People wanting to know if the Bay is being saved now have a handy new place online where they can check.
The Chesapeake Bay Program has launched “Chesapeake Progress,” a website designed to provide “accurate, up-to-date and accessible information” about what’s been done to achieve the restoration goals and outcomes spelled out under the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.
“The idea is to increase accountability for progress, increase transparency and increase our information that’s made available to the public in a very simple and straightforward way,” said Nick DiPasquale, Chesapeake Bay Program director for the Environmental Protection Agency.
The federal-state partnership guiding the Bay restoration effort has been criticized in the past for not communicating clearly its goals, why they matter and what’s being done to reach them.
In response, Chesapeake Progress is the first of three websites being developed under the general heading “Chesapeake Stat” to improve information-sharing and decision-making. http://www.chesapeakestat.com/index.php The other sites, one aimed at helping government officials and one at providing in-depth data, are still in planning.
The Progress site is geared toward enabling oversight groups to track the restoration effort. Information is lumped into five main mission or topic areas — living resources, clean water, land conservation, public engagement and climate change. Within each, the degree of progress being made — on rebuilding blue crab abundance, for instance, or improving water quality — is shown with a series of arrows pointing up, down or sideways. Links provided in each topic area produce supporting explanations, charts and graphs.
“We really tried to make sure it was easy to use, [that it] presented information in a simple and direct way,” DiPasquale explained. “In doing so, we hope more people will use it, and if need be, they will hold us accountable for the progress we’re making in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.”
Those looking for more detail may be disappointed at times. On conservation, for example, the site reports nearly 572,000 acres of land were permanently protected from development between 2010 and 2013. But there’s no clear delineation in the underlying data of what lands were saved, how or where over that time period.
And while the site includes a tally of how much federal agencies spent in 2014 on Bay restoration — $400 million — it doesn’t report the sums invested by the states, local governments or nonprofits.
Even so, at least one researcher said he finds the new website “really exciting.” Bill Dennison, vice president for science applications at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, said he’s learned from devising “report cards” for the Bay and its tributaries that the general public doesn’t want a lot of raw data. Rather, he said, they want to know what the trends are and what’s being done.
“It allows you at a glance to get a complete picture quickly,” Dennison said of the new web site. “This is a way of making science available for everyone,” he added, not just researchers or government officials.