Bay earns C-minus on its health report card

April 03, 2009|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

The Chesapeake Bay remains in poor health, virtually unchanged from the year before, University of Maryland researchers reported Thursday. The bay's vitality improved just 1 percent overall, earning it a grade of C-minus on the annual ecological report card produced by the university system's Center for Environmental Science.

While some portions of the estuary such as the Gunpowder and Bush rivers show signs of gradual improvement, other areas such as the upper Eastern Shore have declined in recent years, researchers found.

"The good areas are getting better, and the bad areas are getting worse," said William Dennison, the center's vice president for science.

Grades throughout the bay ranged from a B-minus for tributaries along the upper Western Shore to an F for the first time on the lower Western Shore, including the Magothy, Severn, South, West and Rhode rivers. The Patapsco, Back and Patuxent rivers all rated a D-minus.

Researchers expanded their report this year to cover conditions in the freshwater streams and rivers feeding the bay. Data from 3,200 monitoring sites show degraded steams throughout the Chesapeake watershed, they said, particularly in areas heavily influenced by development, farming and mining.

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