An egret stands sentinal in Mattawoman Creek. Photo ©Krista Schlyer/iLCP
One of the Chesapeake Bay’s Few Remaining
State fisheries biologists have called the Mattawoman Creek "the best, most productive tributary to the Chesapeake Bay." It is renowned nationally for its fish habitat. It is considered the best nursery for migratory (live in ocean but spawn in fresh water) fish in the entire Bay watershed. Once again it is being threatened. This time by the draft Comprehensive Plan currently proposed by the Charles County Planning Commission.
Mattawoman Creek is a shallow tributary to the Potomac River. Its 60,300 acre watershed is located in Prince George's and Charles Counties; 44,479 acres of the watershed is located in Charles County.
State and federal agencies have consistently characterized the Mattawoman watershed as exceptional in terms of its biodiversity and biological productivity. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has noted the creek’s abundant underwater grasses and fish resources, including largemouth bass, rockfish, catfish, carp, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, white and yellow perch, pickerel, and crappie.
It is home to more than 50 species of fish, as well as mussels, wood ducks and bald eagles. Its extensive wetlands and forest help support one of the healthiest food webs in the Bay, and help filter harmful nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollution.
The watershed's beauty and natural fecundity is priceless. Its fate will be a test of our resolve to save the Bay.
The watershed also has tremendous economic and cultural value. The commercial bass fishing industry in the Potomac River alone is worth $25 million a year in business.
Government officials have recognized the value of the watershed. In the Charles County portion of the watershed, there are approximately 5,900 acres of state protected land and park land, and 316 acres of County park land. Additionally, Charles County holds Forest Conservation Easements on approximately 400 acres in the watershed.
The Army Corps of Engineers Watershed Management Plan characterized Mattawoman Creek as high risk due to the pressures of increased urbanization and loss of forest and wetland resources. Maryland’s 1998 Clean Water Action Plan placed the Mattawoman in the top 25 percent of all watersheds in Maryland for having the highest loads of nitrogen and phosphorus per watershed acre. Portions of the watershed are also listed as impaired for nutrients and sediments on the state's "Dirty Waters" list.
In short, one of the natural gems of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is threatened once again.