Share

Policy: Environment & Energy

Foundation report: Health of Chesapeake Bay slightly better

|
Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Rachel Baye,Energy and Environment

The Chesapeake Bay is in slightly better shape than it was two years ago but is still "dangerously out of balance," according to a report released Wednesday.

The report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gave the Bay a score of 32 on a scale of 1 to 100, which foundation President William Baker called "a sobering reminder that there is a great deal left to do." The score is an increase of one point since the last report was released two years ago, four points since four years ago and five points in the last 10 years.

The goal is to hit a score of 50 -- indicating a "stable" Bay environment -- by 2030 and a score of 70 -- indicating a "saved" Bay -- by 2050.

The analysis looked at a variety of factors to determine the health of the roughly 200-mile-long Bay. Among them are the presence and condition of oysters, shad, crabs, rockfish, underwater grasses, wetlands, and phosphorus and nitrogen pollution, as well as how clear the water is and the size of the Bay's "dead zone," the area that lacks sufficient oxygen to support aquatic life.

Most of the factors showed little change between 2010 and 2012, the report shows, and the health of the Bay's underwater grasses worsened. From 2010 to 2011,

the number of acres of underwater grasses dropped roughly 20 percent.

The organization reported good news on a few measures. Phosphorus pollution declined, the Bay's dead zone was its second-smallest size since 1985, and the oyster and blue crab populations grew.

But the good news was tempered, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation warning that much of the improvements are "a work in progress" -- like the bolstered but still low adult crab population.

Baker attributed some of the improvements to a joint effort among federal and state governments to restore the Bay and urged state and federal governments to increase their efforts and their funding.

In Virginia, for example, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation would like to see the state legislature approve Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal of $217 million to upgrade wastewater treatment plants and help cities like Lynchburg and Richmond deal with stormwater runoff, said Chuck Epps, a spokesman for the foundation.

And the foundation would like to see Maryland fully fund the state's Bay Trust Fund for the first time, said Alison Prost, the organization's Maryland executive director. The fund is supposed to receive $50 million a year and usually gets less than half of that, she said.

"If we fail [to save the Bay]," Baker warned, "we will continue to have polluted water, human health hazards and lost jobs -- at a huge cost to society."

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment