Aerial and Field SAV Observations

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Final 2009 SAV aerial update

November 20th, 2009 by Robert Orth · No Comments

We have completed the 2009 SAV aerial survey, and with one heck of a lot of luck in the MD Coastal Bays stuff just before the nor’easter hit.

Weather remained our major obstacle during the last month and a half which necessitated a continued 24/7 assessment of weather and water conditions and a contractor ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

Since the end of September, we completed the remaining areas in Maryland, including the Potomac River, the Susquehanna Flats including the restricted areas of APG (thanks to Todd Beser at APG for help in us get into the restricted area), Choptank River, Eastern Bay and the western shore tributaries from the Bush to the Rhode River. In Virginia we completed the James, York, Pamunkey and Rappahannock rivers.  We flew the MD Coastal Bays the day before nor’easter hit.  Talk about luck - we maintained contact with the contractor throughout the weekend before and made the final call to fly Sunday night even though the tide conditions were not perfect. On Monday we woke up to dense fog which lifted over Chincoteague just at 1030 when we were supposed to start shooting. Luckily, the water was really clear and we got great photography. The next day, the weather collapsed and the rest is history (for the storm that is).

Here is a brief summary of what we have seen in this photography:


Upper York and Pamunkey rivers -  the upper reaches above and below the Pamunkey Indian reservation is loaded with SAV in many of the same locations as in previous years.  Past field surveys have noted hydrilla dominating those beds.

Rappahannock River - SAV is present in and around marshes just below and above the bridge at Port Royal.  The general distribution is similar to what we have noted in previous years.

James River - we did not observe any SAV in the lower James tributaries.


Potomac River - the Potomac is a system of contrasts. There is almost no SAV in the lower portion from the 301 bridge south to the mouth except in the St. Mary’s, and abundance appears down from 2008.  In the transition zone, there are some small beds in Port Tobacco Creek but very little in Nanjemoy Creek.  However, SAV becomes quite abundant from Potomac and Aquia creeks all the way to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge along both shores.  For some unknown reason, there is almost no SAV on the big shoal area in the middle of the river surrounding the bridge and what is there is very sparse, and sparser than last year.  Above the bridge there is little SAV, with most occurring in small pockets along the western side just below the airport and then up around Roosevelt Island.

Choptank River - we noted more SAV in Harris and Irish creeks this year than in 2009.  Overall SAV abundance in this river remains very low.

Eastern Bay - the only SAV we noted was in Marsh Creek where Peter Bergstom had done some SAV ground surveys.  Also, SAV abundance remains extremely low for this system.

West, Rhode and South rivers - we did not see any SAV.

Severn River - SAV was abundant in Round Bay but it does appear to be a bit less than in 2008.  This was also reflected in notes provided by Peter Bergstrom.

Magothy - much less than in 2009 also evidenced in the extensive ground surveys conducted by Peter Bergstrom (see

Patapsco - not much except for very well developed beds in Shallow Creek, also visited and reported on by Peter (see  There are some fringing beds noted in Bear Creek off the Patapsco.

Back and Middle River - not much in the Back but more in the Middle.

Gunpowder River - SAV is abundant in Dundee Creek and in portions of the Gunpowder noted in 2008.  There are a few locations where it appears less than in 2008.

Bush River - not much SAV, but dense in a few coves.  SAV is more extensive in Romney and Little Romney creeks.

Susquehanna Flats and APG area - We had previously flown the Flats in August but captured additional imagery when we flew over the restricted area of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.  The SAV beds continued to look fantastic and remain robust and incredibly thick.  Beds in and around Spesutie appear a
little less than in 2008

Please check our web site ( if you are interested in SAV in particular areas for 2009 or want to read some of the SAV observations reported by our colleagues (

Numbers for the 2009 survey will be completed in mid-Feb and reported to the Bay Program at the end of Feb. so stay tuned for the final assessment.

Have a great and safe holiday season.  We will be back on the air in 2010.

Tags: Aerial Updates · SAV Observations

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