Cooperatove Conservation Project
COOPERATIVE CONSERVATION CASE STUDY

Maryland Conservation Partnership

Restoring Chesapeake Bay Wetlands

Location: Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Region: Maryland

Project Summary: NRCS provided technical expertise and project management to the Navy and conservation partners to restore eroding shoreline and wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay.
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Conservation Partnership and community volunteers restore a wetland by planting marsh grasses along the Chesapeake Bay at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.
Resource Challenge

Wetlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay region are being degraded at an alarming rate as a result of altered hydrology, rising sea levels, increased salinity, and damage from non-native species.

In order to restore and protect the wetland area, the Naval Air Station Patuxent River with technical assistance from NRCS, the Southern Maryland RC&D Council and the St. Mary's County Soil Conservation District, first had to repair and stabilize the shoreline at Webster Field along the St. Mary's River. Sills and breakwaters were established to dissipate wave energy and promote the accumulation of soil along a 3,500 foot stretch of previously eroding shoreline.

Following these extensive re-engineering efforts, the Conservation Partnership worked with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland Conservation Corps, and community volunteers to restore 1.5 acres of salt marsh by planting native marsh grasses.  The wetland restoration area is located directly behind the sills and breakwaters that were filled with sand to decrease erosion.

Examples of Key Partners

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Southern Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council, Naval Air Station Patuxent River (Environmental Department), National Aquarium ( Baltimore ), St. Mary's County Soil Conservation District, Maryland Conservation Corps, Community volunteers and others.

Results and Accomplishments
  • 3,500 feet of eroding shoreline was stabilized using sills and breakwaters designed to minimize erosion and maintain the shoreline.  
  • More than 100 Conservation Partnership employees and volunteers contributed almost 800 hours to plant the 1.5 acres of un-vegetated wetlands with two species of native wetland grasses.  The grasses, 11,000 plants of Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) and 19,500 plants of S. patens (salt meadow cordgrass) will improve the site by reducing the potential for future erosion and by providing habitat for many animal species.  
  • After the initial planting, community volunteers will help the Baltimore Aquarium monitor this site to assess plant survival and growth.  
  • The project also included the creation of 3-dimensional oyster reefs as breakwaters and wave shelters for eelgrass.  The Oyster Recovery Partnership donated 40,000 oyster spat to be planted on the reef.  The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay coordinated the planting of 4,500 eelgrass plants behind the reefs.  
  • Wetlands provide numerous functions to the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding watershed, including flood buffering, erosion control, bank stabilization, and water quality improvement.  Wetlands provide habitat for birds, blue crabs, striped bass, oysters, shad, otters, and other aquatic wildlife.
  • Conservation Partnership employees and community volunteers took an “ownership role” in the wetland restoration project.  A second wetland grass planting was just completed in May 2005.
  • Using this cooperative conservation approach, several significant, attainable goals were identified and achieved in partnership of more than 10 Federal, state and non-profit groups.  The partnership was able to meet five of the Chesapeake Bay agreement goals that focus on oysters, submerged aquatic vegetation, education and outreach, public access, and nutrients and sediments. 
  • NRCS and Southern Maryland RC&D Council received the prestigious 2004 National Coastal America Partnership Award in recognition of cooperative conservation accomplishments from his project.  

Innovation/Highlight

The Cooperative Conservation Approach the US Navy uses to protect the natural resources and improve wetland and wildlife habitat on Naval facilities in Maryland involves many local, state, Federal and private partners. Through this innovative use of partnerships, the Navy has employed various forms of technical expertise and involved local citizens and students as Earth Team volunteers to implement these restoration projects. NRCS technical expertise has been utilized in shoreline wetland restoration projects. The Southern Maryland RC&D Council has provided the Navy with a 30 percent to 40 percent cost savings (through coordinated partnership technical assistance and non-profit project management services) on this endeavor to stabilize the shoreline and restore the wetland area.

Project Contact
Virginia (Ginger) L. Murphy
State Conservationist
USDA-NRCS
339 Busch's Frontage Road Suite 301
Annapolis, MD 21401
410-757-0861
ginger.murphy@md.usda.gov
Mark Rose
Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
USDA-NRCS
339 Busch's Frontage Road Suite 301
Annapolis, MD 21401
443-482-2910
mark.rose@md.usda.gov
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