Bohemia River gets B grade in assessment
— The Bohemia River was given a fair rating on its first water quality report card performed by a local nonprofit watershed advocacy group.
The Friends of the Bohemia’s water quality sampling program gave the river an overall B, said Rebecca Wright, director of the FOB’s science program. The grades are calculated on a scale from an A to F and the guidelines are set by the Mid-Atlantic Tributary Assessment.
Chuck Foster, president of FOB, said the testing took place at six tidal sites between April and October of last year and two nontidal tributary sites, which were conducted year-round, to retrieve cross-sectional data.
Wright said the grade signifies that the river is doing well, but has a few things that can be worked on to become healthier. She said the main problems discovered include water clarity and submerged aquatic vegetation, commonly known as SAVs, which both received Ds. She noted that the color of the water is more brown than clear which can be caused by stormwater runoff, sediment being stirred up by boats or algae living in the water. The clarity also affects the aquatic plant life in the river because clearer water allows more light to the river’s bottom, allowing the plants to thrive.
She said these plants create habitats for fish and crabs, and produce oxygen that the ecosystem needs to survive. In 2015, the river had about 132 hectares, or 326 acres, of the aquatic vegetation, a 25.6 percent increase from 2014 results.
Foster said the group is waiting on funding from the county to help the group print and distribute the report cards to southern county residents located between the C&D Canal to Cecilton.
Distributing the cards will increase public awareness of the health of the river and include 10 tips to help the reduce pollution into the river, he said. Tips include not littering and reducing the amount of fertilizer on lawns because extra fertilizer will runoff surfaces after a rainstorm.
“Everything in your backyard eventually impacts a body of water somewhere,” Foster said.
He said FOB is working with the Elk and Northeast Rivers Association to help them create a water sampling program.
“We need, as a community, to do everything we can to protect the beautiful environment we live in,” he said.
The FOB was not the only group to perform a water quality assessment, in May the Sassafras River Association revealed that the Sassafras River received an overall C+.
Last year’s report card included a nontidal sites average of a D while this year’s grade rose to a C because 14 out the 16 tidal sites have improved, reported Emmett Duke, riverkeeper with the association. Both the upper and lower portions of the Sassafras River retained their grades of a C and a B respectively year-to-year. Both portions of the river received failing grades for SAVs because there are not many plants, although vegetation has improved over the years, he said.
Meanwhile, representatives from Dewberry Consultants gave a presentation last week on the watershed assessment they were contracted by the county to complete. The assessment looked at portions of the Back Creek, Bohemia River and Lower Elk Creek to find locations for possible stormwater management projects. Marshall McSorley and Van Funk, both with the county’s Department of Public Works, were at the meeting to answer questions, as well.
McSorley said 25 possible project sites, including Bohemia Manor middle and high schools and Cecilton Park, were identified in the assessment. He said the project began in August and the final report is due June 28.
The consulting firm submitted a grant request on behalf of the county to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and was awarded $48,195.52 along with the county’s contribution of $77,011.
“The county’s assessment helps us identity specific sites where a project might be done,” Foster said.
He said he hopes his group is able to tackle a few of the suggested projects made in the report. Wright agreed and said the assessment will aid in finding specific areas and implement stormwater management practices in the future.
Members of the nonprofit Friends of the Bohemia watershed advocacy group paddle through Scotchman’s Creek in the Bohemia River watershed.