Chesapeake Bay Still in Poor Health, Blue Crabs Suffer, New Bay State Report Concludes

The health of the Chesapeake Bay remains unchanged from a D+ in 2020 and 2018, according to a two-year report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that showed mixed results from pollution control efforts.

The Bay State Report examines 13 indicators of pollution, habitat, and fisheries in the bay, comparing them to what the state of the bay would have been like before European settlement in the 1600s. The bay’s watershed, a connection of rivers, streams, and communities that feed the body of water, spans 64,000 square miles, impacts 18 million people, and is home to 3,600 species of plants and animals.

“Although we have made significant progress, too much pollution is still reaching our waterways and climate change is making it worse,” the foundation’s president, Hilary Harp Falk, said in a statement. “The good news is that the Bay is extraordinarily resilient” and there is new “energy” to take care of it with new Environmental Protection Agency administrators, governors, lawmakers and leaders within environmental organizations, she added. she.

There was no change in the high levels of toxic contaminants such as PFAs and microplastics, or in the levels of dissolved nitrogen and oxygen, the latter of which can result from harmful algal blooms. There has been a small improvement in pollution levels of phosphorus, which enters waterways primarily through stormwater and farm runoff along with nitrogen. But the clarity of the water continued to decrease due to nutrient runoff and this, in turn, blocked the sunlight needed for habitat growth.

The report found that 95,000 acres of farms and forests, which help prevent nutrient runoff, were developed across the bay watershed from 2013 to 2018, the latest reporting period. Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia have experienced significant forest clearing, the report said, but all three states have plantation programs.

The pollution findings come as the EPA acknowledged last fall that states are not on track to meet the 2025 deadline for reducing pollution. States within the Chesapeake Drainage Basin, which runs from Virginia to upstate New York, are looking for farms to achieve about 90 percent of their remaining pollution reductions by limiting nutrient runoff.

Falk said a deadline adjustment could be announced this fall and efforts to clean up the bay will continue and need to be accelerated.

“[It’s] an important deadline but not the finish line,” Falk said.

Peggy Sanner, the Foundation’s Virginia executive director, said the nonprofit will apply for funding during the upcoming 2023 Virginia legislative session to help ease the runoff.

Included in the request is $300 million for upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, which contribute to nutrient runoff and are doing so more frequently as climate change brings more severe storms. The foundation also wants grant funding for farmers to encourage them to install long-term solutions, such as tree buffers along streams and rivers.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation “urges lawmakers to continue to accelerate progress in reducing pollution and fully fund nitrogen and phosphorus runoff,” Sanner said.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Budget Proposal Includes $107 Million in 2024 for Nutrient Removal, $100 Million This Year for the Richmond Combined Sewer Overflow Project, and $50 Million in 2024 for Management Best Practices agricultural. Last year, Virginia allocated a record $116 million to its Farm Management Best Practices Cost Sharing program, including $81 million to farmers within the Bay watershed.

The fisheries section of the report showed a decline in blue crab numbers, the lowest level on record in the survey’s 33-year history. Having an updated stock assessment funded by Virginia and Maryland would provide a better understanding of how to manage populations, Chris Moore, the Foundation’s Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist, told reporters.

Oyster reproduction has increased, but over-harvesting is not necessary to maintain levels, the report said. There has also been an increase in striped bass, following a recent assessment by the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission which found that the population is no longer overfished, but numbers of juvenile species are below average in Maryland and at or slightly above long-term average levels in Virginia.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *