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Chesapeake Bay News

Jun
14
2017

Above-average dead zone predicted for Chesapeake Bay

Underwater grasses grow in the Susquehanna Flats near Havre de Grace, Md., on July 25, 2016. Low-oyxgen "dead zones" can suffocate underwater plants and animals, which rely on dissolved oxygen to survive.

Scientists predict the Chesapeake Bay will see a slightly larger-than-average dead zone this summer, due to above-average nutrient pollution flowing into the estuary from the Susquehanna River this spring.

Blue crabs, underwater grasses and other aquatic life rely on dissolved oxygen to survive. When nutrient-fueled algae blooms die and decompose, the resulting areas of little to no oxygen, known as dead zones, can suffocate underwater plants and animals. The 2017 forecast predicts a mid-summer hypoxic, or low-oxygen, zone of 1.89 cubic miles—slightly above the 30-year average of 1.74 cubic miles. The anoxic, or no-oxygen, zone is expected to reach 0.35 cubic miles in early summer and grow to 0.49 cubic miles by late summer.

This forecast, funded by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, is based on models developed at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the University of Michigan and relies on nutrient load estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey. This spring, 81.4 million pounds of nitrogen flowed into the Chesapeake Bay from the Susquehanna River, slightly higher than the long-term average.

Anoxic areas—or areas with no dissolved oxygen—in the main portion of the Chesapeake Bay have been decreasing in size over time. (Graphics based on research by Jeremy Testa/University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)

Over the next several months, researchers with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will monitor oxygen levels in the Bay, resulting in a final measurement of the Bay’s dead zone later this year.

Learn more about the predicted dead zone size, or learn about how scientists measure oxygen in the Bay.



Jun
12
2017

'Sneaker index' of 41.5 inches measured at Bernie Fowler Wade-In

At the 30th annual Patuxent River Wade-In on Sunday, former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler saw his sneakers through 41.5 inches of water. This year’s “sneaker index”—the deepest point at which Fowler can still see his shoes as he wades into the water—measured higher than last year, when high winds and rough waters led to a measurement of just 31 inches.

Bernie Fowler, a former Maryland state senator and advocate for a healthy Patuxent River, walks on the beach after leading the 28th annual Patuxent River Wade-In at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in Calvert County, Md., on June 14, 2015.  Fowler draws attention to the health of the river by wading into the water and measuring the depth at which he can longer see the top of his white sneakers. This year the official measurement was 41.5 inches.

Since 1988, the now 93-year-old Fowler has held the wade-in on the second Sunday in June. Clad in his signature white sneakers and cowboy hat, he hosts the event to bring attention to the polluted waters of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay. Held for decades near Fowler’s childhood home on Broomes Island, the event moved to Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in 2010.

In the 1950s, Fowler could wade into the Patuxent up to his chest and still see the river’s bottom teeming with fish, shellfish and underwater grasses. Nutrient and sediment pollution, however, have led to declines in water clarity and fueled algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching the river bottom. The 1960s sneaker index of 57 inches now serves as the benchmark for a restored Patuxent River.



Jun
09
2017

Photo of the Week: Beach brings visitors to the water at Fort Smallwood Park

Visitors enjoy Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena, Maryland, on Saturday, June 3. Located where the Patapsco River meets the Chesapeake Bay, Fort Smallwood is home to the first county-owned public boat ramp and is one of only two public beaches in Anne Arundel County.

“My kids are learning so much by being here and by having this access,” said Keri Schorah of Pasadena, who was visiting Fort Smallwood Park with her family. “For these kids to get to play in the water and catch fish, that’s something they can’t do everywhere.”

The park’s namesake, Fort Smallwood, was built during the Spanish-American War to protect the entrance to Baltimore Harbor. It remained in use through 1928, when it was sold to the City of Baltimore for use as a city park and later transferred to the Anne Arundel County Park System in 2006. Several historical buildings still remain, including the barracks, although they are not open to the public.

Through boat ramps and public beaches like those at Fort Smallwood Park, Bay Program partners are working to increase public access to the Bay and its rivers, streams and creeks. In 2016, 24 new boat ramps, fishing piers and other public access sites were opened to the public, and since 2010, partners have met 44 percent of their goal to open 300 new sites by 2025.

Learn more about our partners’ efforts to connect residents to their local waterways.

Image by Skyler Ballard



Jun
08
2017

Chesapeake Executive Council signs resolution in support of Bay Program partnership

Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland add their signatures to a resolution in support of the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership at the Government House in Annapolis before the Chesapeake Executive Council Meeting at the Maryland State House on June 8, 2017. Gov. Hogan was elected the new council chair, replacing outgoing chair Gov. McAuliffe.

Today, at the annual meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council, representatives from the six Chesapeake Bay watershed states, the District of Columbia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission signed a resolution in support of the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership.

The resolution calls upon the President and United States Congress to continue the current level of federal support for the Chesapeake Bay Program, including the coordinating role of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program. It also calls for science, monitoring, modeling and restoration to continue with the full participation of local, state and federal agencies and private sector partners as appropriate.

Established in 1983, the Chesapeake Executive Council is responsible for guiding the Chesapeake Bay Program’s policy agenda and setting conservation and restoration goals. Its members include the governors of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, the Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Administrator of the EPA on behalf of the federal government. Because of advocacy statements contained within the resolution, federal law and practice prohibited the EPA from signing.

Professor Walter Boynton of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory speaks during the Chesapeake Executive Council meeting.

Don Boesch of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science examines a symbol of recognition bestowed on him by Gov. Hogan during the meeting.

Members of the Executive Council also elected Maryland Governor Larry Hogan as the new Chair. Governor Hogan succeeds Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who became chair on January 1, 2015.

Under Governor McAuliffe’s two consecutive terms as Chair, the Executive Council announced the release of 25 management strategies outlining how the Bay Program will achieve the goals and outcomes of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Governor McAuliffe also oversaw last year’s landmark funding agreement between EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to commit an additional $28 million dollars to help reduce nutrient pollution in the state.

“It has been my honor to serve as Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Executive Council for the last two and a half years” said Governor McAuliffe. “We are seeing real, measurable progress in water quality and habitat in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries which bodes well for the future of the ecology of the bay and the significant economic activity it supports.  It is time to forcefully build on our success and continue to make the necessary state and federal investments in restoration, science and public engagement that have been the hallmark of this partnership.”

Executive Council members also heard from the local government, citizen and scientific communities from the council’s three advisory committees—the Citizens Advisory Committee, the Local Government Advisory Committee and the Science and Technical Advisory Committee—who voiced their support for the partnership.

"Now more than ever, we must work together to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay,” said Governor Hogan. “Our administration has invested more than $3 billion in Bay restoration efforts, fully funded the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund and Program Open Space, and expanded innovative partnerships to preserve this priceless resource and national treasure we call home. As the newly elected chair of the Executive Council, I pledge to be a fierce advocate for greater environmental progress and deeper collaboration upstream and throughout the Bay watershed."

Learn more about the 2017 Executive Council Meeting.

To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program's Flickr page.

Photos by Will Parson and Skyler Ballard



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