WASHINGTON – The lower Potomac was cited as one of the nation’s 20 most threatened rivers in a report released Wednesday by American Rivers, a national conservation organization.
The report said the proposed “Chapman’s Landing” project in Charles County would transform a 2,250-acre forest into an “edge” city with 4,600 housing units, 2.25 million square feet of commercial space and a golf course.
The group also named the 10 most endangered rivers in the nation. None in Maryland made that list.
Joy M. Oakes, Sierra Club regional director, said the proposed project in Charles County threatens Mattawoman Creek, “the most productive fishery on the Potomac River,” with increased runoff.
Other concerns include increased traffic along state Route 210 and the resulting air pollution from cars; and loss of one- third of the 630-acre historical site known as Mount Aventine. It dates back to the days when George Washington lived across the river in Mount Vernon.
Bonnie Bick, president of Friends of Mount Aventine, a local grassroots organization, said “there are numerous unanswered questions” about the impact of building Chapman’s Landing.
“The Army Corps [of Engineers] and the state so far are trying to dance around these critical issues,” said Bick, of Bryans Road.
Banyan, the Chicago-based development company, can begin construction this year once the corps grants it a wetlands permit, said Charles D. Ellison, project manager. He said the company has obtained all the necessary county and state permits to begin construction.
Oakes said environmentalists and community activists have asked the corps to conduct a full-blown report on the project’s environmental impact. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, has also requested the study.
“Everyone’s taxes are going to go up as a result of this massive development and the quality of life is going to go down,” said Gilchrest.
Ellison said people calling for the impact study “think it’s some kind of magical document.” But, he said, “It’s really just an effort to delay us.” The project will disturb less than one of about 110 acres of wetlands on the 2,250-acre site, he said.
Steve Magoon, director of the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management, said the project “has the potential to provide a quality development in that portion of the county.”
The rivers listed as endangered or threatened were selected because of the “severity of the threat, the imminence of the threat and the national [or] regional significance of the river,” said Randy Showstack, an American Rivers spokesman.
The list is intended to increase public awareness and action, he said.