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With so much of our time, our effort, and let's be honest - our love - going into our restoration projects throughout the year, winter will bring significant changes to our completed projects. Our carefully selected native plantings installed this year, over 5,000 plants, in fact, will enter dormancy. Their role in reducing nitrogen from urban and lawn runoff will diminish greatly until spring. Some will still play a major role as food source or habitat structure through the winter (did you know that the American Woodcock only performs its mating call from Alder shrubs?). Others have expended their seeds for 2015 and we look forward to all their offspring germinating next spring. Now that we are finished with our fall plantings and seeding, as well as our invasive weed control efforts, we say goodnight to our beloved native plants.

Luckily, microbes and invertebrates will still be at work on our sites, filtering runoff, processing nitrogen, and playing their part in the food chain. The leaves will fall, creating a crucial source of carbon for these organisms. In streams where we have constructed good habitat, the leaves will not wash into the tidal creeks as they do in urban ditches and farm gullies. But mostly this winter, at our restored sites, we will be watching and waiting for a new round of plant and wildlife growth.

Bird life is changing, too. The goldfinches are gone, replaced, we hope by warblers we'll see eating Atlantic White Cedar cones throughout the winter. The Federation began conducting bird monitoring on some proposed and completed restoration sites in 2015, and will continue that effort this winter, as our winter residents (and passers-through) arrive. We assisted in a 2014 bird survey of living shoreline projects, and we hope to continue that work this winter as well. Our winter birds are important to us, and indeed are the likely sources of three new small colonies of native submerged grasses in the Church Creek watershed: Sago Pondweed (P. pectinatus), Largeleaf Pondweed (P. amplifolius), and Small Pondweed (P. pusillus). Thanks to last year's winter ducks for the plentiful crop!

This winter will be busy. During 2015, we had 20 projects actively under construction. Many are still in progress, even as we start on our 2016 slate of projects in the cold. Interestingly enough, working on frozen mud is easier than working on liquid mud. Thanks to all of you who have helped us grow into the capacity to construct "20 in 2015", and feel free to bring us some coffee if you see us working in the cold!

Environmental Heads Tour South River Federation Projects

On October, 14th, 2015, three major decision makers with vast influence over environmental budgets and policy toured several of the South River Federation’s restoration projects this week. Secretary Mark Belton of MD Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Secretary Ben Grumbles of MD Department of the Environment (MDE), and Director Tommy Wells of the District’s Department of Energy and the Environment (DDOE) visited several of the Federation’s recent restoration projects by boat on a beautiful fall day.

From the Federation, Kate Fritz, Executive Director and Kirk Mantay, Director of Restoration, guided the environmental leaders through three restoration sites, two on Church Creek, the most impaired waterway on the South River and one on Broad Creek, the second most degraded creek on the river. Both DNR and MDE are crucial partners in any restoration initiative for the South River, playing critical roles in the design, permitting, funding and monitoring of the projects. The District has only started to install large scale in-stream restoration projects in the last few years. “They joined the tour because they wanted to learn about the challenges and opportunities associated withPreserve10.15 a program like their own, a decade after starting,” said Mantay. 

In Annapolis, last year, on the Durmont Branch of Broad Creek in the neighborhood called “Preserve at Broad Creek, the Federation constructed 27 sand and gravel step pools and two large "top of watershed" bioretention practices to fix a failed storm water pond and its resulting washout to Broad Creek. The project (see picture on right) transformed a 1,200 foot long eroding gully filled with downed trees, ticks and spiders into a stable stream that offers 1.5 acres of valuable aquatic and wetland habitat. It is only one of several projects to holistically address the poor water quality of Broad Creek.

 “I was encouraged to see thatWilelinorplume through our partnership with the South River Federation private and public funds were leveraged to improve water quality, which will provide high quality habitat for the state’s fish and wildlife,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “The South River Federation achieves impressive results by applying rigorous science and a holistic approach to improve the health of our rivers and streams, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.”

 On Church Creek, Fritz showed a year and a half old project in the neighborhood of Poplar Point in Annapolis, MD near Solomons Island Road. The Federation turned a 20-foot deep eroding gully that contributed significant amounts of bacterial and sediment pollution to Church Creek into 1.9 acres of coastal stream, cascading wetland pools, and an uphill bioretention facility. This project successfully handled all major storm flows since its early 2014 construction, which included a 500 year storm, a 75 year storm, two 10 year storms, and eleven urban flash floods.

 Finally, the Secretaries checked out the Wilelinor Valley Restoration Project that was installed over ten years ago on Church Creek. By slowing the flow of the water and trapping sediment, this project is able to enhance water quality, aquatic habitat, and ecological function.  Two in-stream aquatic beds were created to capture sediment using sand seepage stream and wetland restoration techniques. Shortly after the project was completed, the Federation took the below aerial photo during a large storm. As you can see in the picture on the left, clear water is flowing out of the stream restoration project into the muddy waters of Church Creek. To view more pictures, click here.

By Nancy Merrill


Over the summer, a reporter visited South River Federation to learn about our Water Quality Monitoring Program. This article was published in the Chemical and Engineering News Journal. Click here to read the full article!

C and E News cover

Jesse Iliff named Riverkeeper® for the South River


jesse headshot


The South River Federation is excited to announce Jesse Iliff will start Oct. 1, 2015 as the new RIVERKEEPER ® for the South River.

The South RIVERKEEPER® serves as the eyes, ears, and voice for the South River and is a constant presence on the river.  In conjunction with the Board of Directors and the Executive Director, the South RIVERKEEPER® engages in legal, legislative, and policy advocacy at the state and local levels and provides ongoing robust education and outreach to our communities. In addition, the Riverkeeper manages tidal and non-tidal water quality monitoring, and coordinates with Chesapeake Bay scientists to provide scientific assessment of the River’s health.           

The South River Federation was founded in 1999, and is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an umbrella non-profit that sponsors over 200 organizations worldwide.  Specifically, the South RIVERKEEPER is a member of the Waterkeepers Chesapeake chapter. Mr. Iliff, a consumer protection attorney, has been assisting clients on a pro-bono basis through the Chesapeake Legal Alliance. Some such efforts include securing a permit for a living shoreline project on the Severn River from the Maryland Department of Environment. He also provided counsel for the Magothy River Association on fostering stakeholder consensus with respect to proposed development activity along the Magothy's largest tributary, Cattail Creek.

A graduate of Towson University, Mr. Iliff obtained his Juris Doctor with a certificate of concentration in environmental law from the University of Maryland, Carey School of Law in 2010. While in law school, Mr. Iliff earned a Public Service Award for designing a pro-bono project for environmental law students. The students assisted in litigation regarding unsound wastewater treatment practices by surface mining companies in West Virginia. He also served as co-executive of the Maryland Environmental Law Society. In addition, as a law student Mr. Iliff interned with the Office of the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit.

Mr. Iliff is a South River watershed resident in Hillsmere Shores and enjoys softball, boating, hiking and cross country skiing with his wife Abbey and their son Baxter. Mr. Iliff will be the Federation’s 3rd Riverkeeper.

“I'm thrilled to be a part of such an effective, transformative organization and am eager to get started, said Mr. Iliff and “I look forward to building a bridge between the magnificent South River and each and every member of its watershed. In addition, he “welcomes input from anyone with concerns for the river and interest in helping us at the Federation improve the river’s health.” 

“Jesse brings valuable advocacy skills to the table that we will need to create the community-wide partnerships so necessary if we are to make the South River swimmable again within a generation, said Kate Fritz, Executive Director of South River Federation. “His extensive knowledge about the Chesapeake Bay allows us to continue to build on our strengths in estuary science and water quality monitoring, she added.

Contact: Kate Fritz, Executive Director, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 410-224-3802

             Jesse Iliff, Riverkeeper, can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The South River Federation is a 501 (c)(3) whose mission is to protect, preserve, restore and celebrate the South River, a ten-mile long tributary of the Chesapeake Bay just south of Annapolis, Maryland with a watershed population of approximately 66,000 residents.  The Federation employs seven full-time staff members, several seasonal technicians, and numerous contractors.  

(You Can't Predict Everything - How Restoration Sites Recover)


By Kirk Mantay, July 29th, 2015

There I stood, with a group of scientists standing on a Church Creek shoreline, looking at a diminutive, brownish plant in the water in front of us. It's alive, its leaves waving in the current, but what is it? Its shape, habitat, and location in Church Creek tell the scientists that it can be only one of two related species - a treasured native plant (endemic to the watershed, but lost in recent decades) or a dreaded European cousin. But it appears to be neither, casting this biological orphan into categories of other native relatives - from "undocumented," to "rare" to the basic "uncommon." We will have to wait a few weeks until the plant flowers, allowing us to know its identity for sure.mystery SAV

What is interesting is that this Church Creek habitat was built for the local native plant, Redhead Grass. Redhead Grass is a treasured Chesapeake Bay native, once found throughout the South River watershed but now extremely rare. Scientists, including those at the Federation, don't know what the implications are of a native but rarer cousin of Redhead Grass literally taking root at the site. It's wonderful news - but we don't know what it means, except that ducks likely deposited the seeds last winter while feeding on aquatic invertebrates on the restoration site, and that growing conditions are favorable for underwater grasses. Luckily, both of those are great news in and of themselves!

Nearby, Federation project sites are host to other unintended but welcomed native guests like Square-Stemmed Monkey Flower, Barnyard Millet, Water Horehound, and the wonderful looking but awful-sounding Devil's Beggarticks (a wildflower). It's all true - short term and long term plant responses to our restoration projects are wild, native, and.....many times surprising.

This summer, Federation interns are conducting unprecedented field surveys to determine how fish and summer-breeding frogs survive in degraded urban sites and how - and why - those species thrive after the restoration of site hydrology has occurred. It may sound like common sense, but the restoration process involves construction after all, and our native fish and wildlife are sensitive to disturbance. The findings, still preliminary, provide more surprises - that some tadpoles who aren't supposed to survive the winter, sometimes do. That frogs have an easier time colonizing restoration sites than fish do. That in the absence of fish, gray tree frog tadpoles rule.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

These hundreds of hours of scientific field study, conducted at 19 sites across the South, Severn, and Rhode River are providing the very beginning of our collective understanding of what urban watershed recovery truly "looks like," and which species of fish and wildlife seem to benefit. Some results could have been predicted. Others are very big surprises. We can't wait to tell you about the next surprises we find.

devils beggarticks wiki commons

   Devil's Beggarticks