National Estuary Week: Bringing the Chesapeake Bay to the Inner Harbor

In honor of National Estuary Week, Charmaine Dahlenburg, Manager of our Chesapeake Bay Program, is highlighting how we bring the nation’s largest estuary to the Inner Harbor.

Published September 19, 2018

Estuaries are necessary for the health of people and the planet. They capture and filter stormwater runoff, reduce effects of flooding, prevent shoreline erosion and provide habitat for fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates. As our coastal populations continue to grow, the ecosystem services provided by estuaries will be even more important. Finding ways to balance working wetlands with our human community needs is critical to protecting wildlife and understanding how we interact with nature.

Floating wetland prototype at the National Aquarium

Photo courtesy of Paul Burk 

The National Aquarium, located in the heart of the nation’s largest estuary, is bringing back estuarine landscapes to Baltimore City through our Waterfront Campus, a plan to introduce a variety of habitats, including floating wetlands and oyster reefs, to a 2.7-acre channel that sits between the Aquarium’s Pier 3 and 4 buildings. Our work celebrates Baltimore’s post-industrial Inner Harbor alongside the Power Plant, a well-known landmark now housing eateries and offices in what was once a coal-fired plant where harbor water cooled condensers. We are creating environments where urban wildlife can thrive while also providing a connection to the communities that share this space.

Floating wetland prototype

In August 2017, the National Aquarium launched a uniquely engineered floating wetland prototype that functions like a natural wetland, providing important micro-habitats vital to many of the Chesapeake Bay’s estuarine organisms. Designed to rest at a predetermined elevation in the water column, the island supports a variety of habitat conditions above and below the water’s surface. A channel between wetland areas, equipped with airlifts to keep water cooled and moving, mimics a small tidal canal. Part of the wetland’s innovation is its aeration component, complete with four diffusers designed to mix the upper portion of the water column and limit the formation of harmful algal blooms.

Read the full post on Ocean Conservancy’s blog here.

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