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Votes

Letter: Advocacy Vs. Facts

To the Editor:

The MVCCA's Environment & Recreation (E&R) Committee chairman is also Stratford Landing's representative to the E&R Committee. In the August 2012 edition of the Stratford Landing Citizens' Association (SLCA), she reported concerning the E&R Committee's resolution favoring the most extensive restoration option for Dyke Marsh proposed by the National Park Service (NPS). In her report, she stated that continuing erosion of Dyke Marsh "would mean loss of a tremendous amount of habitat for birds and fish and other wildlife as well as loss of recreational opportunities for boaters, kayakers, birdwatchers, fishermen and hunters."

Professional bass guide Steve Chaconas, a Stratford Landing resident, disagreed with these conclusions and his views were expressed in the October 2012 SLCA newsletter. He pointed out that hunting is not permitted in Dyke Marsh and that erosion actually provides more recreational opportunities for boaters, kayakers and fishermen. Concerning bird watchers, Steve agreed that loss of marshland would reduce marsh bird habitat but would likely lead to more eagles and ospreys taking up residence.

SLCA's president gave the E&R chairman the opportunity to rebut Mr. Chaconas' comments in the same newsletter. She stated that "the information presented in the report in the August newsletter is factual, and is based on a presentation to the E&R Committee by Brent Steury, Natural Resources Program Manager of the George Washington Parkway, and a U.S. Geological Survey report by Ronald Litwin and other scientists, entitled Analysis of the Deconstruction of Dyke Marsh, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia: Progression, Geologic and Manmade Causes, and Effective Restoration Scenarios" found at the following link:

http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2010/1269/pdf/ofr20101269.pdf

It is noteworthy to me that the E&R chairman is so stubborn that she refuses to concede anything she said was in error. I reviewed the U.S.G.S. report, all 92 pages of it. The first thing I noted is that one of its co-authors is Brent Steury. It would be extremely surprising if his oral presentation before an MVCCA Committee would depart in any material way from the carefully crafted comments in a 92-page report. The only comments in that lengthy report supporting the E&R chairman's comments are found on page iv ("The erosion is decreasing the acreage of the marsh surface and thus decreasing marsh habitat for state-listed species, migratory waterfowl, and predatory birds (bald eagle and peregrine falcon)."); and on pages 28 and 32 ("Included among the species which likely will be adversely affected by habitat fragmentation are the Red-wing Blackbird ... and Marsh Wren ...". (Latin descriptions omitted)).

Hunting is illegal in Dyke Marsh (as well as in other areas of the George Washington Memorial Parkway Park). As such, erosion of Dyke Marsh has no impact on the ability to hunt. Pure logic dictates that erosion of Dyke Marsh creates greater surface area of water in the Potomac River, thereby increasing recreational opportunities for boaters and kayakers. There is no one more expert on fishing habitats in the Potomac River than Steve Chaconas, who fishes on the Potomac River between the Wilson Bridge and Mount Vernon 150 days every year — I wouldn't argue with him concerning fishing habitats.

Moreover, the extreme restoration plan endorsed by the E&R Committee would actually eliminate a significant fish habitat now located in an area where that restoration proposal includes filling in the habitat. NPS's own expert confirmed this fact and went further, stating that filling in that fish habitat and, thereby, destroying it, would do nothing to enhance the future viability of Dyke Marsh.

The E&R Committee's resolution was also irresponsible, endorsing an extreme restoration proposal without any firm estimate from NPS as to the anticipated cost to taxpayers.

People who serve in a civic capacity in our community need to be more careful to refrain from disguising advocacy as facts.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon