Chesapeake Bay Grasses Decline, Water Temperatures Blamed

BALTIMORE (WJZ) –The blossoms and growth triggered by spring on land are just beginning to stir beneath the Chesapeake. How well underwater grasses do is of keen interest to scientists.

Alex DeMetrick reports experts now have something to measure that growth by.

For decades, the amount of underwater grass in the Chesapeake was calculated by aerial photography during the summer.

“Forty years ago, we were able to map 185,000 acres of bay grasses from those photographs,” said Lee Karrh, survey chairman.

Karrh says they are currently at 80,000 acres. That’s 6,000 fewer acres than was found in 2009. Seasonal fluctuations are expected, but the overall loss of 100,000 acres goes on year after year for a basic reason.

“There’s less light penetrating through the water to get to the plants on the bottom,” Karrh said.

Runoff is the reason. It carries sediment off the land. Rain also washes fertilizer, car exhaust and sewage into the bay, all of which carries nutrient pollution like nitrogen.

Underwater grasses might seem a remote worry until you figure in their benefits.

“Anybody who likes fish and crabs should care about the grass in the bay. They’re the nursery ground for larval fish and crabs, so they’re really important,” said Dr. Beth McGee, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

So important, people have gone to a lot of trouble to increase grass beds.

Here widgeon grass seeds are being collected for planting elsewhere in the bay. Other grasses raised on land are also transplanted. But to take root and grow cleaner runoff is still needed.

“A dry year would help a lot. Not having as much runoff going into the bay would be very beneficial,” Karrh said.

The survey shows the greatest decline in bay grasses is happening between the Bay Bridge in the north to Crisfield in the south.

More from Alex DeMetrick
  • Doug

    Well,they haven’t declined on the upper bay.
    Just south of North East,at Elk Neck State park beach,
    you used to be able to walk around all over in the water,mainly sandy.
    Now,it’s like a Kelp farm.
    I see an increase , not decline.
    One boaters’ observation,over the past decade.

  • overregulated

    Where is Mr. Bakers outrage with the sewage spill recently reported? No nutrients in raw sewage, I suppose.

    “Moving forward” in environmental terms in Maryland means stripping rights away from rural people and let the urban areas pollute full strength.

    Just wait till we get the gem of septic system crackdown O’Malley wants to stick us with.

    CBF, O’Malley, two sides of a counterfiet coin

    • Christina Gayer

      You must not travel much from the rural part of the state, cause I certainly don’t see piles of trash laying around Baltimore like it use to…before O’Malley was mayor. On another note how expensive could it possibly be to go back to methods that my grandparents and great grandparents; who were born, raised and lived in the rural part of md, used before pesticide? Just curious..

      • overregulated

        I travel enough to know when I leave the Shore and go to Baltimore via the Key Bridge the stench is horrible. No pollution there, I suppose. How about you eat some of the crabs caught there?

        Pesticides? Please, eliminating pesticides is not the issue at hand. Property rights are, and the Shore is at the bullseye for Annapolis Democrats. If someone wishes to build on waterfront property on the Shore, it may take 3 years to get through the permit process, and the landowner will be told that the shoreline must be planted with 3 levels of trees and brush, thereby reducing the value of the property, for starters. The Critical Area Commission sneaks through regulations under O’Malleys direction without real public notice or review, and go completely under the radar. There are so many regulations, but worse is the attitude of the regulators that they have complete and total control of what used to be our property rights. They will do the thinking for you, like it or lump it.

        That being said, maybe you yourself should travel around the overdeveloped shorelines of Annapolis, Baltimore City and Baltimore County. I have been to these places, and see three story McMansions on quarter acre lots. No planted shorelines, the democrats in Annapolis know how to give special favor to their voting stock We have been stuck with a 20 acre per lot density for 25 years, but the areas I just stated get to do whatever they want.

        Your demeaning tone, “You must not travel out of the rural part of the state” tells me alot about you, typical Maryland democrat who buys hook, line and sinker whatever Annapolis democrats sell you. No piles of trash? OK, that may be the case, but think about this: Towson sits at elevation 500 feet, Catonsville at 300 feet, the Baltimore Harbor and Patapsco river, 0 feet, or sea level. When it rains all of that rain funnels though urban filth directly into the Bay. Oil on the roads, sediment in the drainage systems, nevermind the pollution bomb known as the Baltimore Harbor. Too toxic to swim in, but CBF, O’Malley and the like must not realize that the Harbor is connected to the Bay.

        We in rural areas have been taking a butt whipping with 25 years worth of regulations that are not effective at saving the Bay, but are EXTREMELY effective at stealing our rights and economy, while urban areas are deemed “green”. Smell that stench around the Key Bridge, or have you been there so long that it smells normal and “green” to you?

        You don’t seem to be upset over the sewage spill(s) either. But those of us with septic systems are to blame for pollution. We are the target of Annapolis because the Democrats know full well that their votes do not come from here, and that makes it simple to POSTURE that they are saving the Bay and the urbanites cheer, and keep voting for them.

        How much will it cost? O’Malleys septic system crackdown will cost homeowners possibly $40,000 to upgrade an existing, properly functioning system, that according to State run Health department folks I have spoken with, is not the boogeyman O’Malley makes them out to be. More posturing, and these proposed measures on top of the heaping pile of regulations we have now will be the nails in the coffin that holds our economy here.

        Reasonable regulations are certainly needed, but what we have in this state are overreaching and powerfully harmful stacks of regulations, with the promise of more to come. Don’t worry, Christina, Annapolis won’t punish your side of the Bay. They need the votes.

  • joseph

    stupid answer

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