Severn River Association sees hopes in seeds
Published July 03, 2006, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

The Severn River is still listed as impaired waterway.

Along several locations in the river are heightened bacteria levels, members of the Severn River Association are giving the water increasingly negative ratings and fisheries along the river are closing, said SRA President Bob Vom Saal.

While these problems are not going anywhere, there may be some hope in work done with underwater vegetation, guest speaker M. Stephen Ailstock said at the SRA's 95th Annual Meeting.

Dr. Ailstock said with knowledge about aquatic seeds, aquatic plants can be grown in waterways much like farmers grow produce in fields.

"Its farming 101," he said.

Aquatic seeds produce bottom growing aquatic vegetation, flowering perennials, which are the basis for the bay's ecology by providing shelter for animals, preventing erosion, providing food and antibiotic compounds and by filtering water, Dr. Ailstock said.

Dr. Ailstock has worked with underwater vegetation for 20 years but for the last four hears he said he has focused his efforts on researching the plant's seeds at Anne Arundel Community College where he is the chairman of the biology department.

He has developed methods to harvest the flowering part of the plant and then mass harvest their seeds and is in the process of determining the best aquatic conditions for growing the seeds in imperiled waterways.

So far he has determined he has to seed in areas shallow enough for plants to get enough sunlight through the water but not so shallow that they are disrupted by watercraft.

"There's a narrow range in which they can work," he said.

His goal, Dr. Ailstock said, is to develop methodologies that allow for regrowth of underwater vegetation to historic levels.

Dr. Ailstock said he still needs to research how plants grow in different types of sediments before harvesting and planting the seeds could be a wide-scale practical use.

At the meeting, SRA also awarded two Blue Heron Awards for lifetime achievement and two Green Heron Awards commemorating work done on a single specific project but recipients usually have accomplished much more, Mr. Vom Saal said.

"If you get a Green Heron Award it's probably for only 10 percent of what you actually did," he said.

Scott Hymes, who is running for State Senate in District 33 received a Blue Heron Award for establishing the Crownsville Conservancy, an organization that preserves undeveloped land in the Herald Harbor area.

Walter Jacobs also received a Blue Heron for his work as a media liaison for the SRA and has worked on Chesapeake Bay drudging issues.

"I don't think we could put in a third or even 10 percent of what he has done," Mr. Vom Saal said.

Bob Whitcomb received a Green Heron for forming a network of businesses, government agencies and volunteers and removed 13 tons of debris from the Severn.

Lina Vlavianos received a Green Heron for working with Severn River Watershed Management, a county funded tool that helps determine the impacts developments have on the Severn River.

The process for determining recipients of the awards varies from year to year, Mr. Vom Saal said.

(revised July 2006)