More sad news
Bay Health Given A "D"
Monday, November 13, 2006
WBAL Radio and The Associated Press
CBF President Will Baker speaks with WBAL's Anne Kramer about the Bay health report card.
Here's is the CBF's latest report card on the health of Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay is in miserable shape. For the eighth straight year, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has given the health of the bay a "D" grade in an annual report card.
The environmental group cited some improvements in bay health, including a slight improvement in oyster health. But the report grade of 29 is only two ticks up from last year's 27. Foundation President Will Baker says today that it is unlikely that the bay will come off a federal list of polluted waters by the goal year of 2010.
There were a few bright spots in the report. Authors noted that forest buffers have increased and that pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus has dropped. It appears that a very dry spring this year helped decrease pollution running into the bay.
Last week, a federal program that monitors bay health also released a status report. The Chesapeake Bay Program said that low-oxygen zones shrank this year but that problems remained.
Read more below on the Bay health report card.
CBF’S 2006 STATE OF THE BAY REPORT
SHOWS SLIGHT IMPROVEMENT
Modest Gain Primarily Driven by Mother Nature
(ANNAPOLIS, MD) -- With just four years to go before the court-ordered deadline to remove the Chesapeake Bay from the nation’s dirty waters list, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) 2006 State of the Bay report shows modest improvement, with the health index up two points to 29 this year, still far from our goal of 40 by 2010. Much of the improvement was driven by Mother Nature, with near record low spring rains. Even with the improvement, the health of the Bay gets an unacceptable “D” grade.
“Despite the improvements reflected in this year’s score, the Bay remains in critical condition. Fish kills, beach closures, and dead zones are clear reminders that much more needs to be done,” said CBF President William C. Baker. “Roadmaps developed by the states detail the actions that are needed to reduce pollution, but state and federal implementation has been slow, at best.”
The annual State of the Bay Report, which CBF first issued in 1998, is a comprehensive measure of the Bay's health. For the report, CBF evaluates 13 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 the best available historical and up-to-date information for each indicator and assign it an index score and letter grade.
Taken together, these indicators offer an assessment of Bay health. The unspoiled Bay serves as CBF's benchmark. That original Bay ecosystem described by Captain John Smith in the 1600s, with its extensive forests and wetlands, clear water, abundant fish and oysters, and lush growths of submerged vegetation, rates a 100 on CBF's scale.
The improvement in the Bay’s health this year was primarily driven by reduced nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and a corresponding decrease in the dead zone, areas of the Bay with too little oxygen to support a healthy ecosystem. Pollution from industrial sources and sewage treatment plants is gradually being reduced as a result of tightened permit limits and upgrading plants with technology to reduce pollution.
“It is too soon to tell, if this is a trend. But we do know that this improvement is illustrative of what we can expect to enjoy if our elected officials implement the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement. That will reduce the flow of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution into the Bay and its tributaries,” Baker said. “Sadly, funding and programs are in place to achieve only a little more than one-third of the region’s commitments. That must change. The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and much more must be achieved to save it.”
In Maryland, CBF has outlined four key actions elected leaders – from the state to the local level – must take in the next four years for Maryland to meet its 2010 pollution-reduction commitments. Those actions are: implement meaningful agricultural tax reform, including a proposal like Pennsylvania’s legislation for transferable tax credits that help farmers implement agricultural stewardship practices and protect working farmland; create a dedicated environmental fund for practices that improve water quality; establish regional land-use decision-making; and strengthen stormwater permits to improve water quality.
“Maryland must make fundamental changes in order to meet its Chesapeake 2000 Agreement commitments,” said Kim Coble, CBF’s Maryland Executive Director. “The State has a scientific road map, called the Tributary Strategies, to achieve these pollution reductions. Yet, funding for these practices, and the willingness to put them into place, has flat-lined. Maryland’s leaders have a choice: Lead us toward better water quality and a cleaner Bay, or fail to achieve the 2010 goal.”
CBF is working to increase funding for farm conservation programs for the Bay region in the next federal Farm Bill that will complement increased state funding. Agricultural conservation practices are among the most cost-effective ways to reduce nitrogen pollution from entering streams, rivers, and the Bay. Implementation of the agricultural portion of the Tributary Strategies in Maryland would reduce nitrogen pollution by 7.5 million pounds annually.