BALTIMORE – Fixing the degraded Anacostia watershed is a daunting task, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment (DOE) are getting their toes in the water on a project designed to help. On June 1, the agencies opened a month-long period for public comment concerning plans […]
BALTIMORE – Fixing the degraded Anacostia watershed is a daunting task, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment (DOE) are getting their toes in the water on a project designed to help.
On June 1, the agencies opened a month-long period for public comment concerning plans for habitat restoration at six sites in the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River. The plan is currently in the feasibility study phase, where the Corps is determining where the restoration work could be done.
“We wanted to work where habitat was degraded, but not so degraded that there wasn’t potential for improvement,” said Jacqui Seiple, a geographer at the Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District and the study manager for the project.
The draft documents available for public viewing and comments mention six potential sites: three in the area near the Mall at Prince Georges and Chillum Park and three near Berwyn Heights, south of 495 North close to Indian Creek Park and the Anacostia River Park near College Park. The Corps’ goal is to restore 6.9 miles of in-stream habitat for fish and macroinvertebrates and 4.3 miles of fish passages that would connect with 13.5 miles of passage restored in previous projects. Seiple said the project targets fish species such as blueback herring and shad whose populations have reached “historical lows” due in part to blockages preventing them from reaching the upper parts of the waterways where they spawn.
In 2010, the Anacostia Restoration Plan included approximately 3,000 projects throughout the 176-mile watershed. Seiple said this was where the Corps began the process of selecting sites.
“We identified ones the Corps could implement on its authority. We also sent out our own teams to evaluate a number of other sites,” she said.
Prince George’s County is home to 86 square miles of the watershed, and the county DOE is the lead non-federal sponsor on the restoration project.
“The thing with the Anacostia River watershed has been going on for decades. The county has been invested in this process for a while. Our main role here is to coordinate with the Corps of Engineers,” said Frank Galosi, project manager at DOE.
Costs – which are estimated to total $37.3 million – will be split 65-35 between the federal government and the county, with some of the county’s payments being in the form of in-kind services. Galosi said the county is budgeting for each phase of the process separately and has already committed the money for this feasibility study phase. That phase is a 50-50 cost-share.
The Corps and the county are seeking public input into the potential impacts to the community of working at the sites selected. Galosi said although no detailed plans have been made as to what the specific restoration work will entail, the draft document is worth reading.
“There is a lot of good information in this draft report. I think there’s a bulk of good information there for people to become educated,” he said.
They welcome feedback from citizens as well as other stakeholders, like the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which owns land near the sites. Another stakeholder is Anacostia Riverkeeper, an advocacy group focused on protecting and restoring the river. Emily Franc, the riverkeeper there, said the group does plan to submit comments by the June 30 deadline.
“Anacostia Riverkeeper supports past and current restoration plans as outlined in the Anacostia River Watershed Restoration Plan. If followed, this restoration plan provides an effective roadmap for stakeholder engagement and systematic implementation of complementary remedies across the watershed instead of isolated projects,” she said.
Sieple said the project’s timing is opportune because it does allow for the systematic approach Franc advocates.
“Part of the problem in the Anacostia is water quality issues. We as the Corps can fix the habitat problems, but a lot of agencies are working on water quality issues now too. So it is coming at a good time,” she said.
Although the draft documents don’t detail exactly what work will be does, they do state that temporary dams or pumps would be used to drain sections of the river while work is occurring, and the team will use “natural channel design principals” such as step pools, J-hooks and cross vanes.
Franc said her organization supports that type of design.
“We support natural methods of stream flow management such as beaver dams over concrete channels and manufactured weirs,” she said. “Anacostia Riverkeeper is in favor of removing manmade barriers to fish passage and restoring natural stream and floodplain processes as much as is feasible in this densely urban environment.”
To view the draft and leave comments, visit http://go.usa.gov/cJwx9. The deadline for submitting comments is July 1.