by Joan Smedinghoff
December 31, 2018
This year, the Chesapeake Bay Program celebrated 35 years since our founding. Through our blogs, we’ve been tracking the progress our partnership has made in restoring the Bay and the 64,000 square miles of land that drain into it. At the end of this anniversary year, we’d like to take a look back at the articles that have made the biggest impact as we look forward to everything that 2019 has in store.
For 35 years, our partnership has been working toward the results we are beginning to see today. In our annual Bay Barometer, published in January, we saw record amount of stream miles opened for fish passage, and improving water quality. In June, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science gave the Bay a grade of “C” on its annual report card, but notably said that they see a “statistically significant” positive trend in Bay health.
One of the most notable signs of resilience in the Bay has been the record growth of underwater grasses. In the summer of 2017, for the third year in a row, acreage smashed records with an estimated 104,843 acres. That is more than half of our restoration goal and marks for the first time in modern history that grasses in the Bay has surpassed 100,000 acres. We will know 2018 acreage by the spring of 2019.
The good news also extended to oysters. This year, we checked in with the researchers studying Harris Creek in Maryland, the site of the first completed oyster restoration under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. At 350 acres, it is one of the largest restoration projects in the world, and we got an up-close and underwater look at the reef three years after restoration was completed.
In September, the Lafayette River became the second waterway restored under the Watershed Agreement and Virginia’s first.
This year was not all good news, however. This summer was incredibly wet for much of the watershed, leading. to unusually high amounts of freshwater entering the Bay. This influx of freshwater had a substantial impact on the Bay’s living resources.
First, this additional freshwater into the Bay , made it less saltier than usual. Species that rely on salinity could be negatively impacted, particularly oysters, which can’t move to saltier waters. That freshwater, along with the winds from summer storms, caused the Bay’s dead zone to fluctuate wildly.
Along with the deluge of freshwater came sediment, which clouded the water and smothered underwater grasses. Although scientists are optimistic that the population can withstand this year’s extra sediment, they do predict that the population will decline.
Best management practices provide the most effective ways to reduce or prevent pollution from sources including roads, fields or even your roof from entering local waterways. This includes techniques you may have heard of, such as cover crops, forest buffers and rain gardens. But some people take it a step further by using innovative technologies to reduce pollution
Mercer Vu Farm in Pennsylvania is one such place. Since 2002, the Hissong family has been extracting water from the manure generated by their roughly 1,500 cows, saving money and also reducing their farm’s carbon footprint.
African-Americans have had a relationship with the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed since the 17th century. Nearly 400 years later, that tradition is kept alive through the modern black watermen still working the Bay today.
We were fortunate enough to talk to Vince Leggett, Tyrone Meredith and Marcus Wooley, just three of the people who are continuing that tradition of African-American maritime leadership. Learn how these men fell in love with the water, and how they see their place in that long legacy.
The Chesapeake region is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Sea level is rising here at a rate much faster than the global average because the land around the Bay is also sinking.
Nowhere is this more obvious than a place like Deal Island, Maryland. Generations of watermen have called this community home, but it may soon find its fate similar to that of its neighbor, Holland Island. Abandoned in 1922 due to increasing erosion, the island’s last house collapsed into the Bay in 2010.
It’s always nice to get to know who lives next door, but what about your animal neighbors? We wanted to introduce you to 10 critters you may run into depending on where you are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. From the rock-like oysters in the Bay to the long-necked great blue heron flying over a wetland, the Chesapeake region is home to a wide diversity of creatures.
You can learn more about your animal neighbors in our Field Guide.
One iconic Chesapeake critter, the bald eagle, is being indirectly poisoned by lead bullets. When hunters shoot lead bullets, they fragment into pieces, some of which are too small for the human eye to see. Those microscopic fragments are left on the guts they leave behind after field dressing and eagles, as opportunistic scavengers, feed on the meat.
Learn more about how fragmenting lead bullets have entered the eagles’ system, and what you can do to help.
These five creatures you may not be as familiar with—and that’s probably a good thing! In the spirit of Halloween, we took a look into tales of body snatching, parasites and being eaten alive that can be found in your own garden.
This year was an anniversary one for the Bay Program, but also for the world, marking 100 years since the ending of World War I. To celebrate, we took a look at a place in the United States with a large piece—or pieces—of WWI history.
Mallows Bay along the Potomac River is home to more than 100 WWI steamboats, but they aren’t stored in a warehouse; they lie at the bottom of the Bay. Built as part of the U.S. Emergency Fleet between 1917 and 1919, they were meant to cross the Atlantic as part of the war effort. However, the war was ending as they were finishing construction, so they were sold, scrapped, burned or sunk at Mallows Bay.
Want to see more highlights from 2018? Check our year in photos.