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Upcoming events will benefit MCBP - August 8, 2011

Estuaries are places where rivers meet the sea -- where freshwater from rivers and streams meet and mix with salt water from the ocean to create a brackish body of water which supports an abundance of life. Estuaries are critical to the health of coastal environments. They are also the places where we live, work, and play.

In the entire country, there are only 28 designated National Estuary Programs -- recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as estuaries of national significance.

Two are right here on Delmarva: the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays.

The EPA's National Estuary Program was established by Congress in 1987 to improve the quality of estuaries of national importance. NEPs are funded through the EPA by the Clean Water Act. Additional dollars are raised locally to assist with NEP projects and programs. This year, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program is celebrating 15 years of work with our partners to protect Assawoman, Isle of Wight, Newport, Sinepuxent and Chincoteague bays.

NEPs are effective, efficient, collaborative and adaptive community-based programs. They work to protect public water supplies, indigenous population of shellfish, fish and wildlife, and to control point and nonpoint sources of pollution.

NEPs also work to protect our opportunities to participate in recreational activities, in and on water -- clean water.

Each NEP establishes a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (www.epa.gov/nep/ ccmp/index.html) to guide their activities and protect their estuary and surrounding watershed, the land which surrounds and drains into the bays. NEPs use science to inform decision-making, emphasize collaborative problem-solving, and involve the public in planning and implementation.

Maryland's coastal bays and Delaware's inland bays are of the richest, most diverse estuaries on the eastern seaboard. For more than a century, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting and more recently, tourism, have sustained ways of life built on the land and water resources in these coastal communities.

Balancing growth with natural resource protection is a challenge these two NEPs face. Increasing concentrations of people in our coastal areas can upset the natural balance of estuarine ecosystems and threaten their integrity. Channels are dredged, waters polluted, marshes and tidal flats filled, and shorelines reconstructed to accommodate human housing, transportation, and agriculture needs.

Stresses caused by overuse of resources and unchecked land use practices have resulted in unsafe drinking water, beach and shellfish bed closings, harmful algal blooms, unproductive fisheries, loss of habitat, fish kills, and a host of other human health and natural resource problems.

So, what can you do? Well for starters, become a member of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. You can join through our website at www.mdcoastalbays.org. Learn more about our Delaware partners at www.inlandbays.org.

We invite you to join at upcoming events including the third annual White Clam Open on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 pm at Macky's Bayside Bar & Grill in Ocean City. Five clams ($5) covers your entry fee, a special drink and a contribution to the MCB Program.

The White Clam Open is a clamming contest open to adults 21 and over. Coastal Stewards will host a "Clamival" for children on the beach, with fun activities for younger patrons.

Thursday night, Aug. 18, join us in Ocean City at Seacrets -- which is generously donating all cover charges from 5-9 p.m. to the MCBP program. We hope to see you there, too.

Through their support, local businesses are helping to protect our coastal bays. You can help, too.

» Carrie Samis is education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. Call 410-213-2297, email mcbp@mdcoastalbays.org or visit www.mdcoastalbays.org.


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