The Renewed Agreement I IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY REGION IN 1999
Since its inception in 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Program's
highest priority has been the restoration of the Bay's living
resources—its finfish, shellfish, Bay grasses and other aquatic
life and wildlife. More than 3,000 species of plants and animals
inhabit the Chesapeake ecosystem. Many are doing well or are
recovering, while others require more attention and targeted
restoration efforts.
Annual Grass Survey Shows Decline
Underwater Bay grasses, also called submerged aquatic veg-
etation or SAV, are ecologically vital to the Bay's other living
resources. Bay grasses provide food and habitat for waterfowl
and many forms of aquatic life, including fish, crabs and inver-
tebrates. They also reduce erosion and wave action, absorb
nutrient pollution and trap sediments. Bay grasses respond to
water quality improvements that result from reduced sediment
and nutrient pollution. Because they are not harvested like many
of the Bay's other living resources, they are excellent indicators
of the Bay's overall health and water quality.
Bay grass survey results indicate that total acreage decreased
8% in 1998, following two consecutive years of increases. The
total 1998 acreage represents 56% of the Bay Program's interim
restoration goal of 114,000 acres in 2005. The latest survey also
showed that, for the sixth straight year, grasses declined in
Tangier Sound—one of the most productive areas for crabs in
the Bay. Scientists are looking at a variety of causes for the
decline, including increased suspended sediment, decreased
water clarity and excessive nutrients—all of which contribute to
conditions that block the light grasses need in order to grow.
Bay Grass Acreage
Potential Habitat (600,000 acres)
~ I I I I 1 I I I I I 1 I I I 1 I
78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98
Wetlands Goal Endorsed
In 1999, the Bay Program developed a wetlands restoration
and protection goal for endorsement by the Chesapeake
Executive Council and inclusion in the proposed Chesapeake
2000 agreement. The goal recommits the Bay Program jurisdic-
tions of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of
Columbia to achieving "no net loss" of wetlands. The goal also
commits the Bay Program to restore wetlands in the region and
to support local efforts to protect existing wetlands.
Key Fish Passage Projects Completed
In 1993, the Executive Council established a five-year goal
to reopen 731 miles and a ten-year goal to reopen 1,357 miles
of blocked Bay tributary waters to migratory fish, including
American and hickory shad, blueback herring, alewives and
eels. To date, almost 90 projects have been completed, including
the construction of 35 fish ladders and lifts, 45 dam removals
and breaches, and reconstructed culverts and dam notches.
To date, more than 1,100 miles of Bay tributary waters have
been reopened to migratory fish.
In 1999, the Bay Program completed two of its most impres-
sive fish passage projects: one at Bosher's Dam in Virginia and
the other at the York Haven Dam in Pennsylvania. The new fish-
way at Bosher's Dam opened 137 miles of the James River
from Richmond to Lynchburg, in addition to more than 200
miles of tributaries. The new fish ladder at York Haven Dam
was completed in late 1999 and will be operational by the
spring run in 2000. York Haven was the final mainstem block-
age to migratory fish on the Susquehanna, the Bay's largest
Upcoming high-priority projects include a fishway at the
Abutment Dam in Petersburg, Virginia, which will open 121
miles of the Appomattox River, and the removal of the Embrey
Dam on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia,
which will open 71 additional miles. This puts the Bay Program
on track to exceed the 2003 goal.
Aquatic Reef Restoration
& Construction Continue
The massive oyster reefs that used to filter the Bay's water
and that once covered the bottom of the Bay so densely that
they posed navigational hazards are gone. Many of the three-
dimensional reefs that provided habitat for oysters and other
aquatic species have been reduced to flat surfaces. Since 1993,
however, the Bay Program has focused on creating and restoring
aquatic reefs throughout the Bay. These efforts appear to be

paying off. During the 1998-99 season, oyster harvests through-
out the Bay improved: Virginia harvested 50,000 bushels—an
increase over last year's harvest—and Maryland harvested
300,000 bushels.
• In 1999, Maryland completed two reef projects, both in the
Severn River, which is known for long-term oyster survival.
One project restored the ten-acre habitat of an existing nat-
ural reef, and the other created 13 small shell piles over a
half-acre and flat shell planting over five acres.
• In 1999, Virginia built five reefs: two in Mobjack Bay,
one in the York River and two in the Lafayette River. The
Virginia reefs contained more groups of newly attached,
juvenile oysters (called spat sets) than those on the adja-
cent flat bottom. In the Piankatank River in Virginia,
breeding oysters, or broodstock, that watermen had har-
vested were relocated, resulting in an improved spat set
over approximately 5,000 acres and yielding 50,000 to
100,000 seed oysters. Recent ecological studies indicate
that crabs, finfish and clams also are benefitting from the
three-dimensional reef habitat.
However, even with the good news of higher spat sets, the
drought of 1999 took its toll on the oyster, producing high
salinities in Maryland and Virginia waters that increased oyster
mortality from MSX and Dermo.
Investment in Habitat Restoration Pays Off
Since 1993, the Bay Program has funded important habitat
restoration projects that have resulted in a total of 278 acres of
wetland creation and restoration, and approximately 11 miles of
stream and riparian forest buffer restoration. In 1998 and 1999,
the Bay Program funded proposals that are expected to result in
an additional 549 acres of wetland restoration, 18 miles of
stream restoration and more than 20 miles of riparian forest
buffers. Many of these projects were targeted to specific geo-
graphic areas to achieve maximum results for living resources.
Of Note:
>- More Shad: In an ongoing effort to rebuild populations
of American shad in the rivers of the Bay region, Maryland,
Virginia, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
and two tribal governments (the Mattaponi and Pamunkey)
are involved in hatchery and restocking efforts. In 1998 and
1999, more than 65 million American shad were released in
Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania rivers. Maryland also
cultured and stocked more than 30 million hickory shad
larvae in several tributaries.
>• New Grasses Report: The Submerged Aquatic
Vegetation Habitat Requirements and Restoration Targets:
A Second Technical Synthesis is available for viewing
and downloading from the Bay Program website at This document
contains the latest research on Bay grasses and includes a
comprehensive list of the species of Bay grasses in the
Chesapeake and supporting scientific literature.
hot topics
>- Tulloch Ditching Leads to Massive Wetlands Loss: In 1993, the practice of draining wetlands by digging ditches and care-
fully removing the excavated material came under the scope of the Army Corps of Engineers wetlands regulations, under what is
now known as the Tulloch Rule. A federal court overturned the rule, so the practice is again unregulated. Among the Bay
Program jurisdictions, Virginia is most vulnerable to losing wetlands to Tulloch ditching, since it does not have a nontidal wet-
lands regulatory program. As of October 1999, almost 2,500 acres of Virginia wetlands had been drained by Tulloch ditching and
6,500 more acres were at risk.
>- Bay's Blue Crabs Fully Exploited: The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee adopted the 1999 Chesapeake Bay
Blue Crab Advisory Report, which concluded that the Bay wide stock of blue crabs is fully exploited and that the spawning stock
biomass is below the long-term average (1968-1998). According to the report, an increasingly large portion of the spawning
stock has been harvested in recent years (1993-1998), and there has been no evident trend in recruitment during this same
period. For a copy of the report go to or call 1-800-YOUR Bay (ext. 676).
For more information on living resources, go to r -Jl '
on the Bay Program website.