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Highway Threatens Mattawoman Creek
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by Bonnie Bick, Laurel Imlay, Betsy Johnson | 2006

The Mattawoman Creek is one of the most productive in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But a proposed highway in Charles County threatens this valuable ecosystem.

We Need Your Help to Keep Mattawoman Creek, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay Healthy and Productive


Charles County’s plan to build a new four-lane highway poses an immediate threat to the health of  the Mattawoman Creek, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. The proposed highway would be parallel to Rt. 228 and connect Rt. 301 to Bryans Road. Like all new highways in a lightly populated area, it would lead to enormous and inappropriate growth—sprawl. The impact would be especially severe for the Mattawoman and downstream waterways. Other predictable results include increased traffic, overcrowding in local schools, and added strain on our already stressed ground-water supply of drinking water, particularly in western Charles County. And the environmental threat is not just local and regional. The leveling of forests and their replacement with congested highways causes an increase in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas associated with global warming. Our quality of life is being compromised.


Why is Mattawoman Creek important?

A 1992 Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) study reported that Mattawoman Creek is the Chesapeake Bay area’s most productive spawning and nursery ground for migratory fish. Its concentration of juvenile anadromous fish, that is, those which live in the sea, but spawn in fresh water, is more than forty times that of other estuaries that the DNR has studied. Among these, it’s the healthiest fish food web of the Chesapeake Bay. On the eastern seaboard, anadromous fish number only a small percentage of their historical levels, making the health of the Mattawoman of national concern. Charles County also looks to the Creek as one of its greatest tourist draws, especially because of the numerous bass fishing tournaments held at Smallwood State Park. These attract fishermen from all over the mid-Atlantic region.

The Mattawoman is home to Maryland’s largest breeding wood duck population. The watershed is also an important black duck wintering ground and has a strong presence of nesting bald eagles. It is one of only three Maryland sites with a wild population of the beautiful and rare native lotus.

Taxpayers would pay, in real dollars and in loss of valuable environmental services.

We face a crucial window of opportunity to defend the Mattawoman watershed from the loss of forests, with their natural water filtration systems, and the installation of paved surfaces impervious to rainwater. Once destroyed, the forested watershed cannot be recreated.

The proposed cross-county connector would extend a four-lane highway through a lightly populated area to Bryans Road. It would parallel Rt. 228. Does our area need two connectors? Of course not. It is a developers’ highway. And it would be funded 100% by Charles County taxpayers.


Keep Mattawoman Creek a positive contributor to the health of the Bay.

Before the impervious surfaces have gone over the limit that the watershed is able to sustain, we must make clear the choice between maintaining the health of an invaluable natural resource that serves the entire Bay area, and succumbing to the lure of short-term economic gains to be shared by few. It is our job to keep Mattawoman Creek a positive contributor to the Bay’s health. We cannot lose the Mattawoman and still claim that we are working to save the Bay. Future generations will have no trouble weighing the relative merits of the two considerations—long-term public interest vs. short-term private gain—correctly.  Hearings will be held in January.  Please sign up for updates or to volunteer to help at

> 2006 Table of Contents


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