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Votes

Room for Many Views

From the shore of Little Hunting Creek, showing acres of tidal wetlands.

From the shore of Little Hunting Creek, showing acres of tidal wetlands.

To the Editor:

My letter in the May 10 Gazette expressed my strong support for a plan, proposed by the National Park Service (NPS), to restore 30 acres of Dyke Marsh, including construction of a promontory wall to dissipate forces generated by tidal surges. I went a step further, advocating additional filling of a few more acres north of the wall to assure that the goal of dissipating those forces will be achieved. I also expressed my opposition to other NPS proposals that would include filling 130 or 180 acres of the Potomac River, respectively, because those proposals would destroy a year-round habitat for fish and result in the closure of Belle Haven Marina.

Apparently, my reasonable, balanced approach to this important issue has not convinced the president of the Friends of Dyke Marsh (FODM). At its quarterly meeting on May 16, 2012, an attendee requested a comment from FODM President Glenda Booth concerning my letter. Ms. Booth replied, describing me as a "chronic letter writer" and stating that "I don't know where he gets his science from." I probably "get my science" from the same sources used by FODM. The difference is that I don't exaggerate or misrepresent the science to further a political agenda. Ms. Booth has written over 60 columns for a local internet publication and this is besides her letters and columns in the Gazette and her lobbying of County officials behind the scenes seeking support for her agenda. If I and others didn't write letters expressing the point of view of a significant segment of our community, Ms. Booth and her fellow activists would have the field to themselves.

In last week's Gazette, my letter described a community epidemic in which individual civic activists claim they are expressing the views of an organization when this is in fact not the case. This epidemic has another dimension: organizations and their representatives that exaggerate or misrepresent the condition of our natural resources to serve a political agenda. This phenomenon is discussed in the May 20, 2012 Washington Post in a column by Robert McCartney in which he criticized American Rivers for describing the Potomac River as "America's #1 Most Endangered River." According to Mr. McCartney, The Potomac River has never appeared on American Rivers' endangered rivers list since 1986 and was only named #1 to serve the political purpose of marshalling opposition to efforts in Congress to water down the Clean Water Act on its 40th anniversary. Quoting Mr. McCartney, "Just because you're promoting a worthy cause doesn't justify distorting the truth."

Unfortunately, FODM is guilty of this practice. Last week, the Planning Commission held a public hearing concerning the proposal of Westgrove PACK to establish an off-leash dog area (OLDA) at Westgrove Park. Edward Stone testified on behalf of FODM and in opposing the proposed OLDA asserted that Dyke Marsh is the only remaining tidal wetland in our area. This testimony was clearly intended to convince the PC to oppose the OLDA given Westgrove Park's location upland of (but not adjacent to) Dyke Marsh. While Dyke Marsh includes important tidal wetlands worthy of preservation, they are far from the only ones in our area. The Potomac River and its tributaries have hundreds upon hundreds of acres of tidal wetlands which are defined in Section 28.2-1302 of the Virginia Code as "lands lying between and contiguous to mean low water and an elevation above mean low water equal to the factor one and one-half times the mean tide range at the site of the proposed project." This definition also defines the jurisdiction of the County Wetlands Board of which Ms. Booth is the chairman. As such, she and FODM know better. A visit to the website at http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/Data/Google-Earth.html allows one to locate the plentiful tidal wetlands in our area. The photo accompanying this letter was taken from my dock on the shore of Little Hunting Creek and shows acres of tidal wetlands.

I know it doesn't serve FODM's political agenda, but Katie Conaway of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently stated that the draft DEQ report indicates that Little Hunting Creek and Dogue Creek, which were listed as impaired in 2010 for presence of E. Coli bacteria will both be delisted in 2012 given their water quality improvement.

Having lived on Little Hunting Creek for over 15 years, I can say that I have never before seen such an abundance of wildlife as is the case this year, including plentiful fish, birds (including numerous raptors), foxes, turtles and snakes. Last week, I observed John Odenkirk of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries travelling up the Creek in his shock boat, introducing electric current into the water to bring fish to the surface in the effort to capture snakehead fish. I was astounded at the number of fish I observed.

Obviously, things are looking up in the Potomac River and its tributaries, but you haven't heard that from FODM. After all, it doesn't serve the political agenda of closing Belle Haven Marina, filling 180 acres of the Potomac River at taxpayer expense and preventing the citizenry from enjoying the best management practice of an OLDA at Westgrove Park.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon