The following organizations are supporting the effort to restore Bird River.
Are you one of the 61,000 people who live in the Bird River watershed? If yes, then we have good news, bad news, then very encouraging news. The good news is that your home and 24,000 others is no more than a short walk to Bird River or one of her 90 miles of tributary streams (Whitemarsh Run, Honeygo Run, etc.). The bad news is that while these waters were clean and healthy just a few decades ago, years of mining, construction activity and development have taken their toll. However, the really great news is that the Bird River Restoration Campaign is pursuing a strategy that will accelerate the recovery of these waters, but it’ll only succeed with your active participation.
The goal of the Bird River Restoration Campaign is to restore the waters nearest your home to a Child Friendly condition:
free of safety threats such as the quicksand like deposits below some construction-mining sites;
teeming with aquatic life; and
The Bird River Restoration Campaign first organized on October 23, 2014.
The 54 Bird River area residents who attended that meeting agreed to pursue
two major issues: reducing Bird River mud pollution and resolving the threat
posed by Nottingham Ridge.
In 2001, more than five miles of boating channels were dredged in Bird River at a cost of $1.3 million. But within a mere five years the upper channels had filled in halfway. We are now embarked on a campaign to reduce mud pollution from all sources so the River can be dredged again but with far more lasting benefits. To this end, half of those who attended the October meeting agreed to participate in an effort to improve construction site mud pollution control.
In June, a number of Bird River watershed construction sites were evaluated as part of the Greater Baltimore Survey, which documented a compliance rate of only 5%. Between the publicity coming from the survey and the public outcry at our October 23rd meeting, a great deal of public pressure had been generated for upgrading compliance.
In November, 2014 nearly 60 Bird River residents volunteered in a survey to see what impact all this controversy had had on construction site compliance rates. We found that compliance had improve nine-fold by going from 5% to 44%! To learn more click the following Report.
This massive residential-commercial project is proposed for an 83-acre site next to Whitemarsh Run, just 2.5 miles upstream of Bird River. This site had been first cleared in 2001 then allowed to erode away for 14 years.
As shown in the above 2002 aerial photo, the site was mostly 83 acres of soil fully exposed to erosive forces.
Late in 2014, the Campaign succeeded in getting the County and State to order stabilization of the exposed earth, which will reduce mud pollution by 90% to 99%. The Campaign was also instrumental in winning much improved stormwater pollution control for this project.
Site Mud Pollution
The largest single only source of increasing eroded soil and mud pollution in the Bird River watershed is construction. To combat this the Bird River Volunteers were trained in how to evaluate construction sites with State and local laws requiring the use of straw mulch, grass and other methods for protecting exposed soil from erosive forces. This effort has thus far produced a nine-fold increase in compliance, but we've got a ways to go to achieve full compliance. To learn more about how you can keep soil on the construction site and out of Bird River see:
A tremendous amount of pollution washes from the rooftops, streets, parking lots, and other impervious surfaces spread throughout the 26-square land area draining to Bird River. Fortunately, slightly more than a third of the homes, shopping centers and other developed lands drain to ponds and other stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs).
A well-maintained stormwater pond can trap a third to half the pollution washes from rooftops, lawns, streets and other pavement. BMPs known as bioretention can keep 80% to 95% of the pollution out of nearby waterways.
The key phrase is "well maintained." A very limited survey by Campaign volunteers indicates that more than a few of the existing BMPs may be failing due to poor maintenance. The Campaign is now engaged in a survey of a portion of the BMPs to determine if poor maintenance is an isolated problem or widespread. If you'd like to be part of this effort then contact Campaign president Janet Terry at 410-335-8915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about stormwater BMPs check out...
Bird River Stormwater BMP Checklist:
Assessing Stormwater BMPs for Maintenance Needs (30-minute narrated PowerPoint); and
This new approach to stormwater management offers the potential to allow us to gain the benefits of growth with very little impact to aquatic resources. It also has the potential to greatly accelerate the recovery of waters degraded by existing development. This is why full compliance with Environmental Site Design (ESD) is crucial to halting the further degradation of Bird River and restoring all her waters to Child Safe & Friendly status.
Last February a group of Campaign volunteers learned how to evaluate proposed development projects for full compliance with ESD requirements. To learn more click: Presentation and visit the CEDS ESD webpage: ceds.org/esd.
To see how this effort works, click the following title: ESD Monitoring Organization & Procedures. A team of two volunteers alternate monitoring the County's Development, Zoning Hearings & Meetings calendar for projects located in the Bird River watershed. Volunteer Plan Reviewers then determine the degree of ESD compliance, which is then reported on: Online Form or a Paper Form.
For further detail contact ESD Coordinator Amy
Lamp at 410-302-5644 or
To determine if a project or some other feature is in the Bird River watershed, click the following: Bird River Watershed Map. Note the red line when the map appears. This red line follows the boundary of the 26 square mile area draining to Bird River. Type the address of the project or other feature in the Search box and hit Enter. A marker will appear. If the marker is within the red line then the project is in the Bird River watershed.
There are literally thousands of dumpsters throughout the Bird River watershed. Each could be a source of litter and water pollution. If lids are left open or trash overflows the dumpster then it could blow about the neighborhood, even into a nearby waterway. An open lid would also allow rain to mix with garbage resulting in the seepage of a highly-contaminated mixture into nearby storm drains or a creek.
The Bird River Volunteers are presently engaged in a survey of a sampling of the dumpsters to get a handle on the magnitude of the problem. To view a map showing the location of dumpsters already inventoried click: Dumpster Survey Map. Dumpster data is reported using an online form: Report Dumpster Data.
The results of initial dumpster surveys show:
Only 3 dumpsters (9%) met all of our criteria for low-impact; ·
But another 49% were problem-free except they were not within an enclosed area making each more prone to vandalism; ·
We could see where liquid had flowed from 2 (6%) dumpsters, which I’ll be reporting to the County Health Department; ·
17% of the dumpsters were open, allowing rain to enter then possibly flow out to pollute; ·
The contents of a third of these open dumpsters was loose so they could easily be carried by wind to litter the area and blown into nearby waterways; and ·
The remainder had a variety of lesser problems.
If the magnitude of the dumpster problem is small then we'll go on to more pressing threats to the River and neighborhood streams. If large then we'll work with County Code Enforcement officials to get the most serious problems corrected quickly. For the less imminent threats we may launch an education effort for dumpster owners and renters. ]
For further detail click on: Dumpster Factsheet.
If you'd like to be part of this effort then contact Campaign president Janet Terry at 410-335-8915 or email@example.com.
Maryland Healthy Beaches maintains a Check The Status of Your Favorite Beaches website. While there are no monitoring stations within Bird River, one is located in the upper Gunpowder River at the Hammerman State Park Area. You can sign up at this same website for email alerts. Data is posted on this website from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In the meantime, website text cautions against swimming for two days following a rain of an inch or more.
We’re conducting Bird River
stormwater BMP Road Trips. Four to Six of us will drive
to a dozen or so of the existing ponds and other BMPs in our watershed.
We’ll evaluate each BMP to determine if it’s still keeping pollution
out of our River and her tributaries. Each trip will last
about two hours. While the Road Trips tend to be
enjoyable, the data we’re gathering is critical to River restoration.
So if you’d like to get together with good folks while doing
something very worthwhile let me know which of the following Road Trips
you’d like to attend….
If you’d prefer to forego the Road Trips and evaluate BMPs on your own (or with a friend) then contact Bird River BMP Project Coordinator John Smith at 410-335-6089 or John@birdriver.org. John can help you find BMPs in your area that have yet to be evaluated. You’ll find survey instructions, forms and other useful materials by clicking Stormwater Ponds along the left side of our new website: restorebirdriver.org
The Bird River Restoration Campaign http://restorebirdriver.org/is committed to making the tidal river and her 90 miles of tributary streams Child Safe & Friendly: free of health and safety threats, teeming with fish and wildlife, and accessible to the public via foot and boat. To achieve this goal the Bird River Volunteers have been learning about the many potential sources which can impact these waters. The Volunteers have used this knowledge to assess how well sources throughout the 26-square mile watershed comply with Best Practices for minimizing negative effects. The chart above summarizes compliance.
Cropfield with Best Practices: Last November the Volunteers found that 80% of the cropfields in the watershed benefitted from the following practices that greatly reduce erosion and sediment pollution: cover crops, conservation tillage or grassed waterways. Unfortunately the worst cropfields are located along the south side of the River off roads like Stumpfs, Earls Beach and Bird River Grove. However, some of those farming these fields would like to make improvements if some obstacles can be resolved.
Dumpsters with Best Practices: If lids are left open on the hundreds of dumpsters throughout the watershed then large quantities of trash could be carried by the wind to litter stream and river sides. Open dumpsters can also accumulate rain which when mixed with trash can form a polluting brew which escapes through holes or when the dumpster is tipped into the collection truck. The Volunteers have found that only 66% of dumpsters have closed lids and complied with other best practices. We’re seeking Volunteers to help educate dumpster owners-renters about Best Practices.
Forest Conservation Easements Intact: Since the early 1990s developers have been required to set aside 15% to 20% of each site as Forest Conservation Easements (FCE). A comparison of eleven easements in the Bird River watershed with recent aerial photos shows a near 100% compliance rate.
Stable Stream Banks: The Bird River Small Watershed Action Plan (SWAP) cited stream bank erosion as the leading source of sediment pollution. Since the early 1990s the County and State have spent upwards of $30 million on stream bank stabilization projects in our watershed. These projects may have eliminated much of the sediment derived from channel erosion. But we don’t know what percentage of all eroding banks have been stabilized. The Volunteers may seek to gather this data.
Aquatic Buffers Present: Based on a partial survey of the watershed, the SWAP identified 5.3 miles of Bird River tributaries lacking a 100-foot wooded buffer extending from both banks. The County-State restoration projects certainly have helped with this issue, but we cannot say how many miles of poorly buffered channel remain. The Volunteers may also seek to gather this data.
Construction Erosion Control Compliance: With the possibility that stream bank stabilization is pretty much complete, construction sites have become the largest source of sediment. Most sites have good controls along the edges like black silt fence and ponds, but these measures only keep a third to half the sediment onsite. This is why State law requires that once grading is completed all exposed soils must be covered with a thick layer of straw and seeded with grass. These erosion control measures reduce sediment pollution by 90% to 99%. In June 2014 the Greater Baltimore Survey documented a 5% compliance rate in our watershed. This finding led to an increase in support for the County to improve enforcement. In November 2014, 58 Bird River Volunteers surveyed 26 construction sites and found a nine-fold increase in compliance! This summer the Greater Baltimore Survey will be repeated. We hope to find a further increase in compliance in our watershed. Let us know if you’d like to participate.
Other Exposed Soil Stabilized: The Volunteers found 207 acres of exposed soil polluting the river system with large amounts of eroded soil. These exposed soils are located on inactive construction sites, former mines, landfills and unpaved parking lots. Last January we asked County and State officials to work with the property owners to stabilize these pollution sources. We believe that thus far only 8% have been stabilized. We’re awaiting recent aerial photos to determine actual stabilization.
Stormwater BMPs Working: Since the 1980s more than 300 ponds and other stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) have been built throughout the Bird River watershed. They were designed to trap pollutants, maintain groundwater recharge, reduce channel erosion and flooding. The Volunteers have been visiting these BMPs and have found that 41% are no longer providing these benefits due to a variety of maintenance issues. We will be working with the County and BMP owners to win the necessary repairs.
Use of Highly-Effective ESD BMPs: Since 2009 most new development has been required to use Environmental Site Design (ESD). With ESD we can gain the benefits of well-managed growth with essentially no aquatic resource impacts. ESD consists of the use of highly-effective BMPs to control runoff along with aquatic buffers, preventing disturbance of steep slopes, maximizing forest retention, etc. Unfortunately, of the 492 ESD waivers granted statewide, 307 were issued by Baltimore County. So many development projects, like Nottingham Ridge, were exempted from ESD compliance. However, a limited review of recent development plans shows an 72% ESD compliance rate. So things may be improving. We are looking for more Volunteers to monitor new development for ESD compliance.
Steep Slopes Protected: The limited review of development plans showed that 100% of steep slopes were protected from impacts due to new houses, roads or other disturbances. A steep slopes rises or falls more than 25 feet vertically for every hundred feet of horizontal distance.
Aquatic Buffers Protected: The limited review of development plans showed that 100% of buffers to protect wetlands, streams and other aquatic resources were protected from impacts due to house, road or other forms of construction.
Forest Conservation Met Onsite: Forest covers 29% of the Bird River watershed. To meet our Child Safe & Friendly criteria the forest cover must increase to a minimum of 45%. New development is the leading cause of tree loss. Developers are required to set aside a minimum of 15% to 20% of each site as Forest Conservation Easements (FCE). The limited review of development plans showed that 75% of forest conservation requirements were met onsite, which is best. Developers paid a fee to meet the other 25% of their conservation requirements offsite. Which means forest was planted somewhere else; not necessarily in the Bird River watershed. If we are to achieve the 45% goal then the County must ensure fee-in-lieu funds are spent to plant trees in our watershed or deny this option.
Would You Like To Make A Difference?
Please consider becoming a Bird River Volunteer. We’ll only ask two hours of your time per month for no more than three months. The first hour will be spent showing you how to make a difference with whatever issue is of greatest concern to you. The rest of your time will be spent working with other Volunteers to inventory potential problem sources or to carry out activities to resolve a problem. All of our problem-solving actions are based on cooperation, not confrontation. So to become one of the few, the proud Bird River Volunteers contact Campaign president Janet Terry at 410-335-8915 or Janet@restorebirdriver.org.