USGS contributes to Bay Barometer, the Annual Report on Chesapeake Bay Progress

Science Center Objects

The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) produces the Bay Barometer, an annual report on progress made toward the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The goals were established to improve habitat and water-quality conditions for fish and wildlife and to increase access for people. The goals have 31 outcomes, most with a target date of 2025.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other science providers contribute the long-term monitoring data and analysis needed to evaluate progress toward the outcomes reported on in the Bay Barometer.

In the 2017–2018 Bay Barometer, USGS science is featured for 7 of the 10 goals: Sustainable Fisheries, Vital Habitats, Water Quality, Toxic Contaminants, Healthy Watersheds, Land Conservation, and Climate Resiliency. The 2017–2018 Bay Barometer can be viewed at https://www.chesapeakebay.net/documents/2017-2018_Bay_Barometer.pdf

Highlights of the 2017–2018 Bay Barometer, according to the CBP, include the following:

  • Water quality—Approximately 42% of the tidal waters met water-quality standards, the highest score since monitoring began more than 30 years ago.
  • Oyster restoration—Ten tributaries in Virginia and Maryland have been selected for oyster restoration. Of these, eight are in progress, and two, Harris Creek and the Lafayette River, have reached restoration targets.
  • Fish passage—CBP partners exceeded the target to open 1,000 miles of historical fish migration routes. Between 2012 and 2017, 1,236 stream miles were opened to fish passage, marking a 124-percent achievement of the outcome.
  • Underwater grasses—In 2017, 104,843 acres of underwater grasses was noted throughout the Bay, the highest acreage since monitoring began over 30 years ago. This marks a 57-percent achievement of the restoration objective of 185,000 acres and is the first time total abundance has exceeded 100,000 acres.
  • Protected lands—Approximately 1,364,000 acres of land throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed has been permanently protected from development since 2010. The CBP has achieved 68 percent of the outcome to protect an additional 2 million acres of land throughout the watershed by 2025.

Progress has been made, however, several outcomes are falling short:

  • Stream health—Although thousands of samples have been taken from streams around the watershed, 54 percent of these waterways are not reflected in the indicator of stream health because of insufficient or absent data. Only 25 percent of the streams included in the indicator are in fair, good, or excellent condition.
  • Toxic contaminants—In 2016, 83 percent of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries were partially or fully impaired by toxic contaminants. This percentage has continued to increase since 2010. 
  • Wetlands—CBP partners restored or created 9,103 acres of wetlands in 2017. This represents an 11-percent achievement of the outcome to restore or create 85,000 acres of wetlands, specifically 83,000 acres on agricultural lands.
  • Forest buffers—In 2017, 56 miles of forest buffers were planted along rivers and streams throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The per-year target for buffers is 900 miles. At 6 percent of the target, the 2017 total was the lowest of the last 22 years. 

 

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