PO­TOMAC

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pol­lu­tants in the river — ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rus and sed­i­ment — are on a steady de­cline. Some key fish species are on the rise, in­clud­ing white perch and shad.

How­ever, Belin said, there is still work to do.

“The Po­tomac is not in the clear yet,” he said.

Jim Long, the pres­i­dent of the Mat­ta­woman Wa­ter­shed So­ci­ety, said the grade is a pos­i­tive for the Po­tomac, but there is still work to be done in Charles County to im­prove the Mat­ta­woman wa­ter­shed and con­tinue to im­prove the Po­tomac.

The con­ser­vancy group went through many im­por­tant met­rics and stud­ied many as­pects of the Po­tomac in its re­port, Long said, but there were some as­pects im­por­tant to Charles County they missed like in­dige­nous fish species such as the large mouth bass pop­u­la­tion.

But over­all, Long said, the re­port has many mes­sages peo­ple can take away from it.

“This re­port card says, I think, if you ap­ply your­self and you try, you can have an ef­fect and im­prove things,” Long said. “That’s one of the big take home mes­sages.”

Still, Long said, there is a lot of work to be done to pre­serve the Po­tomac River as well as Mat­ta­woman Creek, which is one of the river’s es­tu­ar­ies.

Ur­ban runoff is still a con­cern­ing trend and a grow­ing source of pol­lu­tion in the Po­tomac and the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, the re­port said. Blue cat­fish and snake­head fish are also still liv­ing in the wa­ters and putting other fish at risk while un­der­wa­ter habi­tats are still re­cov­er­ing.

The fish are a large part of the re­cov­er­ing ecosys­tem in the river, Jim Cum­mins, di­rec­tor of liv­ing re­sources at the In­ter­state Com­mis­sion on the Po­tomac River Basin, said. Shad were in the Po­tomac River for decades but have been on the de­cline. Now, how­ever, their pop­u­la­tion ex­ceeds fed­eral restora­tion goals.

“I am happy to see they are surg­ing,” Cum­mins said.

John Mul­li­can, dis­trict fish­ery man­ager at the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, said there are still some risks for fish due to the in­flux of pol­lu­tants still flow­ing in the water­ways through­out Mary­land. In­va­sive species still cause prob­lems as well, he said.

“In­va­sive species and in­ter­sex are po­ten­tial threats to this pop­u­lar re­source,” Mul­li­can said. But the In­land Fish­eries divi­sion is work­ing with other agen­cies, he said, to com­bat these is­sues and get the river back into the right place.

Along with the fish pop­u­la­tion in­crease, the river is also be­ing used for more re­cre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties such as fish­ing, wa­ter­way ac­cess paths and state park ac­cess, the re­port said.

Both the state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment have played a part in mak­ing the river health­ier, the re­port said, by do­ing things like ban­ning phos­pho­rous in lawn fer­til­iz­ers, ban­ning Sty­ro­foam and clean­ing wa­ter­sheds.

Robert Brown, the pres­i­dent of the Mary­land Waterman’s As­so­ci­a­tion, said he has not seen the Po­tomac Con­ser­vancy group’s re­port as of yet, but said he can see pos­i­tive signs of growth in the river as well.

“The pop­u­la­tion in the lower part of the river has picked up. We’re not see­ing the type of grasses we’d like to have, but hope­fully they come back,” Brown said. “It seems to have a bet­ter trend in the wa­ter clar­ity. Just see­ing those nat­u­ral things. Just us see­ing that, we’d say the Po­tomac is im­prov­ing slowly.”

These pos­i­tive signs are good news, Brown said, but the river will likely never re­turn to what it once was be­cause of devel­op­ment around it. But that does not mean it still can­not be im­proved, he said, and the im- prove­ments are ev­i­dent.

Wa­ter clar­ity is the best in­di­ca­tor for the river’s health, he said, and that will come once grasses in the river re­turn.

“As you get more grasses, there is more oxy­gen,” Brown said. “Then you won’t get some of these red tides.”

The qual­ity of the river slowly de­clined, Brown said, and the im­prove­ment process will be just as slow.

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