March 2018 Miles and Wye Rivers Newsletter


In this edition of the Miles and Wye River news, I provide an update on the practice of clamming in our rivers, a behind the scenes look at the opinions about underwater grasses from recreational boaters, and a highlight of a student-led action project in the Miles River watershed. Be sure to follow my social media pages for more exciting news in the watershed! @mileswyeriverkeeper

-Elle Bassett, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper

In this edition of the Miles and Wye River News:


Update on Clamming in our Rivers

In the previous Miles-Wye e-newsletter, I discussed the damaging practices of the hydraulic escalator dredge and the need for a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Chesapeake Bay Management Plan for soft shell and razor clams in Maryland. We were invited by the Talbot County Council to present our research on the topic. However, after having a successful discussion with DNR and Councilman Dirck Bartlett, we have achieved our goal of DNR agreeing to organize a stakeholder meeting without presenting to the council. We’re looking forward to more discussions on the topic and I will keep you posted on the issue in our e-newsletters! (Image courtesy of Tyler Campbell)

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SAV Behavior Change Study

ShoreRivers has been working to design a behavior change campaign in partnership with the Ocean Foundation that focuses on improving the relationship between boaters and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Chesapeake Bay. A key component of creating a campaign to change boaters’ behaviors has been the research of a target audience and their associated actions and attitudes towards SAV. Specifically, this included an online survey to determine several factors of this relationship, such as how and when boaters react to SAV, as well as the characteristics and phrases that they commonly associate with the underwater grasses.

Initial results of this survey have helped to provide clearer indications of why boaters sometimes run through and damage SAV and how this behavior might be addressed through an outreach campaign. For instance, the survey provided key evidence that boaters who regularly ran aground in SAV associated negative attitudes toward SAV in general. Specifically, boats that ran through SAV were most often used for recreational purposes and were aware of the underwater grasses while moving through shallow waters to dock their boats into slips and onto natural shorelines.

This data also provided the insight that there was no true correlation between knowledge and behavior; most survey respondents knew that SAV is a key component for improving water quality and providing habitat, but continued to run through it anyway. With this information, the future educational campaign will focus on improving the mindset of boaters, creating outreach to enforce the positive outcomes of avoiding SAV. This behavior change project will continue to analyze these results and develop campaign materials into the spring.


St. Michael's Middle High School Project

As part of ShoreRivers’ environmental education program, Students for Streams, students identify areas of concern on their campus and potential solutions to those concerns- very similar to what we do as Riverkeepers! Students from St. Michael’s Middle High School discovered an eroding storm drain on their campus that directly drains to the Miles River. Students noted that it could negatively impact the river’s turbidity. Bill Wolinski and Terry Martin from Talbot County Public Works visited the students’ classroom and drain site to review students’ project proposals and ideas. Together, the county, high school, and ShoreRivers will implement a native planting and stabilize the erosion to solve the problem. A high five to the students of St. Michael’s! Now let’s get our hands dirty!


February 2018 Miles and Wye Rivers Newsletter


Is it boating season yet?! As the ice thaws, I grow more anxious to get out on the river. The calendar is slowly starting to fill with water quality monitoring schedules, paddle dates, clean ups, and warm weather events. We’re so close! Until then, however, I will continue with my “boots on the ground” work, rotating through the many hats I wear. During these chilly months, I am most often checking in on muddy construction sites, supporting environmental efforts in Annapolis, or teaching local students about stewardship practices and projects. Even though our activity on the bay is slower in these winter months, our actions still impact our local rivers!

-Elle Bassett, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper

In this edition of the Miles and Wye River News:

 (Image courtesy of Tyler Campbell)

(Image courtesy of Tyler Campbell)

Environmental Impacts of Hydraulic Clam Dredging

ShoreRivers Executive Director Jeff Horstman recently submitted a letter to the editor highlighting the destructive practice of hydraulic clam dredging. Soft shell and razor clams currently have no Maryland Department of Natural Resources Management Plan, and are being harvested with loose restrictions in our local rivers. In addition to the huge sediment plumes these machines produce, hydraulic clam dredges decimate underwater grasses and threaten our oyster populations. Soft shell clams filter just as much water as oysters, but represent a miniscule percentage of our seafood industry and continue to be harvested without a management plan. ShoreRivers has been invited to present these facts and figures to the Talbot County Council on the evening of February 27. Join us and show your support in our fight to reevaluate this destructive practice for the sake of our rivers.


Queen Anne's County High School Students Kick Off Action Project Season

ShoreRivers educators have been working with Queen Anne’s, Talbot, and Dorchester County public schools in a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience program this school year. Students from Queen Anne’s County kicked off our action project season this past month, creating native seed balls, oyster cages, and wood duck boxes during class. These students have been collecting local water quality and land-use data since the beginning of the school year. After analyzing data and researching potential causes of the results, students proposed stewardship projects to improve water quality conditions. The momentum continued in Dorchester County Public Schools as North Dorchester built 100 oyster cages in late January. Students will implement action projects throughout the spring season, ending the program with a celebratory field trip to Horn Point Lab.


Wye Sub Watershed Study

The Wye Sub Watershed Study began in August 2015 to take a closer look at the nutrients and discharge flow in non-tidal portions of the Wye River. The study takes place at six sites ranging from Skipton Creek in Talbot County to Sallie Harris Creek in Queen Anne’s County. Over the past two years, ShoreRivers staff and Chesapeake Conservation Corps volunteers have collected water discharge data and nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) samples on a monthly to bi-monthly basis to gain a better understanding of the tributaries that flow into the Wye River. Specifically, by recording this data in upstream portions of the river over a multi-year span, we will be better able to identify where the highest concentrations of nutrient pollution may be found and thereafter determine the best solutions to improve the water quality at these sources. We look forward to continuing the study at these six sites in 2018 through further fieldwork and data analysis to provide more information for the health of the Wye River.


January 2018 Miles and Wye Rivers Newsletter


I am thrilled to announce my new position as your Miles-Wye Riverkeeper! Previously, as the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, I spent the majority of the past five years educating local youth on the beauty and importance of our local rivers. I will continue to educate and inspire future environmental stewards among our local students. I will also take on the role of providing a voice for the Miles and Wye Rivers and Eastern Bay—waterways that are very near and dear to my heart. I will actively patrol, monitor, and advocate for these rivers, and I look forward to working with the community toward the common goal of healthy rivers! Learn more about my past experiences and future role below, as well as exciting news for the Miles-Wye watershed.

-Elle Bassett, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper

In this edition of the Miles and Wye River News:

Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Announcement

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ShoreRivers (formerly Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy) is pleased to announce that Elle Bassett is the new Miles-Wye Riverkeeper. As Riverkeeper, Bassett will act as the primary spokesperson for the Miles and Wye Rivers and Eastern Bay, advocating for their protection and restoration. She will strive to increase environmental awareness through education, outreach, advocacy and restoration; emphasizing the essential role these rivers play in the community, the issues that threaten their health and vitality, and the solutions that must be implemented to protect and preserve them. She will work at every level to restore and protect these waterways and to advance clean water policy. Basset will provide on-the-water vigilance and will regularly patrol these rivers, ready to combat illegal pollution and serve as a guardian for these living resources.

A Chesapeake Bay native, Bassett grew up as a “river rat,” and remains dedicated to and passionate about clean water. Although new to the Riverkeeper position, she has been with MRC since 2012 as the Education and Outreach Coordinator, introducing local youth to the outdoors through hands-on experiences. She previously worked on oyster restoration programs, water quality monitoring, and environmental education programming and restoration.

Bassett graduated from Washington College with a degree in environmental studies and a focus on Chesapeake Bay Regional Studies. She recently achieved a master’s degree in environmental education.

ShoreRivers Executive Director Jeff Horstman, who was also the previous Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, commented, “The Miles and Wye Rivers could not have a better environmental advocate than Elle Bassett. She is a student of the Chesapeake Bay with strong academic and professional backgrounds in environmental outreach. I have worked with Elle on the Miles and Wye for the last three years. She is passionate and tireless. The residents of these watersheds are lucky to have her as Riverkeeper.” 


ShoreRivers Continues to Implement 19 Projects at Chesapeake College

ShoreRivers has been leading a comprehensive initiative, in collaboration with Chesapeake College and various funding partners, to address major stormwater challenges on the campus. A suite of 19 projects will materially improve water quality in the nearby Wye River. The projects completed in 2017 include a wetland restoration and meadow planting, nine bioretention facilities that filter stormwater, and stream restoration that will reduce erosion and treat pollutants coming off hard surfaces and the agriculture fields surrounding the campus. Other projects that will be wrapped up in 2018 are an additional bioretention project, conversion of almost ten acres of turf to wildflower meadow at three sites, the planting of almost four acres of switchgrass buffers around agricultural fields, and the installation of interpretive signage around the campus to explain to visitors the nature and purpose of the various projects. Finally, the ShoreRivers initiative will include the development of a training program and manual for use by faculty and students to conduct ongoing monitoring at the stream restoration site.