Report depicts ominous picture of Barnegat Bay's health

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) -- A new report depicts an ominous picture of the health of Barnegat Bay.

The Barnegat Bay Partnership released its five-year report Wednesday.

It finds that population growth continues to drive the conversion of open space into urban land. That reduces native habitats and the watershed's ability to recharge groundwater and filter nutrients. 

The report also says water quality is being degraded by fertilizer runoff from residents' property and other development. The fertilizer gets washed into freshwater creeks that feed the bay, and almost half of the streams tested didn't meet water quality standards for aquatic life. 

Experts say the lessons they're learning about the decline in water quality could help find solutions to problems facing other coastal areas.