Monday, September 30, 2013

Chesapeake Bay: The Slow Pace of Minor Improvement

“Despite significant efforts by federal, state, and local governments," says President Barack Obama's order in 2009, "water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay prevents the attainment of existing state water quality standards.”

The president calls for renewed commitment to clean the Chesapeake.

Four years later.

“Have you seen any drastic improvement?" asks Annapolis fisherman Jimmy Simmons. "Have you seen anything? Not a damn thing except the bay (health) is less and my taxes are higher."
Speaking as a fisherman, no, I have not seen any improvement.  In fact, for the species I am most interested in catching, Striped Bass, Bluefish, Weakfish, the fishing has gotten significantly worse in the last several years.

Speaking as a scientist, I know that for nutrients and toxic pollution, things have gotten better, but not not, for the most part, a lot. Continuing reductions due to improvements in control of pollution in industrial processes and municipal  waste streams has produced measurable decreases in concentrations, but has not had significant impacts on biota.  Nutrient reductions have barely affected the algae blooms that plague the bay, and toxics were never a factor the limited growth of organisms, only their utility to people.

There has been progress, but he can't see it: An estimated 2.6 billion fewer pounds of pollution spewed into the Chesapeake last year, nearly a one-quarter reduction from the 1985 load. To him, the Severn River still seems empty of the weakfish he used to hook, salt and pepper, then fry.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first cleanup agreement, but a restored bay remains distant. Bay health last year scored 32 out of 100 by the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Healthy is 70.
Actually, 100 is considered to be "pre-colonial", but they have enough sense of reality to realize that 70% of that is about all they feel safe in asking for in modern era.  So how fast is the improvement  progressing?
From 1998 to 2012, bay health increased 27 to 32. That's on a scale of 100 and according to foundation report cards.
 5 points in 13 years, with 38 points to go?

No comments:

Post a Comment