Development is the “elephant in the living room” that few want to acknowledge. The fact is that, though the Severn has been designated a “Scenic River,” it is also an increasingly urban and suburban river with all of the accompanying environmental stresses. The increase in impervious surfaces and associated accelerated runoff of sediment-laden stormwater and deleterious nutrients is the crucial issue facing our river and its tributaries.
For example, on the Severn’s south shore is Saltworks Creek, a distressed and increasingly urban waterway due to its location adjacent to Bestgate Road and Westfield Mall. There is a history of extensive development in this subwatershed that has added tremendous amounts of silt to the creek bottom and impervious surface to the surrounding land area. Impervious surface has increased a startling 31% in the last five years with more development imminent across steep slopes and non-tidal wetlands. It represents, in microcosm, the water quality problems associated with not only the Severn but also the entire Chesapeake Bay recovery.
The Severn Riverkeeper monitors proposed development in the Severn Watershed and welcomes local alerts from community groups on proposed adverse projects. We have participated in lawsuits such as opposing the inappropriate project in the Critical Area on Saltworks Creek’s Arrow Cove. We have also testified at MDE hearings against permits for development across wetlands at both Sullivan’s Cove on the north shore and Saltworks Creek on the south.
While opposing development is necessary at times, we also feel that it is important to promote and encourage positive and innovative practices and retrofits since present stormwater practices are not working. The understanding of Best Management Practices (BMP’s) for stormwater is evolving and private business, residents and the public sector alike need to invest in load reduction technologies to correct the false assumptions of the past.
We are all part of the problem and must all be part of the solution.