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Our Team

Michael R. Helfrich: Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Michael Ray Helfrich was born and raised in the Codorus Creek Watershed in York County, Pennsylvania. Michael graduated with honors from West York Senior High School in 1988. He spent some time at York College studying engineering, chemistry, and calculus, but found that travel and experience were more his type of education. Michael lived around the country, with some of his favorite communities being Boulder, CO; Eugene, OR; and Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys. In all of these areas, the water bodies played a key role in the health and atmosphere of each community.

In November 2001 Michael returned to York and by January 2002 the Codorus Creek Improvement Partnership, or CCIP, had been formed.

Over the next 3 years, CCIP organized creek clean-ups that removed over 150 tons of debris from the Codorus and her tributaries, volunteers educated thousands of children and adults on the dangers of pollution and the need to preserve our waterways, and CCIP™s pollution patrols brought the attention of enforcement agencies to dozens of illegal discharges into the Codorus. In 2002, Columbia Gas was forced to clean up an gas plant site that was leaching liquid tar and VOC™s into the Codorus. In 2003 CCIP led neighbors in a lawsuit effort that stopped the stockpiling of over 365,000 tons of treated incinerator ash on the western edge of York City.

In June 2005 Michael handed over leadership of CCIP and started Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna, Inc (SOLS). In September of 2005 he was licensed as the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper by the international Waterkeeper Alliance. Since that time Michael has worked with citizens and scientists to find solutions to some of the most difficult and controversial environmental problems in the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Watersheds, including: the sediment time-bomb behind the lower Susquehanna Dams; the loss of the American Eel and the Eastern Elliptio mussel and the loss of pollutant filtration capacity that has followed; and the sexual mutations and die-offs in the Susquehanna’s prized bass fishery. In 2011 SOLS helped defeat a hydro-electric pumped-storage facility that threatened to drown 1700 acres of York County including prime agricultural lands.

Michael was recently elected York City Councilman. He has also received these distinguished awards: The Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge George Washington Medal of Honor (1984); York County Conservation District Watershed Stewardship Award (2003); the City of York Leadership Award (2004); the York County Bar Association Liberty Bell Award (2005); and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters John V. Kabler Award (2005).

Bill Minarik: Executive Director, Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Bill MinarikBill Minarik served as a Senior Director with the prestigious National Aquarium for 20 years in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. He is active in a variety of water conservation efforts including river, bay and ocean cleanups, and has planted water grasses restoring aquatic vegetation to local waters. As Advisor to the Aquarium’s Award winning Internal Conservation Team, Bill lead an amazing group in transforming the Aquarium’s internal operations into a more sustainable entity. For his conservation efforts, Bill was featured in the Baltimore Business Journal, local newspapers and in the Potomac Riverkeeper’s River Watch. Bill, a longtime supporter of clean water, is an active advocate and has testified in front of the Baltimore City Council and the Inner Harbor Task Force.

Bill has been named “Employee of the Year” at the National Aquarium and has received the Mayoral Citation for his community work from the City of Baltimore.

As an avid kayaker, Bill led a dozen paddlers on a two week long expedition from the headwaters of the Susquehanna River in Lake Otsego in Cooperstown, New York to the Chesapeake Bay. This epic 444 mile trip included camping on the islands of the Susquehanna and taking water samples along the way. Bill found that communities who were connected to the river had great good riparian buffers, wonderful river access, nice parks clean islands, great fishing and people out enjoying the river. He also discovered when people turned their backs to the river is where he found neglect and abuse such as a car abandoned in our river, trash everywhere especially on islands, very poor fishing and horrible smells from pollution, uncontrolled rain and acid mine runoff.

Bill chronicled his Susquehanna kayak experience on the National Aquarium’s Website where the satellite tag he carried on his kayak tracked the group’s progress down the Susquehanna and every day a blog about that day’s experience was posted. The big lesson learned was Communities that cared about the Susquehanna and took action received wonderful results back from the river and the communities who did not care not only fouled the local experience, but made life unpleasant for their neighbors downstream.

Bill invites you to call ahead 443.604.5894 and stop by the SOLS office at Shanks Mare’s Outfitter on 2098 Long Level Road in Wrightsville, PA to discuss the Mighty Susquehanna and its future.

Our Board of Directors:

Andrew Miller, York, PA – President

Jeff Shue, York, PA – Vice President

Ted Evgeniadis, Harrisburg, PA – Treasure

Steve Todd, Hershey, PA – Secretary

Tom Pelikan, Wrightsville, PA – At  Large