May 26, 2024
Annapolis, US 73 F

County, DNR and Severn Riverkeeper Working to Restore Jabez Branch

Photo depicts the stream system as an illustration of what this project seeks to address. (Photo Credit: Sarah Caldes, Severn Riverkeeper)

Anne Arundel County Executive Pittman recently announced a partnership with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Severn Riverkeeper to clean up the Jabez Branch. The Resilience Authority will invest more than $8M in grant funding on a long-anticipated project to restore the damaged coastal ecosystem. The project is expected to be completed this fall. 

“We are already seeing the consequences of climate change – both environmental and financial – in Anne Arundel County, and we have an obligation to take action now to reduce future impacts,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. “We are grateful to Governor Wes Moore and our state partners for helping us make this project a reality.”

The project, located in Reach III of the Jabez Branch, will help to address a significant erosion and pollution problem that continues to grow. Large sections of the coastal plain have been destabilized and are moving downstream with each rain event – transferring tons of sediment, debris, and pollution into the Severn River. High runoff volumes from roadways and surrounding impervious areas have impacted the headwaters of the Severn River, which once hosted one of the largest perch spawns in the entire Chesapeake Bay.

“These are the types of comprehensive projects and partnerships that the Department of Natural Resources is promoting to update our overall Chesapeake Bay cleanup strategy,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz. “We’re embracing the lessons we’ve learned over the past 40 years and adapting our strategy to reflect the latest science. As rising sea levels and stronger storms due to climate change threaten Maryland, we must invest in more impactful projects such as this one that integrates clean water and climate mitigation strategies.”

Photo depicts sediment plumes from Jabez Branch 3 and Severn Run polluting the Severn River. (Photo Credit: Davis Wallace)

The approach is to fill the deeply incised channel — 10 feet deep or more in places — with native sands, gravel and wood chips to reconnect it with its floodplain. A series of riffles and pools will be created in the channel to slow the flow and help withstand big storms. The existing 2.6 acres of wetlands bordering the stream will  be enhanced and doubled in size. 

“The anticipated impacts of climate change are well documented, and the implications for communities like Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis are profound”, said Matt Fleming, Executive Director for the Resilience Authority of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. “Accelerating the pace and scale of climate action will be necessary to enable communities across the county and city to adapt and thrive in the face of these challenges and I want to thank Secretary Kurtz for his leadership”.

Ten years ago, the Severn River Commission sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources identifying the Severn Run Environmental Area valley as destabilized and a source of sediment, debris, trash and chemicals into the Severn Run. Over the past ten years, partners have worked tirelessly to conduct research, create a design, and permit a restoration for this stream reach. 

Centuries of agriculture caused sediment to settle downstream, then as the surrounding land was paved and built on, water rushed off those hard surfaces and into streams so fast it cut into the banks, said Fred Kelly, Executive Director of the Severn Riverkeeper Program. “It is a completely broken system. The banks are eroding, the wetlands are drying out, the ecosystem is dying.”

For more information on the Resilience Authority of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County visit www.ResilienceAuthority.org

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