- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2007

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — It’s the same old, same old for the Chesapeake Bay this summer — poor water quality and no prospects of likely recovery in key indicators of the Bay’s health.

The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) yesterday released a summer forecast that predicts a recurrence of low-oxygen zones in the middle portion of the Chesapeake, with some areas so low in oxygen most fish can’t survive there.

The forecast also left little hope that Bay grasses in the southern portion would recover from dying off in recent years.

The report by the federal-state agency charged with monitoring Bay restoration also predicted a “moderate-to-high” chance of a harmful algae bloom early this summer in the Potomac River, with the bloom stretching 10 to 20 miles. Algae blooms can cause beach closures or fish kills, such as the one seen last week in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Most alarming in the forecast was little hope of preventing a summer low-oxygen zone, sometimes called a “dead zone.” Low-oxygen zones are caused by pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and they prompt fish to seek new waters, crowding areas of the Chesapeake that have adequate oxygen.

Critters that can’t swim — such as oysters — simply die when oxygen levels fall too low.

The forecast brought a stern response from the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a nongovernmental group that argues more needs to be done to clean up the Bay.

“It is a real tragedy when a huge segment of the Chesapeake Bay is expected to be devoid of oxygen, and the government calls it moderate,” said Roy Hoagland, the foundation’s vice president for environmental protection and restoration.

“When the likelihood of harmful algal blooms that are potentially dangerous to humans is high, that’s not moderate. And with Bay grasses expected to remain in the worst shape that they have been in since 1989, it’s not moderate, it’s unacceptable.”