I've lived in a log cabin overlooking Watts Branch for more than three decades and watching it decline has been heartbreaking. As I write this, the Watts Branch is running bank full and chocolate brown as it swirls by on its way to the Potomac River. The largest stream watershed in the Potomac Subregion, it covers over 10,000 acres. Nearly all the headwaters begin in Rockville. It includes 680 acres of parkland, most of which is forested. MNCPPC initially purchased the unbuildable floodplains and steep slopes of many County streams to protect water quality and create buffers from adjacent development. Watts Branch has been intensely developed over a long period and the use of stormwater controls is recent. The result is that Watts Branch is what is known as a "flashy " stream. In severe rain storms, it rises rapidly, filling and overflowing the stream channel. It subsides just as quickly after rain events. But uncontrolled run-off containing sediment and chemicals scours the banks, deepens the stream channel, and dumps a muddy plume into the Potomac River. It is this plume the WSSC wants to avoid with the proposed mid-river intake.
Proposed alternatives involve massive engineering efforts like 96" intake conduits, tunneling or trenching in the riverbed, cofferdams, temporary access across, and dewatering of the C&O Canal. There are four alternatives, one of which is a "no action alternative". The other three are variations on a theme of tunneling out to the middle of the the river to draw water where it is cleaner and less likely to foul operations at the filtration plant. There is no alternative that considers decreasing sediment loads to the Watts Branch. Why not? For twenty years the County has conducted stream monitoring and we know that if our streams pollute the rivers, they also eventually pollute the Chesapeake Bay. Are we going to abandon Watts Branch altogether without even one alternative that looks at improving it? How long can we expect to have the cleaner, clearer water further into the river if we do not address the sources of pollution coming into rivers from our streams? Watts Branch, like all our County streams, deserves better. And if we really want to maintain a healthy water supply for the future, there is a limit to how far out we can put that straw. In 20 more years, where will we go for clean drinking water?PLANNING & ZONING:
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President - Ginny Barnes, 301-762-6423
Newsletter - Barbara Hoover
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