It calls for more action to controlled polluted runoff.
Projected growth in the Washington region will have a negative impact on the Potomac River and its tributaries unless action is taken to alleviate that. That's according the Potomac Conservancy's "State of the Nation's River" report released on Thursday.
The study says population is expected to grow by 2-million over the next 20 years, which is the equivalent population of Houston, Texas. "There will be more development, and more roads and rooftops and hardened surfaces if we continue to develop the way we have in the last 40 years," says Hedrick Belin, the Executive Director of the Potomac Conservancy.
He points out these hardened surfaces wash away sediment, nutrients from fertilizer and other chemicals into the Potomac River.
The Potomac River is used for recreation, fishing and by some communities for their drinking water supplies.
The Conservancy says efforts must be made by local, state and federal governments to control polluted runoff before any construction begins. "There are ten jurisdictions, including Frederick, that need to create a funding mechanism that would pay for some of the retrofits and some of the programs that can absorb the rainwater where it falls, rather than wash off these hardened landscapes," says Belin.
The Conservancy says the President should make the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers and streams which flow into it a priority in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget. That includes funds for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Chesapeake Bay Program. It also calls on Montgomery County to enact an Urban Tree Bill and a Street Tree Bill to protect existing forest cover and strategically replant trees in the densely populated areas of the county.
"Clearly, there are some challenges, but the good news is that we're in a position to make some changes," he says. "Many of those changes are going to be around creating more river-friendly land use policies and decisions, especially at the local level."
Even though Frederick County is growing, it still has a number of farms, and Belin says farmers can help control runoff into the Potomac. He says they can take advantage of programs and secure "money to put fencing to keep cattle out of streams. This time of year, incentives to plant cover crops so that when it rains and snows, that valuable topsoil that the farmers depend to grow robust crops doesn't wash away," he says. In addition, farmers can also take advantage of programs to manage manure from farm animals.
There may be complaints that these initiatives are costly, but Belin says doing nothing will cost even more. "There are definitely costs that are incurred and will continued to be incurred by property owner by not acting," he says.