The voice of the MRC car­ries across the Shore

Cecil Whig - - ACCENT - By LAURA WORMUTH

Spe­cial from the Star Demo­crat

— The voice of the Mid­shore River­keeper Con­ser­vancy can be heard from An­napo­lis to the farmer’s field, echo­ing through­out Del­marva the call for clean wa­ters and im­proved Bay health.

MRC has been work­ing for the health of Ch­e­sa­peake Bay trib­u­taries for eight years, and are li­censed by the Water­keeper Al­liance — a net­work of over 180 bay, river and lake pro­grams through­out the U.S. The MRC has built a team ded­i­cated to outreach, ad­vo­cacy and ed­u­ca­tion about the im­por­tance of the Bay re­gion wa­ters.

The river­keep­ers, along with the help of vol­un­teers, mon­i­tor wa­ter qual­ity in the Miles, the Chop­tank and the Wye rivers, as well as the Eastern Bay, and all of their trib­u­taries. This data is com­piled and an­nu­ally pre­sented to the public in the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s an­nual State of the Rivers re­port card. This year’s event took place on April 29, and data anal­y­sis showed con­tin­u­ing im­prove­ment.

“We’re here to help peo­ple find solutions,” said Tim Junkin, the founder of MRC. Junkin, an at­tor­ney for over 30 years, es­tab­lished the con­ser­vancy in 2008 and served as its di­rec­tor un­til the in­stall­ment of Jef­frey Horstman, the cur­rent ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and the Miles-Wye River­keeper.

The Con­ser­vancy has found sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess with den­i­tri­fy­ing wood­chip biore­ac­tors for farm runoff fil­tra­tion. MRC was the first to bring this tech­nol­ogy to Mary­land, after staff sci­en­tists re­searched its use in the Mid­west. Sev­eral of these biore­ac­tors have been in­stalled on lo­cal farms to re­duce nitro­gen and phos­pho­rous runoff from farm fields be­fore reach­ing the Bay. They are ef­fi­cient, re­mov­ing up to 90 per­cent of pol­lu­tants and are a rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive so­lu­tion for landown­ers, said Junkin.

“The wood­chips act like a su­per in­tense for­est,” Junkin said, adding that they soak up the ex­cess nitro­gen and phos­pho­rous be­fore it reaches the water­ways.

Cur­rently, there are den­i­tri-

EAS­TON

In­stalling the biore­ac­tor at Starkey Farm.

fy­ing wood­chip biore­ac­tors in­stalled at Dean Voorhees Farm and at the Bren­nan Starkey Farm, both in Caro­line County.

With these new tech­nolo­gies, pro­grams, per­son­nel and ini­tia­tives, MRC still works to­wards the same mis­sion since its in­cep­tion — to ad­vo­cate for the health of the rivers and the liv­ing re­sources they sup­port.

MRC fo­cuses on three ma­jor ar­eas to ac­com­plish this mis­sion: ed­u­ca­tion, outreach and ad­vo­cacy.

ED­U­CA­TION With re­cent changes to high school grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ments to in­clude an en­vi­ron­men­tal lit­er­acy com­po­nent, MRC has stepped up to the plate to of­fer eco­log­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion classes.

In this pro­gram, lo­cal high school stu­dents have found the class­room in na­ture, not only learn­ing the science, but ac­tu­ally par­tic­i­pat­ing in hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties that re­store the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay area. To date, stu­dents in­volved in the pro­gram have helped to cre­ate stream buf­fers by plant­ing trees — a re­mark­able 15,000 trees in the Mid-Shore area, said Junkin.

Younger chil­dren can also learn about Bay health and pro­tect­ing the wa­ter and land from lit­ter and pollution in MRC’s Waste in Our Water­ways pro­gram, specif­i­cally fo­cused on help­ing the younger gen­er­a­tion un­der­stand the im­por­tance of good land

stew­ard­ship.

“We need to cre­ate ap­pre­ci­a­tion and care to teach good stew­ard­ship to the next gen­er­a­tion,” said Junkin.

Ad­di­tion­ally, MRC works with at-risk youth and those with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties in a new ed­u­ca­tional ini­tia­tive. Nur­ture By Na­ture works in part­ner­ship with Chan­nel Marker Inc. to bring stu­dents out into na­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished in Fron­tiers in Psy­chol­ogy, “The Great Out­doors? Ex­plor­ing the men­tal health ben­e­fits of nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments,” by David Pear­son and Tony Craig, “Prox­im­ity to greenspace has been associated with lower lev­els of stress, re­duced symp­to­mol­ogy for de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, while in­ter­act­ing with na­ture can im­prove cog­ni­tion for chil­dren with at­ten­tion deficits and in­di­vid­u­als with de­pres­sion.” (Read the full ar­ti­cle at www.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov.) In this vein, MRC has brought the class­room to na­ture, rather than sim­ply the knowl­edge to the class­room.

OUTREACH Rais­ing aware­ness with the com­mu­nity is a pri­mary con­cern for MRC. Their wa­ter qual­ity mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram in­volves 50 vol­un­teers who col­lect data at more than 100 dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions.

This mon­i­tor­ing also al­lows the team to iden­tify hot spots — ar­eas that have ab­nor­mally high lev­els of pol­lu­tants — and de­ter­mine the cause and source, as well as a so­lu­tion that’s ben­e­fi­cial for the com­mu­nity, towns, landown­ers, and the health of the Bay.

“By go­ing out and pro­vid­ing solutions, we can do it all,” Junkin said. This year’s re­port shows im­prove­ment in all of the 16 pri­mary lo­ca­tions ex­cept Crab Al­ley Bay at Kent Is­land, a tes­ta­ment to the fact that ef­forts by non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions like MRC, com­mu­ni­ties and con­cerned res­i­dents are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

The MRC also pro­vides com­mu­nity pro­grams for mak­ing smart green choices and rais­ing aware­ness about in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity. Home­own­ers can learn about re­duc­ing fer­til­izer use, and boaters can take ad­van­tage of the MRC’s new pumpout boat, which can go out to boats and of­fer sewage dis­posal, re­duc­ing bac­te­ria lev­els in high recre­ational boat­ing ar­eas from dumped waste.

They also work with landown­ers to con­duct wet­land restora­tion pro­jects. At the his­toric Kud­ner Farm in Queen Anne’s County, 1.65 acres of farm­land was re­stored to its nat­u­ral wet­land state, with an ad­di­tional 2.4acre area con­structed to in­crease the ca­pac­ity. These wet­lands will in­ter­cept the ground and sur­face wa­ter runoff from the field and will serve as sed­i­men­ta­tion basins.

The Hope House, another his­toric prop­erty, lo­cated in Tal­bot County, also un­der­went a re­cent wet­land restora­tion project. The MRC con­structed earthen berms and three vernal pools to ob­struct and treat runoff from 30 acres of ad­ja­cent farm fields. The area was seeded with na­tive veg­e­ta­tion.

AD­VO­CACY MRC’s reach ex­tends to An­napo­lis where their knowl­edge­able staff has been rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Eastern Shore con­cerns dur­ing leg­is­la­tion on Bay re­gion reg­u­la­tions. Re­cently, Matt Pluta, Chop­tank River­keeper, was key in the cre­ation of a new reg­u­la­tion for science-based as­sess­ments of oys­ter pop­u­la­tions. Pluta’s tes­ti­mony, along with ad­vo­ca­tion on be­half of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, re­sulted in the reg­u­la­tion be­ing passed over­whelm­ingly in April of this year, said Junkin.

The MRC ad­vo­cates for laws that pro­tect and im­prove water­ways, and work with the gov­ern­ment dur­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sions to pro­vide sci­en­tific data to sup­port le­gal mea­sures to im­prove the health of the Bay and its trib­u­taries, such as the lawn fer­til­izer re­form law and a ban on ar­senic in chicken feed.

VOL­UN­TEER The Mid­shore River­keeper Con­ser­vancy is al­ways look­ing for help work­ing to­wards the health of the Bay and its trib­u­taries. For more in­for­ma­tion on vol­un­teer­ing or any of the MRC’s pro­grams, go to www.mid shoreriver­keeper.org.

To learn more about the pumpout boat ser­vice, or to sched­ule a one-time or re­cur­ring ser­vice, call 410-8294352. The pumpout boat will run from May 13 to Oc­to­ber 16, 2016.

COUR­TESY OF THE MID­SHORE RIVER­KEEPER CON­SER­VANCY

PHOTO BY KATIE WIL­LIS

From left to right are Mid­shore River­keeper Con­ser­vancy Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Jeff Horstman; Donna Mor­row, di­vi­sion man­ager, Boat­ing Ser­vices Unit at the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources; and Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Mar­itime Mu­seum Pres­i­dent Kris­ten Greenaway aboard the Eastern Shore’s first pump out boat, which will give boaters on the Miles and Wye rivers a way to dis­pose of sewage.

COUR­TESY OF THE MID­SHORE RIVER­KEEPER CON­SER­VANCY

The den­i­tri­fy­ing biore­ac­tor project at Starkey Farm.

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