MD Releases 2009 Chesapeake Bay Health Report Card

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Maryland released its annual Chesapeake Bay Health Report Card on May 18, 2010. The Chesapeake Bay showed broad water quality improvements in 2009, receiving its highest mark since 2002 from the annual Chesapeake Bay Health Report Card. At the same time, the state launched StreamHealth, a website to help Marylanders learn about the health of their streams and take action to improve them.

The report card — an annual analysis conducted through the EcoCheck partnership between University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office — is based on data collected by state and federal agencies through the Chesapeake Bay Program. The 2009 report noted improved conditions in eight Bay regions and degraded conditions in two, earning the Bay a grade of “C” for overall health.

Grades for 14 reporting Bay regions varied, ranging from “B-minus” (moderate-good) to “F” (very poor). The highest ranked region, for the third year in a row, was the Upper Western Shore, which includes the Bush and Gunpowder Rivers. The lowest ranked region was the Patapsco and Back Rivers.

Scientists attribute the overall improvements to last year’s unique regional rainfall patterns, continued efforts to reduce nutrient pollution within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the gradual rebound in Bay health since the historically poor conditions observed in 2003.  Over the report’s 24-year history, overall Bay health was rated at its highest in 1993 with a score of 57, and it lowest in 2003 with a score of 35. The 2009 rating of 46 falls in the top 25 percentile.

“Despite the record high rainfall in parts of Maryland and Virginia, the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay improved last year,” said UMCES researcher and project leader Dr. William Dennison. “Normally, more precipitation means poorer Bay health. But last year, the Bay benefited from below average rainfall throughout Pennsylvania which appears to have reduced the amount of pollutants reaching the open waters of the mainstem Bay.”

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