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Erosion Control May Hinder Chesapeake Bay Recovery
Waterfront property owners all around the Chesapeake Bay have bulkheaded and riprapped their shoreline to protect it from erosion.

It’s their legal right to keep their land from washing away, and over the years a growing share of the water’s edge have been “armored” with low wooden walls or large rocks.

But a six-year, federally funded research effort is finding that the bay’s increasingly hardened shoreline could be hindering the estuary’s recovery from decades of pollution. It may be limiting where crabs, fish and terrapins can find food and shelter. It also may be aiding the rapid spread of invasive marsh grass and helping to sustain the population of stinging nettles.

It will be another yard or so before all of the data have been compiled, but one finding that has emerged already is that underwater grasses – a key indicator of bay health – begin to be affected when as little as 5% of the shoreline is armored.

The bay’s “submerged aquatic vegetation,” as scientist call the grasses, provide food for ducks and geese, and vital habitat for blue crabs, juvenile striped bass and other fish.

The results to date suggest subtle but significant impacts. Biologists found healthy patches of grass growing on the bottom off a riprapped stretch of shoreline and along a nearby expanse of “natural” waterfront. The water was clearer in both areas, likely because bay grasses can filter out visib9ilit-clouding sediment.

But the DNR biologist found the underwater lawn off the natural shoreline was twice as large as the patch near the riprapped shore. It was denser and had at least one additional type of vegetation, redhead grass, in addition to milfoil and pondweed. Researchers also found more fish and crabs off the natural shorelines.


 
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85 Acres On Waterfront Could Be Reclaimed - Imagine transforming a sizable swath of unused industrial property on Milwaukee’s lakefront into beautiful public spaces and new places for people to live and work. That’s exactly what the local nonprofit Harbor District Inc. is trying to do.


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