Chesapeake Bay Foundation State of the Bay: The Bay is Regressing

School daze. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation(CBF) recently issued it biannual State of the Bay Report.  The report can be found here.  The CBF assigns both a numeric and letter grade to the bay.  This report (2017 – 2018) garners a score of 33 for a grade of D+.  The last report (2015 – 2016) tallied a 34 / C-.  The grading scale is as follows

40 or below – dangerously out of balance
41 – 50 – improving
51 – 70 – stable
71+ – saved

The first State of the Bay Report was issued in 1998 and Bhe bay received a “grade” of 27.  Progress was slow but steady through 2016.  The recently issued report (2018) represents a rare regression in overall score since the report was started.

Rain, rain, go away.  An extremely wet 2018 is primarily to blame for the regression in the bay’s health.  And wet it was.  DC’s official recording site at Reagan National Airport ended up with 66.28″ of rain, which broke the previous record of 61.33″ from 1889. This total is over 2 feet above DC’s annual average of 39.74″, and is nearly as much rain as the previous 2 years combined of 67.3″ (2016 + 2017).  Baltimore’s BWI Airport recorded 71.82″ of rain against an annual average of 43.62″.  That was the wettest year on record and the weather book dates back to 1871.  The runoff from all that rain caused significant regressions in nitrogen (-5), phosphorus (-9) and water clarity (-4) from the prior report.  One ray of sunshine in the report was the fact that underwater grasses notched a small gain from 2015-2016 despite the deluges.

The elephant in the room.  If 2018 were simply a very wet year the impact to the Chesapeake Bay could be attributed to a timing problem.  However, the CBF and many others see the increased precipitation as evidence of global warming.  If true, the excessive rain along with the concomitant excessive runoff will become the “new normal”.  This would amplify the importance of managing urban, suburban and agricultural runoff.

Pennsylvania pig pen.  It has become increasingly clear that Pennsylvania is, and intends to remain, the worst bay state from a clean-up perspective.  While Maryland has worked tirelessly to clean up the bay and Virginia has made solid progress, Pennsylvania continues to use the watershed as a toilet bowl.  There are even rumblings of a “boycott Pennsylvania and its products” movement circulating in Maryland.  It might well be time for Virginians to consider a similar stance against the Keystone State.  Why should Virginia taxpayers be willing to foot their fair share of the costs of saving the bay while Pennsylvanians continue to spread their filth downriver?

— Don Rippert

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36 responses to “Chesapeake Bay Foundation State of the Bay: The Bay is Regressing

  1. Without denigrating the accuracy of the report, I wonder how many folks will blame Donald Trump as the primary driver of the regression. In particular:

    “Progress was slow but steady through 2016. The recently issued report (2018) represents a rare regression in overall score since the report was started.”

    • The report makes reference to Trump’s decision to back down from enforcement of various bay cleanup agreements. I’m with the CBF on that one. A quick look at the hyper-polluted waters around New York City tells me that I don’t need a New York City developer setting ecological standards.

      “When it rains in New York City, waste from streets, sidewalks, roofs, yards and parking lots is washed into the sewers. In about one-third of the city, this heavily polluted water is routed directly into local waterways. In the remaining two-thirds, polluted runoff mixes in pipes with sewage from homes, businesses, and industry. When this mix of sewage and runoff exceed the capacity of the system, more than 20 billion gallons per year bypass the city’s sewage treatment plants and raw sewage flows untreated into the water in all five boroughs.”

      Lovely.

      https://www.riverkeeper.org/news-events/news/water-quality/environmental-groups-sue-unsafe-waters-new-york-city/

  2. Although the mouth of the Susquehanna River, which flows mostly through Pennsylvania, is the beginning of the Bay, Pennsylvania does not actually border the Bay at all. Hence, the obvious lack of will or alarm on the part of Pennsylvanians to devote a lot of effort or money to the Bay’s clean-up. This is not meant to excuse or condone that behavior, but merely to state the political reality.

    • Oh, I understand. However, Pennsylvania is in violation of numerous of their own laws and Federal law. The agricultural special interests in Pennsylvania have almost as strong a hold on Harrisburg as Dominion has on Richmond.

  3. “DC’s official recording site at Reagan National Airport ended up with 66.28″ of rain, which broke the previous record of 61.33″ from 1889. … the CBF and many others see the increased precipitation as evidence of global warming.”

    Of course, environmentalists see every meteorological phenomenon as evidence of global warming. But if global warming caused record rain in D.C. — breaking the previous record set in 1889 — what caused the previous record rain in 1889 when CO2 levels were so much lower and global temperatures were so much cooler? Jane T., help me out here!

    • The data is readily available and, I would wager, accurate. Just picking some relatively random dates …

      In the 61 years from 1889 to 1950 there were 14 years where DC got 45″ or more of precipitation.

      Counting back from 2018 it only takes 46 years (through 1972) to find the same number of years where DC got 45″ or more of precipitation.

      Eyeballing the data seems to indicate that it is getting wetter.

      Obviously non-scientific but it does seem to be true. Maybe it’s more global wetting than global warming or maybe DC (or the Mid-Atlantic states) are an anomaly.

      Here is the data …

      https://www.weather.gov/media/lwx/climate/dcaprecip.pdf

  4. The previous record in 1889 – when the Chesapeake Bay would have scored “A” in health?

    Our problem with the Bay is emblematic of most major rivers and bays in the US these days.

    Use to be a lot of rain would be a good thing for rivers but now it’s bad thing because of so much stuff that is washed off the land from pet poop to CSOs to oil and antifreeze and whatever other stuff that sits on the land and oozes into the waterways.

    And so when we try to do something about CSOs and storm water runoff – the standard complaint is that costs money that gets taken out of the economy and GDP…

    And if you REALLY want gloom and doom – consider this – hormones
    in our wastewater :

    ” Scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey studied fish in 19 national wildlife refuges in the U.S. Northeast, including Missisquoi. Their conclusion: An astonishing 60 to 100 percent of all the male smallmouth bass they examined had female egg cells growing in their testes.

    Scientists call this condition intersex, and while its exact causes are unknown, it’s been linked to manmade, environmental chemicals that mimic or block sex hormones.

    Over the past decade, feminized male fish have been discovered in 37 species in lakes and rivers throughout North America, Europe, and other parts of the world. Experts say the new discovery in protected wildlife refuges is worrisome because it suggests that pollution may be even more pervasive than previously thought.

    “There are no truly untouched areas. I think the take away here is that everything we do, everything we use or put on the land, ends up in the water at some point,” says Luke Iwanowicz, a U.S. Geological Survey fish researcher based in West Virginia who led the wildlife refuge study.”

  5. If I recall back in the days Hurricane Agnes brought massive amounts of fresh water to the Bay, and my recollection it was considered a godsend for cleaning up the Bay. Interesting the extra water was less helpful this time, or maybe we have to wait a bit longer.

    One really only has to dine at Silver Diner and read the menu to realize Pennsylvania is the source of so much of the farm produce in our region/country. I don’t know what can be done given the intransigence. But boycotting PA is easier said than done.

    • I agree with the challenges of a state-wide boycott. I think it would be better to pick one of the big agricultural concerns in Pennsylvania like Hershey’s and boycott them. Let them lobby for change in Harrisburg. M&M Mars makes better candy anyway.

    • My guess (and it is only a guess) is that a one time “flush” from a severe hurricane might be beneficial while a constantly increased level of rain washes fertilizer, insecticide, raw sewage, etc into the bay over and over and over.

    • P.S.- It’s neither here nor there, but if Tropical Storm Agnes happened today it would taken as 100% proof of Climate Change. Young people must think pre-2000 there were no hurricanes and weather was average temp each and every day.

  6. If a lot of rain brings CLEANER water into the Bay – it will indeed clean it but if rain brings DIRTIER water into the Bay – it make it worse.

    So here’s the problem.

    Most of our storm retention ponds are sized for standard 2yr rain events. That means if we get a 3yr event – the storm pond overtops and instead of retaining all the gunk that washes into it – it releases it.

    The same thing happens with CSOs. In normal type rain events, the storm water flowing into the sewers is contained at the sewage treatment plant. In larger rain events – the sewage treatment plant does not have enough capacity to retain it and raw sewage is put into the river.

    Then there is farm runoff – not your standard ordinary family farm but factory farm runoff. Large poultry, hog and cattle operations that concentrate large numbers of animals that poop – and there are few standards for what to do with that poop so it pretty much lays in the fields and in retaining ponds where it gradually decomposes – UNLESS there is a lot of rain and then it washes into the waterways thence to the Bay.

    This is not rocket science and it’s not just Pennsylvania. The great valley of Virginia is where there are millions of poultry raised. Alexandria, Richmond and other places have CSO issues as well as dense development with a lot of impervious surfaces that easily more-than-normal rain events overwhelms decades-old storm ponds.

    Our approach to this point in time is for folks to blame other folks and to refuse to pay the real costs to fix the problem. No one wants to pay to clean up the CSOs. When there are proposals for storm water fees to fix the older storm ponds in existing neighborhoods – there is outrage and opposition and yes – they will say it’s the farmers and Pennsylvania, etc, …

    Few people accept their responsibility to do their share to clean up. It’s not their “fault”, it’s someone’s else’s fault and it’s not fair they have to pay. That’s the basic refrain.

    The future of the Bay is bleak because few people really want to pay to clean it up – and “clean” is a misnomer… it’s to pay for infrastructure to stop ongoing pollution of the bay. The Bay does not just sit there like a pond of dirty water – it’s the end point of hourly/daily/weekly transport of polluted water from towns/cities/farms that are continuously polluting.

    • By almost everybody’s analysis Pennsylvania is the least willing bay state to address its pollution issues. Dick Hall-Sizemore makes a fair point that Pennsylvania is in the watershed but not really a bay state in the sense of having bayfront property. This is exactly why the Federal government should be asked to enforce the law rather than hoping the Pennsylvania legislature will stop using its streams and rivers as cisterns for agricultural runoff.

      No state is perfect. Baltimore Harbor is a disaster, Alexandria disgustingly uses the Potomac as a cesspool for sewage. The list goes on. However, when you measure progress against goals … Maryland is making the most progress and Virginia is doing a lot of things right.

      • Well until Trump rolled back the regs – everyone was doing a lot more right but the issue is the simple fact that the Bay is not some static pool of water than can be “cleaned up”. What we have is a 24/7 conveyor belt of pollutants emanating from all points in the watershed.

        I’m not at all convinced that Agriculture owns more of the problem than the urban areas with all their watewater treatment plants, CSOs and more and more impervious surfaces and storm ponds not sized for the rains we are getting.

        Again – if our approach to this is to try to assign blame and at the same time refuse to pay more – the Bay is doomed.

        we’ll never solve anything by blaming each other and using that as justification for doing nothing more.

        • Trump is to blame for rolling back the regs. Big mistake. I’m all for state’s rights but not at all for states’ rights. Any state, in compliance with the Constitution, should be able to implement laws and regulations within that state. However, when a matter becomes a regional issue involving multiple states it is perfectly correct and even advisable for the Federal Government to intercede.

          Polluting a watershed is not something that is contained within the state doing the polluting – at least in the case of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Therefore, solving that problem cannot be left to the whim of the offending states to individually address.

        • In this case it’s not state’s (states’) rights that are at issue. The Ches. Bay Acts of each state involved, including PA, were passed and are enforced pursuant to an interstate compact entered into by those states and by Congress. Enforcement powers are allocated pursuant to the compact; some of that is allocated to Congress, and those are the regs Trump has “watered down.” Now, granted, those same states are also subject to nationwide federal laws on clean water etc., but it’s the compact that sets up the very special set of priorities we call Save The Bay. Yes, PA is the principal offender there. The damage that will be done when the Conowingo Dam pool is flushed out, as presently called for, sending all those PA sediments downstream into the Bay, will be huge.

  7. And yet the City of Alexandria regularly dumps raw sewerage into the Potomac River. Guess where it flows? And yet the big environmental groups maintain a general silence. Democrats in power are not to be criticized much less protested.

    We cannot stop dumping human waste into the Bay but we are going to fix global warming, which, by the way, causes both good and bad weather. It causes more rain and less rain. Warmer days and colder days. And when the data are missing or don’t fit, scientists “extrapolate” and adjust.

    • I agree completely with you on Alexandria. Our all powerful General Assembly ought to ban any new development in Alexandria until the raw sewage problem is fixed. Once those developers feel financially threatened the slippery eels on the Alexandria City Council will quickly find a solution to the problem.

      You may be right about global warming, I don’t know. However, if more rain is going to be the new normal for the Chesapeake Bay watershed then I guess we need better enforcement of the anti-pollution laws and regulations associated with agricultural runoff and untreated rainwater / sewage discharges.

    • That’s part of the reason outhauling coal ash to clean up the Bay/Potomac is a weak argument.

  8. There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy in blaming the environmental organizations if you yourself has not also advocated cleanup and/or
    belong to groups that advocate clean-up.

    There’s little virtue in blaming the environmental organizations when at the same time you accuse them of “influencing” the General Assembly with big donor money.

    better to admit that you’re among those who do nothing rather than blame those who do SOMETHING that you ALSO disagree with!

    • Larry – if we had honest media regularly reported on the raw sewerage being dumped into the Potomac and the City’s ongoing fight to delay compliance, I suspect there just might be a bit more community outrage. Ditto if the Sierra Club or another environmental group picketed City Hall or the City’s sewer plant.

      My dad had to pull hid downspouts out of the links to the sanitary sewer system in St. Paul back in the early 1970s. He had to have the holes sealed as well.

      • TMT – nope. That’s once again blaming others , this time the media – which you ALSO castigate for siding with the Enviros….on other issues.

        you blame the Media AND the ENviros guys – you are opposed to their stances on issues like global warming and yet then you turn around and blame them for NOT doing other things…

        What is it you DO support? WHO do you support to do these things you blame the enviros and media for not doing? Do you support ANY organization that wants to
        clean up the bay? any?

        You’re never going to support the enviros nor media – across the board right?

        so why pick one or two stand-alone issues to accuse them of not doing ENOUGH on?

        I think you’re playing both sides of the street here… 😉

        fess up guy! 😉

        • Larry, most ordinary people would think we should not be dumping raw sewerage into the Potomac River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. I suspect that would be the opinion of most whether they be wedded to climate change concerns or skeptical. Also, it’s a lot easier to separate Alexandria’s sanitary and storm sewer system into two than it would be to replace all fossil fuel generating plants.

          But climate change is first and foremost a political issue. It’s about power and money. And it’s about electing Democrats to office. It’s about repressing information and data that is not consistent with the theme. A professor that has been doing research about methane emissions and forests has been receiving pressure to repress his work and findings.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Yes, TMT’s opinion as endorsed by Don and NorrhsideDude is correct.

            Indeed, I am quite sure that if the environmentalists had been responsible for the past nearly 40 years now, which they plainly have not been, we would have no carbon driven climate change issues going on in this country, and the world by now would likely be well on its way to solving their share of the problem as well.

            Simply put, the environmentalist movement in this country and abroad, and its allies, have over the past four decades a major primary cause for the lack of a solution to carbon driven climate change, the sad place we find ourselves in today. And those same groups now, and their allies, are well on their way to doubling down on the problem, as illustrated by many comments on this website. Their propaganda, and that plainly is what it is, will lead us head-long to a debacle, absent a miracle.

        • The media deserves to be blamed … for a lot. Once they moved from reporting the news to spewing opinion they went from a free press to a propaganda machine. As such, they erode the protections that were meant for a free press in the US Constitution. This editorializing would be disturbing if it were balanced. It is not. Much of what is reported and much of what is intentionally omitted belies underlying bias. TMT is exactly right … the media ignores the epic environmental disasters happening right now in the Boston Harbor, the Baltimore Harbor, the rivers around New York City, Alexandria, etc. Where is the moral outrage at Mayor Deblasio and Gov Cuomo over the pollution in and around New York City? Where are the tirades against the City Council in Alexandria? However, when Trump rolls back environmental regulations the snoflakes in the media come out like February in Buffalo.

          • NorrhsideDude

            You sir have made the most intelligent argument of the bunch. These cities controlled by the self-declared righteous environmentalist left have had these known problems for decades but have not put their own money where their mouths are.

  9. TMT – I’d submit to you that climate change is no more or less political than CSOs are.

    I’d also ask if those who don’t like sewage into the river – have a record of other environmental concerns like air pollution, or coal ash or storm-water runoff, or pollution in the Potomac from other sources like CAFOs – combined animal feeding operations?

    In other words – do they care about the environment overall?

    ALL research in ALL areas of science suffer from what you say – whether it’s Cancer or vaccinations… smoking… etc… what makes Global Warming more of a target than the others especially with regard to claiming government world-wide conspiracies?

    Are there other areas of science that also engage in world-wide conspiracies that include scientists in government? or just Global Warming? Seriously. It’s an honest question. Is GW the only area of science that is engaging in a conspiracy to lie to people?

  10. Larry, please see the linked article from the NIH website about fraud in scientific research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3702092/

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3700330/

    And why does HHS have a director of the scientific fraud office?

    But of course, “climate scientists,” competing for research dollars and public support wouldn’t cheat or alter data. It’s just that climate change is religion and, I guess, in the eyes of many — infallible to the smallest iota.

    • It simply isn’t debatable any longer that there is short term warming of the global climate occurring. What IS debatable, and will remain so in my opinion until the Earth’s climate is far better understood and modeled and forecast than it is today, is what we CAN DO about it. There’s the “religion” aspect of it. We have no guarantee that reducing carbon emissions will make any difference. We think so; many people hope so; but there could be other things going on, as has happened repeatedly in the geologic record, that will drive us ever warmer despite all our efforts to reduce carbon emissions. That said, what choice do we have but to try? The consequences of doing nothing are far worse than the uncertain results even at substantial cost of doing something. That’s what makes me a believer.

      • Acbar =

        You are right. And what we know for sure is that the big environmentalists organizations funded now by crony capitalists, have no interest whatsoever in solving the problem and the threat that it poses. Their only interest now on the part of environmentalists and their crony capitalist and political funders is in milking that threat for political and monetary advantage. Hence whatever real solutions are at hand, should the problem now in fact be real, are far more difficult to fix for the benefit of the public interest, thanks primarily to the environmentalists and their allies who now are crony capitalists funding the environmentalists, and members of the General Assembly of Virginia. We must confront corruption and a devil’s brew of the first order. Truth must prevail, and it will.

  11. TMT – there’s not a word about Climate Science in that fraud article.

    right?

    that article is about fraud in Medical research. But nothing about worldwide govt conspiracies to lie to people about medical issues.

    right?

    so how is it that ONLY Climate Science of all the science – has that problem?

    don’t you think pretty much ALL scientists “compete” for research dollars and their respective fields of research are like a “religion” to them?

    how is it that of all the scientists – ONLY the climate ones are engaging in a worldwide conspiracy and lie to get research dollars?

    • Larry – my point is simply some scientists and researchers cheat. Some car salesman cheat. Some money mangers on Wall Street cheat. And if mainstream America bothered to investigate climate scientists and researchers (only the nasty climate change deniers investigate) we would know that some climate scientists and researchers cheat too. We’d know that not everything that’s said about the environment is correct.

      I’m not arguing that all research on climate change is wrong or that we should not work towards more cheap and reliable renewable energy. I am arguing that, just like other research, which is peer reviewed and often challenged, climate research needs to be challenged as well.

      If we had aggressive debates about the science and the solutions, we’d have a better and likely less expensive approach to dealing with energy policy.

      • TMT – You are of course right.

        Research papers whose conclusions are published as fact, but that cannot be replicated, have quite literally gone through the roof over recent decades. Numbers have been estimated in some studies to be as high as 60%+. This of course destroy’s science from its foundation on up. And this is no secret. Anyone can look these studies up if you have energy and curiously to do so.

  12. Science has fraud – no question about it. It’s the world-wide conspiracy aspect that I doubt.

    When way more than 90% of scientists around the world say something is probably true – there are basically two answers:

    1. – it is probably true
    2. – it’s a conspiracy to lie

    why with regard to ALL science in the world – ONLY Climate science is the one with such a “conspiracy”?

    AND – that supposed conspiracy becomes the reason why – we should do nothing.

    It’s a lot like a guy who smokes and all the doctors say he is at risk for lung cancer and his response is that they’re all lying SOBs trying to take business away from the cigarette companies or other nonsense.

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