BALTIMORE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, in cooperation with Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, is seeking comments for a 30-day period, beginning June 1, 2016, on a plan to restore aquatic habitat in previously-degraded streams along six sites in the Anacostia Watershed in Prince George’s County.
The tentatively selected plan is to restore three sites in the Northwest Branch, through Northwest Branch Park and near the Mall at Prince George’s and down to near Chillum Park; and to restore three sites in the Northeast Branch from south of Interstate Highway 495 North in Berwyn Heights through Indian Creek Park and Anacostia River Park near College Park Airport. The combined restoration will restore approximately 7 miles of in-stream habitat, 4 miles of fish passage on the Northwest Branch, and connect 14 miles of previously-restored habitat from other restoration projects.
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The 86-square-mile portion of the Anacostia River watershed in Prince George’s County accounts for almost half of the total watershed area. Human development and alteration in the watershed have led to severe stream habitat damage, including excess sediment and erosion; physical blockages for fish movement; poor water quality; and loss of wetlands and forests along the Anacostia River and its tributaries.
“With our plan, we are hoping to turn some of these problems around,” said Anna Compton, Baltimore District project manager. “Through restoration, we can help the habitat for the critters that live in these streams. As a part of this proposed plan, we hope to increase fish health, movement and spawning areas, and, therefore, increase fish abundance and diversity.”
Historically, the watershed had more than 50 fish species. Now, it is limited to just 20 to 30 fish species.
Poor water quality and degraded habitat adversely affect fish abundance, biomass and diversity in the watershed, according to research. About 95 percent of stream miles in the entire Anacostia River watershed are estimated as falling under very poor to poor categories relating to fish and the invertebrates living at the bottom of the streams.
Alewife and blueback herring are species of concern. They travel from the sea to the river specifically to spawn; however, they are currently only using 10 to 20 percent of their natural range due to blockages and poor habitat.
The proposed plan removes fish blockages on Northwest Branch and Sligo Creek, providing the alewife and blueback herring access to their historical range on Northwest Branch, as well as access to higher-quality habitat upstream. The proposed habitat restoration will also support diversity and abundance of native fish and other resident fish species.
“This plan provides substantial environmental improvements for the habitat within the recommended sites and contributes to a comprehensive watershed restoration strategy,” noted Adam Ortiz, Prince George’s County, Department of the Environment director. “Beyond the direct environmental benefits, we also hope to connect residents living in these areas back to their streams through recreational fishing and educational opportunities.”
Prince George’s County is the non-federal sponsor for this project. The Corps and the county evenly split the $1.8 million study costs.
Comments will be accepted until July 1, 2016, and may be sent via email to CENAB-CC@usace.army.mil or mail to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District
Attn: Angie Sowers
10 South Howard St., Ste. 11000
Baltimore, Md. 21201
* Please have mail postmarked by July 1, 2016.
Following review of the public comments, a more detailed design and plan will be published for public comment in 2017.
“We strive for resilient, cost-effective and sustainable approaches to manage our water-resource challenges,” said Col. Ed Chamberlayne, Baltimore District commander. “We looked at various sites in Prince George’s County to optimize improvements. Through connecting proposed projects to existing restoration projects like at Paint Branch and Northwest Branch, we are able to extend the benefits of these projects, as well as enhance federal investments.”
This plan is in alignment with the 2010 interagency Anacostia Restoration Plan that identified more than 3,000 projects for implementation within the watershed.