We are very excited to introduce the Chester River Association (CRA) as the newest member to the Swim Guide affiliate program. Residents of Chester River watershed now have public access to recreational water quality information recreational water spots. The Chester River Association has a very active role in the protection and restoration of the Chester. This environmental conservation organization is paving the way to a healthier Chester River for its community and their future generations.
The Chester River is a vital feature of Chestertown and the Kent County region. Like many rivers flowing through agricultural and urban areas, the Chester River has poor water quality due to polluted water flowing into the river. Consequently, in the mid 1980s citizens concerned for the Rivers’ health founded the CRA to help improve on these issues.
Since that time the organization has been instrumental in identifying water quality issues with the river, and in planning strategic solutions. Their innovative programs are the cornerstone to these solutions, which tackle wide ranging issues for the river. For instance, the CRA advocates to all levels of government, and runs thorough water quality monitoring programs. Their vision is to maintain a healthy Chester River using science-based advocacy, restoration, monitoring programs, and outreach. In addition, their amazing work continues to improve community relationships with the river, and also helps foster community watershed stewardship.
The CRA staff and Chester Tester Citizen Scientists volunteers monitor water quality at 21 tidal stations and 27 non-tidal stations in the Chester River watershed. Two main parts to their program are operational. Firstly, the tidal monitoring program looks at the Chester River and major tidal tributaries. The second is the non-tidal monitoring program sampling free flowing creeks and streams in the watershed.
The tidal monitoring program conducted by CRA staff, take samples at 21 stations in the the main part of Chester River and its major branches. Furthermore, at popular water recreational spots, the CRA tests for indicator bacteria every two weeks from April to October. The Chester Tester Citizen Scientist Volunteers conduct the non-tidal monitoring program. The samples collected at a bi-weekly interval and are analyzed for nutrients, dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and clarity.
Especially relevant is the CRA uses established scientific protocols and the best available technologies for sample collection and analysis. To ensure the accuracy of all collected samples, training on technical procedures is provided for the CRA staff and volunteers. They also must attend and pass an annual training workshop. Additionally, when possible the CRA follows the scientific guidances developed by Maryland Tributary Coalition (MTAC’s) for their water quality monitoring program.
Moreover, the water quality monitoring data produced by CRA is used in the development of their annual Chester River Report Card. This report identifies pollution sources and environmental issues in the river, and then plans and prioritizes strategic restoration efforts.
The Chester River is about 43 miles (69 km) long, and its watershed covers around 368 square miles (950 km2). The headwaters (starting place of the river) extend from New Castle County, Kent County and Delaware. The Chester River itself begins at Millington, Maryland, and flows out into Chesapeake Bay. In addition to recreational use by humans, many animals rely on this watershed. Ducks, geese, bald eagles, and other water-loving birds make their homes along river. Another important aspect is the river provides spawning and nursery habitat for many fish species, including alewife, shad, blueback, perched, and striped bass.
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