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Stormwater runoff is the largest source of pollution to the Severn River. As the watershed of the river has been developed, the number of parking lots, roads, roofs, and other impervious surfaces has increased. These impervious surfaces do not absorb rainfall, instead the rainwater runs off of these surfaces with increasing speed and force, causing erosion and flushing pollutants like nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and toxics into the river. Much of our stormwater is funneled into the river through outdated gray infrastructure and degraded stream valleys. SRA works to restore the Severn River, which means addressing this pollution by replacing gray infrastructure with stormwater best management practices, and repairing erosive stream channels. From small-scale practices like rain gardens and bioswales, to large stream restoration projects, SRA is laser-focused on making sure stormwater be slowed down, spread out, and soaked into the soil, where it is filtered and cleaned before returning to the river. Native plantings in project areas also take up nitrogen and phosphorus, keeping it from reaching the river and fueling algae blooms, which cause dead zones.
Living shorelines integrate offshore stone structures with marsh plantings to stabilize shorelines and provide habitat for aquatic life. These projects include a suite of techniques which can be used to minimize coastal erosion and maintain coastal processes. Site-specific techniques may include the use of fiber coir logs, sills, groins, breakwaters or other natural components such as sand and marsh plantings.
Many times living shoreline techniques result in accumulation of sand at the project site, creating features like that in the picture below, called “tombolos”. These features in turn can diminish wave energy moving along the shoreline, prevent erosion, improve water quality, and allow animals like horseshoe crabs and Maryland terrapins to come on shore to spawn. Living Shoreline projects help restore the Severn River.
SRA’s in-the-water restoration focuses on oysters and takes a four-pronged approach to Oyster Restoration. First, we seek to increase the number of oyster growers in the Severn River Marylanders Grow Oysters program. Second, we work with a third party organization to deliver large-scale oyster plantings. Third, we monitor the health of the reefs to ensure our efforts deliver results. Finally, we look toward the future by pursuing new restoration reef sites to grow the oyster population.
Another way SRA works to restore the Severn River is through the Severn River MGO program, which uses volunteers to grow oysters on their pier. In the fall each volunteer will receive oyster spat-on-shell and cages to grow in a protected way for the critical first year of life. In the summer, volunteers will deliver their year-olds to a chosen reef to plant their oysters. If you would like more information or to participate, please fill out this form:
September – Hang your oyster cages off a private or community pier deep enough to so that the spat are under water even during the super low tides following winter storms.
September-May – Visit your oysters every other week to tend the cages, controlling their depth by season, and shaking them and/or hosing them down to ensure the free flow of water to bring food to your spat.
June – Deliver your year-old oysters to the designated reef for planting.
Summer – clean your cages and prepare for the arrival of new spat-on-shell in September. Check out this video for a simple cleaning technique, click here.
Historically, the Severn had dozens of healthy oyster reefs from the mouth of the Severn all the way into Round Bay and nearly on the doorstep of Severna Park. This was documented in the 1911 Yates Oyster Survey. The pale green areas on the chart below were once active oyster reefs.
The state started closing our oyster reefs in 1912 due to sewage problems in the Severna Park area. Over the next century, degraded water quality and disease decimated the Severn’s oyster population to the point there were barely any left. As part of the solution, SRA has enlisted more than 300 oyster growers to foster oysters through their first fragile year of life and then plant the juvenile oysters in their permanent homes in the River.