Coastal Bays Scores C+ On Health Report Card

BERLIN – The C+ grade assigned to the coastal bays watershed overall shows the waterways are at the top end of moderate health, but fall short of good health, according to the 2008 report card.

“It’s not a total disaster but there’s a lot of room for improvement in the watershed,” said Dave Wilson, director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

“There’s a lot to work on,” said Dr. Jana Davis, chief scientist of the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

The coastal bays were scored on water quality elements: total nitrogen, total phosphorous, chlorophyll a and dissolved oxygen. The populations of sea grass and hard clams were also assessed.

Taken together, the six waterways of the coastal bays showed good chlorophyll a, rated at good to very good. Dissolved oxygen and total nitrogen scores veered all over the scale, from very good to poor. Phosphorous assessment showed the least variation in ratings among the waterways, showing moderate to good scores.

Hard clams and sea grass were at the opposite end of the spectrum, at poor to very poor, although sea grass in Sinepuxent Bay came in at very good.

The waterways within the coastal bays watershed, five bays and one river, ranged from a B grade to a D+ with Sinepuxent Bay, representing about 5 percent of the watershed, receiving a B.

“Sinepuxent Bay has always been our jewel, our gem, but it’s seen some declines recently,” said Wilson.

Chincoteague Bay, long considered nearly pristine, was awarded a B-. This bay, about 64 percent of the watershed, showed very good water quality scores on three fronts, with moderate phosphorous, but sea grasses and hard clams showed poor and very poor scores.

Isle of Wight Bay received a C+ grade. Total phosphorous and dissolved oxygen scored lower than chlorophyll a or total nitrogen, and sea grasses and hard clams were both rated poor.

Assawoman Bay was awarded a C grade, with good chlorophyll a, but received moderate scores for dissolved oxygen and nutrients. Hard clams and sea grasses showed poor scores.

Newport Bay received a D+, as did the St. Martin River. According to the report card, both bodies of water are heavily influenced by upland run off. Newport Bay had slightly better scores for dissolved oxygen and sea grasses than the river, but sea grasses made a bad showing in both.

“The trend isn’t continuing to fall off the table. The St. Martin River seems to have leveled out and even improved a little bit,” said Wilson.