Restoring the River of My Childhood

Chuck and James 4I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, in a home on the James River near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. I learned how to swim in the river, how to row a dinghy, how to fish and crab, how to read the wind and waves, and how to lose myself in the river's daily ebb and flow.

And like all kids, I knew every inch of my neighborhood. I knew every beach, pier, jetty, and seawall. I knew exactly where to wade to find soft crabs at low tide, on which rocks and pilings to net hard crabs at high tide, and under which Childhoof sunken logs lay fierce-looking (and biting) oyster toad fish. The river was truly a wonderland of life—clear water and vast underwater grass beds full of crabs, fish, oysters, mussels, and clams. In the fall, dozens of white deadrise workboats hovered offshore harvesting oysters. And during the winter, the river was black with waterfowl; on still nights the air was filled with their quacks and whistles.

It was an idyllic youth, a Huck Finn-Tom Sawyer childhood, and the James River was its focus and heart.

But as I became a teenager, the river changed. The water grew persistently muddy, making it impossible to see crabs and fish beneath the surface. Sandy beaches eroded away to rock and clay. The grass beds full of life disappeared. Tar balls and litter washed ashore. And the wintertime flocks of ducks thinned to just a few birds. The James River seemed to be fading with my youth, and while I had no clue why, I distinctly remember wishing it wasn't so but feeling helpless to stop it.

Eventually I concluded the changing river was just another difficult part of growing up, of letting go of childhood, of accepting those unfortunate realities of teen life like report cards, gangly bodies, and broken hearts. The older I got, the farther the James River of my youth receded into memory. Then it was off to college, adulthood, relocations, jobs, marriage, and family. I never solved the mystery of the river. I thought I never would.

Fast-forward 25 years and an 18-year career with CBF. There I learned about nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution, about excess fertilizer and manure, about wastewater, about sprawl development and urban runoff, about lost wetlands and forests, and about cloudy water and dead zones. And I learned that the health of the Chesapeake Bay had been declining for centuries, finally bottoming out in the 1960s—just about the time I noticed the James River begin to die.

And then it hit me. What was killing the Chesapeake Bay was the same thing that was killing the James River: too much pollution. I was thunderstruck. At last, a riddle that had frustrated me for decades was solved. Even more significantly, CBF was demonstrating every day that the James and Chesapeake were fixable. There was nothing absolute or immutable about pollution. It is caused by man; it can be stopped by man.

But most profoundly, CBF allowed me to be a part of the team working to ensure the Bay and the James River will be restored, so that one day another kid growing up beside another river can discover its wonders.

—Chuck Epes

Learn how we are working to restore the James and other rivers of the Bay through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Photo of the Week: Sailing the Bay

Sestakova_RhodeRiver_Half Moon Bay

I took these photos in August and September 2015 during a few sailboats trips [along the Rhode River] I took with my boyfriend. He is an experienced sailor; I am learning. I love being out on the Bay—the area is beautiful and offers so many lovely coves. And witnessing these sunsets certainly adds to my interest to learn about sailing, to spend time on the water, and to explore the Chesapeake Bay. 

—Martina Sestakova

Ensure that Martina and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!

Sestakova_Rhode River_Sheephead Cove

Nourishment for the Soul on Virginia's Eastern Shore

Garden VolunteersThe Eastern Shore of Virginia is peppered with farms and waterways. But despite the Shore's predominantly agrarian landscape, a startling proportion of its 45,000 residents don't have enough to eat. According to the Foodbank's Eastern Shore Branch Manager Charmin Horton, an estimated 14,000 people on the Shore are served annually by the Foodbank of Southeast Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

Facing this challenge, local groups have taken action to assist struggling ­Shore residents. St. George's Episcopal  Parish (founded in Pungoteague in 1652 and considered the third Anglican church in the New World) together with its partner congregation St. James Episcopal Church in Accomac formed the Dos Santos Food Pantry Garden to grow fresh produce for those in need.

"We created the Dos Santos Food Pantry Garden out of a desire to feed our pantry clients fresh produce," Dos Santos Food Pantry Director Angelica Garcia-Randle explains. 

"We chose to name the pantry in Spanish as an indication of our primary objective—to assist migrant farmworkers and Latino immigrants on the Eastern Shore of Virginia by offering a resource where Spanish is spoken to clients and where food central to the Latino community is consistently offered," Garcia-Randle says. “Most of our pantry clients cannot afford to purchase fresh produce—even though a majority of them are harvesting in the fields. This seems ironic and unjust; a wrong that we could help make right." To that end, the pantry serves about 150 people per month and growing in an effort fully funded by donations. "We have a marvelous network of volunteers who help with maintenance, upkeep, harvest, and distribution," Garcia-Randle says.

Cameron Randle and Angelica Garcia Randle
Reverend Cameron Randle and Dos Santos Food Pantry Director Angelica Garcia-Randle.

Besides benefiting the community through the blessings of food distribution, the garden is also a model for how to grow food while minimizing damage to our Eastern Shore waterways. Hard impervious surfaces do not allow rain to soak into the ground, instead washing pollutants into local waters. But gardens allow water to soak into the soil, reducing damage by cutting the speed and amount of polluted runoff.

With such an interconnected relationship to our waterways here on the Shore, a sense of stewardship for the land and water is inherent within the Church's faith philosophy. "Our Episcopal/Anglican ethos is very much centered on a respect for all God's creation and a proactive sense of stewardship accountability for environmental resources," says Reverend Cameron Randle, rector of St. George's Parish. Quite literally practicing what he preaches, the garden at St. George's strives to incorporate environmentally friendly growing techniques.

After receiving soil test results from the local Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Dos Santos understood the nutrient needs of its soil, applying to the land only what was necessary—an important step that keeps excess fertilizer from polluting our local waterways. Often times, additional or improperly applied fertilizer washes into rivers and creeks creating harmful algal blooms, which in turn form dead zones that reduce underwater habitat and harm fisheries.

Peppers in HandThe Dos Santos Garden minimizes polluted runoff with gentle watering techniques such as drip irrigation and rain barrel use, and utilizes organic pest management strategies. It also composts waste, mulches the garden to reduce exposed soil, and plants a host of biodiverse crops. And the garden's bounty is right across the lawn from the food pantry, cutting the distance the food travels and reducing the amount of gas burned.

Reverend Randle is steadfast in his belief that the gospel message of unconditional love and hospitality extends to all manifestations of God's creation—the human and animal, the skies, earth, and waters. He explains that the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer includes a prayer asking God to "give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty." Through community outreach, enhancing local food security, and providing ample blessings to others while being mindful of impacts on the environment, the volunteers for the Dos Santos Community Garden are happy to get their hands dirty in the name of caring for creation.

—Tatum Ford, CBF's Virginia Eastern Shore Outreach Coordinator

Cleaner Bay Helps Offset Climate Change

The following first appeared in the Baltimore Sun earlier this week.

Hollands Island-1000
Holland Island before it fell into the Bay in 2010. Sea level rise in the Chesapeake is just one dramatic consequence of climate change. Photo by Chuck Foster/CBF Staff.

The temperature of the water in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams in many places is actually rising faster than long-term trends in the air. ("Chesapeake waters are warming, study finds, posing challenges to healing bay," Oct. 14). That points to a stark reality: As we've paved over the bay region, we've created a skillet effect for rainwater. Combined with rising air temperatures globally, we can see why rockfish and other creatures are now in the hot seat.

The good news is that cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay will actually help correct both rising air and water temperatures. Many of the steps needed to reduce water pollution will also reduce water temperature and lead directly to reductions in greenhouse gases and help minimize the effects of rising sea levels and higher temperatures.

A study by Yale University found that improving farming practices alone in the bay drainage area (only one piece of the overall plan to restore the bay) could sequester about 4.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent emissions of three-quarters of a million SUVs, or the entire statewide residential electricity use of New Hampshire or Delaware.

Trees planted along streams are especially cost effective for reducing both air and water pollution.

Of course, we need other efforts to reduce air pollution—not only to mitigate climate change, but to save the bay. Watershed-wide, about one-third of the nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake comes from the air, much of it in the form of nitrogen oxides formed from the combustion of fossil fuels.

If we make personal choices to conserve electricity or drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, if business and government work to reduce power plant emissions, and if we reduce polluted runoff from our urban and suburban communities, the result will be cleaner, cooler water.

The conclusion is clear: Restoring the Chesapeake Bay also helps fight climate change. And vice versa.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director

Invasion of Body Snatchers Turns Mud Crabs into Zombies

The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.

"Zombie Crabs" might sound like a fabricated sci-fi tale, but they are actually a consequence of a parasite inflicted on mud crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Lara Lutz.

One creature invades the body of another. It snakes through the tissue and takes root, changing the behavior and appearance of its host. And then, a reproductive victory: The host must raise the invader's young in place of its own.

This sounds like science fiction, but it's not. It's a real world biological process taking place largely unnoticed in portions of the Chesapeake Bay.

The players in this drama are the small, white-clawed mud crab and an even smaller parasite called the Loxothylacus panopaei or Loxo for short.

Mud crabs infected by Loxo have been dubbed "zombie crabs" by scientists and volunteers who are working to understand the process and its impact on the crab's population. The work is led by biologist Monaca Noble and biodiversity genomics fellow Carolyn Tepolt of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD.

"It's kind of an amazing story," Tepolt said.

The Loxo parasite is native to the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and parts of Florida. Its presence as an invasive species in the Chesapeake region was first recorded in Virginia's York River in the 1960s, and researchers suspect it arrived on the shells of Gulf oysters that were imported to seed commercial oyster reefs.

The Loxo infects at least nine species of mud crabs throughout its range. In the Chesapeake, its target is the Rhithropanopeus harrisii, a brown crab with white claws that typically grows no larger than a human thumbnail.

In its larvae stage, the Loxo resembles a microscopic barnacle that floats freely through the water. Within days, it transforms to a more shield-like shape and seeks a host. Timing is critical. The Loxo can only infect a mud crab for about 24 hours after the crab molts, when its exoskeleton is soft and unprotected. Only females invade a host.

"They travel through the crab tissue and form rootlets, little tendrils throughout the tissue of the crab," Tepolt said.

When the process is complete, the union is disturbingly thorough. "You can't find a distinct individual parasite inside the crab, so you can't dissect it out," Tepolt said. "It's a body-snatcher."

When the crab molts again, the Loxo prepares to reproduce. A sac forms under the abdomen or apron of the crab, and a male Loxo attaches itself long enough to provide sperm. The next generation begins to form inside. The sac enlarges, pushes out the crab's abdomen, and becomes visible — the only sign of infection that can be observed without a microscope.

Thousands of larval parasites emerge from a pore in the sac about every five to 10 days. The process repeats several times before the sac is exhausted and a fresh one takes its place.

During this process, the Loxo shuts down the crab's ability to produce its own young.

"The body snatcher aspect of this is that it essentially castrates the crab, and all of its energy goes to support the parasite's reproduction," Tepolt said. "It changes the crab's behavior so that it takes care of the larvae as if they were its own eggs. They put their legs and claws around the sac in a defensive posture and attempt to protect it. Even the males do it."

Males transform physically, too. "Male crabs are feminized," Tepolt said. "The shape of their abdomen changes and gets rounder, like the females." This makes it easier for male crabs to hold, aerate, and protect the Loxo's eggs.

Tepolt and Noble are in the midst of both short-term and long-term studies that are investigating the impact on mud crab populations and the ecological conditions that might help them resist the parasite.

Smithsonian biologists began investigating the parasite 12 years ago, but the work was not always well-funded. Preserved crabs, infected and not, often sat in the lab awaiting time-intensive analysis.

In recent years, a robust volunteer program has boosted the research effort. This summer, 87 volunteers helped to collect mud crabs from the research center's dock and other sites across southern Maryland. A smaller team of regular volunteers helps in the lab year-round.

"We have information on crab size, distribution, sex ratio and whether they have the parasite or not," Noble said. "But now, going forward, the project has a second goal. How can we engage volunteers, teach them about the biology of these parasites, and teach them invasion ecology? It's a great opportunity."

As a result of volunteer support, the effort now includes 12 long-term sites and 10 sites that were added this year to support a more comprehensive analysis of the Rhode River, a small tributary south of Annapolis where the Smithsonian lab is located.

The number of mud crabs found at the sites has varied greatly from one year to the next, making it difficult to assess the larger population. In general, fewer mud crabs are found in places with more parasites, and this could be related to the shutdown of the mud crab reproductive system. Still, researchers say this particular type of mud crab is likely abundant in the Chesapeake Bay and, according to Noble, that's good.

"There are lots of animals that we don't eat that are still important to the Bay," Noble said. "Mud crabs are one of them. They are important predators. They eat a lot of things that live on oyster shells. They are also important prey for other crabs, fish and birds — a tasty treat for many things."

The presence of Loxo at study sites has varied too. "Some places don't have parasites at all and others have high abundance. Trying to tease apart the reasons is more problematic," Noble said.

Researchers speculate that low salinity and cool temperatures help to reduce infections, and preliminary data suggest mud crabs in the parasite's native range are much more resistant to attack.

But more research is needed. It could yield important information for mud crabs, as well as any potential situation in which related parasites invade the Bay and affect other species. The Loxo has not attacked blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay, but a related species of parasite does impact blue crabs in the Gulf of Mexico.

"If it's not a problem now, could it be, if conditions change?" Noble asked.

—Lara Lutz

In honor of Halloween and creepy creatures like the zombie crab, check out our Top Five Scariest Chesapeake Critters!

Photo of the Week: Roots

HeatherBautista1_RootsAfter the multiple Nor'easters and Hurricane Joaquin that rolled through a couple of weeks ago, there have been tons of driftwood washed up on the shorelines of the Chesapeake Bay. These particular shots are of a whole tree that was washed up. Thought it was a pretty cool sight. 

—Heather Bautista

Ensure that Heather and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


This Week in the Watershed

A young student learns about oysters through hands-on experience. Photo by Drew Robinson/CBF Staff.

It's not every day that efforts on the local or regional level are recognized on an international stage. But that's just what happened on Tuesday, when the state of Maryland was awarded a silver 2015 Future Policy Award by the World Future Council. The award was in recognition of becoming the first state to impose an environmental literacy high school graduation requirement.

Environmental education, while not a new trend, has been gaining traction not only for its obvious educational value in teaching science, but also the positive impact on student achievement in other core subjects such as math, reading, and social studies. Textbooks and classroom learning have their place, but allowing students to have hands-on learning experiences can shape the way they view the world. From wrestling with a Chesapeake Blue Crab, to marveling at the oyster's water filtration powers, to raising the sails on a 113-year old skipjack, hands-on experiences connect people to their environment and the Bay in a way no other experience can.

Leading efforts in environmental education has been a pillar of CBF for over 40 years. Cultivating a reverence and sense of stewardship for the environment and clean water in our future leaders is critical in the work to save the Bay and its rivers and streams. Validation for these efforts only strengthens our resolve in our work to have every student learn outside.

This Week in the Watershed: Harbor Oysters, Learning Outside, and Marcellus Shale

  • How did the Susquehanna River get its name? CBF's BJ Small weighs in.
  • There was a win for clean water on Wednesday when Maryland's largest water utility, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, settled a lawsuit filed by several environmental organizations, including CBF, over millions of pounds of pollution being dumped into the Potomac River from its water filtration plant in Potomac, Maryland. (Washington Post—DC)
  • In efforts to clean the Baltimore Harbor through harnessing the oyster's filtration powers, CBF is teaming up with Baltimore's Healthy Harbor Initiative, committing to plant 5 million oysters in the Harbor by 2020. (Baltimore Business Journal—MD)
  • Maryland was honored with an international award for it's environmental literacy high school graduation requirement. (Washington Post—DC)
  • We couldn't agree more with this editorial, effectively making the case for the preservation of Fones Cliffs. (Free Lance Star—VA)
  • Learn why the James River's recent health grade of "B-" by the James River Association is worthy of celebration. (Lynchburg News & Advance—VA)
  • Another editorial board deserves a round of high fives, condemning Baltimore County for abandoning its stormwater remediation fee. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • ICYMI: The Richmond County Board of Supervisors voted to delay the vote on the development of Fones Cliffs. (Free Lance Star—VA)
  • Alarming facts are being revealed surrounding Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale boom, finding that clean air, water, and land, played second fiddle to industry. (Patriot News—PA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

October 23

  • Easton, MD: CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore office is moving! Join us at our new building, the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. Building tours and light refreshments will be provided, and CBF Eastern Shore staff will be present to visit with you as we celebrate the new space with partners and friends in the community. Click here for more info!

October 24

  • York, PA: More than 350 miles of York County's rivers and streams are considered polluted by Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection. Join us as we canvas throughout York, asking residents to sign our petition to Governor Tom Wolf. For more information and to RSVP, contact Hannah Ison, CBF's Pennsylvania Field Organizer, at or 717-234-5550 ext. 4214.
  • Baltimore, MD: Join us at the Great Baltimore Oyster Festival to celebrate the mighty oyster while enjoying five varieties of oysters, specialty foods, boat tours, music, and more! Hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Waterfront Partnership, and Healthy Harbor. Online registration is closed, but still come on out! Entry to the event is free, and oyster plates will be available for purchase on-site. Click here for more info!
  • Queen Anne's County, MD: Come paddle with us on Southeast Creek, just off the Chester River. Southeast Creek is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore creek, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh, abundant wildlife dominated by various species of bird life, and a watershed consisting mainly of farmland. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up close views of herons fishing in the shallows and wood ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. Click here to register!

October 31

  • Monkton, MD: Trick or treat! There’s nothing scarier than poor water quality! This Halloween, come help CBF plant 800 trees to restore four acres of forest on a farm. The planting of this forest buffer will help protect the Little Gunpowder, a natural reproducing trout stream. Click here to register!

November 7

  • Luray, VA: Get your hands dirty, planting trees on a Virginian farm! This forested buffer will filter polluted runoff and cool streams. Click here for more info!
  • Cambridge, MD: Come help CBF plant 800 native trees to restore a four-acre buffer to the Chicamacomico River. The farm is legally protected from development and now work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is being done to restore wetlands at the site that provide wildlife habitat and filter runoff. This area is critical habitat for the federally-listed Delmarva fox squirrel and coastal dependent birds including salt marsh sparrows and American black duck. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Tommy Leggett Retires After 17 Years

Tommy sharing his deep knowledge and love of oysters. Photos by CBF Staff.

After more than 17 years with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Virginia Oyster Restoration and Fisheries Scientist Tommy Leggett retired this month to focus on his aquaculture business, Chessie Seafood and Aquafarms. During his tenure at CBF, Tommy was instrumental in both establishing native oyster aquaculture in Virginia as well as implementing restoration programs that have planted tens of millions of oysters into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

"Tommy is one of the first champions of oyster aquaculture, and much of his life's work has been dedicated to ensuring the success of the oyster industry. He has helped to revive a resource that collapsed during his lifetime," says CBF Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager Jackie Shannon. "It has given me a great sense of pride to work side by side with him. Tommy truly embodies the American spirit. He is a pioneer and entrepreneur. He is a dedicated spouse, father, and grandfather. He lives by the tides, gets his hands dirty, and takes immense pride in his work."

Tommy sizing up an oyster.

At CBF, Tommy built and ran the Virginia Oyster Restoration Center, which conducted restoration projects throughout Virginia in collaboration with numerous partners and stakeholders. In addition to working on efforts to rebuild the native oyster population, Tommy and his colleagues have helped watermen start their own aquaculture operations, led impactful decision-maker trips on water quality issues, played a key role in defeating a Virginia Senate resolution to support the introduction of the non-native oyster, informed smart and balanced oyster fisheries management and restoration policy, and worked with nearly 400 volunteers on oyster restoration projects.

When Tommy joined CBF in 1998, he already had nearly two decades' experience as a self-employed commercial waterman. He also had the credentials to back-up his on-the-water experience, having earned a master's degree from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, School of Marine Science of the College of William and Mary, as well as a bachelor's degree in biology from Old Dominion University. "Tommy has always understood the pressures on the industry and used this knowledge to help formulate informed, empathetic, and well-rounded decisions on oyster restoration," says CBF Virginia Acting Director Christy Everett.

Over the years, Tommy has served on numerous shellfish-related boards, committees, and sub-committees. Those include the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Potomac Fisheries Commission, and the Virginia Marine Products Board. He has also been President and Vice President of the Working Watermen's Association, Vice President of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, and held memberships at the Virginia Seafood Council, the Virginia Shellfish Growers Association, and the Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association.

Tommy never shied away from sharing his knowledge with others, and has been a mentor, colleague, and friend to so many across the Chesapeake watershed. We wish him the best as he continues his day-to-day oyster farming work.

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

Tommy checking out a reef ball in the Lafayette River in Norfolk.

Building the World's Largest Man-Made Oyster Reef

PC in Harris Creek"The world's tallest building stands in Dubai. The largest city is in Japan. Brazil's Amazon is the largest rain forest. And the largest airport sits in the middle of a Saudi Arabian desert. But Maryland can lay claim to the world's largest man-made oyster reef." That's how the Washington Post referred to a vast, multi-partner effort, of which we were a part, to restore the oysters in Maryland's Harris Creek.

Over the last four years, a partnership of agencies and groups led by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration planted an estimated two billion oysters on 350 acres of river bottom on Harris Creek on the Eastern Shore. 

The ultimate goal is a thriving network of reefs in Harris Creek where oysters have achieved a critical mass and reproduce without the help from man. After six years, if the oysters survive well and mature, the partners hope to declare Harris Creek as the first tributary of the Chesapeake Bay restored to self-sufficiency. 

The work started in Harris Creek in 2011. At the time, there was perhaps only one to three acres of healthy oyster reef remaining in the creek that once boasted 1,500 acres. The bottom had too much mud to support historic quantities of oysters. 

When oysters reproduce, the larvae need a hard substrate upon which to attach. Normally, they attach to existing oysters and shells. So, the first step in restoring the creek was to put down man-made beds of oyster shells and stone. Then, the partners started "planting" hundreds of millions of "spat" (or baby oysters) the size of a dime attached to old oyster shells. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DNR conducted most of this work. 

Then, other partners, led by the University of Maryland's Horn Point Laboratory and Oyster Recovery Partnership, planted hundreds of millions of "spat" (or baby oysters) attached to old oyster shells on the prepared beds. 

With the restoration effort, oysters in Harris Creek are now at densities they were 50 to 100 years ago. If you could snorkel over the reef, you'd see knots of growing oysters clustered together over hundreds of yards—a sort of massive, jagged, shag carpet.  

Achieving the impressive planting numbers and acres is a milestone for which we all should be proud. But it's just the beginning. Ultimately, the plan is to restore large oyster reefs in 10 tributaries of the Chesapeake over the next 10 years. Two other projects in Maryland and three in Virginia. And that's great news for the health of the Chesapeake as each adult oyster can filter and clean up to 50 gallons of water per day—gobbling up algae, and removing dirt and nitrogen pollution.

By 2025, the 10 super reefs should serve as oyster spawning dynamos that create rich habitat for fish, and filter billions of gallons of water in each tributary. To function properly, the reefs will need to grow vertically. Historic reefs in the Bay were more like jagged skyscrapers, but harvesting knocked them down. Right now, the Harris Creek reef is starting out relatively flat but will grow over time. While the reefs will be off-limits to harvesting, scientists believe they likely will help boost the population of oysters in general, including those in nearby harvesting areas. 

As CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore Director Alan Girard told the Post: "The Harris Creek sanctuary will serve as a reproductive engine, with the potential to repopulate wide areas outside the creek . . . [it is] a significant step in Maryland's plan to restore what was once a vast underwater food factory and water filtering system. Everyone will benefit from that restoration."

Learn more about our oyster restoration efforts.


Photo of the Week: White Stone Summer

Penny's son Wyatt fishing off the dock at twilight. This week, Wyatt celebrates his 12th birthday!

[I took these photos] on a dock on Windmill Point in White Stone, Virginia, over the last few months.

My sons and I are blessed to enjoy time at my best friend's river house every few weekends during the summer.

I am so thankful that I am raising boys who love the Bay and all of its offerings. We are continuously mesmerized by its beauty!


Penny Angelini


Ensure that Penny, her sons, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprintthe plan to Save the Bay! 


Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign], along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!