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.