The Nanticoke River has received more attention and greater appreciation than ever before this year. From the publication of the first Nanticoke Creekwatchers’ Report, to the dedication of the Captain John Smith National Water Trail, to actions in both Maryland and Delaware targeting protection of the river, there is reason for hope that we are entering a new period of stewardship of our most precious resource. See below for details!
This project has been outstanding in its first year, and year 2 is well underway. The “State of the Nanticoke River Watershed” Report has been issued and can be accessed from the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance website (www.nanticokeriver.org). Results indicate a river in relatively good health that is (as we all know) much deserving of stewardship and protection. For more information, contact Megan Ward at 410-873-3045.
Delaware and Maryland sign second bi-state agreement
On June 2, 2008, the Maryland and Delaware departments of natural resources (DNR and DNREC, respectively), together with the National Park Service, signed the second bi-state agreement focused on the river (the first, in 1992, established the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance). The agreement is designated the “Nanticoke River Conservation, Stewardship and Heritage Partnership, and includes both an environmental protection focus and emphasis on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. This first-ever National Water Trail was established by Congress in December 2006. The purpose of the John Smith National Trail is to: * commemorate the exploratory voyages of Captain Smith on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in 1607-09; * share knowledge about the American Indian societies and cultures of the seventeenth century; and * interpret the natural history of the Bay (both historic and contemporary).
Vienna Town Master Plan
Also on June 2, and in keeping with these developments, there was a truly remarkable ceremony in Vienna establishing the town’s new growth plan, which designates a greenbelt around the town’s growth areas, plans for limited, realistic, and environmentally sensitive growth, and provides for restoration and protection of hundreds of acres of land that are critical to the health of the river and its wildlife. We commend Vienna for its farsightedness and its vision and look forward to more years of working with the town in protection of the Nanticoke River.
Edwin Lewis marsh hunting complex
“I think this may actually be the last time I write about this in our newsletter!” Well, I guess I spoke too soon last winter! The marsh cabin complex constructed illegally in the Critical Area by Edwin Lewis has yet to be demolished. Through some arcane legal wrangling, Wicomico County has been hit with another appeal, and this has also been rejected. We will see where this leads this time, but the MD Attorney General has filed a complaint in Circuit Court against Mr. Lewis and has also designated the County’s Critical Areas procedures as deficient.
Marshyhope Sand and gravel Operation
In a bit of good news, we were pleased to learn last summer that the proposal for a sand and gravel operation that would have created a 145- acre, 75’ deep borrow pit and a major industrial operation on the shores of Marshyhope Creek was abandoned, and this land will instead be protected by conservation easement and managed by the adjacent Henson Scout Reservation.
Harp/Horton book published
Since our last newsletter, the river has received exceptional recognition through the publication of a most astounding book, The Nanticoke – Portrait of a Chesapeake River, by David Harp and Tom Horton. These 2 have spent countless hours in and on the river, covering every stretch with sensitivity and amazing perception. And as a special touch, one of its dedications is to the Friends of the Nanticoke River! We can all take pride in what we have done to help this river stay as wonderful as it is, and I hope you will continue to join me in working to keep what we have and to make it better.
Growth and Land Preservation
We continue to work towards meaningful land use planning in the face of both staunch opposition and new alliances. Wicomico County’s Rural Areas Planning Committee recommended to the County Council last fall that it revise its zoning code to prohibit a density bonus that allowed five times the number of houses otherwise provided for in the agricultural zone. Many of our members spoke out about this issue, and in January the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-0 to approve sending legislation forward to the Council. Many of Wicomico’s Farmers are working tirelessly to protect the interests of farmers faced with increasing land prices and crowded by development pressures, and we are pleased to support them. If you live in Wicomico County and have not contacted your council members, please let them know that you expect to see real agricultural protection that will retain this most important of economic and cultural activities.
The Town of Hebron has forged ahead with its plans for massive development that would increase its population almost to the size of Cambridge. We have contacted state, county, and even Federal representatives to share our concerns about the impact of this misguided scheme on Rewastico Creek, an important tributary of the Nanticoke River. We are now working as part of the stakeholders group that will help guide development of the County’s Water Resources element of its Comprehensive Plan to highlight the effects of this and other poorly planned development on the region’s water resources.
We did not hold a membership drive this spring in order to synchronize our membership period with that of the Wicomico Environmental Trust, of which many of us are joint members. So this year-end update was combined with our membership drive mailing.