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Floating Hope In Baltimore's Harbor

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A floating mat that will hold native plants.
Sabri Ben-Achour
A floating mat that will hold native plants.

By Sabri Ben-Achour

Baltimore's Inner Harbor is among the most polluted waters of the entire Chesapeake Bay. Last year it received a grade of F from the University of Maryland and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for it's poor water quality. But the problem is spurring some creative thinking.

Tucked around a tiny cove, at the back end of a marina off of Baltimore's inner harbor, a small patch of greenery lines the shore. It is the last remaining piece of wetland in the harbor, and 9-year-old Lariel Yarral just made it a little bit bigger.

"We're making wetland floats for birds and stuff," she says. "They're made of coconut, bottles, water, and black cloth."

Yarral and other elementary students wash used plastic bottles - collected from the harbor - and stuff them into socks. They're placed inside wooden frames to make floating mats that are planted with marsh hibiscus and native grasses.

"The plants are going to provide habitat for waterfowl on top, the roots below will provide habitat and cover for fish and other aquatic animals," says Brian Mcaveney, who is with Biohabitat, the group that came up with this idea. "As the roots grow and start growing down into the water, they provide surface area for microorganisms to latch on, and that's what helps filter pollutants in the water."

The floating wetlands will be placed in the harbor, where they'll be studied for the next year to see how well they hold up.

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