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Chesapeake Bay Gets D+, But Quality is Improving

Environmentalist group says the bay's health is still "dangerously out of balance."

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) again gave the bay low marks this year for pollution levels, but said some of the fruits of federal guidelines are beginning to show.

"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," said CBF President William C. Baker in a press release.

The CBF regularly evaluates 13 levels of the bay's health and grades them accordingly. This year, the Chesapeake Bay's overall score was 32 percent, which the CBF labeled a D+. That's up one point from the last State of the Bay report in 2010, and four points since the report in 2008.

"While hopeful, a Bay health index of 32 on a scale of 1 to 100 should be a sobering reminder that there is a great deal left to do," Baker said.

The largest decline in this year's evaluation was due to deterioration of underwater grasses. The largest increases were in dissolved oxygen and the number of crabs, which according to the report are at the highest winter population in more than a decade.

Here are this year's grades, along with a note on the change from the previous report:

NAME GRADE SCORE CHANGE Nitrogen/phosphorous F/D 16/27 0/+4 Dissolved oxygen D 25 +6 Water clarity F 16 0 Toxics D 28 0 Forested buffers B 58 0 Wetlands C 42 0 Resource lands D 32 +1 Underwater grasses D 20 -2 Rockfish A 69 0 Oyster F 6 +1 Crabs B+ 55 +5 Shad F 9 0

The complete 2012 State of the Bay report can be downloaded from CBF's website for free.

Brian Ferri January 02, 2013 at 09:01 PM
What can we do about this? Who can we / should we call?
Tom Zolper January 02, 2013 at 09:54 PM
Hey Brian. I work at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. I'd say the most important thing to do is let your elected officials know how you feel - both state and federal. This is a critical time for them to hear from you. The good news is we've cut pollution significantly, and there's a sound blueprint for picking up the pace of that reduction. The bad news - on the federal level Big Agriculture and the homebuilders lobbyists are pushing back, and at the state level too there's resistence among some politicians and special interests. For instance, we expect in this year's Maryland General Assembly (starting next week) there will be attempts to weaken Maryland's pollution reduction efforts. We have to defend against that. We're making progress. We just need to do more. And individually in our daily lives there's lots to do - picking up after our dogs, being more careful with or eliminating lawn fertilizing, etc. Let me know if you need more detailed info. Thank for the comment.
MaryM January 03, 2013 at 12:40 AM
I could really smell the sewage problems from the pollution into the bay this morning in Pasadena.......stinky
ROBERT DAVIDSON January 03, 2013 at 03:28 AM
i have a infection in my hand from a scrtch that got infecting fishing in the magothy riverr,sillery bay 18 months ago my beach looks like a war zone i spent over $2,ooo.oo beach cleaning this summer and it is cruddier now. i grew up here and the filth is unbelievable for beautiful sea grass now flith and trash horrible Bob Davidson
Heather Smith January 03, 2013 at 01:43 PM
I am a boater, we boat in middle river every summer. The water is filthy, especially in sue creek. I got an infection from swimming in it last summer, my uncle got a parasite from swimming in the water that made him extremely sick......I love Boating, and I love the bay, what more can I do as a boater and what more can I do on land? Which elected officials do we contact in particular? And if you say O'Mally I will laugh, that idiot won't do anything to help!
Mark Takacs January 03, 2013 at 02:38 PM
That B+ grade for blue crabs is a joke........it was a very poor crabbing season and I bet next year will be no different. The surveys they do can be a poor representation of the true population.........typical "bad science". It is all a joke......what has been done to improve the bay health? Nothing....................
D. Frank Smith (Editor) January 03, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Thanks for chiming in, Tom!
Mark Takacs January 03, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Key pollution sources include sewage plants, septic systems, farm runoff, urban stormwater runoff and air emissions. To make a change, you, me, and many others would need to stop boating, living near, and stop over-harvesting the resources of the bay..............and thats not going to happen! There are too many people living in the bay's watershed......people equal pollution....simple.
Maribeth Kalinich January 04, 2013 at 05:21 PM
@ Brian Ferri: Plant trees. They are the best keepers of the critical area. They soak up storm water and keep soil in place. Get rain barrels but make sure they are well covered as not to breed mosquitos. Make sure your rain gutters are cleared so the barrels work well. Build rain gardens where water tends to settle. Make sure your property is properly graded. Make sure you DO NOT cut your grass too low. Low grass causes run off. No pesticides for gardening. Plant natural vegetation on your property. Convert impervious such as asphalt driveways to stones. It allows water to settle rather than runoff. Make sure your house is as green as possible--well insulated with caulking, good windows, efficient appliances, etc. This cuts down on energy needs. Update your septic system if you have that and clean it out once a year. If you are on public utilities, keep an eye on over development. That is the worst thing for public utilities because too many houses will overtax and cause spillage. So are new roadways that bring more cars and more pollution. If you enjoy recreational motor boating, be mindful that every boat causes the silt to stir up and smother grasses and life. Go slow and leave no footprint. Thank you for asking! Maribeth on the Magothy.
Maribeth Kalinich January 04, 2013 at 05:23 PM
@ Tom Zolper: Oysters are the natural filters of the Bay and they are at six (6) parts per one hundred (100). Oystering is a crucial industry in Maryland and it is dying as fast as the oysters. Try pointing the finger at all of the code violations with improper foresting, grading and building when people are redeveloping lots in the critical area (Note: I have plenty of pictures, documents, emails. Oh, and names, lots and lots and lots of names). Shame on CBF for saying that one point is an improvement and changing the D minus to a D plus. More legislation that isn't enforced IS NOT THE ANSWER. I do contact my elected officials. I contact the County and environmental groups. And I contact CBF. They NEVER respond. NEVER. I live in a community that is almost entirely wetlands and over the past six (6) or so years I have witnessed critical area violations and complaints from neighbors over and over and over again. NO ONE WILL HELP US. The Severn River Commission cleaned house down in AACo.'s I&P in the 1980s because there were so many violations. And more recently, SRC's VP quit because of the lack of cooperation with AACo.'s P&Z. I have been to planning meetings and variance hearings that left me speechless. Over the past 55 years--my lifetime--I have seen my river, the Magothy go from clear and teaming with sea grasses and life to a dead zone.
Maribeth Kalinich January 04, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Same here Bob. I grew up on the Magothy watching my PopPop go out in his swim trunks with a bar of Ivory soap to bathe in the water. The Magothy was ALL thick sea grass with the exception of scattered sandbars until you got out to the channel--where you could see the pebbles on the bottom. The grasses were teaming with crabs, eel, fish, snakes, turtles. It was a wonderful place. Now with all of the overdevelopment of the old summer cottages (and vacant "grandfathered" lots) and addition of pumping station for the inland development on public utilities, the Magothy has become a cesspool. The Bay has gotten so bad that film maker Barry Levinson changed his documentary into a horror film. That is pretty sad. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-10-29/entertainment/bs-ae-levinson-1028-20121027_1_horror-barry-levinson-film
Maribeth Kalinich January 04, 2013 at 05:39 PM
In the Magothy it is pumping station sewage spills and too many large houses on septic (3-6 bathrooms) where there were once small ones (1-2 baths). The only answer is a moratorium on development in the watershed not just the critical area. And to ENFORCE the laws of the critical area. That is not happening. Not even close. Planting, trees, rain barrels, rain gardens and converting hard impervious surfaces help a lot on land! It will take a century to get all of the toxins out of the water. It took half a century to get them in there. :-(
Maribeth Kalinich January 04, 2013 at 05:42 PM
I completely agree on that one, Mark! My neighbor has a commercial crabbers' license his late wife gave his as a retirement gift a decade ago. Last year was one of the worst crabbing seasons he has seen. The crab B+ grade actually shocked me. And made me think what about the rest of the grades?
Maribeth Kalinich January 04, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Thanks for publishing the entire report card so people could get the overall picture. Very important. Four (4) Fs and five (5) Ds are unacceptable. That would actually get a student kicked out of school.
Mark Takacs January 04, 2013 at 08:53 PM
They "give" a one point increase in the grade which is due to a bogus crab population grade and now the media runs with the news story......."Bay Quality is Improving". NO IT IS NOT.......its the same! You see the Department of Public Works who are in charge of public sewer and stormwater looking to place blame.....so they point the pollution finger at septic systems since they are controled by the Health department. Mill creek pumping station failed and killed the creek. Then they promote the recovery and rehab of the creek over the next few years only to have it happen again.Up north, they run their mouth about the bacteria levels on Marley and Furnace creeks but the fact is these properties are solely on public sewer. You see, waste water treatment plants are very effectice in treating waste and nutrients.......if the water makes it there! Pumping stations routinely fail and the delivery pipes leak, it is quite obvious. When it rains, water gets in, so water can also get out.....into the ground....no different than a septic system.But my septic system will never dump hundreds of thousands of gallons into the bay. I do disagree that the cottages that are being remodeled/rebuilt are a problem. During this process, they are increasing the tax base, installing stormwater management, adding a new septic sysytem including a nitrogen reducing septic tank, and possibly forest conservation or plantings.
Maribeth Kalinich January 04, 2013 at 10:48 PM
Mark, you are absolutely correct about the pumping stations leaking into the creeks. Include Deep Creek. I have no problem with IMPROVING land RESPONSIBLY, RESPECTFULLY and legally. Unfortunately, I have absolute black and white proof of the damage the conversion of the cottages (and developing empty "grandfathered" lots) has had on the creeks, rivers, the Bay and habitat in the form of photos, videos, County documents and emails. Blatant violations of critical area laws going unchecked. Variances granted that should have been rejected at the application phase. Forest stripped with no replanting. Development offset planting unchecked. Grading violations causing severe runoff into the water and onto surrounding properties. Curious permits and inspections. Repeated complaints from multiple sources to AACo. completely ignored. Construction inside the 100 ft. buffer on marshes and on vernal pools in the 1000 ft. critical area. I attended variance hearings where County planners really weren't in favor because of the environmental impact but their hands were slightly tied because the County didn't want to be sued. These things have not only destroyed habitat and waterways but properties of long-time landowners and those with modest homes. Many on my street have experienced this. Our taxes have increased but resale value decreased due to issues beyond our control. If runoff comes onto my property because of improper develoment should it be my responsibility to mitigate the problem?

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