Report on cleanup of the bay released

Program has made a third of its goals

April 01, 2006|By RONA KOBELL | RONA KOBELL,SUN REPORTER

Despite the billions of dollars spent on restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, a multistate effort is only a third of the way to meeting various cleanup goals, according to a report issued yesterday.

The report by the Chesapeake Bay Program, described as a partnership of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was drafted in response to criticism that the program has painted too rosy a picture of the bay's health by using projections from computer models rather than actual water sampling data.

The cleanup goals, which are set every few years, take into account what officials would like to achieve in restoring water quality, habitats and fish populations. The bay continues to be affected by pollution that contributes to low oxygen levels and stresses marine life, the report notes. It also says that continued development in the watershed adds impervious surfaces, which can take away crucial habitat.

"We want to be very clear so that people understand that, while there's a lot going on to help the bay, the bay is not yet restored," said Christopher Conner, a spokesman for the bay program. "What we saw in 2005 in terms of water quality and habitat is about a third of what we need to have a healthy bay."

Conner said his agency took to heart recent criticism by the Government Accountability Office. He said the agency has tried to be more clear about what scientists actually see in the water and about the scenarios computer models sometimes predict about what should be occurring.

The program plans to release similar reports every year. It is seeking public comment on the report until May 31. The report is available for review at chesapeakebay.net.

rona.kobell@baltsun.com

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