A group called “Clean water, Healthy families” released the results of a poll of Maryland voters regarding Chesapeake Bay restoration. This poll provided some interesting findings. It was particularly gratifying to see that the public perception of the health of the Bay (average C-) matches EXACTLY with the EcoCheck report card (2010 score = C-).
It is important that we have a scientifically based consensus on the status of the Bay, so that as we track restoration progress, we can be informed by real data and not swayed by uninformed perceptions. The survey also asked about the health of local streams, and the perception was that the local streams, creeks or rivers were in slightly better shape than the Bay as a whole, but still rated an overall C- grade. This is also in agreement with the results of stream health assessment in which a strong correlation between stream health in the watersheds of Chesapeake Bay tributaries exists.
The EcoCheck Chesapeake Bay report card is generated by collecting data for six indicators; three water quality indicators (dissolved oxygen levels, chlorophyll concentration, and water clarity) and three biotic indicators (aquatic grasses, benthic community status, phytoplankton community status). These quantitative indicators are mapped throughout the Bay and compared to ecological thresholds and a water quality index and a biotic index produced. A Bay health index is then generated by combining the water quality and benthic indices. The methods used to generate this report card score have been thoroughly vetted by the scientific community by presentations at scientific workshops and conferences and publication in peer reviewed journals. The numerical ranking of the Bay health index is then converted to a letter grade as a means of communicating results in a manner that most people can easily understand.
The poll also showed both a recognition that more needs to be done to restore the Bay and, importantly, a willingness to pay for cleaning up the Bay. This is reassuring, as both the recognition and willingness to pay are crucial to be successful in restoring the Bay. The poll did not include Pennsylvania or Virginia residents who are also key to Chesapeake Bay restoration. It would be interesting to know how they are perceiving the Bay restoration.