The Sassafras Riverkeeper 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 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.
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.
SRA has a volunteer water quality monitoring program, the Sassafras Samplers. It's a great way for 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 expanded monthly testing to the tidal portion of the River as well as the non-tidal creeks and streams that flow into the River.
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 agricultural outreach coordinator also stays closely involved with upcoming agricultural issues that impact the environment, including nutrient trading, CAFO regulations, nutrient management, and agronomic research.
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. 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.
Responsible Recreation Outreach
The Sassafras Riverkeeper monitors and patrols the River weekly from April through October. He 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 Sassafras 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 Sassafras 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. With the implementation of SWAP, SRA now hosts workshops on restoration strategies and occasional meetings on relevant topics.
An important part of our mission is to work with Federal, State and local governments on issues that affect the Sassafras River watershed, such as a new residential development, a change in zoning laws, or other proposed legislation. Examples include the Cecil County Tier Map that does not comply with the law or Cecil County's Comprehensive Plan and would lead to increased development of septics and more nitrogen pollution to the tributaries and river. Past issues include the Galena Waste Water Treatment Plant Expansion and Sewer Line Extension to Georgetown, and the Kent Recycling and Land Reclamation, LLC (Rubble Dump).