WMCCA: Help Protect C&O Canal National Park

WMCCA: Help Protect C&O Canal National Park

The Potomac Subregion is fortunate to have one of our borders be a National Park along a great river. The same river supplies drinking water to over 4 million people in the Washington metropolitan area. The WSSC water filtration plant on River Road collects water entering the river from the Watts Branch stream. Because Watts Branch collects and carries excessive stormwater runoff, a midriver intake is being proposed that will severely impact the National Historic Park (NHP) and the river itself.

WMCCA has opposed the new intake in favor of cleaning up the Watts Branch. Stabilizing flowing water is crucial to maintenance of the towpath and canal as well.

Recently, a contract was awarded to repair and stabilize a variety of historic structures along the Montgomery County section of the canal in order to preserve the towpath and canal for current and future visitors. It includes Swains Lock (MP 16.9 Breach), Great Falls Tavern (Level #20 and Lock #19), Olmsted Island (Lock #18 and Lock #17), Carderock (Culvert #15), Lock #10 (Rock Run Culvert), and Level #7. During construction, visitors will be directed to follow local detours around the work areas. Beginning this winter, the work will be completed in the Spring of 2019. Portions of the repairs will be conducted intermittently to minimize the number of detours.

How will this affect local users of the NHP? You may have noticed removal of hazardous, dead or diseased trees is underway throughout the park and that the canal is dewatered in places we are not used to seeing. The C&O Canal NHP is a treasure we as a community need to help preserve and protect. Keeping up with changes, needs, and impacts to the park helps our community be a vital part of one of the most diverse and frequently visited parks in the National Park system.


(Illegal Uses/Activities & Occupancy Limits)

By Barbara Hoover

At our December General meeting we learned zoning compliance in Montgomery County is "complaint driven," so it takes vigilant neighbors to bring concerns to the attention of authorities. These include improper uses/activities in residential, business, and other zones and violations of building restrictions such as setbacks, lot coverage, and height limits. The Department of Permitting Services (DPS) will investigate alleged zoning violations involving such topics as home occupations, commercial vehicles on residential properties, illegal signs, and Special Exceptions.

If you are concerned about possible zoning violations, there are two ways to file a complaint:

  • By telephone - Call 311 in Montgomery County; Outside of Montgomery County, call 240-777-0311. Your complaint may require multiple departments to investigate and MC 311 is equipped to coordinate the investigation.
  • On line at the DPS website: https://permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov/DPS/Home.aspx

Go to the bottom of the page and click on “Submit an Online Complaint”.


By Ken Bawer

The full County Council is expected to vote on a proposed updated Water and Sewer Plan (https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/water/supply/county-water-plan.html#2017draft) as soon as January, 2018. The Water and Sewer Plan guides waste treatment and drinking water service for rural, suburban, and urban areas of Montgomery County. At stake: our ability to support the Agricultural Reserve and its adjoining low-density areas which protect our drinking water.

Representatives from WMCCA, Conservation Montgomery, and Montgomery Countryside Alliance have been meeting with County Council staff and councilmembers to build support for changing the draft Water & Sewer Plan to limit sewer line extensions into low density and rural areas of the county — this includes the Agriculture Reserve and WMCCA neighborhoods. Unfortunately, sewer line extensions will become easier to approve with language in the draft plan. This would threaten drinking water for 4.3 million Washington, D.C. area residents. Once sewer service is available, water quality and the environment inevitably degrade due to rezoning, higher density development, increased impervious surfaces, and increased stormwater runoff resulting in increased sediment and contaminants in streams.

We are also engaged in a vigorous effort to educate about the enormous downsides of the sewer lines themselves. Not only does their astronomically expensive construction often entail destruction of habitats in our environmentally sensitive stream valley parks, WSSC sewer lines have spilled about 2 million gallons of raw sewage in 2015 and another 2 million gallons in 2016. And the situation dramatically deteriorated this past year: more than 5 million gallons of raw sewage were spilled in 2017. (https://www.wsscwater.com/customer-service/emergency-sewerwater-problems/sanitary-sewer-overflow-reports.html)

While WMCCA, as an organization, is working hard to stop unwarranted sewer extensions, individuals can also help. Please send a short note to the County Council at County.council@montgomerycountymd.gov with a message such as the following and please copy WMCCA at kbawer@msn.com:

“Do not allow the County’s Water and Sewer Plan to sprawl sewer lines into our long protected low density and rural areas. I am outraged that WSSC spilled more than 5 million gallons of raw sewage into streams in 2017 and more that 4 thousand gallons in the last 3 years into Muddy Branch and Watts Branch where my friends, neighbors, and children walk and play.”