This week, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) was featured in a Washington Post article on its efforts to reinvigorate the American eel population in the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, for which numbers of eels reached a record-high in recent years indicating improved climate resiliency.
For more than a decade, Maryland has trapped and trucked baby eels upstream and around the Susquehanna River’s Conowingo Dam, which blocks the eels’ typical migration patterns and access to parts of the watershed. Due to success and record-producing populations as of late, the state and dam owner, Exelon, are planning to expand on this effort by building a way for the eels to get past the dam themselves.
American eels help distribute baby mussels, which are helpful in naturally filtering the water and improving the overall health of the ecosystem. In 2007 when MDE and its partners began tracking eel passage near the dam, there were fewer than 50,000 eels moving through the dam. In late August of this year, Maryland reported that about 537,000 eels were transported up the dam into the river.
ECOS President and MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles says the state sees this as a very positive trend and one the state hopes “will happen in rivers throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, particularly the Potomac River,” due to the infrastructure’s value as a holistic, nature-based approach to improving climate resilience.