More details on Smoots Bay Project emerge

Posted at 12:33 PM, Apr 15, 2016

A clearer picture of the project to create artificial bass habitat to part of the Potomac River is emerging.

At a planning meeting on March 31, representatives from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Maryland B.A.S.S. Nation, Wetland Studies and Solutions, and National Harbor discussed materials and supplies needed for the project and a slightly more detailed timeline.

"The meeting went well. I think we're all feeling more confident in the project," said Joseph Love, manager of DNR’s Tidal Bass Program.

The Smoots Bay Project is a first of its kind in tidal freshwater in Maryland. It will create an artificial reef near National Harbor where submerged grasses in the bay have died off over the past decade and not returned. That, in turn, has meant a decrease in the largemouth bass population on the Potomac.

“There is definitely some grasses in Smoots Bay, just not as much as there used to be. Not surprisingly, there aren’t as many bass there either,” Love told me in January. “Coves, like Smoots Bay, are preferred areas for spawning bass in tidal rivers.”

Concrete balls along with wood that has washed up at National Harbor will be sunk in two locations of the bay, creating artificial habitat to take the place of grasses.

Love is still waiting on a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and a water quality certification from Maryland Department of the Environment, but said funding for the project is in place.

"I can get started on buying some supplies now. The bulk will be obtained closer to the project date in mid-to-late September."

In addition to creating a list of materials and supplies, the group at the planning meeting discussed ways to attract volunteers to help build the reef balls and place them in the bay. According to the rough timeline, those volunteers will be needed at three different times: late September, mid-October, and beginning of November.

Specific dates for the project will be narrowed down by July which is also about the same time you'll begin seeing more advertising for the project as well as requests for volunteers to help construct and place the reef balls this fall.

(Read the summarized notes from the planning meeting here.)

* Jeff Herman is the assistant news director at WMAR | ABC2. His main passion while not at work is fishing. This column is part of a series of columns he writes for our outdoors page. You can read more of his columns here.