West Montgomery County Citizens Association January 2021 Newsletter

West Montgomery County Citizens Association January 2021 Newsletter

Fallsreach Restoration Project. A basketball court built in the floodplain was protected by armor-plating the stream bank. Note the total removal of plants and the newly engineered stream channel.

Fallsreach Restoration Project. A basketball court built in the floodplain was protected by armor-plating the stream bank. Note the total removal of plants and the newly engineered stream channel. Photo by Ken Bawer


The $2.6M Fallsreach Stormwater Pond Upgrade and Stream Restoration Project, Department of Environmental Protection, Montgomery County. The entire Fallsreach stream, a tributary of Watts Branch (west of I-270) is running through the black pipe seen here.


Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. via ZOOM


or call in with 301-715-8592 (Meeting ID = 862 9004 2077, Passcode: 004225)

No advance registration required.

A recording of this meeting will be available on our website: www.WMCCA.org

SPEAKER: Dr. Andrew Lazur, Statewide Water Quality Specialist with the University of Maryland Extension

Join us for a discussion on septic systems, wells, and their stewardship. Dr. Andrew Lazur is a Statewide Water Quality Specialist with the University of Maryland Extension focusing on private wells, drinking water quality, and septic system education. He has been involved in the aquatic science field for over 35 years having worked in aquaculture, conservation of aquatic species, pond management, and water quality management. His passion is to help others learn about water quality and increase adoption of practices that are beneficial to environmental and public health.

Are “Stream Restorations” Damaging to Our Streams?

submitted by President Ken Bawer

“To date, the County has completed stream restoration projects, restoring almost 30,000 linear feet of stream…” per the latest report on meeting our MS4 Permit. The inconvenient truth is that in some cases these projects may convert our natural stream valleys into engineered stormwater conveyances without addressing the root cause of the problem – stormwater fire-hosing into streams from developed areas — impervious surfaces such as roofs, roads, sidewalks, driveways, etc. They address the symptoms (stream bank erosion), but not the cause in an effort to check the MS4 Permit box.

Every year, the County spends millions of taxpayer dollars on so-called “stream restoration” projects. First and foremost, the term “stream restoration” is a misnomer since some of these projects may not actually restore streams. See examples of destructive “stream restoration” projects here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zi7SAvswCh4vNakRtS74vf-bsdiTGsyt/view?usp=sharing

A “stream restoration”, as defined by Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for MS4 Permits, may include stormwater management engineering practices that use heavy equipment such as bulldozers and backhoes to modify a stream channel. Typically, this involves placing heavy boulders from outside sources to armor-plate sections of the stream bank, changing a stream’s natural meander pattern based on theoretical mathematical formulas, cutting down stream banks, and raising the level of stream channels with fill material brought from off-site. This sometimes means removing tons of stream bank soil along with all the plants and animals residing on and in it. To provide access for the heavy equipment, hundreds or thousands of trees are cut down to build access roads, and then many more trees are cut down during the construction project itself. To add insult to injury, the County and Parks asked that their “stream restoration” projects be exempted from our forest conservation laws which further enables wholesale tree cutting during these projects. (Note: infrastructure protection projects such as protecting or repairing sewer lines in stream valleys are not “stream restorations” – they are proper and necessary.)

So, why are such “stream restoration” projects done? They are typically used to help meet the requirements of the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit (required under the federal Clean Water Act and issued by MDE) which requires that the County decrease certain pollutants (nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended sediments) entering the Chesapeake Bay. However, while sediment caused by stream bank erosion may be reduced by these projects which armor-plate sections of streams, research by Robert Hilderbrand has shown that, “Despite the promise and allure of repairing damaged streams, there is little evidence for ecological uplift after a stream’s geomorphic attributes have been repaired.” https://cbtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/Hilderbrand-et-al_Quantifying-the-Ecological-Uplift.pdf

In other words, while armor-plating streams with boulders may temporarily decrease erosion (since future storms can blow out these structures), the biological health of the area is not improved. In fact, the devastating biological impact of excavations by bulldozers and backhoes in our stream valleys is obvious to even the most casual observer.

Having said all that, the WMCCA has representatives on the Montgomery Stormwater Partners Network Stream Restoration Workgroup in an effort to educate ourselves and reach a consensus position on these stream projects. We remain willing to be convinced that these types of "stream restorations" are good for the environment. Until such time when it can be demonstrated that such “stream restorations” are beneficial to the local environment, we ask that the County and Parks obtain their MS4 Permit credits from alternative, upland (out of stream valley) projects and non-destructive practices such as tree plantings and conservation landscaping.

What can you do? On your own property, create rain gardens and replace turf grass with conservation landscaping to decrease stormwater runoff. Don’t pipe your roof runoff to the street. See other ideas at: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/water/rainscapes/index.html. Above all, contact our elected officials and ask that emphasis be placed on alternative practices such as upland (out of stream valley) stormwater control, tree plantings, and conservation landscaping, for example.

RainScapes can be installed on any kind of property, but those on private residential, institutional, and/ or commercial properties may be eligible for financial assistance: RainScapes Rewards Rebates https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/water/rainscapes/rebates.html. The RainScapes program also offers technical and financial assistance to encourage property owners to implement RainScapes techniques on their property. https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/water/rainscapes/index.html

Beltway Expansion Project

submitted by Carol Van Dam Falk

The Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) and other independent analyses have shown that Governor Hogan’s Beltway expansion project would hurt local ratepayers and Maryland taxpayers, and would be especially devastating for local residents. In March, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) estimated the cost would be $2 billion to move water and sewer pipes to make way for the project; that’s more than double the original estimate from MDOT. The state has consistently refused to acknowledge who will cover the cost. WSSC fears it may have to raise ratepayers’ water bills. Despite Governor Hogan’s claims that the proposal will cost Maryland taxpayers nothing, the DEIS admits that upwards of $1 billion in state subsidies might be needed to complete the project (Washington Post).

Local communities will pay the biggest price for the Beltway project. The DEIS acknowledges that 1,500 properties will be negatively impacted, and up to 34 homes will have to be bulldozed completely. The project will disproportionately impact local communities, particularly low-income communities and communities of color, all of whom will be forced to cope with increased noise and air pollution and increased risk of flooding and water pollution. The proposal would also negatively impact dozens of community resources including schools, parks, and hospitals, not to mention the numerous environmental concerns.

County Council Hearing on Sewer Category Change Requests

submitted by Susanne Lee

A public hearing will be held on Jan. 12, 2021 at 1:30 pm regarding five sewer category change requests for properties located in the Potomac Subregion. They are located at 10400 Boswell Lane, 10401 Boswell Lane, the 12000 block of Piney Meeting House Rd, 9701 Watts Branch Drive, and 13517 Glen Mill Road. The County Executive has recommended approval of the request for 10400 Boswell Lane and disapproval of the remaining requests. It appears that his recommendations are consistent with the law and policy governing sewer use contained in the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, the County Water and Sewer Plan including the Piney Branch limited access policy, and the Maryland Smart Growth statutes. WMCCA plans to testify at the hearing in support of the County Executive’s recommendations. The package describing these requests can be found here: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/Resources/Files/agenda/col/2020/20201208/20201208_2Q.pdf

Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 20-08

Continuing Care Retirement Community

submitted by Susanne Lee

The Planning Board’s crazy proposal to use a redefinition of Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) to allow and promote construction of duplexes and triplexes in the County’s remaining low-density zones has arrived at the County Council. A Council public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2021 at 1:30 pm. WMCCA supports efforts to address senior housing needs documented in Montgomery Planning’s recent study where affordability and aging in place were major themes. Our area had already been inundated with facilities, with more on the way, even before the pandemic raised serious issues regarding reliance on congregate living settings for housing seniors. This developer-driven proposal would turn the State law-based definition of a CCRC on its head and appears to be targeted at allowing developments such as Heritage Gardens on South Glen Road – a townhouse development (units starting at $1.25 million) in a single-family RE-2 (2 acre) zone.

WMCCA is working with the Greater South Glen Neighborhood Association to oppose the ZTA, including testifying in opposition at the upcoming hearing. Information regarding the ZTA appears here:



Please renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Go to our website www.wmcca.org to download a membership form or join using PayPal: Individual: $25 / Family: $50. We welcome donations to our Legal Fund. While we try mightily to get good results without litigation, sometimes it is unavoidable and highly effective. Contributions from members enabled us to join efforts to successfully fight the Brickyard Road soccerplex, the Old Anglers Inn event complex, and the Heritage Gardens townhouse development on South Glen Road. If you have any issues or concerns in your neighborhood, please contact WMCCA.

Website Assistance Needed

by Peter Poggi

WMCCA is looking for someone to help modernize our website.

While the current www.wmcca.org website has served us well since 2003, it is built upon an outdated Microsoft Frontpage 2003 platform, written entirely in HTML using frames, and reliant upon one individual. Our objectives are twofold. First and foremost, we need to have a trained backup who will share responsibility for maintaining the current site alongside our current website administrator. Once familiarized with the site, this responsibility will require a minimal time commitment of less than 30 minutes monthly. Our second goal is to identify and begin transforming the site to a more maintainable, template driven platform. This will require gaining an understanding of the existing website structure and working closely with the WMCCA Board and website administrator to come up with a suitable design.

Interested candidates should have a background in current website design/development methods, and a familiarity with available hosting options. Please contact Peter Poggi, peter.poggi@yahoo.com.