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Title: The Nation's River
       The Department of the Interior Official Report on the Potomac

Author: United States Department of the Interior

Commentator: Stewart L. Udall, Kenneth Holum and James J. O'Donnell

Release Date: February 2, 2007 [EBook #20503]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

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    THE NATION'S RIVER


    A report on the Potomac from the U.S. Department of the Interior,
    with recommendations for action by the Federal Interdepartmental
    Task Force on the Potomac.




LETTERS OF TRANSMITTAL

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240

  October 1, 1968

  Dear Mr. President

The enclosed report, _The Nation's River_, is submitted in response to
your February 8, 1965, request that we prepare a program for your
consideration which would assure that the Potomac would serve as a model
of scenic and recreation values for the entire country.

This is the final report of your Potomac planning team. In my opinion,
the study contributes significantly to a more complete understanding of
both the opportunities and the problems of this magnificent river. The
proposed program of action, when implemented, will move the area a long
step forward toward the challenging goals identified in your directive.

Your call for a broadly based conservation plan for the Potomac has
stimulated a wide range of useful actions by citizens' groups and by the
Federal, State and local governments during the course of our studies.
While these are too numerous to recite, the participation and
involvement of citizens in decisions affecting the future of the Basin
are most promising and deserve recognition and encouragement.

Our recommendations for action cover three broad aspects:

... those related to present and future water resource problems in the
Basin; ... those related to the protection and restoration of the
Basin's scenic and natural assets; ... those to ensure that future
planning and action will proceed in a wise and coordinated manner.

I call particular attention to the following recommendations:

... to protect the mainstem Potomac River and its banks from Washington
to Cumberland, Maryland, and to make it accessible to the public, the
report calls for prompt legislative authorization, funding and
establishment of a Potomac National River consisting of Federal, State
and local components. The proposed legislation to establish the Potomac
National River which you sent to the Congress on March 6, 1968, and
which was introduced as S. 3157, is based on the new and exciting
concept that the urgent objectives of Potomac River conservation can and
should be accomplished through cooperative action by all levels of
government;

... to achieve the water-quality goals established as State standards,
the report recommends coordination of Federal, State and local powers to
achieve the waste treatment measures required, within five years, and
effective action toward meeting similar requirements in handling wastes
at all Federal establishments in the Basin. It calls, also, for
immediate reconvening of the 1957 Enforcement Conference on the Potomac
to focus attention on the timetables for controlling pollution in the
estuary;

... to provide a measure of drought insurance, the report calls for
early completion of Bloomington Dam and Reservoir;

... to meet growing needs for municipal and industrial water to achieve
anticipated economic growth in upstream areas, the report identified six
reservoirs which are consistent with other aspects of the report. The
river management afforded by operation of the reservoirs could also meet
the water supply needs of the Washington metropolitan area for at least
20 years. The report urges continuing research and study of alternative
sources for the metropolitan area supply, including use of the upper
estuary to meet critical short-term demands;

... to assure continuity of comprehensive planning and management, the
report recognizes the need to mobilize the skills and authorities of
all levels of government and support therefore by alert and informed
citizens and citizen groups. The Governors of the Basin States and the
District of Columbia have proposed a Federal-Interstate Compact for the
Potomac and arranged to have a draft prepared by the Potomac River Basin
Advisory Committee. The Water Resources Council will continue to work
with the States in this effort--anticipating that proposals will emerge
which merit both State and Federal support.

Your assignment, Mr. President, has been exciting and challenging. We
hope that our effort has contributed to achieving your dreams for this
magnificent valley.

  Respectfully yours,

  [signature]

  Secretary of the Interior

  The President
  The White House
  Washington, D.C.

  Enclosure


  UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
  OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
  WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240

  October 1, 1968

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Since early February 1965, when President Johnson asked you to develop a
program which would make the Potomac "a model of scenic and recreation
values", there has been a continuing joint effort to achieve this
exciting objective.

The Interdepartmental Task Force, which you and your fellow Cabinet
officers established, has coordinated the Federal effort. When the four
Basin State Governors and the Commissioner of the District of Columbia
acted to establish the Potomac River Basin Advisory Committee, we had a
genuine opportunity to achieve useful and effective Federal-State
cooperative relationships. As you know, our two groups have worked
together in a cordial and productive way.

We have listened carefully to the views of individual citizens and
citizen groups in a real effort to sense the needs and aspirations of
the people who live in the valley and the millions who visit our
Nation's Capital and the historic and beautiful Potomac valley.
Publication of an Interim Report two years ago proved to be a useful
means for obtaining citizen participation.

This report summarizes a series of studies made in response to the
President's directive. Although it is our final report, we urge that it
be looked upon as the next step in a continuing planning process. It
points to action to meet present and near-term needs and to the
desirability of continued planning to provide sound bases for the
further resource-use decisions which citizens of the Basin will be
called upon to make as those decisions become more timely.

The body of the report is a Department of the Interior document, couched
whenever possible in nontechnical language in the hope that it may find
a wide lay readership. The program for action, which constitutes the
final chapter, is concurred in by the Federal agencies on the
Interdepartmental Task Force. Comments of the Potomac River Basin
Advisory Committee are set forth in the attached letter from its
Chairman, Mr. James J. O'Donnell. Responsibility for leadership in
proceeding with the proposed actions is identified, as appropriate, to
specific Federal agencies, States or local governmental entities.

Other reports have been or will be issued which form integral parts of
this endeavor. These include the following:

     _Potomac Interim Report to the President_--January 1966 ... _The
     Creek and The City_--Urban Pressures on a Natural Stream--Rock
     Creek Park and Metropolitan Washington--January 1967 ... _The
     Potomac_--The Report of the Potomac Planning Task Force--Assembled
     by the American Institute of Architects--September 1967 ... _Report
     of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army Corps of Engineers,
     Potomac River Basin, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia,
     Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia_ (This report, now in
     the process of official review, will provide a basis for action on
     water supply and related matters.)

In addition to the published documents, each of the four Sub-Task Forces
established by the Interdepartmental Task Force prepared reports which
constituted invaluable working documents on several aspects of Potomac
Basin planning. These include the following:

     _Report of the Water Supply and Flood Control Sub-Task Force_ ...
     _Report of the Water Quality Sub-Task Force_ ... _Report of the
     Sedimentation and Erosion Sub-Task Force_ ... _Report of the
     Recreation and Landscape Sub-Task Force_.

Copies of these working documents will be distributed to concerned
local, State and Federal agencies and will be on file in those offices.

You will note particularly that the attached report emphasizes the
urgent need for a continuing and broadly based planning effort. If we
are to fully achieve the objective of making the Potomac a model, and we
must, resource planning and management must mobilize the authorities and
the skills of the Federal Government, the States, the local
jurisdictions and the citizens. I am convinced that the Potomac Basin
needs:

     ... an alert, active, basinwide citizen organization with the
     perspective to see the area's total needs and the determination to
     make certain that action is taken to meet those requirements;

... a formally established relationship between the various levels of
government to continue comprehensive planning--and to make certain that
action at all levels is consistent with the established objectives.

  Sincerely yours,

  [signature]

  Kenneth Holum
  Assistant Secretary

  Honorable Stewart L. Udall, Secretary
  Department of the Interior
  Washington, D.C. 20240

  Enclosure




  POTOMAC RIVER BASIN ADVISORY COMMITTEE
  1025 VERMONT AVENUE, N.W.,
  WASHINGTON, D.C. 20005

  MARYLAND
  PENNSYLVANIA
  VIRGINIA
  WEST VIRGINIA
  DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

  September 15, 1968

Dear Mr. Holum,

The Potomac River Basin Advisory Committee was pleased to have the
opportunity to review the recommendations compiled by the Federal
Interdepartmental Task Force for inclusion in the forthcoming Report to
the President. These recommendations represent the culmination of
intensive studies in the areas of water supply and flood control, water
quality, sedimentation and erosion, and landscape and recreation. As
such, they are of the utmost significance to the people of the Potomac
River Basin.

We note in particular that the recommendations

     (a) Highlight today's most pressing problems and propose feasible
     solutions;

     (b) Recognize the interrelationship of the separate needs of the
     urban and rural areas of the Basin, and propose action by federal,
     state and local governments;

     (c) Specifically consider the economic growth of the Basin in
     relation to water resources development; and

     (d) Emphasize the need for an intergovernmental organization, along
     the lines of the proposed Potomac River Basin Compact, which would
     have continuing responsibilities for the planning and development
     of the Potomac River Basin.

During the past two years the Advisory Committee has focused attention
on preparation of a draft of a proposed interstate-federal compact which
has been submitted to the governments and the people within the Potomac
River Basin for comment. We believe that an interstate-federal agency
for the planning, development and management of the Potomac, envisaged
by the Compact, offers by far the most promising opportunity for the
people of the Basin to guide the water resources development of the
Potomac, and for the implementation of many of the Report's
recommendations.

The Advisory Committee wishes to commend the Federal Interdepartmental
Task Force for the constructive and imaginative manner in which this
difficult assignment has been carried out. The Committee wishes also to
thank you for the opportunity of being associated with the work of the
Task Force through our state observers.

As representatives of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
and the District of Columbia, we shall recommend that our heads of
government, the legislatures, and the state and local agencies accord
the most careful consideration to this report.

  Sincerely yours,

  [signature]

  James J. O'Donnell, Chairman
  Potomac River Basin Advisory Committee

  Honorable Kenneth Holum
  Assistant Secretary
  Department of the Interior
  Washington, D.C. 20240

[Illustration]




CONTENTS


  THE RIVER IN TIME                                                    8
  I THE WAY THINGS ARE                                                15
  II TOWARD A MORE USEFUL RIVER                                       23
  III THE CLEANSING OF THE WATERS                                     39
  IV A GOOD PLACE TO BE                                               65
  V COMPLEXITIES AND PRIORITIES                                       93
  VI THE NATION'S RIVER--AN ACTION PLAN                              105

+----------------------------------------------------------------------+
|Transcriber's note: Obvious printer errors have been corrected. All   |
|other inconstencies in spelling or punctuation are as in the original.|
+----------------------------------------------------------------------+




THE RIVER IN TIME


_Time, abetted by man and nature, has changed the face of the Nation's
River. Nature's rains, snows, ice and floods continually carve the
shores. Man, also, changes the Potomac through man-made fills, walls,
docks, bridges and piers. The arbitrary changes by man and nature have
reached the point where careful planning and consideration must be given
to the river's future in order to preserve its majestic beauty as The
Nation's River._

[Illustration]

[Illustration: 1830]

[Illustration: 1800]

[Illustration: 1872]

[Illustration: 1936 Flood scene]

[Illustration: Civil War Chain Bridge]

[Illustration: Early 1900--canoeists near Seneca, Md.]

[Illustration: 1917 Washington Waterfront]

[Illustration: Washington Waterfront today]

[Illustration: POTOMAC RIVER BASIN]




[Illustration]

I THE WAY THINGS ARE


With good reason, people sometimes claim that the Potomac has been
studied more often and more thoroughly than any other American stream.
Its intimacy with the national capital at Washington and with great
figures and events of our history have centered much American interest
on it. In many ways it is a classic Eastern river, copious and scenic,
that drains some 15,000 square miles of varied, historic, and often
striking landscape, from the green mountains along the Allegheny Front
to the sultry lowlands of the estuary's shores where the earliest
plantations were established among the Indian tribes. It has tributaries
large and small whose names echo with connotations for American
ears--the Shenandoah, the Monocacy, the Saint Mary's, Antietam Creek,
Bull Run....

And it has long been the subject for debate and discussion over how it
may best be handled to serve man's ends, for in common with other rivers
in civilized regions it has developed problems of pollution, of
landscape destruction, of occasional floods, of impending shortages of
water for its basin's increasing population. Out of the debates have
emerged studies and plans, some fragmentary and some whole, some
specialized and some general. This present report concerns the latest
study, made under the leadership of Secretary of the Interior Stewart L.
Udall according to a directive given him by President Johnson in 1965.
The report is "final" only in that it sums up this study. It is by no
means final in terms of the Potomac, for it points toward future action
and continuing study and planning, and an important part of its function
will be to show why a degree of inconclusiveness in such matters is
necessary and desirable.

Within a remarkably few years after Captain John Smith sailed up the
Potomac estuary in 1608 to assess its treasures and to make the
acquaintance of the Algonquian tribesmen whose villages flourished on
either shore, other vigorous white men came there to stay, on both the
Maryland and Virginia sides. In the century that followed they raced and
leapfrogged one another upriver, elbowing the Indians out, and with the
aid of indentured labor and later of African slaves they helped to shape
the Tidewater tobacco civilization that engendered so many future
leaders of the American republic. Near the head of navigation, shipping
centers grew up--among them Alexandria and Georgetown, forerunners of
the metropolis that bestrides the river at the Fall Line today. Above
there in the upper Piedmont, and then across the Blue Ridge in the Great
Valley, the westering waves of migrant English met other waves of
Scotch-Irish and the Germans coming down from Pennsylvania, and before
the American Revolution the combined breeds of men had built up enough
pressure to push Indians almost entirely out of the Potomac Basin and to
occupy all the good farmland, even in the Basin's ridged western areas.

Since then their successors have used the land for farming and for other
purposes. In using it they have changed it, and the changes have
registered in the river system that drains it. For land, water,
vegetation, wildlife, minerals, and men's habits are not separable from
one another in the natural frame. So that if the early planters, using
methods of hoe tillage scarcely less primitive than those of the
Indians, mined the Tidewater soils for tobacco production in a way that
required new fields every few years, one result was that those soils
tired and thinned and finally stopped supporting the social magnificence
that had grown up there, for production and prosperity moved inland and
west. And another result was that the Potomac estuary itself grew
shallower and different with the silt that washed down off the land, and
many a tributary bay that once served as harbor for oceangoing ships is
now a rich, reedy marsh with a single narrow gut of shoal water
wandering down across it to the Potomac.

And if later generations of men cut down the forests on the mountains in
the western Basin, and fire followed the cutting, thousands of years of
soil washed down from those slopes too to change both mountains and
river, and elk and panther vanished. And if along the Potomac's North
Branch there was once a fine coal boom, there is now the boom's legacy
in the form of gray dour towns and dark sad streams corrosive with mine
acids.

And if old Alexandria and Georgetown and all the land around them have
burgeoned into one of the nation's great cities, there has been a price
to pay for that also. The stately upper estuary on which they front is
often turbid with silt and sometimes emerald green with algae nourished
on sewage and other septic riches, and the hills stretching back from
the river are spiky with tall buildings linked by urban and suburban
clutter, where life lacks the natural elbow room that the old Tidewater
folk--planters and yeomen and bondsmen and slaves alike--were able to
take for granted.

These are facets of an Age of Problems, of course. They and other
related troubles have been growing apace lately as men have grown in
numbers, in the demands they make on the natural environment that shaped
and nourished their species, and in their technological power to enforce
those demands. The troubles pose a threat to men of flavorlessness and
grayness and the loss of essential meanings, a threat of diminished
humanity. For dependence on that environment, intricate and deep-rooted,
psychological as well as physical, has not grown less with the human
advance toward power and sophistication.

Yet in the Potomac Basin as a whole the threat so far is mainly still a
threat, not a reality. Where men's employment of the land has been
reasonable, as it has in the Great Valley almost from the start, the
land not only remains useful and pleasant but has a specific traditional
beauty dependent on man's presence. Where new comprehension of the
processes of destruction has been attained and shared, as in soil
conservation and forestry and such fields, much damage done in the past
has been repaired.

Most of the Potomac river system's flowing waters are unnaturally
polluted to one degree or another, but only in spots does the pollution
even approach the sort of poisonous hopelessness to be found along some
more heavily populated and industrialized American rivers, and on the
Potomac its spread is already being slowed. Water shortages loom, but
have not yet seriously materialized. Floods threaten, but only at
certain definable spots. Human beings boom outward from the Washington
metropolis and the other centers of population in search of a fuller
life, and the consumptive sprawl and sameness of the communities built
to receive them often deny it to them. But in modern terms there are not
really enormous numbers of them yet, and for their pleasure and
fulfillment a great deal of varied and handsome and historic landscape
has been more or less preserved, by design or happy accident.

[Illustration: Proposed Water Resource Development

  1. Sixes Bridge
  2. Sideling Hill
  3. Town Creek
  4. Little Cacapon
  5. North Mountain
  6. Verona (Staunton)

]

[Illustration: North Mountain]

[Illustration: Town Creek]

The Potomac Basin, in other words, is still generally a wholesome place
two-thirds of the way through the 20th century. If it gets the
protection it deserves, and is developed thoughtfully and decently to
meet men's demands upon its resources, it can stay a wholesome place
into the indefinite future.

       *       *       *       *       *

Water pollution was the first Basinwide problem to make itself
thoroughly evident, and the need to deal with it led to the first
Basinwide activities besides studies. Soil conservation practices for
sediment control were instituted in the 1930's, and in 1940 the
Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, often called INCOPOT,
was formed by compact among the four Basin States and the District of
Columbia, with the formal permission of Congress. INCOPOT's powers are
only advisory in relation to State and community action against
pollution, and it has never been generously financed. But during the
quarter-century of its existence it has developed a wise combination of
investigation, persuasion, and public education to fight this problem,
with the result that on the Potomac conditions have in some ways
actually improved during a period of wars and booms and haphazard urban
expansion when many other rivers were headed straight down to stinking
corruption.

In 1956 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was directed by Congress to
undertake a Basinwide study to develop a plan for flood control and the
conservation of water resources and related land resources. The emphasis
in this assignment was upon a full long-term functional solution for the
Basin's water problems in feasible economic and technological terms. In
carrying it out, the Army enlisted the aid of other Federal agencies,
and their _Potomac River Basin Report_, published in nine volumes in
1963, presented the study's results and a plan for Basin water
development to meet needs to the year 2010. It is a monumental piece of
work to which anyone concerned with the Basin henceforth will have to
refer, because of the completeness with which it examines the Potomac
water resource and the careful technical knowledge it brings to bear on
Potomac problems.

However, the plan it presents--including recommendations for sixteen
major multipurpose reservoirs on the Potomac and its tributaries--would
bring about a massive and permanent revision of the free-flowing stream
system and would inundate much valley land. It aroused articulate
opposition at local, state, and Congressional levels, a good deal of
which was focused on the key Seneca dam on the Potomac main stem just
above Washington--an area where earlier single proposals for dams, first
at Great Falls and then at River Bend, had provoked similar resistance.

Clearly enough, a powerful continuing body of opinion cares about
something more than strictly functional values along the Potomac and in
its Basin. It is a long-settled region, whose natives generally cherish
what they have in the way of scenic and historic amenities. It is the
part-time home of many influential lawmakers, who concern themselves
about its beauty and well-being. And together with the national capital
at the core of its metropolis, it is the vacation goal of millions of
American tourists from elsewhere each year, who go home aware not only
of monuments and marble halls of state but of crucial Civil War
battlefields, dark mountain ridges overlooking classic river valleys,
rolling Piedmont estates, and the wooded headlands of Virginia and
Maryland that recede behind one another into haze as one looks down the
estuary in summertime.

This national interest in the river was recognized publicly early in
1965 by President Johnson when, in connection with his noted "Message on
Natural Beauty," he issued directives to Secretary Udall making him
responsible for the preparation of a conservation plan for the Potomac.
In addition to the tasks of cleaning up the river, assuring an adequate
water supply for the decades ahead, and providing flood protection, the
Secretary was instructed to protect the natural beauty of the river and
its Basin and to plan for full recreational opportunities there for both
natives and visitors. A stipulated aim, which seized the public
imagination, was to make the Potomac a model of scenic and recreational
values for the entire nation.

In response, the Secretary shaped a Federal Interdepartmental Task Force
under Interior direction, in whose specialized sub-task forces were
enlisted the skills available in the Corps of Engineers, the Department
of Agriculture, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (where
the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration was then located),
and the various concerned bureaus and services of the Interior
Department itself. Shortly after this, Secretary Udall met with the
governors of the four Basin States and the commissioners of the District
of Columbia to ensure that State and local interests would have a hand
in the planning process. Out of this came the Potomac River Basin
Advisory Committee, composed of State and District representatives,
which has conferred often with the Interdepartmental Task Force on
overall questions and has assumed prime responsibility in studying the
central problem of creating a planning and administrative body to handle
Potomac water and related land problems hereafter.

In addition, a blue-ribbon panel of distinguished planners and
specialists, assembled by the former president of the American Institute
of Architects at Secretary Udall's request and subsequently known as the
Potomac Planning Task Force, undertook a separate study of Potomac
questions, both in general and with specific focus on the metropolis.
Their independent report, The Potomac, was lately published. It makes a
detailed, wise, and instructive plea for considering the river and its
landscape as a whole and meaningful thing, for proceeding with their
development and protection according to high esthetic and ecological
principles, and for a distinctive form of management.

Existing private, public, and semipublic organizations with an interest
in the Potomac or in the type of problems it presents have joined in the
present effort by sponsoring public meetings and publishing discussions
or otherwise doing their part to help. Among them may be mentioned
INCOPOT, the Conservation Foundation, the Metropolitan Washington
Council of Government, Resources for the Future, Inc., the League of
Women Voters, the Potomac Basin Center, the National Parks Association,
and a number of local planning or action bodies. Through these meetings
and other media, public comment on the Federal Task Force's work has
been voluminous and often helpful, particularly since the publication of
its _Interim Report_ in January of 1966, which made certain proposals
for immediate action to begin providing for short-term metropolitan
water needs, to protect specific scenic treasures, and to get moving on
the long task of cleaning up the river.

With so many viewpoints somehow included in the planning process,
opinions have often diverged as to how much of what ought to be done
about the Potomac, and how soon, and in what order. Well they may
diverge. In a time of economic expansion and population growth
unparalleled in human history, predictions about the economy and the
population of the distant future--necessary to full planning--verge
perilously near to crystal gazing even when the best available
yardsticks are applied. And this is only one uncertainty. Among the
others which will be examined later in this report are the prospect of
drastic technological change that may soon offer cheaper, more
effective, and less disruptive ways of dealing with environmental
problems including water; the doubtfulness of sufficient public money
for large conservation projects in a time of international tensions and
urban crisis; and the solid American political complexity of the
boundary-laced Potomac Basin, which bristles with various forms of veto
power and a multiplicity of assorted regional, professional, and
philosophical viewpoints.

Such complexities and uncertainties have a powerful reality and
relevance for planners. They impose a need for breadth of view, for
leaving many future options open, and by the same token they present a
danger of piecemeal action, excessive compromise and indecisiveness.

The body of this report is an Interior Department document, couched
wherever possible in untechnical language in the hope that it may find a
wide lay readership. Necessary technical supporting material mainly has
been or will be made available in separate form. The report examines
environmental problems in the Potomac Basin and possible solutions for
them. Its underlying emphasis is ecological, based in a conviction that
man's own good is heavily dependent on the good of the earth in all its
complexity. No one at this point in time, obviously, is going to be able
to reconstitute the primeval Paleolithic world, nor would many people
want to. The earth has changed with people in their long surge toward
dominion over its ways and its creatures. But there is a difference
between adaptive change and the degeneration that modern times are
forcing on the earth men have always known. Growing millions of people
are coming to consider that human beings' right to see and know woods
and plains and mountains and streams and coasts in a cleanly and decent
condition--whether primitive or adapted in one way or another to man's
use--together with the communities of wild creatures that belong there,
is quite as practical and urgent as their right to usable tap water or
to a share in the Gross National Product. For upon the retention of
these ancient realities future human sanity and wholeness may well
depend.

We who are responsible for this report believe that this point of view
is going to gain enough strength and political acceptance to become one
of the motive forces of this century. Already it has much power. Even
though many established attitudes, laws, and practices are still firmly
rooted in the old exploitative, often heroic urge to seize upon all
resources and put them to use at whatever ultimate cost, disgust over
pollution and the destruction of beautiful places is getting to be a
political factor to be reckoned with at all levels of government. So is
concern over man's lemminglike multiplication in numbers and the way
his technology and his expansionism are gobbling up things quiet and
graceful and eternal--things he needs. It seems certain that political
"muscle" and respectability for the legitimate conservationist viewpoint
is shaping up fast enough that it will be able to dissipate the worst
threats--the grabbing and the spoiling, the ignorance and the archaic
attitudes, the onward shove of brute technology for technology's own
sake rather than for man's--before they have forced mankind on into the
gray sterility of life that would be their ultimate effect.

And upon the emerging potency of this sound and urgent concern with the
way the natural world is being used up, we believe a flexible form of
planning can be based that will do away with the dilemma posed by the
complexities and uncertainties of the moment. With a minimum of
compromise, such planning will be able to identify and propose solutions
for immediate problems in places like the Potomac Basin, while moving
toward longrun solutions for other problems as those problems'
dimensions become clearer than at present, and as technology and
politics make better solutions feasible.

Solutions for pressing and immediate problems have to be in terms of
present possibilities--political, financial, and technological. Some
such immediate problems--of water supply, pollution control, and scenic
preservation--exist in the Potomac Basin and are analyzed in this
report, and presently feasible action is recommended for their
alleviation. A considerable part of the report is concerned with such
problems, with the range of possible solutions for them and with our
reasons for making specific recommendations.

These immediate solutions do not constitute what has been called a
"quick fix"--piecemeal, one-shot action to patch up things until another
crisis arises. As much as possible, they have been worked into the
picture of longterm Basin needs insofar as those needs can be discerned,
and it is intended that action against future problems shall be built
upon them. Furthermore, we have sought to maintain an ample view in
identifying long-term difficulties and indicating what should be aimed
for when it is essential to act against them.

But we have not shaped a rigidly complete, prescriptive plan identifying
exact measures for the cure of all present and future ills of the
Potomac Basin. For a variety of reasons, we have concluded that such a
rigid plan would not only be self-defeating in the long run, but that it
is actually undesirable. We are aware that this conclusion is going to
arouse criticism among those who during the past three years have
consistently demanded that we provide a total answer, for the purpose
either of unseating the governing principles of the 1963 plan or of
reinforcing and amplifying those principles. Nevertheless we are certain
that the conclusion is right.

[Illustration]

It would be right even if the development of new technology were the
only uncertainty confronting planners. Barring a complete breakdown in
the present impetus of research and discovery, radical change in the
technology of water supply and water quality control appears to be
extremely probable within the next few decades. Some of the best of the
emerging tools, there is reason to hope, may permit men to deal with
water problems in ways that are more harmonious with natural ways and
less structurally imposing than present methods. Possibly the present,
often essential reliance on large storage reservoirs, for instance, is
going to be modified, though how much the ultimate way of doing things
will have to combine old and new technologies is something that cannot
be guessed.

If it cannot yet be guessed, it cannot be incorporated in a rigid plan,
which has to deal in technological certainties--i.e. in present
technology--and must therefore impose that present technology on the
future, whether or not the future is going to need it. If we are right
in believing that from this generation on, people are going to be
increasingly jealous in the preservation of their natural heritage,
future Americans will not be likely to thank this generation for having
unnecessarily robbed them of choices as to how to handle the
streamwaters of a superb river basin like the Potomac's. Any more than
they would thank us for having done nothing at all and leaving them to
scramble for water, and filthy water at that. Quite simply, no one has
the right to do either of these things to them.

It is our belief that if genuinely conservationist values are
established as the ruling principles in a flexible, properly paced,
continuing planning process, there will be no need to fear that future
generations are going to be either stuck with large mistakes on our
part, or cursed with shortages, floods, and pollution. With this report
we hope to initiate such a process for the Potomac.




[Illustration]

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

II TOWARD A MORE USEFUL RIVER


If the Potomac has been much studied, it has nevertheless been subjected
to only meager "development" over the centuries of its service to
civilized men. Most past attempts to alter it significantly for man's
use have either failed or have not led to lasting results, though their
changing purposes over the years summarize, to a degree, America's
shifting attitudes toward the utility of flowing water. Early projects
under George Washington and others to assure the navigability of the
main river above the Fall Line, which they saw as an artery for eastward
and westward currents of trade, left only some quaint ruined locks and
flowing bypass canals around falls and rapids. The later C. & O. Canal,
which ran alongside the river and was replenished by its water above
occasional low dams, required over two decades of toil and death and
heavy expense to complete upriver to Cumberland, Maryland, which it
reached in 1850. There had been some public opposition to the project
and it was never a great success even after completion, for the railroad
era had begun and the Canal suffered periodic heavy damage from Potomac
floods, being finally abandoned to picturesque decay after a mighty
inundation in 1924.

Largely because of a stalemate between public and private power
advocates, the early 20th century heyday of small-scale hydroelectric
power development of rivers mainly missed the Potomac, though at one
time a power company acquired land at Great Falls in anticipation of
such development. Other modern water projects in the Basin have been
relatively modest or have run afoul of strong opposition. Therefore,
today a sprinkling of small channel power dams and water intake
structures, some levees and improved creek channels, and a few
unimposing reservoirs of various sizes and types high up on small
tributaries are the sum total of the development to which the Potomac
water resource has been lastingly subjected, if we disregard for the
moment its waste disposal function and the maintenance of navigation in
its estuary.

In general this is undoubtedly a fortunate thing, for the application of
modern technology to rivers in the past half-century of our national
growth has not always had happy results. "A river," Justice Holmes once
wrote, "is more than an amenity, it is a treasure." His feeling is
shared by thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people who live
along the Potomac and its tributaries or who go there to float down them
in bass time, to picnic and swim, to hunt, to dig into the region's
history, or just to listen to the purl of green water against the rough
stonework of a ruined bridge pier. Deteriorated though a few stretches
may presently be, these rivers are still treasures.

The lack of development also presents planners with a fairly clean slate
on which to write. In terms of water, few massive human mistakes
confront them except the pollution of the upper estuary and certain
other reaches like the afflicted North Branch. Therefore they can begin
more or less from scratch and can usually find various choices for
action against the water problems of the Basin--against pollution,
against flood damages, and against impending or existing shortages of
water for municipal and industrial use.

[Illustration]

Though for clarity in discussion we need to classify these various kinds
of problems separately, in practice they do not so neatly divide from
one another. Nor do they divide from the way the land in the Basin is
used or from the pleasure and fulfillment people find in the outdoors.
If a region's use of a stream's water is heavy in a dry August, for
instance, whatever pollution the stream gets below towns and factories
will be more concentrated and damaging than if the stream were flowing
well. Pollution itself can affect the utility of water as well as
people's enjoyment of it in a stream. A creek watershed that has been
ignorantly farmed or roughly assaulted with bulldozers for urban
development is an eyesore of erosive destruction, unproductive of crops,
wildlife, or poetic appreciation, and can cause both heavier stream
flooding in time of storm and lower flow in time of drought by the way
its disruption alters the normal behavior of rainwater. The silt that
storms wash off of it is not only a major ugly pollutant of flowing
water below that point but can complicate flooding and bank-cutting and
navigation and other things by settling out into bars and shoals in
still stretches, including reservoirs.

All of these things, and others as well, have to be considered together
as parts of a whole problem. And that problem is that men's hugely
increasing numbers and their multiplying technological power over their
environment have made it necessary to readjust the balances somewhat in
great natural units like river basins--to restore, manage, and protect
them in such a way as to be able to hand them over decent and whole and
useful to the people who come after.


Problems of Water Supply in the Potomac Basin

Wisely handled, the water that runs annually through the streams of the
Potomac river system can be counted on to satisfy any demands that
people there are likely to make on it in present times or during the
foreseeable future. More than 2-1/2 trillion gallons of fresh water
normally flow down the Potomac in a year. It would be pleasant to
believe that this means that the natural and unassisted river system is
going to continue to serve human needs in the future as it has served
them heretofore--that after cleaning up the network of streams and
ensuring against their repollution and the desecration of their
landscape, men will be able to leave them respectfully alone to run down
toward the Chesapeake Bay as they have run during and before human
memory.

However, it is not so. Whatever human population might be considered
ecologically tolerable under natural conditions for the nine million or
so acres of earth, rocks, vegetation, and water that make up the Basin,
it has long since been exceeded by hundreds on hundreds of thousands.
And if those who predict such things are right, it is going to be
exceeded much further in the near and middle future. Today's
approximately 3.5 million Basin inhabitants are expected to double by
the turn of the century, with accompanying complex shifts in the ways
they will be making their livings and in the numbers of them who will
live in the country as compared with the cities and towns. Thereafter,
further geometric increases are contemplated, calmly by some
contemplators and less so by others.

As a result of past and present populations and their activities,
conditions in the Basin--including the river system--are necessarily
far from natural, for specific structural development is not the only
form of change. The Potomac environment has been adapted to man's use,
and in places where that use has been unreasonable it is already in
trouble. Clearly it is going to have to be manipulated artificially to
some extent to meet people's demands on it and to guard it against the
worst effects of their numbers. In fact, very luckily, it already is
being so manipulated in dozens of ways ranging from methods of farming
and forest management to sewage treatment. It is possible to hope that
present population forecasts may somehow find less than ample
fulfillment, but it is not possible to count on it for planning
purposes. Nor is it possible to wish out of existence situations already
serious.

[Illustration: WATER SUPPLY POTOMAC RIVER, WASH. D.C.]

At times during the hot months of drouthy 1966, the climax of a dry
cycle that had begun to develop five years earlier, the Washington
metropolis was not too far from the bottom of its water barrel. The
situation was not as bad as in some other Northeastern regions, nor as
bad as some local analyses claimed, but it was bad enough. The highest
daily withdrawal of the year was on June 26, when the metropolitan water
intakes in the Potomac sucked out approximately 380 million gallons. Of
this some 30 million gallons had to do with a pumping pattern pertinent
to adjustments within the system, and the other 350 million went for the
use and refreshment of a metropolis afflicted by summer's heat. The
total figure represented less than half of the river's flow at that
time.

[Illustration: GROUND WATER LEVELS WASHINGTON, D.C. AREA]

For a couple of days in September, however, the Potomac's flow reached
an all-time low of about 390 million gallons a day. Even if the demand
on those days had risen as high as in June, which it did not, there
would still have been an excess, but not a very safe one. Heavy storms
shortly thereafter eased the situation, and rainfall since then has
definitely broken the long drought pattern, returning stream and
groundwater levels to normal.

The sober fact is that the Washington metropolis is nearing the point
where its traditional main dependence on the Potomac's free and
fluctuating flow for water supply--with supplementary quantities from
Occoquan Creek, the Patuxent, and a few wells--is not going to work
during prolonged dry periods. Total flow even in a drought year remains
impressive, but dependable daily flow--which is what counts for
supply--varies tremendously.

Other centers of population in the Basin are up against water supply
problems or are going to come up against them shortly. The towns and
industries along the North Branch, around Cumberland and upstream, are
strongly aware of a water need complicated by the deep-seated pollution
of their stream system and the scenic and economic disruption of their
watershed lands. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, a handsome town in a
prosperous farming district of the northern Great Valley, is approaching
a critical point in the relationship between the water available to it
and its demands. Far south in the Valley, Augusta County, Virginia,
which contains the thriving towns of Staunton and Waynesboro, is
experiencing an upward surge of industrial development that seems
certain to continue and is going to call for a great deal more water
than can be counted on from present sources. Public awareness of this is
shown by the fact that county citizens voted in a referendum in November
of 1966 in favor of construction of a Federal reservoir at Verona near
Staunton on the Middle River, which had been strongly opposed when it
was presented as a part of the Army 1963 plan.

On the Monocacy in Maryland's Piedmont, the old agricultural center of
Frederick has begun to come under the changeful, expansive influence of
Megalopolis as a result of easier access from both Baltimore and
Washington, and has been brought abruptly face to face with a looming
water shortage. Recent studies by the Maryland Department of Water
Resources indicate that the dependable flow of the Monocacy will not
serve the town for more than another seven or eight years even if the
flow needed to maintain adequate water quality is left out of account,
and the summers of 1965 and 1966 made even those figures seem slightly
optimistic. Both city and State have declared themselves in favor of an
upstream major reservoir at Sixes Bridge, also a 1963 proposal. And
elsewhere throughout the Basin, a good number of smaller places face
similar dilemmas.


Possible Answers

Except for acid mine drainage, most of the Basin's main problems are
found at metropolitan Washington. Because they are primarily people
problems and more people live there than anywhere else, the problems
tend to be bigger, including that of water supply. A conceivable
shortage of several tens of millions of gallons of water per day within
the near future is not a small shortage, and small measures are not
going to cope with it.

A number of possible measures have been considered and weighed. Some
seem undesirable for one reason or another, even in terms of the distant
future. Others are unusable now, but have promise for later, when more
is known, or technological processes involved have been perfected, or
cost have been brought within reason. Still others, undoubtedly, cannot
even yet be discerned. And some will work now at prices that can be
paid. Ultimately, it seems certain, the super-Metropolis of the future
will depend on a mix of sources for its water, getting part of it by one
means and part of it by another and so on, as technology makes new means
possible, and as economy, safety, and other factors may dictate.
Therefore, there is no single "right" answer for the long run, and an
attempt to prescribe one inflexibly would compound confusion over the
years and undoubtedly perpetrate an injustice on future citizens in ways
already mentioned. We need to do them the favor of believing that they
will be able to cope with their own immediate problems at least as well
as we can do it for them, and probably in ways better suited to their
tastes.

Nevertheless, it is imperative that the city be given a margin of
drought insurance for two decades or more, and for this margin some
source definitely feasible in present terms must be identified and
guaranteed.

Going outside the Basin for any significant part of the metropolitan
water supply does not appear to be justified. Some water is presently
being drawn from impoundments on the Patuxent just north of the city,
but no more of it can be counted on. Diversion from the voluminous
Susquehanna much farther north is feasible from an engineering
standpoint. But the cost of it would be relatively high, and there are
also certain strong objections in principle, based on the facts that the
Potomac does have plenty of water and there is no inherent moral
advantage in transferring the question of development elsewhere, that
the Susquehanna Basin may well need its own water at some future time,
and that the ecological effects of such diversion on the immensely
valuable fisheries of Chesapeake Bay, which are dependent in large part
on a shifting balance of salinities maintained by the tributary rivers,
are unclear.

"Planned scarcity" of water in a community, wherein administrators and
public alike accept the certainty that during dry times lawns and parks
and golf courses and sometimes human skins will have to do without the
application of water for a spell, is a reality of life in some arid
regions and is probably always going to be. Elsewhere it is, or should
be, an element in the design planning of industries that use heavy
quantities of water for cooling and such processes. All water supply
planning must consider it, for to build against any conceivable shortage
would be prohibitively expensive. Pricing of water so as to cut down on
waste without curtailing ample legitimate use may well be a longrun
tool, as has been suggested. But in terms of general municipal and
industrial water, any great degree of calculated shortage hardly seems
appropriate for a humid-zone city which has a fine river at its doorstep
and happens also to be the national capital, so that a scarcity would be
of national concern in a number of ways. Federally established and
maintained parks and open spaces, for instance, with their carefully
tended vegetation, would be one of the first things to suffer.

Desalting of sea water, another reality now in arid zones and one of
immense importance, has a certain degree of planned scarcity built into
it by way of its price, at least at present. Some people believe that in
time this process will be refined to the point that it can furnish
abundant cheap water to all the world's seacoast cities. Certainly as it
develops it may well have a potential for marginal drought-proofing at
Washington, an emergency source to be drawn upon if needed. But the day
seems distant when it will be truly competitive in price with riverine
sources in regions of adequate rainfall.

Inland arid regions and perhaps other places as well are undoubtedly
going to find one answer to water shortages in the recirculation of
their treated waste waters through municipal systems. In one form or
another such recirculation is already working at certain places in the
United States on an emergency basis, and its full potential for
industrial use has yet to be explored. However, the indications are that
towns' and cities' reliance on it during anything but temporary
emergency conditions is going to depend on expensive methods of
refinement and "fail-safe" overdesign, plus dilution with new water,
which means again that it will probably not be competitive in price with
natural water where enough good natural water can be had. To this may be
added the observation that the consuming public presently has a few
definite lingering qualms about the idea involved, particularly if there
is other water around.

The underground rocks and sands of the Basin hold huge reserves of water
with a fundamental relationship to the whole river system, whose basic
dependable sources lie in these aquifers' outflow to the surface. Around
the metropolis, some ground water is being taken from wells even now to
supplement the overall supply and to satisfy the whole demand of any
number of outlying communities. Though locally available quantities are
limited and pumping costs rather high, such wells will undoubtedly be
highly useful for future extensions of the metropolis, especially into
the Coastal Plain.

There is also much promise in studies of the Basin's aquifers being
carried out by the U.S. Geological Survey to determine detailed patterns
of their contribution of water to the stream system and to see if it can
be regulated and made even more useful. Such a possibility has great
implications in terms of augmenting river flows both for water quality
control and water supply, and could mean much at Washington. So could
certain techniques of deliberate drawdown of aquifers to induce recharge
with excess surface waters or sometimes treated sewage effluent, also
presently under study. Ground water as a source has some unique
advantages--among them a minimum of evaporation loss, less need for
surface structures, and protection against catastrophic
contamination--and it deserves full exploration, though it cannot at
present be counted on as a significant part of the answer for the
metropolis.

Far out, though possibly not very far off in time, is the likelihood
that future water planners will be able to count on some degree of
control over a given region's rainfall and snow. Through
experimentation, this subject is rapidly being excised from the mists of
superstition that once surrounded it, and the Department of the Interior
has an active program of research and study in the West, with tremendous
implications. But, yet again, present planning cannot take it into
account except in the sense that, along with some of the other
technologies already mentioned and undoubtedly others that have not yet
even emerged to view, it adds to the near certainty that future planners
are going to have a much wider range of alternative methods at their
disposal, to choose from and mix as may seem best. And this, in turn,
reemphasizes the wisdom of flexibility in present planning and the need
to keep big irreversible decisions to a minimum.

The upper Potomac estuary from Little Falls down to the vicinity of
Marshall Hall and Mount Vernon or below contains a great deal of fresh
water, an accumulation made up of inflows from the river above the Fall
Line, local storm runoff and tributary flows, and treated sewage
returned to the tidal river. The volume of this water that would be
available for use without salinity has been variously estimated. At low
tide, there would be 9 billion gallons of fresh water in the upper
estuary from Chain Bridge to the mouth of the Anacostia River; In the 10
mile stretch from Chain Bridge to the District of Columbia's Blue Plains
treatment plant, 15 billion gallons; and, from Chain Bridge to the
saltwater front near Indian Head, Maryland, 100 billion gallons. Most of
the time now it is afflicted with heavy pollution, as will be detailed
in the next chapter of this report. But it does constitute a large
natural reservoir of potentially usable municipal and industrial water,
whose attractiveness for these purposes, as well as for all others, will
grow steadily as the pollution is brought under better and better
control. These facts have led some opponents of any and all major
reservoirs in the Basin to conclude that the water in the upper estuary
is a presently satisfactory reserve with which to face any foreseeable
metropolitan shortage of supply from the upper Potomac.

The assumption has strong appeal, but it appears to be too risky to
serve as a basis for adequate present planning to meet looming demands.
That even now the water in the estuary's uppermost reaches, above the
main metropolitan treatment-plant outfalls, would be usable for short
emergencies by the installation of relatively simple pumping equipment
below the falls, cannot be doubted. That in the long run the major part
of the freshwater tidal river at and below Washington is likely to be a
valuable source of metropolitan water, maybe a principal source, is
quite possible. Its use is and will be a strong consideration in
longterm planning--another good reason, in fact, for flexibility. But
the truth is that right now enough doubt and ignorance exist in regard
to its exact potentiality that it should not be counted on to provide a
safe margin of supply under all conceivable conditions during the next
twenty years or so, for which planning provisions need to be more rigid
and definite.

The doubts and unknown factors have to do mainly with the quality of
this water, which comes under discussion later. In abridged summary of
relevant facts at this point, it may be observed that unless all sewage
and sewage effluents were collected and diverted to points well beyond
the limits of the upper estuary, use of its water for periods beyond a
few days of emergency would become essentially a form of recirculation
of waste waters--with, at this time, the main drawbacks that we noted in
regard to that process and certain others besides. For, under the
low-flow conditions that would bring about its use, the effluents in the
river below the mouth of the Anacostia would penetrate upstream as water
was pulled out below the falls and would reach the pumps in fairly short
order, probably moving in a tongue up the main channel.

With the radical improvement in the functioning of the metropolitan
treatment plants that must be achieved, and other measures to relieve
pollution in this part of the river, valid objections to such
recirculation will of course weaken and ultimately disappear. But no
one can reasonably expect that these things are not going to take a
certain amount of time--quite conceivably enough time to run the city up
against an emergency it could not handle without other, more standard
sources of auxiliary water. Besides the matter of consolidating and
improving treatment of collectible wastes, there are certain other
diffuse and stubborn sources of pollution, as will be seen, for which
good counter measures simply do not yet exist--among them are surface
runoff during local storms and overflow from combined sewer systems.

If the collectible wastes were diverted out of the upper estuary and if
it proved possible to cope quickly with other pollution or to ignore it,
during prolonged use salt water penetration from downstream would take
place as fresh water was withdrawn above and not replaced. Studies on a
mathematical model of the estuary indicate that under conditions that
could materialize, this would make the water at the intake too salty for
use. A barrier dam across the entire estuary at one or another point in
the freshwater section could prevent such penetration, but would be
hugely expensive and undoubtedly more obtrusive on a much-used part of
the riverscape than most upstream reservoirs could possibly be.

Furthermore, even if all these doubts and areas of ignorance were to be
easily resolved, insistence that the upper estuary is the only logical
answer to metropolitan Washington's water problem ignores the fact that
major water demands are building fast in certain already-mentioned areas
of the upper Basin, and that, since the Basin is a hydrological unit,
measures to satisfy these demands can easily, economically, and quite
logically be designed to furnish a good part of the metropolis'
near-future safe margin of water supply as well.

[Illustration]

A need for vigorous research specifically directed toward exploring all
these alternative means of supply is evident. If it moves fast enough
and the knowledge that comes out of it is made available to planners, it
may very quickly make a great difference in the kinds of sources of
water they can turn to for the solution of problems, just as studies
since the early 1960's, when the Army work on the Potomac was completed,
have altered prevalent ideas about pollution control through flow
augmentation, and have therefore greatly diminished the overall amount
of water considered necessary to meet the Basin's demands.

In the crucial meantime, the established certainty of storage in
reservoirs is available. In river basins with reasonable annual amounts
of precipitation but with human demands on streams that sometimes exceed
the rate at which water flows down, such reservoirs are still usually
the most dependable and efficient item in the present technology of
water supply. And since they generally have other purposes to which
proportionate shares of construction costs are assigned in individual
cases--flood protection, water quality control, navigation,
hydroelectric power, recreation, silt detention, etcetera--they tend
often to be the most economic sources of big quantities of water. In one
form or another they have been built from very ancient times, and they
have been indispensable to the useful development of water resources in
our expansive economy.

In parts of the United States far from sea-coasts or large natural
lakes, reservoirs built for water supply and other purposes have become
the focus of enormously popular forms of recreation that would otherwise
be impossible in those regions--sailing and motorboating and
water-skiing and the sort of fishing possible only on big water, and
such things. Properly designed and located, they can be beautiful bodies
of water, as the vacation homes that grow up around many of them
testify.

Strong objections to them also frequently are voiced. They are one of
the most massive manifestations of man's technological ability to adapt
natural processes to his use, and they sometimes have profound effects
on fish and wildlife and the whole ecology of a stream system region, to
the dismay of many conservationists. Often too they flood out large
areas of riverbottom farmland and other private property, arousing the
ire of some rural folk and small townsmen who feel that their interests
have been sacrificed to the water or flood-protection demands of
downstream city dwellers. Opponents of major dams sometimes assert that
many of them have been built not to meet real hydrological needs but to
foster economic development which may or may not materialize and may or
may not be worth the loss of natural or scenic or agricultural resources
disrupted by the reservoirs. Other thinkers, not necessarily against
reservoirs in general, express a doubt that the potential effects of
specific structures are always thought out sufficiently beforehand.
Among these are the authors of a recent publication of the National
Academy of Sciences--National Research Council, _Alternatives in Water
Management_:

"_We create great reservoirs that stop the migration of fish and then
provide costly fishways, hatcheries, and other devices to maintain the
fishery, and with no certainty of success. We impound water without
knowing the effects of that impoundment on its quality. We build an
irrigation project and then find salinity increasing dangerously in the
river downstream. We eliminate high-flood peaks by reservoir storage,
but downstream from some reservoirs we see unpredicted erosion,
sedimentation, bank-cutting, and other effects, even unto, as in
California, the loss of beaches along the seacoast, starved of their
supply of sand._"

The list of objections could be extended--and often is by objectors--to
a point of pettiness. Nevertheless, the main doubts are gaining much
acceptance and are imperatively having to be taken into account more and
more these days, as new elements of water technology and
philosophy--some of them mentioned earlier in this chapter, others to
emerge in subsequent discussions--come closer to full feasibility and
become a part of general human knowledge. Delay in building reservoirs
until it is certain they are needed is on the verge of becoming a
respectable element in planning, and in the future dams may well become
merely one of many ways to guarantee water and handle it. At least some
water authorities, though certainly not all, have voiced the opinion
that most present reservoirs will some day serve primarily for
recreation, if emerging new principles of water supply, water quality
improvement, flood protection, power generation, and such things attain
general use.

That day, however, has not yet dawned, nor is the interim before its
arrival calculable. It is necessary to face present reality with present
tools, and the reality at the Washington metropolis and elsewhere in the
Basin is that a good deal of water is going to be needed rather soon,
and that no reasonably economic alternatives with any clear esthetic and
ecological advantage over reservoirs are presently available to furnish
it.

Nor, if planners and designers are aware of the whole set of problems,
do reservoirs necessarily have to be weighty in their impact on the
natural scene and the public interest. The quantities of stored water
needed for the Basin's near future are relatively modest in comparison
to potential supplies, and a multitude of good reservoir sites exist to
be chosen from. There is no reason why, with present knowledge, a
minimum of necessary reservoirs cannot be planned and designed for a
maximum of beauty and pleasure. It is a notable fact that a very large
number of Americans prefer boating and fishing and other aquatic sports
on reservoirs to any other form of recreation, and another notable fact
that in the upper Potomac Basin there are very few places where even
small numbers of Americans can thus indulge themselves at present.

In terms of metropolitan Washington's water supply, considered apart
from other Basin water problems, the best reservoir site by far in the
whole Potomac drainage would be the old River Bend site or the one
proposed in 1963 at Seneca, both just upstream from the Falls above the
metropolis. In one package, either of them would impound enough water to
take care of any likely municipal and industrial demands of the
metropolitan region for more than a half-century, besides trapping most
silt from upstream to keep it out of the estuary, and providing a good
measure of protection for flood-susceptible metropolitan shores.
Furthermore, the proximity of such a reservoir to the city would ensure
a great deal of aquatic recreation for people there and would somewhat
simplify water management problems.

Thus, it is natural that Seneca, the latter proposal of the two, has
found strong champions among metropolitan administrators, water
engineers, and planners whose thinking has to be primarily in terms of
sure and efficient water supply and flood protection. It has found
equally strong opponents, however, enough of them to have stalled it to
date. It is not yet dead, for it emerges in each new discussion of the
city's water situation. It will not be dead until the metropolitan water
problem, short-term and long-term both, has found a full satisfactory
solution in other terms.

Our feeling remains unchanged since the publication of our _Interim
Report_: that when all factors are weighed and future uncertainties are
taken into account, Seneca should not be built at this time. If the
price in money would not be high in relation to immediate "market"
advantages gained, the permanent price, in river and countryside and
those other intangibles that are getting to have more and more weight in
men's minds year by year, would be heavy.

The full main stem Potomac, carrying the water from the combined North
and South Branches and the Shenandoah and the other upper tributaries
down through the Blue Ridge water gap and across the rolling Piedmont
and the Fall Line, is at its most typical in the 39 miles from Harpers
Ferry to Great Falls. Seneca as originally proposed would inundate 35
miles of this stretch, together with islands and bottomlands, forests of
big hardwoods, meadows and productive fields, and that much-used
segment of the publicly owned C. & O. Canal, with the trail along its
wooded towpath. Even reduced in size and designed as strictly a water
supply structure, it would have many of the same effects. There is
special and tranquil beauty in this piece of the river, which makes a
fine float trip and is much fished, as well as a lot of historical
significance dating back to the Senecas and the Piscataways and before.
Here these things are not forgotten and removed from men's reach but are
available to metropolitans who go to the trouble to seek them out, as
many do. Nor is there anything else around to take their exact or even
approximate place if they were gone.

It has been pointed out that if the metropolis grows according to
predictions, a major part of that growth is going to be upriver, and the
main stem of the Potomac will have the same relationship to the
metropolis of the future that Rock Creek has to the Washington of today.
Thus the decision that is made about the main stem in our generation is
similar to the decision that planners had to make about Rock Creek
three-quarters of a century or more ago. Those planners decided
magnificently well, bequeathing to the future an urban stream and park
unique in this country and perhaps the world, a treasure that the public
is presently defending against other, newer, subtler threats than mere
damming or encroachment.

A reservoir above Seneca clearly could not mean that sort of thing. It
would be a useful lake, but devoid of the changeless tone of the
Potomac as it flows there now. The reservoir's proper functioning would
require fluctuations in its level, with occasional ugliness at the
shoreline, and if it would permit a great deal of happy water-skiing and
flat-water fishing, the same opportunities are going to be available to
Washingtonians in the nearby estuary when it is suitably cleaned up,
even though the section immediately adjacent to the metropolis may take
a good while to bring up to swimming standards.

In terms of the overall good of the people of the metropolis and the
Basin and the country, the water situation at Washington now and during
the near future hardly bears a desperate enough aspect to warrant the
sacrifice of much of the main flowing river to a reservoir which, like
the freshwater estuary, could not be meshed with upstream needs but
would serve only the urban areas at and below the Fall Line. Conceivably
at some future time, if technology should renege on its promise to bring
forth good new alternatives, and population pressures continue to grow,
the city may badly need a reservoir there. It is a uniquely valuable
site. For that reason, we repeat our Interim proposal that the reservoir
site, minimally defined, be preserved against the mass encroachment with
which it is imminently threatened, and be utilized principally as part
of a major park complex protecting the river and its shores. To defer
irreversible decisions and to leave them as much as possible to future
generations whose conditions of life and desires we cannot predict with
accuracy, can be a principal way of maintaining freedom of choice.

In the category of reservoirs, at the other end of the spectrum are the
comparatively small headwater dams that the Soil Conservation Service
has been designing and supervising for three decades in authorized
watersheds throughout the country. These structures can serve several
functions and can furnish for small watershed areas and small centers of
population many of the benefits that the Corps of Engineers and Bureau
of Reclamation dams furnish for large areas. On their own scale, they
are vulnerable to some of the same objections that are aimed at large
reservoirs. But the scale is smaller; they tend to be less imposing and
pre-emptive of good land than big river dams, "catch the water where it
falls" to hold it for local use and to alleviate local flooding, and are
backed up by erosion control practices in a program that has proved to
be one of the best available stimulants to good land use. For these
reasons they have appeal for many rural people and conservationists.

       *       *       *       *       *

However, the conclusion which some of their supporters have reached is
that if only enough of the small dams could be built throughout the
headwater areas of a river basin, they would eliminate the need for most
other forms of water management, leveling out flood and drought flows
and holding a great aggregate amount of water on tap for use anywhere
down the line. At times in the past, the controversy between supporters
of big dams and supporters of little dams achieved the proportions of a
bloodless war, but after a good many years of testing and observation
it is now generally agreed by hydrologists that both have their place
and that the most appropriate focus for the small dams' functioning is
local.

At any rate, they are not an answer for Washington's problems. Even if
enough of them were installed specifically to provide the storage volume
needed for metropolitan use, the question of operation--ensuring and
coordinating releases from a large number of places at varying long
distance upstream from the point of intended use, in such a way as to
make the required volumes of water arrive at the right time, without
waste--would be very difficult even with much more sophisticated and
expensive design than these structures customarily have. Without it the
problem would be insuperable.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus, for metropolitan Washington's water in the near reaches of the
future, some reservoir storage is indicated with fewer ecological,
recreational, and scenic drawbacks than a Potomac main stem dam, and
more efficiency for massive supply than the small headwater structures.
Since the Potomac river system is a unit, with the metropolis at the
downstream end of its non-tidal part, water stored anywhere in the upper
Basin can be released for use there. This gives much freedom of choice
in the selection of sites for reservoirs and in the combination of
releases from various places to make up an adequate total supply, though
obviously good management will be needed to coordinate the releases and
avoid the waste of water.

It also means, if good principles of river-basin management are
followed, that reservoirs to supply water at Washington can be located
and designed so as to satisfy major upstream demands at the same time,
and that they can be fitted in with regional and Basin needs for water
quality improvement, flat water recreation, and in some places flood
protection. In such conjunctive planning, based in the Basin's physical
unity, commencing now and continuing on into the future as new needs and
new ways of satisfying them come to view, lies the main hope of
developing the Potomac water resource in such a way as to avoid waste of
money, waste of water itself, and waste of the landscape and the general
environment. Without it, nothing can result but a piecemeal haggling to
bits of the river system as local demands grow acute and local pressures
force the adoption of one-shot measures. With it, towns and areas and
industries can be guided toward sensible and thrifty action that fits in
with the wellbeing of the whole Potomac region--toward buying a share in
the water of a rightly designed, rightly placed reservoir large or
small, toward development of ground water resources where these are
adequate, toward the use of new technology that may be feasible and
suitable.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

The range of choices is certain to enlarge with time, and the ease with
which right choices can be made. In this computer age, mathematical
models of river systems, including the Potomac, are at work manipulating
hydrological data and quickly indicating optimum coordinated solutions
for given water problems that formerly would have taken many weeks to
solve, if indeed men could have arrived at such exact solutions at all.
Computers are no better than the material that is fed them, however, and
the need for new water data--for facts--is acute, if computers and the
men who run them and the policy makers to whom they report are to pick
the best ways of doing things. So is the need for means of giving
"intangible" values their right weight in the whole process. But the
computers are the keystone of the new technology and they are going to
make right coordination simpler.

With coordination also, as we shall see hereafter, there is the
strongest possibility of getting the river system clean again and
keeping it that way, and furthermore of vouchsafing some measure of
protection to the landscape through which it flows. For the physical
unity of a river basin has many implications, and not the least of them
is that the people who live there can be guaranteed at least a physical
chance to lead full and wholesome lives.

Water supply for upstream areas of the Basin, then, is not a separate
thing from water supply for the downstream metropolis and should not be
treated as separate. They are all drinking from the same fountain. Where
an upstream demand is great enough or is going to be great enough in a
short span of years to warrant major storage, that storage must be keyed
in with all other demands that it might meet or help to meet, including
that at Washington. Where an area of lesser need is shut off by its
location from sharing in such major storage, groundwater development or
headwater reservoirs may well be the answer, but these measures too
should be made to serve as many purposes as may be required for the
protection of the area's whole range of interests and the good of the
entire Basin. The need for such interweaving--for coordination, for
planning and action that are unified--is primary, and will emerge again
and again.


Flooding in the Basin

The subject of floods is fraught with more drama than that of water
shortages, for a flood can be not only a hardship but a catastrophe. For
this reason, accounts of floods tend sometimes toward exaggeration, and
appeals and proposals for protection against flood threats often take on
the highpitched tones of impending disaster. The subject badly needs
sober public understanding, despite the fact that for decades a good
many knowledgeable scientists and engineers and planners have been
laying out their conclusions for general perusal.

Rivers are supposed to run out of their banks occasionally.
Topographically, stream flood plains--the expanses of flat bottomland
that have been deposited over long periods of geological time by the
streams they border--are similar to what legal terminology calls
"attractive nuisances." Men have always known that they were dangerous
and yet have always utilized them to some degree, because they contain
the best farm land, are convenient to water, and are easier places in
which to build houses and factories and roads than are the safer hills
and uplands.

In times before engineering technology was able to erect such effective
control structures as today, populations who had lived along "flashy"
watercourses long enough to learn their habits tended to build their
more valuable structures back away from the parts of the flood plain
that got wet most often, leaving those parts for cropland and timber, or
sometimes for shacktown, promenades, and parks. Thus long-settled
countries and regions have often developed through trial and error a
degree of what is now called "passive flood protection," which simply
means recognizing that the flood plain is sometimes a rather perilous
place, and treating it accordingly. It was valid in past ages, and it is
still valid today.

The Potomac Basin has been inhabited by civilized men since long before
modern engineering evolved. Possibly early town-builders' wariness of
floods contributed to the fact that the problem of flood damages here,
though quite real, is somewhat less severe than in certain other
sections of the nation. At specific points of concentrated flood plain
development--Petersburg, W. Va., on the South Branch; Cumberland, Md.,
and the areas upstream from it on the North Branch; and metropolitan
Washington at the head of the estuary--figures show significant amounts
of average annual destruction by rampaging stream waters. In headwater
areas or small urban watersheds scattered throughout the Basin, there
are a number of other places where some damage takes place, whether
agricultural or structural. The total average annual damages for the
Basin, as computed in the 1963 Army _Report_, amount to about $8.6
million.

Along small streams, whether urban or rural, the same principles apply
as along large ones, and the proper protective measures are similar if
smaller in scale. Leaving the worst parts of the flood plain in fields
or parks is the usual and effective form of passive protection. Where
existing development demands structural measures, it has been common
practice to cover streams over as sewers or to confine them to
straightened concrete channels that sluice rainwater and mud away as
fast as they will flow--though often this is not fast enough, as is
shown by occasional messy and costly overflows of Four Mile Run between
Arlington and Alexandria. And the loss of pleasant brooks and creeks
through such practices is a heavy price to pay.

More and more often lately in such cases, a combination of some passive
protection with the small headwater dams that "catch the water where it
falls" and soil conservation measures to protect the watershed lands
above the reservoirs, has proved to be a better solution. This is what
has been done in the Rock Creek watershed in the District of Columbia
and Montgomery County, Md., and its value was shown during the heavy
rains of September 1966. Here stream valley parks have given passive
protection for a long tune, though the popularity and heavy use of the
parks have caused a big investment in picnic areas, playgrounds, and
other facilities, which themselves have often suffered expensive flood
damages. As a result of long effort by a watershed association, two S.
C. S. dams had been finished shortly before the September flood at the
only useful sites on the creek's upper branches that rapidly spreading
residential development had left available. They kept runoff from the
big sudden rains entirely in hand in Maryland and reduced damage in the
Federal park in the District to a point far below what it would have
been without them.

Ideally, of course, such planning should be done before heavy
development, and a pilot urban watershed program of this sort is being
undertaken in the Pohick Creek basin on the metropolitan fringe in
Fairfax County, Virginia. With freedom to locate necessary structures in
the right places and to protect them against silt and ruinous runoff by
requiring good land treatment and a sensible distribution of buildings,
pavements, and wooded or grassy open space, planners there ought to get
good flood protection while preserving a pretty valley and stream for
the people who will be living in the neighborhood. From any number of
standpoints, this is vastly preferable to the more usual traditional
procedure of letting growth run wild and then trying to cope with
trouble when it comes up.

The headwater dams are equally effective in reducing flood damages in
small rural watersheds where losses warrant their installation. But even
on a massive scale of installation they have little influence on
downstream flooding along the main rivers. In such places--at
Cumberland, Petersburg, and the Washington metropolis, and at certain
other river towns where less damage occurs--other measures are going to
have to be selected and applied in each individual case according to
costs and benefits, physical possibilities, and the best interests of
the region.

Cumberland and the lesser damage centers on the North Branch are
scheduled for the classic engineering solution of big dams upstream. The
existing Savage River reservoir, finished in 1950, has cut down flooding
notably in that area, and a dam at Bloomington above Westernport,
already authorized by Congress, will relieve it still more, as well as
fitting into the complex clean-up task along the North Branch and
furnishing water for local and Washington use.

The 1963 plan proposed similar protection for metropolitan Washington
and for Petersburg, West Virginia, in the form of major reservoirs at
Seneca and Royal Glen. Physically and culturally, there is very little
similarity between the two communities, but their flood situations and
the potential effects of the proposed protective structures have a
certain kinship.

At both places there has been development of the flood plain, with the
result that damages occur when the communities' respective rivers get
out of their banks. In relation to its size--around 2000
people--Petersburg is subject to much heavier trouble of this sort than
the metropolis. It sits near the head of the lovely narrow farming
valley through which the main downstream South Branch flows, a few miles
below the point where two principal forks of the river join after
rushing out of the mountains. In June of 1949, a flood there claimed
five lives around Petersburg and three at Moorefield downriver, where
still another main fork comes in, and wrought major destruction through
the neighborhood.

The 1963 Army _Report_ calculated Petersburg's average annual flood
damages at over $200,000, and advocated construction of a $30 million,
multipurpose reservoir at Royal Glen just upstream from Petersburg, to
do away with most of the damage and to permit further industrial
development of the flood plain, as well as to provide a great deal of
water for downstream use and for regional recreation. People and groups
in the area with interests standing to benefit from the reservoir were
naturally in favor of it. Under present Federal policy--which will be
mentioned again--its flood-protective function would cost them nothing,
whereas levees or other locally effective approaches would demand a good
deal of local effort and outlay, besides disrupting the town's aspect
and its relationship to the river.

[Illustration]

Opposition developed also. The very name of Royal Glen suggests the
scenic qualities of the country roundabout. As at Seneca, a dam here
would flood out some country with unique scenic and recreational values,
including the famous Smoke Hole Gorge down which the clean South Branch
runs between steep mountains dotted with caves and flavored with the
quiet simplicity of the life that isolated hill folk lived there up into
modern times. It is a section much appreciated by whitewater canoeists
and hikers and horsemen and others from that region and elsewhere, who
care about rugged and unspoiled places. Despite its remoteness, the
proposal that it be inundated aroused more vigorously hostile comment
among conservationists and nature lovers in general than perhaps any
other item in the Army program except Seneca. The State of West Virginia
declared itself opposed to the project, and to date has maintained that
position.

Again like Seneca, the Royal Glen site does have certain unique
advantages for use as a reservoir. But, as at Seneca also, its
functional virtues do not appear to be nearly so unique as those of the
scenery and natural values whose obliteration would be a heavy part of
the reservoir's price. In 1965, the immense scenic value of a large part
of the country it would wipe out was recognized by its inclusion in the
big Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. It is strongly to
be hoped that that recognition is never withdrawn.

The issue of scenic destruction at both Royal Glen and Seneca tends to
obscure another set of even more basically relevant considerations
having to do with the whole question of flood plain occupancy and use,
the extent to which those who benefit from it should share the cost of
such protection as may be necessary, and possible ways of reversing a
present trend toward inexorably larger national flood damages each year
despite ever larger and more expensive structural protective measures at
public expense.

[Illustration: THE HYDROLOGIC CYCLE]

It is a complex subject that can only be summarized here. What it
amounts to is that America has strayed too far from the ancient hard-won
wisdom of treating flood plains with respect. It has been lulled by the
achievements of engineering, encouraged by a general absence of
inadequacy of State and local planning that takes such matters into
account, and conditioned to a set of Federal laws and policies
piece-built over a long period of time, with consequent inequities,
imbalances, and loopholes that tend to emphasize structural protection
at Federal expense for indiscriminate flood plain development. The
result has been a neglect of the possibilities of flood plain
management, which undoubtedly in the long run--as in the long past--will
prove to be the most valuable tool for reducing these damages, for it
will bring about a restriction on ill-advised and uneconomic
encroachment in these streamside areas.

The reason most such encroachment is bad, with or without a dam
upstream, with or without levees, is that it establishes the certainty
of further and larger flood damages in the future, with the certainty of
further and larger expenditures to combat them. It has been pointed out
that no such thing really exists as flood _control_, but only a given
degree of flood _protection_. Economics and technology dictate that
reservoir capacities devoted to the storage of flood water, for example,
be considerably smaller than the maximum runoff conceivably possible.
This means that sooner or later there is going to be a great flood
against which the reservoir or reservoirs will not suffice. If the
reservoirs' presence, as is most often the case, has directly encouraged
a lot of flood plain speculation and construction downstream, then the
great flood is going to do more damage than was ever done before, and
more reservoirs and other protective measures, most often Federally
financed, are going to be demanded, at a price that rises sharply as
less desirable sites and methods have to be employed, and with
frequently catastrophic scenic effects. These considerations apply to
small watersheds as well as large ones.

This costly cycle, which frequently makes the general public pay both in
tax money and the sacrifice of amenities to protect the investment of a
relatively few who profit from the wrong kind of flood plain use--in
plain words, makes the public subsidize their ventures--has established
itself widely. In some places, of course, certain kinds of development
can take place only on the flood plain, and planning for its structural
protection may be amply warranted, with equitable cost-sharing. But the
difference between this sort of flood plain use and the much more
common, thoughtless, quick-profit type needs to be more widely
recognized and established in policies at all levels of government. The
subject has been much studied. In August 1966 the findings of a
distinguished Task Force on Federal Flood Control Policy, which made
detailed recommendations for injecting some sense into the situation,
were submitted to the attention of Congress by President Johnson. At the
same time, he issued Executive Order 11296 on the subject, directing all
Federal executive agencies with influence in such matters to do
everything possible to discourage uneconomic and unwarranted use of the
nation's flood plains. This, of course, includes the present Potomac
planning effort.

[Illustration: FLOOD PLAIN DELINEATION POTOMAC RIVER AT HANCOCK, MD.]

At Petersburg, there is little question that the wisest approach to
present and future flooding problems would be one that would seek to
give reasonable protection to the development already on the flood plain
but at the same time deter further construction unless it is
floodproofed or houses activities that find a flood plain location so
advantageous as to be well worth the risk. In currently available
terms, this could be accomplished most feasibly and at the least net
expenditure--though not, under present policy, as cheaply to the
community itself as by the Royal Glen dam, and not without some notable
changes in the town's landscape--by combining a levee system around
present development with rigid zoning of the unoccupied part of the
flood plain, or its acquisition as parkland.

[Illustration]

Another approach that may shortly be possible was suggested by the
President's Task Force and is the subject of legislation proposed to
Congress by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Under this
legislation, owners of existing flood plain residences and small
businesses would be given a chance to buy Federally subsidized
insurance against flood damages at reduced rates, while new construction
in flood hazard areas would be subject to rates based on the full true
risk involved. After 1970, under this proposed legislation, such
insurance could be sold only in areas with enforceable codes and
ordinances or other measures for sound flood plain management. Such a
program could go a long way toward eliminating casual and expensive
flood plain clutter, if it were backed up by adjustments in other phases
of Federal flood control policy that would similarly place a share of
any protective costs where they belong, and hence give an additional
strong nudge to citizens and local and state governments to bring the
situation into balance.

At Washington, because a high proportion of the flood plain on both
shores is in Federal ownership and the use it is put to is determined by
Federal agencies, Executive Order 11296 has special relevance in
forestalling future increases in the amount of flood damage. Existing
damages in the whole urban area are estimated to average $1.4 million
each year. The most damaging flood in the metropolis' history occurred
in March of 1936, and if a flood of the same dimensions were to strike
today, it would cause estimated damages of about $21 million.

These are not small figures, though if they are considered in the light
of the area's population and extent and the total value of construction
there, they seem less formidable. Obviously the threat of damages of
this magnitude must be dealt with, but just as obviously as at
Petersburg, the manner chosen for dealing with them should not be
allowed to stimulate unwise flood plain construction that would lead to
still greater longterm damages.

The Seneca reservoir as proposed in 1963 provided floodwater storage
calculated to reduce metropolitan damages by 46 percent. This is a
significant though not startling amount of reduction, and it constitutes
the most economical one-shot measure of protection that could be
attained. However, if the construction of Seneca is precluded for the
time being or for good, that measure is not available. Second-best, by
Army calculations, would be a combination of several large multipurpose
reservoirs on main tributaries farther upstream. But quite aside from
other considerations of desirability, these could only be justified
economically if a great part of their stored water were destined to
furnish massive flow augmentation to ease pollution in the upper
estuary. As will be noted in the following chapter, recent studies have
raised doubt that such augmentation would be likely to help the estuary
nearly as much as had been thought and it is no longer being considered
a primary tool for that purpose.

This leaves passive devices and local protection works as the main
available instruments for coping with floods at the metropolis. They
will probably be most effective if applied in a carefully selected
combination of means, with levees and other protective works installed
where feasible and desirable, and backed up in other areas by zoning,
flood warning systems, and good design including flood-proofing,
elevated structures, and similar devices. Some of these principles of
design are already being incorporated in new buildings and renewal
projects, but the task of planning and locating such things as levees
usefully on a flood plain containing a good part of "monumental
Washington," the beauty of which is a national concern, is not going to
be simple. A good program must be instituted soon, and the extent of the
Federal interest in the lands involved should considerably ease the job
of coordination.

Interestingly, certain floods to which Washington is susceptible can be
partially guarded against only by such approaches as the ones mentioned
above, and not at all by upstream dams. One of them occurred in August
of 1933, when a hurricane pushed the water in the estuary upstream and
raised it to flood stage at the capital.




[Illustration]

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

III THE CLEANSING OF THE WATERS


Streams have always had to carry and digest wastes that enter them
through drainage from the land. It is one of their functions in the
scheme of things, and so well have they performed it through the
millennia that human beings have been able to take it for granted.
Within limits that might be considered normal, the ability of running
water to handle loads of waste is phenomenal, and in earlier times those
normal limits were seldom exceeded, for even in populated areas the
general lack of sanitary sewer systems kept the loads from being
concentrated.

In civilized parts of the modern world, however, there are now so many
people generating so many wastes of one kind and another, which often
enter the streams at concentrated points, that the streams can no longer
digest them without help. Too often, in the face of uncontrolled human
increase and expansion, that help has either been denied them or has
been weak and perfunctory. The result is plain enough now in the sorry
mess of sick or dead or dying waters that we Americans have on our
hands, the heritage of having kept on taking them for granted long after
we had bred ourselves out of the right to do so.

As civilized rivers go, the Potomac is rather lucky. It is polluted, but
many parts of it are not nearly as dirty as people are sometimes led
into believing by a look at the summertime estuary at Washington. The
fabled and scenic German Rhine, for instance, is much more degraded in
its main flowing reaches than is the Potomac, and so are a majority of
the other rivers in the northeastern United States and many elsewhere in
the country. Industrialization on the Potomac and its tributaries has
been spotty so far, and there are no really big clusters of population
in the upper parts of the Basin. Furthermore, pollution here has already
been given quite a lot of dedicated and expert attention and some
rectification. Thus anyone who travels up and down the river and its
tributaries finds many miles of pleasant flowing streams capable of
sustaining fish and the other things that are supposed to live in and
around water, and fit to soothe frayed nerves.

He will find a lot of grubby and unsoothing stretches too, extensive in
places, and even in the pleasant streams troubles exist that are
invisible to the eye. There is little to be complacent about, for
threats are multiplying rather than fading, and some parts of the
Potomac river system already need more than help; they need
resurrection.

[Illustration]

The Basin has several standard sorts of pollution, often found in one
combination or another. Chemical contamination occurs along the North
Branch, in areas where pesticides and other economic poisons get into
the stream system, and in spots and stretches where specific industrial
wastes create local problems. There is much and widespread pollution
through organic wastes--often sewage solids, but not always--whose
breakdown by natural processes may demand so much oxygen that a stream
has little or none left over to maintain aquatic life and "stay alive."

Sometimes associated with organic wastes and sometimes entering the
river system otherwise are dangerous bacteria, and also the so-called
"nutrients"--dissolved fertilizing agents that can stimulate excessive
growth of algae or weeds in the water to the detriment of other forms of
life, often to such a degree that these plants' death and decay sets off
a whole new cycle of oxygen demand. And there is sediment washed off the
land, which clouds the water and settles out into a smothering cloak on
the bottom, building up in quiet stretches into ugly and damaging mud
banks and shoals.


Troubles above the Fall Line

Pollution of the Potomac begins at or near its traditional source, the
tiny Appalachian spring at the head of the North Branch where in 1746
Thomas Lord Fairfax's surveyors set an inscribed stone to mark the
northwestern corner of that possessive nobleman's vast holdings.
Abandoned strip coal mines lie within sight of the spot, and it is
doubtful that the infant river trickles more than a few yards before
receiving its first injection of the acidic mixture of substances that
springs and seeps and runoff water extract from bared coal strata and
the mines' spoil heaps and carry down to the streamlet they feed.

[Illustration]

Such additions are frequent for the next 45 miles or so downstream, as
the North Branch in its narrow valley swells into a mountain river with
the water of brooks and creeks flowing off ridges pocked with coal mines
old and new. The river and such tributaries sustain no aquatic life at
all among the discolored stones in their channels.

This mine-derived pollution has been much studied but is still not well
understood. Sulphuric acid is its most damaging component, but may be
accompanied by iron salts and other substances also leached from
materials in and around the vast coal beds of Appalachia. Some acid
entered the streams there naturally, before men ever touched the coal,
but it has increased to deadly proportions with widespread mining. It
issues from both surface strip mines and the old-fashioned underground
sort, though the latter furnish by far the most--an estimated 75 to 90
percent. The overall magnitude of the problem is indicated by the fact
that the more than 60,000 square miles of the Appalachian region
underlain by coal, including the Potomac fraction, contributes five to
ten million tons of sulphuric acid annually to streams and rivers, a
rate of production that is expected to continue for at least a thousand
years.

At Westernport the North Branch enters more populated realms, and
receives one of its latter big doses of acid from Georges Creek, which
drains a devastated, economically depressed valley mined since very
early days. This creek may be the single most unfortunate stream in the
Potomac Basin, for the accumulation of raw wastes it brings down from
the valley's communities is pickled rather than assimilated by its
heavily acid water.

[Illustration]

In the 40 or 50 miles below that point, the North Branch accumulates
great quantities of more usual kinds of pollution as it runs down a
broadening valley past towns and industries that have grown up because
of the conjunction of coal, timber, water, and railways--and in the old
days water transport, for flatboats used to shoot the river at high
water, and later the C. & O. Canal operated upriver as far as
Cumberland. Treatment of wastes in this reach is spotty and mainly
inadequate. Some industries and towns sluice them raw into the dark, sad
water, and others give only perfunctory primary treatment; the city of
Cumberland releases the equivalent of about 18,000 persons' body wastes
each day as effluent, besides extra raw wastes whenever storm runoff
overloads its combined storm and sanitary sewer system and causes it to
overflow. Where major efforts have been made, as at the Upper Potomac
River Commission's Westernport plant below the big Luke, Maryland, pulp
and paper mill, the wastes are so voluminous and complex that some of
them still have to be dumped, and the effluent from even highly
efficient treatment further degrades the river.

Fortunately, the North Branch, acid above, deprived of oxygen and
overenriched and septic below, is not typical of the flowing parts of
the Potomac river system, but it stands as a good grim example of what
pollution can mean, and as a foretaste of what may be expected to happen
elsewhere in the Basin if it is not stopped soon. Mine acid is not a
significant problem in any streams outside of that region, but untreated
or inadequately treated wastes are badly blighting many streams and
rivers or stretches of them. Some smaller watercourses, like historic
Antietam Creek below Hagerstown, Maryland, have deteriorated under the
influence of discharges from single or limited sources, while larger
ones suffer from a cumulative waste buildup in areas of concentrated
population or industry. Some twenty miles of both industrial and
municipal pollution in the South River Branch of the Shenandoah's South
Fork below Waynesboro, Virginia, have done much damage to that legended
river for a good distance downstream, a situation that is worsening with
the area's growth. On the North Fork of the Shenandoah similar effects
have been wrought by heavy organic loads from poultry processing and
other things. The list could be extended: aside from a few happy
exceptions like the prized Cacapon, draining rugged, forested, thinly
peopled hill country, nearly all the Basin's flowing streams of any size
receive damaging loads of waste from towns and industries.

[Illustration: WATER TREATMENT STEPS

(1) River water enters here

(2) Water chlorinated

(3) Water settles. Heavy particles sink

(4) Water pumped to Pretreatment Building

(5) Various chemicals (chlorine, alum, lime, carbon) added. Chemicals
and water stirred in rapid mixing basins

(6) Slow mixing to form "floc" (see Alum below)

(7) Water settles for 2-1/2 hours. "Floc" carries impurities to bottom

(8) Water filtered through 94 rapid sand beds

(9) Final chemical treatment (chlorine, lime, fluoride, phosphate)

PURPOSE OF CHEMICALS

  CHLORINE:     Destroys organic materials
  PHOSPHATE:    Lessens pipe corrosion
  FLUORIDE:     Lessens tooth decay
  CARBON:       Controls taste and odor
  ALUM:         Forms "floc" (snowflakes) to trap impurities
  LIME:         Helps "floc" formation; lessens pipe corrosion
]

The basic and usual damage comes from oxygen depletion. A stream has a
natural capacity for hastening the decay of organic wastes, which is
determined by such things as the volume of its flow, the pollution
already in it, its velocity and depth, and its temperature. When that
capacity is exceeded, as we have noted, too much of the stream's oxygen
is used up by the process of decay and the stream, which is an
intricately complex work of living things, begins to die. Under really
bad conditions, the waste solids themselves cannot all be assimilated,
and hence may build up in layers of stinking sludge at the bottom of
the stream and continue to seize available oxygen for a long time
thereafter.

Conventional waste treatment, in plants built by towns or by industries
whose raw materials are animal or vegetable in origin, is aimed at
removing the solids in the wastes and reducing the bio-chemical oxygen
demand--called B.O.D. It is a speeded-up version of the same process of
purification that goes on normally in any stream when loads are not too
heavy. "Primary" treatment removes such solids as will readily settle
out and passes the rest on back to the stream as part of the effluent.
"Secondary" treatment plants, after settling out the gross solids, speed
up decay by furnishing air to the bacteria that eat up dissolved and
finely suspended materials; a good secondary plant, under much more
skillful supervision than is usual, can get rid of 85 or 90 percent of
the organic materials and the associated B.O.D. by the time it turns its
effluent into a stream. How damaging that effluent will be depends on a
number of things, chief among them being the size and condition of the
receiving stream and the volume of organic materials that went into the
treatment plant in the first place. A riverside town of 1000 with a
secondary treatment plant operating at 75 percent efficiency is going to
inflict on its river a daily load roughly equivalent to the raw sewage
from 250 people.

Over the years a lot of hard effort, notably on the part of the
Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, has resulted in some
degree of treatment for about 85 percent of all municipal wastes and 83
percent of those produced by industry along the Basin's flowing
streams. Put in another way, by INCOPOT calculations the total waste
load imposed on the Potomac is only about three-quarters of what it was
in 1956, despite a population increase of nearly a fifth.

That it is still much too high in many parts of the upper Basin does not
require elaborate instruments to detect, but only a nose and a pair of
eyes. A very few industries and towns are still dumping raw wastes, and
many of the others need better and bigger sewers and treatment plants or
better operation of the plants they have. Sewage collection systems are
sometimes of the old-fashioned combined type, like Cumberland's--and, as
we shall see, like Washington's--which have to carry storm runoff as
well as wastes, and overflow during rainy periods, releasing heavy
pollution without treatment. But even separate sanitary sewers are often
overloaded by having to serve greater populations than they were
designed for, which means that their escape valves may leak raw sewage
more or less continuously into surface watercourses and that the quality
of treatment given the sewage that does reach the treatment plant
signifies less than it ought to.

Antiquated or overloaded treatment plants cause much trouble. Old
primary plants too small for present populations often remove only about
a third or less of the organic material, but by their very existence
they tend to lull communities into a false conviction that they are
doing their part toward clean rivers. Tiny plants of the sort authorized
locally for new leapfrog subdivisions and vacation colonies are usually
doomed to restricted efficiency by their very size. These often are
underdesigned even for initial loads, let alone for the growth that
comes later, and most of them are poorly run.

This question of operation is crucial. A new, well-designed, expensive
plant in slovenly or inexpert hands--a frequent paradox--can put out a
much greater waste load than a well-operated old one. The plant at
Romney, West Virginia, on the lower South Branch, the best example of
responsible operation in the Basin, is old, but because it is well run
it usually achieves about 92 percent elimination of B.O.D. in comparison
with the 75 percent or even less that some newer and more imposing
plants can claim.

The reasons for poor operation are various. One is a shortage of
qualified operators, based on a need for better salaries, more training
programs, and rigid mandatory State certification of operators'
abilities. Another reason can be a pinchpenny attitude on the part of
municipal authorities toward sewage treatment. It is one sizable
expenditure whose results cannot easily be pointed out with pride to
local taxpayers at election time, for its main effect is usually
downstream from the municipality itself. Thus the big encompassing
reason for bad plant operation--cutting corners, refusing to spend what
needs to be spent, failing to supervise--has to be called philosophical.
It comes from a failure on the part of local operators and authorities
and much of the public to comprehend the immorality of deliberate
avoidable pollution, and it may mean that municipal operation of
treatment plants is itself often a major source of trouble.

A clear example of this philosophical deficiency is one large Basin
treatment plant that was reported to have "handled"--i.e., properly
disposed of--a third less sewage sludge in 1965 than it had in 1960,
despite a large increase in the population it serves. The unhandled
sludge, of course, went straight into the local river for reasons of
convenience, economy, and callous indifference.

For the most part, large private industry demonstrates more
responsibility in this respect than the Basin's municipalities or
Federal installations. There are some miserable exceptions where
individual industries dominate a locality's economy and take casual
advantage of that fact. But responsible industry is concerned with
public relations, and knows that a fish kill or a gray-blue stretch of
blighted water downstream from its outfalls is the poorest kind of
public relations to be had.

To be able to say precisely how much bad plant operation is adding to
pollution in the Potomac will require exhaustive and continuous sampling
and analysis of a kind that may be expected now that the Water Quality
Act of 1965 is about to make itself felt through application of new
State water quality standards. But experienced observers in INCOPOT and
elsewhere feel strongly that bad operation does much more damage than do
over-aged or outgrown facilities, though these play a big part too.

Bacterial pollution--the category of most interest from a public health
standpoint--fluctuates a great deal in the Basin's flowing streams, but
is heavy in most of them by current standards during times of normal
flow. It may come from raw waste discharges, from treatment plants that
skimp on chlorination of their effluent, or from storm runoff and
natural drainage off the land and urban pavements. But before anyone can
confidently say how dangerous it is to swimmers and others who make
intimate use of rivers and creeks, water scientists are going to have to
learn more about its measurement and classification than they presently
know.

[Illustration]

No easily applied method of testing can effectively establish the
guaranteed absence of human disease germs. The traditional "Coliform
Count" plays safe, as it must. It measures the concentration of certain
easily spotted "indicator" organisms that do not themselves make people
sick but are always voluminously present in the fecal discharges that
can carry harmful germs, and it gauges the danger by the concentration
of these indicators.

However, concentrations of coliform bacteria, originating in animal
manure or elsewhere, may invade a stream through runoff from rural lands
without having any meaningful relationship to human disease germs.
Counting them under such circumstances is a little like measuring the
depth of the proverbial well by the length of the pump handle.
Furthermore, no one really knows how easy or how hard it may be to catch
given diseases by swimming. In this country, outbreaks of leptospirosis,
an illness common to man and certain animals, have been traced to
swimming holes, and other links are obvious. On the other hand, some
careful British investigations turned up a good many quite healthy
people who habitually splashed about in sea water teeming with
pathogenic organisms of one sort or another. Sea water and fresh water
have vastly different qualities, but the subject is presently full of
confusion, and it needs much research.

Land runoff in general furnishes a large amount of pollution of all
classes, and in all parts of the upper Basin except the least-used
forest sections. Besides bacteria, heavy loads of organic material may
be washed into streams in regions with high densities of livestock or
poultry, and some pollution of this sort is found practically
everywhere. The wild and domestic animal population of the Basin above
Washington has been estimated to produce wastes equivalent to those of
about 3.5 million people. Much of this is dealt with by the "living
filter" of the soil, but much also reaches the streams, associated with
sediment from erosion producing rains. And the sources, particularly in
areas such as those along the Shenandoah and the Monocacy and other
streams with wide rich valleys, are numerous and diffuse.

Nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients, which foster weeds and slime in quiet
stream stretches and contribute to the problems of the estuary
downstream, are found in undesirable concentrations in most of the
Basin's waters above the Fall Line. Not only are the growths encouraged
by these fertilizing agents ugly, but they also upset the ecological
balance of streams by favoring certain types of aquatic life over
others, and they can cause tastes, odors, and clogging in water supply
systems and sometimes, by rotting, a secondary sort of oxygen
deficiency. Nitrogen and phosphorus occur in the effluent from waste
treatment plants, for they are present in human wastes and in
detergents, and in dissolved form are little affected by standard
treatment processes. And in the upper Basin a large part of the nutrient
load in streams appears to be associated with sediment from the same
diffused land runoff mentioned above, for they occur abundantly in
manure, in synthetic fertilizers, in certain natural soils, and in
decaying organic substances of many kinds. The health and growth of
living things is dependent on these elements, of course; it is their
excessive release into waters that causes trouble.

From the same farming regions and even more from lawns and gardens and
parks in more populated areas, pesticides and other economic poisons
accompany sediment into the stream system or are blown into it as
sprays and dusts. They seem not to be as great a problem in the Potomac
as in some other rivers, but they are present in probably significant
amounts; indicator tests hover near Public Health Service drinking-water
limits in the river. Their use, here as elsewhere, increases year by
year, for they are tremendously effective against many of man's ancient
enemies. Being easily available, they are often used in uninformed and
careless ways despite government efforts to determine and publicize safe
levels of application. Knowledge about their side effects, both
immediate and long-term, is still full of gaps. Badly misused, they are
obviously dangerous. But information about the precise results of their
ordinary use and their buildup in nature accumulates very slowly.

The persistent chlorinated hydrocarbons--DDT and its relatives--last for
a long time after being released into the environment, concentrating at
various points in the natural food chain and often in man himself. It is
said that an average adult Californian's tissues today contain more DDT
than is allowed in beef for interstate shipment. But no one is yet
certain what this means in relation to that average Californian's
physical wellbeing, and in terms of fish and wildlife, though the link
between these materials and certain destructive changes can be seen,
evidence in other cases--the declining fertility and numbers of bald
eagles, for instance, which some investigators believe to derive from
pesticide residues--only points toward such a link. Until all the facts
are in and the impact of such poisons has been clearly restricted to the
pest species at which they are aimed, they are going to continue to be
a heavy concern for conservationists and others alarmed about
environmental pollution, along the Potomac and elsewhere.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

One of the principal Potomac pollutants, silt, not only comes from the
land but is the land, most often good topsoil, washing away toward the
sea. Even under pristine conditions streams are likely to run somewhat
muddy after storms; it is a natural phenomenon, a by-effect of the way
climate carves landscapes. On the evidence, however, the Potomac
landscape since its colonization by white men has been undergoing a much
more rapid carving than anyone could consider to be natural. Most of its
streams, particularly in their lower reaches, are thickly opaque for
long periods after rain, and gross erosion in the Basin--the amount of
soil washed away from where it usefully belongs to somewhere
else--averages about 50 million tons per year, a major depletion of the
soil resource and a degrading influence on the landscape through
erosion. The part of this silt that gets into streams cuts down on the
usefulness of the water, creates ugly turbidity, chokes quiet pools and
reservoirs, suffocates bottom-dwelling creatures and plants on which the
streams' wholeness may depend, and rides down the current to add heavily
to the problems of the estuary, into which some 2.5 million tons of it
are annually discharged.

Sediment is dislodged from the land by the pounding action of raindrops
and the flow of runoff, and sometimes is washed from streambanks during
high flows--which may themselves be higher and more frequent because of
silt-clogged channels. The bulk of it can be blamed on unsound land use.
This may be rural, based in the old use-her-up-and-move-along pioneer
outlook that has never died out among us despite wide understanding of
better ways of doing things. People in places still overgraze pastures
and clean-cut timber so that rain can get at the soil and eat it away,
and they still farm land too steep to stay in place without its
vegetative cover, or they plow even suitable rolling land in straight
rows up and down hill so that water and soil sluice away together down
the furrows when it rains. Despite a sharply effective three decades of
work and public education by the Soil Conservation Service and other
agencies, these old practices continue in some places and cause much
erosion.

[Illustration]

Also, increasingly, bad land use involves the ways in which great
machines adapt the landscape to hundreds of sophisticated purposes. The
massive eatings of powered blades and scoops to get at coal and other
minerals on the steep slopes of the North Branch watershed and
elsewhere, add heavily to sedimentation. So do broad rights-of-way
gashed out of the countryside and left bare under storms in the months
before highway construction is done, and secondary roads that even when
finished may be left for years or forever with denuded clay shoulders
and ditches and banks that wash with every rain. And so, most
particularly, do the great polygons of rolling land around the Basin's
town and cities that are stripped naked by bulldozers and left sitting
in that condition for long periods, while they await the erection of
buildings and blocks of homes. This is occurring throughout the Basin,
but most notably around Washington, where the highest erosion rates of
all are found. We will take a look at its details and the reasons for it
a little further along in this chapter when we examine the estuary's
situation.

Except for the acid parts of the North Branch, the upper Basin's waters
in most places, most of the time, can still serve the "practical"
purposes to which they are put--irrigation, industrial uses, municipal
supply after purification, and even the absorption and digestion of
effluents from adequate, well-run treatment plants. Most of the streams
are usually good to look at, especially in conjunction with the superb
rural landscapes against backgrounds of wooded mountains that are
characteristic. They furnish much pleasure to fishermen, hunters,
boatmen, swimmers, picnickers, and other folk, though in some places it
is an open question, as we have seen, whether or not contact with the
water is prudent. And almost everywhere, aging locals can recall a time
when their stream was a happier amenity than now--when it held more
fish, ran clearer over stones and gravel not coated with weeds and
green slime, did not have the smell it presently emanates, was colder
and more copious....

Their nostalgia probably does not play them false, even though
conditions in many places are better now than in the intermediate past,
after modern times had settled in, but before INCOPOT and the Soil
Conservation Service and such influences had begun to push for reform of
the casual, anciently human ways of doing things in which present human
populations can no longer afford to indulge themselves. Some of the
gains that have been made are being cancelled out by growth and new
types of pollution, however, and in general the flowing Potomac river
system is teetering at the brink of bad trouble. It needs help.

If the flowing upper Potomac had any lingering oxygen deficiency in its
lower stretches--though it seems usually not to--it would tend to
rectify the lack in its turbulent eighteen-miles descent across the Fall
Line, a superb natural "treatment plant." Normally it arrives at
Washington charged with oxygen, but does bring down with it the part of
its nutrient load that has not fertilized upstream weeds and algae,
periodic waves of bacterial concentration, and a great deal of debris
and silt in season.

In the broadening, slowing upper estuary, its sluggish currents confused
by the twice-daily surge and ebb of tides, these materials from above
are stirred in with an array of specifically metropolitan
pollutants--with more silt off of the outraged urban watershed, with
junk and debris of a thousand sorts, with decaying substances and
bacteria from many sources, and with vast new quantities of nitrogen and
phosphorus. The consequence is a weighty and sometimes spectacular
pollution problem directly adjacent to the proud national capital. It is
at its vivid and aromatic worst in summer, when the most Americans come
there fondly to view the city and the Potomac, and when locals who want
to boat and fish and swim and do the other things one does on water
would make most use of the river--indeed, do make use of it in spite of
everything.

Like the meek, the upper estuary inherits the earth, or at least that
part of the Basin's earth that is washed downriver as silt. There are
enough fine suspended sediment particles in the water of the
metropolitan river to make it drably opaque most of the time, even
during relatively dry spells, when heavy sand and gravel dredging helps
to keep it stirred up. As the current loses force and washes back and
forth with the tides, the particles settle out slowly into smothering,
continually renewed blankets on the bottom, and over two centuries have
accreted into great mudbanks and shoals. Channel dredging to maintain
navigation has been going on since the early 19th century, about 180,000
cubic yards being presently removed each year. The dumping of the
dredged materials on the marshes and long low shores has built up wide,
flat, new flood plain areas around the city over the years, including
the sites of Washington National Airport, Anacostia and Bolling Air
Fields, and East and West Potomac Parks.

Such channel dredging has little effect on the gradual shoaling of this
whole part of the river in general. Miles of formerly navigable water
downstream from Memorial Bridge are now only one to four feet deep and
useless for either pleasure or commercial craft. It has been estimated
that present rates of deposition will within fifty years fill in the
upper estuary completely to a mile or so below Alexandria, except for a
river channel. The same process is at work in the tributary creek-bays
that give onto the estuary, some of which have silted so heavily since
Colonial Days that formerly thriving ports--among them Bladensburg,
Dumfries, and Port Tobacco--are now distant from the water.

The bulk of estuarial silt comes down the main river from the upper
Basin. But a heavy increment is added in the metropolitan area. Modern
mechanized development of the city's hilly environs on a huge scale,
continuing year by year with few thoughtful rules to guide it
heretofore, has brought about erosion that on individual patches of
bared land may reach a temporary rate of 50,000 tons per square mile per
year, and even average rates in this area are far in excess of anything
else in the Basin.

We had to examine the reasons for this rather closely last year in a
study of Rock Creek's ailments, whose findings we published in a report
called _The Creek and the City_. This much-admired metropolitan stream
has been relatively well protected, with the parks along its wooded
valley and an upper watershed that until quite recently remained
essentially rural. But as development has proceeded in standard and
careless ways--the wholesale stripping and scarification of big tracts
of rolling, fine-textured land, the long naked wait for development--the
creek has come to be muddy and ugly almost all the time and has been
spewing an estimated 100,000 tons of sediment a year into the estuary,
with frequent floods.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

To help save the creek and its parks and to stimulate a better kind of
development of the rest of its basin, citizens formed a watershed
association under Soil Conservation Service auspices and brought about
the construction of two small upstream reservoirs to control
flooding--with results noted in the preceding chapter--and to collect
silt. They sought to promote better land use as well, for the
reservoirs' effectiveness is obviously dependent on their not filling up
quickly with an excess of sediment. Better land use around a city
depends on zoning and other legal devices to regulate the density and
distribution of construction, and on controls over the way land is
shaped, and a sharp conflict developed between the watershed's defenders
and the Council of Montgomery County, Maryland, in office at that time,
whose rezonings in favor of standard massive suburbanization and whose
failure to enact sediment-control ordinances threatened the whole
effort. Rock Creek has many friends, and their subsequent fight for its
salvation has had good effect, though much remains to be done.

[Illustration]

However, Rock Creek is only one of many metropolitan streams that need
protection, both for their own sake and for that of the estuary. Some
are getting it--in the preceding chapter we noted the happy example of
Pohick Creek in Virginia, where whole watershed planning is being
accomplished almost from scratch, before development. But many more are
being ruined by the steady advance of standard urban sprawl.

Thus the main cause of urban silt is faulty or nonexistent or powerless
land planning, and the problem merges with the whole question of
landscape preservation. The ecological principles involved in good
practical land planning--the distribution of uses based on what land and
water can take without being degraded and causing silt, flooding, and
downstream pollution--are the same basic principles that lead to scenic
beauty and a decent human environment. This is a subject we will explore
in more detail when we arrive at considering the landscape as a whole,
but for now it may be worthwhile to note that insofar as urban erosion
and silt stem from decisions of political agencies inclined to subjugate
well-known good land use principles to speculative pressures,
expediency, and other things, their origin is political and economic.

Organic materials are pervasive enough in the upper estuary that during
periods of even normal flow their decay pulls oxygen levels down. Under
usual conditions this B.O.D. grows worse and worse downstream and
reaches a peak in the neighborhood of Mount Vernon, though its effects
continue to be felt below. Fish kills among the rugged resident species
that predominate in these reaches of the river are not uncommon, the
shoreline windrows of deceased carp and perch periodically adding their
essence to what metropolitans have come to accept as the Potomac's
normal summer smell. And along with the organic materials are heavy
concentrations of bacteria.

The organic and bacterial load enters the estuary from many sources,
most of them local, for only a little of this material comes down from
the upper river. A significant amount of it issues from the network of
small urban watercourses like Rock Creek. Many of these were covered
over as storm sewers or troughed in concrete long ago, but they continue
to serve their age-old function of draining the lands they traverse,
even if through cast-iron gratings.

A good bit of the organic load in these tributaries consists of raw
human waste, incongruous and particularly obnoxious around a modern
city. The bulk of it is released in periodic surges when local
rainstorms overload the old-fashioned combined sewer systems of the
District of Columbia and Alexandria. In dry weather these systems send
both collected sanitary wastes and street drainage down to the cities'
respective treatment plants, but during storms when street drainage is
heavy the sewers' capacity is exceeded and overflow gates gush mixed
stormwater and sewage out into the streams, which carry it to the
estuary.

In the suburbs, more modern separate storm and sanitary sewers are the
rule, but they too have some problems of a kind we noted in relation to
the upper river. Investigations on Rock Creek revealed steady dribbles
of raw sewage entering the creek or its tributaries from a large number
of storm-sewer outfalls and other places. Partly these flow from
malfunctioning individual septic systems in outlying areas,
surreptitious connections of house sanitary sewers to the storm system,
breaks and leaks in sanitary sewers, and such things. Partly too they
seem to come from the fact that some sanitary sewers are having to carry
more sewage than they were designed to handle, so that their overflow
valves leak more or less constantly into the storm sewer system. The
capacity of sewage collection systems is related to planning. If a pipe
is laid down to a fringe area where county zoning maps indicate only
limited development is going to be permitted, its size is gauged to that
kind of development. But if the zoning is changed later and three times
as many houses are hooked up to the line as were originally envisioned,
trouble results. Rock Creek is heavily affected by such sewage, and the
chances are that the situation is much worse on many other urban
drainways, for their longstanding degradation or sheer disappearance
from view has lost them the alert defenders who watch over Rock Creek in
its pleasant valley.

Out of the storm sewers whether combined or separate, off of the roads
and streambanks and hillsides, down the urban tributaries or directly
overland into the estuary, comes still another big jolt of organic and
bacterial pollution every time there is a heavy rain. This is surface
runoff, the washings of the street and parks and sidewalks and rooftops.
Besides debris, it contains vast hordes of bacteria and many kinds of
organic oxygen-demanding substances, of which animal droppings are only
one easily definable example. Around a city the size of the Washington
metropolis, this runoff would constitute a worrisome pollution problem
even if the matter of sanitary wastes were thoroughly in control.

[Illustration]

Ships and large boats in the estuary, in accordance with an
unfortunately persistent nautical tradition, generally discharge toilet
wastes and garbage directly into the water on which they float. Some of
these are coastal or transoceanic vessels, both commercial and naval.
Many more belong to the fleet of pleasure boats which have been
increasing at Washington despite the water's unpleasant state to which
they add their bit, degrading the element that is supposed to provide
the enjoyment for which the boats were built. It is not a problem
limited to the Potomac estuary, but widespread these days and the focus
of much concern among public health and pollution control authorities,
conservationists, and the boat and marina industries themselves.

Around the various marinas to be found along metropolitan
shores--several of them Federally owned--sanitary facilities are
generally skimpy, and no regulations govern the discharge of wastes from
boats. Since individual marinas may berth as many as 600 or 700 craft, a
great many of them in daily use during the recreation season and some
inhabited as dwellings the year round, summer conditions that frequently
prevail around these places are not to be described in polite terms.

Less visible at the point of origin though not in its ultimate effects
is the huge organic load that comes to the estuary in the effluent of
local sewage treatment plants, estimated at possibly 300 to 350 million
gallons per day. There are many smaller plants strung out down both
shores of the upper estuary, but four larger ones handle the bulk of
metropolitan sewage. Of these, three--the main plant at Blue Plains in
the District, the Alexandria plant, and the Fairfax County Westgate
plant--furnish secondary treatment, and the fourth, the Arlington County
plant on Four Mile Run, is on the verge of putting new secondary
facilities into operation.

Yet the same problem of plant operation that exists in the upper Basin
also rears its head here. A casual boat ride down the shoreline with a
few excursions up tributary creek-mouths demonstrates that many of the
smaller plants, including a number of Federal ones, are emitting a very
low quality of effluent, and this is borne out by sanitary surveys. The
proliferation of such small plants around cities and elsewhere is a
headache to sanitary authorities, for their very size and numbers create
a probability of trouble. Much effort is going into eliminating them and
channeling the wastes they receive into the larger plants.

But the large plants themselves at this point are a much bigger part of
the problem; on the basis of sheer volume, their contribution to
estuarial pollution dwarfs all others. The Blue Plains plant is by far
the largest of the four, handling wastes from about 1.4 million people
in Washington and outlying areas on both sides of the river. By the
terms of a conference convened in 1957 by the Public Health Service to
investigate the sanitary state of the Potomac at Washington, the
District committed itself to maintain 80% efficiency of treatment at
this plant, which was then brand new. Last year, ten years afterward,
the most generous recent calculation of the efficiency there was 62%,
and some qualified observers expressed a conviction that Blue Plains had
never consistently functioned at much over 50%--in other words, it had
been returning to the estuary unassimilated organic materials equivalent
to the raw discharges of a population of roughly 500,000 to 700,000
people each day. Nor do these figures include a great deal of sludge
that has been flushed on into the river when digesters have failed to
function properly, or the plant's frequently inadequate use of
chlorination against bacterial pollution and odors. Since the same 1957
conference required of the other metropolitan jurisdictions only that
they do equally as well as the main plant in quality of treatment, they
have clearly not been obligated to superhuman effort.

[Illustration]

Criticism of Blue Plains is in part criticism of ourselves. Because of
the distinctive relationship between the District and the Federal
Government, the District's treatment plant is in a sense a Federal
installation, funded through Congress and with more direct links to
Federal water quality agencies than any other big municipal plant in the
country. The number of people the plant serves has, of course, increased
greatly in the past ten years. It may have been, as has been claimed,
somewhat underdesigned to begin with, and it undoubtedly needs expansion
now. Yet a rather substantial improvement in the quality of treatment
there in quite recent months, mainly under the stimulus of this planning
effort and the present surge of interest in the Potomac, indicates that
had emphasis on low operating costs been subjugated to pride in
results, the present plant could long ago have been made to function
reasonably well and the estuary would have had to cope with a much
lighter load of wastes.

The truly spectacular manifestation of pollution in the metropolitan
Potomac is the periodic growth of algae there in summertime. When
conditions are right--when sun, summer temperatures, low inflows from
the river above, and a heavy concentration of nitrate and phosphate
nutrients all combine to make of the upper estuary one vast inspired
pool of fertility--the whole surface of the river may be covered with a
thick bright emerald mat, and boats that pass at speed leave wakes of
green instead of white. The infestation may extend downstream for thirty
or forty miles, in various degrees of concentration, and even if the
water were bacterially safe this "bloom," as it is called, would
prohibit its recreational use by anyone without a strong stomach. It
further disrupts aquatic life balances, and periodically dies and decays
aromatically, setting off whole new cycles of oxygen depletion, fish
kills, stink, and fertilization.

The problem is one of fertility, of course, and stems from the huge
quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus perennially present in the water.
Some of this comes down from the upper river--where, as we noted, much
of it derives from land runoff--but by far the greatest part of it
originates at the metropolis and enters the river through the effluent
of waste treatment plants. Efficiency of operation has hardly anything
to do with it, for even the best standard treatment has little effect on
nutrients.

Eutrophication is the scientific name of this kind of overenrichment. It
is occurring in many places, Lake Erie being the best-known single
example in this country. Though its causes are mainly known, the process
itself is still not fully understood, particularly in regard to the
function of nitrogen and the way it works. But the other key element,
phosphorus, has been more amenable to study and to possible action. It
occurs in body wastes, in artificial fertilizers, as a by-product of
natural decay, and very notably in detergents. Some eight tons of it are
released into the estuary each day from the treatment plants in addition
to the undetermined but much smaller amounts arriving from upriver, and
the usual overall accumulation is enough to make the river's phosphorus
content exceed that considered desirable all the way from Theodore
Roosevelt Island to Quantico, Virginia, and below, which represents the
general extent of the summertime "blooms."

Dilapidation begets disrespect, and the abused and often repellent
waters of the upper estuary are undoubtedly subjected to much additional
miscellaneous pollution by people who believe perhaps that a little more
cannot possibly matter. Again, Federal or Federally connected
institutions have not been setting the best possible example, and there
are many of them around the capital city. Unwarranted waste discharges
of one kind or another have been traced to most of the military
installations fronting the river, to military hospitals, to government
heating plants, to the National Zoo, to National Parks, and to similar
Federal sources including the marinas already mentioned. In most cases,
measures are now being taken to eliminate these discharges, but it is a
commentary on the complexity and difficulty of the whole task of dealing
with pollution that at the level of government where real concern with
the problem has been acute for a decade or more, and furthermore at and
around the very seat of that government, such practices should have
persisted this long.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

Junk and debris of all descriptions infest the metropolitan river,
floating about, washing onto the shores, poking up stolidly here and
there out of mudflats. Most items in a dreary inventory that might be
compiled would turn out to be something that was discarded somewhere it
didn't belong by someone who did not want to go to the trouble to put it
where it did belong. Therefore, the main source is undoubtedly simple
disregard for the sensibilities and rights of others, multiplied and
complicated by the immense number of people in the metropolis and the
wide territory they occupy. In our study of Rock Creek last year, some
powerful subsidiary reasons for the prevalence of debris turned up also,
ranging to streetcleaning methods and the inconvenient hours kept by
some public dumps where citizens have to carry their larger trash.
Metropolitan problems are seldom simple, and many of them in one way or
another manage to inflict a part of their complexity on the river at the
national capital, which is sad but possibly appropriate in a time like
the present.


The lower estuary

Downriver from the main effects of the metropolitan complexities, the
widening brackish and salt portions of the Potomac estuary form a
generally healthy body of water, though changes loom as the metropolis
moves inexorably outward from its center and as hitherto remote
Tidewater areas are brought more and more under the influence of modern
ways of being. Localized problems of pollution point to general dangers
that will certainly materialize unless safeguards are set up in time,
for estuaries are delicate, immensely productive, and still somewhat
mysterious aquatic environments that have been and still are too much
taken for granted.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

Rapid human intrusion on estuaries during the past twenty years has
been making apparent their phenomenal value in a natural condition.
Vulnerable, attractive to diverse interests that work their beds for
sand and gravel and fill in their marshes for development and casually
pollute them, they have recently been called America's most endangered
natural habitat. They are almost unbelievably fertile places, with
involved biological cycles that can convert the fertility into usable
food at rates per acre far exceeding those of the finest farm land; in
terms of money, one recent set of experiments indicates the possibility
of attaining an annual shellfish production on tended beds worth over
$26,000 an acre.

Furthermore, aside from the direct harvest of this wealth from estuaries
each year by commercial and sport fishermen, these in-between waters
make an indispensable contribution to the entire Atlantic coastal
fishery, an industry worth a billion dollars a year. The reason for this
is that at least 70 percent of coastal fishes spend some essential part
of their life cycle within an estuary--spawning there, or passing
through on their way to spawn in running fresh streams, or moving in as
fry from the rivers or the open sea to find a "nursery" in one of the
varied estuarine habitats--bays, marshes, sandy shorelines, mudflats,
tidal creeks, or weed beds.

The oysters from the famous beds in the Saint Mary's River off of the
lower Potomac are mainly condemned as unfit for consumption because of
local sewage pollution, and these beds are not the only unfit ones, for
towns and resorts in the region have been growing and sanitary
facilities have not been keeping pace. Already some arms of the superb
natural harbors formed by the tributary creeks are noxious with
discharges from boats at big marinas, and gravel dredging is stirring up
silt to smother bottom life, including shellfish. As Tidewater
agriculture revives and modernizes, pesticides and artificial
fertilizers are coming to be as much a part of the scene there as in
other farming regions, and may be expected to influence the estuary--in
fact, they undoubtedly already are doing so in subtle ways with effects
not yet apparent.

Yet most of this part of the river is still beautiful and continues to
yield good harvests of seafood. The Potomac River Fisheries Commission
has been alert to obvious dangers and has moved against them where its
powers have permitted, and natives of the area are increasingly alert in
protecting the estuary. Many of them depend on it for a living, most are
oriented toward it for their pleasures, and until lately a good many of
them counted on it for transportation. In a number of different ways, it
matters in their lives. And that fact offers some hope for the future,
especially if it is fostered and strengthened by overall protective
measures.


Techniques for cleaning up

Two main general approaches to water quality improvement exist:
treatment of pollution at its source or occasionally after it has
entered a stream, and augmentation of the stream's flow to help it
assimilate loads of waste beyond its natural capacity. A third
possibility in certain situations is the diversion of wastes out of a
stream's drainage entirely. In practice, these methods can be varied and
combined in any number of ways to fit a need.

To take the last one first, diversion of whole wastes as received from
their sources is a total and dramatic means of coping with a pollution
problem stemming from collectable wastes, but it often has
disadvantages. One of these, of course, is the possibility that the
pollution problem may be simply transplanted elsewhere--that the water
in which the wastes eventually end up will suffer. Another is loss of
water from the stream system. If, as is usual, a town gets its water out
of the local river or a tributary and does not give it back after
use--preferably well cleaned up--other users downstream are not going to
have as much water available to them, and the essential processes and
ecology of the river itself may suffer.

The only place such wholesale diversion of wastes has been seriously
considered in the Potomac Basin is at metropolitan Washington, whose
sewage could feasibly be piped across Chesapeake Bay and the Delmarva
peninsula and well out into the Atlantic--possibly, as has been
suggested, in combination with sewage from Baltimore. It would be a
permanent means of disposal, but very expensive in terms of both
investment and operating costs. Furthermore, though in the estuary no
downstream users would suffer a loss of water supply, the water content
in metropolitan sewage has at times risen as high as 80 percent of the
flow of the river above the upstream intakes. The effects of such a
subtraction of fresh water on the estuary itself--changes in flow, and
in the penetration of salt water upriver, with an inevitable alteration
in valuable fisheries and the whole balance of aquatic life established
through millennia--could easily turn out to be disastrous.

Standard treatment of pollution at its source consists of the primary
and secondary processes we have glanced at, sometimes adjusted to
specific industrial wastes. It has to be brought up to peak efficiency
along the Potomac, for this is a "known factor" of great significance.
Plants can and must be improved physically where necessary, and
qualified operators provided for them. Collection systems have to be
improved or enlarged in many places. Diminutive plants, doomed to
inefficiency by their size and the financial impossibility of hiring
expert workers for them, need to be eliminated in favor of regional
waste collection and treatment facilities, which are quite feasible,
particularly in the watershed units of the upper Basin.

Even so, it has emerged clearly to view in this Potomac study that
standard treatment alone is no longer an answer in areas of concentrated
or continuous population and industry, where the leftover wastes and the
nutrients in the effluent from even well-run standard plants can often
add up to a killing load for water.

Total diversion of treatment plant effluents is sometimes possible, but
is subject to the same objections that apply to total diversion of
untreated sewage--possible pollution of the receiving water (such as
Chesapeake Bay or the lower Potomac estuary, both of which have been
suggested and considered for Washington's effluent) and the alteration
of hydrological and ecological conditions. Modified forms of effluent
diversion, however, may offer more promise.

Effluents from maximum standard treatment processes, for instance, can
be injected into underground strata as recharge water for aquifers--a
process mentioned earlier as one alternative in the emerging package of
water supply techniques--or may be spread over the surface of large
areas of rural land where they serve as irrigation water and fertilizer
combined, as well as soaking down into underlying aquifers. For large
scale, sustained use, both of these practices still offer some technical
difficulties--algae buildups that interfere with percolation, odor
problems, limited aquifer capacities, the large amounts of land required
for spreading, the effect of rain and freezing weather, and such things.
And where the aquifers in question do not feed the original source
stream system, a big subtraction is again involved. But for certain
conditions in certain places these problems are undoubtedly going to be
worked out.

A more modest but highly useful modification of effluent diversion is
the spacing of treatment plant outfalls at intervals for a long distance
downstream from a treatment plant. If nutrient and organic loads are not
tremendously heavy in relation to the size of the receiving stream, this
procedure can help to assure that no one stretch gets too strong a dose
of them. It is likely to find good use in the Potomac and elsewhere,
though only as an adjunct to the best available treatment.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Advanced treatment" and "tertiary treatment" are becoming common terms
nowadays. They refer to any of a considerable array of additional or
intensified processes aimed at attaining levels of purification that
would have cost an impossible price a few years ago. Most of them are
still experimental and often still expensive, and they involve
everything from filtration through powdered coal to flash distillation,
with still others in prospect. Some bypass conventional treatment and
deal with whole raw wastes. More build on conventional treatment and are
designed to remove nutrients and residual organic material from its
effluents. Of these latter approaches, at least one, involving lime
precipitation and other processes to remove nearly all phosphorus and
most remaining organic material, is nearing a stage of development and
economy that may warrant important use. It will be applied first at the
new Piscataway treatment plant of the Washington Suburban Sanitary
Commission in Prince Georges County, Maryland, which will also
incorporate research and demonstration projects in nitrogen stripping
and other things.

[Illustration]

In the long run such advances offer the main hope of clean water for a
superpopulated future America, where volumes of wastes are going to be
enormous and first-rate off-stream treatment is going to have to be the
main way of handling them. Even where wastes can be collected easily for
treatment, however, as in industry or in sewered populated areas, it may
take a good many years to work out varied forms of advanced treatment
adaptable to different sets of circumstances, at prices that communities
can afford to pay--and a willingness to pay what can be paid is going to
have to be a part of the long clean-up job ahead. Undoubtedly continuing
research will work out such forms of treatment, but the research itself
may be quite costly and no one can predict its pace.

Where waste sources are too diffuse to be channeled into collection
systems--as along many agricultural streams heavily polluted through
land runoff and drainage, and also in some urban situation--present
tools are extremely limited. Soil conservation practices aimed at
cutting down erosion--to be discussed within a few pages--tend to keep
not only silt but nutrients and other substances on the land to some
extent. Concentrated sources of animal manure such as dairies, poultry
operations, and feed lots can be brought under some control by fencing
stock off from streams and by techniques of lagooning and later field
spreading, which need much wider use in the Potomac Basin. But even if
these approaches were applied fully throughout the region within a
shorter time than appears likely or even possible, land runoff would
still be a heavy source of water degradation.

Hence it is probable that flow augmentation--sometimes called "flow
dilution" or included in the broader term "flow regulation"--through the
release of stored water, will be an important auxiliary tool in water
quality management for a good while to come. This is not a form of
flushing wastes downstream from their source and out of sight, as some
opponents continue to insist, but a means of helping streams to
oxygenate and decompose excess wastes by the same processes they have
always used on natural and normal loads. On the other hand, neither is
flow augmentation the end-all cure for pollution that enthusiasts of a
few years ago claimed it to be. Its effect on slow masses of water is
uncertain and probably minimal, and too much dependence on it even for
flowing streams would obviously encourage neglect of the practical and
moral need to keep filth and troublesome substances from getting into
the streams in the first place. Furthermore, such dependence would lead
rapidly to a point of diminishing returns, like the flood-plain
development and protection cycle examined in the preceding chapter.
Increases in populations and pollution would lead to a necessity to
provide more and more augmentation of flows, with storage space in
reservoirs becoming more and more expensive precisely as flood
protection does. Flow augmentation is no substitute for good treatment,
but a valuable adjunct.

In the record drought summer of 1966 the South Fork of the Shenandoah,
heavily polluted with municipal and industrial wastes near Waynesboro,
and with fertilizer, manure, and other substances in drainage from the
rich and intensively utilized farm country through which it flows, ran
very low for months. In many places it was slimy and unpleasant, and
aquatic life suffered to some extent, but the picture was not nearly so
dismal as it would have been if the river had not been helped out more
or less by accident. The source of this help was some 2000 gallons of
water per minute that the Merck plant at Elkton and the Dupont plant
near Waynesboro were releasing after having pumped it out of deep
aquifers and used it for cooling. If all sources of pollution had been
receiving adequate treatment, this minimal dilution might not have been
so badly needed to avoid the fish kills and algal stagnation and other
results that would have ensured without it. But "all sources" include
the problematic agricultural drainage, and for that matter the
definition of "adequate treatment" is going to have to go up and up in
our expansive future.

The sad situation of the smaller and much less industrialized Monocacy
in the same summer underscores the point. The Monocacy flows through
similar farming country and passes by a few towns. The largest of these
is Frederick, Maryland, for whose approximately 40,000 people the little
river furnishes water and a conduit to carry away the effluent from
their average-to-good secondary plant. At times during that dry summer
practically the entire flow of the river below Frederick consisted of
effluent, with effects on stream life, esthetics, and the general
surroundings that are not hard to imagine.

Another good example of a place where, under present conditions,
augmentation could sometimes be used beneficially is at Great Falls and
in the Potomac gorge below. Heavy public expenditure has protected the
shore in much of this neighborhood and provided pleasant recreation
areas whose main scenic focus is the violent magnificence of the river
in its plunge. But the magnificence becomes a rather drab joke in dry
summers when metropolitan withdrawals of water above that point shrink
the river to a semblance of normal flow.

[Illustration: Low Flow Augmentation]

The North Branch and some smaller Basin streams also need this same kind
of help and most will continue to need it even when the best
economically feasible treatment of all collectable wastes entering them
is ensured. It can be provided out of reservoirs, large or small, whose
need for other purposes as well will keep the cost of dilution within
reason. A future possibility, if research presently going on in the
Basin verifies it and shows ways of putting it to use, is to employ
ground water in the same way. There can be no doubt that if the flowing
waters of the Basin are to be put back in good condition and kept that
way under population pressures that are in prospect, flow augmentation
in some places is going to be an important tool.

In the upper estuary, however, its usefulness appears to be far more
limited. The plan proposed in the _Army Report_ of 1963, in line with a
Public Health Service approach emphasized in the 1961 Water Pollution
Control Act, was designed to provide an eventual minimum flow into the
upper estuary of 3100 cubic feet per second, or around two billion
gallons per day, for the purpose of dealing with treatment-plant
effluents and miscellaneous pollution. But more recent investigations
have raised strong doubt as to whether such augmentation could do the
job in the estuary with its huge volume of water, and its slow,
tide-baffled currents that greatly lessen its assimilative capacity.

In terms of dissolved oxygen, dilution of such a body of water for
quality improvement appears to decrease in unit effectiveness as the
volume of dilution is stepped up, which means that past a certain
minimal point of improvement it gets expensive and requires
unreasonable amounts of storage. In terms of nutrients, one authority
has calculated that about 20,000 cubic feet per second would be required
to reduce the nutrient level in the upper estuary to a point where it
would be only twice that of a normal and healthily "rich" section of the
upper Chesapeake Bay. Some augmentation below the point of diminishing
returns will undoubtedly be needed, not only for the estuary but to keep
the river alive in its gorge above Washington during periods of low
flow. But as a main tool for the metropolitan river, it will not
substitute for achievement of the best possible standard treatment
followed by advanced treatment and other techniques.

Obviously, just as in water supply, an ultimate cure for water quality
ills is going to consist of a "mix" of solutions, different techniques
being applied to the situations they are best suited to deal with, and
combinations of them being worked out where combinations are what is
indicated. Already the same kind of sophisticated mathematical models of
given bodies of water--including the Potomac--that are being used to
study solutions for water supply problems are being put to use on water
quality as well, weighing the benefits and drawbacks of various
combinations of means. And, just as in water supply, ultimate "hard"
technology is undoubtedly going to make better solutions possible, while
a strong and meaningful start is possible with the technology that is on
hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

Silt is a truly Basinwide problem. The individual tiny grains of soil
that mass to sully and choke the estuary may have originated anywhere
in the thousands of square miles of drainage above. They constitute an
economic loss at their points of origin as well as a trouble all along
their downstream course of migration.

The basic-physical ways of preventing silt are twofold and easily
defined: first, the maintenance of proper land cover--vegetation or
humus or mulch which blankets and anchors the soil particles and
prevents falling or flowing water from dislodging them--and second,
structural approaches that control the flow of water and can also serve
to trap eroded material. These latter can be anything from good contour
plowing practices to a major reservoir with a certain silt capacity
built into it.

[Illustration]

Such techniques are the basis of existing programs of the Soil
Conservation Service and the Forest Service that have proved their
effectiveness over many years of rural application. Watershed planning
with small reservoirs, check dams, and terraces backed up by good land
treatment and use, soil surveys, wise forestry practices, and such
things are stimulated and bolstered in these programs by technical and
financial assistance given to private landowners, States, and local
organizations. They have already had important local effects in the
Potomac States as throughout the country, but for maximum value in
relieving sedimentation they are going to need much wider and more
intensive application.

In modified form, they can be effective against newer and more
concentrated sources of silt, while sometimes accomplishing other
purposes as well. As we noted in discussing metropolitan pollution,
urban land undergoing development can enormously benefit from good
watershed planning. Preservation of critically erosive and flood-prone
land in grass and forest, insistence on prompt re-vegetation of bared
land and the use of such things as sediment detention basins by
developers, the construction of small headwater reservoirs when they are
needed to trap silt and reduce flooding--all these elements of watershed
planning are effective not only against silt but against standard urban
and suburban ugliness. The translation of rural techniques to city use
cannot be literal, for both urban hydrology and urban land use are
distinctive, and a good deal remains to be learned about making the
techniques work better there. But their basic principles are obviously a
main hope.

Other modifications of them, if put into wide practice, can cut down on
the heavy production of silt by strip mines in the upper Basin;
these involve both the reclamation of abandoned mines and the use
of more care in scraping new ones. And application of the same
principles--protective cover and detention of runoff--to new highway and
road construction, as well as to the reclamation of banks and shoulders
on old secondary roads, has to be achieved.

The silt already in the upper estuary, and likely to continue to be
deposited there even after the best available controls may have been put
into operation above, will need radical treatment. The tens of millions
of tons already choking the metropolitan river, the stockpile of
centuries, will have to be dredged out if the river is going to be as
pleasant and useful at the capital as it ought to be, and so will the
yearly additions that can inevitably be expected. This can be done if
the money is available, though a considerable unsolved problem, under
research at present, is where to put the silt after it has been taken
out of the river, for appropriate fill sites are growing scarce.

Turbidity in the sluggish upper estuary will continue to be a problem
too, for the fine particles of silt that cause it are the least affected
by standard land treatment and sediment control measures.
Polyelectrolytes--chemicals which when applied in quite small amounts
can coagulate such suspended silt and settle it out--offer some promise
as tools against turbidity and are being tried out experimentally above
one of the reservoirs on upper Rock Creek, with good results thus far.
Very possibly they may prove to be useful for clearing up the estuary
after it has been roiled by storm runoff, and for achieving some
control of murky waters around sand and gravel dredging operations.
However, ironically, it has also been pointed out that until the excess
of nutrients in the upper estuary is eliminated, such clearing of the
water could very possibly cause a great increase in the already
disastrous algae blooms, by allowing sunlight to penetrate to greater
depths and foster more production of this undelightful greenery. Cleanup
of pollution as complex as that evolved in the 20th century has to be
across the board.

[Illustration]

Barring a general philosophical revolution on the part of the American
people, the problem of junk and debris in our waters is likely to
continue and even to increase as people and their consumption of the
products of the economy maintain their geometric growth. Clean rivers in
themselves might deter a good many people from cluttering them thus, and
so might public education, stiff fines, and the provision of better
municipal pickup and dumping facilities. But mainly getting rid of such
detritus is probably going to be a matter of fairly continuous
gathering and disposal. On navigable waters like those of the upper
Potomac estuary, ingenious collection craft under the command of Army
Engineers are in prospect; elsewhere the job is likely to be more
old-fashioned and laborious.

For certain remaining pollution problems, no definite full technological
answers exist at present and the main hope must be to alleviate them as
much as possible while pressing a search for long-run answers. Some are
relatively restricted in their effects in the Potomac Basin so far,
though they have some drastic local effects and some long-run
implications. Certain industrial wastes not amenable to any presently
known form of treatment, such as tannery discharges at Petersburg, West
Virginia, and Williamsport, Maryland, are one example. So are the
noxious exudations of raw sewage and garbage from ships and pleasure
craft. Marinas themselves and the boats docked there can and must be
connected to waste collection systems. Laws can and should prohibit
discharges from watercraft in harbors and rivers. But until better means
of on-board waste treatment or retention than exist at present are
evolved and made mandatory, the multitudes of boats with standard toilet
facilities are going to keep on causing trouble.

Other sources of trouble without clear-cut present solutions are big
ones. Surface runoff from both cities and rural areas, as we have seen,
causes much pollution. In the country, soil conservation measures can
slow it somewhat and strain out some pollutants, and augmentation of
streams' flow can enhance their capacity to oxidize the wastes. But
neither of these seem likely to do much to ease the longrun buildup and
diffusion of persistent pollutants like pesticides, or to avert the
possibility of disastrous spills. Public education and wiser restrictive
legislation may help, but the only real hope in terms of these poisons
appears to be that more selective and less indestructible substitutes
will be found, and all promising means of biological pest control
explored. Continuing programs are focused on the problem, but it
continues to be serious.

Pollutive runoff from urban areas merges with the whole question of
urban sewer systems, for most of it gets to the river through storm
sewers. We have seen that the old-style combined sewers of the District
of Columbia and Alexandria cause gross pollution when storms force open
their overflow gates, and we have seen too why the approach to this
problem that formerly prevailed--the arduous, hugely expensive digging
up of sewers and their replacement with dual pipes to carry storm runoff
and sewage separately--is no longer considered satisfactory. For the
more modern dual systems also contribute much trouble through the filthy
rainwater that pours out into streams from the storm system and through
the accidental or illegal channeling of sanitary wastes into storm
sewers.

A wholly satisfactory answer would allow runoff water as well as all
sanitary wastes to be held for full treatment at a standard plant. But
when we consider that at the Washington metropolis the dirty local
runoff from a single storm may amount to billions of gallons, the
question of where to hold it grows a bit complex, and is leading toward
experimentation with such ideas as vast subterranean networks of tunnels
for storage. Partial answers might come from subjecting storm and mixed
flows to different and lesser kinds of treatment by micro-screens at
sewer outfalls, detention and settling tanks, and filtration beds. These
possibilities and others need much investigation and testing.

Then there are the multitude of nasty mysterious dribbles that help to
degrade Rock Creek and can undoubtedly be found in even more profusion
along every other metropolitan watercourse. Such of them as issue from
storm sewers will be eliminated when a solution turns up for the problem
of runoff water. The others, and they are numerous, will not. Even if
the bureaucratic and political tangles that help to perpetuate
them--which will be mentioned again--are dealt with, the sheer
mathematics of possibility in a great city, plus the frequent difficulty
of fixing responsibility, make the overall problem of these
miscellaneous leaks and dribbles a very tough one, not likely to be
resolved with the wave of anyone's hand. Except in visible and
well-defended watercourses like Rock Creek, they will probably persist
for a long while, even though in reduced quantities, together with some
storm runoff and some periodic discharge from combined sewers, not a
major component in estuarial pollution but a stubborn one.

A final great contaminant against which weapons are meager is acid mine
drainage. Its sources along the North Branch are numerous, as we have
seen. They have been and are being minutely studied, but present
technology does not furnish any clear and effective means of dealing
with each source individually and returning the upper river and its
branches to health, and such source rectification would be the only
really adequate answer.

Surface strip mines are deservedly notorious for the destruction of the
rugged green landscapes that are one of Appalachia's greatest resources.
Because of the public disgust they arouse, they have had a lot of
attention, and methods for conducting this sort of mining less brutally
and for reclaiming old minesites have been worked out. These methods
have notable effect on silt and acid production. Because State laws to
regulate strip mining have been generally scarce and weak, however, and
because the reclamation of old mines is very expensive, such action is
mainly more honored in the breach than in the observance.

However, strip mines produce only a tenth to a quarter of acid mine
pollution, and if they were all under control the problem would still be
huge. The active or abandoned underground mines that give out the great
bulk of the acid and other pollutive substances have so far almost
totally resisted satisfactory management, despite tremendous efforts.
Among techniques that have been tried are neutralization with limestone
and other materials, air sealing to cut down on the oxidation that helps
form the acid, sealing of mine openings to prevent outflow, mining
methods designed to prevent exposure of sulfuritic materials, and
chemical inhibition of acid generation. Regardless of the hope that some
have aroused, none has worked well and economically, and the search is
hindered by a continuing lack of data and scientific knowledge
concerning the complex physical and chemical processes by which the
pollutants are formed.

A number of agencies are researching this whole problem, among them the
Federal Water Pollution Control Administration, the Geological Survey,
the Bureau of Mines, the Soil Conservation Service, INCOPOT, and some
State government bodies. Sooner or later an answer or a set of answers
must come out of these efforts. But nothing presently conduces to a
belief that the acid problem on the North Branch or anywhere else is
going to find quick and dramatic alleviation at its sources.

Dilution of this acid pollution helps to minimize its effects, not
actually neutralizing them but reducing their severity in periods of low
river flow. It can be accomplished by impounding mine drainage for
release only during periods of high flow, though where sources are many
as on the North Branch this would be difficult. Or fresh water can be
held in bulk storage for release during low flow. In helping acid
conditions along the lower North Branch, therefore, the authorized
Bloomington reservoir may play a part, though it will do nothing for the
upper reaches of the river and the reservoir water itself will be acidic
if nothing is done to neutralize it. Under INCOPOT auspices, a promising
inquiry is being conducted into the possibility of instream acid removal
above the reservoir, using an energy process possibly powered by
electricity generated at the dam. If it works out as well as seems
probable, the benefits can be huge.

[Illustration]

There is little point, of course, in getting the acid out of the lower
North Branch unless the other pollution in that area is dealt with too.
This compounded trouble, involving a considerable number of towns and
industries with insufficient waste treatment or none at all, is made to
order for a pilot application of the regional or sub-basin type of waste
management authority mentioned earlier in this chapter. Not only is the
problem on the North Branch bad enough to warrant special overall
measures, but the area's topography is well suited to collection of
wastes and their conveyance to first-rate centralized treatment plants.
This approach too is being studied out by INCOPOT, not only for the
North Branch but for other well-adapted problem watersheds such as
Antietam Creek. Like similar systems in Germany that have long been
admired, it would pool the resources of all sub-basin waste producers,
get appropriate government funding, and subject all the pollution of a
given drainage area to intensive and comprehensive correction.


Machinery

Though its spread-out economic benefits are almost incalculably great,
good waste management unfortunately is seldom a money-making affair for
those who sponsor it. Therefore, it is not usually so much the concern
of private enterprise as of citizens in general and the various levels
of government that look after the citizens' desires and wellbeing. It
depends on laws to back it up, and on institutions and programs
established by law. These are the only machinery by which it can be
adequately stimulated, unless we assume that all waste producers are
altruistic to a point of self-sacrifice, an assumption which history
does not encourage.

Thanks to thoroughly justified public anxiety over the state of American
waters, there is presently on hand the best assortment of such legal
machinery that has ever existed, much of it so new as to be mainly
untested. The Key Federal item is the Water Quality Act of 1965, which
established the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration and set
into motion a national program to clean up interstate and tidal waters.
In the program the States were allotted primary responsibility for
setting standards of cleanliness and were given until June 30, 1967, to
work them out and submit them to the Federal Water Pollution Control
Administration for review. Later came the Clean Waters Restoration Act
of 1966, which authorized funds for F.W.P.C.A. construction grants to
help communities build waste treatment facilities. Programs under other
government agencies are also aimed at helping towns and cities deal with
wastes.

In May of 1966 the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration was
transferred from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to the
Department of the Interior, with a good many changes in personnel. A
valuable move toward the longrun unity of Federal environmental study
and action, this change has meant that the agency's shakedown period in
its new surroundings has come during the latter part of our Potomac
work, and that some large questions of policy and procedure are only now
being answered. Furthermore, the fact that our study has coincided with
the inevitably lengthy shaping of the State standards, and with their
review and their coordination on specific interstate streams like the
Potomac and its main tributaries, has somewhat blurred our view of this
most significant legal machinery of all. For it is through these
standards and their enforcement that the fundamental action toward a
clean Potomac will be taken. The emphasis in formulating them and
reviewing them has been on vast improvement, not on a rationalization of
existing conditions, and behind them there is going to be legal muscle
for enforcement.

Erosion and sedimentation, particularly from urban and industrial
sources, will be of concern in these State programs, and in fact some
Basin States already have powers for use against them that have never
been brought fully to bear, but undoubtedly will be with the new
impetus. At the Federal level, going programs of the Department of
Agriculture--primarily under the Soil Conservation Service but also
involving the Forest Service--are the best machinery we have. Their
techniques of soil protection and runoff detention have been described
earlier, and are often applied in a coordinated way to whole small
watersheds. Mainly they are put into practice through the voluntary
cooperation of landowners, watershed associations, and local or State
governments, stimulated by Federal technical assistance and
cost-sharing.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was noted earlier that these techniques can also be effective against
careless urban land shaping and other new concentrated sources of silt
such as strip mines. But in terms of legal machinery, these areas
present problems, chief among which is the matter of incentive on the
part of those who must cooperate if the programs are to work. In an
agricultural watershed, the effect of soil conservation practices and
flood control measures on the health and productivity of the land is
sharply evident to rural landowners and others in the neighborhood, who
all benefit from it and usually are eager to cooperate. But strip mine
operators and urban developers and road contractors and such folk seldom
have to live personally with the erosion and mud and trouble that may
result from the way they move earth and change the landscape. To them,
sediment control and respect for the way watersheds work, even with
cost-sharing, is likely to loom as simply an extra expense.

Under these circumstances, only stiff controls are going to make
watershed programs and other devices work right. Local sediment
ordinances are acutely needed, but are generally lacking or inadequate
or poorly enforced, perhaps mainly because silt, in common with other
pollutants, has some of its worst effects at points far removed from
where it originates and local governments prefer not to stir up local
developers and mine operators. It is a facet of what we called earlier
the philosophical source of pollution.

[Illustration: Small Watershed Projects Boost Economy of Communities]

This being so, the good of the Basin and the Potomac as a whole is going
to require the exercise of State and interstate and Federal power
against silt as well as against other pollution, especially around
populated areas, until such time as the populated areas have developed
the political maturity to take firm hold of their responsibilities in
such matters. Laws and ordinances of themselves solve nothing. For
example, many of the pollutive dribbles along Rock Creek and other
metropolitan watercourses are based in clearly illegal practices and
hence slovenly inspection and enforcement of existing regulations.
Others occur because of defects in the sewer system that could and
should be found and repaired. A shortage of manpower is one reason for
such trouble, but poor philosophy is a bigger one.

States, interstate bodies, and municipalities, however, can exert no
control over another and rather shameful set of pollution sources noted
earlier in this chapter. These are the delinquent Federal installations
in the Basin, generally but not always in the neighborhood of the
capital, that are contributing to the river's problem. Recent publicity,
much of it deriving from aspects of this present study, has been
bringing about some improvement, as has President Johnson's Executive
Order 11288, which directed that Federal facilities set the best example
in the matter of pollution control. But the order has obviously not been
obeyed with uniform enthusiasm in all quarters, defective philosophy and
short waste-disposal budgets being no exclusive property of local
governments. Sometimes this is because limited funds force agencies to
put waste treatment far down on their list for spending, and little is
left over for it. Whatever the reason in individual cases, a
continuation of persuasion and enforcement by the F.W.P.C.A. within the
Federal establishment is going to be essential, and Federal
installations ought to be required at least to equal or excel the
quality of treatment provided by other waste producers on the same
streams or bodies of water. Furthermore, all the diverse pollutive
activities dependent on Federal aid and cost-sharing--such as road
construction, for instance--ought to be brought under similar controls.

       *       *       *       *       *

Certain major changes in public policy are needed if different
techniques of water quality improvement are to be combined in such a way
as to give the most economical, appropriate, and effective protection to
specific streams or river systems. The most important of these needed
changes concerns the role of flow augmentation as a tool, for inclusion
of water quality storage capacity in Federal reservoirs is a fairly new
and uncertain practice, and some rather deep pitfalls are becoming
evident.

One pitfall has to do with Federal Cost-sharing and the way it affects
the freedom of choice of the States and localities on which the primary
responsibility for eliminating pollution must rest. In building
treatment plants to lessen the load of wastes discharged to streams,
they can presently obtain Federal grants of up to 55% of the facilities'
total cost. But if storage capacity for water quality--i.e., for flow
augmentation--is provided in a Federal reservoir upstream, prevailing
Federal policy based in a 1961 amendment to the Federal Water Pollution
Control Act has been requiring them to pay nothing at all for it, though
before such storage is authorized they must certify that an adequate
standard of conventional treatment will be maintained downstream.
Obviously, if this continues to be so, when the inevitable choice comes
between improving on that adequate standard by investing in better
treatment, either at the beginning or later, and seeking river dilution
from a reservoir, they will be forced by sheer economics toward the
latter, whether or not it is the right thing to do or in an overall
sense the cheapest.

Like other aspects of flow augmentation already discussed, this
situation is analogous to that of flood control, where communities have
to pay a good part of the cost of local protection works or of
controlling flood plain development, but can get reservoir protection
free. In both cases, local authorities are stimulated toward choices
that are not necessarily the right ones, taxpayers in general are forced
to bear the weight of essentially local responsibilities, and the public
may forever lose scenic or recreational amenities of great worth. The
Department of the Interior, with a central interest in the problem, is
taking the lead in an attempt to arrive at a better flow-augmentation
policy that will permit right choices, put costs where they belong, and
make certain that at the local level where pollution takes place there
is sharp incentive to do something about it.

The other main difficulty has to do with the fact that river water has
many uses, which augmentation may enhance or even stimulate. Water
released from above during dry periods to increase and steady the
river's flow and to help it handle wastes may also help navigation and
hydroelectric power generation downstream, though neither of these is
any longer a main factor in the flowing Potomac. Augmentation of flow
can make the river prettier and more useful for recreation, and it can
have stout beneficial effects on fish and wildlife. And under present
conditions it constitutes a large increase in water of improved quality
for free use by irrigators and industries and municipalities, which may
so burgeon as a result that increased water consumption and waste
production will cancel out the water quality effects of the reservoir
releases in short order.

The need here, of course, is for some agency that can solidly guarantee
that water released for quality control will be allowed to achieve that
purpose and not be diverted to other uses that conflict with it. Where a
river runs within a single State, and the State's constitution permits,
the State may be able to adjust its powers of control and provide the
guarantee. But where more than one State is involved, as on all the main
rivers of the Potomac Basin, a good forceful river basin agency is
clearly needed to coordinate water supply with water demand, and to
ensure that benefits and cost responsibilities of any necessary
reservoirs are meted out where they belong.

In terms of legal and institutional machinery, in fact, such a river
basin agency is the most basic and urgent unfulfilled need along the
Potomac, for the coordination and continuing supervision of water
management in all its phases--assurance of supply, flood protection,
quality improvement, recreation--in the vast physical unit of land
drained by the river. And because land's condition is so often
influential on the quality and utility of water, the agency's concern
and authority must encompass some fundamental matters of land use as
well.

No clearer illustration of the potential of such a body could be found
than the achievements of the present Interstate Committee on the Potomac
River Basin--INCOPOT--during the quarter century of its existence.
Minimally financed and staffed, granted only advisory powers, toward the
cure of a vast and growing sickness, it has managed in many ways to hold
the line and even to improve things on the Potomac in a time when
conditions on many American rivers were growing drastically worse and
worse. Much credit accrues to some of the Basin States as well, but
without the continuing focus and hard work of the INCOPOT people,
dedicated to Basin thinking, it is doubtful that State efforts would
have added up to much help for the Potomac as a whole. Our present
strong hope of being able to clean up the river and its tributaries and
to make them what they ought to be is perhaps mainly due to this
organization's efforts.

[Illustration]

The scope of the job to be done is becoming clear. A far-reaching and
well-financed Federal pollution control program is getting under way,
even if some elements of policy and procedure need refinement and a
great deal of research toward the best answers to certain technical
problems remains to be done. The four Potomac Basin States and the
District of Columbia are poised for action at the level where it will
count the most, with new water quality standards to guide them and
Federal money and technical assistance for fuel. At the local level,
incentive to do things right has never been stronger than at present,
and it ought to grow still stronger as the sticks and carrots of the
Federal and State programs come into use and pressure from citizens
disgusted with dirty water builds up.

Things are moving. The chances are that they will move quite fast during
the next few years, as new technology and new understandings ease the
way toward solution of stubborn pollution problems. They are going to
have to move fast, for threats are proliferating fast as well. And if
things are going to move not only fast but right in the Potomac Basin,
they are going to need the guidance of a continuing and authoritative
body that concerns itself with them specifically like INCOPOT, focused
on Basin matters and dedicated to their study, but with a wider realm of
interest and stronger powers of coordination and enforcement to make
certain that the things that are done are the right things, in the right
order and the right places for the whole good of the Basin and the
river.




[Illustration]

IV A GOOD PLACE TO BE


Stream water comes from the surface of the land or out of its porous
underlayers, then flows seaward through its creases and folds, affecting
the land and the land's creatures along the way and being affected by
them. Thus, as we have already noted in more than one way, the
management of land and the management of water are closely intertwined,
from the way human use of a flood plain may demand structural
interference with a river's old habits, to the way erosive farming in
some West Virginia valley may help to make it harder to navigate Swedish
newsprint into Alexandria by ship.

In a like way, "practical" and "esthetic" considerations as to how both
land and water are treated are not easily disentangled from each other.
How much of the rising tide of public concern over American rivers and
lakes, for instance, comes from an awareness of what dirtied water costs
the economy, and how much is rooted in simple disgust over a monstrous
ugliness that should not be? Gullied and abandoned land grown up to
scrub and weeds is not only useless as it stands but also a sadness on
the landscape, a reminder of how far from the naive, often sentimental,
but lastingly powerful 18th century ideal of oneness with nature men
have wandered in their progress. A belching factory in the wrong place
can perform such multiple functions as blighting a countryside,
polluting a stream, lowering subdivision property values, and increasing
the local rate of emphysema.

Only lately has it begun to grow clear that in the traditional concern
with market exploitation of resources, moderns have not even evolved a
language or a scale to evaluate the loss to them inherent in a wrecked
landscape, a spoiled stream, and such things, or the positive worth of
an unspoiled section of countryside. But it is becoming obvious enough
that objections to environmental destruction are not necessarily
sentimental, naive, or impractical. A bit late, realization is growing
that the world has a certain longstanding wholeness with which people
interfere massively at their own peril. Landscape in the widest
sense--the sense of the integrity of a place to look at, to be in, to
use and to know and to know about--matters to human beings, and the
terms in which it matters involve incentive, fulfillment, and sanity.
And while human beings are soaking in this fact, the American landscape
is being rapidly gutted by human activity.

A stately avenue rots to slums before everyone's eyes. A pastoral valley
fills with houses gable on gable in six months' time; its stream runs
red with mud, floods wildly out of banks with every heavy shower,
shrinks to a foul dribble in time of drought, and finally is concreted
over into a storm sewer to subdue it and get it out of sight. The stone
cottage that a town's founder built with his own hands two hundred years
ago gets in the path of a new highway and is pushed down, and its rubble
used for fill beneath an exit ramp. What was once, when someone was
fifteen, a secret clearing in the woods beyond a city's edge, may hold a
hamburger stand or several dozen stacked car bodies when he comes back
to seek it out at the age of twenty. A secluded section of estuarial
shoreline, where eagles nest and Colonial patriarchs once brooded over
the rights of man and a few families now make a living from oysters and
crabs, is sold off to a development corporation headquartered in Chicago
or Houston or somewhere, which, in accordance with certain current
rights of man, divides it into 25-foot vacation lots with 250-gallon
septic tanks, and within four years anyone who wades out of his boat
there stirs up blue clouds of mellow sludge, and where did the oysters
and the eagles go? We Americans are inevitably progress-minded,
practically all of us, but we are beginning to wonder if progress needs
to cost so much.

[Illustration]

The Potomac landscape matters particularly, for certain reasons. One is
that we hope to make a model of it, commencing here processes of
preservation and restoration to show the rest of the country that modern
ways of being need not eat up everything whole and green and old and
meaningful and right. Another--not really separate, for it justifies
that model status--is that the Basin's landscape, not only around the
capital but far down the estuary and up along the flowing main river and
its tributaries, is both physically and spiritually a national
landscape, filled with national memories and meanings.

In the diverse kinds of country it holds and the ways of life they have
fostered--Tidewater, Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Great Valley, and rugged
Appalachia--it sums up much of the old Eastern, pre-Revolutionary
America that people left behind when they shoved off toward the Ohio and
the cotton South and the plains and the Rockies and the Pacific. A
reasonably conscious Oregonian or Iowan or Texan seeing it for the first
time knows that a part of what he is was sculptured there. Its map is
textured with a richness of names that call up remembrance of what
Americans used to be like and what they did, and how all of that led
toward their becoming what they are today. Names of Indian
tribes--Seneca, Piscataway, Dogue, Tuscarora, Anacostia--and Indian
objects and activities by the hundreds. Names tied to men and events
that carved history--old Saint Mary's where Calvert's Catholics came,
Stratford of the Lees, Wakefield and Mount Vernon of the Washingtons,
Braddock Heights, the Shenandoah, Harpers Ferry where John Brown lit a
fuse, Manassas and Antietam and Gettysburg, and a multitude of others.

As time goes in the United States, the Potomac Basin has been populated
by our restless people for a long while, and very little of it has not
been affected as a result--the deep exhaustion of the Tidewater when the
tobacco bonanza ran out, the lumbering off of the mountains, the grubby
continuing reign of coal along the North Branch, and now the explosive
growth of the Washington metropolis and the other centers of industry
and people. But still the Basin in general is not like Long Island,
swarmed upon by daily and weekly waves of millions, hard put to save
even traces of the natural magnificence it once had. It is not like much
of Southern California, packaged and delivered over whole to automobiles
instead of to human beings. It is nine million acres or so of still
mainly rural and agricultural, Eastern, temperate, humid North America
with a resident population of only about 3.5 million people, some
two-thirds of whom live in a relatively few square miles around
Washington. It has had and still has many ardent protectors, ranging
from small-town ladies' garden clubs to Presidents.

In consequence of these grateful facts, it has been able to recover from
most of the damage done in the past, and much of what it has always been
and always possessed still exists. There is enough natural harmony
combined with diversity, enough forward human movement combined with a
sense of what has gone before, to make the Basin's residents and those
who visit glad to be alive in such a world, insofar as the times, their
temperaments, their bank accounts, and their view of the human dilemma
may permit. In general it is still a beautiful and satisfying piece of
country, a good place to be.

But not all parts of it, and not for everyone, and most certainly not
with any guarantee that it is going to stay a good place to be of its
own accord, without any help. It is no privileged wonderland removed
from the dissonance and change of a crowded technological age.


The Basin's amenities

Of all the region's pleasant features, none exceeds the river system
itself, for it ties the others together and shares and adds to their
meanings. We have glanced at some of its "practical" aspects in
preceding chapters, though even there intangibles came into
consideration. It is the river's power to evoke human response and its
relationship to the wholeness of the Basin landscape that most
powerfully make it worth cleaning up, and also impose on planners a duty
to make certain that their proposals for making it serve human ends are
apt and needful ones.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

A river system draining the basin it has carved out over geological eons
of time is one of the more meaningful units in nature, but within it
there may be great variety. The Potomac starts as a multitude of diverse
trickles and oozes in the high green places of Appalachia, where spruce
forests and berry meadows and bogs know the tread of bear and deer,
beaver and bobcat, hunter and hiker and logger. The clear cold
streamlets formed there join together in their downward rush and form
strong whitewater creeks and rivers slicing down through canyons and
out into the troughs of the strikingly corrugated Ridge and Valley
Province, growing ever larger by the process of union and addition.

[Illustration]

The two main rivers formed thus are the North Branch, which collects a
plenitude of troubles in its progress as we have seen, and the South
Branch, which is treated more gently by the farmers and small townsmen
who live along it, has no developed coal resources, and is a delightful
fishing stream in a fine rural valley. Coming together at Old Town where
Thomas Cresap took over a Shawnee site and set up a fortified
headquarters in the upper Basin's legendary days, these two form the
main stem of the river, which works across the Ridge and Valley
washboard by intricate slicings and loopings that shape great bends
among the forested hills. Deer and turkey outnumber people in most
places there, and always alongside the river or not far away lie the
towpath and the dry channel and the occasional stone locks and
aqueducts of the old C. & O. Canal. Despite railroad competition and
floods and all the other troubles, its barge traffic in coal and flour
and whiskey and iron and limestone and other things was the focus of a
whole roistering way of life from Washington to Cumberland in the 19th
and early 20th centuries.

Collecting the water of pristine mountain tributaries like the Cacapon
and growing as it goes, cleansing itself of the North Branch's load of
trouble, the river finds its way at last out of the washboard and
meanders among silver maples and great sycamores across the productive
populated expanse of the Great Valley that runs athwart the whole Basin
from north to south. The Potomac is in thickly historic country now as
it flows under the contemplative eyes of fishermen and past old villages
and the relics of generations of human activity going back before
written records, for here and there the funnel shapes of stone Indian
fishing weirs can still be seen at shallow places and the durable
fragments of their way of life can be scratched up along high shores. Of
many Civil War clashes in the valley, Antietam was the most crucial; the
Potomac shaped Lee's strategy there, and still ripples across fords by
which his troops came to that violent place and afterward escaped it.

At Harpers Ferry on the Valley's eastern edge, the river is reinforced
by the waters of its greatest tributary, the Shenandoah, rolling north
out of the limestone country that fed the gray armies till Sheridan put
a stop to that. Then it rams through the high wall of the Blue Ridge
and out of the Valley into the Piedmont, and still gathering strength
from tributaries like the Monocacy, dotted with big islands and
frequented by waterfowl and good fish, moves powerfully downcountry past
further mists and layers of history to Great Falls and the rushing,
crashing descent through the gorge to tidewater at the capital.

From there down it is, as we have seen, a different thing, an arm of the
sea and a sluggish extension of the river, shading from fresh to salt,
called a river still but neither river nor sea in its ways, affected
rhythmically and obscurely by both of them and subject to its own
complex laws as well. In Indian and Colonial times this estuary was the
part of the river that counted most for men, because of the bounty that
came from its waters, the fitness of its shores for farming, and its
navigability for boats and ships in a region where land travel was
laborious and whose colonists depended on commerce with a European
homeland. Its shores and those of the big tributary embayments--"drowned
rivers," they have been called--are thickly sprinkled with traces and
remembrances of three and a half centuries' people and events. Mount
Vernon, old Fort Washington, Gunston Hall on Mason Neck where quiet
George Mason lived and thought ... Aquia Creek where George Brent took
his Piscataway bride to live apart from the Marylanders, Potomac Creek
where John Smith found the river's namesakes living and another wily
captain later tricked Pocahontas into captivity, Port Tobacco and
Nanjemoy with memories of brokenlegged Booth, Chotank that gave its
name to a whole forgotten way of life, Nomini of the Carters, the
Machodocs and the Wicomico and the Saint Mary's and the historic
rest.... Some of the big creeks are silted in now with mud washed down
off the land in the old days, but in the flatter country toward the Bay
most of the larger ones are still pretty and useful harbors for pleasure
boats and for the fleets of varied commercial craft that go out to
gather the estuary's crabs, oysters, clams, perch, striped bass, shad,
and other edible creatures, including even eels for the European market.
From hillsides, mellow mansions look down on the water that used to be
their highway to the outside world, some crumbling, others proudly
maintained.

Aquatic life in the upper freshwater stretches has been somewhat
diminished and changed by pollution and silt, by dredging and filling,
and by other activity. Runs of spawning shad and herring and perch still
arrive there in spring, fortunately a season when heavy river flow keeps
oxygen levels high. Along the whole estuary there is an abundance of
air-breathing creatures, most noticeably birds, that reflect the wealth
in its waters. They are strikingly numerous in the marshes that occur
here and there next to the open river but more commonly up the
tributaries, perhaps the richest biological areas in the whole river.
Herons and egrets, ducks and geese, coots and grebes, hawks and ospreys
and even a few bald eagles--a stirring sight so near to Megalopolis--are
among the larger birds that congregate to live directly or indirectly
off the life in the water, dependent on it.

Productive, healthy in its lower reaches even if under the shadow of
change, its fishery intelligently and effectively regulated after the
destructive and bitter "oyster wars" that persisted up into the 1950's,
the Potomac estuary offers over 230,000 acres of water and some 750
miles of shoreline for human use and enjoyment and for the sustenance of
a complex and valuable segment of the natural world. It is a fitting
culmination of the river system that feeds down into it.

Of the Basin's remaining scenic and natural and historic wealth, nearly
all of it associated to some degree with a part of the river system,
much has stayed intact or has come back to good condition, accidentally
or by someone's forethought. Well over a million acres are in public
ownership of some kind, about a fifth of this being dedicated primarily
to scenic preservation and public enjoyment as parks and recreation
areas. These range from the great recently authorized Spruce Knob-Seneca
Rocks National Recreation Area in the Basin's western highlands and the
spectacular narrow Shenandoah National Park along the Blue Ridge, to
local and county parks of smaller size and special function. In and
around metropolitan Washington, good sense and good will on the part of
many people in years past has resulted in a fine assortment of parks in
an area where they are most needed and used, though with urban expansion
more are needed all the time.

They are also harder to come by all the time. A recent and instructive
example of this growing difficulty in creating public areas occurred at
Mason Neck, a richly scenic and natural bootshaped peninsula projecting
into the estuary not far below Mount Vernon, where George Mason's old
home and a part of his estate are immaculately preserved by the National
Society of the Colonial Dames of America and the Commonwealth of
Virginia. The Neck has twelve miles of riverfront and 6500 acres of
undeveloped land only eighteen miles from the center of Washington, and
though the river here is part of the eutrophic upper estuary, often
thick with algae in summer, the place is a wildlife paradise, with
forests of mature and stately trees and a Great Marsh of around 1000
acres. Incredibly, bald eagles still roost and even nest there, a fact
which provided the initial spark for heavy public opposition to recent
proposals for residential development of the Neck.

[Illustration]

Supported by the Potomac Task Force whenever possible, the defenders of
the peninsula organized as the Conservation Committee for Mason Neck
and fought its cause almost inch by inch, with many setbacks and much
expense of time and energy and money, through referendum elections and
political hanky-panky and high levels of government. They won;
development was forestalled and the nearly certain prospect is for a
large composite public holding for park and wildlife refuge use, made up
of Federal, state, and regional acquisitions.

[Illustration]

In many parts of the Basin, old human excesses that in their time were
not at all beneficial or protective have contributed paradoxically to
the present good condition of the landscape. After boom had lifted her
skirts and moved on elsewhere from the weary Tidewater, for instance,
the region's long subsequent drowse on the fringes of action and history
meant that it escaped many modern troubles, at least until recently. Not
very long ago, many parts of it were more easily reached by slow boat
than by car or train. Partly as a result, big tracts of military land
there acquired mainly when acreage was cheap--57,000 acres around the
Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, Virginia, are one example--form a
valuable public asset for potential future use. And throughout Tidewater
here and there, old estates in private hands guard their woods and
fields and shores against increasing development, though more and more
each year crumple before pressure and the temptation of speculators' and
developers' cash.

Similarly, after the mountains of the upper parts of the Basin were
logged bare and in many places burned off in the late 19th and early
20th centuries--"Cut out and get out" was the slogan--their stripped and
eroded state and their effect on the streams made it possible, and
essential, for the Federal and state governments to buy up wide areas
there as public forest land in the 1930's and to nurse them back to
beauty and usefulness. The Shenandoah National Park dates from that same
time, as do some state parks in the mountain regions. Some private
owners of forest land in that area, though not enough, have taken their
cue from the government agencies and seek a safe sustained yield of
timber and pulpwood rather than a quick cash-in.

In many rural reaches of the Basin, for that matter, the kind of use
private ownership gives the land is still an enhancement of the
landscape rather than a smear on it. The beauty of farm land and
pastures and old structures is as much a part of this country's heritage
as is wilderness, for in its traditional forms farming has shaped a
kind of wholeness and beauty all its own, blending with nature and
working with it. The limestone soils in the huge trough of the
Shenandoah Valley, for example, have been tilled and grazed during about
two and a half centuries' occupation by white men. But for the most part
agriculture there has been devoted to continuing productivity rather
than to exploitation, and the rolling terrain, intersected by stream
valleys and wooded ridges, has prevented much application of the massive
techniques of fence-to-fence cultivation that prevail on the "factory
farms" of the Midwest and West nowadays. The miles on miles of varied,
carefully managed fields and pastures, with fat herds and handsome old
stone houses and barns, nearly always against a backdrop of dark
mountains and with a pleasant river or creek running at hand, among
trees, have a potent storybook appeal that sticks in the memory of
anyone who ever saw them.

The long narrow valley down which the South Branch flows is similar on
its scale, as are many other arable strips and patches of the upper
Basin that remember Shawnee days and Civil War guerillas. Near
Washington, farms are waging a losing rearguard action against
speculation and sprawl, but in the Piedmont to the north and west of the
city lie some of the most pleasant rural landscapes in the United
States. Up the drainages of the Catoctin and the Monocacy north of the
Potomac, these are still functional landscapes, used mainly for dairy
farming. In Virginia they tend to be less so, for this is the hunt
country, where cosmopolitan gentry raise purebred stock on curried
pastures, ride to hounds in red coats on frosty mornings and by great
expenditure of money not garnered from crops or cattle have tastefully
restored and maintained whole neighborhoods of venerable estates, as
well as some superb old towns like Waterford, in traditional dignified
beauty.

As these people have grasped--and others like them scattered throughout
the Basin--most of the pull of farming landscapes and old houses and
towns is nostalgic, rooted in a sense of the past and of the way the
look and feel of a stone fence or a portico or a boxwood hedge can fill
out understanding of people who were there long long before. This is
what has been called "the scenery of association," and it is more deeply
ingrained in the Potomac country than in newer parts of the nation,
where "scenery" is most likely to denote the aspect of wild and natural
places. With a history going back deep into the 1600's and long
occupation by Indians before that, the Basin in many places has
archaeological layers of such meaning. It tugs powerfully at the
imagination of anyone with a sense of human continuity, and is woven in
with the natural framework of things, as for instance the grove of
chestnut oaks in the Bloody Angle at Gettysburg is inextricable from an
awareness of the mighty rebellion that reached that far and no farther.

Most major historic sites and shrines in the Basin have received
protection of one sort or another. The core portions of the great Civil
War battlegrounds are owned and maintained by the National Park
Service, as are Wakefield and Harpers Ferry and the C. & O. Canal and
other such places. States, municipalities, organizations, and
individuals have saved many others from destruction and decay and
sometimes have built them back to what they were--Mount Vernon,
Stratford, Gunston Hall, Fort Frederick and one or two of the smaller
bastions that George Washington helped to set up against the Indians in
the western Basin, and scores of other mansions and cabins and patches
of historic soil.

There is still a wide sense of the past's weight among a population of
whom many were born where they live and intend to die, and whose
ancestors did so too. This sense is shared by many other people who move
to the region, and in a few spots--mainly again in Virginia--it has led
to a degree of protection for the appearance of whole towns or historic
districts, as in Loudoun County with its admirable scenic regulations.
Under the Historic Preservation Act of 1966, states are conducting
surveys of such assets and studying means of encouraging their
preservation. But funds are still short even for the Federal part of the
program, and thus only individuals or accidents are still partially
guarding some fine old places--Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for
instance, or in Maryland the towns of Sharpsburg, Middletown, and
Burkittsville--against adornment with chrome and neon and fake-stone
veneer. Even in these places, some changes for the worse are taking
place.


Troubles and threats

All these things, then, are a part of what the Potomac Basin has to
offer in the way of environmental blessings. They form an endowment of
national value and importance, and a detailed examination of them would
take up more space than we can give them here, though some will come in
for more discussion later in this report and others are examined in the
corollary report of the Recreation and Landscape Sub-Task Force.

Some of them are in trouble now, and nearly all are faced with trouble
as bad or worse if the forces of change are allowed to move as blindly
and hoggishly forward as they have been moving during the decades behind
us, ever faster and on ever wider fronts. The role of Jeremiah is not an
agreeable one in a traditionally optimistic and forward-thrusting
society, but those of us who care about the health of the world around
us seem to be forced into it often in these times. Therefore let us look
at somber matters.

We have catalogued the pollution of the river system and the ways in
which it diminishes this most fundamental and valuable resource. We have
seen how it varies through the Basin's streams according to the
concentrations of people and the kinds of activities they engage in, and
have noted that it is truly bad--deep-rooted, past a point of easy
return--on the North Branch where coal and industry prevail, and in the
upper estuary where the population is heaviest, with localized serious
conditions on the Shenandoah, the Monocacy, and a number of smaller
streams. And because land and water depend on each other and reflect
each other's condition, these tend to be the places where the general
environment is having the most trouble too.


The metropolis

Washington and its environs have always been a cynosure for American
eyes, a place people have wanted to be proud of and have fought to keep
"right." Many of its defenders have been powers in the land, and for a
long time in the past the battle was generally a winning one. Even aside
from the city's planned monumental Federal center with its government
buildings, memorials, formal parks, malls and avenues--largely traceable
to the ideas of Pierre L'Enfant and the sporadic respect paid them by
the founding fathers--it has amenities undreamed of in and around most
American cities: things like the Potomac Great Falls and gorge with the
C. & O. Canal alongside, Arlington Cemetery, Mount Vernon, the
Georgetown neighborhood where private taste and determination have
brought a near-slum back to 18th-century grace and function, Roosevelt
Island, several fine local and regional parks, the George Washington
Memorial Parkway along the Potomac, and incredible Rock Creek winding
down its natural valley through the Maryland suburbs and the District to
the river.

[Illustration]

Yet the rampaging growth to which the metropolis, in common with other
American centers of population, has been subject during the past two or
three decades means not only that these pleasant places are being
pressed upon by many more people than anyone thought they would ever
have to serve, but also that some of them are in danger of destruction
or irreparable damage, and the tone of the city as a whole has been
changing for the worse. The once magnificent upper estuary, as we have
seen, is afflicted with complex and ugly pollution that shuts it off
from the pleasant use it might otherwise sustain, and makes it a
detraction from the Federal splendor along its northern shore rather
than the enhancement it used to be. In places like the Alexandria and
Georgetown waterfronts, industrial dilapidation on the shorelines more
appropriately matches that pollution in mood, and on the Virginia side
here and there undistinguished, often jerrybuilt highrise clutter has
taken the place of the calm and wooded hills toward which the capital
city once could look.

Parks and open areas within the metropolis and out from it are often
crowded, trampled, and belittered during most times when people can get
away from making a living to visit them, and thus can furnish only a
little of the quiet and elbow room that might be their main contribution
to urban peace of mind. They are also subject to pressure and often
damage from outside, stemming from the economics, the politics, the
governing mood of restless growth. The blowtorch roar and black oily
exhaust of jet airliners coming and going at National Airport, for
instance, diminish and cheapen all the green space and monumental beauty
so purposefully arranged along the Potomac shore. And only the
bitterest kind of fight can occasionally save a park or a stream valley
or the river itself from a projected addition to the spaghetti network
of freeways and beltways and bridges and other high-use traffic channels
along which flow swirling, never-ending currents of cars. Or from
standard suburban development.

Rock Creek is a complex example of how the city threatens its own
amenities. We have glanced at it already--polluted by casual spurts and
dribbles of waste from hundreds of thousands of people, its basic
hydrology and therefore its very existence as a stream dependent on the
proper use of the rural upper third of its watershed. For it has already
suffered the loss of many tributary runs and branches in the lower
two-thirds during the process of solid development.

In 1966, the critical upper third of the Rock Creek basin was very
nearly turned over to suburban developers as a playground for bulldozers
by a lame-duck Montgomery County Council on a rezoning spree. When
protests against these actions, as well as against the general
degradation of the stream, culminated in the issuance of our report The
Creek and the City and then in a public meeting under INCOPOT auspices,
people who had long been fighting the Creek's battle became the nucleus
of a revived public effort. It now appears that under a new Council the
upper watershed may be developed in some accordance with the
Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's protective plan
for the area, so as to keep much of its surface covered with the grasses
and humus through which rainwater percolates underground into aquifers
that feed the creek through dry periods, and with some safeguards
against the customary terrific siltation that careless development
produces. And pressure has been generated to deal with the creek's other
pollution, which is certain to be a long and laborious job.

[Illustration]

Suburbanization itself is based in social forces, and this is not a
sociological report. The knotted, often bitter, sometimes violent tone
of contemporary American cities does not come within our province, but
some consideration of it is inevitable. Not only must any planning for a
decent environment--like planning for water use--take into account the
needs and interest of the majority of the Basin's citizens who live in
and around Washington, but it needs to be based in some understanding of
the way they are. For in part the way they are is what determines the
pattern of urban growth and much of the restless shifting and wandering
that makes the city's people a strong influence to the limits of the
Basin and beyond. In part also, however, the pattern of urban growth
makes the people the way they are--it has been observed, for instance,
that if suburban Americans were better satisfied with their manner of
life, they probably would not spend so much of their time in automobiles
getting away from it.

[Illustration]

Within Washington itself, children may be born to erstwhile rural
parents and may come to adult years with only a scant sense of the
peace and beauty that can be found a few miles away, and often with
little sense of anything else but the crumbling, teeming, stifling,
noisy, sooty slums where they live--the other side of the monumental
splendor along the Federal riverfront. Not all urban frustration is an
outgrowth of the physical environment by any means, but much is. And
this frustration, plus the pattern of exodus for some and sour jammed
imprisonment for the rest, has within the past few years been killing
off one by one all the special satisfactions and delights that cities
from time immemorial have furnished their inhabitants.

[Illustration:

This 26 square-mile section of the Rock Creek watershed, just above the
District line in Maryland, was rural in 1913, with many small
tributaries fed by springs and seeps. Ensuing development based on
little knowledge of natural processes covered most of the old aquifer
recharge areas with pavements and rooftops, so that more precipitation
ran rapidly off the land instead of soaking in and flowing out gradually
into streams. Flooding during storms and loss of flow at other times
caused most of the tributaries to be covered over as storm sewers, so
that out of 64 miles of natural flowing stream channels that existed in
1913 in this section, only 27 miles can be found above ground today.]

Fleeing the dissonant center--or avoiding it from the start when they
move to the metropolis from elsewhere--citizens who can afford it move
into suburbs carved in the outlying countryside by gargantuan machinery,
sometimes in compliance with a plan that preserves some trees and airy
open space and a sense of the things that were, but more usually not.
Here the fugitives place themselves one against the other in the
hugeness of their numbers so that very quickly in many places the
countryside hardly exists except in leapfrogged forlorn patches or
farther out, where its ownership in speculatively held blocks--the old
farm houses gone to pot, their fields in weeds or casually tilled or
grazed to merit agricultural taxation--avouches the certainty of
continuing sprawl. It is a much-documented process with two decades of
history behind it now. It is cancerlike in its effect on the region, and
disillusioning in its effect on many of those who participate, for
often it forces them into the position of being mass destroyers of the
very things they seek--air and wild greenery, quietness and the elbow
room to be themselves.

[Illustration]

A growing body of knowledge as to what kind of terrain can stand dense
development, and what kind cannot, and how streams and woods and
wildlife and even farms can be physically retained among urban
populations, and why they ought to be, is becoming available. Its
principles are more or less ecological, which simply means that they
seek to maintain right uses of different elements of the landscape under
urban conditions, in order that these elements may function with a
reasonable degree of naturalness, remain compatible with one another and
with human purposes, and be available for people's enjoyment. Flood
plains make good hay fields or parks, for instance, but poor sites for
homes or shopping centers. Porous areas that recharge aquifers ought to
be kept as much as possible under vegetation rather than pavements or
buildings, if people are to have streams later and not capricious drains
that are better off covered over. Steep slopes, if carved severely,
usually exact a later revenge. House clusters and townhouses and
apartments rightly spaced and located can let the country function even
while settling on it numbers of people equivalent to those who would be
there if it were hacked into a solid expanse of tiny lots. And so on.

Much remains to be learned if the application of these principles is to
be ideal. For example, urban hydrology--precisely what happens to the
water cycle during various kinds of development, and how it might be
adjusted--is a relatively new branch of study and still needs much
research. But even with present knowledge, great improvement over
present patterns is possible. In the hands of a few emerging experts,
planning which pays attention to soils and topography and climate and
special landscape features and values can be a subtle art, prescribing
villages and farms and factories in the right places, making the most of
native vegetation and views and places where George Washington slept and
the breezes of July. Its form on a map tends toward curved lines rather
than the orderly straight ones abhorred by nature.

Yet in one simple form, this kind of land use planning has been
practiced for many years in rural America by millions of farmers, who
have cooperated with one another to their own mutual benefit in soil
conservation programs to reduce erosion and to slow down the wasteful
and destructive runoff of precipitation. We noted earlier a pilot urban
adaptation of such programs on Pohick Creek on the metropolitan fringe
in Virginia, where an effort is being made to develop a whole stream
basin in accord with soil conservation principles, not only to avoid
future flood damages and sedimentation and pollution but to retain
natural areas, living streams, and many of the other features the land
had before the city engulfed it. Even with the gaps in present knowledge
and the probability that developers and builders are not going to
cooperate as fully and eagerly as farmers, it offers much hope. For it
may well betide a time when urban planners in general will have the
vision and authority, together with the reinforced knowledge, to subject
all new development to its basic guiding precept--a respect for the way
the landscape works. It is getting to be far more possible now than it
was in the past to say, in relation to a given place: "This is how
development ought to proceed."

In the ring of counties nearest Washington, all of them much lacerated
by sprawl that has been gobbling up some 24,000 acres of peripheral
countryside each year, respect for the way the vanishing landscape works
has been growing by leaps and bounds. The authority to translate it into
good practices, however, is much hampered by the complexities of
metropolitan reality. Officially endorsed plans exist for these
counties, or for parts of them, which show quite a lot of regard for
soils and topography and their appropriate use. But frequently these
plans are of necessity a mass of compromises. They have had to be
adjusted drastically to fit in with existing development, road networks,
sewage lines, and such things, which seldom are located in accordance
with an ecological ideal. They are encrusted with concepts from older
plans not based in landscape principles. Differing views or interests on
opposite sides of municipal or county boundary lines may gut them. Money
to buy needed open space--the only way to ensure its protection--is
usually short. And legal institutions that ought to be on the side of
good planning sometimes get in its way.

Zoning, for example, is an indispensable tool for implementing planning,
but too weak for some metropolitan situations and often too inflexible
to meet certain needs. If essential open space has been protected only
by zoning, astronomical increases in its speculative value may generate
enough pressure on zoning boards to change the category, as happened
last year on upper Rock Creek. This is particularly true in view of
metropolitan plans' inevitably hodgepodge nature, which makes them
somewhat arbitrary and vulnerable to attack. Bribery and
personal-interest scandals often are rooted in zoning matters.
Furthermore, residential zoning of the standard minimum-lot-size sort,
not adapted to cluster housing and such sophistications, may actually
encourage sprawl and rectilinear violation of the landscape by
restricting the density of people in a place where the density of
buildings and pavements is what really matters.

[Illustration: THE HYDROLOGIC CYCLE]

Tax systems can be troublesome in various ways--discouraging public
purchase of needed parks or conservation areas because officials don't
want the land to go off the tax rolls, preventing renewal of blighted
areas by penalizing improvements, running farms out of business by
taxing their fields as subdivision land, promoting leapfrogging and
sprawl (in the case of Federal capital gains taxation) by rewarding
speculative retention of tracts. And other government programs and
policies at various levels work against good planning or have done so in
the past, either by failing to encourage good types of land use or by
actively promoting bad types. Traditional Federal mortgage insurance and
home loan practices oriented toward standard suburban development are an
example, and so are many highways and roads subsidized and routed by
experts in higher realms of government.

With so much economic and legal muscle arrayed on the side of chaos and
a whole army of enterprising folk dedicated to its perpetuation--some
holding seats on planning and zoning bodies--the wonder is that the
metropolitan counties have been making any headway at all with improving
their planning process. And they have been, especially since they have
begun to work together in such organizations as the Metropolitan
Washington Council of Government. But, as elsewhere throughout America,
the progress is somewhat dwarfed by the population pressures and
untrammeled expansionism planning must deal with. Radical measures may
be needed; there has been sober talk of counties' issuing bonds,
condemning all vacant land within a wide radius of the city, and buying
it up for gradual resale and development in an orderly and sensible way,
thus eliminating at one stroke the speculative pressures and torsions
that are the root cause of much of the trouble.

For under metropolitan conditions fee ownership, either of land or of
its development rights, seems to give the only certainty of control over
land's use. Obviously its potential employment by government is limited
in a free economy, and such things as zoning and subdivision
controls--strengthened and made rational--are going to have to continue
as main tools, together with devices like scenic easements, which
usually, however, again involve a form of purchase.

Fee ownership is the kind of control that is being exercised--by private
interests rather than by government--in the promising "new towns," where
certain individuals and groups are attempting to use industrial-type,
long-term financing in the purchase and development of large tracts on
which strong and careful planning, involving everything from industry to
fish ponds, can be enforced from scratch. Perhaps the most famous single
example of this kind of thing is Reston, Virginia, which is being built
on over 7000 acres of pleasant Piedmont countryside in northwestern
Fairfax County. It has aroused hope across the nation in people
concerned with such things, for if private capital can go to work in
this enlightened fashion and still come out with a profit, the
implications for the future are enormous. Like any pioneering venture,
it has run into some troubles, and it lately suffered a shift in
management. But it is still being steered toward the same goal of
environmental grace and decency and seems likely to arrive there.

The attractiveness of such places to people disillusioned with standard
sprawl is attested by the fact that other developers, having
incorporated some of the Reston techniques--some recreational water,
some clustering of dwellings with communal open space between, some
amenities like underground wiring--are tending to call their latest
subdivisions "new towns" too. Many of them want to do things right, and
if it can be proved that doing things right will pay off as well as
doing them wrong, a certain amount of automatic improvement in the
quality of suburbanization can be expected. However, it must be noted
that the scale on which most developers can afford to operate, and the
market scarcity of suitable large tracts of land even when major capital
is available and the aims are noble ones, do not often give them control
of adequate natural units of territory in which whole planning can mean
what it should. Most such planning is going to have to continue to come
from governmental bodies, and the main hope must be that it will keep
improving, find stronger tools, and be reinforced and stimulated by laws
and programs from higher up.


Sprawl as a problem farther out

Throughout the Basin where centers of population and industry are on the
jump, sprawl is also gnawing away at the countryside. Given our present
pace of change, many Basin towns will soon become Basin cities, and
around each, if they are left to grow in the rudimentary traditional
patterns, the devastation that has taken place around Washington will
reproduce itself. In many places it already has a good start.

Some rural counties and small towns have developed a satellitic
relationship to the larger centers of population, and even around others
that are distant from urban uproar, sprawl is beginning to find a
congenial form for itself in vacation colonies of "second homes" in
scenic places whose remoteness, together with a smaller and more settled
population of Americans, used to be their staunch protection. Under the
stimulus of State and Federal encouragement, mainly quite recent and to
some extent tied in with this Potomac effort, most counties in the Basin
have arrived at some awareness of the need for land-use planning. In
many farming communities, the seeds of this awareness were planted long
since by the Soil Conservation Service. But rural folk often lack a
sense of the urgency of the need, an understanding of dangers and aims
under urban or semi-urban conditions, money with which to operate, and
the detachment that is requisite for making right decisions.

Planning in most such places ought to be relatively simple and
acceptable, for in the long run most people would be better off for it,
economically and in terms of the surroundings. But it is still hard to
sell to average rural and small-town populations, who have always been
able to take trees, views, clean water, and elbow room for granted, and
hence can maintain the staunchly individualistic view that anyone ought
to be able to do whatever he likes with his land, that growth is good,
and that anything that interferes with any manifestation of it is bad.
Therefore, too often the planning, if any, that goes into effect before
the bulldozers move in like hungry behemoths from another planet is
likely to be meager and heavily weighted in favor of the easy, standard,
massive sort of development that local governments close to the centers
of trouble are beginning to comprehend and, in the face of immensely
greater odds, to take measure against.

Though the ugliness and dreary crowded sameness with which standard
sprawl replaces decent landscapes are reason enough for opposing it,
other good reasons exist as well, perhaps especially in rural counties.
It has been customary for local promoters of such development to
celebrate the additional tax revenues that new inhabitants are going to
pour into the community's coffers. But community services in such
areas--things like sewage collection and disposal, water supply, trash
collection, roads and streets, schools, libraries--are seldom extensive
or elaborate, because they do not need to be in a rural stage of things.
If a subdivider erects, however, some 1500 new homes on a patch of
countryside, providing them with an inadequate supply of well water and
with individual septic tanks, and then shoves along to other fields
before things start breaking down and the protests start rising from the
1500 families who came there for lyrical but convenient country living,
the ensuing results for the county's finances can be catastrophic.

In some parts of America already, around $17,000 worth of community
services are said to be needed for every new family that moves in, a sum
which from one viewpoint amounts to a subsidy furnished by taxpayers to
land speculators and developers. Even assuming that those services
provided by the developer are adequate, and that some aid in providing
the rest can be obtained by the community through State and Federal
programs--thereby passing on a part of the cost to other taxpayers--a
rural county proud of its traditionally low tax valuations and of the
Jeffersonian simplicity of its local government, as most are, flatly
cannot dig up the remainder without a big revision of its old way of
being.

In bad cases, the alternatives to digging it up may be water pollution,
health hazards, siltation and perhaps floods, sour public discontent
among new elements unsympathetic to Jeffersonian simplicity, and the
rapid deterioration of the new suburbs into rural slums--a combination
of factors that in itself may bring about drastic change in the
community. Thus in one way or another contemporary rural individualism
tends to bury itself, but often too late for the salvation of the woods
and pastures and clear waters and human dignity it took for granted and
placed so little value on.

Vacation colonies are a rather distinct consideration, for they are
independent of ordinary and predictable population growth and they tend
to spring up in places of special natural beauty and value. There is no
reason why they should not be pleasant additions to a community or to a
landscape, and a good many are--well planned in terms of both practical
details and esthetic values, unobtrusive, and pretty. Unfortunately,
though, this kind is not the rule, for in many spots in the Basin such
colonies are a sort of haphazard mushroom growth with miserable side
effects.

Local forms of this phenomenon have always been around, but have seldom
been extensive enough to seem anything but picturesque. A farmer sells
off a few riverside lots, for example, because he can't plow that part
of his land anyhow, and is happy enough to make a little money and at
the same time oblige some county-seat acquaintances who want a place to
loaf and fish on weekends. So a few tarpaper shacks go up with privies
for sanitation, and perhaps someone hauls in an old school bus and props
it on concrete blocks for his own vacation home. Here a jolly time is
had by all with full knowledge--since they are locals, aware of how
things around them work--that sooner or later the river is going on a
rampage and will carry away the whole little community, with small loss
to anyone.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

Exploitation changes the picture, however, as exploitation is wont to
do. If a whole neighborhood of farmers seeks such profits, or if real
estate men get into the act, or big development corporations that may be
operating from almost anywhere in the country, the scale enlarges and
purple prose may appear in the metropolitan newspapers to lure nostalgic
suburbans out to examine an assortment of lots sliced fine for maximum
yield and priced most often according to their proximity to water. Water
is usually involved, for it is the fundamental outdoor attraction,
whether it is a mountain creek or a river or a made pond or a deep bay
off the lower estuary. Its ultimate pollution is often involved as well,
for sanitary arrangements tend to be rudimentary and inadequate for
concentrations of people, especially when the "second homes" start
turning into permanent homes with the retirement of their owners or
their sale to younger locals. This latter process, too, sometimes leads
to a future demand for schools and other services whose need was not
foreseen by local governments when they permitted the development.

In some places along the estuary and the Potomac main stem and the
Shenandoah, the creation of such communities has already led to
wholesale, ugly, unsanitary clutter along considerable stretches of once
beautiful shoreline. It is beginning to shape up even on remoter
waterways like the Cacapon and the South Branch, and in some parts of
the mountains. As new interstate highways and other avenue of access are
opened from Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, Richmond, and many other
cities, the process may be expected to blight most shorelines throughout
the Basin unless something is done to control it. And not only the
county councils and boards of supervisors but the rest of us as well are
going to inherit the problems associated with it, for these waters and
shores are of more than local concern, in terms of the loss of amenity,
in terms of pollution, and in terms of the quite frequent certainty of
future flood damages, a demand for protection at general public expense,
and possibly the loss of further amenities and resources at the site of
a protective reservoir upstream.

From an abstract point far outside the boundaries of these rural
counties, it is easy enough to condemn the frame of mind that lets such
things take place. But the fact is that people in rural local
governments and those who elect them often have even more respect and
love for the landscape around them than the most esthetic of
metropolitans. They may take it too much for granted, but they have
grown up close to it and they can feel the loss acutely when it
deteriorates. Some of the usual obstacles to their doing anything to
prevent the deterioration were mentioned earlier--money is short, and so
is planning know-how. Probably the greatest obstacle, however, is the
matter of personal relationships. Not in terms of outright corruption,
which is far more likely in the anonymous atmosphere of great cities,
but in terms of the need of people in small communities to get along
with one another, combined with traditional profit motives.

Suppose a local planning or zoning board is taking action to determine
whether or not a big corporation from elsewhere can buy and subdivide
some flood-plain land belonging to a well-liked fellow townsman, a
hardware dealer whom all of them have known from childhood and with whom
they will be doing business the rest of their lives. Despite the
inappropriateness of the land for human occupation and the mess that is
going to be established along their pretty river, is it to be reasonably
expected that a voting majority of them are going to decree that a
friend be deprived of a half-million dollars' profit? The dilemma is a
serious one, perhaps the weakest point in the land-use control at this
local level, and it may mean that higher levels of government will have
to take over some of the responsibility and get local governments off
the hook.


Industry in the landscape

Another matter about which small communities can seldom feel impartial
is the prospect of attracting industry. With the growth of the great
cities here and there, perhaps a majority of small towns are faced now
with flagging agricultural prosperity, a lack of jobs, and the resultant
departure--often reluctant--of most of their energetic young people for
the new centers of action. The mere rumor that an industry is
considering setting up a plant in such a place is likely to set off
shock waves of delight and establish a general mood in which almost any
concession will be offered to tempt the corporation--to the point that
authorities, in some places, have issued bonds and built the requisite
factory themselves.

In a good many cases, this particular cure for the community's ills has
proved to be worse than the sickness, leading to total community
dependence on a fallible and perhaps capricious enterprise, pollution of
air and water, noise and flood-plain clutter, and frequently the
destruction of the local riverside where industries tend to locate
unless directed elsewhere. Little of this is necessary now, as a number
of examples of responsible industry in the Basin demonstrate. But it
continues, and will continue as long as communities keep looking on
industry as a source of payrolls only, free of sin: "It smells like
money," some residents of one Shenandoah town say of their factory's
miasmal odor, though other natives phrase their description
differently....

The full legacy of an older time when industry neither knew how to avoid
pollution and other troubles nor saw any reason to try, and no community
leaders saw any reason to bring the subject up, is found in prime
fettle along the North Branch, whose pollution is a sympathetic
reflection of the general state of that region's environment. Though
certain industries there--most notably the huge but aging pulp and paper
mill at Luke, Maryland--have managed at considerable expense to cut down
on the wastes they discharge to the river, the prevalent philosophy
elsewhere in the neighborhood would seem to be that both land and water
are already so afflicted that no single community's or industrial
plant's attempt at betterment could do much good.

This impression is illusory; people along the North Branch, as
elsewhere, are aware of what has been lost. But restoration is going to
be hard. In some of the deep valleys layered, stinging smog prevails
through most of the year. Most of the waters are acid from far up toward
their source, as we have seen, and downriver this acid is enriched with
other things, a situation that has existed for so long that hardly
anyone recalls when the streams were much different. Most of the
villages along them have a gray and weary look, with a good deal of
unemployment among the hardy people, and empty stores and houses that
remember a less ramshackles time when the area's coal mines needed many
workers and the air was alive with action, including old-fashioned
vigorous labor strife.

High up above the towns and the dark streams, the strip-mine bulldozers
and power shovels that have replaced most of the workers chew away at
the green flanks of mountains named for Indian chiefs and pioneers and
things that happened long ago. Where they have scraped out all they
economically can and have moved on, huge gray scars and spoil heaps
remain behind and ooze more acid to the streams below, as do hundreds of
the old deep mines. It is a pitted and hard-used landscape, where
occasional more or less ordinary farming valleys, and mountains and
streams that have escaped change, stand out as strikingly beautiful in
contrast.

Concentratedly typical of this landscape in general, perhaps, is the
Georges Creek valley, a hundred square miles of drainage extending
between two long scarred ridges from the neighborhood of Frostburg down
to Westernport. Here coal has a venerable and even romantic history, for
it has been mined in the valley since 1808, and the laid-out Scottish
orderliness of depopulated old "Company towns"--Lonaconing is said to
have been the first such in the nation--clashes with the grimy reality
of what has happened in modern times.

This natal section of the river system cannot be walled away from the
rest of the Basin, written off to coal and industry, and disregarded. It
is integral with the rest; its troubles are Basin troubles. And if the
ingrained landscape sickness compounded there by the old consumptive way
of doing things, blight begetting blight, cannot be healed, scant hope
glimmers through of healing the same sickness in other parts of the
nation where it is even worse.


Other Basin landscape problems

New roads and highways, regardless of what traffic they carry and where
they carry it, are too often planned and constructed as gashes of
destruction across the landscape and across the "scenery of
association," and frequently fertilize subsidiary ugliness in the form
of billboards and commercial clutter. Attempts to mitigate the worst
aspects of this have had some effect, but have not been widespread or
strong enough to keep up with the growing numbers of cars and the
growing demand for facilities on which to operate them.

[Illustration]

Much could be done at the local level to erase roadside
ugliness--Loudoun County, Virginia, is again a shining and rare example
of a place where the right thing has been done. But more of the trouble
comes from higher up, for it involves the routing and design of the
super-roads, and stubborn considerations of strict engineering
efficiency have usually tended to prevail over esthetics and such
things, despite growing objections. Regardless of their beauty as roads,
the sheer quantity of strip concrete Americans require nowadays is a
basic problem. It has been said that an extraplanetary observer at first
glance might well conclude that this continent was populated primarily
by large four-wheeled bugs with detachable brains. Certainly in many
places nowadays the earth is beginning to look as if it were arranged
for the bugs rather than for the brains, if that is what we humans are.

[Illustration]

When the bugs die they go to junkyards. These many-colored necropolises
occupy wide acres of land near every center of population in the region,
occurring quite commonly along the main entrance highways to neat and
historic towns. Their stark and extensive ugliness has made them the
subject of much high-level investigation, most of which has sought to
make their conversion into usable scrap metal a profitable process.
Undoubtedly this will be achieved sooner or later, but in the meantime
the old cars, together with a wealth of other discarded items in
roadside fields and along fencelines and stream channels throughout the
Basin, form a scabby legacy from the recent past, and a less esthetic
"scenery of association."

Major electric powerlines and other utilities routed arrogantly with
only straight-line distances in mind, up hill and down dale and with
their cleared rights-of-way kept brownly dead with herbicides, can
intrude starkly on the beauty and mood of historic or pleasantly natural
landscapes. In the name of public service, private utility companies in
all the Basin States have wide powers of condemnation as emerged to view
recently when the Potomac Edison Company proposed to hack out a strip
for a new line along a route that included country associated with the
campaigning around Antietam Battlefield in the Civil War, without an
adequate attempt to find alternative routes.

In this instance, public protest shaped up a fight against the line, in
which the Interior Department has become involved because of the
Federally owned battlefield and the nearby C. & O. Canal. But often
elsewhere, the great skeletal towers linked by thick transmission cables
march where they please, indifferent to local objections. What is
certain is that modern America needs the electricity transported thus,
and the gases and liquids that run through great pipelines. Hope for the
long run is offered by research that may open the possibility of putting
high-voltage transmission lines underground, but in the meantime what is
needed is an awareness on the part of utilities planners that scenic and
historic values have to be given full weight in their computations.

The kind of agriculture that has so much to do with the Basin's scenic
appeal is not entirely healthy these days. We have mentioned the
difficulty created near Washington--and around other Basin centers of
population and in many places where vacation colonies are burgeoning--by
skyrocketing speculation and a general absence of strongly based and
well-defended plans of preservation. As the development value of land
rises in such places, local systems of taxation based on that value
rather than on actual use may drive farmers out of business whether they
want to stay in or not. Since 1945 in Fairfax County, Virginia, for
instance, the number of commercial farms has dropped from 1788 to about
200, and it is still going down.

Even where the tax trouble has been recognized, as in Maryland, and
taxation adjusted to reality for people who want to go on farming, few
tillers of the soil are devoted enough to their acres to hold onto them
in the face of the kind of cash that is often dangled before their eyes,
for the flat and fertile tracts that make the best farms are also the
easiest to subdivide and build on in standard fashion. For that matter,
the usual form of tax relief on agricultural land can be used as a tax
loophole by speculators. Thus, whenever tract values rise and
development impends, good productive land, which the country may well
miss later as populations grow and food supplies for them thin out, goes
permanently under pavements and construction. Even though it is just in
such places that protected, scenic, connotative rural landscapes might
have the most meaning for the most people in the long run, their
preservation presents some tough questions. Patterns of growth that
would spare them could easily be worked out and would fit in well with
watershed protection and open space needs, but the economics of
compensating farm owners for the loss of the big money they might have
received for them is another thing.

In some other parts of the Basin, the implications of a modern unified
economy are a threat to traditional farms and farming methods. Labor
costs, the need for expensive machinery, superior methods of storage of
foodstuffs and easy transport over long distances have put Potomac
farmers into competition with other regions, even other countries, where
the same products they supply can be raised on an industrial scale of
investment and profit. Thus the worth of a field of tomatoes in the
Northern Neck of Virginia is affected by massive irrigated production in
the Central Valley of California, and thus a Shenandoah farmer may
barely break even or suffer a loss on a rather good crop of wheat in the
old "bread basket of the Confederacy."

Such influences, even though dulled a bit by protective State and
Federal farm programs, are putting a premium on specialization, ever
larger farms, and an "agribusiness" approach, with high capital and
operating expenses. Their effect on many family farms in the Basin's
mountain regions, places with limited acreage of marginally productive
land, is severe. These may have supported the clans that own them
reasonably well for a century or more, but they cannot compete with
Ohio. Unless their owners are willing to keep on farming while holding
down a job in town for supplementary cash, they often move away and the
places go out of cultivation. Some are consolidated into grazing or
forestry units or bigger farms, some stand abandoned, some go on the
market as vacation retreats and "hobby farms" for wide-ranging
metropolitans.

Richer regions share the troubles. In the classic valley of the
Monocacy, some of whose dairy farmers have to import feed now from the
Midwest because they cannot raise it cheaply enough themselves, the size
of the optimum farm, one that can compete effectively in today's market,
has swelled in the past few years from about 150 acres to about 600,
according to a study by the State of Maryland. The problem is compounded
by rising land prices influenced not by productive value but by the
presence of Megalopolis just over toward the Bay. Sprawl throws a long
shadow.

Eyeing this array of difficulties, many farmers' sons are prone to seek
another livelihood, and the average age of the men who do the farming
grows higher all the time. Tiring, many sell out, and thus the family
farms that make up the greater part of the Potomac's much-loved rural
landscape dwindle in number and change in use. It is not necessary to be
mawkish to see this as a loss. In part it is inevitable, but in part too
it may be rooted in policies that can be altered and adjusted to keep
the farms productive.

Wildlife, along the Potomac as elsewhere, is dependent on whatever
habitat it occupies--that is to say on the state of the landscape. If
the rivers are cleaned up and kept flowing even during times of drought
and heavy use of water, they will support better populations of fish and
a greater variety of species. If the subtle interrelationships and the
immense value of the estuary's varied nooks and crannies are recognized,
studied out to full understanding, and protected--and in time--not only
fish and shellfish but ducks and eagles and herons and all the other
wild users of the shores and wetlands will benefit. Government refuges
and other devices are badly needed for these purposes in that region,
now that it is no longer remote and the kind of protection many private
owners have traditionally furnished wildlife is diminishing.

[Illustration]

Upland populations of deer, turkey, grouse, quail, raccoon, fox, and
other sporting and non-sporting species thrive in parts of the Basin
suited to their habits and still in good condition, and shrink
elsewhere. Many stretches of private forest land could support much
higher densities of game and other wildlife, if they were put in better
shape by practices that are available and feasible. Of the more than
three million acres of such land scattered throughout the Basin in small
holdings, much is in poor condition. It is therefore but spottily
productive of game or timber or anything else, and often causes high
runoff and erosion in critical watersheds.

[Illustration]


Recreation

Many of the things we have called amenities here are subject to
full-fledged economic uses necessary to the region's wellbeing and not
usually in great conflict with scenic and ecological values if they are
carried out right. Farming and commercial fishing and logging used to be
generally exploitative and hard on the natural scheme of things in this
country, for instance, but they no longer need to be and in most cases
are not. Using the Potomac's water for towns and factories and power and
navigation entails some interference with natural processes, but it does
not have to be widely destructive of them. Discharge of treated wastes
to streams is still necessary to a degree, and up to that degree not
badly harmful, though as we have seen, it is far too often excessive.

[Illustration]

Urban expansion is necessary also with present population pressures. It
is an irreversible exploitation of the landscape, but if the type of
land-use principles mentioned in this chapter were to get wider
employment, urbanization would quite certainly not have to be as
destructive of natural and human values as its present usual form is.
The same thing is true of industry in its many manifestations, including
mining, and of the woven network of roads and utilities. The public
needs them, and the people responsible for them need to be aware of the
great value of the natural framework within which all men must exist.

Average people's direct use of the natural world is most often of the
kind summed up as "outdoor recreation," an umbrella phrase under which
are lumped a diversity of satisfactions found by widely differing
persons in many types of more or less natural places. Muscular hunters
and elderly birdwatchers, water-skiers and bank-fishermen, Sunday
drivers on crowded highways and lean backpackers on dim trails in the
South Branch highlands, baseball players and people who take naps on
the grass beside the C. & O. Canal, amateur archaeologists and stock-car
racing fans--all these and many other kinds of folk depend somehow on
the Potomac outdoors for their pleasure. They use it.

How much they use it and how much pleasure they get out of it are
governed by the time on their hands, the availability of their chosen
recreation, and whether it is good of its kind. A would-be hunter who
cannot escape from the District of Columbia is out of luck unless his
mobility improves. An Alexandria water-skier can divert himself on the
metropolitan estuary during the summer months, but under ordinary
conditions at present it is something less than what is known as a
"quality experience," as is fishing there or any other water sport. A
West Virginian has to have some time to spare if he wants to enjoy
beaches and ocean breezes; so do Tidewater residents with a penchant for
mountain trout fishing.

Nevertheless the Basin holds a great deal for almost all tastes, and
most of what it holds is of excellent quality. The main recreational
needs are fairly clear: to protect and restore the Potomac outdoors from
the deterioration noted in this and earlier chapters, to spread the
chance at different kinds of pleasure around as much as possible, to
guard against clashes between different kinds of use and against the
destruction of the quality of quiet and natural places that occurs when
too many people are jammed together in them, to make the Basin's
pleasant corners and shores and byways easier to get at, and--not least
important--to encourage uses that contribute to appreciation and
preservation, helping to make sure that in the long run outdoor
recreation in this region will be possible.

People's need for outdoor activity in their spare time varies a good
deal. An oysterman-crabber working out of the Yeocomico through the
progression of seasons and weathers, a Shenandoah plowman turning earth
his great-great-grandfather turned at the foot of the blue-green
mountains, a timber cruiser in the high forests--such individuals are
not as likely to need to go looking for added outdoor satisfactions as
most other kinds of people, for whom ordinary life tends to be more
separate from pleasure in the open air. Maybe if the cities can be
brought back to health and their growth shaped to fit in better with
human needs, this will change. But with more and more people coming on,
more and more leisurely and affluent as technology cuts down on work,
more and more urban, outdoor recreation as a specific goal is going to
be an ever more important consideration in planning. It is already
important--and already, as we are reminded with statistics, big
business.


City recreational needs

Recreation in and around the central city of Washington has to be a
primary aim. The most people are in this area, many of them through
poverty or habits of life not given to farflung pleasures but
constrained to seek them where they live, or near at hand. The worst
environmental threats are here as well, despite the foresight and pride
that have saved much more open space and pleasant park land than most
other American cities can show.

The metropolitan river has to be cleaned up and made attractive. It used
to be the city's most supremely valuable amenity and potentially it
still is. Measures within reach can realize much of the potential inside
of a reasonably short time, so that productive and varied fishing and
good boating and a beautiful wide body of water will be within strolling
distance for people in the central parts of the metropolis on both sides
of the Potomac, and the recreational value of the lands already
preserved along its shores will be incalculably multiplied. Safe
swimming and other water contact sports in the open metropolitan
estuary, often mentioned as an aiming point for clean-up programs, may
be a somewhat more distant future prospect. Our studies in the past
three years have made it clear that pollution here is more complex and
diffuse in origins than had ever been supposed, and that sources of
dangerous bacteria are probably going to continue to exist for a good
while despite all efforts against them. The goal of swimming is a worthy
one and will probably be reached, but not quickly. In the meantime, more
public pools in the City and easy transportation to public areas farther
down the estuary may be required.

Some recreation areas within the city, like Rock Creek Park, presently
get too much use for their own good and for people's full pleasure in
them because they are superior to anything else accessible to many of
the city's people. This is a local manifestation of a national problem,
for even sections of the great national parks, like the one at Yosemite,
are presently being battered by overuse by a generation of city-dwellers
anxious to come in touch with natural and basic things. In such places,
people's very numbers shut them off from those basic things and coarsen
the quality of their experience. The only really satisfactory answer
will be to put additional, equally attractive places within reach of the
same people. In Washington this means developing other pleasant areas
within the city and making it easier for the city's people to get to the
other parks and natural places farther out. Improvement of the river,
development of extensive new parklands along the Anacostia including the
Kenilworth Dump site, more neighborhood playgrounds and swimming pools,
and other such action will all help to relieve the situation, which is
getting much official attention and is a specific subject in the report
recently published by the Potomac Planning Task Force, the group formed
under auspices of the American Institute of Architects.

The array of Federal, State, regional and county parks and other public
areas ringing the metropolis will be more accessible as public transit
improves. Another means to this end, and an especially organic and
appropriate one, will be the urban stretches of the Basinwide network of
hiking, bicycling, and horseback trails which will be discussed a little
farther along.

If, as prophets reiterate, ever-increasing percentages of the American
public in the future will be living in the great cities, a great deal
of nature and conservation education is going to be needed if the mass
of people are not to lose all understanding of natural things and all
sympathy with their working and their preservation. It cannot be
entirely a classroom sort of thing, no matter how many films and
preserved or caged wildlife specimens may be provided. There is need
now, and there will be more need hereafter, for rich nature preserves
and study centers within reach of Washington and specifically dedicated
to such use.

In general, suburbanites have more freedom of choice regarding the
places they play in and the ways in which they play there than do people
at the urban center. Many of them live fairly close to outlying parks
and open areas, and if good planning gains in strength and effectiveness
as the metropolis spreads, this neighborhood availability of outdoor
pleasures will increase, with more Rock Creeks and Pohick Creeks to put
stream-valley parks and pleasant small lakes and streams and such things
within reach of everyone, and more green open space just outside
people's doors. They are going to be needed, for public pressure on the
available recreation areas around the metropolis is already heavy.

Suburbanites also, however, are more mobile than almost any non-nomadic
civilian population in history. A great variety of things to do are
within driving distance of their homes on an afternoon off, or a
weekend, or a vacation. Therefore, the question of providing and
improving outdoor recreation for them, as well as for more mobile
residents of the central city, merges with the wider question of outdoor
recreation on a Basinwide scale, for residents and visitors alike.


Basin recreational needs

If the things are done that need to be done to reverse the environmental
deterioration that has been the subject of so much of this report, the
public's chance to enjoy widespread, high quality outdoor recreation in
the Potomac Basin will be tremendously increased. Recreation and
preservation are not separable subjects. If a river is cleaned up and
its shoreline protected against clutter and ugliness, its use by
fishermen and boatmen and others will be enhanced. If a park is
established to protect a unique natural asset, people's enjoyment of
that asset will be assured. Most preservation leads to more recreational
opportunity; many things that are done to provide outdoor recreation
afford some measure of protection for the environment as well, but the
emphases are sometimes different.

Among specific recreational problems, access is a major one. For those
who can afford cars, getting around the Basin grows easier all the time
as roads proliferate, but getting at the agreeable things to do is hard
in many places. Here and there important parts of the public lands in
the National or State forests, for instance, are cut off from easy use
by private inholdings. But the main amenity that is usually hard to
reach is water, which happens also to be the major magnet for outdoor
recreation of many kinds.

The estuary's 200,000 acres of superb recreational potential are a case
in point. It has a few drawbacks that can and ought to be dealt with,
like the thousands of old sunken pilings and stakes that make boating
dangerous in many places, and some others that may be tougher to
eliminate, like the great annual summertime incursions of stinging
jellyfish in its lowest reaches, the milfoil weed that sometimes clogs
its tributaries, and the erosion of its shores by winter storms. But
even as it stands, it offers fishing and boating and hunting of the
finest sort in its lower part, with excellent swimming higher up where
salinity drops and the jellyfish cannot come--a zone whose useful length
will increase upstream as metropolitan pollution diminishes. Yet along
the estuary's shores, except at certain historic sites like Wakefield
where types of use have to be limited, there are only two major public
parks at present and very few other public areas of any size where
people can launch boats, fish, camp, or merely get at the open water.
Some of the great military bases there are closed to the public, while
others permit limited use.

The main stem of the flowing Potomac is parallelled on the Maryland
shore by the C. & O. Canal in Federal ownership, a unique resource. But
the bulk of the land between the canal and the river--7200 acres out of
10,000--is privately owned. Along most of the 120 miles where the canal
property touches the Potomac it is much too narrow to permit heavy use,
so that public enjoyment of the river except at occasional spots is
limited to hikers, cyclists, and boatmen. Maryland's Fort Frederick
State Park, which joins the canal property and forms a much-frequented
node of public use, is the only such park on any of the main rivers of
the upper Basin.

Federal and state forests, extensive though they are, are mainly
confined to the ridges, as is the Shenandoah National Park. On the two
forks of the Shenandoah and its main stem below their junction, very
little public land exists despite the big segment of National Forest in
the Massanutten range between the forks, and on the Cacapon there is
hardly any. Authorized additions to the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks
National Recreation Area will bring parts of the fine, clean mountain
forks of the South Branch into public ownership and use, but the main
stem of that river farther down is shut off.

Fee-entrance places and State or local fishing access points are sparse,
so that for the most part the Basin's main flowing streams remain a
closed book for people who lack the time, youth, equipment, or
inclination to come at them by canoeing or some other more or less
arduous means. And, as was noted earlier, the shores of most of them
urgently need some sort of reasonable protection against vacation
clutter, so that a certain amount of public ownership or control would
help save the rivers as well as provide recreation.

Imbalances in the kinds of recreation available in various parts of the
Basin are another problem, sometimes rooted in the nature of things,
sometimes remediable. The outstanding one is the shortage in the upper
Basin of what is called "flat water"--lakes and reservoirs suited for
mass recreation of kinds for which a really major demand exists and is
growing: swimming and motorboating and water-skiing, besides fishing of
the type possible only in such water.

It has been said that recreation is potentially Appalachia's most
profitable industry. If so, Potomac Appalachia badly needs more such
water to fill out the resource and to attract the many people who are
interested mainly in flat-water activities. Middle sections of the Basin
want and can use it as well. A clear indication of the demand, as well
as an additional good reason for trying to meet it, is seen on weekends
along the occasional narrow stretches of slack water found in the
Potomac and the Shenandoah and even the slim South Branch, where ski
boats roar up and down among apprehensive swimmers and unhappy anglers,
a classic instance of the kind of destruction of pleasure that occurs
when incompatible recreational pursuits are forced together by a want of
room for both.

The obvious answer is to locate and design the reservoirs needed to meet
Basin water demands in such a way that they can not only fulfill that
purpose but can provide needed recreation too. The major reservoirs
called for to achieve near-future supply purposes are few, but they can
be planned in places where they will get a maximum of these types of use
and where drawdown and other unesthetic effects will be minimal. And the
smaller headwater structures needed for water supply, flood control, and
other purposes throughout the Basin can quite often be designed to
function as first-rate recreational attractions too.

[Illustration]

Anglers vary widely in their tastes. Some like the pursuit of bass and
sunfish in reservoirs, and for them the upper estuary as well will be a
good place to go when it is suitably cleaned up. Some want wide salt
water and the lonely cry of gulls, and these the Basin can provide also.
Others prefer trout in highland streams, or smallmouth and catfish in
the big flowing rivers, and as the state of the waters grows better, so
too will all these kinds of fishing. On certain rivers and streams
particularly, the assured flow that is going to be needed to cope with
diffuse pollution will have a strong good effect on aquatic life and
sport fishing. The Monocacy and the South Fork of the Shenandoah are
examples. And in the Potomac falls and gorge below the metropolitan
water intakes, as was noted in Chapter III, assurance of a certain
minimum flow would be justifiable on esthetic and recreational grounds
alone, even aside from the need for it below in terms of water quality.

Hunters need more room outdoors than most people, because of their guns
and because they move about in search of game. Fortunately, the fall and
winter months when they function are times when relatively fewer other
people are out roaming. The public forests of the upper Basin are a main
resource for hunting now and in the future, and the kinds of public
access that are established on the estuary and the main rivers will have
to take hunters' interests into account. Even so, if they increase in
numbers as much as has been predicted, the added demand for places to go
will require more lease and day hunting on private land in the long run
than exists at present, and improvement of that land's wildlife
potential.

Certain other kinds of recreational facilities, constituting the bulk of
profitable enterprises associated with America's outdoor pleasure, will
have to depend mainly or solely on private development of them.
Amusement parks, marinas, and ski lifts are examples, and so are most of
the lodging places, restaurants, and other service facilities that
thrive wherever increased public recreational activity takes place.

Most Americans do some driving for pleasure, and some of them do a great
deal of it, using their four-wheeled bugs not just as a way of getting
to pleasant places but as an indispensable adjunct to being in them and
enjoying them. In certain respects, the Basin falls short of providing
for their needs. The explosive demand in the past few years for auto
campgrounds where people can stop with their cars, trailers, and pickup
units has caused a shortage of adequately equipped facilities of this
sort, especially within easy reach of Washington, which will have to be
supplied by both public and private effort. Roads specifically designed
for leisurely pleasure driving, in contrast to high-speed throughways,
are another need. The Basin has two such motorways now--the George
Washington Memorial Parkway at the metropolis, a much-used city road in
its present form though still a main amenity, and the Skyline Drive
along the Blue Ridge, with the Blue Ridge Parkway extending southward
through it and out of the Potomac country. This magnificent low-speed
mountain-top route looks out alternately over the Great Valley and the
Piedmont, and the heavy use it receives, increasing year by year, shows
what the right kind of scenic motor routes can mean to people.

[Illustration]

For a multitude of residents and visitors, nothing would contribute more
to appreciation of what the Basin has to offer than a system of
unobtrusive parkways and scenic wandering roads joining together the
region's attractions--history and scenery and sports, rivers and valleys
and mountains. A major element in such a system, being studied, would be
a great loop parkway tying together the existing parkways by an
extension along the river and turning southward into the country along
the historic James, then back to the Blue Ridge. Scenic roads tributary
to the system would utilize existing rural routes for the most part,
enhanced and protected by State and local action.

For the many other people who seek a more active and less mechanized
relationship with natural things, a connected regional network of trails
for walking or riding or cycling is a main need and a main opportunity.
Like the parkways or even more than them, it could be a framework for
open space preservation and an intimate means of using that open space.
Tied in with existing segments like the C. & O. towpath and the
Appalachian Trail, linking the towns and cities with ridges and
riversides and parks and historic places, it would provide the most
fitting kind of access to the whole Potomac realm of things for anyone
willing to take an afternoon's stroll or a week's hike.

More fundamentally still, it would be a powerful and continuing element
in conservation education of the best kind, the participating kind. For
generation after generation of the young people who would use it most,
it would shape a feeling for rocks and water, creatures and trees, sun
and wind and rain and hills and valleys, old houses and ruins and
bloody fighting grounds, together with a sense of man's natural origins.
And shaping the feeling, it would shape some comprehension.

The Potomac Basin is going to need that kind of comprehension; the whole
country is. Recreation means fun, and it probably ought not be
overweighed with solemnities. But outdoor fun is dependent on the
wellbeing of the outdoors, and increasingly the outdoors depends on the
understanding and sympathy of human beings who possess new great power
of destruction and have been using it widely. So that if any form of
outdoor recreation can furnish, however slightly, some comprehension of
what the natural world is like and how it works, it amounts to quite a
lot more than a bit of needed relaxation from the week's toil at one's
job or in the kitchen and nursery, though it may be that as well. With
the comprehension, it becomes an enlargement of one's grasp of things,
and it adds a little substance to the hope that people will keep on
caring about the integrity of the world around them and defending it as
best they can. And no safeguard this present mortal generation can set
up is more meaningful than that hope.


Avenues toward coping with landscape problems

Most of the known basic techniques of landscape protection have already
been discussed or touched on in this report: ways of cleaning up rivers
and assuring their flow, ways of halting erosion and siltation, ways of
planning land's use by concentrated human populations with as little
loss as possible of amenities, ways of patching up old damage. Many of
them are imperfect as yet and for some problems tools are still missing,
nor are the existing techniques being applied in a completely
coordinated manner anywhere on this continent except in a few
experimental places of restricted size. But they do exist; they are
available if human beings and human institutions can be persuaded to put
them to use. And it is not possible to repeat too often that the need
for their use is urgent.

[Illustration]

A great deal of legal machinery at various levels is available to
stimulate the use of such techniques and to enhance outdoor recreation.
Some of it has already been put to work in the Potomac Basin; some of it
needs reshaping for application to the conditions found there; and to
cope with certain of the problems, specific legislative action tailored
to the needs is going to be required.

Active Federal programs of public works, technical assistance, grants in
aid, cost sharing, taxation, home loans, mortgage insurance, and such
things--often with counterparts at state levels--penetrate every level
of the economy and have profound effects on the landscape. Some of them
have a direct concern with the landscape as such: among these are the
Department of Agriculture's soil conservation and forestry programs,
Interior activities ranging from water pollution control to trails,
parks, and wildlife refuges, and Housing and Urban Development programs
for the restoration, protection, and creation of urban amenities--all
being applied in the Basin, though some need legislative adjustment or
extension if they are to be fully effective there. Most also have
associated recreational purposes.

Others among the going high-level programs have only a tangential
interest in the landscape per se, though frequently much influence upon
it. In the past, as we have observed earlier, many of them have been
responsible for a good deal of landscape damage, encouraging sprawl and
other forms of bad land use, instituting great public projects without
enough thought to their effect on esthetics and ecology, and so on. Some
are still being conducted in this manner, though less and less as a
general awareness of the need to restore and to preserve, to think twice
before making massive environmental changes, soaks out through the
complex network of government and has its influence on attitudes.
Increasingly, not only Federal but State agencies are making decent land
use, recreation, and scenic preservation a partial condition and
sometimes a whole reason for aid programs and public works.

Many programs can be adapted to such purposes. One interesting example
in the Potomac Basin is a study being undertaken in the Georges Creek
valley of western Maryland by Frostburg State College. Under an
educational grant from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare,
members of the college's faculty have embarked on research aimed toward
a demonstration project of economic, social, and landscape restoration
in the whole Georges Creek watershed as a unit. Action resulting from
the study will involve a number of their State and Federal programs.

Often, of course, the benefits of such practices are "intangible" in
terms of the market values that have traditionally been used for
justifying government projects, and adequate ways of giving them their
true weight against other values that may be in conflict with them have
not yet really been worked out. Nevertheless, the fact that they have
strong and sometimes overriding benefits is being recognized.

Insofar as such programs encourage Basinwide landscape improvement and
protection and major recreational opportunities, they are instruments
for accomplishing overall Basin aims, usable as such now by Federal and
State agencies and at the future disposal of any Basinwide coordinative
organization that may evolve. Insofar as they permit and stimulate
counties and municipalities to do better environmental planning and give
them money and morale to implement and enforce planning, they are
available at this indispensable level of action where--as we have
seen--the obstacles to doing things right are often huge. The programs
put within reach of local officials the principles of good planning and
management, and help them to achieve its details, from wildlife refuges
to neighborhood parks, from the maintenance of riverside beauty and the
restoration of historic shrines to the construction of small reservoirs.
As knowledge of their existence and their advantages gets around, they
are beginning to have much effect, especially at larger centers of
population.

Nevertheless, it is impossible at present to be sure that any given
locality is going to take meaningful steps toward staving off blight and
landscape destruction, and a great many of them in the Potomac Basin
have not done so. Partly this is because the imperative need for
planning is only now beginning to dawn upon many smaller communities.
But even where it has dawned and planning has been undertaken by men of
good will, the great obstacles still exist and often block their
efforts--the lack of money to match Federal or State program funds, the
inability to convince fellow citizens who have to approve actions, the
fat profits in real estate, the pervasive influence of personal
relationships.

Ideally, for a number of attractive reasons, it would be preferable to
let local people solve local landscape and recreation problems in every
case, with outside higher levels of government furnishing only advice
and money on request. In regard to many types of problems, this is what
is being done and will be done on into the future, for people living in
a place are the ones who determine whether the place is going to be
ugly or pretty, pleasant or grim. The trouble is, however, that as
understanding of the interrelationships between land and water and the
other elements of the landscape, even on a Basinwide scale, has grown,
it has become more and more obvious that there are only a few strictly
local landscape problems. Most local jurisdictions have within their
boundaries critical watersheds, unique scenic assets, flood plains whose
unwise use will require elaborate and costly structural protection later
on, and other such features. This being so, the effects of mismanagement
are certain to reverberate elsewhere, and it becomes the concern of
people other than those who live in that neighborhood. It becomes other
people's business, distasteful though this idea may be to communities
with a tradition of self-sufficiency.

Regional planning organizations that can pool counties' and towns'
resources, take a broad view, and pay for professional help can overcome
some of the obstacles, if local governments can be persuaded to join
them. Certain of the State and Federal programs mentioned above are
being applied mainly through such bodies. But it seems to be an
unavoidable conclusion that if local government continues to be the
weakest link in the chain of planning, preservation of the environment
is going to require not only stouter incentives to elicit cooperation
from communities, but also more authority at higher levels of government
to guard against at least the worst types of landscape abuse. In terms
of water, this kind of authority will shortly be operative with the
enforcement of the new State water quality standards. In terms of the
other elements of the landscape, it is equally justifiable.

[Illustration]

And, just as in water management in all its phases, central and
continuing Basinwide coordination of practices to restore the landscape,
to protect it, and to make possible its pleasant use by the public is
going to be needed. If landscape problems could be divorced from water
problems it might be a good deal easier, at this point in time, to
identify a fairly full range of "right" measures that could be taken to
achieve such restoration and protection for a long, long period into the
future than it would be to do the same thing for water problems.
Restoration and protection are not irreversible actions in the sense
that some of the technological measures associated with water management
are, and the main danger of rigid landscape planning would not be that
it might go too far, but that it might not go far enough to save all
that ought to be saved.

But, as we have observed time and again in these pages, no divorce is
possible between land and water. They are interdependent, and whoever
concerns himself with one must perforce concern himself with the other.
Much of the action in regard to both is going to have to be long-term,
continuing into the future. New threats are going to arise, some of them
quite possibly based in a divergence of aims among various government
programs with environmental effects. Thus, if a Basin-oriented agency is
required--as we strongly believe--to oversee continuing action to clean
up the Potomac river system and keep it clean, and to develop it for
man's use in a wisely flexible and coordinated manner, that organization
is going to have to take on a degree of responsibility for landscape
matters as well, and is going to need some authority over them.

Many things can be identified that need doing now if irreplaceable
assets in the Potomac environment are not to be lost, and if people are
to be given a full chance to enjoy what is there. Some of these things
that need doing have been named in this chapter or previously, and
others are implicit in the report's discussions. We have worked out
recommendations for action that can get them done, and the
recommendations are presented with this report. They include some
specific recreational proposals, and they urge prompt and authoritative
protection of certain assets that are going to be destroyed if
protection does not come soon, long-term programs to bring about
detailed and overall restoration and protection and continued study and
research into means of coping with threats not yet fully understood,
like some of those along the estuary and the North Branch.

The main recommendation with a specific objective of preserving the
landscape and providing recreation proposes the designation of the main
river from Washington to Cumberland as the Potomac National River.
Though it is to remain accessible for appropriate use by towns and
industries, its banks and islands will be protected and public access
assured by means of a sheath of park land, in Federal, State, and local
ownership and with associated areas preserved by easements and similar
devices, for the entire 195 miles. The proposal, refined since its
initial mention in the Interim Report, is a major one--but so, as we
have seen, is the need it is designed to meet. This main reach of the
flowing river, the Basin's hydrologic and scenic lifeline, is greatly
menaced by rapid and inappropriate development along its banks, and
through most of its length it is hard for people to reach. It has unique
majesty and beauty and both historic and symbolic associations that
warrant a special degree of protection for it, and warrant also the
assurance of the kind of public appreciation and enjoyment the park
sheath would permit.

       *       *       *       *       *

The recreation and landscape recommendations as a body are attuned to
reality as well as to needs. They represent things that can be done, at
prices that can be paid--minimum initial steps toward ultimate
achievements that would be inferior to none that our changeful age might
produce. This is an insistently momentous time, with boom, frenetic
pleasure, sophisticated communications, space exploration, racial
crisis, young rebellion, and all the other contemporary phenomena
demanding attention and stirring up a dust that makes clear vision hard.
There is nothing minor about any of them. But one thing seems clear
enough. When the dust settles down and those who walk here afterward
look around them for the eternal wholeness of earthly things, they are
going to have a hard time finding it if matters keep going as they have
been going lately. If we who are here now fail to hand over to them a
physical world that relates them to old reality and serves them well and
helps to make them glad to be alive, then whatever other things we hand
over to them may seem very small potatoes.

The Potomac Basin is only a piece of what needs to be done. But it could
be a beginning.




[Illustration]

V COMPLEXITIES AND PRIORITIES


A river basin is a good functional unit of topography, admirably suited
for study and for certain types of resource planning. Because of this,
there is a temptation for those who undertake such study and planning to
assume that river basins have, or ought to have, human unity as
well--unity in politics, economics, and culture--with a consequent
"basin public" inclined to think in basin terms. Basin identity of this
sort would facilitate conservation, development, and management. It
would "make sense," and clearly enough a a great deal of sense needs to
be made, and soon, if people are going to have any hope of balancing
their use of resources against the inevitable continuing requirements of
the long future.

Small watersheds often do have unity of this human sort, but very few
major river basins. And usually the question of whether they ought
ideally to have it or not becomes irrelevant in the face of the
rock-hard reality of the forces working against it. In the Potomac
Basin, the boundaries that ramble among the various political
subdivisions--the District of Columbia and portions of four separate
States, with all or part of some 39 counties and a number of independent
cities--only accidentally and occasionally follow watershed ridges. More
often they reflect the caprice of Stuart kings and Fairfax lords, the
accidents of history, the fortunes of war, and the trampings of young
George Washington and the Messrs. Mason and Dixon and hundreds of less
renowned linemakers. These boundaries, some of them sanctified by
centuries of existence, are one of the Basin's most fundamental sets of
facts, creating genuine differences in the interests, activities,
viewpoints, and even accents of the people. And they emphasize a healthy
political diversity and complexity that in many ways is simply not
amenable to change.

None of the capitals of the four Basin States lies within the Basin's
limits. This means that some of the strongest political loyalties and
energies of the region are directed outward toward Richmond and
Annapolis and Charleston and Harrisburg, and that much action relating
to the Potomac must be sought in those cities, or is decided on
incidentally there by legislators, many of whose strongest interests may
lie along the James or the Susquehanna or the Ohio or other streams.

The fact that the capital of the United States, together with its
attendant metropolis, is located solidly within the Basin at the Fall
Line is of immense if problematic significance. For one thing, it
fosters a concentrated Federal interest in the Potomac and the Potomac
region, in both esthetic and utilitarian terms and at both legislative
and administrative levels, which have led to some special amenities in
the way of parks and such things and to some Federal efforts to treat
the river in "model" terms, however these terms may have been defined at
various points. On the other hand, it has also led to a special concern
with the river on the part of the almost innumerable interest groups
that possess leverage in Washington, from wilderness conservationists to
industrial lobbyists, who exercise pulls in a number of different
directions.

And the presence of the capital has set up other special currents of
influence and sympathy that bypass normal political channels. Many Basin
towns and counties look more toward Washington for certain kinds of
action than toward their State agencies and legislatures. Federal
programs have long been active here close to the main-office sources of
expertise and cash, building up respect and trust through local agents,
and Basin Congressmen who hardly have to leave home to exercise their
legislative function have further strengthened these ties.

The metropolitan jurisdictions, especially, in many ways find more
common cause with one another and the Federal Government than with
communities and governing bodies elsewhere in their own States.
Politically, this sense of collective identity gets official expression
in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, a regional body
which, like its counterparts in other urban conglomerations throughout
the country, is geared to work directly with the Federal Government in
dealing with its own regional problems rather than having to come at
Federal programs and agencies along the more lengthy traditional route
through the States. The implications of this new kind of alignment are
still a matter for debate and conjecture.

Other forces at work along the Potomac similarly have less to do with
boundary lines, drainage limits, or Basin thinking than with human ways
of being. There are a number of kinds of country here, as we have seen,
in various stages of development and with various sorts of people
inhabiting them. Yeoman tillers of the Shenandoah's limestone soils may
find scant occasion to identify their interests with those of the
Washington slums, or even with those of the fox-hunting Piedmont gentry
just across the Blue Ridge. Coalmining Potomac Appalachia has more
common economic and cultural outlook with eastern Kentucky than with the
Potomac Tidewater; southern Maryland and the Northern Neck and the
Monocacy's dairy farmers all have their own ways of interpreting human
existence and defending themselves against its pitfalls. Within the
county governments and the Congressional and State-legislative
districts, these local and regional viewpoints choose political leaders
who joust for them in higher arenas, often aligning there with forces
from outside the Basin. Hence a metropolitan Maryland Congressman may
vote in the House with kindred souls from Long Island and Pasadena, and
his Basin colleagues with agricultural constituencies may oppose him on
some issues in alliance with representatives from Wyoming or Arkansas.

Despite the Basin's special ties to the Federal Government, many rural
Basinites are suspicious of Washington and the metropolis, often out of
a traditional distrust of "big government" and sometimes because they
see the accumulation of city folk at the head of the estuary as a menace
to rural modes of existence. Thus they may oppose water projects
designed to help the metropolis, or recreational development that
threatens to bring down on them large numbers of pleasure-bound
outsiders, though local businessmen's hope for a boom sometimes offsets
such opposition. The reapportionment of legislative districts now in
progress, plus the growing political muscle of metropolitan areas, is
probably going to cut down on the power of rural areas and rural
viewpoints--though just how much and in what way no one is yet sure.
Some prophets claim that these influences are going to erode rural
influence utterly; others that they will merely shape an alliance
between middle-class suburbs and rural areas against the beleaguered
central cities with their slums and other huge specific problems.

Worth noting also is the fact that many erstwhile "rural areas" are
getting less rural by the year. With population pressures and industry
and pollution and looming water deficits, they have more and more in
common with the Washington metropolis, and more need for "big
government" programs. In the long run, an overwhelming majority of the
Basin's future population will probably be city-dwellers, with a
consequent effect on general attitudes toward Basin planning and
projects--though exactly what effect is not at all certain.


Public attitudes toward environmental action

One reason it is not certain is that the average person's set of
attitudes toward the world around him is not totally determined by the
circumstances of his life--by whether he is a city-dweller or a farmer
or a small townsman, an engineer or a poet or a hardware salesman or a
factory worker. Southern or Northern, black or white, poor or rich or
pleasantly salaried. These things have great weight in coloring people's
attitudes, but so do individual tastes and individual ways of
interpreting the fact and ideas that flood in upon all of us these days.
And so also do the vast and shifting currents of emotional and
philosophical response that sway our society in one direction or another
from year to year, from decade to decade.

In relation to the environment, certain differing philosophical currents
of this kind have surfaced to view at various points in this report, if
only briefly. They have influenced the fate of past proposals for
dealing with the Potomac river system and landscape, and they are still
here to continue exerting influence. In individual citizens' minds, they
often mix and balance with one another in various ways, but they are
discernible as separate forces.

Stout among them is the traditional American--and human--view that the
natural world exists for the primary purpose of bettering the lot of
such human beings or groups of human beings as may have the ingenuity
and the vigor to extract its treasures or to adapt it to their use.
Quite often the activities for which this view provides justification
are exploitative--they use up natural resources or they bring about
other irreversible changes in the world roundabout. Some
conservationists think this makes them automatically evil, but things
are not quite that simple. Such exploitative activities have led our
species the full length of the road from the Stone Age to the
sophisticated and powerful technological civilization of present times.
The idea that we have a full right to engage in them is deeply
ingrained, particularly in this country whose memories of the
frontier--a hardy, exultant line of subjugation and exploitation moving
across the virgin continent--are not remote but fresh.

[Illustration]

Certainly in its crasser manifestations--this utilitarian philosophy has
widely destructive effects nowadays. Strip mines gouged out without
thought of restoration, wanton land speculation and development, the
casual dumping of raw wastes into streams by towns or industries and a
number of other harmful practices mentioned in this report are all
clearly based in a conviction that what one does to the world around him
is his own sweet business. That conviction has longstanding sanctity
among Americans and many who hold it are moral and upstanding folk. But
in a world as heavily populated as this one, possessed of such augmented
technological ability to assail and exploit the natural world, there is
clearly something wrong with it.

Other exploitative human activity based in utilitarianism is not crass
or all so obviously wrong, especially in today's context. Population
growth poses a moral question but also a logistical one: uncontrolled
growth may well be questionable, but it is a staggering reality. The
additional millions of people thus invited to present and future feasts
must be provided for. Many thinkers view the economic expansionism of
our time, together with the vigorous technology which it fosters and is
fostered by, as the only means toward this end. Some, indeed, view it as
a happy and healthy state of things, indefinitely extensible as
technology itself furnishes substitutes for exhausted natural
substances, natural forces, and natural experiences.

Allied to this view is a sturdy and widely held American belief that
"development" of natural resources is automatically a good thing
regardless of the need--toning up the economy of a region or a state or
a nation, keeping things moving. Most people give it some practical
support, even those who in theory suspect its validity. For we are a
moving people. We have known little stasis in the centuries of our
presence on this continent, and each generation of us is imbued anew in
childhood with certain axiomatic ideas; movement is forward, growth is
up, construction is better than vacancy, not to make economic use of
something is to waste it. These ideas linger in our reactions: "You
can't," the saying goes, "stand in the way of progress."

[Illustration]

Certain other philosophers, growing in numbers these days, say
emphatically that you can and should. These are the history-minded
people, the wilderness folk, the nature traditionalists, and the others
whose main concern is that man and the pleasant world around him have
lost all semblance of a balanced relationship with each other, and whose
view of the sturdy plunderlust of our ancestors is that our inheritance
of it, combined with the technology of bulldozers, is aiming us straight
toward a world in which our own structures and destructions may be all
there is to see, our own fumes and sewage all there is to smell, our own
voices and machines all there is to hear. Some people of this stamp are
quietly pessimistic; others actively commit themselves to fight. Some
who fight see present human growth and the growth of human demands on
resources as the stark unavoidable realities they are, and seek mainly
to guide them and mitigate their effects. Others stiffen their necks
against development to meet those demands, staunch enemies to all
reservoirs and other forms of compromise, stubborn if highminded
nay-sayers against the tide, consistent even when illogical.

Taken as a whole, however, these people with a sense of the imponderable
human value of natural ways and natural things may constitute the most
powerful support available for thoughtful planning and conservation. In
a precipitate and voracious society plunging on into its future, they
look back and seek to retain the best of what has always been, for
conservationism at least in this sense is conservatism too. Upon their
increase in numbers, in broad understanding and in political
forcefulness, upon the arrival of their basic values at a point of
publicly accepted respectability at least equal to that presently
enjoyed by time-hallowed exploitation and the profit motive, hope for a
decent future must heavily depend.

All of these ways of looking at man's problematical relationship with
the crust of the planet he inhabits, plus a number of others, are at
work within the minds of conscious people in this region and in the
great cauldron of its politics. Here they mingle with State and regional
and local loyalties and private self-interests into a fine American soup
of eagerness and reluctance, faith and apprehension, awareness and
befuddlement, chicanery and square dealing, altruism and frank greed,
rage and reasonableness, that is as real as any mountain in the Basin
and as inevitable a consideration for realistic planning as the river's
own characteristics of flow. For any proposal or set of proposals for
action in the Basin that does not take into account what the Basin's
people are like, and how their idiosyncrasies and preferences and
sympathies find political expression, is foredoomed to failure, be it
ever so ideal in anyone's abstract terms.


Pecuniary matters

Then there is money. Restoration and protection of the scheme of things
and its adjustment to needful human use, on the scale we are considering
in the Potomac Basin, is expensive, often involving many millions of
dollars for action against only one phase of deterioration or threat or
shortage. In accordance with the breadth of overall aims, much of this
money must be Federal. Where benefits or responsibilities are clear, as
in relation to sewage treatment plants and sources of water supply,
states or communities or institutions usually pay a share. If Federal
policies regarding flood protection and river flow augmentation for
pollution control are made more logical in the ways sketched earlier in
this report--as seems likely--such sharing will increase. Private
investment or philanthropy may often play a part, as in the purchase of
municipal bonds, the donation of scenic property for public use, or--a
hopeful trend of recent date--a private organization's use of its money
to facilitate high public purposes. The main example of this last
service on the Potomac is the recent purchase and interim retention of
important wildlife and park lands on Mason Neck by the Nature
Conservancy, for later resale without profit to public agencies when
needed authorizations and funds have been obtained.

[Illustration]

Nevertheless, most such projects do have a public purpose with diffuse
benefits, and sooner or later most of their cost has to be paid out of
public dollars deriving from collected local, State and Federal taxes.
Sometimes it is dispensed through Federal grant programs created by
Congress to meet pressing needs, or from other special sources fitting
the occasion. More often it must be sought in the standard established
manner: concrete proposals for action shaped and presented, with a
computation of the cost and the value of expected benefits, to Congress,
State legislatures, or local governments for examination and
authorization, and funds or bond issues later voted for carrying them
out.

The cash available for both regular programs and special proposals from
year-to-year will vary according to the state of the economy, the number
and severity of other demands on government budgets, and their relative
apparent urgency. This imposes on planners not only an obligation to
make sure that what they propose has public value that fully justifies
its price, but also a need to gear immediate priorities and projects
realistically to the amount of money there is some hope of getting for
them. It is an unhappy fact that there is often less than no point in
presenting even fine proposals for legislative consideration at a
financially inappropriate point in history. Once defeated, whatever the
reason, they may forever languish in limbo.

At this particular point in history, this country has been for some time
involved in a tough, costly conflict in Southeast Asia which inexorably
absorbs much of the available Federal money. Americans are a rich
people, riding a wave of prosperity, and much is left over for other
things. But in this turbulent and questing era, they also have a good
many other urgent and expensive problems and projects on their hands
besides those dealing directly with natural resources and conservation.
The problems are familiar words on the front pages of newspapers and in
evening conversations: poverty, urban crisis, transportation, national
defense, public health, world hunger and unrest, space exploration,
schools, and the rest. All cost hugely. And, though individual
conservation proposals of clearly critical importance most often receive
fair and full consideration, one or two or more of these other realms
for action usually loom larger to the eye of the public and the Congress
than do environmental programs in general. Therefore they get first shot
at the funds available for spending year by year.

Most people have a bias in favor of their own chosen field of interest.
To some, the right use of the natural earthly framework of things
matters supremely. They tend toward a conviction that sooner or later it
will stand very high on any list of priorities for spending, as the
magnitude of what is being lost and diminished is borne in on the
consciousness of the general public. Yet, as of now, it faces heavy
competition for limited funds, and this is another reality for
consideration, as solid for the moment as the Basin's physical problems,
as solid as the politics of which it is a facet.


The implications of complexity

These are not the only uncertainties and complexities that confront
anyone who would act toward restoring and preserving the waters and
landscapes of the Potomac and making them serve man, but some of the
more specific and potent ones not dealt with earlier in this report.
Others have been discussed in former chapters or at least have received
cursory mention. Among them are water technology's state of flux that
offers a strong if hazily defined hope of being able to do things better
and better as time passes; the need for more and better data; the
problems for which workable solutions simply do not yet exist; the
inequities or inconsistencies created by certain present Federal water
policies; the dubiousness inherent in forecasts of future human
pressures and problems; the frequently crossed purposes of high agencies
regarding environmental action; the difficulty of feeding true esthetic
and recreational values into cost-benefit computations; and the
paralytic tangle of motives and loyalties in regard to planning at the
local level. And a great many others could be found.

Taken all together and linked to the assumption--fundamental in this
report--that the Potomac and its landscape deserve rescue and
coordinated right use, these areas of doubt, changefulness, and
difficulty add up to a strong body of argument for flexible continuing
planning on a Basinwide scale and for a specific, authoritative Potomac
Basin institution to guide it and put it into effect.

There are two main alternatives to such flexible planning and
coordination and they both, under present and probably future
conditions, point toward slightly modified chaos. The first would be to
allow going or incipient Federal and State programs for water quality
improvement and erosion control and such things to take their overall
course, while water supply, landscape protection, and other problems
are dealt with in the traditional, piecemeal, localized manner as
conditions here and there become bad and force action, or as "fall-out"
from non-Basin programs takes casual effect. This relinquishment of
coordination would make the task of clean-up immensely harder and less
effective in the long run, and it would turn over most of the Basin's
unprotected scenic amenities to exploitation on the basis of their
short-term utility and the profit they could be made to yield.

The second alternative would be to shape a rigid overall plan for the
Basin prescribing definite solutions, feasible in terms of tried and
true technology, for all its problems that exist today and are expected
to materialize in the future, and then to seek authorization and funds
to put the plan into effect. This procedure has disadvantages already
noted in detail in this report. It makes large irreversible decisions
that future generations, stuck with the results, may find less than
totally attractive, especially since they very probably will have better
ways of doing things. It pins itself to fallible assumptions about those
future generations, and must be formed in terms of present laws and
policies, which are not always ideal. Physically, a plan of this kind
could be worked out that would function with reasonable efficiency, at
least in water matters, for there is nothing primitive about today's
technology. But esthetically it would leave much to be desired even by
present standards, and politically, furthermore, its very wholeness and
rigidity would mean that it would have to be sold as a complete package
or else be doomed to fragmentation, which would lead to much the same
sort of piecemeal expedient development as no plan at all. Quite aside
from the budgetary difficulties of the moment, the Potomac Basin's
political complexity makes whole acceptance and implementation of such a
plan extremely doubtful.


The question of an agency

If flexible coordinative planning's advantages for a place like the
Potomac Basin are recognized, and it is accepted as the most reasonable
and hopeful way to approach problems there, the question arises as to
what kind of agency is best suited to carry it forward and to act on it.
Besides certain unique agencies like the Tennessee Valley Authority
several types of institutions are available that can be oriented toward
a whole interstate river basin.

An _interstate compact_ is a detailed agreement between two or more
States to act toward a common specific goal. It needs the approval of
Congress, but the Federal government usually takes no formal part in the
compact commission's activities, nor are Federal activities in the basin
subject to compact commission control. A _Federal-interstate compact_,
on the other hand, does have Federal participation and provides for some
limitation on Federal freedom to act on basin problems without compact
commission consent. Compact commissions under either of these types of
agreement can have wide or quite limited powers in regard to planning,
construction, management, and such things, depending on the specific
agreement itself.

Two kinds of Federally-directed bodies with primary emphasis on planning
are in operation in various river basins. _A Title II river basin
commission_, as defined in the Water Resources Planning Act of 1965, is
formed by the President to carry out comprehensive basin planning, with
a Federal chairman and members from Federal agencies, Basin States, and
approved interstate or international agencies with jurisdiction in the
Basin. A _Basin inter-agency committee_ is created by agreement among
Federal agencies for an assigned mission, usually the coordination of
Federal and State planning through the exchange of information about
programs and projects.

The main work of the Federal Interdepartmental Task Force on the Potomac
has been done at the same time that the new Water Resources Council has
been studying out its powers and putting them to use. Formed before the
Water Resources Council, the Task Force was assembled as a unique entity
rather than as one of the categories of Federal planning organizations
mentioned above. But, having been shaped after a directive from the
President and having worked in cooperation with the Basin States'
Governors' Advisory Committee, the Task Force together with that
Advisory Committee has been exercising some of the main functions of a
Title II river basin commission. These commissions can plan flexibly, in
stages, if this is desirable. They make recommendations for
comprehensive development which can quite compatibly be implemented by a
separate basin management authority, perhaps of a type recommended by
the commission.

In these terms, the water-related recommendations that accompany this
Interior Department report, which have been concurred in by the other
Federal agencies on the Task Force and by the Governors' Potomac River
Basin Advisory Committee, can be considered a first stage in a new
approach to comprehensive planning for the Potomac. Hence it is time not
only to undertake these recommended initial actions toward the balanced
development and preservation of the Basin, but also to consider an
agency or agencies to take over such coordinative planning, management,
and operation as may be necessary. From the start, it has been
recognized that a long-term management agency was going to be desirable,
and we have been inquiring toward its definition. From the start also,
it has seemed obvious that some form of Federal-interstate compact
offered the most promise, for various reasons.

The direct and special interest of the Federal government in the Basin
is extensive, and clearly justifies continuing Federal participation in
any planning and development. On the other hand, to invest all or most
management authority for such a politically complex region in Federal
hands would ignore certain powerful realities, and would throw away a
chance to achieve the most meaningful kind of "creative Federalism." The
Basin States have shown strong willingness to take on responsibility and
authority in relation to the Basin's problems and to cooperate with one
another and with the Federal government toward their solution. An
organization based in such cooperation could cut through much of the
Basin's tangle of jurisdictions involved and to each of them
individually, and would be responsible to each and all. It could mesh
the efforts of the numerous and diverse action agencies sponsored by
each jurisdiction and aim them toward overall Basin goals, probably more
effectively than any other arrangement could.

Early in this planning effort, primary responsibility for inquiring into
the desirable characteristics of such an agency was allotted to the
Governors' Advisory Committee. After over two years' hard work by a
subcommittee, the Advisory Committee has lately made public the
preliminary draft of a Potomac River Basin Compact. It proposes a
compact commission with broad power and responsibilities to adopt and
maintain comprehensive plans for water resources and amenities, and to
acquire, construct and operate facilities related to water problems and
use, watershed management, and recreation. It would be financed by
government and private funds, could issue bonds, would absorb INCOPOT,
and would consist of six members--one each from the four Basin States,
the District of Columbia, and the Federal Government.

The draft compact is currently being discussed at public hearings
scheduled in various parts of the Basin, and is under review by the
Water Resources Council. Undoubtedly it will be altered somewhat during
these processes, and it will very possibly undergo further alteration at
the hands of the State legislatures and the Congress, which will have to
review and approve it before the agency it proposes can be created. All
of this will take a good deal of time. The detailed features of the
institution that may emerge cannot be precisely known at this point,
and a specific Federal recommendation for its establishment is not
yet possible. Nonetheless, the compact draft's essential
principles--adequate authority, accepted responsibility, and protection
of the interests of the participant jurisdictions while moving toward
coordinated Basinwide accomplishment--are sound and needful ones, and
offer the best kind of hope of implementing and continuing the sort of
flexible, coordinated planning and action that we have advocated in this
report.

The members of the Potomac Planning Task Force, the A.I.A. group, in
their recently published independent report, have made a strong
recommendation for a new type of Federal institution, a Potomac
Development Foundation, which would be headed by a Presidentially
appointed administrator and would have a planning staff and a
top-caliber professional advisory board. It would not engage in
construction, operation, or management of projects, but would be
liberally financed over a period of five years out of Federal funds and
would emerge as a self-sustaining agency with power to assist in Basin
planning, to acquire land, to make grants for various purposes, and to
sponsor appropriate development of the Basin's resources with
low-interest loans. With a strong orientation toward ecological values,
scenic preservation, architectural amenity, and recreation, it would
emphasize a long-range approach to coordinated Basin planning.

A Development Foundation of this kind would obviously harmonize with the
main principles enunciated in this present report. It is also envisioned
by the A.I.A. group as compatible with a compact commission or other
management agency, though they have recognized that the relationship
between the two would need to be studied out at length.

The proposal is a bold one and an appealing one, with much promise,
particularly in its potential for giving full weight to ecology and the
amenities in planning. We are hopeful that its basic idea will get
serious consideration during the period of institutional study and
review that is coming up.

In the period before permanent planning and management machinery for the
Potomac materializes, the Basin will get much protection against major
disruptive change through the continuing interest of Federal and State
agencies made aware of its problems during this first-stage planning
effort, through improvement and preservation programs already in
movement or initiated by this report, and perhaps most of all through
aroused and informed public interest. There is room for a broadly based
citizens' watchdog organization to keep tabs on Basin affairs and to
exert leverage in such critical fields as local planning. It might be
formed as a new group or might be built around an existing organization
such as the new Potomac Basin Center, whose function has been to comment
impartially and intelligently on Basin planning and prospects.


Action now

In the different chapters of this report, various things stand out that
need to be started quickly, either to satisfy looming demands for water
development and water quality control, or to restore or protect scenic,
ecological, and recreational assets which, if not attended to quite
soon, are going to either disappear or suffer irreparable damage. A few
recommendations for action on certain of these immediate problems were
made in our _Interim Report_ of two years ago, together with
recommendation on one or two noncontroversial items clearly not in
conflict with any conceivable ultimate Basin aims. In abbreviated
essence, the main Interim recommendations, made with Interdepartmental
Task Force and Interstate Advisory Committee approval, were as follows:

     (1) That a decision on the construction of Seneca dam and reservoir
     on the Potomac main stem be indefinitely deferred, but that the
     site be preserved as much as possible against further encroachment,
     in case it is ever needed;

     (2) That three relatively small reservoirs be built on tributary
     creeks in the Paw Paw Bends area of the upper Basin, in addition to
     the authorized Bloomington reservoir on the North Branch, to begin
     providing a safe margin of water for metropolitan Washington and to
     serve Basin recreational needs;

     (3) That a permanent "green sheath" of protection for the Potomac
     main stem, together with major recreational opportunity, be assured
     by means of a new kind of composite park of varying width along
     both shores from Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland;

     (4) That the Cacapon River and the West Virginia portion of the
     Shenandoah be given Wild River status by Congress to protect their
     shores against excessive and inappropriate encroachment;

     (5) That water quality programs and research be accelerated toward
     certain minimum goals;

     (6) That Soil Conservation Service and related Forest Service
     programs for erosion control, water management and development, and
     recreation benefits be accelerated;

     (7) That the authorized boundaries of the George Washington
     National Forest be extended to provide public access to and
     protection of the two forks of the Shenandoah above their
     confluence;

     (8) That Mason Neck on the upper estuary be preserved; and

     (9) That the George Washington Memorial Parkway be extended from
     Mount Vernon to Yorktown as the beginning of a system of scenic
     roads and parkways in and around the Basin.

One of the recommendations has had to be deferred, though the need
implicit in it remains acute--that the Cacapon and the West Virginia
Shenandoah be included in the Wild Rivers Bill then pending before
Congress. It had been thought that this Bill might be used to protect
the Basin's threatened main tributary rivers, beginning with these two
in West Virginia, but afterward doubt arose that the standards set up
for Wild Rivers--the primary point of reference being Western streams
flowing through sparsely peopled, often publicly owned country--would
make sense or be feasible in a settled region.

Mason Neck has been preserved by great effort on the part of
individuals, organizations, and different levels of government. More
remains to be done in the way of consolidation of what is there and its
adaptation to intended purposes, but the hardest part of the job is
accomplished; a critically endangered asset has been protected. Funds
have been voted by Congress for the acquisition of the Bloomington
reservoir site in accordance with the Interim recommendation. Water
quality improvement in the Basin is on the point of being significantly
accelerated toward high goals, as the new State standards are reviewed
and approved and start getting enforcement, though for specific trouble
spots and categories of pollution special Federal or other action is
going to be needed and is the subject of new recommendations
accompanying this final report.

The rest of the _Interim Report_ measures require Congressional action,
which none has yet received. In some cases this is because technically
detailed authorizing legislation has taken time to prepare, in others
because budgetary or policy realities have brought delay or
reconsideration, and in still others because of a feeling at higher
levels that certain recommendations could be better evaluated in terms
of a final report's whole set of proposals. In the present set of
recommendations they are repeated, for they represent genuine needs.
Some have been slightly altered in the light of evolving restrictive
reality, more recent knowledge, or flexibility, and the suggested or
implied Interim scheduling for some has been changed. It is no longer
envisioned, for instance, that the parkway extension below Mount Vernon
will be authorized and constructed quickly.

The present recommendations, though much wider in overall scope than our
earlier ones, represent only a first step in planning for the Basin, for
reasons presented in full in this report. They are attuned to present
economic and technological possibilities, as they must be. We believe
that if they get full and calm appraisal they will prove to be
acceptable politically, for all of them that call for major projects
represent solutions for acute and imminent problems for which other
satisfactory solutions do not presently exist, and to the greatest
possible degree they have been made flexible to accommodate possible
future change in aims or techniques.

In most cases, the reasons for specific recommendations have already
been given in the body of this report. However, the primary public
interest that focuses on the matter of major storage reservoirs may make
it worthwhile at this point to review and enlarge upon the facts. Some
reservoirs are going to have to be built if the Basin is to cope
satisfactorily with water supply, water quality, and recreational
demands. At the time of the _Interim Report_, we recognized that the
three reservoirs in the Paw Paw Bends area, together with Bloomington,
were very possibly not going to be enough to meet the need, but we made
a recommendation for their authorization because it was clear that they
would take the edge off the immediately looming water problem at
Washington, would mesh well with any additional future storage in the
Basin, and would have no major disruptive scenic effects but instead
would provide a great deal of high-quality flat-water recreation in an
area where there was significant demand for it.

These considerations still apply. However, the more complete picture of
Basin water problems that has emerged in our studies since the _Interim
Report_ shows that at least two more reservoirs are very possibly going
to be needed, and that the most useful scheduling of initial projects
will combine an answer for upstream problems with the satisfaction of
near-future needs at metropolitan Washington.

Besides the stretch of concentrated industry and population along the
North Branch, where Bloomington Reservoir is going to be needed as soon
as possible, three upper-Basin areas with major storage sites available
near at hand are faced with large water shortages in the near or middle
future, and have streams that would benefit greatly from flow
augmentation. In the order of the critical importance of their problems,
they are Frederick, Maryland, on the Monocacy; Chambersburg,
Pennsylvania, on the Conococheague Creek; and the Staunton-Waynesboro
area on the upper tributaries of the Shenandoah's South Fork, in
Virginia.

Chambersburg lies in an area where opposition to any major reservoirs
has been heavy. An interim solution to the local problem, though
possibly not satisfactory in the long run, can be found in a system of
small headwater reservoirs. The major Chambersburg reservoir site has
received full consideration as an element in a water-storage package to
begin dealing with Basin demands. But its immediate advantages are not
so unique as to justify going against the area's apparent wishes, and it
has not been included as a recommendation.

The reservoirs at Verona near Staunton and at Sixes Bridge on the
Monocacy, fortunately, can be adequately coordinated with Bloomington
and the three Paw Paw impoundments to provide roughly a twenty-year
margin of safety in water supply at Washington, besides coping with
foreseeable shortages in their immediate neighborhoods, furnishing
desired flat-water recreation, and contributing greatly to water quality
and recreation benefits downstream. They are also locally and State
supported. For these reasons, they have been chosen to fill out the
recommended system of major reservoirs to meet near-future Basin
demands.

The construction schedule recommended is based on the rate at which
upstream and metropolitan demands are expected to develop in relation to
each other. And, in accordance with flexible principles of planning,
there is provision that if more desirable alternative sources of water
or any changes in expected aims or demands evolve, the schedule or the
plan itself may be altered. Thus, if this first-stage plan is adopted,
the reservoirs to which the region will be committed at any given time
will be only those for which there is actual immediate need, but
coordination will not have been lost. This same kind of flexibility is
built into the recommendations relating to flow augmentation for quality
control.

Other proposals for major action are self-explanatory or are analyzed in
detail in separate sub-task force material. Among these latter is the
Potomac National River, as the park proposal is now designated, which
represents the most hopeful approach to defending the main stem Potomac
against destructive encroachment and enhancing its potential for
recreation.

Some of the recommendations presented are relatively small in scope but
nonetheless essential to cleaning up, preservation, or other desirable
ends. Others aim not toward immediate action but toward research or
legislation to clear the way for needed action--examples are those
regarding acid mine drainage and the possible need for a new Federal
category of "pastoral" or "scenic" rivers in populated regions. And
still others are only suggestions that non-Federal jurisdictions act in
regard to specific problems that fall within the realm of their
responsibility.

[Illustration]

If this body of recommendations is significantly implemented as an
initial program, it can lead to a good solid beginning on the things
that need to be done in the Potomac Basin. Without treading heavily on
the freedom of choice of future populations, it can satisfy the water
demands of the Basin during a long enough span of years to give
scientists time to examine the full range of evolving alternatives for
water management, and planners freedom to choose perhaps better ways of
meeting future demands than are now available.

The program can clean up the main streams of the Basin and assure their
healthy and copious flow even in time of drought, keep their banks
beautiful, and make them more available than they presently are for the
people's enjoyment. Even in the major trouble spots of the present
time--stretches like the lower North Branch and the metropolitan
estuary--dramatic improvement in the appearance of the water and its
usefulness for boating and fishing and such things will be possible if
the recommendations are followed out to where they lead, though full
restoration in such spots, particularly in the estuary, is going to
require an expansion of present knowledge and a long-continuing effort
on the part of all agencies and jurisdictions.

The program will not assure general protection of the Basin's landscape,
for only the Basin's people, generation on generation of them, can
assure that. But it can preserve some of the major treasures in that
landscape and mitigate some of the worst threats to it. And by fostering
projects to illustrate how a respect for the landscape can be put to
work, and bringing people into closer contact with the old realities of
the Basin's natural world, it can stimulate understanding and feeling
that will lead to wider restoration and protection, possibly that
general protection that only the people can assure.

If the spirit of these recommendations prevails, we believe that they
can lead reasonably soon to a Potomac Basin fit to serve as a model for
the nation. And if they are followed by further stages of continuing,
flexible, coordinated planning that will apply the best technology to
new problems as they arise, keep Basin aims in mind, maintain a high
sense of values, and leave open all possible options for the people who
come after, the Basin will remain a model. And that has been the aiming
point of our study and our planning.




[Illustration]

[Illustration]

THE NATION'S RIVER--AN ACTION PLAN


I. Action aimed at coping with present and future water resource
problems in the Potomac Basin as well as contributing strongly to
scenic, ecological, and recreational values:

A. An effective water pollution control program is the key to the
public's use and enjoyment of the Basin's rivers and streams. Programs
are currently under way which will result in continued progress toward
enhancing the quality of these waters. The Secretary of the Interior has
approved water quality standards for the interstate waters of the
Potomac Basin submitted by the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West
Virginia, and the District of Columbia which call for accelerated
remedial programs. Standards submitted by Virginia are currently under
review to assure that they will contain comparable requirements.
Achievement of the goals established by these standards will require
expanded support in the form of legislation, funding, technology, and
public awareness to insure their effective implementation.

     1. To control organic, chemical, and bacterial pollution of the
     Potomac River system and achieve compliance with the water quality
     standards, a program of both immediate and long-run action will be
     essential:

     a. During the next five years a series of actions must be taken to
     control the Basin's most immediate pollution problems:

     (1) Coordination of Federal, State and local powers, in cooperation
     with any Basin compact commission or other agency that may be
     established, to achieve waste treatment measures as required in
     appropriate standards and comparable levels for intrastate waters.
     This will call for removal of at least 85 percent of the organic
     load, or its equivalent, from all municipal and industrial wastes
     throughout the Basin, besides adequate chlorination of all treated
     wastes, except that in the Washington metropolitan area at least 90
     percent removal will be required because of the volume of wastes
     involved and their effects upon the estuary. The means toward these
     goals will consist of new plant construction, additions to
     existing plants, and control of combined sewer overflows. Regional
     or watershed approaches to the extension or improvement of these
     systems should be encouraged. Improved collection systems and
     treatment facilities also must be supported by effective training,
     certification and supervision of operators of the sewerage systems
     of all jurisdictions.

     (2) Stimulation of effective action toward meeting similar
     requirements in handling wastes at all Federal establishments in
     the Basin, consistent with the nationwide program called for by the
     Water Pollution Control Executive Order. Where possible, wastes
     from Federal establishments should be channeled into municipal
     sewer systems. Adequate budgets for waste disposal at such
     establishments are a prime necessity, so that Federal agencies will
     be the pace setters that they must be.

     (3) Immediate reconvening of the 1957 Enforcement Conference on the
     Potomac to focus attention on the timetables for controlling
     pollution in the estuary in the light of water quality standards
     and also to consider problems of agricultural pollution, sediment,
     nutrients, dredging and vessel wastes.

     (4) Strengthening of the continuing surveillance program on all
     streams in the Basin to insure compliance with water quality
     standards and to help correct abuses from leaks, spills, and
     illegal or accidental polluting discharges. Active participation by
     local, State and interstate agencies with the Federal Government in
     contingency plans for spills of oil and other hazardous substances
     in the Basin also is required.

     (5) Adoption and implementation of regulations and requirements by
     local and State authorities for control of pollution from boats and
     marinas. Legislation under consideration by the Congress would
     permit establishing national standards for control of pollution by
     vessels.

     (6) Adoption and implementation by State and local authorities of a
     policy that will prevent significant quality deterioration in high
     quality waters.

     b. Accomplishment of these measures will go far toward assuring a
     clean Potomac. However, to protect the Basin's waters over the long
     run, even more must be done.

     (1) First must come research and investigations to seek better
     methods of control where existing information and technology are
     inadequate. This includes:

     (a) Continuation of current pilot plant demonstration studies of
     advanced waste treatment processes at Piscataway, Prince William
     County, Virginia, and District of Columbia waste treatment plants
     and completion of the chemical, biological, and physical studies of
     the estuary to establish a basis for upgrading water quality to the
     maximum feasible degree.

     (b) Continuation of investigations and demonstration projects to
     evaluate costs and effectiveness of methods of treating and
     controlling combined and storm sewer discharges from urban areas,
     particularly Washington, D.C., to provide cheaper and more
     effective solutions as partial alternatives to present long-range
     programs of separation of sanitary from storm sewers in the
     metropolitan area.

     (c) Initiation of an engineering study or demonstration project to
     investigate practicable and acceptable means of disposing of sludge
     from conventional and advanced waste treatment plants.

     (d) More complete delineation of sources of nutrients to the
     free-flowing streams of the Basin and evaluation of methods of
     nutrient control or reduction. Continued research on nutrient-algal
     relationships to better define the principal chemical factors which
     result in nuisance algal growths, particularly in the Potomac
     estuary.

     (e) Completion of a survey of agricultural waste sources in the
     Basin, both organic and chemical, and the application of measures
     to control them.

     (f) Acceleration of research to find methods of treating industrial
     wastes for which suitable methods presently are not available.

     (g) Evaluation of major point sources of mine drainage in the
     upstream watersheds of the North Branch of the Potomac River and
     development of mine drainage abatement measures and control
     programs which are technically and economically feasible.

     (2) Concurrently--and at the earliest possible date--must come
     application of knowledge obtained through research, demonstration
     projects and field investigations performed within the Potomac
     Basin and elsewhere. As possible, water quality standards should be
     upgraded to reflect this new knowledge. Application of findings
     should include:

     (a) The progressive practical application of advanced waste
     treatment and improved methods of treatment or control of combined
     and storm sewer discharges in metropolitan Washington and
     elsewhere.

     (b) Application of additional measures necessary for controlling
     estuarial pollution still present after maximum feasible waste
     treatment, including advanced waste treatment, has been provided in
     the area.

     (c) Continuing reassessment of the effect of reservoir releases on
     water quality in the flowing streams of the Basin, after the
     highest practicable degree of waste treatment has been provided.
     Such assessment will involve:

     (1) Reevaluation of the opportunities for obtaining improved water
     quality objectives through management of reservoir releases and
     stream flows as individual reservoir projects are considered for
     construction, in the light of advanced waste treatment, means of
     coping with agricultural runoff and drainage, and other
     alternatives made available by that time.

     (2) Development of the Federal water resources policies which will
     provide for the most effective application of the streamflow
     regulation provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act,
     including equitable cost-sharing arrangements, to assure that
     streamflow regulation assumes its proper role in relation to other
     pollution control alternatives for the Basin.

[Illustration]

2. For the control of sedimentation and erosion and their effects, the
following action will be needed:

     a. Cooperative Federal-State-local efforts to accelerate land-use
     adjustment and land treatment in the Basin.

     b. Adoption by State, county and municipal governments of good
     strong statutes and ordinances for the control of erosion from
     construction sites and other sources in urban areas.

     c. Completion of current experiments on Rock Creek in the reduction
     of storm water turbidity by means of coagulants, and extension of
     such research to the Potomac estuary.

[Illustration]

B. With primary reference to problems of water supply and flood damage
in the Basin, steps must be taken to cope with present or looming
municipal and industrial demands and to guard against future troubles:

     1. Large-scale or general problems call for large or general
     actions:

     a. We recommend that major Basin water supply problems, including
     the need for some storage to restore and protect the quality of the
     water in the flowing rivers and the needs for flat-water
     recreation, be dealt with as follows:

     (1) By prompt funding and construction of the authorized
     Bloomington Reservoir on the Potomac North Branch, for benefits in
     that region and downstream, including the Washington metropolis.

     (2) By completing action on the reports on the several additional
     major reservoirs which, together with Bloomington, will constitute
     a "package" of drought insurance against the Basin's most critical
     expected water demands during at least the next 20 years. Three of
     the additional reservoirs are those on Town Creek, Little Cacapon
     Creek, and Sideling Hill Creek, recommended in the _Potomac Interim
     Report to the President_ of January 1966 and detailed in subsequent
     studies, for benefits in terms of downstream water supply and
     exceptional recreational opportunity. Another reservoir, North
     Mountain on Back Creek, was considered to be essential for meeting
     these needs by the Governor's Potomac Advisory Committee in its
     consideration of the 1966 _Interim Report_ and was recommended in
     the Corps of Engineers _Potomac River Basin Report of 1963_.
     Additional reservoirs include the Sixes Bridge Reservoir on the
     Monocacy and the Verona Reservoir on the Middle River tributary of
     the South Fork of the Shenandoah, also recommended in the Corps of
     Engineers 1963 report and currently being restudied in detail to
     meet present projections of local and downstream needs.

     According to present data, for maximum usefulness and safety,
     Bloomington should be completed on an expeditious basis and the
     others at appropriate intervals thereafter in relation to growth of
     demand.

     To make certain that desirable flexibility in planning will be
     maintained, the following conditions should be borne in mind by all
     Federal, State, or interstate agencies with present or future
     concern with Basin affairs, and by the United States Congress and
     the State legislatures, and should be taken into consideration in
     the shaping of authorizing legislation:

     (a) Individual reservoirs should be susceptible to reevaluation and
     modification during design stage in light of new techniques of
     water supply--including demonstrated feasibility and acceptability
     of the upper estuary for this purpose--and of water quality
     control, or unforeseeable modifications of aims or expected
     demands, should such change be determined to be beneficial to the
     overall well-being of the Basin.

     (b) Prior to construction of any reservoir with benefits for
     recreation and water quality downstream, responsible State and
     local agencies should be required to furnish assurances that the
     recreational and scenic qualities of the banks of the rivers so
     benefited will be amply protected.

     (3) By the continuing assessment by the Corps of Engineers of the
     water supply needs of the Washington metropolitan area with the
     objective of meeting future demands as they develop.

     (4) By research and investigation to ensure a sound scientific
     basis for future action in relation to the Basin's water resources
     and to provide maximum flexibility of choice to technicians,
     planners, and decision makers:

     (a) A full-scale and continuing water data collection program to be
     conducted in the Basin by the U.S. Geological Survey, with the
     object of building and keeping up to date the facts relevant to the
     river system and related aquifers.

     (b) Specific and continuing research by the Department of the
     Interior as well as other agencies into the nature and feasibility
     of a full range of possible alternative sources of water supply in
     the Basin, including new technological approaches.

     (c) A special study should be made, based on extension and
     coordination of studies now authorized or under way to determine
     the feasibility and acceptability of using the upper estuary as a
     future source of domestic water to supplement the water supply for
     the metropolitan area. The States of Maryland and Virginia, the
     District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Council of Governments
     should also be associated with this study.

     b. To begin to cope with major or general flooding problems in the
     Basin and to prevent future potential flood damages, the following
     actions should be taken:

     (1) Assignment of high priority, by Federal, State, and local
     interests, to flood mapping and flood plain information studies
     which will provide complete coverage of the main stem of the
     Potomac River from Cumberland, Maryland, to below Alexandria,
     Virginia, including the Washington metropolitan area, with the
     purpose of defining flood hazards along the river for use by
     planners, investment agencies and Government agencies at all
     levels. Elsewhere in the Basin, priorities for such mapping and
     studies of all significant flood plains should be assigned and the
     program undertaken as soon as practicable, with primary attention
     to those areas where pressures for flood plain development and
     potential flood damage are greatest.

     (2) Action by the Corps of Engineers to define a program of active
     and passive flood alleviation measures for the Washington
     metropolitan area, and all possible emphasis by other concerned
     Federal agencies on flood-proofing and other devices for averting
     flood damage at and around the capital city.

     (3) Continuing study by all agencies of the problem of adjusting
     current policies so as to stimulate reasonable, fair, economic, and
     esthetically desirable action toward flood damage reduction not
     only in the Potomac Basin but elsewhere in the nation, in line with
     the principles enunciated in the 1966 report of the President's
     Task Force on the Federal Flood Control Policy.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

2. Water supply or flooding problems in localized areas may often be
solved with headwater reservoirs which may be included in watershed
plans developed by local sponsoring organizations with assistance from
the Soil Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture. Such
plans provide for the conservation and development of both the soil and
water resources of the watershed. Preliminary studies indicate that
headwater reservoirs are needed and feasible in 61 small watersheds in
the Basin. These small headwater reservoirs, designed primarily for
local flood prevention, may include storage for sediment, water supply,
water quality control or recreation.

[Illustration]

II. Action relating specifically to the protection and restoration of
the Potomac Basin's scenic and natural assets, and to their enjoyment by
the public:

A. At the critically important level of local planning, governments need
to provide incentives toward wise and decent treatment of the
environment in all possible ways, including:

     1. Careful examination of all Federal and State programs and
     policies directly or indirectly influential on the landscape, to
     make certain that their effects are beneficial or their adverse
     effects are minimized and that they encourage rather than disrupt
     local efforts to avert blight even while achieving sound growth.
     Obvious connections exist between good local environments and such
     things as planning aid programs and grants for parks and recreation
     areas, but other grant programs, public works, road and utility
     routings, tax and mortgage practices, the proper or improper design
     of government facilities, and many other Federal or State
     activities have relevance in this respect.

     2. Dissemination of knowledge about strong, effective planning
     tools and procedures, as such knowledge accumulates. Of particular
     Basinwide interest will be the results of the application of Soil
     Conservation Service watershed programs in controlling erosion in
     urbanizing stream basins in the Washington metropolitan area, and
     the lessons learned therefrom. The Geological Survey's
     investigations of the resources of the Basin are a continuing
     source of essential information for planning. For example, the
     studies of the effects of urban development on streams and sediment
     will be especially pertinent to land-use planning.

B. The lifelines of the Basin's landscape, its flowing rivers and
streams, badly need protection against rapidly increasing encroachment
along their banks, and should be made more available for public use and
enjoyment. For these purposes, the following measures are strongly
recommended:

     1. Prompt legislative authorization, funding, and establishment of
     a Potomac National River complex consisting of Federal, State, and
     local components to provide a "green sheath" of varying width for
     the main stem of the river from Washington to Cumberland, Maryland.
     The preservation of this portion of the river and its banks, and
     their accessibility, are clearly of importance and warrant such
     treatment. The National River, studied and refined in the light of
     much government and public comment received since its initial
     mention in the _Potomac Interim Report_, is detailed in the
     legislative proposal now being considered by Congress.

     2. Completion of the long-deferred restoration and improvement of
     public facilities along the C. & O. Canal, a project which can be
     begun immediately and will mesh with the Potomac National River
     proposal, since the Canal will be a part of the proposed River.
     Certain of the old C. & O. feeder dams should be rehabilitated or
     rebuilt, sections of the Canal rewatered, and better public access
     provided.

     3. Studies of the Cacapon, Shenandoah, and South Branch Potomac
     Rivers to determine the most feasible way to preserve all or
     portions of these scenic and important tributaries in a relatively
     unspoiled state. Possibilities here are protection under State
     legislation, or the establishment of a new Federal category of
     pastoral or scenic rivers as a protective measure for streams in
     settled regions such as would be authorized under legislation
     pending in the Congress.

     4. Encouragement of local action to preserve the banks of smaller
     free-flowing streams by zoning, park acquisition, or other means.

     5. Provision, under auspices of State fish and wildlife agencies or
     otherwise, or better facilities for public access to all main
     streams--including, where appropriate, roads, trails, parking
     areas, boat launching ramps, and public transportation.

C. The historic Potomac estuary, with nearly a quarter of a million
acres of water surface and hundreds of miles of varied and scenic
shoreline, is a rich recreational and wildlife asset as well as a
fisheries resource of enormous value. Even after water quality programs
rescue its upper reaches from the heavy pollution to which they are
presently subject, however, more knowledge will be needed than
presently exists to make certain that its intricate processes continue
to function productively; protection of its shores against growing
inappropriate encroachment will be an urgent problem; and the
possibility of its use by the public for recreation will need to be
assured:

     1. A cooperative study should be undertaken by Federal agencies,
     the States of Maryland and Virginia, the District of Columbia, and
     the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, coordinated
     through the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, to identify recreational
     and other open space and specific resources along the tidal Potomac
     downstream from Chain Bridge that should be established as
     estuarine units of a Potomac National River, as State or county
     parks, or as units of a system of recreation areas for the District
     of Columbia and its metropolitan environs. The Department of the
     Interior is assisting the Department of Defense to determine how
     military establishments along the Potomac might contribute toward
     meeting regional recreational needs, including public access and
     use where feasible. These studies should be completed and the
     findings reported to the Congress and to State and local
     governments at the earliest possible time.

     2. As an initial measure toward achieving protection of the
     concentrated productivity of the estuary's marshes and wetlands,
     Federal, State and local agencies, and the Potomac River Fisheries
     Commission, under the leadership of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries
     and Wildlife, should undertake a study, to be completed within
     three years, to identify key areas of this sort; where possible,
     acquisition of such areas should proceed under existing programs.
     In view of the recreation potential generally associated with marsh
     and wetland areas, this study should be coordinated closely with
     the study recommended under item 1 above. The Department of Defense
     should examine its land holdings along the estuary to determine if
     zones of conservation for fish and wildlife in the marshes and
     wetlands can be established immediately.

     3. Action should be taken as quickly as possible to acquire the
     National Wildlife Refuge on Mason Neck in order to consolidate the
     protection of vital open space on that peninsula. Fiscal year 1969
     appropriations for the Department of the Interior include funds to
     begin such action.

     4. It is urgently to be hoped that legislation aimed at protecting
     American estuaries and increasing human knowledge of their
     processes, currently before Congress, will be passed in the most
     meaningful possible form, to the benefit of the Potomac estuary as
     well as all others.

     5. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers should continue to regulate
     the development of structures built into the navigable waters and,
     in cooperation with local entities, study means of ridding the
     Potomac estuary of permanent and semipermanent debris and floating
     debris.

     6. To guard against the loss of public assets of great worth along
     the estuary, the General Services Administration, in cooperation
     with the Department of the Interior, should give full consideration
     to recreation, fish and wildlife, scenic and other conservation
     values at the time any Federal installation becomes surplus to
     defense of other needs.

[Illustration]

D. State fish and wildlife conservation agencies in the Basin need to
strengthen their programs if hunting and fishing opportunities are to
meet the growing demand and if the broad spectrum of wildlife essential
to a healthy landscape is to be maintained:

     1. High priority and ample funds should be assigned to the
     improvement and development of wildlife habitat throughout the
     Basin, and special attention paid to the stimulation of good
     hunting and fishing opportunity on private lands.

     2. Research and management programs of the fish and wildlife
     agencies are vital, and need expansion based in broad public
     support and adequate funding.

[Illustration]

E. National Forest lands are the most massive scenic, ecological, and
recreational asset in public ownership in the Basin, and Forest Service
programs have beneficial effects far beyond the National Forests'
limits. Action specifically relating to these lands and programs is
vital to landscape protection and recreational development, and should
involve the following:

     1. To preserve the natural beauty of the North and South Forks of
     the Shenandoah River above their confluence, to assure public
     access, to provide for development and public use of the
     recreational potential of the streams, mountains, and forests in
     this area and conservation of its watersheds and natural resources,
     a National Recreation Area should be established, to be
     administered by the Secretary of Agriculture and to be comprised of
     the existing Massanutten Unit of the George Washington National
     Forest and such adjacent areas as may be needed to accomplish the
     purposes enumerated above.

     2. Development of the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation
     Area, designated by Congress in 1965, should be accelerated.

     3. Other National Forest lands in the Basin should also be adapted
     to a variety of compatible recreational uses, and their beauty and
     natural functioning protected by watershed management and the
     improvement of wildlife habitat, at an accelerated pace for early
     results.

     4. In the interest of consolidation of this great resource, the
     Secretary of Agriculture should continue discussion with States,
     local governments, and private citizens, leading to extension of
     the National Forests on the upper reaches of the Potomac.

     5. To enhance and increase the widely sought opportunity for
     water-related recreation in the National Forest lands as well as to
     contribute to the Forests' functional health, two measures are
     recommended:

     a. Acceleration of work to improve the hydrologic characteristics
     of these lands, with the purpose of decreasing damage from rapid
     runoff and increasing the flow of clean natural water in the
     streams during critical low-flow periods.

     b. Installation of that portion of the Department of Agriculture's
     upstream watershed improvement program consisting of some 40 small
     reservoirs within the National Forests, and recreational
     development of the sites in a manner compatible with State
     recreation planning.

     6. To encourage and help non-Federal forest landowners in the Basin
     to maintain forest cover and develop their woodlands for fish and
     game production, natural beauty, and recreation, existing Forest
     Service, State, and private forestry programs should be
     accelerated.

[Illustration]

F. The public's opportunity to appreciate and enjoy the rich variety of
the Basin's landscape is hampered now by a shortage of suitable routes
designed to furnish that opportunity. Two systems of such routes would
link together the Basin's most fundamental attractions and connect it
with the amenities of other regions:

     1. Studies are already well advanced toward the definition of needs
     for recreation and scenic motoring tied in with the existing George
     Washington Memorial Parkway, Skyline Drive, and Blue Ridge Parkway.
     They should be completed and implemented when feasible in
     consultation with the Department of Transportation. A route that
     warrants equal consideration would be the extension of the George
     Washington Memorial Parkway from Mount Vernon to Yorktown as
     recommended in the _Potomac Interim Report to the President_.

     2. A Basinwide system of trails for hiking, bicycling, and
     horseback travel has been studied and its details are presented in
     a separate report. This compatible and organic means of putting
     town and city people in touch with the natural environment and the
     countryside is an indispensable element of a full recreational
     program for the Basin, and it is strongly to be hoped that the
     establishment of the Potomac Heritage Trail along the river and the
     protection of the ridgeline Appalachian Trail--the two trunk
     elements of the system--will be promptly achieved under the
     legislation recently acted upon by the Congress.

G. Some of the most basic beauty of the Potomac Basin is found in its
older towns and its inhabited countryside, where centuries of history
are reflected in structures, historic sites, and types of land use. To
protect this beauty and richness against unnecessary destruction and
degradation, vigorous action is indicated:

     1. The Basin States should consider the possibility of utilizing
     their State Historical Survey Commissions not only to designate and
     protect significant townscapes and rural landscapes as historical
     districts, but also to monitor encroachments and inappropriate
     construction affecting esthetic and associative values at or near
     historic sites. State legislation to restrict the exercise of
     eminent domain by utility companies for pipelines and transmission
     line routes in such areas is highly desirable.

     2. If the Basin's traditional farms are to be preserved not only
     for their beauty and as open space near towns and cities but as an
     element in the economic health of the region, action at all levels
     of government will be needed. Tax relief as a tool to encourage
     continued farming on land in danger of urban development needs to
     be utilized more widely by counties. Programs should be developed
     that will help preserve the contribution that farms make to the
     life and landscape of the Basin. Imaginative new approaches are
     mandatory if there is to be any hope of coping with this problem.

H. At all levels of government also, a concerted effort must be made to
clean up junk, spoil, and debris inherited from misuses of the past and
to prevent new accumulations. Over 10,000 acres of surface-mined lands
need reclamation, thousands of junked cars mar the landscape, and trash
and litter clutter the land and streams. Existing programs must be
accelerated and new ones devised. Legislation now before the Congress
would establish a cooperative Federal-State program to regulate surface
mining operations and to assure the reclamation of areas mined in the
future. In addition, it is imperative that Basin Federal and State
installations promulgate regulations to prevent accumulations of junk
and debris on their lands.

III. To help ensure that future planning and action in relation to the
Potomac Basin's water resources, water-related land resources, and
amenities shall proceed in a wise and coordinated manner, we recommend:

     A. That citizens of the Basin interested in its overall well-being
     give serious thought of joining together in a broad-based
     organization to promote all aspects of that well-being by public
     education, discussion, monitoring abuses, pressing for good local
     planning and land use, and reviewing proposals for environmental
     action in the Basin.

     B. That the Federal and State governments continue their efforts to
     define and establish appropriate institutional arrangements for the
     management and operation of this Potomac Basin program and the
     furtherance of its principles of protection, preservation, good
     water management and flexibility. The Potomac River Basin Compact,
     as proposed in draft form by the Potomac River Basin Advisory
     Committee, is receiving careful consideration by Federal agencies
     and citizens, anticipating consideration by State legislative
     bodies, and the Congress of the United States.

[Illustration]





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