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Water: Estuaries and Coastal Watersheds

Maryland Coastal Bays (NEP Profile)

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Summary Information

Year Established: 1995
Location: Maryland
Area of Watershed: 1,035 square kilometers

Priority Management Issues:
human population growth
habitat loss/alteration
species loss/decline

Major Habitat Types:
submerged aquatic vegetation (sea grass)
barrier islands/ sand bars
lagoon/shallow open water
shellfish growing areas
sand/mud/salt flats
salt/brackish marsh
freshwater marsh
non-wetland forest

Federally Endangered or Threatened Species:
bald eagle
piping plover
roseate tern
loggerhead turtle
American chaffseed
seabeach amaranth

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Overviews and Highlights

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is a Federal, state and local partnership charged with developing a community driven action plan to preserve and protect Isle of Wight, Assawoman, Sinepuxent, Newport and Chincoteague Bays plus the 23 creeks and tributaries that feed the bays. At 175 square miles, and on average approximately four feet deep, the coastal bays are surrounded by a year-around population of nearly 22,000 Worcester County residents. During the summer vacation season, however, that number swells to more than 250,000 people each week.

An environmental characterization of the bays finds excessive levels of nitrogen resulting in algal blooms that reduce oxygen levels in bay waters; loss of natural habitats for fish, crabs, birds and other wildlife; declines in numbers of fish, clams, crabs and other important species; local bacterial contamination; and negative impacts from boating, dredging, and other water-based activities. In a collaborative partnership of citizens and elected officials from Worcester County, Ocean City and Berlin, Maryland with representatives from various federal and state governmental agencies, realistic and common sense solutions to those problems will be developed during the next few years.

The Program is designed to actively involve local citizens in the management plan's development by incorporating their comments, experiences and perceptions about the bays with those from research scientists and resource management professionals.

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