Issue: February 2005
Twenty-seven and Holding

No improvement this year in the Bay’s environmental report card.


     If you’re the sort who sees a half-empty glass, you might conclude from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s 2004 State of the Bay Report that we’re getting nowhere. Basing the score on 13 environmental health indicators, the annual report, released in November, puts the Bay at 27-out of the 100 it presumably would have scored when Europeans arrived here 400 years ago. That’s the same score as last year, and the same as 1998, when the CBF introduced the annual report and scoring system.

     In 1999, thanks partly to unusually dry conditions, the score rose to 28, which was a good start on the foundation’s goal of 40 by the year 2010. But the number stalled at 28 for the next three years and dropped back to 27 last year-an extraordinarily wet one, which generally makes matters worse in the way of nutrient overload and other nonpoint (runoff) pollution. 

     On the other hand (say the half-full-glass people), just holding steady at 27 or 28 is an accomplishment in its own right.

     After all, the human population of the Chesapeake watershed has increased by about 600,000 souls since 1998-and by some 2 million since the early 1980s, when the Bay cleanup began in earnest. Back then, CBF scientists guess, the Bay’s score might have been in the low 20s.

     Scores that low, and indeed anywhere below 40, show an ecosystem that is “dangerously out of balance,” to use the CBF’s nomenclature. The foundation’s long-range goals call for a score of 50 by the year 2020 and a “stable” score of 70 by the year 2050. To read or download a copy of the CBF’s State of the Bay Report, go to