As many of you can attest, the community’s creeks have been unusually full of submerged aquatic grasses (SAG) this year. One Cabin Point resident, Ellis Schlossnagle, a retired teacher, found curiosity getting the better of him. Ellis took a sample of the underwater grass and spent a couple hours online deciding it was horned pondweed. To confirm his search results, Ellis took the sample to the local extension agent. She dried the sample and sent it to Virginia Tech for identification. They came back identifying it as small pondweed. Along with other submerged aquatic grasses found in the Chesapeake area, pondweed is very ecologically valuable, although as Ellis noted, it is an extreme nuisance to boaters and those on jet skis.
The submerged grasses provide a good source of food for waterfowl and good protection for young fish and crabs. Ellis also noted it is valuable for controlling sediment leading to cleaner water. After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food (called “detritus”) for many aquatic invertebrates. The grasses in our creeks are now dying and the residual grasses should be sinking or floating out on the tides. While we do not know for certain why it has lingered longer and grown more densely than usual this year, it may have to do with the cooler spring and the delay in warming the water temperatures in the creeks.
Some of you have asked whether we can do something to remove the grasses at the boat ramp areas. We can certainly investigate that in the future. But for the moment, we do not have other means for controlling its growth or removing it from the creeks. The process for removing underwater grasses is expensive and it is not something for which we have funding currently. Until the grasses are gone, it is best to carefully choose when to boat and to launch or haul out from the boat ramps at higher tides.