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Governor Ehrlich Announces Board of Public Works Approval of a Contract to
Harvest Eelgrass Seeds in Tangier Sound
More meadows of bay grass are essential to Chesapeake Bay restoration
ANNAPOLIS, MD — Emphasizing the role of bay grasses in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay, Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. today announced Board of Public Works approval of a contract to harvest large quantities of eelgrass seeds in Tangier Sound. The Keith Campbell Foundation donated the funding for this project in early 2005.
“From the beginning, bay grass restoration has been one of three environmental priorities in our plan to restore the Chesapeake,” said Governor Ehrlich. “Harvesting seeds on a large scale is an extremely promising approach that we believe is key to meeting our goal of planting at least 1,000 acres of bay grass baywide by 2008.”
The Board of Public Works is composed of Governor Ehrlich, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp.
The Board approved a $21,750 contract that engages McCook and Associates, located in La Plata in Charles County, to assist the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with large-scale harvesting of eelgrass seeds in 2005. In the absence of any commercial source for seeds, a contract is the only means of collecting the eelgrass seeds needed for restoring grass beds in the Chesapeake Bay. Even though seeds are collectable only during a two- to three-week period each spring, DNR estimates that the harvesting operation will yield 20 to 40 million seeds.
McCook and Associates performed this same service in 2004 as a subcontractor to St. Mary’s College, which DNR had contracted to carry out various restoration projects involving bay grasses, and the company produced excellent results. This 2005 contract includes renewal options for two additional years.
"The Campbell Foundation is pleased to support this innovative project, undertaken in cooperation with the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences,” said Keith Campbell of the Campbell Foundation for the Environment. “We believe that this project could result in greatly expanding our acreage of bay grasses, but we also believe that the single most important factor in restoring bay grasses and the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay is improved water quality."
Harvesting operations will take place now through June 30, at multiple sites throughout Tangier Sound. At specific locations identified by DNR beforehand, a specially designed harvesting boat will cut a swath of grass at least four feet wide. Cutting depths will range from one to four feet, and the grasses will be cut as close to the bottom as possible. After collection, DNR staff will fill mesh bags with the cut material and later anchor the bags in unvegetated parts of the Chesapeake Bay, where the seeds will disperse naturally.
Meadows of bay grass serve as nurseries for blue crabs, many species of fish, and other aquatic creatures. Bay grasses also entrap sediment and consume nutrients. While optimistic, DNR acknowledges that the entire process of restoring bay grasses on a large scale is still in the experimental stage.
May 16, 2005
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 446,000 acres of public lands and 18,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov