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List of State Officials - Martin O'Malley, Governor; Anthony Brown, Lt. Governor; Shari T. Wilson, MDE Secretary 

Volume III, Number 10

 April 2009

eMDE is a bi-monthly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state. 

Watershed Restoration Success Stories: Minebank Run, Upper Sligo Creek, and Ben’s Branch

By Paul Emmart and Jim George, ​Science Services Administration

Click on photo to view larger image

Minebank Run Location Map 

Portion of Minebank Run During Restoration 

Portion of Minebank Run After Restoration 

Upper Sligo Creek – Observed Improvement 

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Tackling nonpoint source pollution is one of our biggest challenges. Waterbodies that are impaired by diffuse sources of pollution can take years or decades before improvements can be documented. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines success as actions that result in either meeting water quality standards, measurable progress toward achieving water quality goals, or a successful ecological restoration.

The Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) 319 Nonpoint Source Program is recognizing three watershed restoration projects that highlight great restoration achievements in Maryland. The 319 Program, named after a section of the Clean Water Act, provides federal grants for nonpoint source control projects to State and local agencies.

While the ultimate goal of a watershed restoration effort is to meet appropriate water quality standards, waterbodies that are impaired by diffuse sources of pollution can take years or decades before improvements can be documented. For this reason, the EPA defines success as actions that have resulted in either meeting water quality standards, measurable progress toward achieving water quality goals, or successful ecological restoration.

Watershed restoration efforts in Minebank Run, Upper Sligo Creek, and Ben’s Branch have resulted in measureable progress toward achieving water quality goals. If approved by EPA, they will receive national recognition and will be posted on EPA’s website as examples of successful innovative strategies used to reduce nonpoint source pollution.

Minebank Run in Baltimore County: Minebank Run is a small, urbanized subwatershed of the Gunpowder Falls. This area was largely developed prior to the establishment of national, state, and local stormwater management regulations. In the late 1990s, Minebank Run exhibited severe degradation and was subjected to high sediment and nutrient runoff. As part of the mitigation effort, Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management (DEPRM) conducted a two-phased restoration project (1999 and 2005), which included reconstructing natural stream meander features and riffle zones, stabilizing stream banks, reconnecting a stream channel to flood plain, and reestablishing riparian plant communities. After the first phase was completed, a collaborative effort to study wavvvvvter quality was launched by the United States Geological Survey, Institute of Ecosystem Studies, DEPRM, and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. This study found that the restoration efforts resulted in significant reduction in the bioreactive nitrogen concentration in the surface water and groundwater. This finding is important because identifying restoration techniques resulting in high denitrification activities provides water quality management tools that could help direct future restoration efforts in similar watersheds.

For more information about this success story.

Upper Sligo Creek in Montgomery County: Sligo Creek is a highly urbanized tributary to the Anacostia River. By 1988, large volumes of runoff and pollutants had degraded the Wheaton Branch tributary and reduced the number of resident fish species to as few as three in some segments. By 2007, following implementation of stormwater controls that now treat roughly 48 percent of the upper Sligo Creek watershed area, the in-stream conditions have improved. Current monitoring indicates that the streambed is more stable, peak discharges from storm events have been reduced, and most importantly water quality has improved: benthic macroinvertebrate populations have become more diverse and 14 fish species are now established.

Click here for more information about this success story.

Ben’s Branch in Frederick County: The success of the best management practices (BMPs) implemented on agricultural land near Ben’s Branch, a small tributary to Lake Linganore, demonstrates that, with appropriate measures, significant water quality improvements can be achieved. The types of BMPs included more than 8,800 feet of fencing, three spring developments to , a key factor in the compreplace in-stream cattle watering, and improvements to areas heavily used by livestock, including stream crossings as well as plantings of over 9 acres of cool-season grasses. The vegetation provides extensive summer stream shading, which helps to moderate in-stream water temperatureosition and productivity of a healthy stream system. As a result of this effort, streambank stability is much improved and the percentage of a desirable in-stream gravel substrate (material that forms streambed) has increased, while the percentage of the sand/mud substrate has decreased. Phosphorus concentrations also declined, indicating a decrease in the amount of sediment entering the stream from the surrounding pasture.

Click here for more information about this success story.

MDE’s 319 Nonpoint Source Program is committed to encouraging, supporting, and tracking similar restoration successes throughout the State. If you are aware of completed projects with monitoring data that show improved water quality, please contact MDE’s Nonpoint Source Program at (410) 537-3902. We would like to help give your success stories the recognition they deserve.

Click here for more information or EPA's site.


©2009 Copyright MDE

Editorial Board
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230