Letter to the Editor - Robert Portanova

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On July 20, Gaithersburg City Council voted 3-2 in favor of moving forward with a Department of Public Works project which will have a devastating environmental impact on Whetstone Run, the floodplain and the entire stream valley corridor at Blohm Park. The city, in return, will receive "stream restoration credits" and funding, from the State of Maryland, for reducing sediment deposits in the Chesapeake Bay.

The project, entitled "Watkins Mill/Travis Ave Stream Restoration Project,” requires the removal of 106 trees from the stream valley corridor—from the bridge at Watkins Mill Road all the way to the power lines, an entire area now used as a hiking trail system which connects to the Seneca Creek Trail System. The existing stream, Whetstone Run, will be dammed up at the bridge in order to stop water flow and the water will be diverted. The stream will be dried up, and then completely filled in with dirt. All vegetation in the entire stream valley corridor will be removed, creating one large dirt construction site. Then, they will cut a new stream channel—smaller and shallower. In portions, there will be man-made materials used such as concrete headwalls and aprons, scour pools, channel blocks, floodplain mating, Thalweg and more synthetic materials. The entire area will be opened to direct, hot baking sun. The entire tree canopy will be lost. In addition, all of the bridges will be removed, permanently. The park will be closed for 6 months during this project.

All aquatic species (turtles, frogs, fish and others) will perish in this process. All of the other animals relying on this unique microclimate and ecosystem will lose vital nesting and hunting grounds (deer, fox, raccoon, opossum and more). A wide variety of birds use this sanctuary for nesting and feeding as well.

The plan regarding replanting is severely inadequate. Ninety percent of the stream valley corridor will only receive mixed grass seed, plant seed and tiny plant plugs. Tree replantings will be limited to the far outer edge of the property, providing no shade canopy and no benefit.

This project will devastate what is now a lush, shady stream valley corridor—naturally designed to handled run-off and heavy rains and providing habitat for an array of wildlife.

There was virtually no public outreach: one virtual meeting which no one was aware of, no signs, no mailings, nothing. In addition, no reports or studies from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation were shared with the public.

Our argument for not moving ahead with this project is that the negative environmental impact will far outweigh any supposed benefit to sediment reduction in the bay.

Robert Portanova
Green Coalition MV

Editor’s note:

The project Mr. Portanova references is a City of Gaithersburg project. For more information, visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov/Home/Components/News/News/1826/16.