Stormwater Management in Oyster Harbor

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My name is Ben Fertig, I’m the Restoration Manager at Severn River Association (SRA). My job is to help communities improve their local environment and restore the Severn River. Good communication is really important to me. So I’ve put together this page to let you know about what’s happening with the stormwater management project in Oyster Harbor. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please let me know! My email is 

Click on any picture to make it bigger or to download.

I really want your input and feedback on the project (see Project Summary below). Right now, while the project is still in its early stages, is the best opportunity to make sure to get it right. Please let me know what you think.  As we get closer to a finished design, there will be less wiggle room to make changes. Once the design is 100% complete, it will be locked in and we won’t be able to make changes.

SRA is a 501c3 non-profit organization with experience and success at pursuing funding and project management for pollution reduction and environmental restoration. Our vision is a thriving Severn River by 2050, and our mission is to connect the people who live, work, and play on the Severn River to restore and protect it for all of our communities. 

Project Origin

The assessment conducted by Biohabitats Inc. in 2011 documented that Oyster Harbor uses systems of roadside drainage swales and driveway culverts for stormwater management. These systems, along with few inlets and short storm drains along Washington Drive, serve to drain individual streets. However, the system is underperforming and leading to ponding and flooding on roads. 

SRA plans on working with the Oyster Harbor Citizens Association (OHCA) to improve the existing swales and repair driveway culverts thereby alleviating drainage problems and water quality impacts downstream. This project will involve stormwater management systems along Fishing Creek Rd, Ellis Rd, and Shore Dr. 

There is also an opportunity to create a living shoreline near the community dock to prevent erosion and protect the vital marsh habitat. Another living shoreline area can be created in the corner of the community beach area, along the property line. More information about living shorelines is below. 

What’s the Big Deal About Stormwater, Anyway?

Great question! 

As you’re probably already well aware, storms can cause flooding and erosion. Does something like this look familiar?

Photo Credit: Biohabitats Inc. Memorandum 2011 

Rainfall, in combination with highly compacted soils, causes excessive ponding in the neighborhood because water is unable to infiltrate down into the ground as it would naturally. This ponding is problematic to the community because it can flood homes, erode soils, and generally be a nuisance. It’s problematic to the environment because when that ponded water does move and wind up in storm drains, it carries with it fertilizer nutrients, pet waste, and soil, and the storm drains direct these right into Fishing Creek and Oyster Creek without any pollution treatment at all. Nutrients sound good, right? We need nutrition after all. 

Yes – but to a point. 

When there are too many nutrients (either nitrogen or phosphorus), it spurs algae populations to grow out of control. Nitrogen and phosphorus are basically what’s in plant fertilizer, as many gardeners know. The algae population grows so much that it uses up all the nutrients, but then the algae ‘starve’ to death and sink to the bottom of the water. The algae then decompose and the bacteria decomposing the algae use up oxygen, creating dead zones where oxygen levels are too low for most organisms (e.g. rockfish, oysters, and crabs) to survive. Overgrowth of algae and dead zones decrease biodiversity which in turn impacts humans and other organisms that feed and rely on these aquatic organisms. 

SRA water quality monitoring in the Severn River records low oxygen levels frequently during summer that indicates the presence of dead zones throughout the river. This is a problem that starts in your own backyard. 

This project will decrease the stormwater runoff that contributes to these dead zones. Additionally, the projects will help curtail the flooding, erosion, and sedimentation in the community. 

Living Shorelines

Living shorelines create open spaces along a river’s shoreline, mimicking Mother Nature’s natural defenses against erosion. Living shorelines can solve typical erosion problems found on the Severn River. Their design not only protects the shoreline and cliffs from storm and powerboat wave energy, but also rebuilds the natural sandy shoreline that is greatly affected due to storms, rising sea level, and wave energy.


Project Environmental Benefits

  • Less flooding and erosion
  • Decreased nutrient & sediment pollution to Fishing Creek, Oyster Creek, and the Bay
  • Improved levels of oxygen and water quality in the Severn – smaller and fewer ‘dead zones’ (maybe we even get rid of them altogether!)
  • Native plants will attract pollinators (birds, butterflies, bats and bees)
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Stronger, more resilient environment
  • Provide wildlife habitat
  • Living shorelines can dampen the energy of wave action from storms and powerboat wakes, deflecting it away from the shore. 
  • They collect sandy material as it drifts along the shoreline and deposit it within the area to be protected.
  • Living shorelines are a natural defense against erosion and a cost effective way to protect it. 

Project Summary

The primary goal of the project is to reduce flooding and ponding in the neighborhood. The secondary goal is to reduce associated erosion that brings nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution into Fishing Creek, Oyster Creek, and the Severn River, which has been declared “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act for these three pollutants. The third goal is to reduce erosion and protect existing marsh on community property. The OHCA is interested in creating a living shoreline near the community dock. There is potential to also create a small marsh terrace on a corner of the community beach property.

As recommended in the 2011 Biohabitats Inc. assessment, SRA will work with contractors to design and implement the stormwater management projects that address the problems along Fishing Creek Rd, Ellis Rd, and Shore Dr. These stormwater management projects can include Step Pool Stormwater Conveyance, bioretention ponds, and/or wetland features. These stormwater management projects slow down, spread out, and soak in the stormwater which helps reduce erosion of community property, clean and filter runoff, and save the Severn. SRA and contractors will also provide time for community feedback and input to make sure your concerns and interests are heard. 

SRA is seeking funding for this project through the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) Watershed Assistance Grant Program (WAGP). SRA will submit two proposals to CBT. One proposal, contracting with Biohabitats, will focus on reducing the flooding/ponding that occurs when it rains. The other proposal, contracting with BayLand Consultants and Designers (BayLand), will focus on the living shorelines at the community dock and the community beach. 

Chesapeake Bay Trust will consider these two proposals separately, and could decide to fund one, both, or neither. If awarding funding, they could award it in full or in part. 

If either or both of the proposals is/are unsuccessful, SRA will look for other sources of funding to design, permit, and build these projects, like Maryland Department of Natural Resources Grants Gateway and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Small Watershed Grants program. 

SRA’s work for the Severn, including on environmental restoration projects like this one, is only possible because of private donations from our over 500 members. Grants like this one only cover a small fraction of our costs. Every member makes an annual donation and those who give $1000 or more annually become one of our critically important major donors.

Project Design

SRA wants to make sure that the project is something that the community will enjoy (in addition to all the great environmental benefits). Keep in mind that, as with so many things in life, there are trade-offs to consider. We want to understand what you value so the project will reflect those values. So, right now we want your feedback, especially while the project is still in its early stages. Now is the best opportunity to make sure to get it right. Please let me know what you think. You can email me any time, 

Biohabitats’ Early Concept Design of Site 1 on Fishing Creek Road. Green lines show the locations of  proposed enhanced swales. The figure in the bottom right corner shows a cross section of the proposed swales. The figure in the top right corner shows the drainage area of the site in blue.

Biohabitats’ Early Concept Design of Site 2 on Ellis Road. Green lines show the locations of  proposed enhanced swales. Light green shading on the curve of Ellis Road and Shore Drive are locations of proposed bioretention areas. The figure in the bottom right corner shows a cross section of the proposed swales. The figure in the bottom middle is a cross section of the proposed bioretention. The figure in the top right corner shows the drainage area of the site in blue.

Biohabitats’ Early Concept Design of Site 3 on Shore Drive. Green lines show the locations of proposed enhanced swales. The figure in the bottom right corner shows a cross section of the proposed swales. The figure in the top right corner shows the drainage area of the site in blue.

Bayland’s Early Design of the Living Shoreline at Site 1 at the end of Cedar Ave within Fishing Creek Cove. Design shows two habitat sills and one stone sill that will help retain sediment and restore the marsh shaded in green.

Bayland’s Early Design of a living shoreline at site 2 on Shore Dr. Shaded green shows a marsh terrace area with native marsh species. Woody debris features will be added at the shoreline extents to further retain the sand placed for the living shoreline as well as provide additional habitat for birds and other marine species.

Example of a habitat sill that will be used in the living shoreline design for site 1.


  • March 2011 – Biohabitats Inc. assessed and created a memorandum about drainage improvements in Oyster Harbor. 
  • December 2023 – SRA will submit 2 proposals to CBT for design and implementation of stormwater management systems 
  • March 2024 – hear if proposal is funded. If funded, design work begins. If not, identify alternative funding source
  • November 2024 – design work completed, permit applications, begin writing proposal for construction funding
  • March 2025 – proposal submission for construction funding
  • July 2025 – hear if construction is funded, if so, construction begins
  • September 2025 – construction completed, SRA responsible for maintenance for 5 years
  • September 2030 – maintenance responsibility transfers to Oyster Harbor

Ways You Can Help!

Community support is critical to a successful grant proposal. Specifically, there are several ways you can choose to support this project. Any and all are appreciated! 

  1. You can allow SRA and/or its contractors to access a site via your property 
  2. You can pledge to help volunteer with planting and/or maintaining native plants as part of the project’s installation.
  3. You can install a rain barrel or rain garden to capture and slow down stormwater coming off your roof.
  4. Other …. There are lots of ways to be involved. If you have an idea or want to discuss, please reach out!

If you are interested in participating in any of the ways above, please reach out to SRA’s Restoration Manager, Ben Fertig: 

Community Comments, Questions & Concerns

​​Let SRA know your thoughts about the project. We will update this section with how these will be addressed.


Check out the google photo album for photos of the sites. Photos will be added to track the progress. 


None at this time.


Oyster Harbor memorandum 101011 biohabitats

Oyster Harbor plans for county submittal 012014