Mallows Bay takes another step toward federal designation
Comes closer to federal sanctuary designation
Mallows Bay is one step closer to receiving a national marine sanctuary designation.
The bay, located in Nanjemoy off of Wilson Landing Road, is home to a ship graveyard, and Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said the federal designation will help the county stay committed to its dedication in balancing development with environmental land preservation. After a visit from Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Md. 5th) last week, the designation is closer than ever to becoming reality, Robinson said.
The county has already gone through the first round of public hearings on the bay, which is a requirement in the process for getting the designation. Now, Robinson said, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is doing an environmental impact study that will be released some time after the election.
“Once that happens, things will go into high gear and there will be another opportunity for public comment,” Robinson said. “Then NOAA will present a few different options on how large the area will be.”
The area currently being proposed is just a 14-square-mile area encompassing the bay, but Robinson said that will likely increase after the environmental impact study is completed because “they just keep discovering more shipwrecks.”
There is still a lot of work to do for the designation and more ships are continuously being discovered, Robinson said. But that is the entire point of the process, he said.
“We want this to be a place of discovery,” Robinson said.
Sammy Orlando, the NOAA regional coordinator organizing the bay’s sanctuary designation, said things are in progress and are on track for a timely designation.
“We’re still working on the environmental impact study, but things are in progress and going well,” he said.
Getting the designation for the bay would be a landmark for a new era in Charles County where tourism can grow to be one of the county’s biggest economic drivers, Robinson said.
The site is so close to Washington, D.C., and will serve as a natural attraction for people who come into the region, Robinson said. The boats are unique because “this is something that could not be done today, but made sense back then.”
Hoyer agreed with Robinson’s assessment of the sanctuary, stating that many of the ships now serve as “artificial reefs” for the wildlife living in the bay. Because of that, disturbing the ships could really disrupt the natural habitats of many wildlife species living in the area.
“There are almost 150 wooden vessels significance,” Hoyer said, to the ships as well.
“To do what they did back then today would not be allowed. That was a burning. They’d burn them and sink them. It obviously polluted the water,” he said. “It will be a tourist attraction. People will come and learn a little bit about their history and the environment.”
Once the designation is made and approved by the federal government, Robinson said, whoever is elected president will likely be visiting Charles County for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the bay.
“This will put the county on the map in a way it never has been before,” he said. “People will be blown away.”