Monday, March 13, 2017

The Chesapeake Bay - Part One

I feel that I am lucky to have grown up with two parents who, themselves, grew up with completely different backgrounds.  My Dad was born in Oklahoma, and was raised in Oklahoma and Kansas - a true farm boy for the previous 200 years of his family's history - all farmers, along with teachers and preachers as side-lines.  My Mom's family, on the other hand, were watermen - fishermen, oystermen, clammers, crabbers, net men, shrimpers - if it came from the ocean, they harvested it.  I feel that I grew up with a much greater appreciation for both the lands and the waters of our planet thanks to those family ties.
   I just read that, in the new President's so-called "house-cleaning," he plans on cutting the Environmental Protection Agency's employees by at least one-fifth; but the item that really caught my attention was the cutting of funding for the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay from $73 million to $5 million.  That's a 93% budget cut for a single program that is greatly needed.
   About the Chesapeake....
The word Chesepiooc is, supposedly, an Algonquian word referring to a village "at a big river." It is the seventh oldest surviving English place name in the United States; it was first used by explorers heading north from the Roanoke Colony in 1585 or 1586, as they visited a "Chesepiook" tributary.  The name may also indicate a Native American tribe who inhabited the area now known as South Hampton Roads, in Virginia, the Chesepian or Chesapeake people.  The tribe was known to inhabit what is now Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach.  Local residents today almost always prefix the word/area with "the": "The Bay," "The Chesapeake," or "The Chesapeake Bay."
   The Chesapeake bay is an estuary lying inland from the Atlantic Ocean, and is surrounded by the North American mainland to the west, and the Eastern Shore (comprised of parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia) to the east. The Bay is the drowned valley of the Susquehanna River; it was the alluvial plain where the river flowed when the sea level was much lower. It is the largest bay in the contiguous United States, with the northern end of the Chesapeake within Maryland, and the southern portion in Virginia. The Bay is an important feature of the ecology and economy of those two states, as well as others.  More than 150 major rivers and streams flow into the bay's 64,299-square-mile drainage basin; that covers parts of six states (New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia) and all of the District of Columbia (Washington, DC).
   The Bay is approximately 200 miles long from the Susquehanna River outlet to the Atlantic Ocean. At it's narrowest, it is only 2.8 miles wide, and is 30 miles wide south of the mouth of the Potomac River, it's widest point.  The total shoreline mileage, including tributaries is 11,684 miles, circumnavigating a a surface area of 4,479 square miles.  The average depth of the Chesapeake is 21 feet, and the current maximum depth is 174 feet.
   The Chesapeake Bay, long known for both its beauty and bounty,became "emptier," with fewer crabs, oysters, and watermen in the past years.  Recent restoration efforts, begun in the 1990s, have been ongoing and show potential growth of he native oyster population. The overall health of the Chesapeake Bay improved in 2015, and marked three years of gains in the past four, according to a new report by the University of Maryland.
   More regarding the Bay this week.....

And, the island that my Mom's family is from, is on the eastern side of the Delmarva peninsula, out in the Atlantic Ocean, not in the Chesapeake Bay...  Chincoteague, the inhabited island is located in Virginia, while Assateague, which is home to the Assateague National Seashore and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, is in both Virginia and Maryland.  The Wildlife Refuge itself is in Virginia, while the Seashore is in both states.

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