Posts Tagged 'baltimore harbor'



Reviving wilderness in Baltimore Harbor

The National Aquarium’s Conservation Team has been busy in Baltimore City this fall! The last week in September, we planted 2,100 shrubs at the site of a new wetland along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River in Baltimore Harbor. This was the first planting in the creation of the Masonville Cove wetland, which began with the saltbush community. Three different species of salt-tolerant shrubs were planted: hightide bush, groundsel tree, and wax myrtle.

Volunteers planting at Masonville Cove

Volunteers hard at work

We couldn’t have planted all those shrubs without the help of our fantastic volunteers! A total of nearly 90 students from Curtis Bay Elementary and Middle School, Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School, and Benjamin Franklin High School assisted us throughout the week.

Community volunteers also showed up in force, as well—close to 50 people turned out! We even had a group of kayakers with the Canton Kayak Club brave the blustery, winter-like conditions we had one day and paddle out to the wetland.

This project is a part of the revitalization that is taking place in the Masonville Cove area as a result of Maryland Port Administration’s (MPA) new Dredge Material Containment Facility at the Masonville Marine Terminal. It will hold material dredged from the shipping channels of Baltimore Harbor.

In addition to the creation of the wetland, a bird sanctuary, hiking trails, and a fishing pier will be built as a part of the mitigation efforts by MPA. Also, the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center was constructed to serve local students and connect them with their natural environment.

The wetland restoration at Masonville Cove is important for wildlife because it provides habitat, which is very rare in an urban area. At the nearby Fort McHenry wetland, more than 200 bird species have been counted.

Shrubs planted at Masonville Cove

After the shrubs were planted

Restoring the harbor’s surrounding land, like Masonville Cove, back to a natural state will increase the amount of habitat for not only the birds, but also the terrestrial and aquatic life found along the Patapsco River.

With the help of community members and students, we will continue to restore this area to a thriving wetland ecosystem. Work at this site will continue with a wetland grass planting in the springtime, so we hope to see you there!

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Wetlands are wonderful!

Despite its concrete walls, the Baltimore Harbor is looking a little greener with the addition of new floating wetlands. It’s no secret that the water quality of the harbor could use a little help, but the bulkheads that surround the Harbor make it unsuitable for the traditional muddy shoreline restoration projects the National Aquarium’s Conservation Team typically takes on. But where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Floating wetlands have long been utilized in retention ponds as an attempt to deal with excess nutrients from farm fields and landscaping, but only recently has this technology moved to tidal, brackish areas like the Chesapeake Bay. This concept is now being introduced to Baltimore’s urban waterfront as part of the Healthy Harbor Initiative launched by the Waterfront Partnership, which includes the Aquarium and Baltimore City.

Continue reading ‘Wetlands are wonderful!’

Snow or rain, it all flows downstream

If you live in a mid-Atlantic state you have probably seen crews tackling the huge job of removing more than 36 inches of snow that fell during two blizzards. In a city like Baltimore, packed with houses, cars, businesses and sidewalks, where do you put all that snow?  For this very unusual snow situation, Baltimore has turned to a very unusual option: after getting the required permission from the Maryland Department of the Environment, they have dumped snow into the Harbor. 

This has raised questions and debate about whether dumping the salt-laden snow into the Harbor will damage the health of the Harbor or affect the Bay.  The answer is yes, but the reason may surprise you. 

Dumping snow in the Harbor increases the pollution, but interestingly, dumping snow won’t necessarily be more environmentally harmful than a series of heavy storms. We are in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, where all precipitation – including melted snow – runs into storm drains, and eventually into the Harbor and the Bay. Along the way, that water picks up pollutants – dirt, oil, car exhaust and other sources – as it flows across our yards, sidewalks, roofs, driveways and streets into the nearest storm drain and downstream to the Harbor. Even melted snow or rain from surrounding counties makes its way to storm drains that all lead to the Harbor. This water does not go through some kind of water purifying system before it goes into the Harbor. It goes straight into the Harbor with its pollutants, trash and debris. 

Continue reading ‘Snow or rain, it all flows downstream’


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