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Federation Blog

Over the past ten years, the South River's summer underwater grass beds have come and gone like that college friend who breezes through town once every few years and then you don't hear from again until it suits their undisclosed schedule. When they're around, things are great, and it feels like old times again. When they don't come around, we feel like a little piece of the picture is missing.

In 2017, our summer beds of widgeon grass vanished. Just like they did in 2013, 2011, 2010, and several other years in the past. After seeing better, longer visits from 2014-2016, we at the Federation started feeling like these transient beds of underwater grass could be depended on to show up every year, same time, same place, but with an increasingly large footprint. Alas, mother nature works in mysterious ways.

Is the diminishing water clarity in those areas the cause, or the effect of this disappearance? We've seen rising chlorophyll levels in those areas for three years in a row as well. Perhaps algae is the culprit? We may never know exactly why our underwater friends come and go, but we will continue administering the finest non-profit monitoring program in the State to search for answers, and also to search for our summer beds of widgeon grass.


2017 South River Report Card

This year, the report card included a fold out map with the creek grades on one side and a "Best & Worst" of the River on the other.                                                                                           

2017 Report Card and Fold Out Map plus Best & Worst

This year, the Federation rolled out an interactive data map. It takes a look at whether the river is fishable and swimmable and includes historical data. The data map also provides photos and information about where our restoration projects are located. View the data map at www.southriverdata.net 

Below is a copy of the presentation given by South Riverkeeper, Jesse Iliff and environmental scientist, Sarah Giordano                                                                                                        

Report Card Slide Presentation about 2017 Water Quality Monitoring

See past report cards here.





Call your elected officials to support the 5 pieces of legislation for 2018 that would directly impact the South River:


House Bill 766/SB610: Will update the 27-year-old law to: 1. Clearly define “priority” forests, 2. Clarify what justifies clearing priority forests, 3. Require that an acre of forest be replanted for each acre of priority forest cut down, 4. Clarify that forest protection planning must come early in the development process, 5. Authorize and encourage better spending of fee-in lieu money so state, local and nonprofit agencies and groups that already replant trees can use some of those fees.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Forests provide innumerable benefits to water quality, air quality, and habitat in our State. This legislation will help ensure that those benefits do not continue to shrink along with Maryland’s dwindling forest cover. At least 14 to 22 acres of forest are cut down or lost each day in Maryland—equal to at least 10 football fields of trees. That’s 5,000 to 8,000 acres each year. Tell your elected officials  to vote FOR HB766 and SB610 and conserve the forests that are a vital protection and filter for the South River. 

The General Assembly session started on January 10, and your South RIVERKEEPER® has already begun working on four important bills for this year.

  • Forest Conservation Act: The Forest Conservation Act was passed in 1991. Since then, very little of the law has changed, but as we all know, the landscape in our watershed (and our State) has changed a great deal. This year's push will be to clarify the definition of "priority forest" in the law, require more reforestation for clearing of priority forest, provide flexibility to local governments' use of fee-in-lieu funds, and require updates to the 1997 Technical Manual. This approach is narrower than last year's across-the-board reforestation attempt, and if passed will protect a great deal more of our best forests in the State.

  • Polystyrene Foam Ban: Better known as Styrofoam, polystyrene foam is a dangerous plastic, for our waterways and for our health. Foam breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces as it passes through the waste stream and into our River, eventually winding up in our fish and shellfish. Along the way, foam soaks up almost 10x more toxins than other plastics, and allows these toxins to bio-accumulate in aquatic life and ourselves when we eat seafood. Our trash trap in Crab Creek has captured over a thousand pieces of foam since installation in June 2017. With the ready availability of eco-friendly and cost-comparable alternatives, the time to ban foam is now.

  • Erosion & Sediment Control Reporting: A law is only as good as its enforcement. In FY 2016, Anne Arundel County required 11 staff to conduct 9380 erosion and sediment control inspections, which found 928 violations. Yet only 133 of these violations received a penalty. This bill requires all local jurisdictions with authority to enforce State sediment and erosion control laws (like Anne Arundel County) to provide annual public reporting on their enforcement efforts. Currently, this information is not widely available, and contains only sparse enforcement data. We expect the requirement to publicly report on violation numbers, enforcement efforts, and staffing needs will incentivize local governments to generate the political will and necessary resources for robust enforcement of our environmental laws, and help keep the River clean.

  • Septic Systems: Over 40,000 septic systems in Anne Arundel County contribute over a million pounds of nitrogen to our waterways every year. The River is impaired for fecal coliform and nitrogen. Many other jurisdictions throughout the State suffer similar septic system pollution. This year SRF and others are pushing a bill that would require any new septic systems installed within 1000 ft of a nitrogen-impaired stream to use Best-Available Technology. This requirement will cut the nitrogen load from conventional septic systems in half, from about 23 pounds per year to 11, protecting our streams, rivers, the Bay, and our groundwater from nitrogen pollution.

As the session continues and the bills make their way through committees and floor votes, we will be sending action alerts and asking for your help to see that these important legislative priorities succeed. Thank you for your ongoing engagement and support!

Welcome to Bob O’Dell, the Federation’s Newest Board Member

Over 40 years ago Bob was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay and has been passionate about its beauty and welfare ever since. After he and his wife, Lynn, moved to Hillsmere Shores in 2009, he soon learned about the Marylanders Grow Oysters project and volunteered to keep oyster cages on their own dock, and now has recruited other neighbors on their street to participate as well. In addition, he has long been a volunteer for the Federation, participating in the river snapshot days and in stream cleanup.

Why did you move to Annapolis?

I wanted to live close to the water because I had grown up on the water. Annapolis is very appealing, everything about it.

As a residential builder, how have you seen your industry change in regards to the environment?

The permitting is so much more stringent now. The permitting office really scrutinizes what you are going to do and requires you to manage your stormwater in ways they never did before. Definitely, everyone is more concerned about the environment now.  Back in the 70’s we didn’t even put in silt fences.  We didn’t have any consideration for sediment run-off when we were building.  When backfilling, people even used to bury the construction trash on site. No one would do that today.

Health Department Stream Restoration

South River Federation is excited to start on our next major stormwater project that will help stop harmful sediment from reaching Broad Creek, our 2nd most polluted tributary on the South River. Currently, the streams at the base of the large hill that runs behind Anne Arundel Department of Health (off Truman Parkway) are eroding at an alarming pace.