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Chesapeake Bay Showed 'Resilience' Last Year, Experts Say

The Chesapeake Bay is showing signs of improvement, but there's more work to be done, bay experts say.
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The Chesapeake Bay is showing signs of improvement, but there's more work to be done, bay experts say.

The Chesapeake Bay is doing a little better this year, say officials from the Chesapeake Bay program. They described the Bay's performance as "resilient," saying, as it often does, that the Bay is improving but still in need of improvement.

On the one hand, barely one-third of the bay had enough dissolved oxygen to be considered healthy, the water was largely muddy and silty, and the beleaguered oyster is still barely clinging to life at 1 percent of historic levels.

But on the plus side, large underwater grass beds survived and even grew dramatically. Rockfish, once threatened, are above target levels, and there are more young crabs than at any time in 20 years. One of the most important finds: it would appear that the 2012 dead zone where things suffocate to death in the bay was the smallest since 1985.

The program also listed other major restoration accomplishments, including:

  • Increased 240 miles of forested buffers, largely planted by rural landowners
  • 148 more miles of streams were opened to migratory fish
  • 15 new public access sites opened, giving people access to the water
  • More than 8 million acres of land have been preserved since 2000

They also noted progress toward Meeting the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), known as the "pollution diet," from 2009-2011, including:

  • Nitrogen loads to the Bay decreased by 15.67 million pounds, 21 percent of the TMDL target
  • Phosphorus loads to the Bay decreased by 0.9 million pounds, 19 percent of the TMDL target
  • Sediment loads to the Bay decreased 396 million pounds, 30 percent of the TMDL target
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