This weekend I went to the Magothy River Association's (MRA) annual "Magothy River Celebration" and wade-in. It was my first wade-in, and not owning a pair of white sneakers I kept a keen eye on my toes. I was pleasantly surprised when we progressed beyond the MRA-planted SAV bed before our feet disappeared from view. The official measurement: water clarity to a depth of 39 inches--up three inches from last year.
The SAV bed didn't have any effect on the water clarity, as the wild celery season is past. The most significant impact has likely been this summer's drought, lessening the amount of runoff and sediment into the river.
Two years ago, however, the difference in water clarity by the grass beds "was amazing!" Claudia Donegan, team coordinator for DNR's Lower Western Shore Tributaries Team, told me. She came out to take the official measurements. At that time, MRA had planted redhead grasses near Little Dobbins Island.
"The plants slow down the velocity of the water and the sediment drops out, making it clearer," she explained.
The MRA is also active in another water quality effort--restocking the Magothy with oysters. This month's Bay Journal carries a story about CBF's aquaculture efforts on the York River. While the article focuses on the potential for aquaculture to help Virginia's trouble oyster industry, back here we were talking about cleaning up the river. According to Dick Carey, who coordinates the organization's oyster restoration efforts, we need at least 125 acres of oyster beds to clean the Magothy; there are currently about 10. Planting a maximum two million spat per acre, that means we need 125 million healthy, reproducing oysters! Not only that, with a 50% mortality rate, we need to plant twice that amount to have a chance at success.
The widespread improvement of water clarity following a short-lived influx of dark false mussels in 2004 shows the significant impact these mollusks can have on our waters. But it's clear (no pun intended) that it will take strong leadership and commitment if it's ever to become a reality.
(Kim Ethridge is a CBF staff member and a member of the Magothy River Association)