In 2018, researchers and resource managers established the six years between 2006 and 2011 as the baseline period for our indicator of stream health. Known as the Chesapeake Basin-wide Index of Biotic Integrity, or Chessie BIBI, this indicator describes the quality of assessed streams in relation to all of the streams in the watershed. During this baseline period, the Chessie BIBI ranked 25 percent of the Bay watershed with fair, good or excellent stream conditions and 21 percent with poor or very poor conditions.
Fifty-four percent of the watershed was not included in this baseline assessment, due to insufficient or absent data. Experts are working to fill this data gap with a U.S. Geological Survey model that will use landscape variables to predict Chessie BIBI ratings in small, local watersheds—also known as subwatersheds—with few or no sampling sites. Indeed, there is a clear link between Chessie BIBI scores and activities on surrounding lands: higher scores tend to occur in heavily forested areas with low pollution and stable habitat, while lower scores tend to occur in urbanized watersheds.
When a sampling site receives a Chessie BIBI score above a bioregion-specific reference threshold, it is generally considered to be in fair, good or excellent condition. When it receives a score that is below that threshold, it is ranked poor or very poor. All samples within a single subwatershed are given equal weight; their average score is used to rank the subwatershed’s overall stream condition.
When both monitoring and modeling data are available, preliminary estimates suggest 60 percent of the watershed area to be in fair, good or excellent condition and 40 percent to be in poor or very poor condition.
Restoring the health of rivers and streams benefits fish, wildlife and people, and is a key step toward improving water quality in the Bay.
To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:
- Identifying an appropriate suite of metrics to measure the multiple facets of stream health and complement the Chesapeake Bay-wide Index of Biotic Integrity (or Chessie BIBI);
- Providing adequate financial and technical resources to support a functional lift in stream restoration projects and nutrient and sediment reductions;
- Improving coordination with stakeholders (e.g., natural resource agencies, stream and wetland permitting authorities, researchers, designers, local governments and non-profit organizations) to facilitate and expand local participation in stream restoration;
- Developing and promoting holistic stream restoration design guidelines that identify the level of degradation, the improvement of stream function and the factors limiting potential uplift; and
- Enhancing the capacity of local governments, organizations and landowners to restore and maintain stream health.
Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through data related to physical, chemical and biological stream conditions and stream function.
As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in August of 2021. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in August 2023.
Logic & Action Plan
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking specific actions to achieve the high-level approaches identified in the management strategy above.
Completed actions from this outcome's Logic & Action Plan include:
- In April 2018, the Stream Health Workgroup convened a workshop to establish a baseline against which the Chesapeake Bay Program could measure progress toward this outcome. Participants recommended the partnership report stream health using the family-level bioregion version of the Chesapeake Basin-wide Index of Biotic Integrity and use a six-year timeframe from 2006 to 2011 as the baseline. (This website previously reported stream health using an 11-yeare timeframe from 2000 to 2010.) Participants also agreed to use a predictive model developed by the U.S. Geological Survey to estimate and rate stream health in watersheds with few or no sampling sites.
Participating partners include:
- Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (State of Delaware)
- Maryland Department of the Environment (State of Maryland)
- Johns Hopkins University (State of Maryland)
- Maryland Water Quality Monitoring Council (State of Maryland)
- Maryland State Water Quality Advisory Committee (State of Maryland)
- University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (State of Maryland)
- New York Department of Environmental Conservation (State of New York)
- Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)
- Fairfax County (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (State of West Virginia)
- District Department of Energy and Environment (District of Columbia)
- Natural Resources Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
- U.S. Forest Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. Geological Survey
- Center for Watershed Protection
- Chesapeake Bay Trust
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Ecosystem Services
- Headwaters LLC
- Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
- Izaak Walton League
- McCormick Taylor
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- Severn Riverkeeper
- Upper Susquehanna Coalition