Update About Progress in Restoring the Corsica River

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Board President, Frank DiGialleonardo, sent the following letter to Conservancy members.

October 23, 2020

Dear Friend of the Corsica River,

As we proceed into the last quarter of this tumultuous year, we want to provide you with an update about progress in restoring the Corsica River. Your demonstration of strong local support and concern has been a key to continued success in getting the local, state and federal resources so critical to making meaningful impact on the ground and in the water. Officials know that CRC represents a highly focused and defined effort that local people care about. We know what a wonderful resource we have in the Corsica and its surrounding watershed. We have shown that we will actively work to protect it and improve it, both for ourselves and for future generations. Being able to show that commitment through numbers of our members is so important to continuing a strong voice for the River in local decision making, reaching out to other residents and visitors, and obtaining project funding.So let me depart from the usual form of this letter where we normally conclude with a request to renew your membership and contribute to the support of CRC. In putting that request right up front here, we hope that you will go directly to our website, ​www.corsicariverconservancy.org​ and press the “donate” button now to reaffirm your support.Our nominal annual membership is $30. However, the more you can give in support, the more we are able to continue the restoration and conservation work that has proceeded unabated for fourteen years now.  And now let me give you that update on what has been going on over the last year or so with our Corsica Watershed.

Water Quality

Improvement in water quality in the main stem of the River, that is from the Centreville Wharf area out to the mouth, is mainly dependent on the quality of water flowing in from the Corsica’s three main tributaries – Millstream, Gravel Run and Three Bridges. These tributaries drain the bulk of the watershed’s 25,000 acres and are impacted by surface runoff and groundwater which may reflect surface conditions from as long as 10 to 15 years previous. Water quality in these tributaries historically has been pretty good and improving.In 2012, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) sponsored a sophisticated quantitative analysis of water quality data covering the period of 2005-2011. That study found significant nutrient reduction in two of the three tributaries with no significant change in Millstream. ​https://dnr.maryland.gov/ccs/Publication/Corsica_report.pdf​ These results were confirmed and expanded by a follow up analysis of MDE data conducted in 2019. Statistical experts at the Interstate Commission of the Potomac River Basin ICPRB), which had even better news, showed significant and improving nutrient reductions in all three tributaries. The results indicate that the many Best Management Practices(BMPs) that have been installed throughout the Corsica River Watershed during its ecosystem-wide restoration appear to be having significant and largely increasing effect.Improvements in the main stem of the River have been slower to appear and have been subject to fluctuation. Water quality has scored a “C” as graded by ShoreRivers based on seasonal weekly sampling at three points along the main stem from the Wharf to the mouth. A score for 2020 will not be available until next Spring, though quality seems to be about the same except for an incident of high bacteria near the Wharf associated with heavy rain around Labor Day. The source of that has yet to be determined. There also have been incidents of sediment plumes seen in the main stem that are associated with nearby farm fields. Efforts are ongoing to address these. If water quality improvements in the tributaries continue, we should expect to see those extend into the main stem in the future. However, we need to continue to monitor impacts from stormwater runoff and from other sources that flow directly into the main stem of the River.

Recent Developments in the Watershed

Since the bridge replacement at Millstream and Rt. 213 has been completed by the State Highway Administration (SHA),their nearby parcel is now available for its original purpose of mitigation. This roughly 8 acre property is ideally located to serve as a wetland and to better manage and treat some of the storm water from the South end of Town before it passes into Millstream. The CRC, the Town, DNR and our other restoration partners have been pressing for this next step for several years because that wetland, once completed, would treat 41 acres that currently shed unfiltered stormwater into Millstream. It would also improve habitat and make a beautiful addition to that end of Town. This project was expected to be completed in 2020 but now looks to be delayed at least a year due to changing priorities at SHA.The Town completed extensive work at the wharf area including planting a large number of trees and shrubs. The Town also continued with its regular street sweeping program which removes a surprising large amount of debris that would otherwise wash into our streams and the River. Look on the CRC website for a map of the many stormwater management projects that have been completed in the Town over the past several years.

Dredging​ of the upper end of the main stem will have likely commenced by the time you receive this letter. Preparation of the spoil site, as well as the permitting and contract award process have been completed by QAC Parks and Recreation. The dredging will be to a depth of five feet in the channel and will include dredging at the wharf. Our restoration group has been looking forward to this step for many years because we hope that it will improve the tidal flush in the upper, shallow end of the River. It also may reduce the resuspension of sediment that occurs from boat travel in the shallow water. If you boat in this area, keep your wake to a minimum and try to stay in the channel.

There is much good news to report with regard to developments at ​Conquest Preserve​. The work is being done by staff at Washington College Center for the Environment in conjunction with Parks and Recreation. The development of wetlands, meadows, edible gardens and walking paths is proceeding apace and can be easily seen and enjoyed by visitors. The new wetlands are especially important and help fulfill a long standing objective of the Corsica restoration to increase such areas. This project involves approximately 200 acres of the previously cropped land on Conquest Preserve into a mix of habitat types. Trails throughout the acreage have been included, and once the habitat work has been completed, trail maps and other educational signage will be developed. Most importantly, this project will regularly remove large amounts of nutrients and sediments from runoff and groundwater.

At ​Bloomfield Whitemarsh Park​ thirty acres of trees are being planted under a grant to create a forested buffer along the perimeter trail closest to the Delmarva Bay wetland area, as well as other areas into the park. The plantings are designed to address water quality, filter/slow erosion, and create habitat. There is also a new “Edible Garden” of native trees and shrubs that has been planted in this park by DNR Forestry. CRC directly contributed to this planting.

Education and Outreach

Our goal is for everyone living and playing in the Corsica Watershed to become good watershed stewards and understand why that is important. Towards that end, CRC continues efforts to reach adults and students. This year, our program of activities have been pretty much negated by the pandemic. A large public event that was planned for this past April and held at the Arts Center had to be canceled. Some of the information that was to be presented there is covered in the detailed report that CRC members will be receiving. Outreach at schools and our Fall Corsica River Day event at Ship Point were also canceled as a precaution. To compensate somewhat, we have put additional information on our website,and we are trying to make better use of social media. Though our Spring Stream Clean event was also canceled, there are still small, socially distanced trash pickup events being held in our watershed. Check the website for information on these weekend events. They are a great opportunity for family stewardship.

Advocacy and Upcoming Issues

The Conservancy has been active in issues affecting the watershed from within and outside of the County. During the last year, we supported several initiatives of a state-wide coalition of water-focused nonprofit organizations. One was to oppose the agreement reached by MDE and Exelon Corporation on operations of the Conowingo Dam. The 50-yearlicense renewal is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that the Dam’s operator will be held accountable for preventing downstream damage of the type we all saw during 2018. We also lent our support to continued water quality monitoring during the State’s quarantine, protection of submerged aquatic vegetation, studying the impact of clam dredging, and improving protection for significant forests. As a partner in the Choose Clean Water Coalition, we supported passage of what is arguably the most important piece of federal legislation to help the Chesapeake Bay since the 1987amendments to the Clean Water Act–America’s Conservation Enhancement Act.

In the coming year, we ask you to be aware of the County’s update of its Comprehensive Plan and help us ensure that it gives sufficient protections for our natural resources. CRC is working with our Eastern Shore partner organizations and the County’s Planning Department during the year long process. There will be several opportunities with our elected and appointed representatives to make sure your voices are heard. We will also be following several pieces of legislation in the Maryland General Assembly as our legislators continue to grapple with the damage caused by plastics. As always, we welcome your interest and questions.

What You Can Do and Helpful Resources

Finally, we repeat our message to all who live, recreate, or just enjoy being in the Corsica Watershed to take a part in its restoration. If you own or operate a farm and have not yet taken advantage of the cover crop, other BMPs or available conservation easements assistance, contact our local Soil Conservation District (SCD) office (410-758-3136). If you own or rent a home, take a close look at how rain water flows from your roof, driveways or surrounding slopes. If you are interested in planting trees on your property, contact the DNR Forestry Office in Centreville (410-819-4120). There may be Best Management Practices (BMPs) that can be easily installed that will curtail runoff from your property. And remember that Maryland’s biggest “crop” is our lawns. Be as parsimonious as possible in applying fertilizer and pesticides and abide by the law. Continue to consult our website and your helpful Extension Service office (410-758-0166) for tips and guidance. The latter can provide ‘Baywise” program materials to help you.

If you live in the watershed or take advantage of its natural resources, CRC should be among those groups that you support through your membership, your financial contributions and your volunteer efforts. If you are interested   to help with projects or oversight, please send us an email ​(corsicariverconservancy@gmail.com​). CRC continues to be an all volunteer non-profit organization. We do not have staff or facilities to support. All of our effortsgo towards the mission of restoring and conserving. Please remember to renew your membership and donate at www.corsicariverconservancy.org​. Click on “Donate,” then choose Corsica River Conservancy and follow the“donate now” instructions. We need and appreciate your continuing support.


Frank DiGialleonardo, President

Corsica River Conservancy

P.O. Box 235 Centreville, MD 21617 ​