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Bayside Gazette Editorial 6/27/24: Slow progress on bays shows tough job ahead

Progress is painfully slow, but the overall state of the coastal bays and their tributaries is slightly better than it has been over the years, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program reported this week.

How slow? Consider that in 2008, the program’s annual report card gave the six areas surveyed — the St. Martin River, Assawoman Bay, Isle of Wight Bay, Newport Bay, Sinepuxent Bay and Chincoteague Bay — a C+, and this most recent examination of the bays’ health earned a B-.

That’s good, but hardly great and it’s indicative of the challenges that lie ahead for all involved in the bays’ rehabilitation effort. Climate change, for one, is a problem that simply isn’t going to go away. Whether one accepts or rejects climate change as a fact, it remains that warmer temperatures are having an adverse impact on subaquatic vegetation, while rising sea levels continue to encroach on marshland, which help to filter runoff before it enters the bays.

Additionally, warm water holds less dissolved oxygen, thus making life tough on various marine species while making algae blooms more likely.

Then, too, there are situations that are difficult for the layperson to understand. Just a few years ago, the coastal bays report card said that sea grasses were on the verge of a comeback in the southern bays, but this most recent survey found they had retreated.

Meanwhile, the St. Martin River, which years ago might as well have been a dead zone because of nutrient overloading, is looking much better in that regard.

So, one might ask, given the difficult circumstances the bays and their coastlines face, what are we supposed to do? A good start would be for those who have been shrugging off the bays problems as just nature’s way to start paying attention to what the Coastal Bays Program has been saying.

When the bays’ health goes from a C+ to a B- in 14 years, it’s evident that more people need to be more involved in pushing for more to be done.