Some good news

Record Observer - - Opinion -

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.

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