Group says health of bay improved in last five years
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:12

But CBF says bay scores only 32 out of 100

by Ben Boehl

    The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) released its biennial State of the Bay report last week. The news could be perceived as good, as the group found that the bay showed improvement over past assessments. Still,  the CBF said the overall health of the bay still needs improvement.
    The State of the Bay Report is a comprehensive measure of the bay’s health in Pennsylvania (the source of much of the river water that feeds the Chesapeake), Maryland and Virginia based on the following indicators: oysters, shad, crabs, striped bass (rockfish), underwater grasses, wetlands, forested buffers, resource lands, toxics, water clarity, dissolved oxygen, and phosphorus and nitrogen pollution.
    CBF scientists compile and examine historic and up-to-date information for each indicator and assign it an index score and a letter grade. The results offer CBF an assessment of Chesapeake Bay’s health.

    On a grading scale of 1-100, the bay only received a 32. CBF President William C. Baker said the goal is to have the bay’s quality around 70.
    “We have made progress, but much of the bay and many local waterways don’t provide healthy habitat for fish, oysters and other aquatic life,” Baker said.
    “Pollution has cost thousands of jobs and continues to put human health at risk,” he added.
    Although Baker acknowledged the 10 percent improvement over the last five years, he noted that of the 13 indicators that determine the report, five improved, one declined and seven remained unchanged.
    According to the CBF’s findings, the quality of crab life improved five points, for a grade of B-plus. The quality of oysters improved one point, but still has a way to go as it received a score of 6 and an overall grade of F.
    The quality of rockfish remained the same from 2010 with an A grade after a 69 rating.
    Habitat quality around the bay remained the same, except that the amount of underwater grass has declined over the previous two years.
    The pollution in the bay didn’t get any worse, according to the report, but it didn’t show significant signs of improvement. Levels of phosphorus and dissolved oxygen declined, but both received a D grade, with an overall toxics level that remained unchanged since 2010.    
    Nitrogen and water clarity in the bay both remained stable, with a score of 16 that resulted in an F.
    “Continued progress shows what can be done when governments, businesses and individuals work together to save local rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay,” Baker added.
    “While the bay is still dangerously out of balance, I am cautiously optimistic for the future. The federal/state Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay is in place and beginning to work.”
    Del. John Olszewski Jr. said he has supported Chesapeake Bay-friendly legislation in the General Assembly and is happy that some of those acts are starting to help the bay improve.
    “Since taking office, improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay has been an important focus of mine,” Olszewski stated.    
    “I am proud that the work that we have been doing is beginning to show signs of progress.  While we have quite a ways yet to go, it is clear that we are heading in the right direction, and that Maryland continues to be a leader in the bay’s watershed in these restorative efforts.”