Anacostia Watershed Blog

The (Once) Edible Anacostia: Wild Rice

By Emily Haynes, Stewardship Intern

One of the most common species we plant in our wetland planting events is wild rice, and people often ask us if it’s edible. While unfortunately today the river is too polluted for us to eat anything that lives or grows in it, the Anacostia once supported much of the Nacotchtank Indians’ diet. 

Wild rice was a staple of this diet, growing along the riverbanks in the twisting wetlands that flanked the Anacostia before it was straightened and its wetlands replaced by levees, seawalls, and berms. In our work recreating these lost wetlands, we at AWS always make sure to plant plenty of wild rice, as it was once quite populous here. Wild rice is a grassy, aquatic plant distinguished by its narrow, light-green leaves that can sometimes grow up to seven feet tall. Look out at the river today and you’ll see it flowering, showing off its beautiful greenish-yellow flowers.

Pepco Benning Road - Community Advisory Group Meeting and Comment Period

View of the Pepco Benning Road power plant from the Anacostia River.

On August 16, 2012, the Community Advisory Group (CAG) for the District Department of the Environment (DDOE)/Pepco Benning Road Consent Decree will meet for the first time at the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (4058 Minnesota Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20019) in the Community Room starting at 6:30 pm. The CAG consists of community organization members within the surrounding area of the Pepco facility and will serve as the voice for the public during the investigation process.

With the closure of the Pepco power plant (occupying 25% of the Benning Road facility) as of June 1, 2012, final approval of the Community Involvement Plan, and the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) proposed procedures ready for public comment, the CAG will meet to discuss the following:

Creatures from the River: Bryozoa

Yesterday, while out conducting routine water monitoring, our Water Quality Specialist Masaya Maeda found this blob in the water near Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Not as pretty as some of his other photos but it's still part of our river's ecosystem, and a nifty specimen at that.

It's a colony of Bryozoa, which is a group of organisms that has been around for approximately 5 million years! Most of these critters live in marine waters, but there is one class from the Bryozoan phylum that lives in freshwater: Phylactolaemata. The colonies form on submerged logs, branches, etc. and can be 2 to 7 feet in diameter.

How Climate Change Could Affect Your Dinner Plate

By Jason Martin, Stewardship Intern

When most people think about global warming or climate change they think of rising sea levels and temperatures. This gets people’s minds on better A/C units and selling beachfront properties but most don’t think about how rising temperatures could affect their dinner plate. Seventy percent of the commercially grown crops are pollinated by bees. Some crops such as tomatoes, squash, and blueberries depend on a specific species or group of bees to pollinate them. Any change in these relationships could have negative economic consequences for growers.

Natives Do it Better

By Jason Martin, Stewardship Intern

When most of us think about bees we think of a honey bee or bumblebee. While both of these bees are remarkable and important in their own way we also need to give credit to the other 3,998 species of bees in North America.

The honey bee is not native to the United States. It was imported here from Europe around 400 years ago by the first colonists. So, the honey bee, even though it does a great job of pollinating, hasn’t evolved with the native North American crops like the other 3,999 native species have. This co-evolution has led to numerous specialized relationships between native bees and native plants. Believe it or not there are some native plants in America that honey bees cannot or very inefficiently pollinate. Tomato, eggplant, squash, and blueberries are just a few crops that need native bees to pollinate them.

Stormwater Management and Climate Change

By Michael Schramm, Stewardship Intern

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that it is likely that a current 1-in-20-year annual maximum daily precipitation amount will become a 1-in-5 to a 1-in-15-year event by the end of the 21st century. The Mid-Atlantic region is anticipated to face less frequent but more intense precipitation events as a result of increased air temperatures, which in turn increase the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. We can expect longer dry periods, with more intense and extreme rainfall between those dry periods by the end of this century.

Imperviousness & Stream Health

By Michael Schramm, Stewardship Intern

I joined AWS last month as one of several stewardship interns. I have gotten to meet and talk with many volunteers at cleanup events and our Paddle Nights. From those interested in the health of the Anacostia, some of the questions I’ve heard most frequently so far are:

Beating Back Phragmites

Our 2 years of hacking, mowing and spraying Phragmites in the mud are paying off! There's only about 37% regrowth of Phragmites reeds at our wetland restoration site north of NY Avenue Bridge in Colmar Manor, MD. This fringe wetland is located on the west bank of the River between the confluence with Dueling Creek and the NY Ave. Bridge, the MD/DC border. This site used to be part of a wetland revegetation effort that was left unattended (not by AWS, though!), the result, a 30,745 sq. ft. dense population of Phragmites (Phragmites australis). For the newbies, Phragmites is a fast-growing grass native to the Old World that aggressively outcompetes the local native wetland plants, forming monocultures that encroach upon both natural and restored wetlands and reduces the species diversity in the wetland ecosystem.

The yellow area shows the 30,745 sq. ft. population of Phragmites we have been removing for the last 2 years right by the MD/DC border.

Concocting a Solution to our Trash Problem, Thoughts from the Trash Trap Site

By Kelci Schexnayder, Stewardship Intern

Hello from AWS! Last week we had a group of elementary school girls come out with us to the river, take a ride on our pontoon boat, and do some activities to learn about the wide variety of sources of pollution. A fellow intern told me about one gal who drew a beautiful solution to the litter problem, a trash can smack dab in the middle of the river for people to use instead of tossing their litter into the waters. What she didn’t know is that the AWS already has their own similar version of this! Our "trash trap" was installed in early 2009 and replaced with an updated version just last summer.

This trash was intercepted by our trash trap during a rain event at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast Washington, DC. AWS has found that bottles make up 45% of the trash volume.

How not to be a “TREE KILLER!”

By Chase Bergeson, AWS Stewardship intern

The other day, I helped to lead a group of elementary schoolers on a field trip to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast DC. Out in the mud some of the kids seems a little dubious about planting wild rice and were mostly worried about getting dirty. I wasn't thinking that we had a new group of environmentalists under our wing, but apparently they took their educational experience to heart. Upon passing a maintenance man pruning some trees along the trail, the kids began to shout: "Stop that!" "You’re hurting it." "Leave that tree alone!" "TREE KILLER!" I was astonished to learn that we had some tree huggers all along.

And while their hearts were in the right place, their shouts were uncalled for. The man was actually helping the trees. If you want to make sure that you don’t have a group of 40 ten-year-olds coming after you (they can be pretty scary when they want to be!), then keep reading for some tips about properly taking care of your trees!



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