Just came across this off todays news on WTOP. Why are they sending mixed signals about grasses. I just posted a update a weeks ago saying grasses are up. Did the DNR realize they might have been wrong.......the whole time
Sprawl, declining bay grass raise concerns
Sediment, algae blamed for continued low plant levels
By Laura D'Alessandro
SALISBURY -- Urban sprawl is one of the main stressors on the Chesapeake Bay, according to a recent report from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The report states bay grasses are highly indicative of the bay's health, and numbers are lower than officials had hoped.
Alan Girard, project manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Heart of the Chesapeake office, named sediment as the culprit for keeping grass levels low, especially in the Eastern Shore's bay tributaries.
"There is a strong link between the clarity of the water and the ability to have sunlight pass through it and reach what is growing on the bottom," Girard said. "That is closely tied to the health of the underwater grass population."
Megan Ward of the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance said algae is another culprit for blocking out sunlight. She said increased algae populations are also an effect of runoff, mainly fertilizer, as they thrive on high nutrient levels.
DNR reports indicate nearly 65,000 acres of the Chesapeake Bay and tidal rivers were covered by bay grass in 2007, acreage which only represents about 35 percent of the restoration goal. Though the figure is a 10 percent increase from 2006, officials said bay grasses have not recovered to the high of 90,000 acres in 2002.
Girard said to see what's going on in the water, simply look on land.
"You have to look back up on the landscape and see what's happening there," he said. "Particularly on the Shore, we're seeing a lot of sprawling development take place that is adding new pavement and rooftops in rural areas that essentially change the natural filtering function of the landscape into a funnel."
The Wicomico Environmental Trust has been making sprawl its main concern for years, most recently with its lawsuit against a subdivision in Powellville called Deer Creek Estates. But WET President Mike Pretl said Monday he wonders what else the organization can do.
"Sprawl leads to runoff, both of soil and silt, so there is certainly a tie-in," he said. "It hasn't been something we've focused on, but perhaps we should. The health of the waterways is certainly something that we should put on our list of things to do."
Pretl said since he now lives on the water, the issue has become more apparent to him. He remembered childhood trips to the Severn River, where he used to crab in the grasses.
"I spent many days soft crabbing with a net," he said. "I don't think there are any grasses to crab in my neck of the woods now or in Wicomico County."
Girard agreed that the health of the bay carries over to the health of local watermen in an area where DNR officials said grass levels are "well below their peaks."
"I don't think it's any surprise we're seeing a lot of talk about the crab population as well," he said. "The state is considering regulations and restrictions on the crab population. Crabs need healthy underwater grass beds for their survival, particularly in the Tangier Sound where a lot of crabbing is done by scraping and dragging."
Girard said 90 percent of the nations soft shell crabs come from Tangier Sound, so the health of the waterway is vital to that industry.
He suggested community members get involved in the same way WET is, by telling local legislators their concerns for the bay and how they are tied to sprawling email@example.com