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Feds offer $900K to restore streams

Target creeks on South, Severn rivers

By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer
The Capital, Published 08/06/10

The federal government is sending $900,000 to restore streams on the Severn and South rivers.

The government Thursday awarded a grant jointly to the South River Federation and the Severn Riverkeeper. The money will be split between the groups to install "regenerative stormwater conveyance" systems on Church Creek on the South River and Saltworks Creek on the Severn.

Regenerative stormwater conveyance is the technical term for a type of restoration project that slows down stormwater, allowing it to percolate into the ground, removing pollutants that harm rivers and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.

Urban and suburban stormwater runoff sends harmful nutrients, sediments and other pollutants rushing into streams that feed the bay. It's the only source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay that's actually increasing rather than decreasing, according to state and federal environment officials.

"It's absolutely exciting," said Erik Michelsen, executive director of the South River Federation. "It's the biggest grant award that we've received. We're very excited. It's going to allow us to implement an important part of our strategic efforts."

Michelsen said the federation has been focusing on Church Creek, which drains much of Parole, including the Annapolis Towne Centre and the Annapolis Harbour Center.

The restoration site is just north of Aris T. Allen Boulevard, on an undeveloped residential parcel that will be forever preserved from development through a conservation easement, Michelsen said.

The Severn River project will be at the headwaters of Saltworks Creek, north of Bestgate Road and not far from where a drainage pipe sends stormwater from the Westfield Annapolis mall area in Parole into the water.

Fred Kelly, the Severn Riverkeeper, said Saltworks Creek has suffered from development in several parts of its watershed. The project should help improve water quality, he said.

"It should decrease the amount of nutrients, which should, of course, improve dissolved oxygen levels. This is an area that was once a spawning area for yellow perch, so we're hoping that by decreasing the nutrient levels and sediment levels, we could once again have successful spawning," Kelly said.

The technique that's going to be used on Church and Saltworks creeks has been used frequently in county waters over the last decade.

It's been used in stream restoration projects such as a stream in the Wilelinor Estates community that flows into the South River's Church Creek, Howard's Branch on the Severn River, Clements Creek on the Severn and a stream across Riva Road from the county Board of Education headquarters that feeds into the South River.

It's also starting to catch on with developers working on building projects. The Preserve at Severn Run residential community, a Baldwin Homes project in Gambrills near the ecologically sensitive Jabez Branch, also uses the techniques instead of a traditional, large stormwater retention pond.

The $900,000 grant was one of 11 announced by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which picked the recipients of $5.8 million worth of federal money.

"These 11 projects will have direct benefits to streams, creeks, rivers and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay, showing that the key to restoration is on-the-ground, in-the-water action," Shawn M. Garvin, regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement.

"I applaud the project leaders for their commitment to help restore the bay using innovative approaches that can be modeled throughout the watershed."

(Revised August 2010)