Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Future Projects Planned

Numerous projects in the coastal bays seek to restore habitat lost or damaged at the hands of man.
Habitat is the natural environment in which organisms live and habitat loss is a major threat in causing a species population to decline. Many concerned citizens in the coastal bays are attempting to show in a variety of ways that they can live in a better balance with the natural splendor of the coastal ecosystem.
Shoreline restoration: Citizens in Isle of Wight are protecting shoreline by creating. The citizens of Montego Bay have worked very hard to restore the natural shoreline around the jewel they call Walkers Pond. Living shorelines have been installed in a number of locations including Sunset Island, Gumpoint Road, Macky's Bayside Bar and Grill in Ocean City and the Shell Mill boat ramp on the St. Martins River. Living shorelines is a shoreline management option that provides erosion control benefits, while also enhancing the natural shoreline habitat. Living shorelines are designed to allow for natural coastal processes to remain through the strategic placement of plants, stone, sand fill and other structural and organic materials.
More are being planned with the help of Worcester County, MD Department of Natural Resources and MCBP as homeowners realize the habitat benefits and superior erosion control of marshes over stone walls.
Wetland restoration: MCBP has also acquired property that belonged to Perdue Farms in Showell. Drainage on the 80-acre site will be modified so that the area will be restored to a forested wetland which will provide quality habitat to a variety of turtles, frogs, toads, birds and mammals.
Salt marsh restoration: Salt marshes are common along coastal shorelines from Georgia to New England. Many of these marshes have been parallel ditched for mosquito control, and, to some extent, to facilitate hay farming. Although ditching of salt marshes has occurred since colonial times, most extensive ditching occurred during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Impacts of these ditching practices include lowered water table levels, drainage of marsh pools, and vegetation changes all of which affect habitats for insects, crustaceans, clams, fish and birds.
Many believe that many of the ditched marshes actually produce more mosquitoes than unditched marshes. In an effort to restore the natural water circulation in local marshes, MD DNR, Ducks Unlimited and the Coastal Bays Program are using innovative techniques to improve habitat in the ditches at the EA Vaughn Wildlife Management Area. Ditches were plugged with earthen dams that will allow water to enter only at high tides yet water will remain in the ditches at low tide. This will encourage the growth of aquatic vegetation in the ditches as well as maintain fish and invertebrates. Vegetation, water quality and bird usage is currently being monitored to better understand how the marshes respond to the ditch plugging effort.
The Coastal Bays Program has plans for numerous additional projects that will protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat in and around the coastal bays. Like our past and ongoing projects, we hope local residents will continue to get their feet wet and hands dirty to protect our precious resources.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Gum Point Boat Ramp Restoration Project

Date: Friday, 11/14/08, rain or shine
Time: 1 PM – 4 PM
Location: Gum Point Rd Boat Ramp; Gum Point Rd, Berlin, MD 21811
Directions: from Salisbury—take route 50 east; turn left onto Route 589/Racetrack Rd; after about a mile turn right onto Gum Point Rd; the boat ramp is on the right, about a mile from the turn.
Help needed: Planting 80 plugs of switchgrass and 40 native shrubs; all equipment provided
Bring: Gloves
Contact: Katherine Munson, Worcester Co Dept of Comprehensive Planning, 410-632-5651

Monday, November 10, 2008

2008 Horseshoe Crab Spawning Survey Results

The seventh annual horseshoe crab spawning survey continues the local assessment of population abundance and critical habitat availability in the Coastal Bays. Thanks to the generosity of volunteers who provided their time and efforts, 86 surveys were collected from 8 beach sites, and reveal a sum total of 10,690 crabs. To date this is the highest number of horseshoe crabs ever counted in the Maryland coastal horseshoe crab spawning survey

The 2008 survey was remarkable because of a delayed occurrence of spawning. In May, which historically is a low spawning period locally, only one male horseshoe crab was found in any of the surveys; it was found along the back of Assateague Island. To compensate for the slow start, the 2008 survey was conducted throughout July. The Coastal Bays survey was set up to mirror the same time frame as Delaware’s horseshoe crab spawning surveys to look for correlations. Depending on tides and moon phases, however, future surveys will likely begin in late May and continue throughout July to better gauge peaking spawning activity, and to see if we have been actually missing some of the spawning by ending the survey in June.
The survey counts for 2006, 2007 and 2008 reveal that there are approximately 3 males available to mate with every female crab. This is an important for maintaining genetic diversity. Conservationists and ecologists know from experience in managing other economically important species that the higher the genetic diversity, the healthier the population.

Another interesting change from previous surveys was new areas of spawning along beaches which were previously unmonitored. While it is widely recognized that temperature, wind direction and wave energy influence where crabs will spawn, we can only speculate at how and why some areas experience heavy spawning while other equally available areas do not.

The southern tip of Skimmer Island held the most surprises and number of crabs this year. Previously, the area had not seen the magnitude of spawning as northeastern and southern beaches.

The past two years we have begun monitoring water temperature to see if it is a vital factor in the commencement of horseshoe crabs spawning behavior. So far the data indicates that water temperature doesn’t appear to be a trigger for an increase in spawning activity or correlate with peak spawning activity. Despite the current lack of definitive information about the effects of temperature, we will continue to collect readings and expect it may be useful in the future analyses.

Measurement of prosomal widths continued this year, with 548 crabs measured. Typically, up to 20 males and 20 females are measured at each site on each sampling event. Size measurement is a useful indicator that can detect overfishing, or different cohorts using a spawning beach through the spawning period. So far the data indicates the average size is uniform from year to year, indicating no overfishing of the local horseshoe crabs stock. This information is not conclusive however, as only mature crabs spawn and the population would have to be greatly diminished before this indicator would manifest itself in smaller average size.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What Needs To Be Done To Restore The Bay?

Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT), the Assateague COASTKEEPER, Salisbury University Department of Sociology and SU Department of Environmental Studies will present a special lecture by clean water advocate Gerald W. Winegrad, former Maryland State Senator and Professor at the University of Maryland, on Thursday, November 20th, at 10:00 Salisbury University, Guerrieri Center- Nanticoke A Room.

His lecture is titled: What Needs To Be Done To Restore The Bay? The Inconvenient Truths of Bay Restoration.

Gerald W. Winegrad will make a presentation and lead a discussion on the decline of the Chesapeake Bay and what needs to be done to restore this great estuary. He will outline why the Bay is in serious trouble after 25 years of recovery efforts.

Collapsed fisheries, including oysters and shad, and the crab fishery's recent decline are among many signs of the serious ecological collapse as proud Smith Islanders become prison guards, leaving their island homes forever.

The renowned Bay scholar and leader will discuss how we have so poisoned our waters that reports abound of serious infections in humans who come in contact with Bay waters. These reports are widespread-from the Severn to the Nanticoke rivers, and beyond.

Rockfish, one of the few success stories in the recovery of living resources, have been turning up with lesions from a chronic wasting disease, which is transmittable to humans. Catfish in the South River have cancerous lesions and male bass from the Potomac are turning up with female egg sacs.

Bay grasses are at only one-third of the acreage agreed upon by the states and oyster populations show no signs of recovery.

When EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program began with the adoption of the first Bay Agreement in 1983, Gerald Winegrad notes, if anyone had chosen to frighten the public into action with a doomsday scenario, it would have probably read as he describes above and yet this scenario has become reality.

Just how much worse does this horrible situation have to become before policy makers take the bold but necessary actions to reverse the decline of the Bay? Half-measures and "save the Bay" palliatives won't do--come learn of the bold, decisive actions that can be taken now to turn the tide.

Senator Winegrad will detail these necessary actions and make the case for controlling human population growth, sprawl development and the loss of forest land. The necessity of regulatory controls for agricultural pollution--the Bay's greatest source of nutrient and sediment pollution--also will be a focus of his talk.

Senator Winegrad will then describe the increasing problems of storm-water runoff from development and how this can be addressed to restore the Bay. He will also present startling data on the impacts of growth and agricultural pollution on the Bay's decline. Come see this up-to-date presentation and learn how we can Save the Bay and our natural heritage.

Senator Gerald W. Winegrad is a former State Senator from Annapolis and for 16 years was the leading environmentalist in the Legislature. He was responsible for many Bay initiatives including the phosphate detergent ban. He Chaired the Senate Environment and Chesapeake Bay Subcommittee and served on the Chesapeake Bay Commission for 12 years.

Gerald Winegrad was called the “environmental conscience” of the Senate by the Washington Post and Tom Horton wrote that “he is the person who more than any other set Maryland’s environmental agenda over the past 16 years”.

In 2002 he was presented the prestigious Life Time Achievement Award by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He is a Professor at the graduate School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, where he teaches courses on Bay Restoration and Wildlife Management.

The Assateague COASTKEEPER will have a lobby display for the Chesapeake Waterkeepers’ GET THE DIRT OUT program, a citizen based effort to monitor construction sites and stop sediment pollution to the Coastal Bays and the Chesapeake Bay.

Representatives of the WATERKEEPER Alliance’s “PURE FARMS/PURE WATERS” campaign will be on hand to distribute materials.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dead Whale found on Assateague National Seashore

This juvenile humpback whale was found dead on Assateague Island National Seashore early Wednesday. A backhoe was used to remove the nearly 32-foot mammal from the surf. The cause of death is unknown. Scientists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Cooperative Oxford Laboratory removed tissue samples from the whale for analysis. Carol Cain, Technical Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, is pictured with the whale.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

No Child Left Inside

MCBP has joined over 300 other organizations nationwide in support of the No Child Left Inside Coalition, organized by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The primary goal of NCLI is to build support for the No Child Left Inside Act, sponsored by Maryland U.S. Representative John Sarbanes to create federal funding and environmental curricula for schools. Many children are more comfortable staring at a screen – whether a computer, television, or video game – than they are gazing at the sky. Being outdoors is important to our overall health and well-being and spending time in nature is especially important for children – fostering cognitive development, physical and emotional health, and creativity. Spending time in nature offers an opportunity to fully engage all of your senses, your mind, your body, and your imagination. The MCBP is making it a priority to get kids outside. For more information about the NCLI coalition, go to

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Public Comment Essential to Comp. Plan

“Blessed with such richness and diversity, Worcester County faces a challenge to continue its high quality of life.” Part of Worcester County’s Comprehensive Plan as written in 2006, these words are even more important today.

However, in recent months the Worcester County Commissioners have changed important aspects of the plan without the benefit of public comment. At its core, the plan is designed to guide policy decisions on a wide range of fundamental issues. It plays a vital role in shaping the long-term future of our county and residents should get a chance to review and comment. Toward that end, we hope the commissioners will consider holding a total of four public hearings – two at each end of the county – focusing first on design standards then on changes in zoning. If needed, additional hearings may be in order.

Essentially a blueprint for the future, the comprehensive plan establishes land-use policies, identifies growth areas and provides for agriculture preservation, open space protection, historic preservation and economic development. As proposed, eliminating large lot zoning on 8,000 acres of land, a plan to make developers pay for infrastructure costs associated with their projects, incorporation of nutrient reduction strategies and requiring energy and water efficiency standards in new building have all been removed or altered by the commissioners.
To be sure, the Worcester County Commissioners have a difficult job to do as they work to harmonize land use and the Zoning and Subdivision Control Article with the plan. Still, we hope they will give residents time to look at their proposal and listen to public opinion before taking action.

The plan itself underscores the need for public comment... “Citizens should be informed and be involved in major program and policy development.” The plan further states the need to “improve ongoing citizen participation and education to foster citizen understanding and input into county.”

The issues at hand are complex and must be addressed individually and carefully. The commissioners have so far been receptive and responsible regarding planning efforts in the county. Indeed, Worcester County's Comprehensive Plan is widely considered a model nationwide. We support the Commissioners hard work and believe that they too would welcome comments from their constituents.

Andrew Johnson once said “The life of a republic lies certainly in the energy, virtue and intelligence of its citizens.” We are certain that the commissioners agree with that sentiment and will urge county residents to get involved. The comprehensive plan is a significant document for our county’s future. Gathering as much public comment as possible will go a long way toward ensuring a plan that everyone can live with.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Wind energy advocate Dave Blazer will be the guest speaker at the next Maryland Coastal Bays Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Worcester County Library at 220 N. Main Street in Berlin. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.
Blazer is the Maryland Project Director for Bluewater Wind, a national company that develops offshore wind energy parks. He will discuss Bluewater’s efforts for the possible development of an offshore wind park 12 miles off the coast of Ocean City. Bluewater Wind currently has projects under development off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
Wind power can be used to generate electricity through large scale wind farms connected to electrical grids. Because it is renewable, plentiful and clean, wind power it is considered by experts to be better for the environment than other energy sources such as fossil fuels.