A hot, steamy summer has settled on the Bay watershed, bringing scorching temperatures and high electric bills. The news has been filled with reports of poor air quality and power outages, and we still have over a month of summer left.
But high temperatures affect a lot more than our sweat glands and wallets; they impact the Chesapeake as well. Although it is America's largest estuary, the Bay is surprisingly shallow, with an average depth of about 21 feet. (In contrast, Lake Michigan has an average depth of 279 feet.) Because of its shallow nature, the Bay suffers large seasonal fluctuations in temperature.
As summer water temperatures rise, it lessens the water's capacity to hold dissolved oxygen, which is vital to a host of creatures, from blue crabs to striped bass. The warmer the water gets, the less oxygen it contains. When combined with tons of nutrients and sediments, the heat spells trouble for the Bay in the form of numerous anoxic “dead zones.” These areas are becoming an annual summer problem in the Bay's deep channels.
High water temperatures may also affect underwater grass beds. Last year, warmer than average water temperatures may have caused the large scale loss of eelgrass in Tangier Sound. And while high temperatures can negatively affect SAV, they aid in the growth of something not so desirable: algae. These tiny plants flourish in the hot summer sun, soaking up rays and nutrients, but often multiplying to unhealthy proportions. These harmful algae blooms can block out sunlight needed by SAV, or produce toxins that kill fish and sicken humans.
If you are interest in ways to combat the problems facing the Bay, check out our list of ways you can help. Maryland DNR also offers the latest information on harmful algae blooms.
Local governments and community-based organizations throughout the Bay watershed will have help funding local Chesapeake Bay and river restoration projects, thanks to over $2.6 million in grants provided by the Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Some of the 68 projects funded through the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program this year include:
Together, the recipients of this year's Small Watershed Grants will have a measurable effect on Bay restoration throughout the watershed.
Projects will protect or manage approximately 2,600 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat, including wetlands, oyster reefs and underwater grasses.
Grant recipients will plant more than five miles of forest buffers and restore an additional 21 miles of streams that drain into the Bay.
Approximately 10,000 volunteers will participate in the projects, while 47,000 citizens will be educated through outreach materials.
In the past nine years, the Small Watershed Grants Program has provided $17.7 million to support 544 projects throughout the Bay watershed. These grants have been used by recipients to leverage an additional $50.7 million from other funding sources, resulting in over $67 million in support of local community watershed restoration efforts since 1998.
Primary funding for the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program is provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program Office. Additional funding partners include the USDA Forest Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.