Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Death by a thousand cuts

Looking back on it now, I realize that I took Lake Redman and Lake Williams for granted while I was growing up in York County, Pennsylvania. The lakes were a three- mile drive, bike ride or walk from my house. They were the first things I would see on the highway coming into town and the last things I would see as I would leave. Even though York is nowhere near the level of hustle and bustle of Baltimore, it was always nice to go out to the woods where there was nothing but the quiet sense of reflection that nature brings. Always sort of a backdrop to the area, I could never really imagine what the idyllic lakeside would look like if developers were left to run rampant and build as much as they wanted to, right up to and on top of the shoreline.

Previewing Weary Shoreline: The Chesapeake Bay's Death by a Thousand Cuts—which airs on MPT tonight at 9 p.m.—was a shock to me. All along the Chesapeake Bay, industrial complexes and residential communities are being thrown up on top of one of the most important areas of the bay’s health—the shoreline. Granted, having a bayside home affords many luxuries: a great view, easy access to fishing and sailing, a sense of detachment from the chaos of city living. But those shorelines are one of the most vital areas of concern for the bay’s health. Shoreline development leads to deforestation, which leads to increased sedimentation, which basically means a bunch of mud and dirt washes into the bay.

What’s the big deal about that? Well, the more dirt that gets pushed into the bay, the more cloudy the water gets. One of the most important species essential for bay health is what’s called Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, or SAVs. Not only do they break down CO2, (which gives underwater creatures much-needed oxygen) but they also provide homes for baby crabs as they turn from larvae into adults. Dirty water cuts off the supply of sunlight to the SAVs, putting the entire habitat in danger.

Another problem the SAVs face is that the more people that live bayside, the more people there are that want to sail and boat. The more people that want to sail and boat, the less they want these huge underwater vegetative forests to clog up their motors or tickle their feet as they swim. So what happens? The SAVs get cut down en masse.

You might say, “Yeah, all you’re doing is getting worked up about mud and some underwater plants.” In a way, yes. But these plants are one of the most important species necessary for the continued survival of the blue crab. This year’s blue crab harvest was the lowest, I believe, in 15 years. The crab is one of Maryland’s biggest and most famous exports, and gives the bay a sense of uniqueness. Should we as a community fail to keep the crab thriving, we will all be guilty of letting a beautiful natural resource go to waste.

Watching Weary Shoreline tonight will certainly make you think about what’s best for us and what’s best for the bay. Check it out and see what you think.

Kevin Sunday
Communications Intern

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I applaude the efforts of Riverkeepers and MPT in presenting this information to the public!
Unfortunately, you may be preaching to the choir. My experience has been that the non-compliant water front property owner is not interested in 'Saving the Bay', only in saving their view and building a bigger pier than their neighbor. Grass is preferred to trees, and the less the better because it's such a pain to mow. There are property owners that believe concrete is the answer to erosion! The faster they can get their runoff into the Bay, the happier they are.
As a Critical Area Planner trying to enforce the program, I need all the help I can get! The environment and the State dictate what needs to be done, but the County employer dictates whether they will back a planner on enforcement (rarely).
Thanks for letting me vent!