by Rachel Felver

January 04, 2018

Every year, the Chesapeake Bay Program rounds up the latest environmental health and restoration data and information available and releases the Bay Barometer: Health and Restoration in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This year we are excited to report that the majority of our indicators are showing positive trends – an encouraging sign that our restoration efforts are working.

The headwaters of Mattawoman Creek flow through Mattawoman Natural Environmental Area in Charles County, Md. The estuarine parts of the creek are considered a model for a fully restored Chesapeake Bay. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Guided by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, Chesapeake Bay Program partners use ten interrelated goals and 31 outcomes to collectively advance the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and its watershed. Data and information used to track progress toward these outcomes come from a range of trusted sources, including government agencies, academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations and direct demographic and behavior surveys.

Thanks to the efforts of local governments, private landowners and watershed residents, nutrient and sediment pollution entering local waterways and the Bay have declined, but agricultural and urban and suburban runoff continue to be a challenge. We also observed these encouraging signs:

  • In 2016, 97,668 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) or underwater grasses were mapped in the Chesapeake Bay. This accounts for 53 percent of the outcome to achieve and sustain 185,000 acres of underwater grasses in the Bay, including 130,000 acres by 2025. ·
  • Dredge surveys estimate that there are 254 million adult female blue crabs in the Bay, exceeding the target of 215 million.
  • ·Between 2012 and 2016, Bay Program partners opened 1,126 historical fish migration routes for fish passage, exceeding the outcome to restore 1,000 additional stream miles.
  • Computer simulations show that pollution controls put into place in the Chesapeake Bay watershed between 2009 and 2016 lowered nitrogen loads by nine percent, phosphorus loads by 20 percent and sediment loads by nine percent. Pollution-reducing practices are in place to achieve 33 percent of the nitrogen reductions, 81 percent of the phosphorus reductions and 57 percent of the sediment reductions necessary to attain clean water standards
  • Forty percent of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries met water quality standards between 2014 and 2016. This is the highest amount ever recorded since we began collecting data in 1985.

This year, our experts assessed data for the first time for three new indicators: Environmental Literacy and PlanningStudent Meaningful Watershed Experiences and Citizen Stewardship. Our first-ever Citizen Stewardship Index shows what actions residents are taking to protect clean water and restore environmental health as well as how much of the region has volunteered or spoken out on behalf of the environment.

“The Chesapeake Bay is our greatest natural asset, and our administration has been working tirelessly for three years to restore the Bay and protect our environment,” said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. “Together with our partners on the Chesapeake Executive Council, we have made great strides, and we are committed to continuing to make historic investments and fight for the Bay. It will take all of the Bay jurisdictions and our federal partners working together to build on this incredible progress and secure the Chesapeake for future generations.”