USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) reports that independent studies are showing positive trends for water quality, habitat and key aquatic species, and modeled results and monitoring stations show declines in nutrient and sediment loads to the Bay.
The abundance of underwater grasses grew by 21 percent between 2014 and 2015. Aerial imagery collected between May and November of 2015 revealed a total of 91,621 acres of underwater grasses across the region, the highest amount ever recorded by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s aerial survey. Experts attribute this rise in underwater grass abundance to the recovery of wild celery and other species in fresh waters of the upper Bay, the continued expansion of widgeon grass in the moderately salty waters of the mid-Bay and a modest recovery of eelgrass in the very salty waters of the lower Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay Health Index scores the bay on overall health. Our lower bay has the highest score, which earned a B for health while the middle and upper bay areas earned C’s.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has developed a systems approach for designing and installing conservation activities on farms and forests to protect and improve water quality. The core parts of this approach are conservation activities that avoid, control and trap nutrients and sediment that could run off from farm fields.
Most of the conservation work in Virginia focuses on controlling nutrients on livestock operations and on croplands where farmers use manure as fertilizer.
NRCS targets investments in high-priority watersheds where nutrient and sediment pollution is highest.
Common practices include conservation buffers, nutrient management, waste storage facilities and heavy-use area protection. Since 2009, NRCS and conservation partners have worked with Virginia farmers and forest landowners to install conservation systems on more than 1.2 million acres in the Chesapeake Bay.
The full progress report can be downloaded Here.