Scientists: Chesapeake Bay's 'dead zone' smaller this year

Written by The Associated Press | Jun 16, 2016 1:10 PM

Michael V. Nixon, a national environmental lawyer based out of Pittsburgh, takes a look at the Susquehanna River next to his weekend retreat in Hellam Township in 2015. The river leads into the Chesapeake Bay, and efforts are underway to curb pollution and manage stormwater.(Photo: File)

(Baltimore) -- Officials say there is a smaller than normal ``dead zone'' in the Chesapeake Bay, as well as clearer water, more bay grasses and an increase in the crab population.

According to a joint forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey, the bay's low-oxygen dead zone is expected to be 1.58 cubic miles this year. That's about 10 percent less than the long-term average of 1.8 cubic miles dating from 1985.

Massive algae blooms create dead zones in the bay. The algae begins to decay and chokes the oxygen out of the water, killing anything that isn't able to relocate.

Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, says the improvement is credited in part to measures taken by bay states to curb harmful runoff.

The Susquehanna River is the Bay's largest tributary.

Pennsylvania has $3 million in federal money to distribute to farms to better control runoff and improve the river's water quality.

It's lagged behind other states in the watershed in helping clean up waterways.

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