Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER® values the biological, recreational and economic aspects of the river. That’s why GRK is committed to independent water quality testing for bacteria and other harmful pollutants in the watershed. GRK champions enforcement and compliance of environmental laws within the Gunpowder, Bird and Bush watersheds to protect and conserve the river for all users.

Wild stream-bred trout need cold and clean water in order to survive. GRK is committed to conserving cold water resources within the Gunpowder River watershed.

The waters of the Chesapeake Bay are known for their healthy population of blue crabs. GRK is committed to protecting the health of the Gunpowder River as an important tributary to the Bay’s waters.

Addressing and identifying threats to the watershed are part of our project scope. GRK takes a proactive role in safeguarding the river from threats to the health and stability of the watershed.

Oysters are the foundation of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. GRK members and volunteers are the foundation for our continued work of protecting and conserving the Gunpowder Bird and Bush River Watersheds.

GRK Project Areas Include:

Clear Choices Clean Water:

Overview: Gunpowder Riverkeeper has launched the Clear Choices Clean Water campaign in partnership with Waterkeepers Chesapeake to increase awareness about how choices residents make impact local rivers and streams – and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. The campaign inspires people to pledge to implement water friendly practices that reduce polluted stormwater runoff, such as reducing the use of lawn fertilizer, planting native plants, managing pet waste and volunteering time to help with local clean water initiatives.

Project: Gunpowder Riverkeeper will focus efforts in all of the watersheds throughout Harford County. Harford County contains four major river basins: the Bush River Basin, the Gunpowder River Basin, the Lower Susquehanna River Basin and the Upper Western Shore Basin – all of which drain to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. These larger watersheds are made up of many smaller tributaries. For example, the Bush River Basin is comprised of the Otter Point Creek, Bush Creek and Church Creek Subbasins.

Benefit: The Clear Choices Clean Water Campaign has the ability to increase participation in environmental stewardship with Harford County residents while they stay safer at home,” said Theaux Le Gardeur, Executive Director of Gunpowder Riverkeeper.The campaign’s core message is that what each of us does matters, and we can all make a difference. Pledge takers see their location on an interactive map – showing the cumulative impact of their pledge alongside many others. They also get an easy, low-pressure way to encourage friends, family and neighbors to do their part and to connect with their local Riverkeeper.

Monitoring Industrial Activities:

Overview: A small percentage of industrial activities take place within the Gunpowder River Watershed. The river is a class III-P protected stream that is host to a wild population of trout and is nationally recognized as a recreational fishing destination. It is the primary drinking water source for the City of Baltimore. GRK feels that unchecked industrial activities could have adverse impacts on the Gunpowder River and endanger public health, safety and welfare by compromising the drinking water supply for nearly 2 million residents of Baltimore City and the surrounding Metropolitan area.

Project: The objective of monitoring is to make sure that the impacts from industrial activities fall within the guidelines established by the state and county permits. GRK will perform compliance sweeps related to stormwater and discharge permits and send comments to regulatory agencies to ask for stronger permit language where appropriate to afford better protection to the river and its watershed.

Benefits: This project is to protect the Gunpowder river and its watershed from industrial pollution. This project will also safeguard the drinking water supply for Baltimore City Metro Area by strengthening the monitoring, compliance and reporting on industrial sites within the watershed.

Stormwater Runoff Compliance:

Overview: Encroachment by development along the river corridor will likely increase sediment loading and degradation of water quality in the river. While new stormwater regulations have taken effect in Maryland this year, the growth in the amount of industrial, commercial and residential building far outweighs the ability of compliance personnel to effectively monitor these sites.

Project: Take part in the Chesapeake Waterkeepers “Get the Dirt Out” Campaign. Provide a proven program to engage residents of the Gunpowder watershed to identify compliance problems associated with construction sites such as inadequate silt fencing, improperly designed construction entrances and blocked sediment traps. GRK will continue to review files from MDE obtained through PIA requests to check permits and compliance activities at construction and industrial sites located along the River corridor.

Benefits: This project will help ensure that Best Management Practices, (BMP’s) are being followed within the watershed. GRK will educate the public on these practices and enlist them as volunteers to report compliance of sites. If problems are found GRK will report and followup these complaints with the proper regulatory authorities for remedies.These efforts will lessen the effects of unchecked stormwater runoff.

Invasive Species Containment and Outreach:

Overview: Didymo is an invasive algae that was identified in the River in 2008, and is known to be disruptive to aquatic ecosystems. The algae thrives in cold, nutrient poor water and tends to mat in heavy carpet like clumps and choke out macroinvertebrates, (a.k.a. trout food). It has been shown that the algae can easily be transported and thus “carried” on felt soled wading shoes that anglers use, in the water and surfaces present in and on kayaks and canoes and in footwear hikers and birders would use to traverse the stream.

Project: GRK will continue the maintenance of MD/DNR wader wash stations (ongoing since 2008), and create a print and web media campaign to engage river user groups within the upper watershed above Loch Raven. This outreach will include educating the public about cleaning and drying methods for footwear, angling equipment, boats and boating equipment that can serve as a vector for Didymo.

Benefits:This project and its strong stewardship message will provide much needed outreach among varied recreational user groups in order to contain the invasive algae Didymo, which will safeguard shared waters within the watershed and waters beyond.

Agricultural Runoff Compliance:

Overview: Farming is an economically important historical use of rural lands adjoining the River. Most Agriculture operations within the watershed are focused on row crops. However, based on Baltimore County’s Water Quality Management Study, farming without appropriate erosion control safeguards has been shown to have a detrimental effect on small tributaries that enter the main stem of the River.

Project: GRK is interested in checking agricultural lands for compliance with existing soil conservation plans, (most agriculture in the watershed is in row crops) and will work collaboratively with farmers regarding responsible and sustainable land use practices to protect the River.

Benefits: This project will help to ensure that Best Management Practices (BMP’s) are being followed on agricultural lands within the watershed. These efforts will lessen the effects of unchecked agricultural runoff, conserve soil and minimize nutrient loading from agricultural sources.

Environmental Monitoring and Mapping:

Overview: Because of the economic, biological and recreational importance of the River, there exists a pressing need for independent, comprehensive baseline environmental monitoring and mapping of the river and its watershed. Parameters such as temperature, pH, dissolved solids, Chlorophyll A, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and bacteria will be collected throughout the watershed. This data will be visualized with GIS mapping and shared with regulatory agencies.

Project: In-stream monitoring work will take place at sites of concern along the river and its watershed to determine water quality impacts.

Benefits: This information may be used to assess and report on the river’s relative biological health, potential watershed impacts and monitoring industrial, commercial and recreational impacts along the watershed. This data set will be used to direct county and state agencies to factor existing impacts into TMDL, (Total Maximum Daily Load) recommendations throughout the watershed.

Lawn Fertilizer Nutrient Loading and Outreach:

Overview: Nitrogen and Phosphorous loading are inherent, readily identifiable problems within the Pretty Boy and Loch Raven reservoirs. Pretty Boy reservoir is a source of the Gunpowder River. Both reservoirs are listed as “impaired” waterways by Baltimore County. A surprising quantity of nutrients come from residential lawn runoff.

Project: GRK is interested in developing educational materials that will provide homeowners within the watershed pertinent information regarding phosphorous and nitrogen impacts commercially available lawn fertilizers and how alternative measures may be used to lessen their impacts.

Benefits: This project will provide education and engage residents within the watershed to identify and correct nutrient loading impacts to the watershed from impacts from residential lawn fertilizer runoff entering the River’s already impaired waterways.

Sewage Overflow Compliance:

Overview: Sewage overflows related to outdated equipment can lead to bacterial contamination of drinking water and destroy vital habitat. GRK is interested in counting these occurrences, their causes and their impacts in the watershed.

Project: GRK plans on collecting information related to these activities using PIA requests and Clean Water Act guidelines to conduct compliance sweeps, suggest enforcement appeals and comment on permit renewals to protect the watershed.

Benefits: The project will assess the impacts and occurrences of sewage overflows on the relative health and stability of the watershed. Data collected will allow GRK to better protect the river by providing a record of impacts to the watershed and a methodology to enact stronger regulatory protection from this threat within the watershed.

Interested in doing your part to protect your river? Become a Gunpowder Champion by joining, donating or volunteering today. Volunteer and internship opportunities await!

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