More than 6,800 feet of living shoreline will be coming to the Chesapeake Bay, thanks to $800,000 in federal, state and private funding announced this week.
Living shorelines provide coastal landowners with an erosion-control alternative, as grasses and trees replace hardened bulkhead and riprap to stabilize the shoreline and provide vital habitat to fish, crabs and other wildlife.
Sixteen homeowner associations, non-profit organizations and towns will receive funding through the Chesapeake Bay Trust's Living Shorelines program, a multi-state effort that promotes the installation and understanding of living shorelines throughout the watershed.
The Chester River Association, for instance, will restore 270 feet of shoreline in Centreville, Md., protecting a wetland and creating an outdoor classroom for children and adults. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission will design a 542-foot shoreline in a Woodbridge, Va., public park along the Potomac River. And Alice Murray and Susan Stricker will restore 410 feet of shoreline on their eroding Popham Creek property, thanks to an almost $40,000 grant administered to the West/Rhode Riverkeeper.
The non-profit organization, which advocates for the West and Rhode rivers as part of the Riverkeeper Alliance, will provide the mother-daughter pair with guidance throughout the project, which will be furthered by a significant cash match from a Maryland Department of Natural Resources loan.
"I have been wanting to do this for 50 years," Murray said. "It's a thrill!"
While Murray and Stricker often see shorebirds, waterfowl and even fox near their beach, both hope the new shoreline will bring more wildlife to the area and help restore the creek that seems to be missing the underwater grasses, plentiful fish and clear water of the past.
Now in its seventh year, the Living Shorelines program has awarded more than $4 million to 68 Maryland and Virginia projects, creating 28,000 feet of living shoreline and 18 acres of wetland habitat. This year marks the largest amount ever awarded to support this restoration technique.
Sediment reservoirs near the mouth of the Susquehanna River are filling up faster than researchers expected, posing a new obstacle for improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.
As the holding areas behind the lower Susquehanna's three dams reach capacity, their ability to trap upriver sediment and the phosphorous that is often attached wanes, and the sediment that is held grows more and more likely to flow out of the reservoirs and into the river.
According to a report released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), strong storms, severe flooding and faster-moving water have turned the one-time pollutant blockers into less effective gates.
The Susquehanna delivered more phosphorous and sediment into the Bay last year than it has in more than three decades of monitoring. The past 15 years have seen a 55 percent increase in phosphorous entering the Bay from the river and a 97 percent increase in sediment. And while nitrogen flow has dropped, it shows a jump during large storms--like Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 or Hurricane Ivan in 2004--and the flooding that follows.
Excess nutrients and sediment can harm fish, shellfish and underwater grasses. Nitrogen and phosphorous fuel the growth of algae blooms that rob water of oxygen and, with suspended sediment, cloud the water and block the sunlight that plants need to grow.
A previous USGS report cited improvements in nutrient and sediment trends as a sign of improving Bay health. The USGS has seen significant reductions in nutrient and sediment concentrations upstream of the reservoirs, which reflect the positive impacts of conservation efforts in the Susquehanna watershed. But the filling reservoirs behind the Safe Harbor and Holtwood dams in Pennsylvania and the Conowingo Dam in Maryland overshadow the pollution reduction progress that is being made.
The Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment team, composed of federal, state and regional partners and administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is exploring ways to expand the reservoirs' capacity.
Most people don't associate rock climbing with the Chesapeake Bay, but the sport's biggest fans will tell you that the Bay watershed is home to the only "true peak" on the East Coast of the United States (meaning it is only accessible by 'true' rock climbing techniques).
Image courtesy RoyJr/Flickr
Almost 200 miles from the Bay Program’s offices in Annapolis, Md., the formation known as "Seneca Rocks" hovers above Seneca Creek at its confluence with the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River.
While Seneca Rocks attract climbers from all over the East coast, the 19-mile Seneca Creek is known for another sport: trout fishing. The creek is listed on Trout Unlimited's "top 100 trout streams." Cool, shaded, spring-fed creeks like the Seneca are perfect for eastern brook trout, a species that can survive only in waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, the Seneca flows through heavily forested land, where trees shade the water and keep it cool for these fish.
Image courtesy Lonecellotheory/Flickr
This heavily forested land is the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area in the Monongahela National Forest, a 24,000 acre wilderness area that is pristine enough to attract an influx of solitude-seeking backpackers each summer and house an endangered species - the Cheat Mountain salamander.
While Seneca Creek flows through federal lands, its watershed is constantly threatened by developers and natural gas drillers. The Wilderness Society and local activist groups successfully petitioned the Bureau of Land Management this March, preventing natural gas drilling leases within a designated wilderness area.
More from Seneca Creek:
Follow blueberry bushes along the Eastern Continental Divide, look for Seneca Creek's underground pools, and climb to magnificent vistas: Find your own hike, or follow along with this one from Backpacker Magazine.
Have you visited Seneca Creek- either as a trout fisherman or a rock climber, or maybe something else? Or maybe you are waiting for the right time to visit. Tell us about your experience (or your proposed trip) in the comments below!
Image courtesy dancingnomad3/Flickr
From the restoration of streamside forests to the planting of a green roof on an historic District of Columbia house, 41 environmental projects from across the Chesapeake Bay watershed have received $9.22 million in grant funding.
The restoration and outreach initiatives will restore vital habitats and reduce the amount of runoff entering local waterways, leading to cleaner water across the region.
Funding for the projects was awarded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's (NFWF) Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund. Half of the projects will be funded by the Small Watersheds Grants Program, which funds on-the-ground restoration, conservation and community engagement. Twenty-one more will be funded by the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program, which funds the reduction of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment in local waterways.
Trout Unlimited, for instance, will restore stream banks and wetlands on 11 western Maryland farms, reducing agricultural runoff and benefiting brook trout. The Nature Conservancy will improve water quality and brook trout habitat in central and southern Pennsylvania, planting riparian buffers, restoring wetlands and establishing forest habitat. And the high-profile William Penn House in Washington, D.C., will install a green roof on top of the historic building, which will capture and treat almost all of the stormwater on-site.
In all, this year's projects will engage 9,000 volunteers; restore 176 miles of streamside forests and 158 acres of wetlands; and establish 170,000 square feet of green roofs and rain gardens.
"These innovative projects ... are an illustration of the incredible commitment people have to restoring our rivers and streams. With NFWF's invaluable support, these projects will make a difference, supporting progress toward a Bay that is increasingly healthy and resilient," said Jeff Corbin, Environmental Protection Agency Senior Advisor for the Chesapeake Bay and Anacostia River.
For a full list of grant recipients, visit the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund website.