Data mon­i­tor­ing aids sta­bil­ity in Ch­ester’s health

Record Observer - - NEWS - By LEANN SCHENKE lschenke@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CH­ESTER­TOWN — Im­proved farm­ing prac­tices, con­ser­va­tion ef­forts and con­tin­ued ed­u­ca­tion have all con­trib­uted to keep­ing the Ch­ester River’s health sta­ble over the past year.

The Ch­ester River As­so­ci­a­tion held its se­cond an­nual State of the Ch­ester meet­ing April 19 in the Hyn­son Lounge at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege.

The river’s health has been on a steady rise since it was first tested in 2007 with this year’s grade on the higher end of a C+.

“The re­sults of this re­port are not sub­jec­tive and they are not spec­u­la­tive. They are based on sci­en­tif­i­cally de­rived fact and that’s re­ally im­por­tant. Facts mat­ter and sci­en­tif­i­cally de­rived facts are what will be the foun­da­tion for find­ing the best so­lu­tion for clean­ing up the Ch­ester,” CRA Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Anna Wol­gast said.

Through­out the year, the CRA, with help from its Ch­ester Testers, mon­i­tored more than 60 sites in the Ch­ester River wa­ter­shed. Ch­ester Testers are vol­un­teers who test for pH, wa­ter temperature, ni­tro­gen lev­els and more twice a month, year round. The data is used by the CRA to find out how to best im­prove the health of the river.

“From this data, we have a few con­clu­sions. Pol­lu­tion is dam­ag­ing. Most pol­lu­tion comes from within our wa­ter­shed and restora­tion works,” Wa­ter­shed Man­ager Tim Trum­bauer said.

Restora­tion has led to some im­prove­ments in the wa­ter­shed. Fol­low­ing restora­tion ef­forts around Ri­leys Mill Creek, its score was raised from a C+ to a B-.

River­keeper Is­abel Hardesty said the CRA has three on­go­ing restora­tion projects in Wor­ton Park, at Gun­ston School and the Nat­u­ral Lands Project, which will cre­ate 170 acres of grass buf­fers.

Hav­ing the pub­lic keep­ing tabs on the river helps pro­tect it and helps the CRA, Hardesty said. She said that, in the last year, a cit­i­zen re­port of an il­le­gally in­stalled hard­ened shore­line has lead to an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the CRA. A per­mit must be ac­quired be­fore adding a hard­ened shore­line as it in­creases runoff and re­moves nat­u­ral buf­fers.

“If peo­ple don’t tell us, and re­port the is­sues to us and we don’t the act ... a lot of the time th­ese things will be over­looked and noth­ing would hap­pen,” Hardesty said.

Re­duc­ing turf grass area, re­duc­ing or elim­i­nat­ing the use of fer­til­izer, plant­ing na­tive plants, in­creas­ing water­front buf­fers and sup­port­ing the CRA were all listed as ways for the pub­lic to im­prove the health of the river.

Agri­cul­tural Spe­cial­ist Paul Spies spoke on ef­forts by the CRA and farm­ers to re­duce pol­lu­tion.

“We are 65 per­cent agri­cul­ture, so ... if we are a wa­ter­shed that is go­ing to live our mis­sion of hav­ing a cleaner Ch­ester River, we have to con­nect with our largest land use,” Spies said.

In an ef­fort to re­duce ni­tro­gen lev­els in the Ch­ester, the CRA has in­tro­duced a project called GreenSeeker.

“In­stead of ap­ply­ing uni­form ni­tro­gen, the GreenSeeker pre­dicts what each crop will need and dis­trib­utes as nec­es­sary,” Spies said.

Spies said the ben­e­fits of us­ing GreenSeeker are twofold as farm­ers also will not have to spend as much money on ni­tro­gen.

“A prop­erly man­aged farm pro­tects our ru­ral landscapes and it is a good thing for the river,” Spies said. “And we truly be­lieve most of our farms want to do the right thing. With a lit­tle ed­u­ca­tion and a part­ner­ship form­ing, they ed­u­cate us and we ed­u­cate them. We work as a team.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, the CRA is in­tro­duc­ing a new Com­pre­hen­sive Ap­proach to Nu­tri­ent Man­age­ment pro­gram, which will com­bine the use of cover crops, de­layed ni­tro­gen ap­pli­ca­tion and the GreenSeeker pro­gram.

“We want to take all th­ese prac­tices that we are talk­ing about and pulling them into one pro­gram. No look­ing at just cover crops by them­selves and just ni­tro­gen ap­pli­ca­tion by it­self and just GreenSeeker by it­self, but putting it to­gether in a pack­age for farm­ers,” Spies said.

The pro­gram will be­gin this year and will in­clude 500 acres in the Ch­ester River’s wa­ter­shed and will part­ner five farm­ers with a doc­toral stu­dent from the Univer­sity of Mary­land to mon­i­tor the re­sults.

As far as swim­ming in the river, Trum­bauer said it is safe to do so as long as it has been at least 24 hours since a rain event, swim­mers do not have open wounds and shower af­ter­wards.

“All th­ese num­bers are im­por­tant be­cause ... all of th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties and th­ese ef­forts float though our ad­vo­cacy and our en­force­ment, and out­reach will hope­fully lead to a cleaner more vi­brant Ch­ester,” Hardesty said.

PHOTO BY LEANN SCHENKE

Wa­ter­shed Man­ager Tim Trum­bauer presents in­for­ma­tion on the health of the Ch­ester River at the se­cond an­nual State of the Ch­ester April 19 in the Hyn­son Lounge at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege.

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