January 2, 2013
Chesapeake Bay Health Improves
Report Shows Progress—But Much More Needs To Be Done
(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) 2012 State of the Bay Report shows the health of the Bay improved one point over the last report in 2010, and is up four points since 2008, a 10 percent improvement in less than five years. Of the 13 indicators that make up the report, five improved, seven stayed the same, and only one declined.
"Continued progress shows what can be done when governments, businesses, and individuals work together to save local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay," CBF President William C. Baker said. "While the Bay is still dangerously out of balance, I am cautiously optimistic for the future. The federal/state Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay is in place and beginning to work."
The State of the Bay Report is a comprehensive measure of the Bay's health, evaluating the following 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, between 1-100, and a letter grade. Taken together, these indicators offer an assessment of Bay health.
In 2012, levels of phosphorus pollution improved, as did levels of dissolved oxygen, resource lands, oysters, and crabs. Underwater grasses were the only indicator that declined, a result of higher water temperatures that caused eel grass die offs in the lower Bay and heavy rains that washed sediment and pollution into local waterways.
This year's score of 32 is still far short of goal of 70, which would represent a saved Bay. The unspoiled 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 serves as the benchmark, and would rate a 100 on CBF's scale.
"We have made progress, but much of the Bay and many local waterways don't provide healthy habitat for fish, oysters, and other aquatic life," Baker said. "Pollution has cost thousands of jobs and continues to put human health at risk."
The Clean Water Blueprint requires all of us, in all the Bay states, to ratchet down pollution to local creeks, rivers, and the Bay. State and local governments will be held responsible for those reductions or potentially lose federal funding and be denied federal permits.
"We have never before had this level of accountability and transparency in Bay restoration efforts," Baker said. "This is indeed THE moment in time for the Bay. Our children and grandchildren can inherit a restored Chesapeake Bay, but only if we continue the hard work and investments that will lead to success."
CBF is working throughout the region to ensure the success of the Clean Water Blueprint.
In Pennsylvania, CBF's 2013 priorities include:
- Working with state policy makers to secure financial and programmatic support for communities as they plan and implement Blueprint strategies;
- Assisting local governments with technical and stormwater permitting issues to ensure that local governments achieve their clean water goals; and
- Continuing to assist farmers in efforts to reduce agricultural pollution through the implementation of on-farm best management practices.
"Pennsylvania has made progress toward meeting Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint goals, but we have a lot more to do. Nearly one quarter of our streams and rivers are impaired, and that is unacceptable," said LeeAnn Murray, CBF's Pennsylvania Acting Executive Director. "The State of the Bay Report is not only a reflection of the health of the Bay, but also of local rivers and streams. The Susquehanna River provides over half of the fresh water to the Bay, so what we do to the Susquehanna—we do to the Bay."
"Now is the time for Pennsylvania to ramp up efforts to reduce pollution and invest in communities and local water quality," Murray added. "Many are integrating water quality improvements with the economic, revitalization, and beautification efforts in their towns. These communities understand the value of clean water and we commend them for their work."
In Maryland, CBF's priorities for 2013 include:
- Ensuring that the Bay Trust Fund, which provides money and technical assistance to local jurisdictions is for the first time fully funded;
- Working with local jurisdictions to identify cost-effective strategies to achieve pollution reduction goals; and
- Defending gains made during last year's legislative session to reduce pollution from stormwater, septic systems, and sprawling development.
"Maryland has been a leader in charting a course toward Bay restoration," said CBF Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost. "We understand that there are concerns at the local level about how to implement the Clean Water Blueprint, primarily due to the uncertainty surrounding the cost. We share those concerns, but believe that solutions exist or are on the horizon. Innovative technologies, creative approaches to reducing pollution, and long-term financing will all be necessary to help local governments achieve their goals. Working together will finish the job and clean our local waters and the Bay. "
In Virginia, CBF's priorities for 2013 include:
- Ensuring the state legislature approves critical funding for upgrading municipal wastewater treatment plants, controlling stormwater runoff, and assisting farmers with soil and water conservation practices.
- Working with state and local officials to ensure Virginia meets its two-year Bay cleanup benchmarks.
- Ensuring Virginia implements the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's menhaden management plan protecting menhaden, the Bay ecosystem, and fisheries jobs.
"Virginia has made great progress reducing pollution from wastewater plants and farms, as well as conservatively managing blue crabs and oysters," said CBF Virginia Executive Director Ann Jennings. "Much work remains to be done, however, if Virginia is to stay on track to meet its Bay Clean Water Blueprint goals."
"It is critical that the 2013 General Assembly approve Gov. McDonnell's $217 million budget amendments for clean water obligations and that legislators approve a menhaden management plan consistent with the other Atlantic states," Jennings added. "Otherwise, clean water progress will stall in the Commonwealth, threatening the environment, public health, the economy, and our children's future."