SRA Board Meeting Minutes

October 21, 2008 Meeting

“State of the Severn 2008”

Kurt Riegel called the meeting to order at about 7:03 PM.  He welcomed everyone to this full State of the Severn meeting to cover physical, biological parameters, and then to broaden the presentation to cover the Severn watershed.

Attendees: Board members and about 60 additional members of the public, press, and public officials.

Presentations are available on the SRA web site
Please consult these for the full text.  Abbreviated notes follow:

Overview: Dr. Kurt Riegel,
President, Severn River Association
Watershed Area: 81 square miles (85% land)
110,000 people
Rainfall = 40 inches
Critical area
Deforestation, non-native plants, population growth, use of water up, trash up, declining water quality & aquatic life (abundance & variety); degraded shorelines; increased traffic on the river; isolation of neighborhoods: walking & biking tough; public access to water rare;
Public awareness is increasing – some public commitment to do something about the above (somewhat weak)
For Example: Fox Creek
Watershed needs:
Bay health depends on tributaries
Health depends on the land/Critical area
-water / critical area
Forest/tree cover
Development/ sewage & other infrastructure
Education: support for laws & regulations
Progress: developing public awareness; Bay trust fund; Bay Friendly Neighborhood program
Tensions: goals to protect vs. property rights
Good stormwater law failed – we’ll be back to try again
Weak stormwater tax credit (10% over 5 years)
Annual rainfall = 1 billion rain barrels
Rain barrels compensate for tree removal
BUT what’s one mature oak tree worth?
-wettable area ( 1 or 2 rain barrels worth)
-builds soil
Uptakes 1 – 2 rainbarrels per day
1 tree = about 10 rain barrels (at least)

Gerald Winegrad
University of Maryland
 spoke on:
“Some of the solutions”
Restoring the Scenic Severn River
Grew up fishing in the area
Benthic populations degraded
High levels of
Impaired waters
Bernie Voith’s Haswam on Plum Creek of the Severn, age 78 – IV (2005)
Sediment: agriculture is a major source! High levels of sediment
Developed land high too
What’s a solution? Jokingly: Move Out!  (He did!)
Reduce individual contributions of pollutant loads
Change development patterns
No net loss of forests and
Mandatory controls for agriculture runoff
Plan of action: impervious surface fee retrofit forest buffers, stormwater utility
State of the art stormwater management in new development and retention of forest cover; no net loss of runoff
Comprehensive state growth management similar to Barnes commission 2020 bill
100 foot riparian buffer
Plant buffers
Require new development to plant or keep 100 foot buffers
Use program Open Space & other funding for preserving forests & forested buffers
Strengthen critical area law & sediment control law in county & their enforcement; hire a full-time inspector with a vessel to enforce
Tighten agriculture farm nutrient management plans, BMPs, inspection on farms
Sewage treatment upgrades – state of the art nitrogen renewal (30% of N flowing into the Severn is from the 29% of housing and businesses on septic).

Pierre Henkart
Volunteer with the Severn Riverkeeper
Water Quality Monitoring project 2006-2008
Will discuss the dissolved oxygen (also does larval yellow perch)
5 mg/l minimum recognized level for most fish to survive in Chesapeake
Dead zone in Round Bay at only 25 feet deep – unique in the Bay watershed
Asquith Creek also has a dead zone due to lack of flushing

Sally Hornor
Professor, Anne Arundel Community College
Operation Clearwater
Started in 1974
Only citizen-based bacterial program in the area
Charge $25/ sample
Mid-May to late Aug
Results posted on SRA web site
Enterococcus faecalis (warm-blooded animals) – gastrointestinal diseases
Less than 104 per 100 ml water is considered safe for swimming and boating (EPA)
Storm events impact several of the levels
Where do they come from: failing septics, boat heads, runoff; waterfowl
Example from Oyster Harbor: geese police: border collies!  Where sea lettuce, where high nutrient levels, look for possible geese problem.
Other ways to reduce counts: limit stormwater runoff, encourage vegetated buffers, maintain septic systems, waterfowl issues.
This year we had few large storm events right before sampling.  Even the background levels weren’t too bad compared to other years.

Ron Bowen
Anne Arundel County Dept of Public Works (Director)
Impervious areas
Greatest challenge: restoration of areas where there was no stormwater management, or less than best methods
Stormwater ponds should be method of last choice!
New development is the worst enemy
Need no net increase in loads
More detailed scale of accuracy
Commercial, industrial 76% impervious = 16% of total area of watershed
Private land: most of the impervious surface
Impairments: bacterial, bio, nutrient, sediment, toxic (pcbs in fish tissue) EPA/MDE Clean Water Act listed Severn among the “impaired” waters
Source of nitrogen: septic systems 80% of the nitrogen in the Critical area (need to consult his presentation)
SEE the septic system map – septic system strategic plan under way – no plan for service in some of these areas; maybe cluster systems
Consider using some of the bay restoration fund to subsidize connecting to sanitary sewers
Degraded streams

Mike Lehman
American Forests, oldest environmental group in the country; Estd. 1875
Preserve, protect, & restore forests
CCAP (coastal change analysis program, NOAA data)  Every 5 years - 1996 started
What do we do about it?
Preserve and plant trees
Use LID techniques
Eliminate runoff
Don’t allow variances

Ted GattinoBlue Wing Environmental, has worked on various sediment control projectss
Development Director for Severn Riverkeeper program
Coastal plain outfall systems
Hardened shorelines
Softer shorelines – living shorelines
Suggests: Restore our waterways, our fisheries would be restored

The talks by these experts were well received and a short question-and-answer period followed.
Questions and Answers:
1) Q: Ted Kinkel, Olde Severna Park: landslides in the Downs – Clements/Brewers Creek
A: Ron Bowen:  private property, County doesn’t have jurisdiction
A: Over-development upland of the problem, most likely source of the erosion
2) Q: Living shoreline question: to replace bulkhead
A: Scott Hymes said DNR has a grant program to help pay for living shorelines
3) Q: Stormwater management ponds don’t work well – why? 
A: Ron Bowen: Streams being cut deeper and wider, idea was to keep runoff to pre-development levels; store huge volumes; But then they had even more energy – deeper and wider erosion of waterways.
4) Discussion: Steve Barry and others: Marsh creation, grasses thrive, critters, living on narrows: boats are killing grasses?  Reduce speed of boats?  Set aside areas while grasses regrow for a while.
Sediment loading kills SAV planted by students from Arlington Echo.
ON the Magothy, boat speeds are 6 miles all the way up.
No SAV up in the Narrows surviving: buried in sediment
5) Q: Weems Creek resident: the answers are out there. Where are the lawmakers? Why are we not doing anything about all this? 
A: Gerald Winegrad: we’re preaching to the choir here, so to speak; need more pressure and support in a democratic system; Bay tributary strategies: $5.5 billion needed: we all need to work on this.  How bad does it have to get?  Tell me what to do!
Translate it to action!
Get radical
Everyone needs to pitch in and participate in democratic system.

6) Susan Hartsfield, nurse practicioner: personal responsibility, wrote a book Complete Guide to Energy Conservation for Smarties

7) Suggestion: Al Johnston: General Development Plan – review will be open soon: show up at County Council
8) Q: Walter Jacobson: Cattails: good for the shoreline?
A: Steve Barry: if there are other things too (some diversity)

9) Zora Lathan explained: what can we do upstream?  Hold water and pollution onsite: rain gardens, rainscaping; working on a  social marketing campaign, take action where you live; see the web site – by spring there will be a more complete campaign.

10) Suzanne Etgen at Arlington Echo: Watershed stewards academy, staring early spring: become an expert in your subwatershed, coordinate where every drop of water goes; it takes every person

11) Scott Hymes: DNR, Ron is leading the pack.  Examples: Howard’s Branch restoration projects. Montgomery County: paying you to restore some things, rain barrels
Speed limits on creeks, process through DNR
Comment: Ron Bowen: Keith Underwood and SRA lobbied the county government to do this type of restoration – created a cultural shift at the County

The meeting was adjourned at about 9:20 PM.

— Thistle Cone



More Notes from the SRA’s State of the Severn Meeting of 10/21/08

Former Senator Winegrad:

  • Of the Total Nitrogen entering the Severn, 39% is from stormwater runoff, 23% from two County sewer plants, and 30% from septics
  • Of the Total Phosphorous entering the Severn, 47% is from s/w runoff, and 49% from the sewer plants
  • Of the Sediment load,  46% is from Agriculture and 46% from s/w runoff
  • Recommended strong changes to the Critical Area Legislation, Stormwater Management Law, Stormwater Utility Fee, Septic Upgrade requirements, protection of forests, and strict farm nutrient  management practices

Mr. Bowen (Director, DPW):

  • The Severn has 21% impervious surface in the 44,213 total acres in its watershed, which is the largest watershed and the highest % imperviousness of any river in AA County (except the Patuxent).
  • Of the impervious surface, 43% is private residential, and 20% is private commercial or industrial
  • Of the total nitrogen load coming from septics , 44% originates from homes in the Critical Area
  • There are 175 miles of non-tidal stormwater-fed streams that are in need of retrofit or restoration

Dr. Henkart (Riverkeeper Program):

  • Three years’ of data affirm dead zone existence in Round Bay and select tributaries
  • Dissolved oxygen at the bottom of the main stem averages less than 2mg/liter from the top of Round Bay down to the Downs
  • Dissolved oxygen at the bottom of many middle-River creeks averages below 3mg/liter (5mg/liter is accepted standard to support most marine life)

Dr. Horner (Operation Clearwater):

  • 2008 Severn River bacteria counts below previous years, perhaps due to fewer rain events or better control of animal waste near beaches

Dr. Riegel (President, SRA):

  • Population increase and development present increased pressure on Severn water quality and aquatic life
  • River health impacted by all activities on land within the 81 square mile watershed, now occupied by 110,000 people
  • Need enforcement of new Critical Area Law, and passage of Stormwater Utility Fee
  • Involvement of civic interest groups is increasing public awareness
  • Unresolved issue of private property rights vs. the health of the River and protection of the natural environment

— Bob Whitcomb

(Revised October 2008)