Deformed eggs in yellow perch, a tasty game fish, signal an overdeveloped watershed according to the study summarized in this article from the Bay Daily. Mattawoman was included, and is sliding downhill. Charles County's draft Comprehensive Plan ignores such science, and bulldozes ahead with business worse than usual. Prepare to voice your concerns at an upcoming hearing on the plan at a date to be announced by elected officials.
The Latin name means yellowish, and these fish indeed are serving as a canary in the coal mine.
The article summarizes a comprehensive study of suburban watersheds at varying degrees of development. Abnormalities in the reproductive organs of adults, and in the eggs themselves, increased as the watershed became more developed.
It gets worse. Separate studies by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources find that when eggs manage to hatch, the larvae tend to go hungry in developed watersheds, as told by stomachs less full, and with less nutritious contents. Mattawoman is heading toward conditions universally experienced by developed watersheds that no longer resident breeding populations of perch.
Much is now known about the degradation inflicted on our waters by over-development, and especially sprawl development. Much is also know about the need for smart growth policies to correct the problems. Yet Charles County officials insist on continuing with a "development district" 30% larger than Washington D.C that is smothering the land that feeds Mattawoman.
A case can be made that it is not pollution killing the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, but politics. Hence people can make a difference by letting politicians know that smart growth policies should be adopted to enhance the quality of life, to produce more efficient and less costly delivery of services, and to protect our treasured natural heritage.