'Citizen scientists' among award winners

By Lynn R. Parks
In 2008, volunteers with the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance attended just two community fairs, in Salisbury and in Vienna, Md. In 2009, under the direction of the group's new events coordinator, Linda Allen, volunteers with the group attended nine community fairs. They also assisted with a beach cleanup and helped to mark storm drains in Laurel and Seaford to make people aware that anything that goes down the drain ends up in the Nanticoke. On October 29, Allen, of Seaford, will be among 33 individuals, organizations and corporations that will receive Governor's Outstanding Service Awards. She was nominated for the outstanding individual environmental volunteering in Sussex County award by Kara Kukovitch, volunteer coordinator for the watershed alliance. "I am overwhelmed and honored," Allen, 57, said. "I guess you would call this a major highlight of my life. It is inspiring me to keep on and do the best I can for the environment." Also honored during the event will be the alliance's creek watchers program, whose 36 volunteers, including Allen and her husband, Don, monitor the quality of the water in the Nanticoke River Watershed. The "citizen scientists" are a "group of hardworking, patient and caring individuals who serve as environmental stewards of the Nanticoke River," the award selection committee said. The group is the only volunteer-run group working in the country to have its data collection system approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "This is a big recognition for us," said Fred Sponseller, a volunteer with the creek watchers. "It's a nice thing to know that you are recognized for what you are doing. And this really validates our whole program." The creek watchers program, funded by grants from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, was started in 2007. In 2008, volunteers monitored water quality at about 30 sites in the Nanticoke watershed. This year, nearly 40 volunteers are visiting 43 sites, taking water samples every two weeks through October. Collected data will be sent to Delaware and Maryland state agencies as well as to the EPA's Chesapeake Bay program. Envirocorp, a water-testing company in Harrington, does the lab analysis of the water samples for free. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, helps the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance manage the data and compile an annual report on water quality. Both the 2007 report and the 2008 report are available on the alliance's website, www.nanticokeriver.org. Allen said that her award as well as the award that the creek watchers group is getting are indication that their work is worthwhile. "We are caring about the watershed and the quality of the water for the benefit of people as well as for wildlife," she said. Allen and her husband are members of the Nanticoke Watershed Preservation Group, where she serves as secretary and he as president. She is also a member of the National Wildlife Federation and the Delaware chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Her backyard is certified as a birding wildlife habitat and she participates in Project Feederwatch through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University, through which she keeps track of the birds that visit her backyard feeders.

In the announcement of her award, the Office of the Governor said that Allen "connects people of all ages to the importance of the Nanticoke River, how to care for the waterways, and their rich history." "I'm getting out the word, not only about the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance but about the environment," she said. "I'm able to share my love and concern for the environment and express that to people, not to impose my feelings on others but just to get them to think about it."

For your information The Governor's Outstanding Volunteer Service Awards will be presented Thursday, Oct. 29, 5 p.m. at a dinner at Dover Downs. Tickets are $25. For information, call 857-5006 or visit www.volunteerdelaware.org.

Woodland Ferry thruster fails The Department of Transportation announced that the Woodland Ferry was taken out of service on Sunday, Oct. 11, due to a failure with one of the thrusters. At this point the cause of the failure is not known. The thruster will need to be removed, which requires a crane. The thruster was to be removed from the ferry on Monday. The ferry will remain out of service until the thruster can be removed and the cause of failure determined. In addition, the United States Coast Guard will need to inspect the vessel before it can be returned to operation.

River Road closing for repairs The Department of Transportation (DelDOT) announces that Norfolk Southern Railroad will close River Road between Clark Road and Route 13A for railroad crossing improvements. The work will begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 26 and end at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30, weather permitting. The road will be open to emergency vehicles and local residents living within the project area.

Northbound detour: Clark Road east to Johnson Road, northbound to Route 13A and back to River Road Southbound detour: Route 13A south to Johnson Road, westbound to Clark Road and back to River Road

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