This has been an exciting and also a challenging year for the Friends of the Nanticoke River. We have worked hard to bring about change in the watershed on important policy matters, including land conservation, preservation of agriculture, and protection of the river’s water quality. We have made great strides in expanding the regional dialogue on conservation, and we have seen the resurgence of new and old partners in these endeavors. Citizen involvement is more evident than ever, and I have been especially excited about the outpouring of support from our members over the past year! Here is a summary of where we are and where we will be headed in the coming year:
This year, the Nanticoke Creekwatchers' Program was established, under the exceptional leadership of Megan Ward, Program Coordinator of the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance. Here is a message from Megan on this wonderful addition to our river’s conservation landscape:
Thanks to all the members of Friends of the Nanticoke River who helped contribute to the success of the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance's Creekwatchers Water Monitoring Program! We ended our first season with over 30 volunteers monitoring 25 sites along the Nanticoke River and its tributaries. We are now working with Johns Hopkins University to analyze all the data collected over the past few months to develop a "State of the Nanticoke Watershed" report -- stay tuned! NWA's Creekwatcher water monitoring program aligns very well with your organization's mission of protecting and preserving the unique natural, cultural and recreational resources of the Nanticoke River watershed. As one of the most pristine tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay and home to an incredible array of flora and fauna including many threatened species, the Nanticoke River certainly deserves care and attention. Our activities will help determine the present health of the river and as we continue to monitor, Creekwatcher data will show any trends or changes in river health as it responds to environmental pressures and changes in land use.
If you would like more information or are interested in becoming part of this important project, please contact Megan Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph: 410-873-3045.
Growth Dialogue Expands with Eben Fodor
On November 1, we co-sponsored nationally-recognized author and expert on growth and planning in a lecture at Wor-Wic Community College. The talk, titled “Taking Charge of Growth for Great Communities,” was attended by approximately 100 people, including local government officials, planners, developers, and many citizens. Mr. Fodor’s message focuses on debunking myths about growth, including that it always generates tax revenues and improves quality of life, and he argues persuasively for communities to define not only where but how much they want to grow in order to take control of the process and make it work.
Growth and Land Preservation
Working through the Wicomico County Rural Areas Planning Committee and with our conservation partners in the area, The Friends have continued over the past year to lobby for strong measures to protect agriculture and other natural areas. Sussex County has finally begun serious discussion of its rural zoning, as the DE Planning Office has strongly criticized the status quo there. We are excited to see the development of several groups in that area, including Citizens for a Better Sussex, arguing for more careful planning. Although the current economic situation and housing crisis are slowing development pressures, we believe this is the time to move forward, not to relax our efforts. This climate, combined with strong local opposition, has led to cancellation of the enormous Discovery Project in Laurel. The Friends opposed this plan because of its tremendous impacts on Broad Creek.
We continue to oppose Hebron’s efforts to transform the town into a city almost the size of Cambridge. We have held conversations with the developer and the Planning Commission and have urged both Wicomico County and the State to weigh in and to temper the irrational thinking that has driven these development plans. The threat to Rewastico Creek of this projected growth is immeasurable, and it would also result in considerable loss of productive farmland. The town has responded to our suggestion that it assess its water and sewer resources, and the results are not encouraging. We hope the Town will reconsider this inappropriate plan in light of all the many arguments against it.
River Pollution and Contamination
Recently, the Friends communicated our opposition to renewal of the permit for a coal fly ash disposal landfill at the Seaford Invista Plant (formerly DuPont). This landfill has no liner, as it was originally permitted before fly ash was determined to be hazardous waste. This material has substantial arsenic and other contaminants, and we contend that it should be redesigned to prevent leaching into the immediately adjacent Nanticoke River.
The Nanticoke River watershed contains the largest concentration of poultry operations in the Bay region, with substantial nutrient outputs. Maryland recently proposed major changes in the way these operations are regulated, and we have been involved in discussions with the poultry industry, with farmers, and with other environmental organizations in an effort to ensure that these regulations are fair and effective, and not designed to penalize agriculture disproportionately. There has been enormous progress in managing poultry wastes in our region, from industry development of new feeds and methods of disposal, to detailed nutrient management by individual farmers. We recognize that there is still much that needs to be done, and we also realize that a vital agricultural economy can and should be part of a healthy watershed and river.
A major source of pollution to our rivers, especially in developed areas, is stormwater runoff. Maryland recently enacted the Stormwater Management Act of 2007, identifying this as an urgent problem and addressing major changes in site design that would implement innovative approaches to managing this runoff. We will be working this year with the Lower Shore Tributary Strategy Team and others to bring these principles to our area for implementation.
Edwin Lewis Marsh Hunting Complex
I think this may actually be the last time I write about this in our newsletter! The marsh cabin complex constructed illegally by Edwin Lewis will finally be coming down. Maryland’s highest court ruled against Mr. Lewis last spring, denying him the variance he sought to keep the cabins where they are. He decided not to appeal, and has been told to tear down the entire complex before he can even file a new plan. After seven years, we have finally seen Maryland’s Critical Area Act upheld here, a ruling that is vital to protecting the Bay and the Nanticoke River. This issue goes beyond one single violator to send a message to any who would ignore this important law. Film Festival – save the dates!
Our environmental film series returns for a second year! Beginning on February 21, four Thursday nights will feature acclaimed and timely films on subjects ranging from electric cars to oil depletion, sponsored by the Wicomico Environmental Trust, the Friends, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and others. See enclosed flyer for details.
The concept of Green Infrastructure (G.I.), an area’s natural “life support system,” took a step forward last year in Wicomico County, as the Rural Areas Planning Committee proposed that the county establish a G. I. committee (still awaiting action by the County Executive). This committee would work to evaluate lands for targeted conservation efforts, and generally become involved in the assessment and oversight of our most important natural areas. We strongly hope that Mr. Rick Pollitt will move quickly on this initiative. In the meantime, the Lower Shore Land Trust will be hosting several G. I. workshops across the region, and the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance is continuing its efforts to expand the G.I. initiative to the other watershed counties as well.
Nanticoke Watershed Preservation Group
This long-standing organization has recently revitalized, with our own Harvey Altergott as President. Harvey has let me know that memberships will be complimentary this year for Friends’ members, so look for this opportunity in spring when we conduct our membership drive. We look forward to many exciting meetings and activities with this organization!
We are still working to increase participation in our Steering Committee. Mike Pretl, new President of the Wicomico Environmental Trust, and now a river resident, has joined us. We still need you! Please consider attending our meetings, where you can learn more about what we are doing and share your perspectives and ideas. The Steering Committee meets monthly; please come and add your voice and your help.