A small bit of good news for the New Year: the health of the Chesapeake Bay is slightly better.
That is the conclusion of a recent report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that raised the 200-mile-long estuary’s rating to a D-plus in 2012, up from a D-minus in 2008. Last year’s score was also a tiny improvement over the previous year’s.
Scores like that won’t exactly get you into Harvard, but any upward trend is a positive.
Oysters and blue crabs harvests in Maryland and Virginia are showing rebounds. In the Old Dominion, oyster catches have gone up from 79,600 bushels in 2005 to 236,000 bushels in 2011. Maryland likewise saw its crop go from 26,400 to more than 121,000 bushels.
Blue crabs showed even more improvement. The number of juvenile crabs went to nearly three times to 600 million last year.
Experts credit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for much of the better conditions. The EPA has been requiring six states in the bay’s watershed to reduce such runoff pollutants as nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment, despite complaints from farmers and home builders.
While there are fewer oxygen-depleted dead zones, grasses essential for water life are still struggling. Sediment is believed to be a big cause. More sediment has flowed into the bay recently because of storms, but the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says the EPA needs to keep up pressure to stem runoff sources.
Not great but not bad.