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Chesapeake Bay Health Improves, But Not Enough

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- It averages out to a D+: the same grade the last time the bay's health was measured in 2012.

Alex DeMetrick reports there are signs of some improvement---but not nearly enough.

Beautiful doesn't always mean healthy but in its biennial report card on the health of the bay, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sees glimmers of hope.

"The bay is improving but it is still a system dangerously out of balance," said Will Baker, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

It's showing up in the score for fisheries. Oysters continue to rebound from record lows but striped bass at 64 is five points down from 2012 and blue crabs at 45 is a 10 point drop.

One theory "probably is degraded habitat. Lack of grass beds where they find cover from predation. Grasses in the bay are down to 20% of what they once were and that's largely the result of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution," said CBF scientist Dr. Bill Goldsborough.

And nitrogen levels remain largely unchanged, but improvements came in dissolved oxygen. A score of 37 is a 12-point increase over the last report. Water clarity at 18 is up two points.

"The pollution reduction efforts we have put in place are making a difference," said Dr. Beth McGee, CBF.

Including the upgrading of sewage treatment plants and efforts to control storm water runoff. But the good news stops at phosphorous. A score of 25 is two points down from 2012 levels. According to the Bay Foundation, animal waste and over-fertilizing remains a major source.

"If we really want to save the bay and the rivers that feed it, we need to get reductions from agriculture," McGee said.

The number scores add up to an overall grade of D+, the same as two years ago. The silver lining is, it didn't get worse.

Maryland and the other bay states are under an agreement to have programs in place to reduce water pollution by 2017. The CBF says if efforts don't speed up, the goal will not be met.

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