Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Coastal Bays Report Card Grades Released

Maryland's coastal bays received a grade of C+ in the first Coastal Bays Report Card, with Newport Bay and the St. Martin River receiving the lowest individual marks.

"This is a real treasure here in the state of Maryland," said Dave Wilson, executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program,"It's not a total disaster, but there's also a lot of room for improvement."

Each of the six sub-watersheds were graded, with marks ranging from a B for the Sinepuxent Bay to a D+ for the St. Martin River and the Newport Bay.

The report measured four water quality indicators — total nitrogen, total phosphorus, chlorophyll and dissolved oxygen — as well as the amount of sea grasses and hard clams found in each area. The grades were determined based on the current water quality and its relation to the quality needed for aquatic life to grow and thrive.

The Sinepuxent Bay received the best grade, with high indicators in all areas except for clams. But since the bay only represents 5 percent of the total bay area, it had a small effect on the overall grade.

The largest bay, Chincoteague Bay, received the second highest grade of B-. Water quality scores were high but sparse sea grasses and clams brought the grade down.

The Assawoman Bay received a grade of C because of moderate water quality but very few sea grasses and clams, while the Isle of Wight Bay received a C-plus because of poor levels of sea grasses and clams and slightly lower water quality.

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