Otters on the Severn - Waterkeeper

Otters on the Severn

By: Severn Riverkeeper

Photo by Dr. Pierre Henkart

It is hard to believe that otters are happily swimming in the Severn River, only a few miles upstream of Maryland’s State Capital. Several years ago, Severn Riverkeeper stopped decades of pollution from the Annapolis Mall that had been destroying Cabin Branch, a tributary of Saltworks Creek on the Severn River. Now, nine years later, otters are finding fish in that same Saltworks Creek. The river’s restoration is part of the Severn Riverkeeper’s program to restore the Severn “One Creek at a Time.” 

Our Severn Riverkeeper, Sara Caldes, is constantly being called on by communities up and down the river to help restore their creeks and reduce polluted runoff. She responds with help with grants, counseling on appropriate design, how to obtain permits, managing construction, and outreach to the waterfront communities. Sara is the “Voice for the Severn.” Our Riverkeeper Program has an impressive track record for stopping stormwater runoff and shoreline erosion. We have installed over $6 million worth of projects that have stopped pollution in the past two decades.

The Severn Riverkeeper Program is stopping pollution “One Creek at a Time.” We are doing this with community leaders, funders, scientists, stream ecologists, practitioners, and government agencies at all levels- local, state, and federal. We are advancing nature-based regenerative design solutions that are rooted in current ecosystem science. This approach creates resilient re-establishment of native habitat, healthy streams, and wetland complexes. The results are multiple points of clean water production. This translates into the Severn River and its watershed becoming ever more hospitable to aquatic species and humans. We see crabs, clams, fish, oysters, and aquatic grasses thriving in the river where we’ve helped install living shorelines and restoration projects. 

It is all about science and ecosystem balance. So, we fight the good fight. We are proud to be one of the Waterkeepers Chesapeake founders. Our work involves the hard stuff, such as removing obstacle after obstacle in getting projects funded, permitted, and embraced by the surrounding communities in order to produce clean water. We do this even in the most persistently reluctant situations, where government officials ignore the intent of the Clean Water Act – to protect the watershed from pollution and produce clean water! 

We have been enabling clean water and keeping a check on polluters for 20 years. We are especially excited to be now partnering with the State resource managers in a major restoration of the headwaters of the Severn. This is where most life begins, is nurtured, and protected. After literally years of design and permitting, we anticipate being able to finally move forward with this crucial project. The fate of the Severn will be determined by the fate of the headwaters. This is also where the majority of the pollution enters the river. By stopping this pollution, we hope to see more otters throughout the Severn!

Photos of the otters are thanks to Dr. Pierre Henkart, whose home is on Saltworks Creek. Dr. Henkart is a retired NIH immunology researcher, who is happy to stop thinking about pandemics and look at otters outside his window. He has been an invaluable advisor to the Severn Riverkeeper, heading our summer water quality monitoring effort for over a decade.