Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Chesapeake Bay Receives Passing Grade

Report card: Chesapeake Bay 'C' grade is one of the highest since 1986
The bay earned a 53 percent, or a C, which is one of the three highest scores since 1986. It scored a 50 percent in 2014 and a 45 percent in 2013.

"Grades matter, and this is a good grade," said Ben Grumbles, secretary of the environment.

The scores in 1992 and 2002 were higher than 2015, but they were both years with major droughts that caused fewer pollutants to enter the bay through storm runoff, said Bill Dennison, vice president for science applications at the center.

The center has been recording data in its current format for 10 years, the first of which was the worst: a D+.

"It was pretty bleak," Dennison said.

In 2015, all regions increased their scores from the previous year, with strong improvements in the Choptank River, Upper Eastern Shore, Lower Western Shore and the Rappahannock River, according to a news release.

The Lower Western Shore, which encompasses Anne Arundel waters like the Magothy, Severn, South, Rhode and West rivers, scored a D.

The area has "poor ecosystem health," the report states, although there were significant improvements in chlorophyll a and ocean floor communities.

"Over time, this region is showing a slightly improving trend," the report states.
. . .
Key fish populations like striped bass, bay anchovy and blue crab remained healthy throughout the bay, according to the report. The 2015 score of 73 percent, an average of the grades for those three species, was an increase from the previous year, 67 percent.

Chlorophyll a, water clarity and aquatic grass growth also improved throughout the bay region, the report states.

Improvements could be related to a number of factors such as several years of moderate weather, sewage treatment upgrades, use of winter cover crops by farmers and reductions in the release of atmospheric nitrogen, officials said.

Despite models estimating a decrease in the bay's phosphorus load, the grade for phosphorus worsened from 79 percent in 2014 to 70 percent in 2015, the report states.
Things are looking pretty good right now, the water is clear, and the fish are hitting well. I sincerely hope this is really part of a long-term trend, but I'm afraid it just may be favorable weather patterns.

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