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When the Beckers of Riva decided to go green, they did not add green to their landscape.  They opted to add some extra green to their wallets by doing a home energy audit-- to test for efficiency and identify problem areas, such as air leaks or installation voids.  Sure, there is an initial cost, but according to Nicholas Neboshynsky of Improvement Zone, energy audits seek to identify issues that can be repaired at a cost that can be recouped in 3-5 years.

Reducing energy bills is the main driver for most people to hire companies like Improvement Zone to do energy audits.  With all the available rebates, the initial cost is actually fairly low.  An energy audit costs $400, but the first $300 is subsidized by energy providers such as BGE.  This brings your total down to $100.  But wait, there’s more!  You also get 12 CFL light bulbs, 2 low flow shower heads, and up to 4 low flow aerators. Make sure you are sitting down because it gets even better!  Some energy companies such as BGE, will cover up to 50% of the repair costs to fix the problems identified in the audit.

While each house, new or old, is unique, Improvement Zone said that the following are most common:

·         Air leaking into the basement from unfinished areas and crawl spaces

·         Air leaks from the living space to the attic

·         Air leaks from exterior doors

·         Low insulation in the attic

These problems are identified through a series of tests.  The Blower Door Test determines how much air is leaking out of the house by using a large, powerful fan to depressurize the home.  The infrared thermal image scan camera, which does make you feel like you have superhero powers, seeks out temperature variations in walls which may indicate an area in need of insulation or sealing.  Improvement Zone also tests to be sure gasses are able to leave the house properly along with a watt meter and air quality test.  All of the data collected is compiled, put into a complete report, and given to the homeowner.

Why do an energy audit?  Emily Becker said “It’s a win-win situation because you save energy, save money, and receive incentives from the power companies.”  In Emily’s case, Improvement Zone recommended sealing identified leaks, installing additional insulation in specific areas, along with other small things that can all add up to substantial energy loss.  Luckily, all of these modifications are eligible for the 50% tax credit.  She would have jumped at this opportunity sooner, but did not learn about it until a friend told her.  Clay, an Improvement Zone employee, agreed that not many people know about all the benefits of an energy audit – there needs to be more public education on the benefits. 

Do you want to get an energy audit for your home?  Call Improvement Zone or any other provider in your area.  Improvement Zone recommends scheduling an audit in the summer or winter where the temperature differences between inside and outside are the greatest.


A special thank you to the Beckers for inviting us to their home during their energy audit! Go green at your home? Tell us about it and you could be the next South River Federation’s “Go Green Project of the Month!”


On Saturday, June 9th, I stood on the beach at Mayo Beach park and watched 58 people take off in kayaks and one canoe, as they started their trip up to South River Farm Park.  It was wonderful to see so many people come out and explore the river.  This particular Saturday, was the Grand Finale of our 2nd Annual South River Days Celebration.  The Federation started this event last year because we wanted to have a week where it was all about connecting and celebrating the South River.  During this week, the Federation hosted a variety of events from a volunteer project at Camp Woodlands, to a general meeting with Doug Lashley, to oyster drops, and finally on Saturday a kayak trip, wade-in, and picnic.  Wow what a week, but it was so worth it!

A big thank you goes out to Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks for hosting the day at Mayo Beach Park.  This was my first time to the park not only was it beautiful, but it was the perfect location for a kayak trip.  Located right at the mouth of the South River, the park looks out onto the Chesapeake Bay.  It never ceases to amaze me how lucky we are to live in and around such a great area.  If you have any questions regarding the park, please visit their website for more information. We appreciate all of their staff support in making this a super successful day.  We could not have asked for a better day.

As the group explored the river, volunteers were busy setting up for the picnic--thank you to My Butcher & More, Annapolis Canoe & Kayak, Starbucks, Bruster's, DoubleTree Hotel, and of course our volunteers  for all of your donations and support of the picnic.  After a workout on the river, it was so nice to welcome everyone back with hotdogs, hamburgers, cookies, and of course ice cream!  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. 

To wrap up the day South RiverKEEPER, Diana Muller, lead a group of people into the river for a Senator Bernie Fowler Style wade-in, an activity that makes us see how far we can go into the river before we lose sight of our feet.  This may not be the most scientific experiment, but it does make you stop and think if you can only go up to your ankles before you lose sight of your feet.  This year, we registered 27.5 inches before losing sight of our toes.  Let's work towards clearing 30 inches next year for our wade-in.  I look forward to the day where I stand chest deep in the water and can still see my toes.  

Thank you again to everyone who came out and made this week so special!  Please enjoy the slideshow of the kayak and other events. 

In preparing for the 2012 Maryland Legislative session, the memories of largely unproductive sessions for the environment in 2010 and 2011 were very fresh.   The combined environmental community – the Clean Water, Healthy Families coalition – resolved to be more focused and to pursue a direct request of legislators, and to focus on goals that would have a measurable impact on improving water quality.  Those goals were:

•    Finish upgrading the wastewater treatment plants that Maryland has already committed to upgrade.
•    Ensure that local governments have resources to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and implement their local clean water plans.
•    Reduce pollution from poorly planned development – including limiting new septic systems.
•    Require that all wastewater discharges, including septic systems, are treated at the highest levels to protect public health and ensure clean water. 

The first two goals were explicitly stated in Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) and comprised the core funding strategies for the state’s efforts to address pollution from its central urban and suburban corridor.  The last two were focused on ensuring that we don’t erase any gains we make via the first two by developing in a way that creates a staggering amount of new pollution.  

As the clock ran down on the legislative session yesterday, the future of the Chesapeake and Maryland’s rivers hung in the balance.  Early in the day, legislation to double the Bay Restoration Fund (or “flush fee” as it is commonly known) passed, followed by bill aimed at limiting sprawling growth by restricting where septic-served subdivisions can be located.  The debate on a bill to require the 10 largest jurisdictions in the state to create dedicated stormwater restoration fees carried late into the evening, with opponents, largely from the eastern shore and western Maryland, attempting to filibuster until the end of session, at midnight.

At one point, the floor leader for the bill, Senator Paul Pinsky, asked the opponents, many of whom had invented, and then promulgated, the notion of a “war on rural Maryland,” why – when they opposed additional water quality regulations on farms on the grounds agriculture wasn’t the only source of pollution to the bay – they opposed a bill whose impacts fell most heavily on the densest areas of the state.  The opponents fell back to a line of defense that can only be characterized as diversionary.  They argued that Maryland’s overall pollution contribution was insignificant compared to the contribution of other states, that the cost of compliance was too expensive, and that the Chesapeake Bay TMDL was in litigation, so there was no need to rush to address it.  Nevermind the fact that the bill was aimed at jurisdictions with an MS4 stormwater permit, that has conditions and requirements which exist independent of the TMDL.    Eventually though, the filibuster was shut down, those in favor of the bill in the Senate prevailed, and the bill was sent back to House and passed with 10 minutes to spare in the session.  

The community still intends to pursue, through regulations, a requirement that all new septic systems be built using the best available technology, but we ended the evening with three of our four goals in hand, and a strong commitment to address the fourth.  There can be little doubt that the 2012 session will go down in Maryland lore as the “Session of the Bay,” despite the fact that it was tumultuous in many other respects.  

And, with the close of the 2012, Maryland’s cities, towns, and suburban enclaves are well positioned to meet their pollution reduction goals going forward. They have developed their plans and now have been given the tools to implement them in a timely fashion.  There still remains important work to be done in other sectors though, with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations still under consideration and an agricultural community that is divided over its willingness to be a full player in the recovery of Maryland’s most valuable natural resource.  The session has ended, but the journey to restoration has just begun.

Exciting Physical Phenomenon today on the South River, MD. So what are the Foamy Streaks and large Foam – Frothy balls on the South River? Did you notice that the bubbles are aligned in streaks and not just all over the River? Today is an exciting day! Today with the 30 knot a wind coming out of the Northwest a physical phenomenon has been set-up. This is called the Langmuir Circulation. It was discovered in 1930 by Nobel Laureate- Dr. Irving Langmuir during a cross-Atlantic voyage where he saw Sargassum weed floating in linear patterns on the ocean. He wanted to know why they were in this pattern, so as a scientist he conducted experiments in Lake George, NY to explain this formation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irvine_Langmuir) What Langmuir discovered was as the wind blows across the surface of the water convection cells begin to form as the shearing forces of the wind push the surface water. The surface water is pushed in a perpendicular fashion to create a circulation pattern below the water. These cells begin to rotate as tubes of water for the length of the River just below the surface and pointed in the direction of the wind. The tubes rotate in opposite directions to the concurrent tube next to it. This can be stated in different terms when wind pushes a piece of water from point A to point B, more water rushes to fill in point A. This causes what in know as an upwelling. At point B, where there is more water than before a downwelling forms. This upwelling and downwelling effect, which happens over and over and the winds blows on the South River creates these spiraling tubes of water. The slide show is visual verification of this physical phenomenon that is happening today (April 24, 2012)

Chain Pickerel

Recently on the headwaters of Broad Creek, I came face to face with a living fossil of sorts - the chain pickerel.  It was early March and he had probably just completed spawning, and was extremely hungry as a result.  His toothy ancestors - pikes - first arrived on the Maryland coast around 30 million years ago, right around the time that the Chesapeake Bay was formed into its current shape.   By comparison, American bass, perch, and sunfish species are said to have differentiated from each other just during the last 15 or 16 million years.  The chain pickerel may in fact be the South River's original apex predator.  So what do chain pickerel do, and why does it matter?

Chain pickerel are closer relatives to the pikes (northern pike, muskellunge) than they are other "pickerels."  Their flat, wide head is a very ancient design for catching large prey in shallow water, and in fact, there are very few species of the Pike/chain pickerel genus still in existance throughout the world.  Luckily, the chain pickerel is well designed to hunt and survive in our waters.  They are fairly tolerant of pollution and are stealthy hunters....but aggressive killers who will leave the shadows just long enough to inhale injured fish, swimming frogs, and water-treading mice. 

 Chain Pickerel Head

The chain pickerel prefers shallow, vegetated beds of tidal rivers and small stormwater ponds that have shallow, flooded zones full of fallen trees or living vegetation.  Chain pickerel are happiest in water bodies with a minimal amount of flow, which means they are frequent visitors to flooded wetlands, beaver dam impoundments, and man-made lakes and ponds.   As South River populations of other large predators (striped bass, largemouth bass) continue to be suppressed due to persistent water pollution issues, the chain pickerel may continue to grow in range and population.   Look for them in vegetated heads of creeks, small natural and man-made impoundments like beaver swamps and stormwater ponds, and even larger impoundments like Annapolis Waterworks Park.

 Pickerel Habitat

The chain pickerel isn't going anywhere, and it has a will to survive - nothing but ospreys or bald eagles will pursue the adult fish.  but that doesn't mean they aren't worth targeting on a fishing outing - the voracious predators are very difficult to hook and at 18-20", they are sure a handful.  Recommended lures are inline spinners, rubber grubs, spoons, and honestly, anything you'd use to catch their close relative the Northern Pike, or alternately, a lot of the lures you might use to catch one of the South River's few largemouth bass.   Good luck tangling with this dinosaur!

(Note: the fish in the images above was released immediately after photographing)