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Chesapeake Bay Grasses Declined by 25 Percent Last Year
Mar 29th -


By KRISTEN WYATT
Associated Press Writer

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay declined by a quarter last year, likely because of weather, according to a survey released Wednesday by a federal-state monitoring group.

The Chesapeake Bay Program's aerial surveys last year showed the underwater vegetation covered 59,090 acres in the bay, down about 25 percent from 72,263 acres in 2005. Grass coverage last year was the worst since 1989.

Underwater grass beds are important because they filter pollutants and provide habitat and food for blue crabs and other species prized by watermen.

"It's not a good picture in the bay right now," said Mike Fritz, acting associate director for ecosystems at the CBP.

Although scientists say it's hard to draw conclusions based on annual ups-and-downs in the coverage of underwater grasses, the most recent survey puts restoration efforts farther from a goal of having 185,000 acres of the bay covered by the grasses.

"In the aggregate, they're showing that we not making the progress we'd like to see," Fritz said.

Scientists attributed last year's grass declines in much of the bay to a dry spring, which raised salinity, and then a rainy June. Those June rains muddied the northern and middle portions of the bay for about a month, the CBP concluded.

In the southern third of the bay, scientists were most worried about the continuing decline in eelgrasses. Those grasses suffered in 2005 from high water temperatures.

"Many of the areas affected by the dieback in 2005 did not produce grass at all in 2006," scientists concluded.

Those southern grasses are especially important for blue crabs, Fritz said.

"At a critical life stage they are dependent upon those bay grasses in the lower bay for shelter, to grow to a large enough size so that they can migrate to other areas of the bay," he said.

A bright spot in the 2006 survey was the Susquehanna Flats, an area at the extreme northern tip of the bay. Scientists watch that area closely because fresh water that feeds the estuary travels though the Susquehanna Flats. A thick patch of grasses is good news for water quality farther south.

"The Susquehanna Flats area remained healthy and vibrant," said Robert Orth of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in a statement.

The nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which does not participate in the grasses survey, said the results show the need for increased restoration efforts. The Foundation is pushing this year for Maryland to approve a development fee to pump about $130 million a year into Chesapeake restoration. That proposal has not yet been adopted by the legislature.

"Clearly water quality is playing a role in the demise of these natural grasses," said Beth McGee, senior water quality scientist for the group.

A longer report about the overall health of the bay is due from the Chesapeake Bay Program next month.
 

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This is no surprise to me. I told the people at dnr this would be the case and you mite as well talk to the wall. When you tell them how thick it was back in the 40 thru early 60's. They just say well that was then. Also to blame it on the weather. come on now When have we no had it? This will all ways be a problem. Till some one with the power. Gets off their colective a$$ and does what needs to be done. No matter how much it hurts. or just give it up and say its a loss cause. All so as long as no one wants to say, yea my group is partlly responesable and says , yea we are going to do what we have to, to clean up the whole bay.
 

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I suppose the "good news" for those of us in Maryland is that the flats are doing comparatively well. I'm saying that it is good news, because the vast majority of the water quality conditions that we experience on the flats are totally out of the control of Marylanders. They are a result of the activities of the upstream residents of the Susquehanna River basin in New York and Pennsylvania. We have little chance to directly control their activities.

If the areas that are not doing well are more affected by actions in Maryland (and Virginia), then at least we have an opportunity to affect the outcome. As Pogo said, "we have met the enemy and he is us." But that realization gives us opportunities for control.

Now we just need to have the political will to move forward with the proper medicines (whatever they may be) to cure the cancer while applying enough band aids to keep from bleeding to death in the meantime.
 

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The flats are doing well?????? Bill I hate to bust your bubble. But when I was a kid fishing the flats every week end. The grass was so thick you had to stay in the channel during low tide. their is no where near the amount of grass up there that it use to have. Not only was it every where their were many different kinds of grass. thats why ducks were so plentyfull on the flats. talk to some of the really old guys that use to fish and hunt there. No I have to disagree with you on the flats grass doing well. See this is my point about the rest of the bay. Unless you saw it.You really don't know how thick it was all over the bay. They keep telling me I'm living in the past to much, and that is the really sad part. they don't ever exspect to have it that good again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The flats are doing well?????? Bill I hate to bust your bubble. But when I was a kid fishing the flats every week end. The grass was so thick you had to stay in the channel during low tide. their is no where near the amount of grass up there that it use to have. Not only was it every where their were many different kinds of grass. thats why ducks were so plentyfull on the flats. talk to some of the really old guys that use to fish and hunt there. No I have to disagree with you on the flats grass doing well. See this is my point about the rest of the bay. Unless you saw it.You really don't know how thick it was all over the bay. They keep telling me I'm living in the past to much, and that is the really sad part. they don't ever exspect to have it that good again.
Walt

Your right. The flats used to be known for the water celery that kept the Canvasbacks there.
 

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Mike that is the part that is tearing me up. It can be that way again. but because to day to many don't know how it was. So they except less. I won't do that. All people have to do is look at the great lakes and how really bad they were and how good they are today. their not perfect but they ain't bad either. We could have the bay like it use to be. Only if people would stop the infighting and fight the people that we need to. the ones we elected to look out for us and don't. In fact I would like to see some of the money we give away for fareign aid spent here cleaning up the bay. Close that dam UN and use just what they waste up their on bay clean up and we would have it done maybe before I'm dead and gone. At least my grandkids would have someing then.
 

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The flats are doing well?????? Bill I hate to bust your bubble. But when I was a kid fishing the flats every week end. The grass was so thick you had to stay in the channel during low tide. their is no where near the amount of grass up there that it use to have. Not only was it every where their were many different kinds of grass. thats why ducks were so plentyfull on the flats. talk to some of the really old guys that use to fish and hunt there. No I have to disagree with you on the flats grass doing well. See this is my point about the rest of the bay. Unless you saw it.You really don't know how thick it was all over the bay. They keep telling me I'm living in the past to much, and that is the really sad part. they don't ever exspect to have it that good again.
Saltfly,
My bubble is not burst. Note that I said comparatively well (in comparison to the rest of the Bay). I realize that the grasses are nowhere near what they were in their prime. But I do appreciate your historical perspective because it is one that I do not have (even though I am no spring chicken). I only meant to imply that in relative terms, we in MD and VA have opportunities to control the "worst" of our problems before we try to get our brothers and sisters up north to help us out.

A big concern of mine is that when the upstream reservoirs reach their sediment-holding capacities in the very near future, the upper bay will be strongly impacted because neither sediment nor the phosphorous bound in the sediment will be held back, and we will get a double whammy on water quality.
 

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Bill I just wanted you to understand how good it use to be. Don't let the people in charge make you take less then what it was. Mike mensioned canvasbacks. Do you know they were so thick that we use to cuess them. They wouldn't get out of the way so we could get at the other ducks. now when i see one I jump for joy. I was fishing with joe Bruce and Dan Harrisson down in crisfield last spring. Dan was getting ready for his guide trips to start. So we were looking to find where the fish were at to start the year. We saw some cans. And spent a lot of time just taking pic's and following them around. Back in the 50's we would have just ignor them. So you can understand how I feel when I see what we have done to the bay I love. I have fished it from way up in Pa on the susky and in western Md. and Va. on the potomac and shan rivers. All the way to cape charles in my life. It just makes me sad to see what we let happen to her.
 

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Saltfly,
As another Bill once said "I feel your pain". I only wish that I could have seen it as you saw it. I'm from the hard coal region up in PA, and have spent a good portion of my life away from this area and from the east coast, but have been in MD since the mid 90's, so I sure missed the good times. It's good to have those times as a target to shoot for; I just realize that you and I won't ever see it that way in our lifetimes. Maybe in the lifetimes of our grandkids. We need to take those first steps on a journey of a thousand miles, and not get too discouraged when the scenery does not fly by.
 

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......there are still plenty of Cans that winter on the Chesapeake every year. The lack of Canvasback may be more due to the lack of any hard weather to push them here as opposed to lack of food. The Canvasback altered they're diets, the Redheads won't.
 

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The grass was so thick you had to stay in the channel during low tide.
That's exactly how the upper Elk has been the last few years. I have gotten stuck in the grass in a jonboat! Well over 75% of the river is grass.

Did you know that people complained about the grass so much that DNR used 10 different chemicals to try and kill it? That's straight out of an award winning MDNR biologist's mouth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
....some grasses are better than others. The lack of Eelgrass and wild celery is what's hurting the bay.
I agree.

I miss the cream cheese and wild celery at snack time.
 

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That's exactly how the upper Elk has been the last few years. I have gotten stuck in the grass in a jonboat! Well over 75% of the river is grass.

Did you know that people complained about the grass so much that DNR used 10 different chemicals to try and kill it? That's straight out of an award winning MDNR biologist's mouth.
What award did the Md DNR biologist get?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
2..4..D..... The better known commercial brand is Weed Be Gone..by Ortho widely used by homeowners everywhere.
 

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This has nothing to do with chemicals. If only it were that simple.

The reporters didn't do a very good job with this story. The press release was delayed, and they all had to crank their stories out quickly. If you want to read a good bay grass story, and learn about what's really happening, read this.

In a nutshell, above the Bay Bridge there is reason to be hopeful. Walt's right, things aren't what they were in the early 60's, but they are a lot better than in the 70's-90's. In the Lower Bay, unfortunately, it looks pretty awful. We need to do a lot more to reduce nutrients and sediments in the whole bay.
 
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