Mixed Report On Coastal Bays

WEST OCEAN CITY — It was good news, bad news last week as the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) released its annual report card for the estuaries in and around the resort area with an overall grade of C+, although some regions continued to do better than others.

The MCBP, along with its numerous public and private sector partners, each year since 2008 has compiled a comprehensive report card for the six individual regions within the larger coastal bays estuary and assigns an overall grade for the entire watershed along with individual grades for each specific estuary. The report card considers six main indicators each measured on a 100-point scale with 100 representing a healthy ecosystem.

After reviewing data collected for a variety of indicators during 2012, the MCBP determined there were areas where the health of the bays improved and areas that declined.

“Water quality indicators were mixed,” the report reads. “Only Chincoteague Bay saw improvements in all four water quality indicators, and because of its large area, it boosted an increase in the Health Index. Every indicator improved in at least one region, but degraded in others, but overall, there were more improvements than degradations.”

According to the report, there were reasons for optimism in the 2012 report card, just as there remain reasons for concern.

“Most individual improvements were small, but combined they helped to raise the overall report card grade,” the report reads. “The overall improvement in water quality indicators is encouraging and offers hope that pollution reduction efforts are having the desired results, We must continue to expand these efforts to ensure sustainable improvements over time.”

The Sinepuxent Bay continued to be the all-star among the five coastal bays graded in the annual report card with a B- grade in 2012. Nitrogen and chlorophyll remained good to excellent, while phosphorous declined to moderate. Dissolved oxygen and seagrasses were also in moderate condition in 2012, while hard clams remained poor.

Chincoteague Bay earned a middle-of-the-road C+ in the 2012 report card, For the second year in a row, Chincoteague saw improvements in all indicators but seagrasses, which is a concerning trend, according to the report. Nitrogen and chlorophyll a were in good condition in the Chincoteague Bay in 2012, while dissolved oxygen and phosphorous were moderate.

Assawoman Bay received a grade of C, which was the same grade it received last year. There were improvements in phosphorous, hard clams and sea grasses in 2012, but declines in dissolved oxygen, nitrogen and chlorophyll.

The Isle of Wight Bay also received a score of C in the 2012 report card. Improvements in chlorophyll, hard clams and sea grasses were offset somewhat by declines in dissolved oxygen and nitrogen. Dissolved oxygen was poor and phosphorous were in moderate condition.

Bringing up the rear again in the 2012 report card were the St. Martin’s River and Newport Bay, which each earned a low score of D+. Similar to 2011, the St. Martin’s River had lower scores for phosphorous, chlorophyll and sea grasses than any other region. St. Martin’s River received the second lowest grade of any reporting region in 2012, with most indicators scoring very poor. However, the region showed slight improvement over the 2011 report.

Finally, the Newport Bay received a score of D+ and recorded the lowest score of all of the sub-regions and was actually the only one to show an overall decline in ecosystem health.

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