Monday, October 21, 2013

Wetlands Permit Support - National Harbor, Circa 2000

President's Corner

By Norris McDonald

Below is my statement in support of the National Harbor regarding its water permit.

Testimony of Norris McDonald

Founder and President

On the
Nontidal Wetlands Permit Application

For the National Harbor Project

 Presented to the

Maryland Department of the Environment,

Water Management Administration,

Nontidal Wetlands and Waterways Division

Oxon Hill High School

 Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Good evening. My name is Norris McDonald and I am the founder and president of the African American Environmentalist Association. The African American Environmentalist Association, founded in 1985, is an environmental organization dedicated to protecting the environment, enhancing the human ecology, and promoting the efficient use of natural resources.

I have lived in Prince George’s County for 18 years. I have worked in the environmental field for 21 years. I was chairman of the Prince Georges County American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for two years. I taught a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) course for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Graduate School in 1997. I am the author of comprehensive report on pollution in Washington, D.C. I also served on two governor-appointed environmental councils: 1) Maryland Advisory Council on Environmental and 2) the Potomac Middle Tributary Strategy Implementation Team. 

AAEA supports the development of the National Harbor project. We support the project because it will provide maximal socioeconomic benefits with minimal environmental impacts. We believe that, like Washington, D.C. east of the Anacostia River, Prince George’s County lacks certain amenities that are clearly included in the National Harbor project. AAEA will continue to support relatively low-impact retail/commercial projects developed in a Brownfields context that serve to prevent sprawl. We also believe that this is the type of project Governor Parris N. Glendening had in mind in his Smart Growth and Brownfields initiatives.

This permit application provides a monetary compensation for the displacement of the intermittent nontidal streams and intermittent nontidal wetlands at the location. The proposal meets all State requirements and has been submitted with MDE guidelines related to nontidal wetlands mitigation. The monetary contribution of $121,000 is more than adequate to cover the necessary nontidal streams and wetland replacement costs. Maryland has adopted a goal of achieving no net loss of nontidal wetlands. Any wetland loss after December 31, 1990, regulated under state law, must be offset by mitigation. MDE may accept monetary compensation if it determines that mitigation is not a feasible alternative.
The Chesapeake Bay Agreement of 1987, as ratified by the Maryland legislature (Nontidal Wetlands Protection Act) in 1989, provides the framework for protecting and preserving the area’s nontidal wetlands. Nontidal wetlands are extremely important to us. Although, nontidal wetlands have many of the same biological characteristics as tidal wetlands, nontidal wetlands are inland, freshwater areas not subject to tidal influence. Wetlands are important natural resources providing numerous values to society, including habitat, flood protection, erosion control and water quality preservation. Nontidal wetlands are important to a healthy environment. We are blessed with diverse populations of flora and fauna and many species of wildlife use nontidal wetlands for breeding, wintering and migrating. Wetland vegetation helps in reducing erosion of banks.

The wetlands at the National Harbor site are small, palustrine forested wetlands and intermittent stream channels that originate at seepage areas above the Potomac River floodplain. In the wetland and immediately adjacent to the stream channels, the forest canopy is dominated by red maple, green ash, common elderberry, spicebush, Virginia bugleweed and fowl manna-grass occurring in the shrub layers. Before reaching the river, the intermittent water infiltrates into the soils and does not reach the Potomac River.

 The Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources has also approved the stormwater management plan. National Harbor will use Best Management Practices (BMPs) for stormwater management: infiltration trenches, dry well, porous pavement, detention ponds, wet pond with shallow marsh fringe, submerged gravel filter, perimeter sand filter, underground sand filter, grass filter swale with check dam, and curb less parking lot with bio-retention filter in island. I am confident that the developer will incorporate state-of-the-art techniques and technologies to assure the maximum protection for the Potomac River and the nearby watershed.

The National Harbor site is absolutely beautiful and will serve as a great experience and view for all. I think the opponents of the project will also visit the facility once it is finished. They should bring their families. I can’t wait for my eight-year-old son to enjoy National Harbor. We are also boaters and will enjoy the experience of National Harbor from the water. I enjoy teaching my son about the importance of protecting wetland areas. This instruction includes visits to wetland areas, mitigation techniques and practices and the great benefits of appropriate economic development.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify before you this evening.

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