Each year, the University of Maryland tracks the health of the Chesapeake Bay by releasing a ‘report card’. Today, they announced one of the best scores the Bay has seen in decades.

The states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland have a legal obligation to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay. The key to a healthy Bay is in maintaining a healthy watershed.

While the Chesapeake Bay is located in Maryland, over 40% of Pennsylvania’s streams empty into the big body of water. For years, the Commonwealth was blamed for poor water quality in their streams having a negative impact. But this year’s report shows the trend is reversing.

The university gave the health of the Chesapeake Bay a C+ score for 2023/24.

That is the highest score the Bay has gotten since 2002.

“That doesn't happen by accident. That happens because people are stepping up at the local level, across industries, across state lines, and in partnership with the federal government,” said Adam Ortiz, Region 3 Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The upper watershed in Pennsylvania got the 2nd best score of all the areas measured in the report.

“Pennsylvania is doing its part in leading the way to make sure that our local water resources are clean as they feed into the Chesapeake Bay,” said Jessica Shirley, Acting Secretary of PA Department of Environmental Protections.

Since 2019, Pennsylvania has spent almost $1 billion on Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. These include upgrades to waste water facilities, planting tree buffers along streams, and upgrades on farms to prevent cow manure from washing into local streams.

“For a long time, farmers were scapegoated for the problems that we were seeing in the bay. They were attacked and they were told they had to change the way they did things. But they were never worked with in a constructive manner and they were never brought in to be partners in this progress,” said Governor Josh Shapiro.

"I view our farmers, I view the AG sector as partners in making progress on the Bay,” said Shapiro.

While today marked celebration for progress, Pennsylvania Department heads are calling for more funding to keep momentum going. 

There were several mentions today of how COVID-19 ARPA funding has run out for critical programs, calling their future into question.

"The report illustrates the tremendous progress being made in the upper Chesapeake Bay,” said Senator Gene Yaw, who is the Chair for the Chesapeake Bay Pennsylvania Delegation. "It also reinforces the need to invest in our Clean Streams Fund program, which is quickly drawing down federal ARPA dollars and has been positively transforming the Bay watershed since its inception only a few years ago.”

Regardless of the Bay, clean streams have an immediate impact on local residents as well—such as recreation access and drinking water.

“A lot of Pennsylvanians receive their drinking water from surface water,” said Shirley. “Making sure that we have clean surface water is really crucial to making sure that we have clean drinking water.”

Many of the methods and concerns surrounding the Chesapeake Bay can also be applied to stream runoffs into Lake Erie.

“There's a lot of people that live in Erie that really are supported by recreation and their livelihoods from Lake Erie,” said Shirley. "So we can't forget that Pennsylvania is a Great Lakes State. And a lot of the issues that we're looking at for the Chesapeake Bay, we're also factoring in for the the Great Lakes as well."

There are ways the average citizen can be responsible stewards of our waterways—avoid using too much fertilizer on your lawn, clean up after your pets on walks, and there’s always the chance to volunteer with stream clean teams.