Restoration Efforts in Maryland
Sustain, restore and conserve

American Eels Relocated Above Dam on the Susquehanna River

Releasing Americal eels into a tributary of the Susquehanna River. USFWS photo.
Releasing Americal eels into a tributary of the Susquehanna River . USFWS photo.

Over 15,000 juvenile American eels and 150 adult American eels were relocated to Susquehanna River tributaries above Conowingo Dam during the summer of 2009.  Declines in American eel populations have been noted in many watersheds along the Atlantic Coast. In the Chesapeake Bay, they’ve declined by 50% between 1994 to2004. 

Declines in the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere have been attributed, in part, to habitat loss, such as those caused by dammed waterways. American eels spawn in the Atlantic Ocean. Juvenile eels (elvers) then move to inland waters where they spend 5 to 30 years until they return to the Atlantic Ocean to spawn.

Eel passage up into the Susquehanna River, which makes up approximately 43% of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, is blocked by the Conowingo Hydroelectric Power Dam. Due to the small size of juvenile eels, fish lifts at Conowingo and other dams designed to pass American shad, are not effective at passing eels, blocking them from over 400 miles of Susquehanna River. 

American eels play an important role in the ecosystem. They are prey and predator at different life stages to many invertebrates, fish, and birds. In addition, they may play an important role in the life cycle of filter feeding freshwater mussels. Restoration of American eels to the Susquehanna River could impact not only the river ecosystem but also improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.
Maryland Fishery Resources Office (MFRO) is working to refine methods for capturing elvers at the base of Conowingo Dam. The goal is to determine the timing of the elver migration and learn more about their population below the dam. In 2008, more than 40,000 elvers were captured. The large number made it feasible to start relocating eels to upstream locations.

MFRO will monitor relocation sites to determine if marked eels are present and monitor freshwater mussel populations to learn more about the relationship between eels and mussels. The results of these experimental eel captures and relocations will be used in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing process of 3 dams and 1 pumping station on the Susquehanna River over the next 5 years. 

For more information, contact:
Julie L. Devers
Maryland Fishery Resources Office
(410) 573-4508

Living Shoreline Protects Fragile Eastern Neck Habitat

Students from a local school plant marsh grasses at Hail Cove. Photo by Jennifer Greiner.
Students from a local school plant marsh grasses at Hail Cove. Photo by Jenniger Greiner.

The Hail Cove Living Shoreline Project, at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Kent County, Maryland, demonstrates an alternative to traditional shoreline protection revetment practices that nearly eliminate important shallow water habitat.

Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge is a 2,286-acre stopover area for migratory and wintering waterfowl at the mouth of the Chester River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Within Eastern Neck is Hail Cove which separates the Chester River and Hail Creek. Hail Cove is regarded as one of the five best waterfowl habitats in Maryland.

Aerial surveys over the past 10 years revealed the importance of protecting Hail Creek from damaging erosion due to prevailing winds .Protecting Hail Cove will preserve submerged aquatic vegetation that is so critical to migratory waterfowl. The living shoreline will also reduce shore erosion and create marsh and reef habitat for Chesapeake Bay wildlife such as blue crabs, diamondback terrapins, fish, oysters and mussels.

Earlier this summer, low profile headland breakwaters were constructed to reduce wave energy and sand was placed along the existing shoreline to provide an environment suitable for bay grasses and emergent plants. The restoration project was completed with planting of marsh grasses by volunteers and students from Rock Hall Elementary School. In addition, volunteers from Washington College Center for Environment and Society are restoring a nearby oyster reef.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Ducks Unlimited, and the National Aquarium, with help from many funding partners, have been working together to restore the living shoreline of Hail Cove.
For more information contact:
David Sutherland

Tagging Program Provides Valuable Information Striped Bass Stocks
August, 2009

Biologists tagging striped bass on the 2009 North Carolina cooperative striped bass tagging cruise. Credit: USFWS
Photo of Biologists tagging striped bass on the 2009 North Carolina cooperative stiped bass tagging cruise. Credit: USFWS

In 2009, the Maryland Fishery Resources Office (MFRO) collected information about 6,961 tagged striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries as well as other bays and rivers along the Atlantic Coast. Of those, 1,300 were recaptured by fishermen who reported their tagged fish via toll-free number to the MFRO.

Striped bass are a valuable commercial and recreational species. Populations declined severely in the 1970's due to overharvest and habitat degradation. The Emergency Striped Bass Act was enacted in 1979 to study the causes of the decline and recommend measures for restoration. 

Since 1985, the MFRO has maintained a central database which now has over 480,000 tagged fish entries and almost 90,000 records about recaptured striped bass. Recaptures are reported to the MFRO via a. Biological information is taken from all tagged striped bass and the data are submitted to the MFRO. Information gathered through the striped bass tagging program has been instrumental in setting regulations that have led to an increase in striped bass stocks, thus providing additional fishing opportunities for commercial fishermen and recreational anglers.

Partners in the cooperative tagging program include Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Connecticut Division of Environmental Protection, Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, District of Columbia Government, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, New Jersey Department of Environmental Quality, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and Virginia Institute of Marine Science

For more information contact:
Julie L. Devers

Connecting Kids with Nature – Chesapeake Bay Field Office and Girl Scouts Create Schoolyard Habitat
August 7, 2009

Butterfly visiting the schoolyard habitat, Janet Norman USFWS
Butterfly visiting the schoolyard habitat, Janet Norman USFWS

Chesapeake Bay Field Office teamed up with Girl Scout Troop 2371 and Hillsmere PTA to create a schoolyard habitat at Hillsmere Elementary School in Anne Arundel County, MD. A new school sign left a barren area ripe for landscaping with native plants.

CBFO biologist Janet Norman provided the scouts with copies of CBFO's guide "Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping, and instructed them how to use it. She also assisted the girl scouts in collecting soil samples and discussed the results with them.

The girls researched what Maryland native plants would do well in the conditions at their site. Working with Karen Kelly-Mullin, a Schoolyard Habitat Specialist with Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE), the layout design and plant selection were revised, considering flowering times, hardiness, soil suitability, human toxicity and other factors. They also chose plants that would not block the sign when fully grown and would flower or had wildlife berries while school is in session.

Scouts, PTA members, school staff and parents came together to prepare the soil, dig holes, plant the new landscape and water it throughout the summer. A local nursery provided the plants at wholesale pricing. Partners included Unity Gardens, MAEOE, the PTA and the Girl Scouts.

Already the native landscaping has attracted dragonflies, butterflies and goldfinches. A bird's nest has been spotted, at kids' eye-level, in one of the new native holly trees. Purple dome asters and white heath asters are just starting to bloom. The area can be used for lessons in ecology and other subjects.

The project has received lots of attention due to the school's high visibility on a major road. The Hillsmere Elementary School landscape team is planning more native plantings this fall.

For more information contact:
Janet Norman

Contact Info: Kathryn Reshetiloff, 410-573-4582,

Pristine Bald Cypress-Atlantic Cedar Wetlands Protected!
July 22, 2009

Pocomoke cypress wetland, Dan Murphy USFWS
Pocomoke cypress wetland, Dan Murphy USFWS

The Pocomoke River originates in Delaware and flows south through Wicomico, Worchester, and Somerset Counties in Maryland prior to discharging into the Chesapeake Bay in Tangier Sound.  The entire Pocomoke River watershed is considered to be a "biodiversity hotspot" - a highly significant region for rare, threatened, and endangered plants and animals.

Now through the efforts of the Pocomoke River Conservation Partnership, 290 acres of unique southern bald cypress - Atlantic white cedar forested wetland will be protected. Located across from Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Heritage Area (NHA), known to support twelve state-listed species, including the state-endangered Swainson's warbler, the property is considered to be an extension of the ecologically significant habitat found at Hickory Point

Uplands adjacent to this property served as a translocation site for the federally-endangered Delmarva fox squirrel and there are three bald eagle nests directly across the river from this property. Both Delmarva fox squirrels and bald eagles have been observed on the property. It will incorporated into the Pocomoke State Forest.

This is part of a larger effort involving two North American Wetland Conservation Act grants to protect 2,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat in the watershed The Chesapeake Bay Field Office Coastal Program initiated this project, wrote the grant proposals, and continues to lead the effort and work with the partners and landowners to protect these lands. Other members of the Partnership include Maryland Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund and Worcester County, Maryland.

For more information contact:
Dan Murphy
Contact Info: Kathryn Reshetiloff, 410-573-4582,

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Holds 6th Youth Fishing Derby
Northeast Region, June 7, 2008

Jordon Dorsey concentrates at Blackwater NWR's 6th Youth Fishing Derby at Hog Range. Melissa Zrou, USFWS
Jordon Dorsey concentrates at Blackwater NWR's 6th Youth Fishing Derby at Hog Range. Melissa Zrou, USFWS

Blackwater NWR’s 6th  Youth Fishing Derby was another terrific success with 95 youths registering to fish at the Hog Range Pond on June 7, 2008.   With temperatures at 100 degrees, the young anglers enjoyed catching 218 fish and a snapping turtle between 9:00 am and 12:00 noon.  First, second, and third prize were presented to the youth who caught the biggest catfish and biggest sunfish in three age groups (under 5 years old, 6-10 years old, and 11-15 years old.  A prize was also given for the most fish caught and the most unusual or other fish in each age category.  Starting at 9:30, a drawing was held every 30 minutes for donated prizes for the registered youths.

Don Riese from the Grand National Waterfowl Hunt Association joined staff and volunteers in helping young fisherman to bait, cast and take their fish off the hook.  Each child received a photo with their fish to take home.  Fishing rods and reels were loaned out for the competition to those who did not have fishing gear.  Don Willey set up a knot tying display, Don Pose and Eric Lawton from the Division of Fisheries set up the Washington Office Fisheries display and answered questions, and the Cambridge Power Squadron set up the Arain gutter regatta@ for the kids to enjoy when they needed a break from fishing.   Church Creek Fire Company was on hand to help with any medical issues or emergencies.   The temperature was over 100 degrees, a record for that day in this area.  A large tent, food canopy, registration canopy, and water and first aid tent provided shade for most of the activities.  However, fishing areas had little shade.  In the future, the event will be cancelled or postponed if such high heat indexes are indicated.

The 6th Annual Frog Jumping Contest had 7 frogs and toads entered in the competition.  The amphibians battled it out in 3 elimination rounds while the winners of the fishing event were tallied.

Ten Blackwater staff, 3 interns, and 18 volunteers helped to make this another fun Blackwater event.

Contact Info: Maggie Briggs, 410-228-2692 ext. 115,

Maryland Fishery Resources Office Works to Restore American Eels to the Susquehanna River.
September 1, 2007

Elvers find their way up wet rocks to a water source near the base of Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River. Credit: USFWS
Elvers find their way up wet rocks to a water source near the base of Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River. Credit: USFWS

The Maryland Fisheries Resource Office (MFRO) captured over 4000 young American eels, called elvers, at the base of Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River as part of a study designed to test methods for eel passage.  American eel populations have been declining since the early 1980's throughout most of their range along the Atlantic coast. Although the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries support a large portion of the coastal eel population, the construction of 4 hydroelectric dams (including Conowingo Dam) in the early 1900's blocked eels from entering the Susquehanna River watershed.  A fish lift is in operation at Conowingo Dam for passing American shad and other anadromous fish, but is not effective for passing elvers.

To reestablish eel populations in over 400 miles of the Susquehanna River, upstream and downstream passage needs to be addressed.  American eels have a catadromous life cycle in which the Gulf Stream carries larval eels from their natal Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean to the coast of North America.  Many eels enter the Chesapeake Bay where they swim upstream into brackish or fresh water.  Streams, rivers, and estuaries are home to eels for 8 to 25 years until they become sexually mature and return to the sea to reproduce.  When passage to rivers and streams is blocked to eel, they can become overabundant at the base of dams and in small tributaries where they fall prey to fish and birds.  The objective of this project is to determine the most effective methods for collecting and passing American eels to the upstream portion of the Susquehanna River.

The MFRO collected baseline information on abundance, timing of migrations, catchability and attraction flows for eels at the base of Conowingo Dam. After monitoring collection devices from May to August, 2007, it was determined that Irish elver ramps placed on the river bank were the most effective method of capturing elvers. Information collected for this study will help determine the best location and type of passage needed at the first hurdle to eel migration on the Susquehanna River.

Contact Info: Julie Devers, 410-573-4504,

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Restores Tidal Wetlands and Connects People with Nature
May 27, 2009

Students planting cordgrass at Barren Island. USFWS photo
Student planting cordgrass at Barren Island. USFWS photo

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) recently restored 5.8 acres of tidal marsh on its Barren Island Division.  Barren Island is one of the few remaining islands in the Chesapeake Bay, most have been lost to sea-level rise, erosion and land subsidence.  This island serves as important habitat for estuarine fish and shellfish, waterfowl and nesting colonial waterbirds.  Additionally, the island serves as a buffer, protecting the community of Hooper's Island from erosive wave action from the Chesapeake Bay.

 This project is an inspiring example of partnerships overcoming conservation challenges.  Partners for this project include the National Aquarium Baltimore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Conservation Corps, Friends of Blackwater NWR, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Student Conservation Association and a multitude of community volunteers.  Blackwater NWR worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide suitable locations for the placement of clean dredge material from the Honga River and Tar Bay.  This dredge material replaces marsh lost to erosion and forms the foundation for the restoration.  The National Aquarium at Baltimore played a keystone role in acquiring marsh grasses and organizing volunteers to plant over 42,000 plugs of marsh grass.  Additionally, students from the Conservation Internship Program planted another 8,000 plants.  Together, these organizations partnered to overcome the daunting challenge of restoring the ecological, economic and cultural benefits of an otherwise rapidly eroding island.

 Additionally, through our partnership with the National Aquarium, three different school groups helped with the Barren Island restoration effort.  Some of these students  raised their own grasses at their schools and brought them out and to plant on site.  More than 90 school children from schools in Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Talbot Counties in Maryland, participated in a day of environmental education and habitat restoration.

Contact Info: Suzanne Baird, 757-986-3705,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conducts Prescribed Burns at Patuxent Research National Wildlife Refuge
April 18, 2009

USFWS firefighters monitor prescribed burn.
USFWS firefighters monitor prescribed burn.

On March 31, 2009, 31 acres of open grasslands were burned at Patuxent Research National Wildlife Refuge near Laurel, Maryland, to maintain the grassland in open habitat and prevent encroachment by woody species. On April 18, an additional fourteen acres of upland forest were burned to restore an open savannah habitat for the benefit of rare darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae) and rare herbaceous plants.

 On March 31 a total of 17 personnel assembled, representing three National Wildlife Refuge units, two National Park Service units, AmeriCorps, and a casual hire from four states and the District of Columbia. Equipment used for the burn included two Type 6 engines, a Marsh Master, two UTVs, a water tender, and a dozer.

 On April 18 a total of 22 personnel assembled, representing three National Wildlife Refuge units, four National Park Service units, the State of Maryland, AmeriCorps, several casual hires, and a vendor from three states and the District of Columbia. Equipment used for the burn included three Type 6 engines, a dozer, two UTVs, a water tender, cache trailer, a 1000-gallon folding tank, and several portable pumps.

Contact Info: KellyAnn Gorman, 410.228.2692 x128,

Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge Conducts Shoreline Cleanup
October 5, 2008

Trash found along shoreline.
Trash found along shoreline.

Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge hosted volunteers from the Chester River Keepers, Friends of Eastern Neck, Washington College's Center for Environment and Society and members of the local community for a fall shoreline cleanup.  Twice a year refuge staff and volunteers gather to remove trash/debris from the refuge's northern shoreline.  Trash on the Island's northern shoreline is primarily deposited when the Susquehanna River's Conowingo Hydroelectric Dam opens its floodgates and trapped debris is allowed to flow south down the Chesapeake Bay.

Volunteers gathered at the refuge visitor center, were given gloves/trash collecting supplies and were disbursed into two groups.  Starting from opposite ends of the Island, participants covered most of the Island's northern shoreline and spent more than three hours combing the beach for trash and debris.  Over 500 pounds of trash was removed from Butterfly Beach, Ingleside Beach and northern breakwater areas (prime horseshoe crab spawning habitat).  Participants noted that the majority of the garbage collected consisted of bags, plastic bottles, fishing line and large pieces of foam.

Kent County Division of Public Works allowed the refuge to dispose of the trash/debris at no cost within their Nicholoson Transfer Site and urged the group to continue organizing these types of events.  Photos of the clean-up are posted on the Washington College Center for Environment and Society website.

Contact Info: Jonathan Priday, 14102285869,



Last updated: November 16, 2009