Not so long ago our local rivers seemed endless reservoirs of abundance. Canvasbacks smoked up the sky. Migratory fish—shad, striped bass, sturgeon, herring—heralded every spring. Shad festivals celebrated the bounty of our waterways. Old timers still claim the shad ran so thick you could walk across them. Oysters grew so plentiful that at low tide watermen would climb up on the reefs they created, gathering the succulents by hand. Sturgeon fat with roe, acres of mannoe clams, profuse underwater grass beds teeming with blue crabs, perch and flounder, all thrived in these waterways.
Our waterways have lost their vitality. The sad truth is that we have polluted these treasures. Water quality is poor. Excess nutrients create excess algae growth which chokes out light, oxygen, underwater grasses, and estuarine life. The Choptank was described in a December 9, 2007 article in the Baltimore Sun as Maryland’s second most polluted river, behind only the Patapsco which runs through Baltimore City. Portions of all of our major tributaries have been cited by state authorities as impaired.
And yet our rivers are not lost, they are living resources. Through a united community commitment and collective grassroots advocacy we can restore the vitality and health of these irreplaceable treasures and protect them for our children and grandchildren.