The dynamic partnerships established by the Deep Creek Watershed Foundation keep expanding to pay for the increased sustainability of the Deep Creek Watershed.
Fish, frogs and vegetation in the streams and in Deep Creek Lake can live because acid mine drainage from the Cherry Creek mine and other mines is neutralized in the watershed.
Farmers can keep animal waste away from the streams in the watershed by using government-recommended fencing patterns.
Brookfield Renewable Power can use new lake-level predictions to anticipate drought conditions more accurately, and time its releases of water through the Deep Creek Lake dam in a way that benefits everyone in the watershed.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources can see the success of its boat-cleansing precautions, and determine if there is a need for more intensive action to keep destructive Zebra Mussels out of Deep Creek Lake.
The University of Maryland Extension Service can reach broader audiences to demonstrate the consequences of stormwater runoff from private property, and the use of rain gardens to effectively use showers to nurture flowers and plants, and prevent erosion.
Water Quality Monitoring
We are committed to assisting the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with their new Water Quality Monitoring System. This system will allow for DNR to record the lake's baseline water quality and determine how the watershed affects the lake's water quality.
Establishing the baseline in this first year will be crucial for detecting any changes to the quality of the lake's water. This new program will allow for continuous water quality data instead of the current random sampling and limited data. Continuous Monitoring Meters will be deployed in all major coves in Deep Creek Lake to help further identify sources of variation. The meters identify and record pH, temperature, turbidity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll. Consistent monitoring of these markers will provide a more clear picture of the lake's natural fluctuations.
An array of these monitors around the lake will afford an excellent data base to monitor the impacts of stormwater events, water levels, boat or wind driven waves, shoreline erosion, and perhaps sewage discharges.
The meters the state has in place are reaching the end of their useful lives, with one exception. An estimate of the cost of each new meter is about $23,000. The Foundation intends to fund as many of these meters as possible based on contributions.
The data provided by these meters will be crucial for identifying areas of concern that warrant future projects and special attention.
Predicting New Lake Water Levels
We paid $97,425 for developing a new method for predicting the water level of Deep Creek Lake. Called the Water Budget Model, it will allow the Brookfield Renewable Power Company, that operates the dam on Deep Creek Lake, to time water releases from the dam in light of the anticipated height of the water in the lake.
The height of the water in the lake is prescribed by a set of rule bands for each month; the lake level should remain between a stated upper and lower rule band. These requirements are set out in the power company’s permit to operate the dam, granted by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). Ideally, the water releases from the dam are timed to simultaneously benefit the needs of the power company, the whitewater community (the lake empties into the Youghiogheny River, a major whitewater site), the trout fishing site below the dam, and the Deep Creek Lake homeowners and recreation interests.
The challenge for the power company is to time the dam releases so that the water level of the lake is kept high enough to satisfy all of the people who benefit from the water in the lake. After paying for developing the Water Budget Model over the past two years, the Foundation has presented it to MDE and the power company for their use. Brookfield Renewable Power told us it is looking forward to incorporating the Water Budget Model in its on-going planning of when, and how much water to release from the dam.
Neutralizing Acid Mine Drainage
We paid an initial $10,000 to fight acid mine drainage from Cherry Creek into Deep Creek Lake. Cherry Creek is one of the major streams in the Deep Creek Watershed, and a major route for water flowing into Deep Creek Lake. The largest of the mines near Cherry Creek discharges an average of 60 gallons of acid mine drainage per minute.
The U.S. Department of the Interior and the State of Maryland have worked to neutralize the acid in the water with projects that include a limestone doser (originally paid for by the Spencer-Lang Foundation), that releases regulated amounts of acid-neutralizing limestone into the water. We are now adding our strength to these teams by paying for the limestone that goes into the doser.
Managing Stormwater Runoff
We, along with the Garrett College’s Continuing Education & Workforce department, and the Garrett County Government, sponsor the University of Maryland Extension Service’s public presentations on managing stormwater runoff.
The problem is especially severe when rainwater runs over hard surfaces, such as driveways and rooftops, picking up sediment, chemicals, debris and toxins that are carried into local streams. The Extension Service’s presentations cover the use of rain barrels and cisterns, rain gardens, conservation landscaping and riparian buffer planting, among other ways to ameliorate runoff and prevent erosion.
These sessions are presented by Ashley Bodkins, who also is an advisor to the Deep Creek Watershed Foundation.
Watching for Zebra Mussels
We have paid $2,575, and joined with Brookfield Renewable Power, to help the Maryland Department of Natural Resources test the waters and habitats in Deep Creek Lake to see if there are any indications that the lake has been invaded by the terribly destructive Zebra Mussels, a species originally native to the lakes of southern Russia and Ukraine.
These mussels, which have invaded other lakes in the U.S., including lakes near us, are usually carried into lakes on the bottom of boats. They have sharp shells that are a danger to swimmers who step on them, they clog hydroelectric dams, and they have a toxin that has killed thousands of birds.
The tests so far have yielded the good news that Deep Creek Lake shows no presence of Zebra Mussels, and we are keeping up the watch for these dangerous invaders.