In Herring Bay, Big Hopes Ride on Little Initiative
by Stacy Allen

You should see my front yard. Forget the beautiful perennial garden that finally sprang forth on its own this year. You'll barely notice it behind the gaping grassless grinder-pump abscess, dug for us with a backhoe.

But of all the projects in my garden, it's this one that has me the most proud and excited: I'm becoming part of the Holland Point Waste Reclamation System.

Though most people tell me they don't know what a grinder-pump is, many of us know the stench of septic gone wrong. It's a cause for alarm in terms of community health and in the bigger picture -- the health of the Bay.

"Everything that happens on land affects the water," says Peg Burroughs, outreach and education coordinator for the Lower Western Shore Tributary Team.

In my case, the water initially affected is Herring Bay, which Burroughs describes as "a microcosm for the Chesapeake."

The Herring Bay watershed runs east of Route 2 from Curtis Point above Deale in the north to Holland Point above North Beach in the south. This watershed has it all: farms with crops and animals; businesses; communities with lawns and gardens; streets; cars; marinas; boats and more.

The Waste Reclamation project starting in my community is one piece that fits nicely with a grander plan: the Herring Bay Clean Watershed Initiative. Kicked off earlier this month during the National Clean Boating Week festivities at Herrington Harbour South, the Initiative coincides nicely with Maryland's Clean Marina Initiative and the plan to make Herring Bay a "No Discharge Zone."

If The Herring Bay Clean Watershed Initiative is to flourish, citizens will take over what's been started by the Lower Western Shore Tributary Team and supported by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Lower Western Shore group, chaired by Joan Willey, is one of 10 Tributary Teams appointed by Gov. Paris Glendening in 1995. The teams' purpose is to reduce nutrient pollution that enters Chesapeake Bay. In that bigger picture, Herring Bay is a first piece.

"It is hoped that this initiative will raise the awareness of water quality issues in the watershed and the causes of pollution from land use within it," says Willey. "The successful lessons we learn from this project can then be applied to other watersheds."

Already the Lower Western Shores group has sponsored environmental workshops and water quality assessments. Team members recently helped plant Bay grasses at Rose Haven as well.

The Herring Bay Clean Watershed Initiative holds a breakfast meeting July 25 at Herrington Harbour, followed by a survey of the 25-square-mile watershed.

"This is an observational survey, to determine where the problems are," says Burroughs.

"We want to assemble a diverse team, with watermen, farmers, business people, citizens" she adds. For it to work, people from the communities around Herring Bay must get involved. That includes Churchton, Columbia Beach, Deale, Fairhaven, Friendship, Holland Point, Lothian, Owensville, Rose Haven and Shady Side.

"We have to engage the community. It's their watershed, they need to determine what is working well and where the problems are. We are resource people. After the survey, we will work with the group to find out which way they want to go," Burroughs said.

She anticipates the Herring Bay Initiative will progress for a couple of years. After that? Perhaps a "watershed watchdog group will continue it."

For Herring Bay, microcosm of the Chesapeake, the future looks promising. "We're going to attack this," says Burroughs, "and see if we can make this whole watershed clean."

If you live in the Herring Bay watershed and would like to get involved with the Herring Bay Clean Watershed Initiative, call Peg Burroughs: 410/867-0366.

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Volume VI Number 29
July 23-29, 1998
New Bay Times

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