Proposed road would destroy wetlands

The Baltimore Sun

Federal and state officials have scheduled a hearing on Charles County's proposal for a new highway that would require the destruction of 7 acres of wetlands around Mattawoman Creek.

The Army Corps of Engineers and Maryland Department of the Environment have scheduled the hearing for 7 p.m. July 31 in the auditorium of the Charles County Government Building, 200 Baltimore St. in La Plata.

The agencies will consider whether to allow Charles County to destroy wetlands to build a $60 million roadway called the Cross County Connector, a major east-west road that would replace 74 acres of forest with a strip of blacktop linking proposed subdivisions to the malls in Waldorf. More than 8,000 homes are planned for the area.

Before the state can approve the permit, the county must prove that runoff from the road won't violate water quality standards in Mattawoman Creek, which it would cross. The creek, a major breeding ground for yellow perch and other fish, has been identified by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as "the best, most productive tributary in the bay."

A preliminary report by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2003 found that the road and the subdivisions that would spring up around it are likely to increase water pollution in the creek by 50 percent, creating a "severe" impact on fish habitat.

But Charles County officials have argued that the roadway will not encourage the construction of more subdivisions, instead serving only new homes that would be built anyway. The county has targeted its northern section around the creek as a development zone, in part because of its proximity to Washington.

Comments can be sent to Judy Cole at the Maryland Department of the Environment, jcole; or to Steven Harman at the Army Corps of Engineers, cross.county.

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