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News and Resources

Positive Outlook for the Future of the Coastal Bays - December 6, 2010

            For some conservation organizations, bad news is the rule of the day. To read many of the newsletters and emails disseminated by some groups, it would seem the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

            While there may be a kernel of truth in some aspects of that notion, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program has a more positive outlook on the future of the coastal bays and is seeing the fruits of its labor from14 years of hard work.

            In particular, parts of the northern coastal bays, which for decades have been highly degraded, are showing some signs of improvement. Despite declines in water quality in Chincoteague Bay, dissolved oxygen and nitrogen levels have improved in parts of Assawoman and Isle of Wight bays thanks to the removal of the former poultry processing plant in Showell and Ocean City’s stormwater work related to both the town’s voluntary efforts and the critical areas law.

            Worcester County, Ocean City and the Coastal Bays Program hope to hang on to these gains by requiring land application of any future effluent at Showell and by the expansion of Ocean City’s Critical Areas Law. The creation of a stormwater utility to fund water quality improvement in the resort where rainwater drains, untreated, into the back bays will add to the progress.

            Some great projects to restore the bays’ degraded tributaries are also in the works. The Coastal Bays Program has worked with partners to finally come up with resources to help complete the Bishopville Dam restoration. The project is designed to dramatically improve water quality in Bishopville Prong and especially in the sludge-laden pond above the dam. The project will also allow spawning access to 10 miles of stream for white perch and herring which have been unable to spawn in the branch in the years the dam existed since 1871.

            In Berlin, the Coastal Bays Program is working to clean up and restore Hudson Branch which flows to Trappe Creek and into Newport Bay. Several tons of garbage have already been removed from the creek and the program is now in the process of creating a long-term plan to slow bank erosion and improve water quality in the branch with the help of state and federal partners.

            In the past two years, Coastal Bays Program partners have also worked to preserve the shore’s rural landscape with the protection of more than 1,200 acres of farmland and forests in the coastal bays watershed. The program and its partners have been adept at competing for and winning state and federal dollars earmarked for conservation.

            This year we restored a 90-acre site in Showell to forests and wetlands and are working with the county, state and NOAA on another 430-acre restoration site on Assateague Road.

            In September the program began work with regulators and canal and channel dredgers to develop a mutually beneficial use of dredge material that will use the removed sand to help restore disappearing islands where colonial nesting birds like herons, egrets, terns and black skimmers breed.

            The program also remains on the forefront of helping to enfranchise underprivileged communities and has been able to hire several dozen “Coastal Stewards” from such communities over the past two years to gets their hands dirty and conduct conservation projects throughout the watershed.

            As with the past decade, the Coastal Bays Program will be giving out grants this spring for local clubs, organizations, and other groups to conduct projects in the coastal bays watershed.

            To be sure, the water quality goals of the program have a long way to go before they are met. But to constantly bemoan the remaining issues with disregard for the progress made and the projects in the works is neither productive nor proactive.

 


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