Bay Journal

May 1994 - Volume 4 - Number 3

Saving Sawmill Creek: Multi-agency team takes comprehensive approach to watershed restoration

Looking up into the headwaters of Sawmill Creek, Stuart Lehman pointed out the stream characteristics that were good for fish. There was a good mixture of pools, riffles, and runs. That variety provided for water high in oxygen, plenty of areas for fish and aquatic insects to lay eggs, and lots of leaf particles to provide food.

“This is pretty good fish habitat all through there,” said Lehman, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

As Lehman pointed this out, he was standing atop thousands of cubic yards of fill. Sawmill Creek, in fact, was flowing through four large culverts about 20 feet directly below him. The earth shook as bulldozers, dump trucks, and other construction vehicles roared past, working to complete a new section of Maryland Route 100. A stream of jets leaving Baltimore-Washington International Airport roared overhead, making conversation difficult. ...

Report outlines future course for Potomac watershed

Over the centuries, the Potomac River has been the receptacle of industrial and sewage wastes, agricultural runoff, and acidic discharges from mining operations. Stench from sewage was so bad during the Civil War that President Lincoln is said to have been driven from his home on summer nights. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared the Potomac a “national disgrace.”

The ensuing pollution control effort sharply cut the amount of raw sewage and other pollutants dumped into the river, helping to restore its health. National fishing tournaments are now held in waters once filled with sewage and dead fish. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources recently began stocking trout in streams that were once biologically dead because of acid mine drainage. “The cleanup of the Potomac River is a national showcase for successful programs to restore highly polluted waters,” says a new report on the river. ...

Report makes first attempt to quantify toxics in the Bay basin

A first-ever attempt to quantify the the amount of toxic substances that reach — or have the potential to reach — the Bay reveals that hundreds of thousands of pounds of potentially harmful contaminants entering the Chesapeake originate from storm water runoff and air pollution.

The Chesapeake Bay Basin Toxics Loading and Release Inventory, in the works since 1989, includes information about toxic pollution from such diverse sources as industrial and waste water treatment plant discharges, pesticide applications, shipping spills, atmospheric deposition, and urban/suburban runoff. ...

MD, VA environmental legislation stalls – a roundup

Lawmakers in Virginia and Maryland came and went this year without leaving many footprints on legislation that would have major impacts on the Bay and the environment.

A large number of initiatives were either defeated or — in Virginia — carried over for consideration next year.

“People are still thinking in terms of economic development. People are afraid to do something that's going to cost money,” said Maryland Delegate Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, a leader of the environmental forces in the House. ...

River strategies outline cleanup effort

Recently completed plans that will guide nutrient reduction efforts in rivers from the Potomac north provide the most detailed picture yet of what must be done to reach the Bay Program’s 40 percent nutrient reduction goal.

A year-and-a-half in the making, these draft “tributary strategies” outline changes needed during the next six years to meet the goal. By the year 2000, the plans envision that:

  • 50 waste water treatment plants in Maryland will have been upgraded to control nitrogen and phosphorus discharges, and most of the state’s farmers will be implementing nutrient management plans and planting cover crops to control runoff.
  • Nearly half of Pennsylvania 5.5 million acres of farmland in the basin will have nutrient control efforts in place and hundreds of miles of streams will have been fenced to keep livestock out.
  • The region’s largest waste water treatment plant, located in the District of Columbia, will have undergone a massive upgrade which, singlehandedly, will have achieved almost one-quarter of the nitrogen reduction sought for the entire Potomac River.

Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia completed drafts of their strategies after a series of public meetings last year. After additional public meetings this spring, they will prepare revised strategies for the Executive Council to approve this fall. Virginia has not yet released a draft of any of its strategies. ...

How watersheds work

A watershed is where one of the longest running battles in the planet’s history is fought on a daily basis. The power of water and gravity seek to cut and erode the soil, as biological resources seek to hold their ground. The degree to which the powers of erosion emerge victorious in this daily struggle is a reflection of what is happening on the land throughout the watershed.

This is a story that has been told at numerous meetings recently by Nick Carter, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Tidewater Administration, in an effort to explain why protecting watersheds is essential to water quality and to the land’s ability to support life. ...

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