In 1979, a group of western Wicomico County residents organized to oppose construction of a nuclear power plant on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore.
One of those individuals, retired Biology professor Judith Stribling, recently recalled the incident.
“The Maryland State Power Plant Siting Project proposed a nuclear power plant located between the Wicomico and Nanticoke rivers near Muddy Hole Marsh,” she said. “It was ludicrous but scary. We fought it, and got a lot of people involved. The Public Service Commission decided not to pursue the proposal.”
A dozen years later, in March 1991, many of the same residents again organized to oppose the construction of a condominium development on Hatcrown Point in Tyaskin.
Those people stayed connected, Stribling said, and by summer 1991 the nonprofit Friends Of The Nanticoke had been incorporated, dedicated to protecting and advocating for the Nanticoke River, whose source is located in Sussex County, Delaware.
“We quickly became involved with folks from Delaware who had similar concerns,” Stribling said, “and merged to form the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance.”
Although the two organizations – the Friends Of The Nanticoke and the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance – work closely together, the Friends group focuses on advocacy, also providing some financial support, while the NWA is involved more with the science and education aspects of watershed management.
“We rely on them, they rely on us,” Stribling said.
Jay Martin, who calls himself the group’s “token farmer,” said the mission is carried out by mailing to its members two newsletters each year to bring that audience up to day on what the Friends group is doing as well as providing a conduit for those members to provide input. FOTN also maintains a Facebook page and a website that also provide a means of connecting with members.
“We seek both constructive criticism and suggestions from our members,” Martin said.
Friends Of The Nanticoke does not seek grant funding. “We are strictly donation funded,” said Martin.
In fact, Martin said, Friends Of The Nanticoke recently changed its membership model from charging a set fee to a donation-based system, accepting whatever amount each individual is comfortable donating.
Through the years, Friends Of The Nanticoke River has chalked up some impressive victories in its advocacy work.
In 2005, it conducted a public opinion survey on population growth in Wicomico County, which influenced local government to build conservation into its county Comprehensive Plan.
In 2011, it opposed the Waller Landing proposal to add 1,500 residential units to the town of Hebron that would have used a failing wastewater treatment system that had been highlighted by FNR for years as damaging to Rewastico Creek. The development never came to fruition.
Currently Friends Of The Nanticoke is opposing a proposed salmon production facility that would discharge into Marshyhope Creek, a major tributary of the Nanticoke and home to a reproducing endangered Atlantic sturgeon population.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Friends Of The Nanticoke is throwing a party at Cedar Hill Park in Bivalve on Sunday, Oct. 24, from 1 to 5 p.m., featuring live music by The Westside Troubadours and The Folk Heroes, catering by Taylor’s Barbecue and a keynote address by author and filmmaker Tom Horton.