At Annual State Of The Magothy Meeting, River Earns Grade Of D-
By Shaunna Ballard
The Magothy River Association, or MRA, held its tenth annual State Of The Magothy presentation recently at Anne Arundel Community College. Topics presented at the meeting focused on the health of the Magothy River, the 12.1-mile river that runs through Anne Arundel County beginning in Severna Park and ending in the Chesapeake Bay near Gibson Island.
The MRA is a group that represents nearly 46 communities along the river. Since its formation in 1946, the MRA has aimed to improve the deteriorating condition of the river by monitoring the rivers water quality, helping restore underwater grasses, and maintaining oyster nurseries within the river.
According to the 2011 Magothy River Index prepared and presented by Dr. Peter Bergstrom, the overall health of the river is still in decline. While dissolved oxygen levels in the river have risen in recent years, submerged aquatic vegetation and water clarity have continued to plummet. Dr. Bergstrom is the MRAs volunteer monitory coordinator and a fishery biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chesapeake Bay Office. He noted the river has achieved a D- grade for the second year in a row.
While there is no one explicit culprit as to the deterioration of the rivers health, the decline of underwater grasses specifically is unclear. Bergstrom said of the grasses, They were gone, they came back, and now theyre going away again. It could just be a cycle. But we dont know a lot about it.
The dangerously low health level of the Magothy also poses a risk for people in contact with the river. Dr. Sally G. Horner, professor of biology at AACC, described the potential dangers of vibrio vulnificus, a strain of bacteria found in the Magothy during warmer months. She cautioned against swimming in the river, especially with an open cut or sore. If the bacteria enters your blood stream through broken skin, it can cause severe infection, said Horner.
Despite the daunting warnings and discouraging news, the MRA has high hopes for the river and its future. I wouldnt be here if I didnt think it was possible to turn this around, said MRA president Paul Spadaro.
Russ Stevenson, MRA vice president and government affairs chairman, encouraged the audience to stay involved and participate in order to help the Magothy. He also advocated the controversial storm-water utility fee currently being contemplated by the County Council. Its going to cost us money to clean up the bay and we all have to chip in, he said.
Money raised by the utility fee in conjunction with donations to the MRA could be used for future projects, including those conducted by Richard Carey, MRA community science coordinator and dive safety officer. Carey hopes to introduce microorganisms to the river in the near future to help improve the rivers health.
However, even simple projects can benefit the Magothy. A lot of what you can do is right there in your yard, noted Bergstrom. You can build a rain garden or plant trees. Theres a lot you can do and we encourage it.
Individuals and families interested in the health of the local environment can organize such projects, but are also encouraged to actively participate in the MRA. As Spadaro said, Our organization depends on active membership.
Becoming a member or volunteer helps the MRA to accomplish its goals. In 2012, the organization hopes to participate in the Kinder Park Fall Festival, conduct steam cleanup along Old Jones Station Road, and commemorate Magothy River Day on June 9.
Community members interested in becoming a member, volunteer, or sponsor of the MRA should contact Spadaro at 410-647-8772 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Magothy River, the MRA and projects, please visit www.magothyriver.org.