Nonprofit group is hired in effort to revive streams SOS to recruit, train volunteers

August 10, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County has hired a Glen Burnie-based nonprofit group to recruit and train volunteers to nurse to the county's brooks, streams and rivers back to health.

The county will pay Maryland Save Our Streams (SOS) $46,500 to organize volunteers along the Magothy River, several North County creeks and Weems Creek in Annapolis.

Jonathan Pearson, an SOS coordinator, said his group first will train neighborhood volunteers to spot potential problems, including eroding stream banks and leaking sewage pipes, then map them during organized expeditions along the stream channels.

SOS also is to begin a pilot biological monitoring program involving an unnamed tributary of the Patuxent River and to develop a slide show explaining the benefits of restoring natural stream channels rather turning them into concrete gutters.

County Executive Robert R. Neall, who announced the contract Friday, said the efforts of volunteers are becoming increasingly important as the county cuts back on spending. Last year, the county cut financing for monitoring programs run by the county Department of Planning and Code Enforcement.

Joe Elbrich, environmental programs director for the planning department, said his agency still coordinates a citizen monitoring program though it has no money to purchase new test kits or supplies.

He said efforts by SOS and his department will not overlap. The county's citizen monitoring and staff testing focus on chemical analyses of water quality. SOS is to focus its efforts on more obvious problems, he said.

SOS will work with the county departments of Health and Public Works to identify faulty sewage lines and to map the outfalls for storm water drains, said county spokeswoman Louise Hayman.

The information collected during stream surveys will be used to target tree plantings along unshaded banks and community cleanups where trash is discovered, Mr. Pearson said.

Evelyn Stein, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, which is financing this year's SOS effort, said, "It's an added set of eyes as far as locating these problems. We have many, many miles of waterfront and a limited number of inspectors."

The county first hired SOS in 1990 in a pilot program to organize volunteers along the Severn River. That three-year effort climaxed in 1991 with a one-day survey of the river and all of its tributaries by 200 volunteers.

That survey and the resulting report cost about $35,000; by comparison, SOS officials say, a private consultant would have charged the county more than $186,000.

The tiny tributaries of Weems Creek, which has been deluged with eroding dirt from highway and other construction, is the first project on the SOS agenda this year. Mr. Pearson said he is to meet this morning with members of the Weems Creek Conservancy, a civic association, to organize a workshop and stream survey.

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