WETLAND HABITAT AND AQUATIC SPECIES

Somerset County has approximately 81,500 acres of wetlands, or 38% of its total land area. Of this acreage, three quarters are tidal wetlands and one quarter are non-tidal wetlands. Tidal wetlands are influenced by tidal action, although this may range from inundation twice a day to areas flooded on an irregular basis. Non-tidal wetlands are not linked to tides and are designated based on the level of groundwater, soil characteristics, and plant life that is adapted to wet conditions. Non-tidal wetlands may be less apparent to the average citizen since they range from fresh water swamps to forested areas that appear to be dry for at least part of the year.
 
Given the low-lying topography of the County, it is very important that property owners address the question of wetlands early in any building or subdivision plan. Filling and disturbance of wetlands is regulated under the Federal Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, as well as Maryland State regulations. Soils designated as "hydric" in the County Soil Survey may be an indicator that wetlands are present on a site and the identification of these soils on a development site may warrant further study.
 
Striped Bass


 
Wetlands provide habitat for a variety of wildlife and many of Maryland's endangered species. Nationwide, over one third of endangered or threatened species live in wetlands. As most people now realize, wetlands provide spawning and nursery grounds for a number of species, including both salt and fresh water fish, serve as a water purification or filter system, and provide storage area for flood waters.
 
Wetlands are protected through the regulation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maryland Department of the Environment and are not locally regulated. However, Somerset County maintains soil maps, infrared aerial photos and wetland maps that are used in subdivision and site plan reviews and for public information purposes. The County does require permits before work can begin on piers and shore erosion control measures based on the previous approval of the joint State and Federal permit.
 
A specific concern of the Critical Area program is the protection of Anadromous fish propagation waters. Anadromous fish live primarily in the ocean, but travel upstream to fresh water to spawn. Many of the Eastern Shore's popular fishing species fall into this category. Also, at various life stages, these fish provide major food sources for other species. Anadromous fish occurring within Somerset County include white perch, yellow perch, striped bass (rock), alewife, blueback herring and hickory shad. Most of the streams in the County are considered Anadromous fish streams and may host such fish if stream flow is sufficient at spawning time.
 
White Perch


 
As part of the Critical Area Program, Somerset County implements several measures to ensure the protection of habitat for these fish. While Buffers and natural vegetation help maintain the stream and streambanks by filtering and trapping nutrients and sediment and providing shade to regulate temperature, fish must also be protected from alteration of the streambed and disturbances to the stream from March 1 through June 15th should be avoided. Most Joint Permits for riprap or piers include this prohibition as part of their conditions, as do dredging permits. Construction and repair of roads and bridges associated with stream crossings for both public and private entities must also address anadromous fish protection.
 
Under a recent Watershed Restoration Action Strategy Plan for the Manokin River Watershed, a survey was done recently to update information on anadromous fish (Roman Jesien, University of Maryland Eastern Shore). A tabular summary of the findings is shown below:
 
 
Stream Location Watershed Latitude and Longitude
Manokin Branch UMES campus Manokin River 38 12' 50" 75 40' 18"
Taylor Branch Bridge at Rt. 13
Bridge at Stewart Neck Rd
Manokin River 38 12' 27" 75 40' 59"
Kings Creek Bridge at Westover Rd
Bridge at Stewart Neck Rd
Manokin River 38 9' 53" 75 41' 06"
Somerset Creek Bridge at Rt. 529 Wicomicoa 38 15' 51" 75 40' 50"
Wicomico Creek Bridge at Eden Allen Rd Wicomicoa 38 17' 00" 75 41' 21"
acontrol site
 
Table 2. Summary of migratory fish species collected in Manokin Creek
 
  April 13 April 20 May 11 June 22 July 6 July 13 Aug 16 Aug 25 Sept 12
Eel
   American eel
  Adults Adults Adults Adults YOY     YOY
Herrings
   Blueback
   Herring
   Alewife
Gizzard Shad
Adults
Adults
Adults
              YOY
Temperate basses
   White Perch
Adults           YOY   YOY
Perches
   Yellow perch
Adults   Adults YOY YOY   YOY YOY YOY
YOY = Young-of-the-Year
 
Table 2. Summary of migratory fish species collected in Kings Creek
  April 18 April 20 April 25 May 3 July 13 August 3
Eel
    American eel
  Adults Adults Adults Adults Adults
Herrings
   Blueback
   Herring
   Alewife
Gizzard Shad



Adults
Adults
 



Adults



Adults


YOY


YOY
YOY
Temperate basses
   White Perch

Adults

Adults

Adults
     
Perches
   Yellow Perch

Adults
 
Adults

YOY
   
YOY = Young-of-the-year
 
Table 4. Summary of fish species collected in the study.
 
Species Manokin
Creek
Kings
Creek
Taylor
Branch
Allens
Creek
Somerset
Creek
American Eel X X X X  
Herring Sp X        
Blueback Herring X X   X  
Alewife X X      
Gizzard Shad X X      
Eastern mudminnow X X      
Redfin Pickerel X X      
Golden Shiner X X X X X
Spot Tail Shiner X X X    
Creek Chubsucker X X X    
Brown Bullhead X X      
Pirate Perch X X X    
Mosquito Fish X        
Banded Killfish X X X   X
Mummichog X X      
White Perch X X   X  
Bluespot Sunfish X X      
Blackbanded Sunfish X        
Pumpkinseed Sunfish X   X X X
Bluegill X     X  
Largemouth Bass X        
Yellow Perch X X X   X
Total Number Species 21 14 7 6 4
 
Legislation Maps Land Use Categories The 100 Foot Buffer Planting Requirements Home Meetings and Events Zoning Board Planning Commission Rising Sea Levels Wetland Habitat Upland Habitat