Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay

UD plant and soil science professor Deb Jaisi is examining how phosphorous contributes to Chesapeake Bay dead zone.
(Photo courtesy: University of Delaware/Kathy F. Atkinson)

Legislation and economic factors can present as an obstacle that might occur when attempting to preserve the vibrant and clean nature of our waters. In an article written in the Delaware First Media News by Noelle Swan, we see how the lack of funding and support from government agencies can ultimately halt the progress of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. University of Delaware associate professor of plant and soil science, Deb Jaisi, talks about the severe conditions of the Chesapeake Bay that have been accumulating over the last few decades.

“Restoration efforts in recent decades have helped improved water quality and ecological conditions in the Chesapeake Bay. However, the extent and severity of [the dead zone] has not improved as expected,” said Deb Jaisi associate professor of plant and soil science at the University of Delaware.

This past summer, in 2011, the Chesapeake received its worst report card yet from EcoCheck, a partnership between NOAA and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, despite concerted efforts to reduce the amount of nutrients released into the bay through human activities.”

The reason for the dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay is the high amount of phosphorous found in the water.

“Jaisi believes that a hidden record of phosphorous concentrations lies buried in the Bay floor. By decoding that record, he hopes to learn how concentrations have changed over time, and potentially pinpoint when and how a nutrient found in the bay for centuries became a pollutant capable of threatening the health of the entire bay.”

The problem is prevalent for Jaisi as well as the rest of the community of which it affects, however the budget to continue funding the restoration of the bay dwindles, as states try to balance the budget each year to accommodate.

“Doing more to reduce pollution in Chesapeake Bay will require significant financial investments, at a time when states are struggling to balance their budgets. The economic climate is tough, but efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay have been taking place for 20 to 30 years. We can’t delay implementation of additional pollution control measures because of costs,” said Nicholas DiPasquale, director of the Chesapeake Bay Program at the Environmental Protection Agency. “We must also consider the economic and non-economic benefits that will result from these efforts.”

Although funding is still being debated, there has been slow progress from the work that has already been implemented to the bay. “Numbers of striped bass, or rockfish, an important commercial and recreational sp that lives in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries dwindled in the 1980s, but since then the fish has recovered.”

The more information of the status of these dead zones and how much of an impact they make on our environment, can hopefully lead to more policy and legislation changes, making way for more funding to support these restoration projects.


- Luann Algoso

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