By David Myerberg, MD, JD, Foundation President
The Deep Creek Watershed Foundation’s goal is to preserve and protect the watershed and the lake for posterity. The watershed is the catchment area of the lake and includes an area of about 64 square miles, totally in Garrett County, MD. The lake is 95 years old, and over that time has contributed to a dramatic, sustained economic change in Garrett County and the region. Unfortunately, without great effort, man-made lakes are subject to degradation from sediment deposition, sub-aquatic vegetation, storm-water run-off, land-use abuses, old septic systems, destruction of forest cover, and lack of public knowledge and involvement. All of which will go unchecked without adequate funding. In 2016, the involved State agencies and the Garrett County Commission signed a memo of understanding supporting the Deep Creek Watershed Management Plan which was assembled by local citizens. However, since that time, for a variety of reasons, neither the State nor the local government has contributed the substantial necessary funds to keep ahead of these problems.
Since its beginning in 2016, The Watershed Foundation, a 501c(3) charitable corporation, has garnered almost $300,000 in tax deductible donations from the public to accomplish projects necessary to fulfill the goals of the Watershed Plan. These projects are scientifically based and are in partnership with State and local agencies and corporate stakeholders.
Funding Limestone to Prevent Acid Mine Drainage
Over the time from 1920 to 1957, Cherry Creek, a major tributary of Deep Creek Lake lost its entire brook trout fishery due to acid mine drainage. By 2004, due to the efforts of the State and private foundations, these trout had returned with other fish. The Watershed Foundation donates the limestone to continue these efforts and keep the acid out of Cherry Creek and the lake. The Foundation will continue this as long as it has the funds to do so.
Funding studies to prevent a Zebra Mussel Infestation
Many lakes and rivers in our region are infested with destructive and poisonous Zebra mussels. These mussels are carried to the lake from boats coming from other bodies of water. The Foundation contributes to efforts by State DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and Brookfield Power (The operator of the Deep Creek Dam) to determine whether zebra mussels are present in and could survive in the lake. This study will go on for three years.
Stormwater Run-off Prevention
The Foundation has financially supported the University of Maryland Extension’s Water-Wise program to promote conservation landscapes in Garrett County. The Foundation hopes to continue funding this effort.
Funding projects of the multi-government Watershed Administrative Council
The Foundation has funded projects suggested by this Council which was started by the State and County following the approval of the Watershed Plan. The Foundation believes that this Council is essential to the ongoing efforts to preserve and protect the County’s watersheds and will make every effort to fund its projects and those of its Educational Advisory Committee.
Funding the study of equitable distribution of the waters of the lake
The Foundation hired a private engineering firm to study the adverse effects on dock access in the lake of summer water releases ($30,000) and develop a technological approach called a Water Budget Model to allow MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment), DNR and Brookfield Power to anticipate and equitably allocate water that comes into Deep Creek Lake from the watershed and other sources. ($67,000) The Deep Creek Watershed and Lake empty into the Youghiogheny River and supply some of the best white-water runs and fishing support in the eastern US. This Water Budget Model provides a proven example of the way in which limited water supplies can be equitably divided and meets goals #12 and #13 of the Watershed Plan.
Funding water Quality Monitors
The Foundation’s current major campaign involves funding five water quality monitors for the use of DNR in assessing the water quality of the lake and tributaries. The goals of these assessments will be to (1) collect baseline data for the purposes of detecting changes in the functioning or stability of Deep Creek Lake for management purposes, and (2) Determine how the watershed (tributaries and nearshore environment) affects water quality in the lake with regard to sediments, nutrients, and water volume.
Deep Creek Lake has many tributaries and many coves, and all of these differ in dimensions, flow and use. Since 2009, DNR has measured water quality with a limited number of aging monitors. With five new meters from the Foundation, DNR will be able to deploy a meter in each cove for a full season and all 10-12 coves will have one full season’s data by 2022-3.
The probes in the meter measure pH, temperature, conductivity, turbidity, depth, dissolved oxygen, salinity and chlorophyll – a complete picture of water quality. The meters will cost between $20,000 and $25,000 each. At some times, the meters will be paired – one in the tributary and one in its cove, and measurements will be continuous, with remote pick-up to monitor changes. Through these measures, DNR scientists will be able to understand impacts on water quality of storm events, boat wakes, water levels, and introduction of nutrients or sediment via the watershed. They will also be able to identify potential impacts on water quality for further investigation by DNR staff and the application of appropriate remedies.
For example, Chlorophyll is a measure of algal biomass, thus nutrient input, and could signify algal blooms, sewage or septic inputs, etc. Turbidity is a measure of how murky the waters are, thus a reflection of the amount of sediment and other suspended material in the water column and can be helpful at understanding effects of boat traffic or sediment plumes from tributaries. Conductivity data for freshwater systems is usually low but changes can suggest if there are pollutants and/or minerals entering a water body.
The Foundation Board and Advisors work without pay and bring to the Foundation a large array of professional and corporate knowledge and experience. Please see the Foundation’s web site www.deepcreekwatershedfoundation.org for more information, and please give generously.