ShoreRivers and St. Michaels Students Complete Environmental Action Project

Working with ShoreRivers’ environmental education program, Students for Streams, St. Michaels Middle High School biology students have successfully completed an environmental action project that improves both their school campus and local water quality. They investigated local water quality in the Miles River, assessed nearby land use, and identified both positive and negative environmental factors on their school property. During their assessment of the grounds, students focused on an eroding storm drain behind the elementary school, noting how sediment entering the drain negatively impacted water clarity in the nearby river. Students proposed correcting the erosion by stabilizing the slope leading to the drain and planting native species in the drainage area.

Students sitting next to the finished drain project with Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett (left side front row in hat).

After presenting their ideas to both ShoreRivers and Talbot County Public Works, students successfully created an implementation plan. Talbot County donated time and equipment, and students implemented the plan on April 24. Chesapeake Bay Trust funded the project.

On May 2, Students had the opportunity to share the success of their program at the Howard County Conservancy’s Environmental Summit in Annapolis, where they presented their work, data they collected in partnership with ShoreRivers, and final project outcomes. Elected officials and schools from across Maryland attended. Delegate Johnny Mautz was impressed with the students’ work done in his district, and noted that it was a “great project.”

Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett has been working with these students since the beginning of the school year. “This student action project is a success not only for improving water quality, but also for engaging students, instilling in them a sense of ownership of their environment and a better understanding of environmental best practices. This hands-on environmental education is an example to students of how their actions can have a real-life impact.”

Pictured L-R: Ashley Henckel, Jane Whitelock (teacher), Delegate Johnny Mautz, Eddie Robinson, Winfield Devaric, Lexie Jordan, Nathan Simpkins, Isaiah Holliday

Teacher Jane Whitelock described the experience. “As a classroom teacher, I am grateful to our community partners for making this project possible. Their support allowed the students to be empowered to take on a project of this magnitude and discover that they could indeed make a difference in their community. I can’t express how proud I am of the hard work our students put into making the storm drain restoration project a success.”

ShoreRivers will work with Talbot County, Dorchester County, and Queen Anne’s County Public Schools in the coming school year to continue implementing environmental education programming that highlights stewardship practices. For more information on Students for Streams, please contact Elle Bassett at 443.385.0511 or ebassett@shorerivers.org.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

shorerivers.org

ShoreRivers Hosts First Annual State of the Chester, Wye, and Eastern Bay

ShoreRivers will host its first annual State of the Rivers presentation focusing on the Chester and Wye Rivers and Eastern Bay on Wednesday, May 16 at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC), located at 600 Discovery Lane in Grasonville. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5:30pm for a reception with beer, wine and light fare. Mingle with representatives and learn about other local organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, CBEC, Kent Island Beach Clean Up, Corsica River Conservancy, Gunston School, and Washington College’s Center for Environment and Society. The formal presentation will begin at 6:00pm. Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett, and other ShoreRivers staff will present the 2017 Chester River and Midshore Report Cards and discuss the latest water quality trends.

This is a new location and the final in a series of five ShoreRivers State of the Rivers events conducted in April and May, unveiling the results of extensive water quality monitoring. Other presentations took place in St. Michaels, Cambridge, Chestertown, and Cecilton, detailing water quality results forthe Miles, Wye, Choptank, Chester, and Sassafras Rivers. If you weren’t able to attend any of the previous four presentations, the May 16 event will be the last chance to attend this year’s events.

The data for the Chester River Report Card and the Midshore Report Card was collected by a combination of experienced ShoreRivers water quality scientists and dedicated volunteer teams of Midshore Creek watchers and Chester Testers citizen-scientists. In addition to learning about tested parameters and grades, attendees will also gain insight on ways to lessen their yard’s impact on our rivers through the River-Friendly Yards campaign and Marylander’s Grow Oyster program.

ShoreRivers is a newly-formed entity resulting from the recent merger of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Chester River Association, and Sassafras River Association into a unified region-wide organization. ShoreRivers is now one committed voice for Eastern Shore rivers with greater influence on policy, increased capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large restoration projects. For more information about ShoreRivers, please visit shorerivers.org.

For more information about the May 16th State of the Rivers event, please contact Elle Bassett at 443.385.0511 or ebassett@shorerivers.org.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

shorerivers.org

Tour the Shore: ShoreRivers’ Guided Kayak Paddles

Photo by Suzanne Sullivan

ShoreRivers is taking to the water and invites you to join our annual Tour the Shore guided kayak series on our local rivers. ShoreRivers is an environmental nonprofit whose mission is to protect and restore Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. Tour the Shore introduces residents and visitors to our local rivers, while sharing our mission of cleaner water for all.This year’s paddle theme is Serene, as we paddle quiet creeks and rivers across the mid and upper Shore region. Choose one or more from the list below.

Date: May 18
Time: 10 am – 1 pm
Location: Hillsboro Landing, Tuckahoe Creek
Paddle Tuckahoe Creek while everything is lush and green and the air is cool. A very relaxing trip, Tuckahoe Creek meanders quietly through shady forest and is the perfect location to pack a fishing rod.

Date: June 22
Time: 2 pm – 4 pm
Location: Cambridge Creek Heritage Paddle
See downtown Cambridge from a water view as we paddle into Cambridge Creek, at the heart of the city. Paddle guide Brian Roche of Choptank Heritage Trail will take us past the Choptank River Lighthouse, JM Clayton Seafood Company, and to the head of the creek, the site for the proposed Cannery Park.

Date: July 27
Time: 6 pm – 9:30 pm
Location: Turners Creek, Kennedyville
Paddle the serene Sassafras River as the sun sets and the full moon rises! Gather on the sandy shores for a BYO picnic dinner ahead of time.

Date: August 17
Time: 10 am – 2 pm
Location: Wye Island paddle and hike
A summer favorite, paddle the shores of Wye Island and hop out of the boat for lunch and a walk through one of the Eastern Shore’s old growth forests. Stay cool under trees as old as 300 hundred years as you hike the Schoolhouse Trail back to the boats.

Date: September 28
Time: 10 am – 1 pm
Location: Morgan Creek, Chestertown
Morgan Creek is a gentle paddle off of the Chester River that takes you past marsh lined farm fields and wooded shores. Borrow a pair of ShoreRivers’ binoculars to help spot bald eagles and wading birds.

Paddlers can bring their own kayaks or rent ShoreRivers’ kayaks. Reservations are limited, so contact Suzanne at 443,385.0511 or ssullivan@shorerivers.org to reserve your spot. Tours are $30 for non-members, $20 for members, and kayak rentals are an additional $30 per person.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

shorerivers.org

ShoreRivers Needs Some Help: Development and Event Coordinator Position Available

ShoreRivers seeks a Development and Event Coordinator to join their team and help fulfill our mission to protect and restore our rivers and the living resources they support. The ideal candidate will be an energetic, outgoing individual who is organized, detail oriented, and enthusiastic about the environment and the communities they serve. The position is located in our Easton, Maryland office at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center.

ShoreRivers seeks to protect and restore Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

We have a dedicated staff of educators, scientists, restoration specialists, and advocates focused on policies and projects that will improve the health of our rivers. Our staff includes four Waterkeepers who regularly patrol and monitor our waters and serve as key spokespersons: Chester Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, and Sassafras Riverkeeper. Our Waterkeepers and staff are a strong, collective voice for Eastern Shore waterways.

ShoreRivers was created in 2017 when the Chester River Association, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and Sassafras River Association merged. We have more than 3,500 members and supporters across the Eastern Shore who help us achieve our vision of healthy waterways.

For more information please click here

Senator Van Hollen to Speak at Inaugural ShoreRivers Event April 20

ShoreRivers will host its annual State of the Midshore Rivers Party on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 5:00 pm. The event takes place at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in Saint Michaels, Maryland and will report on the current state of the Choptank, Miles and Wye Rivers. Admission is free and open to the public. The event is sponsored by the Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond.

This will be the first of five ShoreRivers events in April and May unveiling the results of extensive water quality monitoring. Other presentations will take place in Cambridge, Chestertown, Cecilton, and Grasonville. These events will detail the state of the Choptank, Chester, Sassafras, and Wye Rivers, depending on location. Visit ShoreRivers.org for more information.

ShoreRivers is a newly-formed entity resulting from the recent merger of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Chester River Association, and Sassafras River Association into one region-wide organization. ShoreRivers is now one committed voice for Eastern Shore rivers with greater influence on policy, increased capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large restoration projects.

ShoreRivers is pleased to announce that Senator Christopher Van Hollen Jr. will be the keynote speaker at the State of the Midshore Rivers Party. Van Hollen is U.S. Senator from Maryland and has worked to pass bipartisan legislation on issues of common concern, including protecting the Chesapeake Bay. He won the general election 60 to 36 percent to replace retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski in 2017. From 2003 to 2017, he held the position of U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 8th congressional district. In the House of Representatives he served as a member of the Democratic leadership and was elected by his colleagues to be the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee and protect vital interests like Social Security and Medicare. He serves as Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) for the 2018 elections cycle. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, the John F. Kennedy School of Public Policy at Harvard University, and Georgetown University Law Center.

“We are thrilled and honored to have Senator Van Hollen, who has been a tough and effective environmental leader for our state and the Chesapeake Bay,” says ShoreRivers Executive Director Jeff Horstman. “His defense of clean water, his fight for renewable power and his efforts to address and combat climate change make him an ideal keynote speaker for ShoreRivers’ inaugural event.”

ShoreRivers welcomes and encourages the community to join this evening of conversation and informative discussion as it releases its 2017 Midshore Rivers Report Card. The report card reflects data collected at 115 sites by ShoreRivers scientists, Riverkeepers, and more than 50 volunteers in ShoreRivers’ Creekwatcher water quality monitoring program. This is an opportunity for the community to learn about the health and challenges of our local waterways and how the most recent grades compare to previous years. Presentations and interpretations will be given by Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett, Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, and Watershed Scientist Tim Rosen. ShoreRivers staff will also discuss programs being undertaken in 2018, including the new RiverWatch real-time water quality online platform.

The State of the River Party will be held in CBMM’s Small Boat Shed, where guests can discover the re-created interior of a crab‑picking plant and small, locally-built craft used around the Chesapeake Bay for fishing, oystering, and crabbing. The event will begin at 5:00 pm with fresh farmed oysters on the half shell and a cheese and wine reception. The program will follow at 5:30 pm.

For more information, contact Eleanor Nelson at eleanor@shorerivers.org or phone 443.385.0511.

ShoreRivers seeks an Agricultural Specialist

ShoreRivers seeks an Agricultural Specialist to act as the primary liaison with the farming community in our efforts to achieve healthy waterways across Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The ideal candidate will be committed to environmental conservation and have significant
experience in agricultural practices and with the farming community on the Eastern Shore.

This is a full-time position that will be based primarily in our Chestertown, MD, office. Salary range is $45,000-$60,000 and commensurate with experience; competitive benefits package. To apply, send cover letter and resume to Isabel Hardesty, Regional Director, Chester and Sassafras: ihardesty@shorerivers.org.

Op-Ed: Hydraulic Dredging for Clams on the Rise as is the Damage by Jeff Horstman

Hydraulic dredging for clams in our rivers is on the rise. Many of us have witnessed the damage this practice causes.

Clamming licenses in Maryland have sharply increased over the past few years, from just eight in 2013 to over 30 in 2016, perhaps signifying a modest comeback of the soft-shell clam and reflecting the increasing popularity of clams as crabbing bait. Similar to oysters, clams are a vital filter feeder and key component in the ecological food chain. Historically, the clam population has been decimated by overharvesting and disease, and, without a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) management plan, is now at risk of another serious population downturn. Today’s clam populations mirror those of oysters, resting at only about 1 percent of historic levels.

The practice of harvesting clams with a hydraulic dredge is akin to underwater strip mining. High velocity jets of water strip away the river bottom, leaving trenches that can be two feet deep and three feet wide, while a mechanical conveyor belt attached to a long metal arm churns through the newly cut river bottom collecting clams. This action causes major damage to the river floor and irreversible damage to submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, ripping up their roots and leaving large sediment pollution plumes in its wake.

According to multiple studies, hydraulic dredging is catastrophic to SAV beds and the sediment kills oyster spat in surrounding areas. While there are regulations aimed at prohibiting hydraulic dredging in SAV beds, some dredging is allowed in and near oyster sanctuaries. Additionally, it is getting much more difficult to determine where SAV beds are located as they continually change and many large SAV beds are frequently not mapped at all, leaving them vulnerable to this destructive practice.

Hydraulic clam harvesting currently is allowed year-round and the practice is increasing without any assessment of the growing environmental damage it’s causing. Day after day, these hydraulic machines scour, scrape and gouge the river bottoms, producing thousands of pounds of sediment pollution. We think it’s time to develop a clear management plan for this valuable species, taking into consideration clam populations, their immense value to the ecosystem, the residual damage of hydraulic harvest, and the views of all stakeholders. Clams, today, represent a tiny portion of the Bay’s seafood harvest. As the demand for clams increases, we should answer some important questions before clam dredging grows into an even larger problem.

Our rivers are already listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as impaired for sediment pollution, among other pollutants.

Our rivers are virtually choking from sediment. So, the first question we might ask is: Should we continue to allow hydraulic dredging in impaired rivers when we know it causes catastrophic SAV damage and creates large areas of sediment pollution capable of killing oyster spat and all the underwater life it chokes out? The second question might become: Are there better ways to protect and manage our natural resources, to benefit all stakeholders, while insuring a healthy and sustainable clam population?

Our rivers belong to all of us. The current hydraulic harvesting practices hurt more of us than they help.

Jeff Horstman is executive director of ShoreRivers, Inc.

The Art of the Merge with ShoreRivers Jeff Horstman

While it could be said that the proverbial writing was on the wall for some time, the Sassafras, Chester River and Mid-Shore Riverkeepers, and their affiliated organizations, were getting a pretty clear message over the last three years from their major institutional funders that these three, very similar enterprises must consider consolidation for the best possible mission delivery.

As a result of this welcomed nudge, representatives of each group began to meet eighteen months ago to discuss the logistics of this somewhat complicated merging of functions and governance. But inevitably the most exciting part was when these organizations could start to see the raw power that could be achieved by the change. Not only regarding protecting their beloved river sheds but also have a far greater presence in Annapolis and the halls of Congress to pursue their advocacy work.

It fell on Jeff Horstman, the current director of the Mid-Shore Riverkeeper Conservancy, to manage the process which ultimately led to the creation of ShoreRivers.  And he will become its executive director at the beginning of the new year.

The Spy felt it was a good time to sit down with Jeff and talk about how the process, as well as the delicacy and sensitivity needed as these three very different cultures with very similar goals, become a new nucleus.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the new ShoreRivers please go here

Riverkeeper Pumpout Boat Tops Last Year’s “Pump Don’t Dump” Season

Vessel operator Jim Freeman

In spring 2016, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC), with funding from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in conjunction with the Clean Vessel Act administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, purchased a 22’ Pump Kleen® pumpout boat for the Miles and Wye Rivers. For the past two years, the pumpout boat operated from May to October.In its 2016 season, the boat pumped over 8,500 gallons of waste from almost 350 boats. During the 2017 season, MRC continued its partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in St. Michaels and extended the pumpout season through October, including CBMM’s OysterFest. In its 2017 season, the boat increased its statistics by almost 50%, pumping over 12,000 gallons of waste from over 400 boats.

The pumpout boat operates in partnership with CBMM, where the boat is based. CBMM donates free dockage, storage and use of their land-based pump out station to offload the waste from the pumpout boat. The sewage waste removed from boats goes directly to the recently updated St. Michaels Wastewater Treatment Plant that provides high quality treatment.

MRC’s pumpout boat is the first of its kind on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The mobile pumpout facility significantly reduces nutrient pollution and harmful bacteria introduced by recreational boaters. The vessel allows boats to conveniently and properly dispose of waste rather than discharging it into our waterways. This service is greatly needed since there are no pumpout services on the Wye River and very few on the Miles. Because these services are limited, existing pumpout stations are often very crowded, and boaters are discouraged by long wait times or unable to reach land-based pumpout facilities.

“We are once again very proud to have had the opportunity to partner with Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy on this now annual initiative,” says CBMM President Kristen Greenaway. “CBMM is committed to helping protect the Chesapeake Bay, both environmentally and historically, and the pumpout boat is a great tool in this respect.”

“We are thrilled with the increased results of our second season,” says MRC Executive Director and Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Jeff Horstman. “We want to thank the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for all their help and support. The pumpout boat has a direct and measurable impact on clean water, which contributes to our mission to protect and restore our rivers. Additionally, this fun little boat, expertly operated by Jim Freeman, has been one of our best public outreach tools, educating people who use the river the most on how much our rivers need help.”

For more information, please contact Jeff Horstman at 443.385.0511 or jeff@midshoreriverkeeper.org.

ShoreRivers: The Shore’s Uncompromising Voice for Clean Rivers by Jeff Horstman and Isabel Junkin Hardesty

 

The Eastern Shore’s rivers weave through farmland, forests, marshes and towns on their way to the Chesapeake Bay. Each river is unique, with its own character, but they share in common the fish, crabs, waterfowl and people that depend on them.

Much as these individual rivers ultimately come together as part of the Bay, three great Eastern Shore conservation organizations are uniting. Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association are merging into a single nonprofit, ShoreRivers, Inc., to serve as a leading voice for healthy waterways on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Through science-based advocacy, restoration and education, ShoreRivers will protect and restore Eastern Shore waters that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. We will work collaboratively with our communities, yet maintain an uncompromising voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

Our three legacy organizations each have a deep history of working collaboratively to improve the health of the waters in our communities, and that mission will continue. By joining together, we become more than just the sum of our parts – we will be one committed voice with more influence on policy, more capacity to enact programs, and more potential to undertake large restoration projects that directly reduce pollution.

We will need that influence to tackle the major issues affecting our environment. ShoreRivers will now be a statewide leader on conservation issues so that when we travel to Annapolis to meet with elected officials or to testify for legislation, we will have the backing of our 3,500 supporters who care about our waters and our Eastern Shore quality of life.

We will also have increased capacity to implement bigger, better projects. That means expanded work with our agricultural partners, broader funding to encourage innovative technologies that reduce pollution, and region-wide restoration projects that capture polluted runoff before it enters our rivers.

From Kennedyville to Kent Island, from Cambridge to Crumpton, ShoreRivers staff, partners and volunteers will work together across the Eastern Shore. You’ll see us out on the rivers and creeks as well as in farm fields and forests. Our leadership, staff and board of directors are comprised of members of the three legacy organizations.

The main headquarters for ShoreRivers will be in downtown Easton at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. We will also maintain regional offices in Chestertown and Georgetown, the former offices of the Chester River Association and Sassafras River Association, respectively. And we will heavily rely on watershed advisory boards for each major river to continue our strong local connections.

An important part of our mission is our Waterkeeper program. Waterkeepers are full-time advocates who regularly patrol and monitor their local bodies of water. Including the ShoreRivers merger, there are now 17 Waterkeepers working in the Chesapeake Bay region – 11 in Maryland. Waterkeepers focus on their individual waterbodies, but frequently work together with other “Keepers.” ShoreRivers will have four Riverkeepers: Jeff Horstman is the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper; Emmett Duke is the Sassafras Riverkeeper; Matt Pluta is the Choptank Riverkeeper and Tim Trumbauer is the new Chester Riverkeeper.

Despite encouraging signs of clearer water and more grass beds in recent years, the waterways of the Eastern Shore remain polluted – they are still threatened with excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff. At ShoreRivers, we believe there are real solutions to these threats, and we are committed to developing projects and programs that will improve the health of our waters and keep them robust and beautiful for all of us – now and in the future.

Jeff Horstman is the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper and Executive Director of ShoreRivers and Isabel Junkin Hardesty is the former Chester Riverkeeper and new Regional Director of ShoreRivers.