Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bay Diet Reaches Halfway Point

Midpoint assessment nears for Bay
The midpoint assessment for the Chesapeake Bay’s “pollution diet” is approaching, when officials will determine if cleanup progress has advanced and if efforts are working as intended.

States in the Bay watershed are halfway through a set timeframe to reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, in the most recent iteration of attempts to clean the Bay.

The Bay’s “pollution diet” is the Total Maximum Daily Load, which was established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 and sets limits on nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution to achieve water quality standards.

Jurisdictions in the watershed — Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and Washington, D.C. — have been given until 2025 to put the necessary pollution reduction practices in place. In addition to the midpoint assessment, there have been regular assessments by the Chesapeake Bay Program, which is under the EPA’s umbrella, on progress being made or ground still to cover in Bay restoration.

The general consensus among scientists who closely watch the Bay is that the efforts have been working to reduce pollution and improve things in the Bay like underwater grasses, which have seen resurgence in recent years, and to reduce harmful algae blooms in the water caused by excess nutrients.

Local jurisdictions in places like Maryland’s Eastern Shore have been putting in on-the-ground projects. In addition to county government-sponsored projects, nonprofit organizations like ShoreRivers (formerly Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy) have been working with farmers to install best management practices on their land, as agriculture is a significant contributor to pollution to the Bay, due to over-fertilization on some farm land.

Under Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan, which were developed by jurisdictions to help them meet pollution reduction goals, counties also have specific goals to meet.
I would hate to be accused of having rose colored glasses, but I do see signs that the Bay is starting to improve. Is it enough to meet their goals by 2025? I'm unconvinced.

From my perspective, the part of the Bay I see most, the mid bay, from here to Tangier Sound, seems reasonably clean, most of the time. We still have some seasonal algae blooms, and occasional hypoxia, but they seem to be declining.

As far as natural resources? Oysters suck (still), Striped Bass are good, but could be better. Crabs seem largely unaffected and random, up one year, and down the next. These are largely fisheries management problems, and not related to pollution.

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