But really, do we know them and what they do: besides smell funny at low tide? Here is a collection of paragraphs from a web survey:

Typical erosion cycle: waves undermine the marsh grass peat by dissolving underlying clay layer, then grass peat sections break off and put the grass below the elevation that it can survive at, and new soil is opened up to waves gnawing at the underlaying clay.

We live and learn. Still, it is surprising that even our long “established” principles, thought to be best practices, sometimes need to largely change as we go forward to better environments. Who would have guessed that, for decades, Smokey The Bear got it wrong? Small scale, “controlled burn” forest fires in the understory are essential to keeping down the tinder levels that now fuel the huge super burns plaguing the American West.

So too it is now apparent that our land development and lawn landscaping practices have contributed to Chesapeake Bay pollution loads of Phosphorous, Nitrogen and Sediment. Our goals have been to manage precipitation off our properties as fast as possible, piped and shunted into streams. The result has been too high water volumes at too high velocities that have eroded stream banks and funneled pollutants downstream.

It is no secret what two and three year old children want. They tell you NOW. However, have you asked your local oysters what they want? The Few Oyster Charitable Trusts don’t do surveys about this. You might be clueless…as was I in my paleolithic era.

My own observations are that oysters only have a limited set of communication tool:
-Closed up tight means they are scared or out of the water, but still living.
-Living and slightly cracked open under water means they are eating.
-Open and dead whether in or out of the water means they are were once alive, but are now dead.

Our last Blog (“It’s a Wonderful World) promised some hard science numbers to back up our points about all the wonderful things oysters do for water quality. While numbers can be boring, we will credit what follows to the interesting content provided in the “E-Tidings” emails from Susan Maples at VIMS. Her contact should you want to subscribe is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

One of the featured articles in February was about loss of eelgrass beds in the Chesapeake Bay. Some excerpts from the eelgrass study -

A new study led by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science links a long-term decline in Chesapeake Bay’s eelgrass beds to both deteriorating water quality and rising summertime temperatures. It also shows that loss of the habitat and other benefits that eelgrass provides comes at a staggering ecological and economic cost.

As they say, “it is important to stop and smell the roses”, but I’m sure most of us rarely do in a busy week. Even though we at ReadyReef get the opportunity to work on the shores of the multi-faceted Chesapeake Bay, even its features get reduced to a few simple things that hide what is in plain sight. A blasting NE or NW winter wind concentrates the mind on keeping warm and getting the work done as fast as possible. We don’t look up and study the scudding sky, spend time to see the whipping horse tails leaping off the wavetops, or catalog the porpoising waterfowl. There are seemingly hundreds of different feathers as they dine, segregated as usual, below the gales on the salad bar at the bottom of the sea.

Our business though is concerned with what is beneath the water and not casually observed. There lies the detail in the level of the Fantastic: myriads of species, intertwining in the whirl of sea life, flashes of colors and subtle movements.

Typically, the word “fouling” implies something negative: a foul ball, fouling one’s nest, an infraction of the rules, etc. Anti-fouling is what boats need, and we are religious in fighting growth by vigorous cleaning wherever we don’t want it.

Biologically speaking, however, it is a miraculous display of the persistence and cooperation of life forms! Wikipedia defines it as: Biofouling or biological fouling is the accumulation of micro-organisms, plants, algae, or animals on wetted surfaces.

Bay History:

21,000 years or so ago, the last Ice Age reached its maximum. The Susquehanna River was flowing toward the meteorite impact crater and bearing glacial till. Cutting across the Delmarva Peninsula and running 70 miles down over the continental shelf, it also created the Baltimore and Norfolk Canyons into the edge of the shelf. Then the Earth began getting warmer and the sea level rose 100 meters over the next 12,000 years as continental glaciers receded.

How do Projects get done:

Step 1. Schedule a no-charge site visit. From the Client’s standpoint, it is important to determine Primary and Secondary Goals for the work, such as erosion control or ecological contribution. From our standpoint, the site evaluation lets us see what the dynamics of the site are and to discuss of what the Client’s options are to achieve those goals. This includes discussion of all products that would be applicable to the site- such as Living Shorelines, pre-seeded oyster reefs, riprap, or bulkheads-, site logistics and other services, such as Permit work.

So, once upon a time, there was a $4.5 million study entitled: “Impacts of shoreline hardening and watershed land use on nearshore habitats”

It was NOAA-funded, 7 year SERC-led project with 19 Places studied, by 8 Institutions: SERC, USGS, Utah State, MD DNR, UMCES, VIMS, UDE, PSU), and published in 2015.

The main findings from NOAA project: The combined effects of shoreline hardening and watershed Nutrient discharges can degrade nearshore habitats for submerged vegetation, water birds, fish, crabs, benthic invertebrates, and coastal wetland plants.

Sounds right and the sheer volume of evidence supporting the conclusions in the detailed report (link follows) is impressive.

As the time to enjoy the water recedes from our schedules and fall advances to winter, we turn away from the Bay until we return in the Spring- often to see then the toll that winter storms bring and think of taking action.

9.22.206 pic1

Fall/Winter is when you must take action for a Living Shoreline to work.

Here’s the cycle.

Fall is for meeting us, free shoreline consultations, design work and contracts.

Chesapeake Bay property owners should learn about the new, preferred approaches to shoreline erosion control, which are actually not new at all. Just like we used to think Smokey the Bear's Prevent Forest Fires was the right way to manage forests and the use of DDT was the right way to control mosquitoes, it is now understood how bulkheads and riprap are not optimum for the Bay's health as well as a less effective over time. The original and now resurgent building material in the Bay was and is oyster shell, cemented together into shoreline and deep reefs (4'-15' depths). As the proper sill for a Living Shoreline, oysters protected the marsh toe during normal tides. The marsh grass roots the bottom sediments in place and captures any damaging runoff from the uplands. There was little erosion when Capt. John Smith made these observations about the clear and fabulously productive waters in the Bay.