Posts Tagged 'inner harbor'



Thoughtful Thursdays: Algae Bloom in the Bay

Have you noticed a murky tint to Baltimore’s Harbor lately? A “mahogany tide” of reddish-brown algae (Prorocentrum minimum) has invaded our local waters.

Reddish-brown water just outside the National Aquarium

“What we’re seeing here appears to be what’s called a mahogany tide,” says National Aquarium specialist Susan Bitter. “Unfortunately, it isn’t exotic and it isn’t as interesting and tasty as it sounds.”

Watch Susan explain about the mahogany tide on WJZ:

Algae blooms can be very damaging to life in the Bay. The algae live for only a short time, but when they die, the bacteria that eat the algae suck much-needed oxygen out of the water, creating “dead zones.” The lack of oxygen in the water makes it hard for the aquatic plants and animals that live there to survive, potentially causing large-scale fish kills.

Algae blooms occur each spring in the Chesapeake Bay at varying intensities. We had a mild winter, and record-high water temperatures are being recorded all over the Chesapeake. The warm water not only encourages the algae growth, but also makes the bacteria that feed on them more active, drawing more oxygen out of the water.

Excess nutrients in the water are the primary cause of harmful algae blooms. We can all play a part in reducing the nutrients that are introduced into our local streams.

The Aquarium recently participated in the launch of floating wetlands into the Harbor, which help absorb nutrients from the water.

Everyone can help by adopting bay-friendly lawn care practices: plant native plants that don’t need fertilizer; don’t fertilize in the spring, only in the fall, and only with the nutrients that are needed for your lawn (spring rains wash fertilizers off land and into the waterways). Take your car to the automatic carwash and let it do your dirty work. When you wash your car in your driveway, those chemicals run down into the storm drains, which feed directly into the Bay. Most sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants do not remove poisonous cleaners, and yard and car-wash chemicals make their way into local waterways. And finally, pick up after your pet, and if you’re on a septic system, make sure it’s functioning well.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Creating a Healthy Harbor

Last Friday, the National Aquarium joined its partners from the Waterfront Partnership Baltimore, Biohabitats, Living Classrooms Foundation, Blue Water Baltimore, and Irvine Nature Center to launch another 2,000 square feet of floating wetlands into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Volunteers busily install native plants in the manmade wetlands

The first set of islands was installed in August 2010 as part of the Healthy Harbor Initiative, a campaign designed to create a swimmable, fishable harbor by 2020. Since then, we’ve been working with the University of Maryland Extension – Sea Grant to monitor the ecological services of the island by looking at nutrient uptake by the plants and colonization by aquatic organisms.

We’ve been able to show that the plants growing on the original wetlands were successful in removing excess nutrients from the water – one of the major problems here in the Chesapeake Bay. With the additional floating wetlands, we’ll be able to monitor their benefits more accurately and further improve water quality in our city.

This is one of the many initiatives the National Aquarium, Baltimore, is working on to improve water quality (and quality of life) in our city. We have also hooked up a 40,000-gallon cistern (giant rain barrel), installed a green roof on our newest building, and use native plants in our Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Waterfront Park.

Towing the wetland islands into the harbor

Join us: by installing a rain barrel or native plants at your home, you can help clean the water before it flows downstream. Get more tips on what you can do here. Together, we can make a fishable, swimmable harbor!

Wetlands installed in their new home

Did the floating island float away?

If you’ve walked through the Inner Harbor lately, you may have noticed that the Aquarium’s floating island is missing! You may be wondering… did it float away? Is it vacationing in warmer, more-island-friendly climes? Has it been… dun dun dunnn… STOLEN?

Well, there is no Inner Harbor island-harboring thief on the loose. Conservation staff members removed it from the water because, after a year and a half, it needed a bit of repair and cleanup that could not be done easily or safely from the water.

The island getting towed out of the Inner Harbor

With the help of Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works trash boat and the Fire Department’s fire and rescue boat, it was moved to Fort McHenry.

As the water was too shallow for the boat, a Conservation team member pulled the floating island into shore in 40-degree water.

So, our island is not “LOST”… we just moved it temporarily. In the spring, it will be towed back to its original place and will again be visible, repair completed, and ready to provide habitat to all kinds of local critters.

At rest in the Fort McHenry wetlands

Volunteers clean up Fort McHenry Wetland

Together, what can 83 volunteers accomplish on a Saturday morning?

In just four hours on Saturday, September 24, these volunteers, along with the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!), removed 23,839 pieces of debris from the Fort McHenry Wetland in support of National Public Lands Day and the International Coastal Cleanup.

“Before I went through this experience, I never knew there was so much trash out there,” was one volunteer’s response to the overwhelming sight of the Patapsco River shoreline.

Fort McHenry Before Cleanup

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a well-visited piece of history for both Baltimore residents and out-of-town visitors. The Fort McHenry Wetland, located adjacent to the Fort, can be seen from the popular walking path. As one of the very few living shorelines in Baltimore City, the 8-acre Fort McHenry Wetland is well functioning, doing exactly what it’s meant to do: remove excess nutrients from the water; provide habitat for local wildlife; and filter the marine debris that is carried in from the tide. Since 1998, ACT! has hosted multiple community-supported debris cleanups here.

Fort McHenry After Cleanup

Volunteers have dedicated 250 hours to remove the urban debris (aka trash) and maintain the butterfly and rain gardens located on the site. Partners for this event included the Steinweg Baltimore, Maryland Port Administration, REI, Royal Bank of Canada, Constellation Energy, Maryland Environmental Trust, Toyota, and the National Park Service. To participate in a future Fort McHenry Field Day or another ACT! event, sign up to receive the Aquarium’s Conservation e-newsletter, and we’ll let you know about upcoming conservation events.

When given a chance, life flourishes

If visitors to the harbor could see below the surface of the water, they would see an abundance of aquatic life, from blue-fish and blue crabs to dozens of other species. They survive there despite the extremely poor water quality, which can often lead to fish kills and algae blooms.

Three months ago today we introduced an innovative approach to upgrade that water quality: manmade floating wetlands. Just three months into the project, we have seen that our wetland is becoming a complete, thriving ecosystem, with all the components you would expect to see in a marsh! This single wetland is telling us that when given a chance, life flourishes.

Our wetland is part of a pilot project that includes two other floating islands in the harbor, installed and managed by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, a group that includes the Aquarium and Baltimore City. The goal? To prove that these wetlands have a positive effect on harbor habitat.

For the next two years, we will be collecting data to evaluate one island’s effect on water quality, with the Maryland Department of the Environment close by our side. The data we’ve already collected are promising! To help show you what we’re seeing, our cameras took a dive below the surface:

Our island was installed late in the summer, so the plants didn’t have an entire season to grow. Despite this, the plants have thrived. But the thriving plants above the island only tell a small part of the story. As you saw in the video, a lot of the action goes on beneath the island.

Continue reading ‘When given a chance, life flourishes’

A picture-perfect reason not to litter

Yesterday, the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole swept through our region, bringing more than 6 inches of rain to the Baltimore area! The height of the storm came through Baltimore’s Inner Harbor mid-afternoon yesterday, just after high tide. As the storm progressed with heavy winds coming in from the east, water levels in the harbor continued to rise, and we began to notice that water wasn’t the only thing being pushed into the harbor. Tropical Storm Nicole picked up a lot of trash on her way into Baltimore.

The pictures below show trash buildup between Pier 4  and Pier 5 at about 5 p.m. yesterday. They present a very compelling case against littering!

All of this trash was accumulated as the storm pushed into the Inner Harbor from the Chesapeake Bay. This trash buildup is picture-perfect proof that everything runs downstream. You can bet that the majority of this trash was originally thrown on the ground, made its way into storm drains, and then into our waterways, which flow into the Bay.

Last weekend, the Aquarium’s Conservation Team and community volunteers picked up 22,000 pieces of trash that had accumulated at the Ft. McHenry wetland over the summer. That’s a lot of trash, but yesterday’s storm proved that there is still much more trash polluting our waterways!

You can help keep the bay and the harbor free of trash by keeping our streets free of trash. Dispose of your trash properly, and recycle as much as you can.

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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