Some good news
Report cards were recently released for our local waterways with middling grades. The good news is water quality in the Chester River, Sassafras River and the Chesapeake Bay did not get worse. In fact, the Bay saw “’slight improvement.”
The report cards are released annually by the various organizations monitoring the water: the Chester River Association, the Sassafras River Association and, in the Bay’s case, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
So what did they all get? They just passed with C’s. The Bay got a firm C, while the two rivers each earned a C+, all based on a variety of water quality measurements.
“The 2016 Report Card again shows a steady improvement in a variety of ecosystem health indicators throughout the Bay. Much of this improvement is the result of actions taken at the local level to upgrade wastewater treatment plants, and to control urban and agricultural runoff that improve local waterways, as well as water quality in the Bay,” said Nick DiPasquale, director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. “These improvements are accomplished by cooperation and collaboration at all levels of government, and with the active participation and support of informed citizens.”
The Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, with its watershed spanning six states and Washington, D.C. Because of the challenge that poses to cleanup efforts — since what goes into the water in New York, for example, makes its way to the Bay in Maryland — the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in.
President Donald Trump sought to completely cut funding for Bay cleanup efforts — what have brought the grade up to a C — from the federal budget. Thankfully, our representatives in Congress instead passed an omnibus bill earmarking $73 million for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program. The bill only keeps the federal government afloat through September, but it appears our representatives will be ready to fight again in the fall for Bay funding if need be.
“A clean and thriving Bay is central to Maryland’s success — from the environmental health and safety of our kids and future generations, to the tourism and boating industry, to the watermen. We will continue to stand together and fight for the Bay,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
Our part, locally, comes in being good stewards of the rivers feeding into the Bay, and they are not all doing as well as the main bodies of the Chester and Sassafras rivers.
It is important to note that farmers have made great strides in improving their operations to aid in protecting our waterways. They continue to break the annual record for cover crop planting, which controls sediment runoff. They are using better methods to apply the nutrients their crops need.
“A properly managed farm protects our rural landscapes and it is a good thing for the river,” said Chester River Association Agriculture Specialist Paul Spies. “And we truly believe most of our farms want to do the right thing. With a little education and a partnership forming, they educate us and we educate them. We work as a team.”
And there are steps those of us who do not live on farms can take as well, such as refraining from using fertilizer on our lawns and ensuring we clean up after our pets.
We choose to live in this fragile ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. We are lucky that our waterways are safe enough to swim in — most days — and to eat the fish and crabs and clams and oysters taken from them.
Cleaning up the Bay and our rivers is an effort that will span generations. Let’s work together to see those grades continue to improve.