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Letter: Can’t Return To the Past

The freshwater marshes of Broad Creek directly across the River from Dyke Marsh.

The freshwater marshes of Broad Creek directly across the River from Dyke Marsh.

— In last week's Gazette, Martin Tillett expressed the desire to restore the Potomac River to its condition in the late 18th century during the life of George Washington. Of course, this is both impractical and impossible. The Potomac River is now known as one of our nation's most productive bass fisheries. Bass are a non-indigenous species that wasn't present in the Potomac River in 1800. Recently, non-indigenous snakehead fish were introduced into the river. Hydrilla is non-indigenous. I could go on and on.

The material removed from Dyke Marsh after 1937 was used to fill in other areas of the Potomac River to create Reagan National Airport and the Pentagon. Much of the area of Washington, D.C. near the river is filled land. What should we do about that?

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the population of the colonies was about 2,500,000, less than 1 percent of the U.S. population today. I gather Mr. Tillett doesn't want to unwind 236 years of history or tell 300,000,000 people to leave, nor can he document with any precision the characteristics of the Potomac River at the birth of our country. I note that an 1879 survey plat identifies only a single resident of the land that would later become Mr. Tillett's Spring Bank neighborhood. I was tempted to say that resident was a direct ancestor of Sam Walton (founder of Wal-Mart) but actually the name was "J. Regan."

The suggestion that we turn back the clock over 200 years is non-credible. As I earlier stated, the desire to preserve and perhaps restore some of the historic Dyke Marsh should not be motivated by the false contention that it is the only game in town. The accompanying photo (above) is of the freshwater marshes of Broad Creek directly across the River from Dyke Marsh. To be candid, Dyke Marsh is a favored target for restoration because it is part of a national park, thereby inviting the prospect of using federal tax revenues to fund the restoration. Unfortunately, the National Park Service has provided no firm estimate of the anticipated costs for each proposed restoration option. Until this occurs, no further action should be taken.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon