SRA Board Meeting Minutes

SRA Board of Directors Meeting

August 20, 2010

Meeting called to order by SRA president Bob Whitcomb at 7:17 p.m.
Intro: The theme tonight is “Volunteer to Help Your River”

Phragmites: Melissa McCormick from Smithsonian Environmental Education Center (SERC): Phragmites is very tall and spreads rapidly, especially the non-native species. First collection in US from the Chesapeake Bay in 1698 (this one was native). Most populations now are non-native genotypes introduced to N. America in the 19th century. Expansion has been dramatic in the last 20-30 years.
Native is smooth, reddish, has stem spot fungus, low density and has flexible stalks; in contrast, the introduced is taller and ridged, not reddish, higher density and no stem spot fungus.
No native phragmites yet found on the Severn.
Non-native phragmites is a problem because it crowds out native plants and animals; alters wetland hydrology; blocks shoreline views; reduces access for swimming, fishing & hunting; can create fire hazards from dry plant material.  Tends to thrive in higher nutrient waters.
Non-native plants accumulates peat rapidly, but there isn’t the same habitat for small fish and crabs in this thick mat of peat and vegetation.  And it doesn’t resist erosion well.
Why are they spreading now? Some suspect high nutrients. Some suspect disturbance areas – shoreline development. Studies show that shoreline development is highly correlated with the increase.
Two ways to spread: rhizomes that break off and are genetically uniform.  The other way is through seeds which are genetically diverse. Studied 9 sub-estuaries and found patches with genetic variability.
Tested to see which patches were producing viable seed. Seems that as soon as a second genotype arrived, they start producing viable seed. And the more developed the watershed, the more viable seed was being produced. And in high nutrient areas, there was more seed produced (larger seedheads).
What about disturbance? Germination rate increases with disturbance.
If there’s more Nitrogen or Phosphorous, they grew faster. So if fighting for light, the fastest grower wins: introduced phragmites.
But nutrients in the water are not increasing dramatically over the past few decades…(some discussion if that is true for the Severn).
There is evidence we have been multiplying of all the factors that increase phragmites, therefore the populations are starting to explode.
Seeds are dispersed via wind and water.
What does this mean for management? Perhaps permitting of disturbances (like building in estuarine areas) should consider control of these plants. And we need to manage on a regional, subestuary basis. Follow up treatment is essential to control diverse re-growth from the seedbank. Plus keeping after the small patches (repeated eradications) will make the largest difference per unit effort. And it may be better to manage high quality watersheds (keep it out in the first place).
How to control: Burning and mowing doesn’t work. Every node on the stem can resprout.
Better: spraying glyphosate (Rodeo). Plus you have to repeat three years in a row, at least.
There are some reports that glyphosate is not effective in some cases.  
You need to apply glyphosate immediately after you cut it. (Cut and paint.)
Patuxent has a lot of patches of native phragmites, such as at Jug Bay; also King’s Marsh on Eastern shore (Nature Conservancy lands).
Spraying late in the year is optimum, since it is still green later in the year than most other plants and easier to distinguish.
They are doing a “Multiple Stressors” project 2009-2014 to study multiple stressors on the health of watersheds, including phragmites and hardening of shorelines.

Mike Robinson: phragmites is from the Greek for “fencing in.” Will be getting a removal party together on September 19.
Cited info from DNR; suggests bind, cut and paint with herbicide. Wisconsin DNR had advice. They were not concerned with the cut pieces, since they don’t have a tidal situation. But we must gather the cut pieces and dispose of them here. They also use Rodeo, Habitat and Clear Cast.
Mike has permit application. Discussion of the bureaucracy for permitting spraying of herbicides on phragmites. You can get the application online from MDE.
Plum Creek example: There’s a small patch of phragmites in a patch of cattail. There was also some wild rice growing. There’s access by land to it.

Bob Whitcomb: Oysters: Summary of the project, with details on the back of the agenda. 19 rivers are participating this year (last year there were 11). We hope to increase the amount of spat this year. Anyone interested can contact us, and we will discuss setting up distribution on Saturdays in September (keep in touch to find out exact dates).  The first distribution will be for center-River communities and will take place the weekend of August 28-29 via the Saefern Community docks.

Diane Evans: At Jonas Green Park: Board member of Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails. Project at Jonas Green, involves midshipmen, weeding, replanting native species.  Mel Wilkins has made a long-range plan of what we can do to enhance the park and attract wildlife. On Sept 11 from 8:30 to noon: students will clean up at the WWII Memorial and then move down hill (in conjunction with Ocean Conservancy).
Starting at 9 am, Diane and Mel will work on installing 3 rain gardens in Jonas Green Park. County will dig some. Runoff and sediment will be controlled, and color added through the plants. Planting will be mid- to end of October. Preregistration at the Volunteer Center at Anne Arundel County: wear sturdy boots and gloves. Water and snack bars will be provided.
There’s a visitor center which will eventually be staffed.  The bathrooms are opened daily by County staff.   It’s a Gem right on the shore of the Severn!
Jake (Walter) Jacobs pointed out it’s the only County-managed access point, as far as he knows.  It’s free and direct access to the river.
SRA would like to be more involved there.

Bob Whitcomb concluded:Congratulations to Severn Riverkeeper and South River Federation received grant money for projects on Church and Saltworks Creeks to control through step pools the stormwater in the Parole area. Encourage folks to go to the Celebrate the Severn fundraiser for the Severn Riverkeeper.
Question from Jake Jacobs about the slag/oyster reefs in the river.  Bob reported that the reef we put our spat on is made of stone, not slag. We are still exploring this issue at the other locations.
Mike Robinson brought up the recent fish kill along the Severn.  It should be a motivator to take care of the river to help prevent this.
We then had breakout sessions to discuss these various volunteer opportunities.
Meeting adjourned 8:50 p.m.

(Revised July 2010)