By Nick DiPasquale
Most of us who live in an urban or suburban setting really don’t know what a healthy stream looks like. In some cases we can’t even see streams that run under our roads and shopping centers because they’ve been forced into pipes; out of sight, out of mind.
The remnants of streams we can see have been filled with sediment and other pollution and the ecology of the stream has been altered significantly. The plants and animals that used to live there have long since departed, their habitat having been destroyed. This didn’t happen overnight. The environment is suffering “a death by a thousand cuts.”
I recently got the chance to visit the Cabin Branch stream restoration project, not far from my neighborhood in Annapolis. The project is being undertaken by the Severn Riverkeeper, and is one of many stream restoration projects taking place throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Cabin Branch discharges to the streams and wetlands of Saltworks Creek and the Severn River, which carries the polluted runoff into the Bay. Aerial photos taken after a modest rain are dramatic testament to a severely damaged ecosystem causing the Severn to run the color of chocolate milk. This same phenomenon is repeated in streams and rivers that run through thousands of communities throughout the watershed.
It was gratifying to see the Cabin Branch project first hand – one of many efforts to heal the damage done unknowingly over many decades of development. Like many projects of this nature, the Severn Riverkeeper Program had to overcome some bureaucratic red tape to get the permits they needed, but their perseverance will be worth the impact in helping clean local waters and the Bay.
Fortunately, we are learning better ways to manage stormwater runoff through low impact development and use of green infrastructure which help to mimic the cleansing functions of nature. It will take some time before this patient is restored to good health, but we are on the mend.
About the Author: Nick DiPasquale is Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. Nick has nearly 30 years of public policy and environmental management experience in both the public and private sectors. He previously served as Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
You can also see this post and much more Chesapeake Bay content on the Chesapeake Bay Program Blog.