April 2018 Choptank River News

DNR Fish and Wildlife Health Program technician Jacob Shaner pulls in a fyke net on the Choptank River.

DNR Fish and Wildlife Health Program technician Jacob Shaner pulls in a fyke net on the Choptank River.

Our policy advocacy is some of the most important work that we do to protect our rivers, but it can be mentally draining at times. The other day, I decided to switch up my schedule and go back to the basics, to a place where I get my energy and determination – the Choptank River. I spent an early morning on the river, arriving at 6 a.m. to volunteer with biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for their fish monitoring program. We pulled up fyke nets, sorted through the variety of fish species we found, and then took blood samples that will be analyzed at the lab. After leaving the crew, and with the smell of fish on my hands, I found myself smiling ear to ear and thinking, “This is what we’re protecting.”

As the weather starts to warm up and your desire to get outside increases, think about how you can be a part of protecting the Choptank River. Read ahead in this month’s newsletter about the many volunteer opportunities we’re offering this spring and come and join me and the other ShoreRivers staff and volunteers on the water, in the fields, along our shorelines, and throughout our communities. Come and be a part of protecting what you love.

-Matt Pluta, Choptank Riverkeeper

In this edition of the Choptank River News:


State of the Choptank


Join me on April 26th at the Robbins Heritage Center in Cambridge for a presentation on the state of the Choptank River. Keynote speaker Jay Lazar, a physical scientist with NOAA will talk about his work monitoring the oyster sanctuaries throughout the Choptank River. Jay will be sharing NEW underwater footage of the Harris Creek oyster sanctuary, which has been termed one of the largest oyster restoration projects in the world. I’ll also be releasing the 2017 grades for the Choptank River and explaining where we’ve seen improvements in water quality and where we need to be focusing more effort and resources so we can fully restore our river from all angles and at all levels. 

Volunteers Needed

photo courtesy of Chris Schindler

photo courtesy of Chris Schindler

With field season right around the corner we’re hopeful that our communities will take advantage of the many volunteer opportunities that we have lined up. Contact me at mpluta@shorerivers.org for more information or to sign up to volunteer.

  • Oyster Plantings – Spring oyster plantings for the Marylanders Grow Oysters program are scheduled for the month of May, and we could use your help! Volunteers are needed to help collect oysters from residential docks, plant oysters on protected sanctuaries, and conduct survivability surveys.
  • Maryland Freedom Swim – This inaugural swim across the Choptank River is scheduled for May 20th and ShoreRivers has been chosen as one of the event’s beneficiaries. If swimming isn’t your sport, that’s okay because we have a number of volunteer opportunities. If you enjoy being on the water and have a kayak or power boat, sign up for a water safety position. If you’re more of a land-lover, sign-up to help with registration or the start and finish line coordination. Sign up on the “volunteer” tab here: https://runsignup.com/MarylandFreedomSwim
  • Monitor Underwater Grasses – The rebound of underwater grass populations is a visible sign that our rivers are improving. Over the past three years we’ve seen a record number of grass beds come back to the Choptank River, which is good for our crabs, fish, and the overall water clarity. Be a part of this amazing recovery and help us monitor these sensitive grass beds. If you have a kayak, canoe or boat and enjoy being on the water – this program is for you! For more information, contact Rebecca Murphy at 443.385.0511 or rmurphy@shorerivers.org.
  • Spring Trash Cleanups – Project Clean Stream is back and we are coordinating a large number of clean-up sites throughout the watershed over the next few weeks. Join an existing group or start your own clean-up at a location of your choice. https://pg-cloud.com/ACB/
  • Ride for Clean Rivers training ride – It’s time to starting training for Ride for Clean Rivers, which takes place September 16! Get out that bike from winter storage and register for the Talbot Special Riders Spring Classic on April 14.

Free Trees

As part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources “Buffer in a Bag” program, free trees are available to residents who live along a drainage ditch, stream, creek or river. The goal is to improve tree coverage where we need it most – at the intersection where our land meets our water! http://news.maryland.gov/dnr/2017/02/10/backyard-buffers-offer-trees-to-improve-marylands-waters/


March 2018 Choptank River News


The smells of spring are quick to follow the start of March, which has our minds thinking about oysters and water quality monitoring. The launch of the new Chesapeake 10 Billion Oyster Partnership has us thinking about the Marylander’s Grow Oysters (MGO) program and all of our efforts to restore the Chesapeake’s famous bivalve. We’re also taking our water quality monitoring data to the next level with our RiverWatch platform, which allows the public to see near real-time grades for our sampling stations as we collect data throughout the sampling season. Read more about these two efforts in this month’s Choptank Newsletter. 

-Matt Pluta, Choptank Riverkeeper

In this edition of the Choptank River News:


ShoreRivers Joins the Chesapeake 10 Billion Oyster Partnership

Think of what an additional 10 billion oysters in the Chesapeake Bay would do for water clarity and the overall health of our waterways. We know that oysters are crucial to a healthy Bay and a strong economy, especially in the Choptank River, but the current population is only a tiny fraction of its historic size. ShoreRivers joins a growing number of over 30 partners across all sectors of the bay to embark on a goal to plant 10 billion more oysters by 2025.  

This partnership is a way to bring together efforts from aquaculturists, commercial fisherman, and restoration groups to focus on what really matters – putting more oysters in the water. There have always been opinions about planting oysters in sanctuaries versus planting them on commercial harvest bars, but what this partnership will do is work to make sure that oysters are being planted everywhere, and that those plantings are sustainable by using science-based management practices. This approach helps to ensure that the economy, the environment, and water quality all benefit. 

ShoreRivers has a long history of supporting the planting of more oysters in our rivers: we manage the MGO program on the Choptank, Miles, Wye and Chester Rivers which results in the planting of thousands of oyster spat; we advocate for the continued efforts to restore and maintain the oyster sanctuaries in Harris Creek, the Tred Avon River, and the Little Choptank; and we even work with school students to build oyster cages and learn about the oyster biology so one day they can grow up and become oyster experts and help to continue to protect our Bay. 

This is just the beginning. Learn more about the #10BillionOyster Partnership here and find out how you can be a part of this effort: http://www.tenbillionoysters.org/

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Improving Transparency of our Water Quality Data - RiverWatch is LIVE!

Behind the scenes our scientists and Riverkeeper have been working to make our water quality data more accessible to our communities, volunteers, partners, and decision makers. Our new merged organization has over 200 water quality monitoring sites throughout the Choptank, Miles, Wye, Chester and Sassafras rivers. The data we collect and analyze is vital to the community – it drives the work that we do and where we focus our restoration efforts; it helps scientists monitor large-scale oyster restoration projects; it supports our policy advocacy; and it’s used to protect sensitive waterways and habitats from development. We want this resource to be readily available to our community.

Working with Chesapeake Commons, a software developing company with an environmental mind-set, we were able to take water quality data that we use to generate our report cards, and make it available online in an interactive platform for users to view.  Visit https://www.shorerivers.org/riverwatch to see our new RiverWatch interface. 

Monitoring sites are indicated with a symbol. A gray symbol indicates those sites where we only sample the water for physical parameters, such as temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. A color-coded symbol indicates sites where we also collect nutrient samples, and the color for the nutrient sites indicates the grade for that site. Once a site is selected you’ll be able to view results for all the parameters that we collected. We encourage all of our volunteers, members and partners to use this tool as a way to monitor our water quality throughout the sampling season. As soon as we get underway with our 2018 sampling season in May, we’ll be updating the website monthly to display the most recent samples that were collected. 


February 2018 Choptank River News


If I were to tell you how energized and how quickly our team hit the ground running as the newly formed ShoreRivers, you would tell me that the Choptank River has a better chance of freezing over than accomplishing all of that! Planning the February 16th Cambridge Wild & Scenic Film Festival, kicking off the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session, evaluating toxic pollution killing a lake owned by the Girl Scouts, assessing attitudes toward the rebound of our river’s underwater grasses, and more are all things that we dove head-first into as a the new ShoreRivers.

So, while you reflect on how beautiful the river looked when it froze over early last month, read more about all of these projects in this month’s Choptank River newsletter. I’m excited about what more we’re going to accomplish as a regional entity protecting the Choptank River and our other local waterways, and I hope you’ll join us in this mission.

-Matt Pluta, Choptank Riverkeeper

In this edition of the Choptank River News:

Cambridge Wild and Scenic Film Festival - February 16th

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This year’s annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Cambridge is shaping up to be a strong community-supported event that promises to inspire and energize your appreciation for the natural areas around the Eastern Shore. With our partner, Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth (DCPG), we look forward to a fun evening of hors d'oeuvres, local oysters from Stoney Cove Seafood, beverages, and seven short and moving films. Our premier sponsors – the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge and Integration Application Network (IAN) at Horn Point – invite the public to enjoy these award-winning films that highlight motivating stories from around the world and right here on the shores of Dorchester County. This year we’ll be bringing back the fan-favorite popcorn machine and wine-raffle, as well as introducing the River of Giving – an opportunity to directly support local actions.

Tickets are $30 each, and include hors d'oeuvres and one free drink ticket for those above the age of 21. Reserve your seat HERE or by calling 443-385-0511.

As we highlight the tremendous community support for this event we, give a huge thank you to our sponsors, who truly represent the Cambridge community and our connection to the Choptank River.

Premier Festival Funders
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort
IAN University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
WCEM 106.3 the Heat

Choptank River Sponsors
Environmental Concern
Izaak Walton League
Yacht Maintenance

Community Sponsors
Bay Country Bakery
Boettger Builders
Choptank Heritage Trail
Composite Yacht
Ferry Boat Marina
Mike Fleagle and Carol Crutchfield
Charles and Pamela McPherson
John P. Roche, Landing Marine Survey
Stoney Cove Seafood, Fred Pomeroy & Lexine Lowe


(photo courtesy of WBOC)

(photo courtesy of WBOC)

MD General Assembly's Legislative Session is Off to the Races

If you remember from January’s newsletter, our Riverkeepers were in full attendance at the Environmental Summit. That night, the environmental community’s legislative agenda was released. It highlighted key lawmakers who are working to support those efforts. Our Riverkeepers and other staff are working hard to move forward those legislative actions that will improve local water quality on the Eastern Shore, and fight against those pieces of legislation that would backtrack on all the progress we’ve made to clean up our waterways. See below for a list of our legislative interests:


  • U.S. Climate Alliance – Membership (SB138/HB3)
  • Community Healthy Air Act (SB133/HB26)
  • Use of Chlorpyrifos – Prohibition (SB500/HB116)
  • Mosquito Control – Notification to Municipalities (HB400)
  • Sale or Transfer of Home With On – Site Sewage Disposal System – Nitrogen Removal Technology Requirement (HB458)
  • Expanded Polystyrene Food Service Products – Prohibition (Styrofoam Ban) (HB538)
  • Forest Conservation Act (TBD)


  • Bay Restoration Fund – Fee Exemption, Disbursements, and Financial Assistance (Septic Stewardship Act of 2018) (SB314/HB361)
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge Crossing – Eastern Shore Local Government Consent – Repeal (SB34/HB560)


Williston Lake Watershed Assessment

Evaluating Toxic Pollution Killing a Lake Owned and Used By the Girl Scouts

In 2008, Williston Lake in Caroline County – owned and operated by the Girl Scouts –turned completely green. DNR scientists identified that the algae present was Microsystis aeruginosa, commonly known as blue-green algae. Due to the toxins in the algae, during large blooms M. aeruginosa can create a harmful algal bloom (HAB) that can kill aquatic organisms as well as pets and be harmful to human health. Because of this threat, the lake was closed from 2009-2011, devastating the Girl Scouts and the local community.

Unfortunately, efforts to treat the toxic algae using methods of barley straw and other treatments proved to be merely a Band-Aid, and did not treat the real issue of the large nutrient loads entering the lake from the surrounding watershed. Understanding that the long-term environmental sustainability of the lake and economic stability of the camp depend on clean water, the Girl Scouts requested that ShoreRivers conduct an assessment of the Williston Lake Watershed for the purpose of identifying and prioritizing opportunities to reduce pollution loads. Through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, ShoreRivers is undertaking a watershed assessment for the area that drains to the Lake. The goals of the Williston Lake Watershed Assessment and Management Plan are: (1) to identify sources and quantities of nutrients and sediment loads impacting Williston Lake and, ultimately, the Choptank River; and (2) to create a management plan with a prioritized list of actions that the Girl Scouts, farmers and other watershed partners can use as a blueprint to help reduce inputs and improve the water quality of the lake.


Changing Boater Behavior on Underwater Grasses

-by Rebecca Murphy

This past October, ShoreRivers began working with the Ocean Foundation to design a campaign focused on changing boaters’ behaviors towards submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Chesapeake Bay. Significantly, SAV represents one of the most visible ways to determine the water quality in our rivers. It provides key habitat for aquatic species such as blue crabs and striped bass, increases dissolved oxygen levels, and absorbs nutrients and sediments to improve water clarity. However, underwater grasses have been known to cause trouble for boaters on the waterway by getting stuck in and damaging propellers, particularly near the shoreline during peak biomass periods.

Although data from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has indicated an increase in SAV distribution in recent years due to ongoing restoration and protection practices, creating a campaign geared toward boaters’ behaviors will help encourage and ensure mindful boating practices in our waterways for the future. Coinciding with ShoreRivers’ current SAV monitoring program, the developing behavior change campaign will aim to play a key role in reducing damage to underwater grasses, while also raising awareness and knowledge of their importance for our Eastern Shore rivers.


January 2018 Choptank River News


It’s hard to believe it’s already a new year! When thinking about a New Year’s resolution, I thought—what if just half of the citizens who live around the Choptank River would resolve to do something good for their local waterway? Where would we be if every other household stopped using lawn fertilizers, if at least every other farm planted a winter cover crop, or if every other septic system was maintained routinely? For my New Year’s resolution, I’ve challenged myself to engage more citizens and more communities with the Choptank River than we ever have before and connect them with the diversely valuable resources surrounding the river. It is through experiences like kayaking the river from Greensboro to Denton, hiking through Tuckahoe State Park, or sailing in Oxford and Cambridge that we start to develop an appreciation and a willingness to act and protect what it is we appreciate. Join the Choptank Riverkeeper and all of ShoreRivers staff in a new year of opportunities and engagement with our local waters!  

-Matt Pluta, Choptank Riverkeeper

In this edition of the Choptank River News:


Cambridge Creek Watershed Assessment

ShoreRivers and the Choptank Riverkeeper are excited to release the Cambridge Creek Watershed Assessment and Action Plan. Over the last year, our staff has been busy collecting data, interviewing watershed partners, and identifying and prioritizing projects that can help to systematically restore the water quality in Cambridge Creek. Strategies, recommendations, and over 100 projects have been identified to help reduce nutrient and sediment pollution and protect against insufficient discharge permits. The goal of the assessment is to compliment the work that the City of Cambridge is already doing by engaging watershed partners, businesses, churches, and the whole community in a coordinated effort to improve local water quality. Take a look through the plan and find out how we can work together as a community that deserves clean waterways.

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Cambridge Film Festival

Get your tickets now for the 3rd annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Cambridge on February 16. Returning to our favorite venue, 447 Gallery, there will be local oysters and other appetizers, beer and wine, our fan favorite popcorn, and a wine raffle to precede the films. Just two days after Valentine’s Day, this event will make for a nice night out at the movies with your special someone.

Partner: Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth
Premier Sponsors: IAN University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science at Horn Point and the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Resort.


Maryland Environmental Legislative Summit Recap

The 2018 Environmental Summit took place earlier this month, and our Riverkeepers were there taking part in the event and strategizing on this year’s advocacy efforts. To the environmental community, the summit represents the beginning of the Maryland General Assembly’s Legislative Session. This year over 250 citizen advocates, professionals lawmakers, and your four Riverkeepers came together to celebrate and rally over the environmental community’s legislative agenda. Among the top priority bills were the Forest Conservation Act to protect our remaining intact forests; the Styrofoam Ban bill to ban a material that’s been polluting out waterways for long enough; and a bill requiring Maryland to join the US Climate Alliance with other states in a coalition to reduce greenhouse gas emission. As Choptank Riverkeeper, I had the great honor of introducing a number of the speakers at this year’s event including the chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee; the executive director of our longstanding partner, the Chesapeake Legal Alliance; the speaker for the Clean Energy Jobs Initiative; and the speakers for the Styrofoam Ban bill – student representatives from the youth-funded organization Baltimore Beyond Plastics.

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Interested in being a citizen advocate? Connect with your Riverkeeper today to see how you can support this year’s legislative efforts to protect our local rivers. 

pictured (left to right) are Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett, Sassafras Riverkeeper Capt. Emmett Duke, Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, and Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer.