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PA's Benefit from Changing Tide In Chesapeake Bay

December 29, 2010

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Areas of improvement are cited in a new report on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, but it also contains clear signs that all is not well in the watershed.

The new "State of the Bay" report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) shows a rebounding blue crab population and a healthy spread of beneficial underwater grasses. However, says CBF President Will Baker, it also reveals dead zones, fish kills and pollution. The latter enters the bay through agricultural and stormwater runoff from states like Pennsylvania, he says, pointing out the need for improvements.

"Improvements not only help the local water quality, and the ground water and drinking water, but also help the Chesapeake Bay downstream."

Baker calls the gains encouraging, but fragile. He says the welfare of rivers and streams in the main stem of the bay relies on some critically important measures being taken.

"We continue to work on reducing pollution and restoring habitat and managing fisheries."

He also believes there is potential for vast improvement, particularly if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effectively enforces the mandatory pollution limits it is putting in place this week. However, he notes that previous pledges to make improvements have gone unfulfilled.

"This current set of promises does feel different, it does look as if they're serious – but the future always gets here. We will know, in the next three or four years, whether these promises are kept."

Baker says the report cites gains in eight of 13 indicators, summarized in an overall grade of "D plus." That's an improvement from the "D" grade handed out when the report was last issued, in 2008.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA