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News and Resources

The Ways We Help Our Bays - December 7, 2014

’Tis the season of giving, so once again the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) hopes you will join us for another year of projects to protect our wonderful coastal bays.

The MCBP is a nonprofit organization that works with local, state and federal partners year round to not only protect and monitor the health of the bays, but also educate visitors and residents and work within our local communities.

Because we are a nonprofit, we are always looking for donations. While money is always appreciated, we also encourage people to volunteer their time and energy in helping us preserve our wetlands and bays.

Thanks to the funding we received this year, we were able to accomplish many projects including;

Bishopville Dam Removal and Renovation - MCBP has worked with numerous partners including Worcester County, Department of Natural Resources, and US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the Bishopville Dam on the Bunting Branch of St. Martins River and replace it with a series of weirs, pools and runs. By removing the corrugated sheet metal dam, we will effectively be opening up approximately seven miles of upstream habitat previously inaccessible to fish and aquatic animals, like eels and herring. The removal also calls for a renovation of the local area, resulting in a 2.5 acre pond along along with a renovation of around 600 feet of stream buffers and up to three acres of surrounding wetlands. Removing the dam and replacing it with a series of weirs and pools will also help to improve water quality and reduce excess nutrients from entering St. Martins river and subsequently the Coastal Bays.

Skimmer Island and Dredge Island Renewal - The MCBP, in coordination with the federal Army Corps of Engineers and other partners, have been helping to restore islands previously lost in the Coastal Bays. Starting in 2009, the MCBP partnered with the MD Department of Natural Resources and Ocean City Fishing Center to help replenish Skimmer island with dredge spoils from the fishing centers marina. In 2014 the MCBP and Army Corps of Engineers are using the dredge spoils from the navigation channels in the Isle of Wight and Sinepuxent bays to help create new islands in the bays. There are multiple areas that they will be recreating new islands in the bays, including at the historic sites of the Dog and Bitch islands and Collier’s Island. They are also using dredge spoils to create a island near Green Point and Grey Point in Chincoteague as well as replenishing the Robin’s Marsh area in the Chincoteague Bay.

Seal Stewards – Partnering with the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Marine Mammal Wildlife Rescue, MCBP created a seal stewards volunteer group to assist animal control with seal haul outs. In the past several years healthy seals have been 'hauling out' (coming onto the beach) on Ocean City beaches to rest during their journey in the Atlantic Ocean. Ocean City animal control is tasked with the responsibility of watching over the resting seals as they are a protected species, but are limited in staffing. MCBP's seal stewards are now tasked with responding to seal haul outs and educating beach goers on the importance of giving seals their space.

Coastal Stewards — The Coastal Stewards program is an outdoor summer employment opportunity for high school and college students on Delmarva, aimed at increasing diversity and youth employment in the environmental field. This year we were able to hire 14 stewards who participated in a variety of restoration projects and helped conduct education and outreach programs reaching more than 15,000 residents and visitors.

Assateague Ventures – MCBP partnering with Super Fun Eco Tours were awarded the concessions at the National Assateague Island Seashore. This business partnership is a fundraising initiative. MCBP anticipated breaking even with all the new up front costs, but by the end of season, we were actually operating in the black! One hundred percent of profits made at the Beach Hut store go directly to the program and fifty percent of the profits from the rental stand go to the program.

Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) Update — The CCMP represents a consensus of the best means needed to preserve the economic and ecological prosperity of the Coastal Bays for the future. With help from Worcester County, Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of Environment, the town of Ocean City and other local, state and federal planners and scientists, the strategies in the plan include reachable scientific goals and the most effective means for implementing them. The plan is created with a 15-year life span in mind and because we are coming to the end of our previous plan, we have been updating and changing certain actions, challenges and research goals based off of what we have already accomplished in the previous years.

Horseshoe crab, colonial nesting bird, diamondback terrapin and water quality surveys — In 2002, the MCBP initiated the annual horseshoe crab surveys with volunteers to assess the current and long-term population status of Atlantic horseshoe crabs. The program has done the same for colonial nesting birds, like herons and egrets, since 2006. Beginning 2011, MCBP partnered with the Terrapin Work Group and volunteers to conduct yearly Diamondback terrapin surveys to help develop more comprehensive information on our state reptile.

Goodbyes - This year we had to say goodbye to two of our staffers, Bill Mahoney and Arlo Hemphill. Bill is now working for the Department of planning in Howard County after working with the MCBP for the previous 4 years. Arlo is currently working as the as Communications Manager at MARCO - The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, having worked at the MCBP for the previous 2 years. While we are sad to see these two excellent employees leave, we wish them the best in their future endeavors!

While we said goodbye to two staffers this year, we also said hello to two new employees:

Jennifer Rafter- Joined the MCBP in 2014 as our Programs Manager and has a B.S. in Biology and a M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from George Mason University.  She has previously worked as the Aquarium Curator at the Delmarva Discovery Center and as the Executive Director of the Pocomoke Area Chamber of Commerce. She has a number of responsibilities for the MCBP including implementing on-going management and monitoring plans, coordinating management of MCBP properties and other projects, coordinating climate adaptation and resilience activities and tracking legislation relevant to our management goals.

Amanda Poskaitis - Joined the MCBP in 2014 as Project Coordinator after receiving her BS in Biology from Salisbury University and a BS in Environmental Science from UMES. She previously worked as a manager at The Kite Loft in Ocean City. Amanda's responsibilities for the MCBP include organizing volunteers and interns, coordinating outreach related to volunteer activities, working with the technical coordinator to conduct monitoring and working with staff scientist and programs manager to conduct field work and assist with fundraising.

While the MCBP staff does great work year round, it would be impossible without the donations and dedicated support of our fantastic members and volunteers. Thank you! 

Harrison Jackson is the Coastal Stewards Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. 

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