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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: June 2007


2006 Bay Health & Restoration Assessment Details Bay's Degraded Water Quality, Restoration Efforts Throughout Watershed

The Chesapeake Bay 2006 Health and Restoration Assessment reports show that the Bay's overall health remains degraded, despite significant advances in restoration efforts by Bay Program partners through newly focused programs, legislation and/or funding.

“While much has been accomplished, there is still much work left to be done,” said Jeff Lape , director of the Bay Program Office. “Restoring the Chesapeake Bay cannot be done with government support alone. It is up to every citizen living in the Bay watershed to become a steward of our nation's largest and most cherished estuary.”

The annual Health and Restoration Assessment reports give watershed residents a clear and concise synopsis of Bay health and on-the-ground restoration efforts in key areas including:

  • Water quality
  • Habitat
  • Fisheries
  • Watershed protection
  • Fostering Chesapeake Stewardship

2006 Health Assessment Findings

Water Quality

  • To date, less than one-third of water quality goals have been met.
  • Dissolved oxygen showed significant improvement from 2005. Even though it was one of the best years on record, levels only reached 37 percent of the goal.
  • Chlorophyll a, a measure of algae, showed slight improvement from last year.
  • Mid-channel water clarity declined slightly.
  • Fifty-three percent of monitored tidal rivers had chemical contaminants in fish tissue high enough to warrant fish consumption advisories in those areas.


  • The Bay's habitats and lower food webs are at about one-third of desired levels.
  • Improvement in bottom (benthic) habitat was stagnant in 2006. Just 41 percent of the Bay's floor was considered healthy—the same percentage as in 2005.
  • Bay-wide acreage of underwater grasses decreased by 25 percent in 2006 to the lowest total acreage figure since 1989. Bay grasses covered only 59,090 acres—or about 32 percent of the 185,000-acre restoration goal.


  • Blue crab levels reached 57 percent of the restoration goal.
  • Oyster populations are at 9 percent of the restoration goal.
  • Populations of American shad are at just 3 percent of the restoration goal.
  • Striped bass (rockfish) numbers are high, but scientists are particularly concerned with the high prevalence of disease (mycobacteriosis). The next assessment of striped bass will take place later this year.

Urban/Suburban Development

  • With the watershed's human population now at over 16 million and growing by more than 170,000 residents annually, urban and suburban lands have contributed significantly to the Bay's degraded condition. It is estimated that increases in pollution due to development have surpassed the gains achieved to date from improved landscape design and stormwater management practices. The rapid rate of population growth and related residential and commercial development means that this is the only pollution sector in the Bay watershed that is still growing; thus, “progress” is negative.

2006 Restoration Assessment Findings

Nutrient Reduction

  • About half of the pollution reduction efforts needed to achieve nutrient goals have been undertaken.
  • Nitrogen discharges from wastewater treatment plants are at 72 percent of the reduction goal.
  • Phosphorous discharges from wastewater treatment plants have reached 87 percent of reduction goals.
  • However, pollution control efforts need to be accelerated in the agricultural sector. Only 45 percent of the goal for reducing nitrogen from agriculture has been reached, while 49 percent of the phosphorus reduction goal has been achieved.

Watershed Protection

  • Watershed protection efforts are slightly more than two-thirds of the way toward goals.
  • Seventy-six percent of the goal to reopen upstream blockages to migratory fish has been achieved. Since 1990, 2,144 miles have been reopened.
  • Watershed land preservation efforts have resulted in 99 percent achievement of restoration goals. A total of 6.83 million acres of land has been permanently preserved.
  • The forest buffer restoration goal of 2,010 miles was reached by Bay Program partners well ahead of schedule. In 2003 the target was raised to 10,000 miles. As of 2006, 53 percent of the new goal had been achieved.

Other Findings

  • Habitat restoration efforts are collectively less than halfway toward Program goals.
  • A newly developed set of indicators, Fostering Chesapeake Stewardship, has reached two-thirds of its goals.

Read or download the full report.


Bernie Fowler Wade-in Draws Attention to Patuxent Water Quality

Former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler remembers the days of his youth, when he could wade up to his shoulders in his beloved Patuxent River and still see the river's bottom, teeming with crabs and fish swimming among the grasses and oyster shells.

Unfortunately, that picture was not so clear at Fowler's annual Patuxent River wade-in on June 10, when he could see his white sneakers through just 21 inches of water.

On the second Sunday in June for the past 20 years, Fowler has hosted a wade-in at Broomes Island, Md., to measure the depth of water clarity in the Patuxent. More importantly, Fowler uses his annual wade-in to raise public awareness of declining water quality in the river due to nutrient and sediment pollution.

“If we can wade out chest-high and see my feet, and see the little crabs and the grass shrimp clearly, then, we will be there,” said Fowler.

The water line on Fowler's denim overalls is measured and recorded in the “Bernie Fowler Sneaker Index.” Measurements have been as high as 44.5 inches in 1997 and as low as 8 inches in 1989—all a far cry from the 60-plus inches of water Fowler could see through when he was young. This year's measurement of 21 inches was down from 27.5 inches last year.

Despite this year's low reading, spirits were high among the approximately 100 people gathered for the wade-in. Fowler and other attendees expressed optimism about the future of Bay restoration, due to increased public awareness of the environment and a number of environmental and Bay-related bills that became law this year in Maryland.

Others, including Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) praised Fowler for his work to raise awareness of water quality issues in the Patuxent and larger Bay watershed.

“The Patuxent River has known no greater friend, advocate and defender than Bernie Fowler,” said U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), wearing a “Fowler's Followers” t-shirt. “God created the Patuxent River, and then God blessed the river by giving it Bernie Fowler.”

Since Fowler's first wade-in in 1988, annual wade-ins have begun on more than a dozen other tributaries throughout Maryland, including the Choptank, Patapsco, Potomac, Nanticoke and South rivers.

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