The Muddy Branch Alliance helps keep our waters clean – and wants to get you outside to enjoy them

The Muddy Branch Alliance helps keep our waters clean – and wants to get you outside to enjoy them
Did you know that the Muddy Branch stream runs for more than 12 miles, from Gaithersburg High School all the way to the Potomac – and that almost 11 of those miles have a natural surface trail for walking, hiking, or riding alongside?

The Muddy Branch Alliance, or MBA for short, is a local non-profit that protects and improves the water quality and natural habitat of the Muddy Branch stream for the benefit of the community. To achieve this goal, they bring neighbors and community groups together to maintain and improve the trail, and keep the stream clean. Most weekends you can find MBA members along the trail with local Scout groups, churches and other volunteers removing invasive plants, planting trees, doing trail work, or cleaning up trash.

  Muddy Branch Alliance

  The MBA knows that people care about what they know, and regularly hosts events along the stream and trail.  On October 13th, the MBA will be partnering with local organizations to host a volksmarch on the Muddy Branch Trail.  A volksmarch is an organized hike intended for everyone to enjoy at their own pace while also appreciating the scenic views around them. All are welcome and encouraged to come out and enjoy this family-friendly event.  The event is free and open to all with donations accepted at the start and finish.

Monarch butterflyTo help improve water quality in the stream the MBA recently launched the Lands Green Waters Clean program which helps homeowners reduce runoff from their yards, driveways, and houses. Homeowners can take simple steps reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, and pet waste that enter our waterways. Conservation landscaping removes small areas of turf grass, which does not effectively absorb water during heavy rains, and replaces it with more permeable soil and native plants, shrubs, and trees. This protects water quality, improves habitat for birds and fish, and makes streams safer for families.

These projects make yards and common spaces beautiful, encourage native birds and butterflies, and can qualify homeowners for a rebate on their property taxes.  For homeowners interested in being a part of the initiative, a trained professional is sent to their homes to survey their yards to help design an eco-friendly oasis. The MBA will also help connect the property owner with resources and grants to help cover the costs.

Small actions within the community can have a significant impact on the Muddy Branch Watershed. By making small changes, our community can work together to keep our watershed healthy.

  Muddy Branch Alliance

  For more information on the Muddy Branch Alliance visit their website or visit their Facebook page. Interested in becoming a part of the Lands Green Waters Clean initiative to create your own backyard oasis? Click here for more info. Want to RSVP for the Volksmarch and secure a t-shirt? Click here.

DEP and Safeway want you to “Lighten Your Load”

DEP and Safeway want you to “Lighten Your Load”
This summer, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Safeway stores are partnering to help save shoppers energy and money on their lighting with “Lighten Your Load” events.

On select days at Safeway locations, bring old incandescent and/or compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and receive up to three free LED light bulbs and a new, reusable shopping bag. These “Lighten Your Load” events are a way to save on electric bills and ensure that plastics and dangerous substances, like mercury, do not enter the waste stream.

You can swap your old incandescent and/or CFL bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs on Mondays this summer from 4 to 6 p.m. at the following Safeway locations. Look for DEP staff in front of each store:

  • July 23: Germantown Safeway at 19718 Germantown Road, Germantown, 20874
  • July 30: Rockville Safeway at 5510 Norbeck Road, Rockville, 20853
  • August 6: Wheaton Safeway at 11201 Georgia Ave, Wheaton, 20902
  • August 13: Damascus Safeway at 9807 Main Street, Damascus, 20872
  • August 20: Olney Safeway at 3333 Spartan Road, Olney, 20832

Participants can bring as many bulbs as they have available, but during the swap, each family is limited to receiving three free LEDs. All bulbs collected during the swap will be properly recycled or disposed.

At the kick-off event on Monday, July 16, almost 100 LEDs and 180 bags were distributed to the public.

“We’re giving away replacement LEDs, because it’s a small change that makes a big impact for residents’ utility bills and the environment,” said Patty Bubar, acting director of the Montgomery County DEP. “About 80 percent of households still use incandescent bulbs, and the summer months also have some of the highest electricity bills. It’s the perfect time to make the switch.”

The ENERGY STAR®-certified LEDs offer a warm white light that’s equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb. LED bulbs are more energy efficient, have a longer life span, non-toxic and greener than other alternatives, flexible in color and design, and by switching three bulbs, you could cut your utility bill by at least $25 per year.

“We take our commitment to energy efficiency and reducing waste seriously,” said Darcie Renn, director of sustainability at Safeway. “By partnering with Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, our customers have the opportunity to save energy and lower their utility bills while also reducing waste that goes to the landfill.”

At each “Lighten the Load” event, reusable shopping bags will be distributed to shoppers. Plastic bags are a significant source of litter in our community and pollute our neighborhoods, streams, and playgrounds.

“Lighten the Load” events are part of the Department of Environmental Protection’s efforts to educate residents and businesses about simple actions we can all take to save energy and money.

For more information, visit mygreenmontgomery.org/energy or contact Larissa Johnson by email or by telephone at 202-281-7173

The Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant Program is now OPEN!

The Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant Program is now OPEN!
The Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant program, offered by the Montgomery County Government and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, is now accepting proposals to support watershed restoration and outreach throughout Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant Program encourages small-scale on-the-ground restoration practices like rain gardens and permeable pavement to reduce stormwater runoff and pollutants through community-based restoration. Equally, outreach and stewardship activities engaging Montgomery County residents in the restoration and protection of the local rivers and streams of Montgomery County are highly encouraged.

This funding opportunity is made possible through the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge and is available for projects throughout Montgomery County for grant awards of up to $100,000. The Trust welcomes applicants from 501©3 non-profit organizations such as community associations, faith-based organizations, youth, and civic groups, watershed organizations, and others. Nonprofits and communities with property in common ownership are strongly encouraged to apply. More information is available by visiting the Chesapeake Bay Trust website.

Deadline: September 27th, 2018 at 4pm

For questions contact Grant Manager: Jeffrey Popp, 410-974-2941, ext. 103

Please note that the municipalities of Gaithersburg, Rockville, and Takoma Park are not eligible for funding in this program; however they are eligible in a separate Outreach and Restoration Grant Program that is also open now with the Trust.

Montgomery County stormwater summit for homeowners

Montgomery County stormwater summit for homeowners
On June 6 the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of Maryland (UMD) hosted a Montgomery County Stormwater Summit for Homeowners at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. This event, part of larger project funded by a Chesapeake Bay Trust grant and the Montgomery County Water Quality Charge, was attended by more than 70 folks from all across the County.

Staff from the EFC’s Sustainable Maryland program presented information about a variety of rebate and incentive programs offered by Montgomery County. A particular focus was on the RainScapes program, which offers rebates on best management practices such as rain gardens, rain barrels and cisterns, pervious pavers, and conservation landscaping.

  Brandy Espinola EFC Speaking

  Additional information was presented about the Tree Montgomery program (free trees), pet waste management, litter control programs, and organic lawn care.

Local government agencies and regional watershed associations that staffed exhibit tables at this event included the County Department of Environmental Protection, Rock Creek Conservancy, Little Falls Watershed Alliance, and the Muddy Branch Alliance, each of which explained the unique support and technical services that they provide to towns and neighborhoods in the County.

  DEP Literature Table

  Next steps in this project will include EFC staff working specifically with the Wheaton Hills Civic Association, Glenmont Forest Neighbors Civic Association, and McKenney Hills-Carroll Knolls Civic Association to provide residents with information about the County’s stormwater-related programs, as well as providing these communities with basic watershed assessments that will identify and prioritize issues and potential future projects.

For more information, please contact Mike Hunninghake, Program Manager, Environmental Finance Center-UMD, at mikeh75@umd.edu or 301-405-7956.

Sarah Morse Little Falls Watershed Speaking

Sarah Morse Little Falls Watershed Speaking

Know Your Blooms: Swamp Milkweed

Know Your Blooms: Swamp Milkweed
Have you noticed the blooms of swamp milkweed? Starting in June, swamp milkweeds flowers start opening in sunny habitats in the County, such as wet meadows and swales. This includes roadside rain gardens and bioswales where the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have planted the species. Swamp milkweed’s flowering hits full force in July, and then peters out in August.  
Dennis Avenue Green Streets bioswale in July

Dennis Avenue Green Streets bioswale in July


About Swamp Milkweed

The pink flowers of Asclepias incarnata are known as an attractant for pollinators. In particular, the plant is a food source for the monarch butterfly, both as a nectar source for the adult butterflies and as forage for the larvae caterpillars. Adult monarchs can obtain nectar from a variety of plant species. However, the larvae are specialists, feeding on only milkweeds, including butterfly weed and common milkweed. Toxins in the milkweeds provide the monarchs with some protection against predators.  
Female monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in a Forest Estates raingarden in July

Female monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in a Forest Estates raingarden in July

  Swamp milkweed grows about 3 feet tall and prefers to grow in full sun and moist soil. It can tolerate some light shade and drought, but of all the milkweed species, it is the least tolerant of drought. Deer don’t seem to bother it much, possibly because of the toxins in its foliage. DEP plants swamp milkweed in rain gardens, other low-impact stormwater management practices, and along pond edges.  It is a preferred plant in stormwater management, because swamp milkweed tolerates more saturated soils, and provides beauty and pollinator habitat in the summer months.  
Swamp milkweed is very attractive to pollinators.

Swamp milkweed is very attractive to pollinators.

Planting Swamp Milkweed

There are some considerations that should be taken into account when using swamp milkweed. The plants tend to be fairly sparse when not in bloom and provide minimal interest or groundcover in the cold months. For this reason, they are best combined with under-plantings, such as golden groundsel (Packera aurea) or sedge species. Also, in many locations the species has not been very long-lived. The best use for the species may be in more naturalized settings where it can self-seed or where other species can spread to take its place as the plants die out.
Bare stemmed swamp milkweed in a Dennis  Avenue Green Streets bioswale in October

Bare stemmed swamp milkweed in a Dennis Avenue Green Streets bioswale in October

Swamp milkweed in June, underplanted with golden groundsel in a Franklin Knolls rain garden

Swamp milkweed in June, underplanted with golden groundsel in a Franklin Knolls rain garden

By Darian Copiz, Watershed Planner Have a question about a plant you found in a rain garden or other stormwater management practice? Email us at askdep@montgomerycountymd.gov

The Montgomery County green infrastructure stormwater tour was a big success!

The Montgomery County green infrastructure stormwater tour was a big success!
Chesapeake Awareness Week was the first week in June and the celebration kicked off with a Stormwater Tour!

On May 31st, two busloads of landscape architects, designers, engineers, and environmental professionals took a three hour tour of green infrastructure sites, soils, and plants. The sites are managed by Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Montgomery Parks, MCPS and private communities. Together, these groups have been working to deliver the highest quality, and most innovative, green infrastructure practices in the region.

Working with members of Maryland and Potomac American Society of Landscape Architects, the tour focused on five sites which represent a range of project scales and soil and plant treatments. The tour highlighted the many ways that green infrastructure improves water quality, one beautiful garden at a time, as part of the bigger effort to protect the Bay.

Roadside bioretention

Planting design changes create a stronger streetscape effect and will ensure that the rain gardens look good in all seasons, will need less maintenance and will still function for Stormwater water quality improvements as designed.


Stop 1: Breewood Neighborhood

DEP is retrofitting and repairing a small subwatershed using multiple green infrastructure practices, such as rain gardens, bioretentions, and stream restoration.  The projects are combined with biological and water quantity monitoring, both before and after construction.

The group learned about the challenges that informed planting design changes after installation, including retrofitting plantings to create an improved streetscape, curb step outs and a groundcover layer to reduce weeds.

The County water monitoring station

The County water monitoring station is between the homes and roads and the treatment facility of the bioretention and the restored stream. A second station is below the stream restoration to measure the impact of all of the retrofits.

Roadside Bioretention talks

Planners Doug Marshall, Pam Rowe, Donna Evans and landscape architect Carla Ellern explained the details of the approach to various aspects of the project from planning through the current maintenance practice.


Stop 2: Lanark Way

At Lanark Way, DEP Planners Darian Copiz and Ryan Zerbe described how a partnership between DOT and DEP transformed both a neighborhood cut-through and the streetscape into a place the community truly gathers around. The watershed outreach sign regarding pet waste was really appreciated.

There was a lively discussion regarding plant selection – what was working, what might be done differently, how the sweeps of plants created patterns, and the challenges of differing light levels for plant selection and strong curb appeal. Additional questions about frequency of maintenance, choice of materials for check dams, and overall plant management were of great interest to the group.

Little Free Library

“Read and Absorb” Little Free Library spontaneously appeared after the project was installed.


Stormwater management facility

lanner Ryan Zerbe explains the watershed goals for this project and check dam material was discussed.

Iris versicolor blooming in bioretention

Landscape architect Darian Copiz explains – Now it’s Iris versicolor blooming; later it will be a sweep of aromatic asters


Stop 3: Glenwaye Gardens

At Glenwaye Gardens, a multi-family community, the group heard from Property Manager Vicki Verganni, DEP Planner Dan Somers, and Designer Toni Bailey about the range of projects that the affordable housing community is implementing to solve their site erosion and water runoff issues which were negatively impacting their property.

A comprehensive conservation landscape approach, per the design guidance from the RainScapes program, included compost amended soils and “boomerang terrace berms” to slow down water from the large roof. The 4400 SF project is planted with a 100% native plants. The slope contouring slows the flow as it moves down the hill through a planted series of terraces.

baptisia and river oats

Drifts of baptisia and river oats stabilize the slopes

Berms and boulders

The berms and boulders re-enforce the slope and provide temporary ponding along the flow path.

Glen Waye Gardens

Vicky explains how this project is helping the community and Designer Toni Bailey described the design process used by Darlene Robbins and herself to get the project done to meet the grant deadlines.


Stop 4: Glenallan Elementary School

The next stop was to an MCPS site: Glenallan Elementary School. Everyone learned about the design and the maintenance challenges on the redeveloped site. The school is successfully integrating all of their green infrastructure into their STEM program.

DEP engineer Phil Jones explains green infrastructure

After Engineer Phil Jones explained the engineering design, Patrick Moran, GES Principal explained how the school uses the stormwater facilities as an educational resource.

Stormwater management at an MCPS school

Stop 5: Brookside Gardens

Brookside Gardens is a showcase of green infrastructure projects from top to bottom.

At the lower part of Brookside, DEP RainScapes Program Manager Ann English explained how the original rain garden/ microbioretention at Brookside solved a 20 year drainage problem. She also talked about some of the unique challenges to creating a rain garden/ permeable paver retrofit complex that was nested in a display bed that was being changed seasonally.

Rain garden

At the top of Brookside, Landscape Architect Steve Torgerson explains how the bioswale works and how the planting on top links the two sides of the bridge even though the soil areas are very different at the top of the Brookside Parking Garden.


PaveDrain infiltration system

The day wrapped up with a PaveDrain infiltration demonstration which revealed the impressive amount of water can be infiltrated into the pavement before being further used by the adjacent planting beds.