April 2018 Sassafras River News


In this edition of the Sassafras River News:

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Water Chestnut Removal

If you are around the Sassafras Riverkeeper very often, it may seem that he is obsessed with an invasive species of Eurasian water chestnut, Trapa natans.  As the Sassafras Riverkeeper, let me try to explain.

Water chestnut plants grow in the shallow creeks along the Sassafras River. They also flourish in the Potomac and Bird Rivers on the Western Shore. In June, the seeds send a slim shoot to the surface, and a “rosette” of leaves spreads out and floats on the water. The rosette gets larger and thicker until it combines with others to prevent sunlight from reaching valuable native submerged aquatic vegetation and any macroinvertebrates in the creek bed. 

Every stem produces six rosettes, each of which forms 20 seeds. The math is easy—each shoot produces 120 seed pods. The second year, each of the 120 seeds will produce 120 more seeds.  Now the math is more complex, but that one original seed will have produced 14,400 more seeds in only two years if someone doesn’t pull that stem out of the mud. Now for the worst news: the seeds can remain dormant for up to 12 years. So even if we think we’ve gotten them all . . . we haven’t.

Every summer, from June until August, as your Riverkeeper I scout the creeks along the Sassafras. I then return to any infestations with volunteers in canoes and kayaks. Intrepid staffers from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources usually make a couple of trips to the Sassafras to help. Sometimes AmeriCorps volunteers, on loan from Sassafras Environmental Education Center’s Wayne Gilchrest, give us a hand. This July, we will have help from the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. This may sound like a lot of help, but it never seems to be enough to fight the invasion of water chestnuts.

When the weather warms, if you would like to spend a few hours in a kayak or canoe pulling plants and long muddy roots from the creeks of the Sassafras, please contact me at eduke@shorerivers.org or call me at 410-708-2488.  

Help Wanted - Project Clean Stream


Every year about this time, the Sassafras River Association (now ShoreRivers) organizes a watershed-wide shoreline and roadside trash cleanup in coordination with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.  We recruit Site Captains, who gather volunteers to help with our efforts.  All needed trash bags and other materials are furnished by Project Clean Stream, and volunteers supply the man and woman power.

Thanks to all who came out this past weekend! We will be doing most of our remaining cleanups on April 14th, but other cleanups may be held on weekends through May.  If you would like to help make the Sassafras River a little cleaner, please contact lwood@shorerivers.org or call me at 410-708-2488.


March 2018 Sassafras River News


In this edition of the Sassafras River News:

It was beginning to seem like spring had arrived on the Sassafras until the seasonal snow storm on March 6.  The flakes were large and fluffy for a while, but the ground was warm enough for the snow to disappear by the next day.  The Riverkeeper boat is scheduled for launching on Friday, March 23, and water quality sampling will begin on the Sassafras River on Wednesday, April 4th.  Join me in hoping that it will be a much warmer day than the one pictured here!  And I'll see you on the river! 

-Capt. Emmett Duke, Sassafras Riverkeeper


Swantown Creek

Our long-awaited Swantown Creek Project is working!  At a meeting of Shorewood Estates homeowners a few years ago, your Riverkeeper learned of a 4100' ravine where an enormous amount of sediment had eroded into Swantown Creek over many years.  Our Restoration Specialist Josh Thompson worked with the landowner, an engineering firm, the MD Department of Natural Resources, and state and local agencies who approved the permits.  Now, working with the contractor, Josh is overseeing the project.  

After the 4 inch "gully washer" on Sunday, Feb. 11, Emmett and Josh took a look at the partially finished work to check for damage.  Only about 125' of work had been completed, and we're happy to report that the project survived unscathed.  In fact, this small segment of restored ravine prevented over 20 tons of sediment from reaching Swantown Creek.   


The Importance of Trees

The importance of trees in our environment would be hard to overestimate.  To help our understanding, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has issued “Top Ten Facts about Forests in Maryland”.  In the interest of brevity, here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Trees supply oxygen, purify air and water, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, cool the air and surface waters, provide recreation, and increase property values (some paraphrased).
  2. A single acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and emits four tons of oxygen - enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe in a year.
  3. Ten mature trees help filter excess nutrients and other pollution from about 37,100 gallons of rainwater.
  4. Maryland lost at least 17,000 acres of forests in the past nine years to subdivisions, shopping centers, and other development.
  5. Maryland has a “no net loss” forest policy, which means the state should either not lose ANY forest, or the same amount of lost trees should be replanted.  That isn’t happening.  The current Forest Conservation Act has unintended loopholes for the people who are willing to take advantage of loopholes.

ShoreRivers has actively supported legislation to close the loopholes by more clearly defining the original intent of the Forest Conservation Act.

photo credit: Tyler Campbell

photo credit: Tyler Campbell

Help Wanted - Project Clean Stream

ShoreRivers is participating in Project Clean Stream again this year! Organized by the Alliance for the Bay, Project Clean Stream is an annual cleanup effort held all over the Chesapeake every Spring. We will have multiple shoreline cleanups throughout the Sassafras River watershed taking place on April 7th and 14th.

All volunteers are welcome, and ShoreRivers will provide all necessary supplies. Visit the Project Clean Stream website here to register for our Sassafras River events. If you’re not in the Sassafras area and would still like to participate, look for another cleanup near you! There will be over 80 cleanups taking place throughout the Bay watershed in April, with many more planned throughout the spring.

If you have any questions about the event or want to organize a shoreline cleanup of your own this year, please contact Laura Wood at lwood@shorerivers.org or 410-810-7556.


February 2018 Sassafras River News


Your Sassafras Riverkeeper is often asked this time of year, “If you can’t go out on the water, what do you do in the winter?” Yes, our Riverkeeper boat is under cover and winterized, but the many winter activities around the Sassafras keep us as busy as the multitude of things we do in warmer weather.

The Maryland Legislature meets the first three and a half months of each year.  We monitor and interact with legislators and other environmental organizations regarding proposed bills that could affect the health of our rivers and streams. 

We continue responding to the calls of residents involving direct or potential pollution to the Sassafras. 

The restoration projects for which the Sassafras River Association is famous continue year-round.  If the ground can be worked, we are in the woods and fields restoring ravines, gullies, streams and wetlands. 

Winter is also the time when we are planning events scheduled for later in the year.

-Capt. Emmett Duke, Sassafras Riverkeeper

In this edition of the Sassafras River News:

Restoration Work

Working with Chuck Foster - President of Friends of the Bohemia, Josh Thompson is taking soil samples for a project that will create a series of stepped treatment wetland cells.  This restoration project in Cecil County will remove nitrogen and phosphorus from a 274 acre agricultural area that drains toward the Bohemia River. 


Report Card

Our Science Committee is in the process of creating the 2018 Sassafras River Report Card, which will highlight the science-based collection of water quality indicators taken in 2017.   Data are compiled by our Sassafras Samplers and your Riverkeeper for tidal and non-tidal sites based on the Mid-Atlantic Tributary Assessment Coalition (MTAC) protocols, and reported annually in our Report Card format.   Our “State of the River” presentation will be held at the Cecilton Fire House banquet facility on May 3 - see the events section for more detail.  The public is encouraged to attend.

Water Chestnuts

Planning is underway for our perennial excursions to eradicate invasive water chestnut plants from our precious Sassafras.  If allowed to flourish, the plants spread and completely block sunlight from reaching valuable native vegetation in the creeks that feed into the Sassafras River.  We will be joined again by groups from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and AmeriCorps as well as many local volunteers.  This summer, in addition to our regular helpers, we’ve been assured assistance from the Delaware Nature Society, Chesapeake Conservation Corps, and some great staff from our newly merged organization - ShoreRivers.

We’ll be out in kayaks and canoes many days in June, July and August pulling the invasive plants, and we always welcome anyone who would like to help your Riverkeeper and our volunteers to rid the Sassafras of the noxious water weeds.  If interested, please email me at eduke@shorerivers.org.


January 2018 Sassafras River News

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Welcome - Most of our supporters know by now that the Sassafras River Association is a part of the merger that created ShoreRivers. So don't be surprised when you drive by our office across from the Georgetown Post Office and see our new sign. No more Sassafras leaves, but we now sport a spiffy ShoreRivers logo!  We will continue to maintain our office with a beautiful view of our precious Sassafras. 

As the Sassafras River Association transitioned into ShoreRivers on January 1, 2018, we were engaged in the construction of several important restoration projects. Current projects are being designed and constructed in both Kent and Cecil Counties. Read below for much more detail.

-Capt. Emmett Duke, Sassafras Riverkeeper

In this edition of the Sassafras River News:

Swantown Creek Gully Restoration Project

We’re excited that the long anticipated Swantown Creek Gully Restoration Project has begun. 

This $1.2 million project will put an end to the severe erosion from the 4,100 foot forested gully that drains over 600 acres of farmland into Swantown Creek on the Upper Sassafras. 

A variety of effective restoration techniques are being employed in the project, and this will end the decades-old regular occurrences of sediment and nutrient flows into the creek.  


Starkey Farm and Byerly Farm Treatment Wetlands

Two 4-cell treatment wetland projects have recently been completed, one on the Starkey Farm on Woodland Creek and another on a farm outside Massey. These projects will facilitate the infiltration of stormwater containing thousands of pounds of nitrogen, hundreds of pounds of phosphorus, and tons of sediment pollution that flow annually into Sassafras tributaries.  

Other restoration projects soon to break ground are a stream restoration in Warwick, and a treatment wetland project on the Byerly Farm outside Cecilton.   

The Sassafras River Association has a great history of watershed restoration activities, and we will continue our established tradition into the future as a proud part of ShoreRivers.