Chesapeake Bay gets 'C' health grade

UM scientist leading annual bay checkup sees signs of progress

July 03, 2013|By Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun

The Chesapeake Bay's health improved last year, University of Maryland scientists reported Wednesday, and the leader of the troubled estuary's annual checkup said he sees signs the cleanup effort is making progress.

The bay's overall health earned a 'C' grade for 2012, up from a D-plus the year before, according to the analysis by UM's Center for Environmental Science.

Most indicators of bay water quality and biological vitality increased, said William Dennison, the center's vice president for science applications. Moreover, he said, the two indicators that had been worsening over recent years, algae growth and water clarity, appeared to be leveling off.

"We had a good year," Dennison said, noting that the heavy runoff caused by Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 did not seem to cause lasting harm, while the bay mostly dodged the worst of Superstorm Sandy last fall. But even after taking weather variations into account, he said, the bay's health appears to have recovered some since 2006.

While the bay watershed as a whole fared better, progress was uneven. The lower bay in Virginia earned the best health grade, a B-minus, while most of the Maryland rivers were rated 'D's, plus or minus. The Patapsco and Back rivers in the Baltimore area, though, came in dead last, with an 'F' grade.

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