During the scoping process for the sanctuary, there was strong support for a sanctuary larger than the original nomination. The original nomination is now called Alternative B in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement or "DEIS." (Alternative A is no sanctuary at all). NOAA has identified Alternative C as its "preferred alternative." This alternative is considerably larger than the original nomination, yet lacks any sub-estuaries. Alternative D adds many more opportunities for public access, education, tourism, and research.
Note: the proposed sanctuary encourages fishing. It applies no restrictions on commercial fishing, nor on fossil hunting.
Mallows-Potomac proposed National Marine Sanctuary
system of National Marine Sanctuaries presently comprises 13 sanctuaries and a
national monument ranging in size from one to thousands of square miles.
The sanctuaries are administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) in partnership with local, state, and nonprofit
The Mallows Bay-Potomac
River sanctuary is centered on the largest ship-wreck fleet in the western hemisphere, the "Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay." As a result of public comments during the scoping process completed in 2016, NOAA is presenting three alternative sizes for the sanctuary (B, C, and D, mapped above).
large number of groups and individuals have recommended a sanctuary like Alternative D because it would greatly enhance the sanctuary's goals
of promoting fishing, recreation, education, research, and tourism. The map below compares Alternative C (yellow dashed line) with Alternative D (blue dashed line). Included in "D" are the valued and calm sub-estuaries of Mattawoman Creek, Nanjemoy Creek, and the Port Tobacco River. These estuaries and the intervening section of the tidal Potomac River figure prominently in the Nationwide Rivers Inventory “judged to be of more than local or regional significance" by the National Park Service.
If designated, Alternative D would still be only the 4th smallest of all sanctuaries. But as outlined below, and detailed here, it would include many remarkable opportunities for tourism, research, education, and recreation.
Learn more from NOAA on the proposed Mallows-Potomac National Marine Sanctuary
Learn more from Maryland's Dept. of Natural Resources
Maritime and cultural heritage is also enhanced with verified Native American occupation sites, two likely landing locations of Captain John Smith, about 18 additional shipwreck sites dating to the 1700's, seven "lost fisheries" (including a caviar facility), two civil-war shore batteries, and the escape route of John Wilkes Booth.
-Expands the range of habitats and ecological regimes, including nearly the full wintering range of the endangered Shortnose Sturgeon.
Opportunities for education, tourism, recreation & benefits for town of Indian Head
-Adds access points to reliably safe and quiet waters in sub-estuaries for long-scheduled field trips.
Marine heritage & nature tourism
-Alternative D adds about 18 sites where ships are known to have sunk, dating back to the 1700's.
-Includes areas of operation of the 1st ‘aircraft carrier’ that launched spy balloons in the Civil War from a barge near Mattawoman Creek.
-Supports the revitalization of Indian Head through tourism, including a visitor center, which would also relieve rural Mallows Bay of crowding pressure.
-Water trails: more extensive use of the John Smith Trail; Potomac Heritage Trail; Star Spangled Banner Trail.
-Land trails: more extensive range for the Religious Freedom Byway and bicycle-touring route on Route 224. Adds the John Wilkes Booth land & water escape route.
-Adds extensive tidal-freshwater marshes. These include Mattawoman's ‘breadbasket marshes’ once employed by Native Americans and the only site on the western shore with a natural population of American Lotus.
-Adds many Native American archaeological sites along Mattawoman and Nanjemoy Creeks and Port Tobacco River and five additional towns mapped by Capt. John Smith.
-Adds three state parks, a county park, a town park, Mattawoman Wildands, and three Wildlife Management Areas connecting to water.
-Adds sites of historical fisheries, including the Shad and River Herring at Chapman Point (Chapman State Park) and a caviar fishery at Glymont.
Research (see also right-hand column)
-Adds baseline fisheries research, esp. for Mattawoman and in the Potomac via seine surveys.
-Adds year-round tidal freshwater where many migratory marine fish species spawn.
-Hotspot for spawning by striped bass and other migratory-fish.
-Ideal sentinel site (see column to right).
An ideal Sentinel Site
From the NOAA website:
“National marine sanctuaries are where monitoring and research take place to enhance our understanding of natural and historical resources and how they are changing… In that sense they are what we call 'sentinel sites' and are focal points for both the scientific and resource management communities.”
Alternative D would enhance the sanctuary’s value as a sentinel research site because it would then include much more brackish "mesohaline" water, and would add year-round tidal freshwater (see map above). This transition is ecologically rich, esp. the globally uncommon tidal freshwater. Here striped
bass produce the 2nd
highest number of eggs in the Chesapeake Bay, of national significance considering the Bay produces up to 90% of the Atlantic Ocean's striped bass.
Other important marine species like Alewife Herring also spawn here (map to right), and the federally endangered shortnose sturgeon has been detected near Mattawoman Creek & Chapman State Park.
The sanctuary would be uniquely
suited to monitor ecosystem response to shifts in brackish boundaries and marsh
flooding expected with sea-level rise. See darker blue areas in map below copied from the MERLIN mapping app.