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Highways and Charles County Development Could Doom the Chesapeake’s Crown Jewel
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2008

What would you say about a society that allowed the best tributary to the largest estuary in the world to slip away? That is exactly what is foreseen for Mattawoman Creek, deemed “the best, most productive tributary to the Chesapeake Bay” by Maryland state fisheries biologists.

What would you say about a society that allowed the best tributary to the largest estuary in the world to slip away? That is exactly what is foreseen for Mattawoman Creek, deemed “the best, most productive tributary to the Chesapeake Bay” by Maryland state fisheries biologists. Its watershed, which lies beyond the urban gradient to the south of the nation’s capital, is covered by a Charles County development district that sprawls larger than Washington, DC. The County is working from a Watershed Management Plan that predicts “a severe change in overall water quality” at buildout, with “severe repercussions on the biological community.”

Sprawl is highway-dependent, and two new four-lane highways are proposed to crisscross the watershed. The Cross County Connector extension (CCC-ex) would open vast forest tracts to development, and would enable developers to turn the one-stoplight town of Bryans Road into another Waldorf, the county’s present urban center. The second highway, the Western Waldorf Bypass, is part of the piecemeal “Outer Beltway,” and would irrevocably degrade the Mattawoman watershed through additional massive induced growth. Both highways have viable alternatives to consider.

The CCC-ex is being fast-tracked, with authorities evidently trying to avoid an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this 6.5 mile, four-lane highway that would destroy wetland acreage that is a significant fraction of Maryland’s annual wetlands loss. A hearing on the wetland-destruction permits could occur as soon as April. Please stay tuned (www.mattawomanwatershed.org), plan on attending this hearing, and speaking or writing in support of an EIS. Because of Mattawoman’s value to the Bay, this is a statewide issue, and beyond.

While an EIS does not stop a highway, if properly scoped it scientifically informs officials of the impacts to the natural and human environments, not only of the proposed highway, but also the alternatives. At the 12th Annual Meeting of the Maryland Tributary Strategies Teams on Feb. 9, Dr. Summers, Deputy Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Environment, said in a keynote address that we must make sure that environmental impacts are properly mitigated. Putting aside issues of inadequate mitigation, we can ask “how can you mitigate impacts if don’t even know what they are?”

We can not look the other way while letting this crown jewel slip away.  

 

Courtesy of the Mattawoman Watershed Society, www.mattawomanwatershed.org.

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