Delaware River and Bay: Still improving

Earlier today, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary released its latest report of the health of the river and bay. The good news: Things are still improving.

“We are happy to report that the Delaware River and Bay are continuing to recover from centuries of pollution,” said Jennifer Adkins, executive director of the Partnership, in a press release. “What was once a dead river in parts is now alive with striped bass and blue crabs thanks to less water pollution and good management — that’s a major victory. But we still face many challenges, including shad and oysters that continue to struggle, and sturgeon that are in real trouble.”

The "State of the Estuary Report" looked at 14 different bay "indicators" -- from fish and other marine organisms to forests to wetlands. The last similar report was released three years ago.

Only one indicator -- osprey, which have rebounded spectacularly -- ranked "excellent" on a thermometer-style gauge. Freshwater mussels are declining to "poor."

Another down side: the tri-state region lost more than 50 square miles of forest and 10 square miles of wetlands between 1996 and 2006, according to the report -- the equivalent of 29,000 football fields.

Danielle Kreeger, science director of the Partnership, said that many wetlands and forests remain, of course, but "the problem is that these alarming rates of loss threaten both ecological and human health, and they are likely to escalate with changing conditions and up to 800,000 more people by 2030.”

The report is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Regional administrator Shawn M. Garvin called it "essential to our efforts. By providing key benchmarks recognizing our progress and the challenges ahead, the ‘State of the Estuary’ is an invaluable tool for understanding where we need to go moving forward.”

You can see the full report at www.DelawareEstuary.org The public-friendly version is 15 pages, the full technical report several hundred.

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