The Sassafras River Association is engaged in a wide range of activities: advocacy, education, watershed assessment and monitoring -- all focused on one principal goal, to remove the Sassafras River from Maryland's list of polluted waterways.
The Sassafras Watershed Action Plan (SWAP) is a community based watershed plan which was developed over the course of one year (2009). SWAP was approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency in January 2010. The Plan includes 30 restoration strategies, cost estimates, responsible parties, implementation timeline and funding opportunities that will have clear and demonstrable effect on improving the water quality in the Sassafras River.
Goal: A healthy clean river that is safe for swimming, fishing, crabbing, and meets the TMDL for all impairments.
Sassafras River Report Card
Sassafras River Association produces an annual Report Card, detailing ecosystem health within the Sassafras River Watershed. The report grades the water quality of the estuary (tidal) and creeks (non-tidal) based on water monitoring data collected throughout the calendar year.
Comparison of Grades in the 2013+ Report Cards to those in the 2011 and 2012 Report Cards
The grades assigned to Tidal sites in 2013 are directly comparable to those assigned in 2011 and 2012 because the Tidal protocol* (used for the evaluation (including sampling specifications, quality indicators and grading scales) was established by the Mid-Atlantic Assessment Coalition (MTAC) in 2011 and remained unchanged in 2012 and 2013. In 2013, both the upper and lower estuary grades are lower as driven by less subaquatic vegetation (SAV) and higher phosphorus concentrations. Lower amounts of SAV are being observed Bay-wide. Scientists suspect multiple factors for the decline in SAV: warmer temperatures, worsening water quality and lingering effects from Tropical Storm Lee.
The grades assigned to Creek (Non-tidal) sites in 2013 are not directly comparable to those assigned in 2012. In general, each site has similar overall grade in the 2013 but our Creek (Non-tidal) grade for turbidity is decidedly worse in the 2013 report card while our grade for phosphorus is decidedly better. These changes do not necessarily reflect changes in the creeks but rather changes in the evaluation methods.
For the 2013 Sassafras River report card, the evaluation of turbidity and nutrients (nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P)) used the MTAC Non-tidal protocol which was finalized in May 2013.
· - For the 2013 report card, turbidity was measured with the same technique as for 2012; however, the quality thresholds were updated by using government standard values recommended by the US EPA and MD DNR. These turbidity thresholds are more stringent as the experts continue to recognize water clarity has a big impact on our water quality.
· - For the 2013 report card, the nutrient measurements and thresholds were updated. Nitrogen and phosphorus were measured as Total N and Total P while previously nitrogen was measured as N contained in ammonium ions and, separately, N contained in nitrate ions and phosphorus was measured as P contained in phosphate ions. For the 2013 report card, the measured Total N and Total P concentrations were evaluated against updated quality thresholds determined from analysis of Chesapeake Bay Non-Tidal Benthic Database dataset based on macroinvertebrate health. Setting the thresholds based on macroinvertebrate health focuses on the health of the Non-tidal tributary with the assumption that a healthy tributary supports a healthy river.
The 2011 and 2012 Report Cards evaluates six tidal indicators and six non-tidal indicators. "Sampling and data analysis protocols for Mid-Atlantic tidal tributary indicators" were used to calculate grades for the tidal portion of the River. These protocols were developed by the Mid-Altlantic Tributary Assessment Coalition (MTAC) in 2010, to establish common methods for sampling regime, data collection, and data analysis in the Chesapeake Bay region. Non-tidal grades were calculated on a pass/fail basis, using specific thresholds for for each indicator measured (shown in tabel below).
The first annual Sassafras River Report Card , published August 2010.
SRA would like to thank the Chesapeake Bay Trust for funding this report card as well as the following persons and organizations for their past and continued support in making the publication possible: Rauch Foundation, Campbell Foundtion, Town Creek Foundation, EcoCheck, and LaMotte.
For more than 5 years, SRA has sponsored a water quality monitoring program, the Sassafras Samplers. It's a great way for our dedicated volunteers to learn the science of the River while making an essential contribution to our knowledge of River conditions.
From 2005-2008 The Samplers tested 20 sites on the tidal portion of the River 3 times a year, in the spring, summer, and fall. The samplers tested for a number of parameters that indicate the overall health of the River.
In 2009-2010, the samplers conducted monthly testing in the tidal portion of the River as well as the non-tidal creeks and streams that flow into the River.
Since 2010, Sassafras Samplers test 16 non-tidal sites in the watershed, while the Riverkeeper tests 7 sites on the mainstem of the river.
Season Review Presentations & Results
- 2016 Report Card Presentation
- 2015 Report Card Presentation
- 2014 State of the River (Review of 2013 Data)
- 2011 Season Review (7mb)
- 2010 Season Review
- 2009 Season Review
- 2008 Results
Sassafras Sampler Resources
The following documents are required of each Sassafras Sampler to review and keep for their records for quality assurance while participating in the Sassafras River Association's Water Quality Monitoring Program.
The SRA Agriculture Outreach program focuses on building relationships with Sassafras River watershed farmers, identifying opportunities for and implementing conservation projects, and promoting best management practices on agricultural operations throughout the watershed. The three main goals of the program include:
- Developing relationships with the Sassafras River watershed agricultural community, including but not limited to farmers, NRCS, USDA and County SCD employees, DNR employees, Farm Bureau, University of Delaware and University of MD extension and research staff.
- Identifying priority areas as well as specific sites for agricultural BMPs, conservation planning, and restoration projects.
- Coordinating funding, technical assistance, and efforts of NRCS, SCD, DNR, Ducks Unlimited, and other sources to maximize assistance and simplify application and implementation processes for individual landowners in priority areas.
The SRA Residential Outreach program is focused on working closely with homeowners and residents of the Sassafras River watershed to develop an awareness of the common pollutants that affect the River’s health as well as behavior changes that can positively impact water quality. SRA works in conjunction with its partners, including but not limited to University of Maryland Master Gardeners, University of Delaware Soil Testing Lab, Kent and Cecil County Departments of Environmental Health, and private denitrifying septic system manufacturers, to hold information workshops and training opportunities focused on changing behaviors and offering solutions to common issues. To date, SRA has focused its efforts on soil testing for lawn and gardens, rain barrel construction and use, denitrifying septic systems, and use of native landscaping at home. We offer workshops in the community for both soil testing and to build rain barrels. Here is a video from one of our recent Rain Barrel workshops:
The SRA Residential Outreach program has also provided funding to homeowners interested in taking steps to reduce their impact on the Sassafras River, through free septic tests. Workshops and training opportunities are scheduled throughout the summer and fall. Check Watershed Events for details.
Responsible Recreation Outreach
The Sassafras RIVERKEEPER monitors and patrols the River weekly from April through October. The RIVERKEEPER promotes responsible use of the River (paddling, canoeing, bird watching, etc.) as well as disseminates information on Clean Boating practices and the Department of Natural Resources Clean Marina program. The RIVERKEEPER speaks at a host of public forums (yacht clubs, homeowner’s associations, schools, events, etc.) to educate stakeholders and promote SRA’s mission of restoring the Sassafras.
The Sassafras RIVERKEEPER has an annual goal to reach every 4th grader in the watershed, with the goal of developing the next generation of stewards through education and awareness. The RIVERKEEPER participates in Kent County’s outdoor education program as well as Boy Scout, Girl Scout and other youth based activities in both Cecil and Kent Counties. Children participate in simple water quality sampling (tidal waters) and macroinvertebrate investigation (non-tidal waters). Children learn about sources of pollution and steps they can take to improve water quality.
In the beginning SRA hosted educational forums to educate stakeholders about our watershed. You can find summaries of our forums in our Monthly Newsletters. With the implementation of SWAP, SRA now hosts workshops on restoration strategies and occasional meetings on relevant topics. For a schedule of upcoming workshops and activities please check Watershed Events.
Monthly Newsletter—Sassafras Shorelines
The Sassafras Shorelines has the latest SRA news. You can get a topical index of our past newsletters and read them here.
The following table can be sorted by date or subject by clicking on the header.
|2016-05||Impact of an unhealthy river|
|2016-04||Welcome Kim Righi|
|2016-03||Farewell from Pam Duke|
|2016-02||Welcome new board members|
|2016-01||Welcome Laura Wood|
|2015-11||Congratulations Trey Hill|
|2015-09||Sassafras River Bridge Closing|
|2015-07||Our Youngest Member|
|2015-06||FOB Rainbarrel Workshop|
|2015-05||Heron Rookery Paddle|
|2015-04||Welcome the Watershed Outreach Coordinator|
|2015-03||River Outreach Coordinator Farewell|
|2015-02||Swantown Creek Restoration|
|2015-01||Stream Waders Volunteers Needed|
|2014-12||Happy Holidays from SRA|
|2014-11||Local Efforts Solve Local Problems|
|2014-10||November Membership Meeting|
|2014-09||Birthday Bash a Great Success!|
|2014-08||Salfner Farm Stream Restoration|
|2014-07||Exploratory Meetings for Friends of the Bohemia|
|2014-06||Birthday Bash on the Sassafras|
|2014-05||Budds Landing Ribbon-Cutting|
|2014-03||SRA Seeks Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer|
|2014-01||Message from the President|
An important part of our mission is to work with Federal, State and local governments on issues that effect the Sassafras River watershed. You can find a description of the issues we're currently tracking here. If there's an issue you think we should be following—a new residential development, a change in zoning laws, or other proposed legislation—send us an email.
Cecil County Tier Map
On 2/19/13 SRA staff, board members, members, and friends represented the Sassafras River at the Cecil County Council public hearing on the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act, or SB 236. Sassafras Riverkeeper® Emmett Duke, SRA Board President Ken Shumaker, and the Honorable Wayne Gilchrest gave statements at the hearing. SRA Agricultural Outreach Coordinator Josh Thompson also gave a rebuttal to a statement made earlier in the evening regarding septic systems. Two of the transcripts can be read here:
To comply with SB 236, Cecil County submitted a "tier map" to the state in December 2012. The Maryland Department of Planning responded with comments explaining how the map does not comply with the law or Cecil County's Comprehensive Plan. You can view the comments here.
Thank you to everyone who attended the hearing, spoke at the hearing, and/or submitted comments to the Council letting them know you support a revised map that will protect open space and agriculture along the Sassafras and the water quality of the tributaries and river itself!
We will continue to update you on this issue as it progresses- check back soon for updates!
Galena Waste Water Treatment Plant Expansion and Sewer Line Extension to Georgetown
At the Comissioners' meeting on October 31, 2012, the Kent County Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of:
- amending the comprehensive plan to include the Galena wastewater treatment plant extension
- not taking the recommendation of the Planning commission not to expand the system
- notifying the town of Galena that the county intends to join them in the expansion of their plant
Both SRA Riverkeeper Emmett Duke and Former SRA President John Burke spoke in favor of the expansion at the public hearing at the Commissioners' meeting on October 23, 2012.
Thank you to everyone who submitted letters of support, attended the Commissioners' meetings, or showed support for this project. Your support was crucial in getting the project approved and we couldn't have done it without you! The expansion of the Galena wastewater treatment plant and sewer line extension to Georgetown will positively affect the quality of water discharged into the Sassafras River and increase the overall quality of the river.
Kent Recycling and Land Reclamation, LLC
At the meeting of the Kent County Commissioners on October 4, 2011, Commission president Ron Fithian announced that the Commissioners “were unanimous” in their opposition to the rubble fill proposal. “We needed to do our due diligence, and take into account both sides” said Fithian. An audience of more than 80 citizens gathered to demonstrate before the Commissioners' meeting and applauded Commissioner Fithian's announcement. Although the Commissioners have announced their opposition to the rubble dump proposal, they have not yet taken an official vote on the matter. Instead the Commissioners have indicated that they will produce a written resolution stating their decision, which is expected to be released in the next few weeks. SRA is closely monitoring this issue to ensure the rubble dump project does not move forward, and to protect the River from any future threats.
The Kent Commissioners’ declaration of opposition came after more than two months of grassroots organizing and campaigning against the project by the SRA, the Kent Farmland Preservation Coalition, and concerned citizens throughout Kent and Cecil Counties. In those two months, nearly three hundred citizens participated in protests, 499 citizens signed a petition to stop the rubble fill, and a flood of correspondence came into the commissioner’s office voicing opposition to the project.
YOUR help in raising awareness, writing the commissioners, and supporting SRA's opposition to the rubble dump was critical in this key success! But SRA still needs your support to ensure the rubble dump is permanently stopped. Contact the Kent County Commissioners to voice your opinion on this project. Tell your friends and neighbors that this project is bad for the Sassafras River. "No Rubble Dump" signs are available FREE at the SRA office to post in your yard. Join SRA today in advocating for the protection of our precious River.
What is the Rubble Dump?
The rubble dump is a construction and debris dump, proposed in the northern portion of Kent county, which would receive trash from cities like Wilmington, Philadelphia, and portions of New Jersey and New York. A facility of this magnitude would present severe threats to the environmental health of the surrounding area, as well as to the quality of life for the surrounding communities. The site is located at the head of Jacob’s Creek, a highly sensitive headwaters stream of the impaired Sassafras River (as listed by EPA 303d list). The proposed site is not suited for an industrial operation of this nature and lacks an adequate riparian buffer and safe distance from the shallow groundwater aquifer.
The proposed rubble dump site lies between Rt. 301 and Rt. 299 in Massey, Maryland – directly adjacent to Jacobs Creek, a tributary of the Sassafras River. Contact the Kent County Commissioners to voice your opinion on this project, and join SRA in advocating for the protection of the Sassafras River Watershed.
County Commissioner Contact Information:
President Ronald Fithian, email@example.com
Commissioner William Pickrum, firstname.lastname@example.org
Commissioner Alexander Rasin, email@example.com
Commissioners' Office, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Direct your emails to all four of these addresses)
Kent County Commissioners
400 High Street
Chestertown, MD 21620
More information on this project can be found below, in the provided documents and links.
Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (DRRA)- July 30 2011 This agreement lays out the conditions and expectations between the County and developer, regarding the Kent Recycling and Land Reclamation Facility.
Board of Appeals Report, for Kent Sand and Gravel, LLC. Report States that final land use of site would be returned to agriculture, in the form of aquaculture.
Rubble Dump (2009 Proposal)
SRA advocated against a similar proposal in 2009 to create a rubble dump located at the same site proposed for Kent Recycling and Land Reclamation LLC. You can follow the links below to the relevant documents:
- May 29, 2009 Denial of Request from Kent County
- May 11, 2009 Freedom of Information Act Request to Kent County
- August 22, 2008 MDE Secretary Wilson's letter to the SRA
- July 25, 2008 SRA Letter to the Kent County Commissioners
- June 13, 2008 Fiscal Impact Analysis by the Plan's Proponents
The Sassafras Riverkeeper has joined the Waterkeepers Chesapeake in filing a petition to EPA to revoke Maryland Department of the Environement's authority to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act.
- What Do Other Waterkeepers Have to Say?
- December 3, 2009 Waterkeeper Chesapeake Petition to EPA
- December 7, 2009 Waterkeeper Chesapeake De-delegation Petition Press Release
The Cecil County Commissioners voted and approved the Letter of Intent (LOI) surrounding full time residency at Indian Acres Campground in Earlville, MD. SRA has advocated for improved waste infrastructure at Indian Acres to the State and County authorities and will continue to follow this issue to ensure the proper regulations are followed.
- February 22, 2010 SRA Letter to Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
- January 8, 2010 SRA Second Letter to Health Department
- December 15, 2009 Approved LOI
- December 2, 2009 SRA Letter to Health Department
- October 6, 2009 SRA Letter to Cecil County Commissioners Opposing the Letter of Intent
- September 23, 2009 Public Notice of Hearing and Letter of Intent
- August, 2009 Sassafras Riverkeeper's Cove: Indian Acres Campground Raises Questions
- May 4, 2009 SRA Letter to Cecil County Commissioners
Letters of Support
- August 2009 SRA writes a letter to Governor O'Malley advoacting for state funding of upgrades to Betterton and Galena Waste Water Treatment Plants.
- August 2009 SRA supports the Town of Galena in acquiring funds for the Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrade to Enhanced Nutrient Removal technology.
- May 2009 SRA supports Kent County Commissioners in opposition to land application of sewage sludge
- March 2009 Sultana Project
- February 2009 Susquehanna Sediment Study
- January 2009 CRA Septic Initiative
2016 Report Card Unveiling
May 19th, 2016 at 7pm
A nice crowd was on hand at Crow Winery for the 2016 Report Card unveiling (see the report card here). Sam Joiner and Marc Castelli followed with an outstanding presentation on "Commercial Fishing on the Sassafras - the value of high water quality". Many of us were shocked at the number of different kinds of fish found in our Sassafras! Wine was available for purchase and there were light refreshments served, too.
Sassafras Sips at the Kitty Knight House
Friday May 20th from 5-8 pm
Join us at the Kitty Knight House for Happy Hour. All profits to benefit the Sassafras River Association.
Kayak paddle on Swantown Creek
to look at two restoration projects.
The day was overcast and cool, but that didn't stop 21 people from as far away as Rockville, MD bringing 18 boats to the paddle on Saturday, April 30th. We enjoyed a picnic on the beach on Swantown Creek in Shorewood Estates, then Emmett Duke and Jeff Russell talked about the two restoration projects on Swantown Creek that we've started. Emmett had maps and pictures to help the discussion along.
Sassafras Sips at the Kitty Knight House
Friday April 15th from 5-8 pm
Join us at the Kitty Knight House for Happy Hour. All profits to benefit the Sassafras River Association.
Thursday, April 7th at 7:00PM
Join us on Thursday April 7th for a presentation and book signing by Kate Livie, author of Chesapeake Oysters: The Bay's Foundation and Future. This event will be held at the Kitty Knight House at 7 pm. Have dinner (at your own cost) at The Kitty Knight House beforehand and stay to learn more about the history and future of the eastern oyster and its role in the health of the Bay. SRA will provide dessert after the program and there will be books available for purchase and signing.
About the book
Crassostrea virginica, the eastern oyster. These humble bivalves are the living bones of the Chesapeake and the ecological and historical lifeblood of the region. When colonists first sailed these impossibly abundant shores, they described massive shoals of foot-long oysters. But the bottomless appetite of the Gilded Age and great fleets of skipjacks took their toll. Disease, environmental pressures and overconsumption decimated the population by the end of the twentieth century. While Virginia turned to bottom-leasing, passionate debate continues in Maryland among scientists and oystermen whether aquaculture or wild harvesting is the better way forward. Today, boutique oyster farming in the Bay is sustainably meeting the culinary demand of a new generation of connoisseurs. With careful research and interviews with experts, author Kate Livie presents this dynamic story and a glimpse of what the future may hold.
About the author
Kate Livie is a professional Chesapeake educator, writer and historian. An Eastern Shore native, Livie is passionate about the Chesapeake Bay’s culture, heritage and landscape. She currently serves as the director of education at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland, and writes for the Chesapeake Bay Journal and beautifulswimmers.tumblr.com. She lives with her husband in Chestertown, Maryland, and to date she owns thirteen oyster knives.
Saturday, April 2nd, 2016
Volunteers needed! Help clean up trash at sites throughout the Sassafras River watershed as part of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s annual Project Clean Stream. Last year, more than 5,000 volunteers from 6 states removed over 300,000 pounds of trash from the Bay’s waterways. SRA is assisting with the clean-up for the 12th year, and we need volunteers to help us do our part this year! Click here the flier.
Ward’s Hill Road - Sue Shumaker <email@example.com>
Kent County- Fox Hole Landing – Janet Ruhl
Turner’s Creek Park - Carol Droge <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sassafras Natural Resource Management Area – Ellyn Vail <email@example.com>
Happy Hour at the Kitty Knight House
Friday March 18th from 5-8 pm
Join us at the Kitty Knight House for Happy Hour. All profits to benefit the Sassafras River Association.
Farm Panel Discussion
Can Food Production and
a Clean Chesapeake Bay Coexist?
Here's a link to the YouTube video of the farm panel discussion:
On Thursday, February 25, a special event took place at Washington College in Chestertown. Tri-sponsored by the Sassafras River Association, the Chester River Association, and the Washington College Center for Environment and Society, representatives from the agricultural community met on stage with representatives from scientific and environmental groups for a free ranging panel discussion entitled “Can Food Production and a Clean Chesapeake Bay Coexist?”
On stage were local farmers Trey Hill and Sean Jones, Mark Nardi from U.S. Geological Survey, Wye/Miles Riverkeeper Jeff Horstman, Mike Twining from Willard’s Agri-Service, and Kim Coble of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The program was moderated by former U.S. Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.
After introductions by Michael Hardesty of Washington College, each participant was asked a question, which progressively set the stage for the ensuing discussion. The audience then became part of the action by writing and submitting questions pertaining to various aspects of food production and clean water.
Over 350 people from three counties, including a fair number of Washington College students, were entertained and enlightened by the serious, informative, and occasionally humorous comments on stage. Former Congressman Gilchrest, in his usual quiet and thoughtful manner, interjected cogent comments when appropriate.
Of course, the answer to the question in the title, as Kim Coble succinctly stated is, “Yes. We must all work together to see that they do.”
Her conclusion was certainly not to say that all is well with the Bay or our rivers, but progress is being made. Many farmers, particularly in Maryland, are incorporating Best Management Practices into their farming methods. The Sassafras and Chester River Associations, as well as many other Baywide environmental groups, are advocating for clean water and educating citizens to be more aware of how their personal actions can affect the quality of our waters.
This event was the second “Farmer Forum” in as many years, and plans are already being made for another follow up in November of this year.