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Could a Perfect Storm Save Mattawoman Creek?
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Could the currents of change sweep away officialdom’s facade of happy talk about the prospects for our aquatic resources?

Could the currents of change sweep away officialdom’s facade of happy talk about the prospects for our aquatic resources?

A new administration in Washington acknowledges our dependence on nature, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is joined by others in filing an intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to force long-promised reductions in Chesapeake Bay pollution. At the same time, thanks to the Sierra Club and many others, hundreds of comments on Charles County’s Cross County Connector extension (CCC-ex) have delayed state permitting decisions: at the time of this writing, Maryland is requesting the county to allow a six month delay in a permitting decision. This proposed highway and the sprawl it would engender threaten the forests and wetlands of Mattawoman Creek—a hotspot of biodiversity and, from a finfish perspective, the most productive tributary to the largest estuary in the world.

These developments ride on a rising tide of awareness that forest moderates climate change while highway-fueled sprawl does just the opposite. And increased energy costs and a troubled economy reveal that the conversion of forest and farmland to new edge cities and endless subdivisions is an outmoded and unsustainable model of economic development.

So, do the Governor’s Smart Growth Task Force, Smart Growth Office, and Commission on Climate Change represent a flood rushing in the right direction? Or will it all dissipate in a backwater eddy, as so often in the past? After all, local land use decisions are in the hands of local officials like those who, in the case of the Cross County Connector extension, claim they will protect Mattawoman Creek, and also claim that this new four-lane highway will actually improve Mattawoman’s water quality.

The permitting process is one of the few means for state and federal oversight to steer local land-use decisions toward a restored Bay. Recognizing this, the newly formed Smarter Growth Alliance for Charles County, a consortium of over seventeen environmental, civic, and fishing groups led by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, wants Governor O’Malley to deny permits for the CCC-ex or, lacking that, to require a fully scoped Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before permitting decisions are made. An EIS is supposed to explicate direct, indirect, and secondary impacts of the highway and its alternatives in order to provide decision makers and the public with knowledge of the costs and benefits of various approaches.

The Alliance promotes a better, alternative vision. Rather than treating one of the Bay’s finest watersheds simply as a sewer district, it envisions development right-sized around the existing urban core of Waldorf, with transit-oriented development around light rail stations that connect to the Branch Avenue Metro. Such walkable residential opportunities are rare. But what they represent are increasingly recognized as a more sustainable approach to accommodating population growth. In fact, the Governor has said that growth in Maryland for the next twenty years could be absorbed by land within a half mile of the state’s 112 transit stations.

Just as the state of the Bay exemplifies a lack of political will to protect our waterways on a national level, Mattawoman Creek illustrates how a lack of will at the state and local level will doom the Bay if we are unable to preserve even its recognized crown jewels in the face of predicted loss. In discussing growth of the sort promoted by the CCC-ex, Charles County’s own Mattawoman Creek Watershed Plan states “These intense development practices would have severe repercussions on the biological community and would decrease the habitat quality within the estuary.”

You can join the wave by contacting Governor O’Malley and asking that he deny the permit for extending the Cross County Connector across the Mattawoman watershed because it is not Smart Growth. His office will hear two things: it is time to get serious about reining in sprawl, and it is time to save a deserving waterway that Maryland Department of Natural Resources concludes “represents as near to ideal conditions as can be found in the northern Chesapeake Bay…and should be protected from overdevelopment.” 

Article provided by the Mattawoman Watershed Society.


What You Can Do


Call or write the Governor:
Phone number: 1-800-811-8336; 

Governor’s web-based comment page:


Become informed:

Smarter Growth Alliance for Charles County:


Mattawoman Watershed Society:



Attend a Forum held by the Smarter Growth Alliance for Charles County on an alternative vision for Charles County and Mattawoman Creek.

February, 2009, date and place TBD


Attend a walk in Mattawoman Wildlands

Sunday, January 18 , 1:00 PM

An easy walk through bottomland woods to the shores of the tidal-freshwater Mattawoman estuary. Contact: Bonnie Bick 301-752-9612, or


Directions: From Route 210 south (Indian Head Highway) go through the light in Bryans Road and turn left at the next light onto Route 225. Cross Mattawoman Creek, turn right at the next light, Route 224 (Chicamuxen Road).

Park on right (north) shoulder of Route 224 just past Lackey High School, which will be on your left.



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