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Planting Underwater Bay Grasses

In 2013, 1 acre of underwater bay grass was planted, bringing the total to 173 acres planted since 2003.

Bay Grasses Planted (2011)

Map: Bay Grasses Planted (2011)

Date created: May 11 2012 / Download

In 2003, the CBP adopted the Strategy to Accelerate the Protection and Restoration of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay including a commitment to plant 1,000 acres by 2008. The program partners have thus far planted 17% of their initial goal. In 2011, 0.02 acres were planted. Both funding for SAV planting, and capacity for doing it, will need to be increased dramatically to meet the goal on time.

July 25, 2011

Bay grasses, also known as submerged aquatic vegetation, are an integral part of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Lee Karrh from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) explains what bay grasses need to grow and why their survival is important to Bay critters.


Underwater bay grasses, or SAV, need clean, clear water to grow and naturally expand. For this reason, efforts to reduce water pollution have a positive influence on restoring bay grasses.

In addition to reducing pollution, some Bay Program partners collect seeds and plant bay grasses in the Bay and its rivers. These plantings are located in areas without bay grasses but where water quality should support growth.


In 2003, Bay Program partners set a goal to plant 1,000 acres of bay grasses by 2008. This goal was part of a strategy to accelerate bay grass restoration and protection in areas of critical importance to the Bay’s wildlife and aquatic life. The strategy goal was revised in 2012 to 20 acres planted per year based on findings in a 2011 Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee Review.

Amount completed since 2003 (baseline year)

Tracking started in 2003; little or no large-scale restoration was done before that year. Total to date is 173 acres.

Amount completed in 2013

About 1 acre was planted in FY 2013.

Additional Information

The effort to plant bay grasses has had mixed success in recent years. Managers continue to evaluate the best and most cost-effective methods for planting bay grasses.

Both funding and capacity for bay grass planting need to be increased dramatically to meet the 1,000-acre goal. To date, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office and the USACE Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) have funded almost all of the large-scale planting. Neither agency has been able to increase the funding enough to meet the annual need.

Large-scale planting of underwater bay grasses in Chesapeake Bay has become a rarity in recent years, due to funding cuts and review of restoration performance to date.  The SAV Workgroup has developed a new target of 20 acres planted per year as opposed to a cumulative target.  This is based on the 2011 SAV Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee review and has been incorporated into the SAV Strategy document.

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