This summer, while I was walking with my dogs along Washington Street in Easton, I noticed a sign alerting us to a Stream Restoration project. Always alert for anything environmentally related or critter related, especially in my newly adopted town, we quickly walked down the muddy dirt and gravel road to see what was going on.
Lots! And, then again, not all that much that I could ascertain from walking by.
So, I called the town number on the sign and first reached the Town of Easton Department of Engineering, then was quickly transferred to Kody Cario, the project manager for the Papermill Branch Stream Restoration. Well, it’s actually an unnamed tributary in the lower Choptank watershed, but the engineers quickly adopted the more colorful name based on its history. Perhaps the local history folks can give us some insight regarding the paper mill that may have been nearby.
Funding and Calendar
This project, funded by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, is the first of two phases to restore streams in Easton. The project is designed to help Easton meet state requirements that encourage towns to take care of their own stormwater and water pollution issues. Funding is earmarked to help with nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment removal.
The grant was awarded in April of 2019, and then began various administrative paperwork and processes, including restrictions that protect spawning fish populations (mid-March to mid-June). Work started in earnest in June of this year.
Since I first spoke with Kody in August, there was a wonderful article in the local Star Democrat newspaper about the project that gives a lot of background.
Steps to Stream Restoration
- Clearing invasive and inappropriate plants (water-safe herbicide and mechanical)
- Reshaping the stream channel—including structures—based on natural stream channel, using as little rock as possible
- Changing the elevation of the stream (in places)—where there are rocks, making the water pool and go through an area quietly; helps to control erosion
- Stabilization (temporary seed, natural coconut fiber blanket) during the process
- Planting and reforesting
- Monitoring stream health
The reforesting phase of the project, including some bioengineering, includes the replanting of 700 stems/acre of native trees and shrubs. Replanting will help prevent erosion, improve water quality, and provide habitat.
The VERY specific planning plan for the project describes the species to be used, the planting procedures (will illustrations as to appropriate planting depth, for example), and specifications for standards, storage and delivery, and the types of products required.
The bioengineering installation usually includes live stakes and warm season grasses placed on the stream banks. Live stakes are 2- to 3-foot branches of Black Willow (Salix nigra), Silky Willow (Salix sericea), and Silky Dogwood (Cornus ammomum), usually cut and plunked rather unceremoniously into the creekside. In this project, deep plugs of these plants (rooted shrubs, also called tublings) were used, as the timing for live stakes can be difficult to work into the project management. Tublings combine the cost effectiveness and transportability of a bare root with the robust root system of a container-grown propagule.
Warm season grasses that may be used include Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoides). In addition, the utility plantings feature arrowwood viburnum, hazel alder, and silky willow; riparian plans include red maple, American sycamore, tulip poplar, pin oak, arrowwood viburnum, hazel alder, silky willow, black willow, and silky dogwood; and the wetland plans feature river birch, swamp white oak, sweetbay magnolia, winterberry holly, silky willow, spicebush, and smooth alder.
Stay tuned for another post on the second phase of this project, which began in October 2020, taking place in approximately 1,200 linear feet of the Tanyard Branch. There will be two sections to this project, above and below the Bay Street ponds in Easton, and featuring a similar process of removal of invasive plants, rectification of erosion, and replanting. Long-term future ideas and plans from the Town of Easton Department of Engineering include a spur on the rail trail that will go from the existing rail trail at Maryland Avenue, west to Port Street (a short section is already there), and eventually will tie in to the pedestrian bridge off West Glenwood Avenue.
by Beth Lawton
Maryland Master Naturalist/Arboretum volunteer