Tour the Shore Kayak Series

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ShoreRivers’ Tour the Shore summer kayak series begins this month, with a monthly paddle on one of four rivers through September. Tour the Shore gives novice and experienced paddlers alike an opportunity to explore creeks and rivers with small groups led by ShoreRivers’ experienced, certified staff.  Paddle routes are chosen to highlight the Eastern Shore’s most scenic riverscapes and natural features, including great blue heron roosts, underwater grasses, and flooded forests.

Director of Education and Outreach Suzanne Sullivan, describes how the paddles serve ShoreRivers’ vision of health waterways across the Eastern Shore. “The Tour the Shore paddle series provides an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to get to know our rivers intimately. The more that individuals connect with a waterway and experience its value firsthand, the more they are going to want to protect that natural resource.”

Paddlers may bring their own kayaks or rent ShoreRivers’ kayaks. Space is limited. Bring your lunch!

Contact Suzanne at 443-385-0511 or ssullivan@shorerivers.org to reserve seats.

  • $20 for ShoreRivers members

  • $30 for non-members

  • Kayak rentals are an additional $30 

2019 Tour the Shore Dates and Locations

 Friday, July 12, 10am to 1pm – Robbins Creek (Choptank River)
Departs from Two Johns Landing in Preston. This paddle helps beat the heat as it meanders alongside the forested Lynch Preserve, property that was donated to Eastern Shore Land Conservancy.  Paddlers might just flush some wood ducks!

Friday, August 23, 10am to 2pm – Wye Island (Wye River)
Join the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper for a paddle that explores the peaceful coves around Wye Island Natural Resource Management Area. With over 85% of the island managed by Maryland State Park Service, this paddle-plus-hike showcases old growth trees and brightly colored song bird species.

 Thursday, September 13, 10am to 1pm – Turner’s Creek (Sassafras River)
Join the Sassafras Riverkeeper for a paddle on Turner's Creek in Kennedyville. Explore the famous tidal pond, see the magnificent lotus blooms, and witness one of the last working waterfronts on the river; a quintessential day on the Sassafras!

 Friday, September 27, 10am to 1pm – Chester River
Late September is prime paddle time as the air cools and marshes and forest edges change colors on the upper Chester. For the final paddle of the season, kayakers will be joined by the Chester Riverkeeper, launching from Shadding Reach Landing in Crumpton, and exploring the narrow upper reaches of the Chester. 

Flaws in Current Bay Grass Protection

Sediment plume kicked up by clamming activity

Sediment plume kicked up by clamming activity

Underwater grasses, otherwise known as Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV), are vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The grasses provide habitat for fish and crabs, oxygenate the water, filter sediment, absorb nutrients, and protect shorelines. These grasses are so valuable that the Chesapeake Bay Program has prioritized restoring them to 185,000 acres from their current 104,900 acres Bay-wide.

Underwater grasses are vulnerable to the hydraulic escalator clam dredge. This dredge uses hydraulic jets to cut into the bottom sediment and access buried clams, and in the process scours trenches along the river bottom, kicks up sediment plumes that cloud the water, and tears up our essential grass beds. Even dredging in a seemingly grassless area of river bottom can be harmful, as it can destroy any dormant seed bank buried in the sediment.

According to studies by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), “the direct impact of dredging in seagrasses is catastrophic.” The hydraulic clam dredge, which is banned in Maryland Coastal Bays, suppresses seed germination, restricts or completely inhibits growth, and completely uproots underwater grasses. Also according to DNR, “because of their importance, the restoration of bay grasses in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays is a priority for the department as well as the other Bay partners.”

In an effort to protect grasses from clam harvesting activities, DNR delineates SAV Protection Zones that prohibit clamming activity within grass beds. Currently, the Department updates these zones every three years based on annual fly-over data from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Updated zones are due this year. The problem with this process is that when grasses start growing in new areas they can be vulnerable to dredge activities for up to three years until the Department delineates the next Protection Zones.

Claiborne, Maryland is a prime example of how the current three-year update process is failing to protect our natural resources. The cove by the public boat landing is a prime clamming location and currently has no SAV Protection Zones. According to the Virginia Institute for Marine Science, on which DNR bases their Protection Zones, this cove has had significant acreage of underwater grasses since 2014. However, DNR did not delineate SAV Protection Zones in the area for the 2016 update. While we wait for the updated 2019 zones, this area continues to be harvested almost daily.

To address this issue, ShoreRivers introduced a bill in the 2019 Maryland legislative session that would require the Protection Zones to be updated annually. However, we withdrew our bill after DNR indicated they would revise their protocols to enhance protections. We are disappointed that, six months later, we continue to wait for DNR’s promised enhancements while Maryland SAV Protection Zones continue to fail in achieving their original intent of protecting and restoring underwater grasses.

The current process of identifying and delineating SAV Protection Zones every three years is ineffective and inadequate. These zones should be updated annually to adequately protect new, recovering, and expanding grass beds. It is a waste of both natural and personnel resources to put protections in place after a grass bed has been dredged in. If we are going to meet our goal of increasing SAV acreage, we need to protect grasses both during peak bloom and during dormancy, when they do not show up on aerial maps. It’s time for DNR to walk the walk for grass protection.

ShoreRivers anticipates the release of 2019 Protection Zones this summer, which will include a 90-day public comment period. We urge our members, advocates, and supporters to advocate that the Department adequately protect our underwater grasses from the hydraulic clam dredge. We are working to better map grass beds on the Eastern Shore and document clamming activity within these beds. We must hold DNR accountable to their job of protecting our natural resources. Continue to alert your Riverkeepers of any activity on your river by calling 443.385.0511 or emailing your Riverkeeper.

ShoreRivers Seeks Development & Events Coordinator

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ShoreRivers seeks a Development & Events Coordinator to join our team and help fulfill our mission to protect and restore Maryland’s Eastern Shore waterways. The position manages all ShoreRivers events and assists with development and communications activities. The ideal candidate will be an energetic, outwardly social self-starter who is organized, detail-oriented, and enthusiastic about the environment and the communities we serve.

The position reports to the Director of Development and works primarily out of Easton, MD at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, with frequent work out of our Chestertown and Galena offices. This is a full-time position; the employee must be flexible to work weekends, evenings, and longer hours, and to travel when necessary. The employee must be willing to live in the communities we serve. Salary is commensurate with experience; competitive benefits package included.

To apply, send cover letter and resume to Rebekah Hock, Director of Development, at rhock@shorerivers.org.

Responsibilities

  • Events (50%) – manage ShoreRivers’ more than 15 annual fundraising and outreach events, including staff and board coordination, event logistics and budget, volunteer coordination, partner liaison, vendor coordination, and event promotion.

  • Development (25%) – assist the Director of Development in implementing ShoreRivers’ annual fundraising strategy, including coordinating with the Governing Board, Advisory Boards, and Development Committee, working with our membership database, conducting grant research, and coordinating events and stewardship activities.

  • Communications (25%) – assist with planning and logistics for our suite of communications, including print, web, social media, press, annual appeal, and branded merchandise.

Position Requirements and Qualifications

  • A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and 2+ years’ work experience in a relevant field of event coordination and/or development.

  • Belief in our mission to achieve clean local waters.

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.

  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite.

  • Experience with donor database; Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge preferred.

  • Experience with managing budgets preferred.

  • Experience with managing volunteers preferred.

About ShoreRivers

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. Our staff also includes a team of environmental educators and a team of agricultural restoration specialists.

Please read more about our organization on this website.

ShoreRivers Begins Pumpout Boat Season and Bacteria Sampling

ShoreRivers is pleased to announce an expanded bacteria testing program for the 2019 swimming season. The strain of bacteria sampled, Enterococci, indicates pathogens that may cause human illness. This bacteria can originate from a variety of sources, including failing septic systems, sewer overflows or leaks, poultry and livestock operations, improper disposal from marine tanks, and pet waste. During significant rainfalls, the possibility always exists for elevated and unsafe bacteria levels. As a general precaution, it is recommended to avoid water contact for 48 hours after profuse rain events or any time if you have an open cut or wound. Always shower after swimming.

ShoreRivers will test popular swim sites weekly or bi-weekly until Labor Day: five sites on the Choptank River, two sites in Eastern Bay, one site on the Wye River, two sites on the Miles River, twelve sites on the Chester River, and three sites on the Sassafras River. Sites include: Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park Beach, Oxford Strand, Bellevue Beach, Sailwinds Park Beach, Great Marsh Park, Claiborne Beach, Broad Cove, Drum Point Beach on Wye Island, Miles River Yacht Club, Tunis Mills Landing, Duck Neck, Morgan Creek, Rosin Creek, Chestertown Marina, Chester River Yacht and Country Club, Rolphs Wharf , Camp Pecometh, Langford Bay, Grays Inn Creek, Conquest Beach, Corsica River Yacht Club, Centreville Wharf, Georgetown Bridge, Dyer Creek, and Indian Acres.

Results will be posted on SwimGuide, a website and smart phone app that allows users across the Chesapeake Bay region to check the health of local swimming beaches. Additionally, ShoreRivers’ Riverkeepers will post bacteria results on their social media pages. Follow the Chester Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, and Sassafras Riverkeeper on Facebook and Instagram for updates, or follow #SwimmableShoreRivers. Thank you to the following funders for supporting the continuation and expansion of this program: Royal Bank of Canada, Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth, TriCycle and Run, Dorchester County, Washington College, and community donations.

The ShoreRivers Pumpout Boat is a free service to the boating community that helps combat this harmful pollution. Local and visiting boaters are encouraged to take advantage of this service and do their part to keep our waterways clean. The boat services the busy St. Michaels Harbor and marinas and private docks on the Miles and Wye Rivers.

ShoreRivers launched this program in 2016 as a convenient way for boaters to properly dispose of concentrated marine waste without polluting our rivers. The Pumpout Boat is funded by the Department of Natural Resources, and operates in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which provides dockage for the vessel free dockage, storage, and use of their land-based pumpout station to off-load waste that is transferred to the updated St. Michaels Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Pumpout Boat Captain Jim Freeman states, “Both transients and locals rave about the convenience of using the pumpout boat because they don’t have to deal with the hassle of a crowded marina in order to pump-out their tanks. We can serve any boater on the Miles and Wye Rivers and can remove up to 300 gallons of waste from their vessel.”

More than 1,000 boats have receive pump-outs since the vessel began operating. This service is available Friday evenings and weekends (including holiday Mondays) through October. Boaters can contact the Pumpout Boat at 410.829.4352 or VHF channel 9 to arrange service. Captain Jim is also available at pobcaptjim@gmail.com to answer questions or setup a regular schedule. ShoreRivers is looking forward to another productive year and hopes to break last year’s record of keeping 15,000 gallons of waste out of our rivers.

ShoreRivers Presents State of the Rivers Benchmark

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With data collected by four professional Riverkeepers and nearly 100 citizen scientist volunteers, ShoreRivers is proud to present its annual State of Rivers Series and Report Card Release. A series of five presentations will feature water quality grades, regional trends and data points, and strategies and solutions to clean our rivers. Maryland’s Eastern Shore waterways are being choked with nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff from both residential and commercial properties. Seasonal flares of bacterial contamination pose risks to human health. Water quality monitoring for these and other pollutants is a signature component of ShoreRivers’ operations and the only comprehensive testing of our local rivers currently being conducted. Learn about your river at the event near you in Cambridge, Chestertown, St. Michaels, Grasonville, or Betterton; details at ShoreRivers.org/events. 

ShoreRivers Director of Riverkeeper Programs and Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta remarks, “Water quality monitoring programs are the foundation on which ShoreRivers bases our advocacy, restoration, and education work. These programs allow us to keep a vigilant pulse on our local waterways. We invite all of our volunteers, landowners, elected officials, and everyone who cares about our rivers to join us as we discuss the ways we can work together to achieve clean and healthy waterways in our region.” The 2018 Report Card encompasses four watersheds that span more than 1,650 square miles of the middle and upper Eastern Shore.

All events are free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided. ShoreRivers appreciates its 2019 Marquee Sponsor, Dock Street Foundation, and 2019 State of the Rivers Sponsor, The Easton Group and the Easton Branch at Morgan Stanley. Thanks also to the individual event sponsors: Dukes-Moore Insurance Agency, Tow Jamm Marine Towing & Salvage, and Bayheads Brewing Company.

State of the Rivers presentations will be as follows: 

Thursday, April 25, 5:30pm – State of the Choptank
Robbins Heritage Center, Cambridge

Thursday, May 2, 5:30pm – State of the Chester
Washington College Hynson Lounge

Friday, May 3, 5:30pm – State of the Miles and Choptank Rivers
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels

Thursday, May 16, 5:30pm – State of the Chester and Wye Rivers, and Eastern Bay
Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, Grasonville

Friday, May 17, 5:30pm – State of the Sassafras
Betterton Volunteer Fire Hall 

For more information, contact Julia Erbe at jerbe@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511 ext. 210.

ShoreRivers Receives $10,000 Perdue Foundation Grant to Further Conservation Drainage Program on Delmarva

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ShoreRivers received a $10,000 grant from the Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation. Along with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Bailey Wildlife Foundation, this grant supports work to accelerate agricultural conservation drainage best management practices that improve water quality while sustaining or increasing crop production.

“This project represents the first partnership between ShoreRivers and the Perdue Foundation,” said Tim Rosen, director of agriculture and restoration for Shore Rivers. “New and diverse partnerships such as this help achieve water quality and agricultural goals aimed at creating a sustainable future for Delmarva.”

 “At Perdue, we’re proud to join ShoreRivers in this new partnership that will help improve the Delmarva community and make local farms, including some of those farmers who raise poultry for Perdue and sell us their grain, more economically viable and environmentally sustainable,” said Steve Levitsky, vice president of environmental stewardship for Perdue Farms.

The Perdue Foundation was established by company founder Arthur W. Perdue in 1957 as the charitable giving arm of Perdue Farms. It is funded through the estates of Arthur W. Perdue and Frank Perdue and provides grants on behalf of Perdue Farms in communities where large numbers of their associates live and work.

Conservation drainage is a selection of best management practices that allows for traditional agricultural drainage needed for production while also reducing nutrient and sediment pollution. ShoreRivers works with farmers on Delmarva to implement conservation drainage projects with the objective of installing demonstration projects that showcase how environmental and agricultural goals can be mutually met to maintain a healthy environment.

“The implications of this work have far-reaching, positive effects by allowing Delmarva farms to be more economically sustainable while addressing uncertain future weather conditions and improving water quality, thus creating a landscape that can be cherished for generations,” said Rosen.

Using the funding from Perdue Foundation, ShoreRivers has installed two projects in Dorchester and Somerset counties. In total, ShoreRivers will install seven conservation drainage projects on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware. Specific practices being installed are blind inlets, saturated buffers, water control structures, and new drainage tile designs for use with a drainage water management plan.

For more information about ShoreRivers’ conservation drainage programs, contact Tim Rosen at ShoreRivers at trosen@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511 ext. 209.

Tragedy of the Soft Shell and Razor Clam

I read Tragedy of the Commons many times in my undergraduate career. We are all familiar with the premise: overuse of a common resource for personal benefit ultimately eliminates that resource, spoiling it for everyone. To ensure that our common resources do not become depleted in Maryland or the Chesapeake Bay, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) works to “preserve, protect, restore, and enhance our environment for this and future generations.” Specifically, DNR strives to create balance between our economy and our environment, which we at ShoreRivers commend and support. 

Consider the eastern oyster, for example, a filter feeder that improves water quality and habitat, and is an iconic menu item for locals and tourists alike. A DNR Fishery Management Plan is needed for this species to ensure that we continue to see both ecological and economic benefits for generations to come. This is an example of a state agency regulating a natural resource so that all can benefit.

Two lesser known bivalve species in the Bay provide similar ecological value. Soft shell clams and razor clams filter the same volume of gallons in one day as the oyster. Numerous studies have found that these species once played an integral role in the Chesapeake’s food web, as a primary food source for multiple predators. Unfortunately, also similar to the eastern oyster, these clam species are on the brink of extinction in the Chesapeake Bay.

The soft shell clam fishery has been “boom and bust” since the invention of the hydraulic dredge in the 1950’s. “Boom” times with high harvest rates and high numbers of clamming licenses are followed by “bust” times with significant drops in clam populations, which result in lower harvest rates and fewer licenses. 

Considering the high ecological value these species provide and their current low populations, ShoreRivers believes they are in need of conservation. Without a DNR Fishery Management Plan, there is currently no balance between the economic and ecological value of these clams. To ensure this balance is established and that there are clams in our Maryland waterways in the future, ShoreRivers fought for a Fishery Management Plan for the clam fishery during the 2019 Maryland Legislative General Assembly. This bill would have initiated relatively low-cost studies of current clam populations and habitats, impacts to the population from climate change, and economic and ecological values of clams.  

Unfortunately, the Department of Natural Resources was not supportive of this bill and was unwilling to compromise. DNR’s main argument was that these species are too transient and difficult to study. However, considering that there have been studies of these species in the past (although none that inform regulation), and the fact that these species continue to be harvested, we feel that this decision clearly states that DNR is supportive of the economic value of these species, more so than the ecological value. If we are unable to study a species, consider the ecological value, or make regulation recommendations that promote sustainability, then we should not have that commercial fishery.

Yes, we are all familiar with the Tragedy of the Commons, but it seems as though our current administration is choosing to ignore the warning signs of resource depletion. To be clear, I am in support of sustainable fisheries – fisheries that provide economic value, support our local watermen, and ensure that species continue to provide ecological benefits to our ecosystems.

However, if, according to DNR, it is not possible to find balance between economy and ecology, then which side should we choose? What repercussions might we see if we lose the soft shell and razor clams? As Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, I have the privilege of giving a voice to the river; I have no doubt the river would choose the side of ecological benefits.

 

Elle Bassett
Miles-Wye Riverkeeper
ebassett@shorerivers.org
443.385.0511 ext 213


ShoreRivers Lawn Fertilizer Awareness Week – March 31 to April 7

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ShoreRivers has launched its fourth annual Lawn Fertilizer Awareness Week (LFAW) from March 31 to April 7, 2019. For this initiative, ShoreRivers partners with other organizations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed to provide awareness about lawn fertilizer usage. Last year, LFAW reached over 24,000 individuals via social media, and aims even higher for this year.

The goal of Lawn Fertilizer Awareness Week is to inform the public about the effects of lawn fertilizer, while encouraging individuals and lawn care professionals to reduce fertilizer use and turn to organic products for healthier lawns and waterways. This social media campaign includes daily posts that highlight native plant landscaping that requires less fertilizer, as well as ways to make composted fertilizer. LFAW also focuses on the impacts of nitrogen and phosphorus—two key ingredients in fertilizer—on water quality for the Chesapeake Bay. Runoff of these nutrients from lawns into waterways is known to cause harmful algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses, rob the water of oxygen, and threaten underwater life.

Last year, this campaign introduced ShoreRivers’ new River-Friendly Yards program. ShoreRivers, with support from Chesapeake Bay Trust and Queen Anne’s County, is working to empower residents in the Chester and Sassafras watersheds to implement best practices and establish more river-friendly yards that mimic the natural environment to benefit water quality. ShoreRivers encourages residents to adopt river-friendly practices to achieve healthy waterways across Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The 2019 campaign will give an update on the program and highlight Maryland laws and regulations. It will include fun, simple, and attractive ways to transform yards. Maryland’s Nutrient Management Program has the goal of protecting water quality by ensuring that both farmers and urban land managers are safely applying fertilizer. Lawn fertilizer accounts for approximately 44 percent of the fertilizer sold in Maryland. There are over 1,300,000 acres of lawns in Maryland; almost 86 million pounds of nitrogen lawn fertilizer will be applied to these properties each year. It is critical that everyone know the importance of applying fertilizer in an effective and environmentally sound manner for the health of Maryland’s tributaries and the Chesapeake Bay.

Follow along with Lawn Fertilizer Awareness Week 2019 by tuning into ShoreRivers’ social media pages.

More details are available at mda.maryland.gov/Pages/fertilizer.aspx. Additional guidance, along with seasonal and yearly fertilizer rates, is available at county extension offices or online at extension.umd.edu. For more information about Lawn Fertilizer Awareness Week, visit shorerivers.org or contact Rachel Plescha at ShoreRivers at rplescha@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511 ext 208.