February 7, 2024
Arundel Rivers Launches Underwater Grass Restoration Program
Annapolis, Maryland– In 2024, Arundel Rivers Federation (Arundel Rivers) will propel the restoration of underwater grasses across Maryland’s Western Shore by constructing and managing a submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) turbulator – a machine that separates seeds from underwater grasses to support restoration efforts. The project will be made possible through funding by the Chesapeake Bay Trust and through a collaboration between Arundel Rivers, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Anne Arundel Community College’s (AACC) Environmental Center, and Anne Arundel County’s Department of Recreation and Parks. The funding will enable Arundel Rivers and its partners to restore grass beds across the South, West, and Rhode Rivers of Anne Arundel County, engage volunteers in that restoration effort, increase awareness of the benefits of these grass beds to water quality and habitat, and potentially provide precious grass seeds for other restoration projects across the state.
An SAV turbulator is a jacuzzi-sized tank that agitates harvested SAV to separate seeds from the plant stems. After separation, the seeds are mixed with sand and planted in shallow waters where sunlight can reach the bottom. Once established, these SAV beds provide immense ecological benefits. The grass beds serve as nursery habitats for fishes, crabs, and other Chesapeake Bay species, act as feeding grounds for waterfowl, sequester carbon, take up excess nutrients in the water, trap sediment, and protect shorelines from erosion by decreasing wave energy. Vibrant SAV beds improve water quality, protect coastal communities, and benefit local economies.
“This is a really exciting new project for Arundel Rivers,” said Elle Bassett, the South, West, and Rhode Riverkeeper at Arundel Rivers. “SAV is critical to the health of our waterways and I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty with volunteers and project partners to restore native grass beds right here in Anne Arundel County.”
According to the US EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, grass beds once covered between 200,000 and 600,000 acres of bottom across the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Unfortunately, SAV coverage has declined significantly since the 1950’s due to human impacts and periodic storms across the region. The Bay Program has set a goal of restoring 185,000 acres of SAV, but found only 76,000 acres in 2022.
The Bay Program also set a more targeted goal of restoring over 800 acres of SAV in the South, West, and Rhode Rivers. Unfortunately, SAV restoration continues to lag far behind these with minimal SAV found in these local waterways over the past few years.
The SAV turbulator will be built and housed at Anne Arundel County’s South River Farm Park, located along South River in Edgewater, Maryland. The park will be an ideal location to expand SAV outreach and education efforts as Arundel Rivers will welcome volunteers, including students from nearby Anne Arundel County public schools to assist in the processing and planting of over 1 million native SAV seeds each year.
“Providing residents with opportunities to explore and give back to nature is central to our mission,” said Karen Jarboe, Anne Arundel County Mayo Peninsula Parks Superintendent. “So we are thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with Arundel Rivers to engage residents in the restoration of their waterways.”
Arundel Rivers will work closely with experienced partners at AACC’s Environmental Center and DNR to build the new SAV turbulator.
“Maryland DNR is committed to supporting initiatives that aim to restore and preserve the state’s natural resources.” Michael Naylor, Program Manager for the DNR said. “We recognize the value of collaboration and partnership in achieving successful conservation outcomes, and we are looking forward to supporting SAV restoration efforts with Arundel Rivers and project partners in the South, West, and Rhode waterways.”
Michael Norman, Laboratory Manager at AACC noted, “The Environmental Center at AACC is thrilled to partner with Arundel Rivers on this important effort to restore native grasses in the South, West, and Rhode Rivers. As the home to the first turbulator in Maryland, the Environmental Center at AACC has been working on SAV restoration in the Chesapeake Bay for over three decades and is eager to continue supporting efforts that promote the restoration of native grass species in local waterways – especially in our home county of Anne Arundel.”
Arundel Rivers Federation is an environmental nonprofit based in Edgewater, Maryland working to protect, preserve, and restore the South, West, and Rhode Rivers in Anne Arundel County while fighting for clean water everywhere. Arundel Rivers is a member of the broader Waterkeeper Alliance, a group of hundreds of waterkeeper organizations who serve as the guardians of our waters across the world.
Visit www.arundelrivers.org to learn more and support Arundel Rivers.