Just over a month ago, a new sand barrier was topped off with 60,000 plants of native grass to protect the fragile Cove Point freshwater marsh in Calvert County from the open Bay. Mother Nature had breached the barrier in 2004 and 2006, and once again this month, she has proved that she is in charge.
With driving rain, powerful wind gusts and waves over seven feet, the Bay saw Victory-at-Sea conditions on Saturday April 16. At the Gooses Reef Buoy just north of Cove Point, winds reached speeds up to 40mph. The southeast direction of the wind and the coming full moon added extra elements to the storm, creating very high tides throughout the region.
The new barrier, under threat during most of the storm, looked to fail.
“A river came in and blew out the beach,” said Steve Seymour, who lives in Cove Point.
But a new 33,000-ton, half-mile rock revetment deterred the looming waves and spared the grasses planted not two months ago by volunteers. The marsh endured the over-wash that is common in any large storm but avoided the major breach that was first feared.
In the midst of the storm, the spit of land that separates the marsh from the Bay became breached, and saltwater contaminated the ecosystem. But by Monday only a small stream of water was running into the marsh.
“The damage to the marsh wasn’t as bad as expected,” said Mike Fredrick, director of operations at Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas Plant. The 190-acre marsh — the largest freshwater marsh on the Western Shore — lies on Dominion property and is preserved by the Cove Point Natural Heritage Trust. Dominion paid for the marsh restoration. “The bulk of the damage was south of where the volunteers helped plant the grasses,” Fredrick said.
The next step in the marsh restoration is a final grass planting in May. Watch for dates in 8 Days a Week.