Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Chesapeake Bay Sediment Processes

contact: Stephen Van Ryswick (

     Report on “Sediment Processes in the Chesapeake Bay and Watershed” (2003)

     The Chesapeake Bay Program, a partnership consisting of the States of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and participating advisory groups is committed to the restoration of vital habitat in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.  As part of that commitment, the partners have agreed to reduce Baywide sediment loads to improve water quality and clarity.  To assist in carrying out this objective the Bay Program established a Sediment Workgroup to provide technical information on sediment issues in the Bay and watershed. Michael Langland of the U.S. Geological Survey and Jeffrey Halka of the Maryland Geological Survey are the co-chairs of the Workgroup.   The Sediment Workgroup, has completed a document entitled “A Summary Report of Sediment Processes in the Chesapeake Bay and its Watershed.   The primary objective of the report is to provide a comprehensive review and analysis of the literature on the sources, transport, and delivery of sediment in Chesapeake Bay and its watershed with discussion of the implications for management actions.  The report consists of seven chapters, each chapter devoted to a particular sediment process (source, transport, deposition, storage and budget) in the watershed and estuary.  An Executive Summary presents many of the most significant findings and concepts with discussion concerning management actions. Information in the report will help managers consider strategies to reduce sediments that are impairing stream corridors and waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.  The report was issued by the U.S. Geological Survey as Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4123.

     The report (in Adobe PDF format) is available from the USGS:

Figure 7, exerpted from the Report
Estuarine areas that benefit more from sediment controls (shaded area) than from nutrient controls (areas shown in yellow) in the watershed and tidal tributaries (Cerco and others, 2002).
Abstract from “A Summary Report of Sediment Processes in the Chesapeake Bay and its Watershed”

     The Chesapeake Bay, the Nation's largest estuary, has been degraded because of diminished water quality, loss of habitat, and over-harvesting of living resources. Consequently, the bay was listed as an impaired water body due to excess nutrients and sediment. The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), a multi-jurisdictional partnership, completed an agreement called “Chesapeake 2000” that revises and establishes new restoration goals through 2010 in the bay and its watershed. The goal of this commitment is the removal of the bay from the list of impaired water bodies by the year 2010. The CBP is committed to developing sediment and nutrient allocations for major basins within the bay watershed and to the process of examining new and innovative management plans in the estuary itself and along the coastal zones of the bay. However, additional information is required on the sources, transport, and deposition of sediment that affect water clarity. Because the information and data on sediment processes in the bay were not readily accessible to the CBP or to state, and local managers, a Sediment Workgroup (SWGP) was created in 2001.

      The primary objective of this report, therefore, is to provide a review of the literature on the sources, transport, and delivery of sediment in Chesapeake Bay and its watershed with discussion of potential implications for various management alternatives. The authors of the report have extracted, discussed, and summarized the important aspects of sediment and sedimentation that are most relevant to the CBP and other sediment related-issues with which resources managers are involved. This report summarizes the most relevant studies concerning sediment sources, transport and deposition in the watershed and estuary, sediments and relation to water clarity, and provides an extensive list of references for those wanting more information.


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