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Votes

Inconvenient Truths of the Potomac Subregion

Opinion

One inconvenient environmental truth: Notwithstanding what we thought would be effective state and county forest conservation statutes, the destruction of forest canopy continues unabated. The percentage of the county that is forested decreased from 45 percent in 1973, to 32 percent in 1986, to 28 percent in 2000. Rather than maintaining forest cover, the canopy has decreased and forests are more fragmented than when the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Statute was enacted.

Another inconvenient truth: Even though the Potomac Master Plan and Montgomery County’s Ten-Year Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan generally prohibit the extension of sewer into low-density, environmentally sensitive areas such as the Potomac subregion, unwarranted sewer extensions continue throughout the subregion. The results are dramatic and predictable — intense development on our most environmentally sensitive land, destruction of large stands of mature trees, increased pavement and stormwater runoff, and oversized developments out of character with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Yet another inconvenient truth: We all live downstream. The enormous King Farm, Fallsgrove, and Traville/Shady Grove developments are in the headwaters or along the network of streams that flow through the subregion. These developments have had huge impacts on traffic in the area as well as major impacts on water quality.

IN THE MONTHS ahead, the West Montgomery County Citizens Association will be working to address these and other evolving environmental truths, with special emphasis on the following:

* Forest Conservation Law: Vigorous enforcement of the existing requirements and enactment of the revisions necessary to make the law and regulations truly protective.

* Glen Hills Sewer Study: The study will provide vital information not only with regard to Glen Hills, but also the elements necessary to promote successful septic use in low-density areas.

* Green Infrastructure Master Plan: A much-needed Montgomery County initiative to protect the “other” infrastructure — the network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, and other natural areas that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, and sustain air and water resources.

* Stream health and water quality issues:  Efforts to address stormwater runoff, stream pollution, and the proposed WSSC Mid-River Intake.

Susanne Lee is the current President of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association.