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Chesapeake Bay Program publishes Bay Barometer with less focus on data, more on people

This year the Chesapeake Bay Program refined its annual report, the Bay Barometer, to only those indicators for which new data was available, leaving room to expound on efforts to clean the bay that aren’t captured in numbers.

The report, released Wednesday, includes highlights such as the bay’s crab population growing 60% from 372 million in 2018 to 594 million in 2019, as was reported last summer. It also discusses citizen science, bilingual outreach at Sandy Point State Park and vocational training in environmental restoration.

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As many other organizations have reported, the record amount of rain that fell in 2018 caused an influx of fresh water in the bay that decreased salinity and continued to affect the bay in 2019.

“One thing I think we really tried to drive home is how much of an impact weather in general plays in the watershed," program spokeswoman Rachel Felver said.

The report states that the program’s Phase 6 Watershed Model has estimated that as of 2018, practices were in place throughout the watershed to achieve 39% of the nitrogen reductions and 77% of phosphorus reductions for the bay to meet applicable water quality standards.

And, as has also been reported, the bay’s oxygen-less “dead zone” was its largest ever in 2019.

While it wasn’t all good news, Felver said the report showed positive progress.

“What were doing is really helping and working,” she said. “Now is not the time to stop.”

The public can check on the progress of different bay health indicators online at www.chesapeakeprogress.com.

Among the data-less entries in the report was a section on a National Park Service-funded program at Sandy Point State Park which provided bilingual outreach, connecting Spanish speakers with naturalists, as well as events celebrating Hispanic culture.

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A diversity workgroup in the program has also completed a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice assessment which will be used to make the program’s first Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice strategy in 2020.

A citizen science program, the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative, was also mentioned in the report. The Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative has held 80 workshops during the past three years to train citizen scientists in how to collect water quality information about their creeks, streams, rivers and bays.

Felver said this year they are also trying to bring to the forefront a discussion about microplastics — and all plastic, eventually, becomes micro. The program has created a Plastic Pollution Action Team to tackle the challenge.

“It is becoming a huge problem everywhere,” Felver said.

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