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Merger Expands Severn River ­Protections

Conservation groups combine powers

      Just two weeks after the South River Federation and the West/Rhode Riverkeeper began their unified partnership as the Arundel Rivers Federation, two more regional watershed groups have tied the knot.

         The Severn River Association and the Back Creek Conservancy have merged their operations into one watershed organization. Both will operate under the Severn River Association masthead.

         By consolidating their efforts, the 107-year-old Association and the innovative Conservancy improve their ability to make the Severn River, along with its 39 creeks and coves, more fishable and swimmable for future generations.

         Back Creek Conservancy’s chairman David Barker joins the board of directors as chair of the Development Committee.

         The Conservancy’s restoration and outreach programs will continue as Severn River Association’s Back Creek Conservancy committee, which will be a model to create creek-specific watershed assessment strategies run under the direction of the Association but with the primary involvement of residents and businesses who live or work along the creek.

         This creek-first strategy is critical, since past water quality testing indicates that the Severn’s most vexing pollutant problems occur inside its creeks.

         By combining resources and continuing to work with the Severn Riverkeeper, the consolidation expands water-quality monitoring on the Severn. The new coalition will double the number of monitoring stations that teams visit each week, and they will initiate the first-ever weekly oyster reef monitoring regime to keep a close watch on water conditions on oyster restoration efforts between the Rt. 50 and Naval Academy bridges.

         Together, the two groups will expand efforts to:

• Restore oyster reefs and support volunteer oyster growers

• Map 230 acres of underwater grasses in the Severn

• Monitor water quality in the river and its creeks

• Help communities deal with stormwater runoff

• Build rain gardens

• Remove invasive vegetation

• Protect shorelines and cliffs, and

• Advocate for a county-wide Clean Boating Initiative to educate boaters on pump-out opportunities.

         Association president Lynne Rockenbauch welcomed the merger as “a great opportunity to advocate for the Severn River. The combination,” she says, “helps prove that when volunteers work together, magic can happen, that one plus one can equal three.”

         Back Creek Conservancy’s Barker agreed with Rockenbauch’s arithmetic. He praised the merger as a “creative way to ensure that Back Creek’s novel restoration and advocacy programs will not only continue but will expand to bring a fresh approach to solving the river’s various challenges.”