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Sep 29

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!


Jul 08

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: 



Jul 03

Working with a local community

Posted by Sarah in Rain Garden , Pollution , Federation Event

by: Blair Ezra, Summer SRF Intern

On Wednesday, July 2nd, the Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA) hosted a volunteer event to help complete projects that promote clean water in the community of Hillsmere, located in Annapolis, Maryland. About two dozen people gathered in the morning to plant the first rain garden of the day. The purpose of a rain garden is to prevent stormwater runoff from polluting the South River and Chesapeake Bay. Stormwater runoff is a serious problem for many watersheds, especially the South River and Chesapeake Bay.  It is caused by rain flowing over water resistant surfaces, that don’t let the water soak into them, like driveways, parking lots, and rooftops. The runoff picks up all the dirt, chemicals, oils, and other pollutants on the ground and carries them into local waterways. Rain gardens reduce stormwater runoff by absorbing the rainwater that contains the pollutants. The pollutants go into the ground and the water feeds the plants instead of running off into local waterways.

 The handful of rain gardens the volunteers planted on Wednesday are in neighborhoods that are considered to be in the “critical area.”  Five active master watershed stewards and two community members organized this project. The stewards want to educate the community about rainwater and the steps they can take to prevent water pollutions. Cleaning the River or Bay starts on land and can even start in your own yard! By using less or no pesticides to picking up after your pets, that bacteria is then carried into the water via stormwater runoff, little steps like these will promote healthier and cleaner waterways.

 The community of Hillsmere is working collectively to become conscious of their actions involving their yards, and how they can come together to clean up their neighborhood and nearby watershed. The stewards carefully chose ten properties in the community that they decided were appropriate to conduct these projects on. The WSA installed cisterns on the houses and planted rain gardens in the appropriate area in their yard to prevent stormwater from flooding the backyard or creating runoff. The homeowners paid a small fee for this process, but most of the cost for the design and construction of this was paid for with grant money from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or the South River Federation (SRF), along with the volunteer time by many people.

 The first year of this project aims at installing rainscaping projects and the second year is targeting people to have bay friendly properties. Many homeowners don’t realize how important this project is and how much they can help, so the WSA will help this community take action to being bay-friendly! This project will educate people about rainwater and how to protect their waterways. Once this project is complete, the WSA plans to open this plan to the county, to help other people promote clean water.

Jun 25

Discover Your Impact Day

Posted by Sarah in Harness Creek , Fauna , Church Creek

By: Maura Duffy

Last Friday, the Discovery Channel’s “Discover Your Impact Day” returned to the South River for its second consecutive year.  Discover Your Impact Day is an annual company-wide event that brings Discovery employees from across the world to local organizations that support land, water, and people.  The group of 28 employees we hosted volunteered in two projects: cleaning Flood Buckets and planting at our Poplar Point restoration project.

The day began by cleaning and shaking Flood Buckets.  John Flood, founder of the South River Federation, started the Flood Bucket program several years ago.  Flood Buckets are 5 gallon containers that have holes to allow water to flow through them.  The buckets are filled with oyster spat (which are baby oysters) and attached to boat docks with rope.  With the help of his neighbors, John has hung hundreds of buckets from multiple docks throughout Harness Creek.  The buckets house and protect the oyster spat from predators during their vulnerable first year of life.  After one year, the oysters are released at a local oyster sanctuary within Harness Creek.  The program aims to boost local oyster populations and to increase local biodiversity.  The buckets create a great habitat for other organisms, including mud crabs, eels, grass shrimp, and a variety of small fish.  Over time, the buckets become dirty and the holes can sometimes become clogged.  By having volunteers help us to clean the buckets we hope to ensure higher survival rates for the oyster spat.  The volunteers and I were amazed at the number of eels, mud crabs, and fish that we saw living in the buckets.

The second project of the day was to plant a variety of shrubs and trees at our Poplar Point restoration project.  This restoration site, which is located along Church Creek Lane, has recently completed all major construction efforts.  Because of this, we are now able to plant the site with a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation.  By using a diverse mix of plants, one of our goals for the project is to increase wildlife habitat by selecting plants that produce seeds and fruit that attract wildlife.  Even before we began our planting efforts, we saw a variety of wildlife already beginning to make their home close to the restoration project.  We have seen snapping turtles, black rat snakes, frogs, and blue dasher dragonflies.  I enjoyed getting to spend the day outside, and many of the volunteers voiced the same.  Special thanks to Discovery Channel for volunteering and for purchasing new shovels for the South River Federation.  A special thanks also goes to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for funding this tree planting.

Jun 23

Environmental Restoration Vocab: Part Two

Posted by Sarah in Church Creek

By:  Maura Duffy

We hope you enjoyed last week's blog post about restoration vocabulary!  Today we bring you the second part of this series.

6)      Emergent vegetation: plants that have roots underwater or in wet soils, and that do not develop woody tissue, known as lignin.  Examples include sedges, rushes, and grasses.

  • One of the purposes of the Church Creek restoration project is to enhance several acres of forested wetland.  Once planting is completed, the area will be planted with a wide variety of vegetation, including emergent vegetation with high value to wildlife, which will grow underneath the thousands of trees and shrubs to be planted.

7)      Berm: a raised area separating two lower areas.

  • Berms are used to control lateral and vertical flow of water across a site.  Reducing the velocity of water increases the hydroperiod, or time required for water to flow into and out of a wetland.  The berms at the Church Creek project will be heavily planted with vegetation upon completion.

8)      Weir: a low, wide water control structure built across a stream to regulate its height and to allow for water's safe and stable passage to lower elevations.

  • Weirs allow for water to pool behind them while also allowing water to flow steadily over their tops.  The weirs installed in the Church Creek headwaters are made of cobble and boulder, and will make sure that the project is stable and non-erosive.

9)      High carbon soil: a soil that holds large amounts of carbon, which is associated with a soil’s organic content. 

  • High carbon soils provide important nutrients that are important for plant growth.  Carbon rich soils have been used during the construction process in order to create a hospitable location for plants.

10)       Confluence: the merging point of two stream or rivers.

  • The Church Creek restoration project is located at the confluence of two headwater streams.  By restoring this particular geographic area, improvements in habitat and environmental conditions downstream are likely to occur.
Jun 19

Environmental Restoration Vocab: Part One

Posted by Sarah in Church Creek

By: Maura Duffy

I recently paid a visit to the South River Federation’s Church Creek headwaters restoration project to go on a guided tour with staff members.  Having written my senior research paper for my undergraduate degree on the water quality conditions of Church Creek, it has been very exciting to see the construction of this project from start to finish.  The Church Creek headwaters restoration is our largest restoration project to date, and it is nearing completion.  Major construction efforts are expected to be completed this week, and the project will be planted in the fall.  During the ongoing work for this project, you have probably seen quite a few buzzwords about restoration.  Through a two part series, we are bringing you this list of the top ten restoration vocabulary words to help give you a better understanding of environmental restoration and how these terms relate to our Church Creek project.  Stay tuned for the second part of this series which will be posted on Monday!

1)      Headwaters: the sources of a stream

  • The headwaters are considered to be the furthest portion of a river or stream from its estuary or confluence with another river.  Church Creek's drainage is dominated by  four primary tributaries that feed into the Creek.  By improving the habitat and environmental health of the headwaters and the uplands that drain into them, an improvement in conditions downstream is most likely to occur.

2)      Stormwater Runoff: precipitation in an urban or suburban area that does not evaporate or soak into the ground but instead runs across the land and into the nearest waterway.

  • An area of approximately 400 acres drains into Church Creek.  Of these 400 acres, 58% of the land consists of impervious surface.  Stream biologists generally consider watersheds more than 20% composed of impervious surface to be "highly degraded."  Large amounts of stormwater runoff moves through the headwaters during precipitation events, putting additional stress on the existing degraded habitat, a system of ditches running through very fine silts eroded from nearby fields in past decades.

3)      Riparian zone: the interface between land and a river or stream.

  • This area bordering a stream typically gives aquatic environments protection from sedimentation, polluted stormwater runoff, and erosion. However, in watersheds where streambanks are not stable or well connected to their floodplains, riparian zone improvements may not lead to an improvement in stream, wetland, and floodplain conditions downhill.

4)      Floodplain: the flat area of land adjacent to a stream or river.  When functioning properly, this area will store floodwaters and then slowly release them.

  • Due to urbanization and other land use changes over the course of hundreds of years, the floodplains of Church Creek’s headwaters have not been functioning properly, likely since the construction of Parole Camp III near the site during the Civil War.  Instead of water spreading out over the floodplain as it should, water would travel at high speeds directly into the eroding ditches of the Church Creek headwaters, carrying with it harmful pollutants and sediments not only from uphill areas, but from the eroding banks themselves.  The restoration project has been able to bring back the floodplain and reconnect it to the stream channel.  For the first time since at least the late 1800s, Church Creek can now flood its banks and floodplain.  This will bring about natural improvements in both habitat and reductions in fine sediment transport, and will help moderate high flows to Church Creek. 

5)      Obligate wetland: wetland indicator status that denotes the high probability of certain individual species of plants occurring in wetlands.

  • Obligate wetlands are marked by the presence of plants that always occur in wetlands, such as Arrow Arum.  Arrow Arum, not previously documented at the site prior to the start of restoration work, has emerged across the floodplain, showing that wetland conditions are returning to the historic floodplain.
Jun 16

Operation Clearwater

Posted by Sarah in Untagged 

By: Maura Duffy

Summer is here, which means that Operation Clearwater sampling has begun for the summer! Since 2008, the South River Federation has participated in Operation Clearwater, a water quality monitoring program that provides communities with updates of the microbial water quality at their waterfront recreational areas.  

I recently went out to collect water samples for this program with our newest summer intern, Danny Danckwerth.  When I was a summer intern last year, collecting water samples for Operation Clearwater was one of my duties, so I was glad to have the opportunity to participate in the program again.  I feel that Operation Clearwater is a very important program to have in this area because it provides useful, timely information to those in our community who recreate in the South River.  By being made aware of bacteria levels in the water, children and families can protect themselves from potential human health risks.

Swimming beaches and community marinas participating in the program this year will be sampled weekly from May 21st to August 27th for Enterococci bacteria.  These bacteria provide a reliable indicator of contamination in swimming and recreational waters by the fecal waste of mammals and birds.  This can signal the presence of pathogens that can be harmful to humans, should they come in contact with contaminated water.  Bacteria levels are measured in colony-forming units (cfu) per milliliter (mL).  A cfu is a rough estimate of the number of viable bacteria cells within a water sample.  Bacteria levels greater than 104 cfu per 100 mL of water are considered to be elevated bacteria levels.

Following sample collection guidelines is crucial to obtaining accurate sample results.  Because of this, interns who are collecting are trained on how to properly take water samples.  Only sterile bottles are used, and the sampling bottle is rinsed between stations to prevent cross-contamination.  After collection, bottles with water samples are put on ice. This prevents further bacteria growth, and essentially “freezes” the water sample’s bacteria levels at a specific point in time.  Think of what happens when your refrigerator turns off: food spoils because of rapid bacteria growth.  By keeping samples on ice, this rapid bacteria growth is prevented which provides more accurate testing results.  Once all of the water samples have been collected, the bottles are taken to Dr. Sally Hornor’s microbiology laboratory at Anne Arundel Community College.  There each sample is analyzed to determine its bacteria level.

Before getting in contact with the water, it is important to remember to put your health and safety first.  The South River Federation strives to share our bacteria monitoring results with communities. Our goal is to provide timely public health information to participating communities, and help to identify times when it may be inadvisable to swim. Results are posted on the South River Federation website and Facebook page.  Data can also be accessed through the Waterkeeper Swim Guide.  This can be accessed through their website and through the smart phone app, which is available in both the App Store and Google Play. Please keep in mind that after any rainfall event, all Anne Arundel County beaches are under a no swimming and no direct water contact advisory for at least 48 hours due to predicted high bacteria levels.

If you would like to learn more, please call the office at 410-224-3802 or email diana@southriverfederation.net.

Jun 13

4th Annual South River Days Kayak & Picnic

Posted by Sarah in Untagged 

By: Maura Duffy

Last Saturday, the South River Federation held its 4th Annual South River Days Celebration.  It was a beautiful day to spend on the water.  I enjoyed spending time with family and friends while getting to show them the natural beauty of Fishing Creek.  It was great to see so many families and children at the event and seeing how excited they were to spend time on the water together.  This year, the celebration involved a kayak tour and potluck picnic.  Kayakers departed from Arundel on the Bay Community’s beach and were taken on a guided tour of our newly completed Arundel on the Bay stormwater and wetlands project.  We had a great turnout this year, with 62 kayakers going on the trip.  All were welcome, with both loyal long-time South River Federation supporters as well as those who had just recently learned of the Federation in attendance.  After the kayak tours, everyone gathered for a delicious potluck picnic.

This year marks the first time that ecotourism has been incorporated into the celebration.  Ecotourism generally involves visiting natural areas meant to educate guests.  Once kayakers reached the living shoreline project our Restoration Project Manager, Kirk Mantay, explained the design of the restoration project.  The Arundel on the Bay project implemented a variety of best management practices for stormwater management including tidal/non-tidal wetland restoration and living shoreline construction.  These methods support ongoing efforts to reduce nutrients, enhance habitats, and enhance areas currently prone to run-off.  The South River Federation’s restoration projects are a source of pride, so we were very excited to get to share a project site with our guests and give eco-tours.

A very important aspect of our annual South River Days event is to celebrate the river, which is part of our mission statement.  Celebrating the river means enjoying the river as a place for sport and recreation, a calm place to get away to, and an opportunity to connect with nature.  Through this event, we were able do all of these activities.

Special thanks to the Arundel on the Bay Community, Annapolis Community Boating, Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company, and Chad’s BBQ for helping to make this event a success.

May 29

Beyond the Boat: Camp Woodlands Living Shoreline Planting

Posted by Sarah in Federation Event , Fauna , Broad Creek

By: Maura Duffy

This week, the South River Federation partnered with the National Aquarium to bring four different school volunteer groups over the course of three days to our Camp Woodlands living shoreline project.  The schools involved in the planting efforts were Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, Gateway School, St. Andrew’s United Methodist Day School, and Westport Academy.  Now that construction on the restoration project has been completed and the weather has gotten warmer, it was time to plant the restoration site with marsh vegetation.

Two of the schools volunteering at the planning were a part of the National Aquarium’s Wetland Nursery Program.  Over the course of the school year, students raised native wetland plants as well as native fish.  The students were then able to plant the smooth cordgrass they grew and release the rockfish they had raised.

By having four different schools participate in the planting efforts, a diverse group of students ranging in age from the 4th grade to the 11th grade were exposed to our living shoreline project.  During the course of the day, we were also able to give tours of the multiple erosion control projects in place at Camp Woodlands. Many of the students volunteering live in inner-city Baltimore, and do not usually get the opportunity to spend the day outside interacting with the environment.  While planting marsh grasses, children told me that they were enjoying working outside for the day.  Everyone was excited about the abundant wildlife at the site, and encountered a water snake capturing and eating a catfish from the nearby waters.

It was wonderful to see so many children engaged with the project.  Not only were these school groups given great exposure to nature, they were also provided hands-on learning experiences.  Their environmental awareness reflects the interest of others in their generation, and gives a promising hope for the future of our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.

May 22

Beyond the Boat

Posted by Sarah in Untagged 

By: Maura Duffy

This past week, I attended a Physical and Nutrient Monitoring training session presented by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  The training was held in Thurmont, Maryland near Buzzard Branch stream.  Buzzard Branch is considered to be one of the most pristine streams in Maryland, boasting a native trout stream and healthy water quality.

During the training, the other attendees and I learned about geomorphology, nutrient, and stream discharge sampling protocols.  This means that we were trained on the monitoring standards for measuring the physical features of streams such as width and depth, water quality, and the speed at which water is flowing.  By having a set of standardized procedures for data collection, a set of comparable data can be created to allow for comparison of stream conditions from a variety of locations across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

One highlight from the training was that I was able to use state-of-the-art monitoring equipment.  One of the pieces of equipment that I used for the first time was an automatic water sampler.  As seen in the photos, this device has tubing that can be placed into a stream.  The device is then able to collect up to twenty four bottles of water samples at a pre-programmed time interval.  A device of this kind is especially helpful for collecting water samples during storms and other severe weather events.

It was an enjoyable experience, and it is always beneficial to meet other people who are also working towards a common goal: monitoring and restoring our waterways to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.  It was also great to see how excellent the water quality was in Buzzard Branch stream.  It showed me that it is in fact possible to have healthy, thriving streams in Maryland that are abundant with wildlife.



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