SRA Board Meeting Minutes

SRA Board of Directors Meeting September 21, 2010

Meeting called to order at 7:18 p.m. by SRA president, Bob Whitcomb

Introductions of our Guest Speaker

“State of the Severn” Theme for the Evening

Guest Speaker: Dr. Sally Hornor, SRA Elected Director, and Professor at AACC: Operation Clearwater: Monitoring Bacterial Water Quality

We can use the bacterial data collected at community beaches on the Severn to find out if the river is safely swimmable, and examine trends over time. All of the waters of the eastern shore are impaired in 5 categories. Specifically, for bacteria, after every rainfall the County Health Dept. has said the waters are unsafe for recreational uses.

Why we care about bacteria in these waters: oyster harvest, loss of recreation, public health risk.

Operation Clearwater has been in continuous operation since 1974 in conjunction with the Severn River Association. We send out applications to communities; cost is $27 per sample. Sample mid-May through late August. Results are on the SRA website, and an email goes out with the results.  Sampling is on Wednesdays in the summer (either weekly or biweekly), and results go out on Thursday.

We sample for Enterococcus faecalis since EPA has determined (with a switch from Escherichia. coli in 2001) that the presence of this species is better at predicting illness potential than E. coli (which was the old indicator species).  When counts are <105/100 ml then the water is considered safe for recreational use.

Samples are collected by students and Dr. Hornor. Membrane filters are used; bacteria are grown 24 hours. Number of colonies is counted. Looking at 2006 data, the single most important factor in sending the results over the desired limit, was a rain event within 24 hours of sampling. When looking at the values across the whole summer, she calculates the geometric mean of the results. And she calculates the geometric mean taking out the rain event samplings.

For 2010, taking out results after rain events, only one site went over the EPA limit. If the rain data are added, about a third of the means were above the limit.

The good news is that comparing the E. faecalis results over the 10-year period between 2001-2010, averaging the geometric means, without the rain events, there is an improving water quality trend.  2001 and 2002 there were high values in a few sites: There’s a storm drain near Sherwood Forest near the pier, so they did some detective work and found high bacterial counts coming from the storm drain and into the swim area; and the swim areas were netted to avoid sea nettles, holding much of the water in place, allowing little circulation.  In the winter of 2002, they sampled the stream, found a septic system to repair, lifted the nettle nets, and the water quality improved.

In Herald Harbor there were also high readings, but there were water birds being fed. So the community worked with the homeowner. And the homeowner stopped feeding the birds, and the water quality data improved.

What are the main sources of the bacteria? Septic systems, boat heads, birds, pet waste.

What if the count is high? The community rep is contacted, often signs are placed to notify residents.

What can be done to reduce bacterial counts? Reduce stormwater runoff, reduce lawns, plant native trees and shrubs, maintain septic systems, encourage pet owners to clean up, enforce boat pumpouts, discourage feeding waterfowl at beaches.

Another scenario is where there is a lot of sea lettuce near a beach. Waterfowl come eat it, with warm summer waters, bacteria really grows in the nutrient-rich water with added waterfowl droppings.  Dr. Hornor suggests getting kids to clear out the sea lettuce (off the beach) to discourage the waterfowl.

Question about how the results compare to the County Health Dept’s sampling. Dr. Hornor said they use a different and less-sensitive method. They don’t sample after a rain event.

Question: would Dr. Hornor be willing to do this talk for a community group. Dr. Hornor said she would be willing.

Question: Does the accumulating bacteria over the years cause problems for the animals in the water.  Answer: Mostly it’s a problem for the filter feeders, like oysters. That’s why there are limits for oyster harvest.

Question: John Flood noted he just put in a nitrogen-reducing septic system. Does the nitrogen from septics have an impact on the river? Answer: algae and SAV respond to higher levels of nitrogen, but the nitrogen-reducing septic systems shouldn’t cause an additional problem, beyond a regular system.  South River Federation has been exploring this too.

What agency certifies laboratories? The State Health Dept. certifies them, but she would have to switch the process she uses to the less-sensitive method to be certified. The data cannot be used in court because they are not the certified method, but many places use the method she uses. The Health Dept uses an inexpensive, automated method.

Who heads up the program at the County? Kerry Topovski and the person below her Sally Levine.

Has anyone been studying vibrio in the area waters? Yes,  (from the audience) John Jacobs at the Oxford Lab is studying the distribution of vibrio. After Katrina, in New Orleans vibrio in waters. Vibrio caused the death of someone in the West River, you can lose a limb and get bad infections.

(Dr. Pierre Henkert was unable to attend.)

Business Meeting

Committee Reports:

Audit: Lynn Rockenbauch and Don Morris-Jones have been reviewing the books, and things look good so far. A few questions have been forwarded to the treasurer.

Nominating: Kurt Riegel reported the committee consists of him, Charlotte Lubbert and Bob Whitcomb, ex officio, but he would like two more members on the committee. Volunteers can contact him.

100th Anniversary: Howard Ernst/Charlotte Lubbert. Howard reported progress on the film footage, but now it needs to be edited. The venue will be the Governor Calvert House (confirmed by Betsy Love): video would need to be shown in the reception area, due to low ceiling in the ballroom. We will have a cash bar prior to the dinner. We need to bring in our own audiovisual equipment. The $50 fee includes dinner and a glass of wine. Steve Barry said he has whatever we need for AV equipment. A group of volunteers would be helpful; call Betsy Love. Reach out to corporate folks, put articles in magazines. There are 8 at each table. Perhaps corporate sponsors would like to buy tables. 

Question: Are you inviting the other riverkeepers? Answer: Perhaps, depending on how we do on covering the cost. John Flood said Flood Brothers will sponsor a table for the riverkeepers.

Governance:  Pat Lynch spoke to the need that was expressed to streamline our governance. She has been reading the bylaws and constitution and is trying to remove duplications. Prof Ernst informed us that SRA was not founded by a group of community associations…but it has evolved into that.  There are a few changes suggested: the idea was to reduce the number of people who have to be consulted to conduct the day-to-day business of the SRA. They wanted to formalize the past president as part of the executive committee. Pat will post the draft changes on the website. Proposes we have a meeting to amend the constitution. Motion to bring the proposed changes to the constitution up for a vote in November’s meeting. As a special item on the agenda. Kurt suggested we not have the vote. He feels we should have a committee to consider. There would need to be a special meeting to change the constitution. We need to announce the proposed changes to the constitution at least a month in advance. The question was called. The motion passed with a majority of those present.

Rezoning Applications:  Bob Whitcomb said much debate on these items will be put off until a new County Council is elected.  Richard Falk: These applications are actually being considered now by the dept. of Planning and Zoning, and they are accepting comments now. There’s a new rezoning tool available. You can see the rezoning requests on your home computer. Pay Lynch said she and Richard are getting involved in learning how to address these zoning issues.

Stormwater Action Fund:  Betsy Love reported Winchester received $650 for their complex stormwater project. She encouraged everyone to look at stormwater projects in your neighborhood and get a design together to address these problems. Perhaps the Downs will be the next applicant. Looking for more community applicants.

Membership: Lisa Bender has made some phone calls. She would like to have a blurb to send via email to the communities to include with the membership application.  Bob Whitcomb suggested using these minutes to help promote the organization. Howard Ernst suggested writing it up as a press release to post in communities. She also said some community associations prefer an invoice to pay. Bob Whitcomb said nonprofits don’t usually invoice people. We need to strengthen our membership renewal materials and do it by mail. Last year we tried renewals by email, and it didn’t work as well. We hoped that many oyster growers would join this year, but that has not been the case. Annapolis Roads intends to join.

Jonas Green Park: Bob Whitcomb went to the work day there on 9/11 and was impressed with the number of people involved: 60 to70 midshipmen and the volunteer center had a large turnout too. And Mel Wilkens, despite a sprained ankle, directed establishing 3 rain gardens and other work. It’s truly a gem on the Severn, with plenty of people fishing there too. There’s an area to create a wetland.  There are several potential areas for SRA to sponsor a project. Board member Dinny White is interested in helping out there. There is a welcome center there that is rarely staffed. There’s a display board outside built by an Eagle Scout that might be a place we could post some SRA information.

Other Projects: oyster spat is being distributed, Project Clean Stream, Mike Robinson is working on a phragmites removal project.

Old Business: None

New Business: Next month the three County Executive candidates will be attending the SRA meeting.  Note that the meeting will not be on Tuesday this time, but on Monday, Oct. 18th, at 7 pm, location TBD. Howard Ernst suggested we must have a big crowd and good questions. Steve Barry suggested Baldwin Hall. Others suggested the Calvary United Methodist Church in Annapolis.

TMDL public meetings are scheduled in the next month. Upper Marlboro on the 6thof October,  one by EPA on the 4 PM at Sheraton on 13thof October.

John Flood spoke regarding a living shoreline project request. Two clients at Horn Point want to do a living shoreline to replace two ugly failing bulkheads. They would like SRA to sponsor the project, which must be submitted by Friday to the Chesapeake Bay Trust. John Flood would prepare the paperwork. Kurt Riegel moved to support the project and it was seconded, subject to approval of the executive committee once they see the paperwork, to move forward.  Gene Milgram moved that if the President approved the paperwork it would be adequate, in the interest of time.  Steve Barry moved we reconsider the motion.  It was seconded. The motion was passed to reconsider the motion. Kurt Riegel modified his motion to propose Gene’s motion, it was seconded. It was passed unanimously that if Bob can’t get full approval from the Exec Comm in time, if he feels it looks appropriate, he can sign this agreement.

Kurt Riegel reported on Priest Point: land where somebody wanted to develop the land; wanted a zoning change; that piece of property is now for sale. Kurt met with county exec and parks, and was encouraged that County may be able to purchase the land and create a park. The park’s director said community and civic support would help. Kurt asked for SRA to give that support.  Motion and seconded to give that support.  Howard Ernst pointed out that Evan Belaga and Weems Creek Conservancy is interested in this. Question if they are in support. Kurt expects they are.  Bob Whitcomb believes Weems Conservancy is not very active at the moment. Discussion of contacting the local communities to find their opinion.  It’s on market for $1.6 million; it was bought for $800,000.  Not clear if there’s a structure existing on the site.  It may be zoned to have a structure.  Vote taken -  unanimous approval to draft a letter of support for this project . 

Motion to adjourn at 9:20 PM.

(Revised June 2011)