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OCEAN CITY — The Worcester coastal bays earned only a C+ on a grading scale that measures water quality, according to a new book and report card produced by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and other agencies.

At a Monday event to announce the grade, Coastal Bays Program director Dave Wilson said scientists and researchers who gathered data used to 'grade' the bays were surprised to see evidence that southern Chincoteague Bay, traditionally one of the county's cleaner watersheds, was showing signs of declining water quality. Chincoteague Bay got a B-minus.

The healthiest bay, a result that didn't surprise researchers, was Sinepuxent Bay, which borders the federally protected Assateague Island National Seashore. Two watersheds that receive a good deal of runoff from developed areas of the county, Newport Bay and the St. Martin River, earned D-plus grades.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge, the state Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collaborated with the MCBP on the report card and a new book, 'Shifting Sands,' that lays out in detail the ecological status of the bays.

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