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2004 Annual Update

President’s message

2004 was a very active year for the Friends of the Nanticoke. We have continued our traditional efforts, including participation in the Vienna Shad Festival, hosting river cleanups, and advocacy for the river and its surrounding lands. We also embarked on several new initiatives and activities as detailed below.

Visiting Roatán, Honduras for the first time this January showed me how connected the land and water are in a tropical island / fringe coral reef environment. Fairly limited land clearing has resulted in heavy erosion, with topsoil- and clay-loaded waters streaming into the island’s lagoon and even onto the reef itself at times after heavy storms. Almost half of the coral has now died.

This connection is not as visible for most of us living in the Nanticoke River watershed, but it is just as important and as fragile. Land use is the most critical issue facing us as we attempt to protect the water and its resources. The rapid population growth and rate of housing construction in the river’s watershed is resulting in both increased runoff and increased loading of pollution, both in the form of toxic substances and of nutrients. And new research from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center shows that among many factors studied, the amount of development in a watershed is most important for determining the condition of estuarine waters downstream.

The Friends continue to make conservation of natural areas a high priority, and I am very excited about the results of the voter survey reported below. We plan to work hard to build momentum for protecting the river among all of the watershed’s residents. I am pleased to have you as our most vital supporters!

Edwin Lewis marsh hunting complex construction on Rewastico Creek

After a second hearing before the Wicomico County Board of Zoning Appeals, which again rejected Mr. Lewis’ request, the case is again being appealed through the Maryland court system. As of yet, there is no news on the ruling of the Court of Special Appeals regarding the findings of the Board, which were again upheld at the local Circuit Court level.

Wetipquin Creek Bridge

In August, the US Coast Guard announced its intent to require Wicomico County to raise the elevation of this 50-year old structure as a condition of granting the required permit, in response to a request by a few landowners. However, after an extensive letter-writing campaign initiated by the Friends, and with help from the County Council and from our three congressional representatives, the Coast Guard agreed to let Wicomico County pursue the option of maintaining the current dimensions by repairing the bridge in a comprehensive manner. This can be done without loss of the state money earmarked for the bridge, and it will also avoid extensive damage to the creek and its wetlands that the expansion and subsequent large boat traffic would have generated.

Work with the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance

The Nanticoke Watershed Alliance ended 2004 in excellent shape, with a full-time, outstanding executive director (Karen Lukacs) and solid funding. We continue to achieve many important goals through partnership with the NWA. This year’s projects included a “Living Shoreline” restoration and Coastal Cleanup at Roaring Point Park and the annual Shad Festival at Vienna.

Public opinion survey

Also through partnership with the NWA, we are continuing our Green Infrastucture initiative. A public opinion survey of Wicomico County registered voters, funded by the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, has just been completed by the Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE). The results show that voters in Wicomico County strongly support conservation of natural resources, and that they are concerned about the effects of unplanned and excessive growth on the rural character of their county. You are all invited to attend the next meeting of the NWA on March 15 at 3:00 pm on the second floor of the Greater Salisbury Building, where PACE co-director Harry Basehart will present the complete findings of the survey.