Years of development have taken their toll on the Cabin John Creek. “The problems really started in colonial days,” said Chuck Weinkamp an environmental scientist attesting the county in the watershed restoration project. “Our streams have gone up and down over the last 300 years.”
Three-hundred years ago, colonists began clearing forests to make room for farms. Those cleared lands have now become suburban housing developments, which have been creating more problems for the stream. “Imperviousness and runoff are the biggest problem,” Weinkamp said.
In response, Montgomery County has begun to study the different watersheds which run through it. The study of the Cabin John creek is now complete. “It provided information on how to start to restore watersheds that have degraded the most,” said Craig Carson, watershed planner with the County’s Department of Environmental Protection.
The study was taken in two different directions, stream restoration and stormwater mitigation.
The study analyzed 22 stormwater management ponds in the watershed and found that six were worth carrying through to a preliminary design. Of those six, only two were found to be worth bringing forward based on the costs associated, “Are we going to get the benefit for the cost?” said John Hollister of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. One other is being recommended for further study.
One of the two is in Potomac’s Fox Hills Subdivision, behind Willow Run Court. There is already a stormwater management pond there, and Hollister said the county can improve its performance in a cost-effective manner. However, they must first be granted the necessary easements from residents. “It’s their pond, and we have to work with the neighbors,” Hollister said.
The other recommended for mitigation is in the Washington Science Center, near Montrose Road and the Rockville Pike. The pond recommended for further study is near Executive Boulevard, near the Rockville Pike.
STREAM RESTORATION will be another focus. Sixteen tributaries of the Cabin John Creek have been identified for a variety of restoration techniques.
Depending on which part of which stream is being restored, the County may choose to add structures, such as stone to the stream to help slow the flow or placed along the sides to stabilize the banks. They may attempt to smooth out the stream’s banks so that the water can reach the floodplain and they might plant vegetation which will help keep the soil together, or they might try to improve fish passages.
In this, they hope to stabilize the stream and improve the conditions both in and along the water.
The first restoration project will take place along a stretch of Booze Creek. The County has received a state grant, which Carson estimated to be from $150,000-$200,000, about half the estimated cost.
Bids for the project will go out in a few months, but the planning of such a project can takes 18 months, so no work is likely to start before the spring or summer of 2006.