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Mattawoman Matters
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by Jim Long | 2009

My affair with Mattawoman Creek began many years ago, after calibration paddling the Potomac’s tidal-freshwater embayments near my home. Mattawoman is different. Wooded wildlands frame serene upper tidal reaches; acres of emergent wetland plants waver in the currents; wild rice nods above as submerged aquatics undulate below; and the picture is always animated by fishing birds drawn to this finest of all Chesapeake Bay fish nurseries. Truly, as its Algonquin namesake implies, it is “where one goes pleasantly.”

 

My affair with Mattawoman Creek began many years ago, after calibration paddling the Potomacs tidal-freshwater embayments near my home. Mattawoman is different. Wooded wildlands frame serene upper tidal reaches; acres of emergent wetland plants waver in the currents; wild rice nods above as submerged aquatics undulate below; and the picture is always animated by fishing  birds drawn to this finest of all Chesapeake Bay fish nurseries. Truly, as its Algonquin namesake implies, it is where one goes pleasantly.

 

uuuuAmerican Rivers named Mattawoman Creek the fourth most endangered river in the nation.

 

uuuuOf all Chesapeake Bay tributaries surveyed by the Department of Natural Resources, Mattawoman possesses the greatest concentrations of migratory fish. One study showed that it has more than 40 times the density of anadromous fish (those that live in the ocean but spawn in freshwater) than seven other tributaries combined.  Another study showed that it has ten times more anadromous river herring and two times the number of white perch than thirteen other tributaries combined.

 

uuuuIt is the most productive spawning ground in southern Maryland for yellow perch, and a bright spot in the Potomacs recovering American shad population.

 

uuuuIt hosts greater concentrations of largemouth bass than any other Maryland tributary to the Potomac River. Scores of tournaments are launched annually from its shores, making the Mattawoman the epicenter of a vibrant Potomac bass fishery, and generating tens of millions of dollars in Maryland commerce annually.

 

uuuuForests on Mattwoman’s shores provide for Maryland’s largest breeding wood duck population and unusually high concentrations of egrets and herons.

 

uu uSurveys by the Maryland-DC and Southern Maryland Audubon Societies find that Mattawoman forests qualify as an Important Bird Area (IBA).

 

uuuuThe Mattawoman is the Potomac’s last tidal-freshwater tributary to have escaped the urbanization sprawling from Washington , DC, and it includes  extensive and diverse tidal freshwater marshes, a  globally rare habitat.

 

uuuuMuch of the twenty-mile non-tidal stream lies in a broad forested stream valley characterized by wetlands and vernal pools, and described by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a hotspot for reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

 

uuuuThe valley includes a site noted as the best coastal plain system in Maryland for amphibians and reptiles by the Maryland Biological Stream Survey.

 

Unfortunately, signs of eutrophication (excess nutrients) are beginning to appear. The non-tidal stream bottom has in places acquired a new slipperiness. In midsummer, algae coats the submerged aquatic vegetation, and oxygen levels in the upper tidal reaches, while adequate, have dropped. Spawning activity by migratory fish in the fluvial stream has dropped dramatically, and survival of still abundant fish larvae appears less certain.

 

Now is the time to protect the forests and water of Mattawoman Creek, the fourth most endangered waterway in the nation, the Chesapeake Bays most productive spawning ground and fish nursery, hotspot for wildlife, and superb recreational area.

 

What you can do:

Please contact Governor OMalley.

A personal letter is most effective. 

 

Ask that he publicly oppose Charles Countys Cross County Connector.

 

The Honorable Martin OMalley

One State Circle

Annapolis, MD 21401

 

Phone:  1-800-811-8336

email:  governor@gov.state.md.us

 

Web-based contact: www.governor.maryland.gov/mail/

 

 

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