Forest picture

SHA Tree Planting Program

Forest pictureThe Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is working to improve and sustain Chesapeake Bay water quality with the planing of thousands of trees at key locations throughout Maryland. The trees act as natural filters to reduce run-off of nutrients into our waterways and the Bay.

Trees play a critical role in naturally protecting our rivers and streams by eliminating some of the nutrients in highway water runoff. Plus an acre of trees absorbs carbon dioxide equal to the amount emitted by a car driven 26,000 miles,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters.

SHA is planting the nearly 120,000 trees on 480 acres of State property in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The sites are strategic locations along highway interchanges and grassy areas that will not hinder visibility for travelers.

Each tree helps to slow water velocity from heavy rain, preventing stream bank and soil erosion. Trees also absorb nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen that can enter the Chesapeake Bay and lead to “dead zones,” where plants and animals cannot live due to low oxygen levels. An added benefit from trees is the absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas. CO2 is used by trees in the photosynthesis process, producing beneficial oxygen. Healthy trees can absorb about 13 pounds of carbon annually or approximately 2.6 tons per acre per year.

SHA’s water quality projects are part of the national Clean Water Act that requires states to establish a list of impaired waters and develop projects to help reduce pollutants and nutrients from entering streams and tributaries. Scientists calculate the maximum amount of pollution that a waterway can receive while still maintaining safe water quality in a measure called “Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).” SHA started planting trees across much of the State earlier this spring as part of an overall effort to improve water quality in local waterways by reducing the TMDL. The total cost for all tree plantings is approximately $5.2 million and should be completed by spring 2013.

For more information call SHA’s Office of Environmental Design toll-free at 1-800-446-5962 or visit SHA’s website at

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