- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — Low-oxygen dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay shrunk significantly this year, the Chesapeake Bay Program reported yesterday.

About 1.79 percent of the Bay was anoxic, or had too little oxygen for most species to survive, compared with about 4.5 percent last year.

The Chesapeake Bay Program had predicted that about 2.3 percent of the Bay would be anoxic this summer, based on water flow in the winter and spring.

Although a dry spring, followed by an extremely wet June, was closely watched by Bay scientists for its effect on the zones, ongoing efforts to limit the influx of plant nutrients such as lawn and farm fertilizers are being credited for the drop, said Josh Voelker, a spokesman for the program.

The dry spring originally was expected to help improve water quality, Mr. Voelker said.

“That’s what a lot of the scientists were saying at first, then that big heavy June rain washed down everything and they were expecting some really bad conditions, but that never materialized,” Mr. Voelker said.

“And they’ve gone over all of the facts and figures and determined that what’s being done on the ground is what’s having an effect, or what’s being done on the water, depending on where you are.”

The Chesapeake Bay Program, a partnership of neighboring states, federal agencies, citizens groups and others, has coordinated restoration efforts in the Bay and its surrounding watershed since 1983.

Also, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a private environmental advocacy group, will release the annual State of the Bay report on Monday.

Last year, the foundation gave the Bay’s health a “D” grade.

Last year was the fifth-worst summer on record, the Chesapeake Bay Program said.

Conditions in the Bay each summer are determined largely by pollutants washed into the Bay in the winter and spring, said Carlton Haywood, chairman of the Bay Program’s monitoring panel.

Planting winter cover crops that prevent pollutants from washing into the Bay is one of many steps that can help improve water quality and oxygen levels, Mr. Haywood said.

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