Mattawoman Watershed saved from freeway construction
Chesapeake’s last stand
Maybe. The victory for common sense and environmentalists may help redirect the polluted bay’s future. Would it not be great to push the sludge back upstream to the farms that have devastated the waterway? Bask in the victory and prepare for continuing battles as American’s rediscover their thirst for clean waters and healthy fish.
“Environmentalists celebrate longshot victory at Mattawoman Creek
View Photo Gallery — Environmental activists who stopped Charles County from building a road through the Mattawoman Creek watershed hope that their victory will spawn other efforts to save Chesapeake Bay.
By Darryl Fears, Published: January 15
Even in cold January, when the woods are stripped bare, it’s clear why so many Maryland environmentalists compare the Mattawoman Creek to Eden. Eagles alight from barren trees and glide over serene waters, flocks of ducks darken the winter sky, and fish leap in the muddy shallows.
Yellow perch will soon make their annual run to spawn by the tens of thousands in the Mattawoman, a feast for raptors. They release milky strands with 60,000 eggs each, bolstering the Charles County creek’s status as “the most productive tributary to the Chesapeake Bay,” according to state fishery biologists.
And for years, the county planned to build a highway right through the watershed.
But recently a strange thing happened. Local environmental activists actually won a fight against a development that they said would harm wildlife. The state said no to the road in a rare denial of a development permit after the activists relentlessly picked apart the county’s arguments for it in an application.
The demise of the half-built $70 million Cross County Connector is being held up as a victory over urban sprawl that could be duplicated throughout the fragile Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Early in the fight over the connector, opponents were a huge long shot to win. Like a boxer who takes a multitude of jabs to land one solid punch, they acknowledged suffering a series of defeats in failed efforts to get county planners to propose development designs that were friendly to the creek.
The proposed 16-mile connector was designed to start at Route 5 and cut through small winding roads and the Mattawoman and end at Indian Head Highway. Eleven subdivisions with more than 2,000 homes were proposed, and were seen as likely to lead to more storm-water runoff laced with sediment and nutrient pollution — and foul the Chesapeake.
Mattawoman Creek is like many of the bay’s tributaries. It’s good looks are only skin deep. Below its emerald tree canopies in Mason Springs are waters with shrinking populations of yellow perch, white perch, herring and largemouth bass.
Walking through the area last week, Mason Springs Conservancy board member Ken Hastings explained how storm-water runoff from development, floods and sewage overflows have eroded and reshaped its banks, widening them, slowing the current, making the area less attractive for fish.
Yellow perch disappeared from a part of the creek near Route 225 in the 2009 spawning season, and the percentage of herring eggs found in stream samples dropped dramatically between 1991 and 2010, state fisheries biologist Jim Uphoff wrote in an unpublished analysis.
Still, the creek is considered to be the cleanest and most abundant tributary to the Potomac River, and one of the most valuable waterways on the Eastern Seaboard.
When the fourth section of the connector was completed near the watershed in 2010, the county applied for a state non-tidal wetlands permit to go through the Mattawoman — ripping out six acres of wetlands around the creek — and finish the job.”