so far this summer.

 

Diana Muller, river keeper for the South River, said contact with the bacteria can be dangerous, but so can eating oysters and clams that have the bacteria in their systems. "It doesn't usually hurt them, but it could kill us," she said.

 

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says people who recreate in the bay or its tributaries can avoid health problems by:

• avoiding water contact if one has open sores

• avoiding swimming for 48 hours after a heavy rainstorm in the area

• avoiding blue-green algae growths in the water

• showering after swimming or boating

• checking government advisories for public beaches and fishing

• having drinking water tested in rural areas

tpratt@capgaznews.com

 

Read the full article at: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-cap-gaz-bacteria-0805-20140804,0,4457466.story

Jul 21
2014

Stormwater project stems flow into polluted Church Creek

Posted by Jennifer in Untagged 

By: E.B. Furgurson III

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The South River Federation and its partners have completed a streambed restoration at the headwaters of Church Creek, the second-most polluted tributary of the river.

“This could be the catalyst for a major change in the middle section of the river,” said federation board member emeritus John Flood.

The $1.5 million project restored the area southwest of Annapolis where two streams, gouged out by the enormous energy of rushing stormwater, combine to create the main stem of Church Creek.

Using rock, sand and earth, the streambeds have been retrofitted into channels that slow, cool and clean the water flowing off surrounding pavement and roofs.

Private organizations, such as the federation and other conservation groups, and local governments using stormwater fees, are moving against urban stormwater pollution — the only major source of pollution of the bay watershed that is still growing.

Nearly 60 percent of Church Creek’s watershed is covered with shopping centers, parking and the roads connecting them.

Over time, stormwater and runoff have dumped nearly 10 feet of silt and soil, choking what was once acres of wetlands.

“Soil cores revealed no gravel layer indicative of an historic streambed, but instead a layer of peat indicative of widespread wetlands, likely from extensive beaver activity,” said Kirt Mantay, restoration manager for the South River organization.

“And that was under several feet of very fine sediment and eroding ditches on the surface,” Mantay said.

The degradation of the upper reaches of Church Creek started during the Civil War.

When Parole Camp 3 was built just south of the present intersection of Forest Drive and Route 2, the land was denuded. Boats could travel almost all the way up the creek to deliver supplies for the camp, where prisoners of war were housed.

Soils soon washed into the headwaters of the creek. In the last 50 years, development has exploded.

Slow the flow

The goal, Flood said, is reducing the amount of stormwater that rushes downstream. “With a flatter peak, we lower the damage downstream, and reduce nutrients.”

The project, designed by Keith Underwood, who has created other restoration projects, slows the waters rushing down the two channels.

One comes from Route 2, Annapolis Towne Centre, Harbour Center and other areas. The other is from Forest Drive, including the Shoppers Food/Kohl’s shopping center and Allen Apartments.

The water is redirected into side channels and step pools separated by stone weirs before it flows downstream to the creek’s main stem.

Major work was finished within the last month. Extensive landscaping with native trees and shrubs is planned later this fall and next spring.

And it looks like the system is working.

Last Thursday, after rain the previous night, muddied water entered the top of the system, then trickled over weirs into pools. Some of the water was absorbed by sandy shoals installed in the project.

Halfway through, the water licked over another stone section as it moved downstream. It was already nearly clear.

Fish, mostly minnows, have moved upstream. Turtles have laid eggs. Ducks have nested. Where there were no dragonflies just weeks ago, four species now flit around gobbling up mosquito larvae.

To test whether the system is working, $70,000 is being spent on monitoring. A University of Maryland water quality monitoring unit is on site.

Planning and permits

The South River Federation first pinpointed the location after years monitoring found Church Creek and the larger Broad Creek are the South River’s two most spoiled tributaries.

In 2008, funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust allowed the federation to pinpoint sites where restorative work would have the most impact to reduce stormwater damage or benefit habitat, or both.

Grant money for this Church Creek project from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Revolving Loan Fund Grant program and the Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund took nearly three years to secure. Donations from several individuals also helped.

Permitting also took years. The federation’s staff of three started the process in 2010. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit came in late 2011, but while worked continued under a Maryland MDE permit the Corps permit expired.

The Church Creek Headwaters Project became the centerpiece of the multiyear plan to restore habitat in the streams, wetlands and shorelines of the subwatershed. It is considered the largest project in the watershed.

Other work is being done upstream of the project site. “As we speak, stream channel retrofits are being installed upstream by Annapolis Subaru,” Mantay said. “And more are coming.”

By the end of 2015, 15 retrofits will have been done in the creek watershed.

 

Jul 21
2014

South River Federation gets new chief

Posted by Jennifer in Untagged 

By E.B. FURGURSON III  pfurgurson@capgaznews.com | 

Kate Fritz might be coming from a job in Prince George’s County, but she’s no stranger to Anne Arundel’s watersheds.

She will tap into that knowledge as she starts her tenure as executive director of the South River Federation today. Fritz previously served as an environmental planner in Prince George’s.

 

She moved to the county 10 years ago and has been involved in watershed issues outside of her day-to-day working life that began as a student at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“I worked every summer on the river, in the river and researching the river,” she said of her college career along the banks of the St. Mary’s River.

Her summers were spent working with on the St. Mary’s Project monitoring river water quality and later working under a National Science Foundation grant studying eel grass diseases.

Working with the river, on the water, it gets to you.

“It takes hold and doesn’t let go,” she said.

After earning a biology degree with a concentration in environmental studies, she did environmental field work, then returned to school earning two master’s degrees in environmental management and natural resources management while still working.

“I am a shovel-ready executive director — I love working in the field,” she said sitting at a small conference table, her rubber field boots leaning up against the wall.

“But I knew I wanted to get into the policy side of things and work to implement policy.”

Most recently she was the co-manager of Prince George’s County’s general development plan, a 20-year blueprint for growth. She rose to that responsibility after several years as an environmental planner there.

Now she gets to work on the river closer to home. She recently moved to Eastport.

“I have developed a passion for the South River and the work to meet the federation’s goal — to help clean up the river in a generation.”

First up she’ll hit the field with restorations manager Kirk Mantay, then out on the river with Riverkeeper Diana Muller.

Then it will be to tackle what she sees as one of the biggest challenges ahead — securing the funding to keep the momentum of projects moving forward.

“The South River Federation has been very successful taking action, getting projects done. Now there is a pipeline of projects out there. Sometimes success can create your own monster. Now we have to secure the resources to keep it going,” she said.

As the county’s new Watershed Protection and Restoration Program gets rolling, the county hopes to develop a method to provide grants and assistance to watershed groups like the federation to get work done.

“We are working to find ways to further work of nonprofits who are effective and capable of doing similar kinds of work the county is undertaking,” said Erik Michelsen, the watershed program administrator. He said the county hopes to roll out the plan, which is called for in the legislation creating the program, early next year

Michelsen is familiar with what Fritz is undertaking. He was executive director of the federation before taking the county job.

“Kate Fritz has been very active in county watersheds as a board member of the Watershed Stewards, and a great partner with the South River Federation. She brings a lot of energy to that work and will be a great asset to them,” he said.

Jul 08
2014

Husband and Wife Team: Diana, South Riverkeeper and Andrew,Professor Oceanographer USNA finalize publication on South River

Posted by diana in Riverkeeper , Pollution

Diana Muller, South Riverkeeper & Director of Scientific Research and her husband Dr. Andrew Muller, Professor of Oceanography at USNA have finalized and published their results on the South River data they have been collecting over several years.  The paper can be found on the following link: 

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X14003397

 

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