News

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ICPRB Quarterly Business Meeting Coming up

ICPRB will be holding it’s 1st Quarter Business Meeting on December 5, 2017 at the ICPRB office in Rockville, Md. The public is welcome to attend, but space is limited, so please RSVP. An agenda can be found on the Business Meeting webpage. Commissioners will discuss the Water Supply Alternatives Study, receive an update on the Potomac Basin Comprehensive Plan, and learn about the chlorides TMDL for Accotink Creek.

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ICPRB Releases Water Supply Alternatives Study

September 8, 2017

The region’s future demands more drinking water.

Here is how we can get it.

ICPRB Releases Water Supply Alternatives Study

When residents of the Washington metropolitan area turn on their taps, clean reliable drinking water comes out. This daily event, taken completely for granted, is a testament to decades of careful planning, investment and cooperation among area water suppliers assisted by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB). The investment in planning continues with the release of a report presenting options to increase drought protection for the Washington metropolitan area’s drinking water system, which will become inadequate in several decades.

A new ICPRB CO-OP study assesses a range of solutions to increase the capacity of the region’s water supply, which could fail to meet unrestricted demands by 2040. “Washington Metropolitan Area Water Supply Alternatives,” provides information on alternatives out to 2085 to help ensure strategic options are available over that planning horizon. Alternatives were evaluated by their abilities to maintain reliability in the face of growing metropolitan area water demand, decreasing river flows due to upstream use, and the potential impacts of climate change.

Options to augment future supply are the subject of ongoing assessments by metropolitan area water suppliers. Some of the options include construction of new facilities, such as converting stone quarries to water storage reservoirs that would directly provide water to one or two suppliers. They would provide regional benefits by increasing Potomac River flows during times of low flow. These alternatives would require significant investments in new infrastructure that include new underground conduits to transfer raw and/or treated water from one part of the supply system to another. Other alternatives include better flow forecasting models, changes to how existing reservoirs are operated, reductions in consumptive use, more stringent water use restrictions, and other proposals. These operational alternatives would entail some costs associated with new cooperative agreements, contracts between water suppliers, and

investment in research to develop new operating tools and policies. The study identified combinations of infrastructure and operational alternatives that should be in place to ensure system reliability in the future. For the 2040 planning horizon, two alternative options for phased quarry storage implementation and operational enhancements were recommended for consideration and further refinement. The two alternatives were selected to ensure system reliability for a moderately severe drought with conservative estimates of climate change impact.

Considerations include protecting the region from shortfalls leading up to 2040 and the need for broader regional cooperation to prepare for more severe challenges that may occur in the decades after 2040. Over a longer-term planning horizon, study results indicate that most of the alternatives will be needed to ensure future reliability by 2085.

“This is another step forward in our long term commitment to meet our region’s water supply demands,” said ICPRB Executive Director Carlton Haywood. “Our water supply is reliable  because water providers and regulators comprehensively plan for the region’s future. The level of planning, cooperation, and execution in this area is why we are studied as innovators by other regions,” Haywood said.

The ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac River (CO-OP) studies water use in the region, organizes coordinated utility operations during droughts, and assesses the reliability of current and future raw water supplies. The ICPRB also helps basin water suppliers protect the region’s drinking water sources.

The report is being assessed by the area water suppliers, who will soon decide on a course of action. An executive summary and the full report, “Washington Metropolitan Area Water Supply Alternatives” are available on our website. Contact us for more information.

Download a PDF of this news item HERE.

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Cacapon Resort State Park, Glamping in West Virginia

About the Basin, September 1, 2017

Photo Credit: thisisbossi, “Cacapon state park”

A scenic 2-hour drive west from the D.C. metro area will land you at a state park that looks more like a resort than a park. Cacapon (pronounced “Ca-cape-un”) Resort State Park,

near Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, is still a state park at heart, though. It boasts a small sandy beach for swimming, paddle boat rentals, serene fishing spots, many hiking trails, and a nature center. However, the park’s additional amenities make a weekend at Cacapon more glamping than typical old-fashioned camping. You will also find an 18-hole golf course, horseback riding, a hotel and conference center, and cabins decked out with all the necessities for a weekend away.

Vintage Postcard of the beach at Cacapon Resort State Park

It’s vintage, unostentatious vibe has visitors returning again and again. One online reviewer said it best: “Stop being pretentious and stay here.” Activities at Cacapon bring you back to the good ol’ days. You can make new friends with a pickup game of basketball, get your family together for a game of beach volleyball or challenge your in-laws on the tennis courts. For the techies that just can’t separate themselves from their phone, the hiking trails abound with geocache treasures.

For something a little special, hike up Cacapon Mountain to an observation deck where you can see West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania in one sweeping view. It is always a breathtaking site, but even more so during leaf peeping season in October.

If you are looking for something a bit more primitive, check out the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area just east of Cacapon Resort State Park. This 23,000-acre park offers 75 basic campsites. Many afford an inexpensive waterfront view of Sleepy Creek Lake. Unlike Cacapon Resort State Park, amenities are few and far between in this area that truly embodies West Virginia’s slogan, “Wild and Wonderful”.

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Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve

About the Basin, August 25, 2017

Photo Credit: Flickr, Dykes Marsh, Geoff Livingston

Just down the river from Alexandria, Va., exists 485 acres of marsh, swamp forest and flood plain known as Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. It is an oasis amidst the concrete jungle. It is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway managed by the National Park Service. The Preserve has an impressive diversity of flora and fauna, including more than 270 species of birds and 300 species of plants.

Many runners, walkers, and bikers enjoy the Mount Vernon Trail, a 17-mile paved path, that winds through the marsh. The Haul Road Trail is short at .75 miles, but provides a look at each type of habitat in Dyke Marsh.

Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are the primary activities at Dyke Marsh. They allow visitors a more intimate view of the river and the wildlife that calls the area home. Rent a boat at the marina next door, then paddle south along the shore for the short trip to the marsh.

Photo credit: Flickr, Dyke Marsh, Virginia, La Citta Vita

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of restoring the marsh that is currently eroding at an  average of 6 to 7.8 feet per year. Restoration efforts, which include planting native aquatic vegetation, are scheduled to be completed by 2019.

An active volunteer group, Friends of Dyke Marsh, holds a variety of events open to the public, including a bird walk lead by expert birders each Sunday at 8:00am, plus lectures, educational events, and more. Some upcoming events include a talk on September 13 on Wetland Plants by Dr. Nancy Rybicki, a U.S. Geological Survey Aquatic Biologist and a discussion on November 15th about the health of Hunting Creek and area streams by Dr. Kim Mutsert of the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University. The volunteer group also actively works to restore the marsh by planting trees and other activities.

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Total Eclipse of the Basin

About the Basin, August 18, 2017

If you were not lucky enough to book a spot on the Royal Caribbean’s Total Eclipse Cruise to watch Bonnie Tyler belt Total Eclipse of the Heart at the moment the moon blacks out the sun in Monday’s solar eclipse, there are plenty of local eclipse celebrations to choose from.

Plan on taking a selfie with the moon? You know looking directly at the sun during an eclipse can create irreparable eye damage, but it could damage your phone as well. You might want to use those solar glasses for your phone’s camera and check out NASA’s guidelines for safely photographing the eclipse.

In the Potomac River basin, the moon will start to show a shadow around 1:00pm, peak between 2:00-3:00pm and be over by 4:00. Exact timing depends on your specific location. Many state and national parks are holding special events to commemorate the occasion. Here are some of the events going on around the Potomac River basin.

Virginia:

Many Virginia State Parks, including Caledon State Park, are holding special activities to learn more about the science behind solar eclipses and providing a limited number of commemorative solar eclipse glasses. They invite the public to bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket to enjoy the astronomical show.

For a real adventure, head out on the Potomac River for a Solar Eclipse Kayak Tour at Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling, Va.

Maryland:

“Dark Sky” parks are areas with little light pollution and are ideal of eclipse viewing. Point Lookout Park, where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay, is one such park. Although they are not holding a special event, it would be a great place to watch eclipse.

Rocky Gap State Park is offering a hike, a hula hoop workshop, and yoga class in celebration of the solar eclipse.

Rockville Science Center and Gaithersburg Community Museum are hosting a free, fun viewing party at Observatory Park. Science projects, free solar viewers, and hands-on activities are planned.

Many more fun events are planned in the area. Check out your local park, museum or college for other viewing parties!

 

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Leesylvania State Park

About the Basin, August 11, 2017

Located along the Potomac River in Prince William’s County, Virginia, Leesylvania State Park has a lot to offer its multitude of visitors. As one online reviewer states, “This gem of a park offers peace and quiet in the middle of the hubbub of NoVA.” Although small, the park offers a range of amenities for those looking to escape the city for a day, including trails, a boat ramp into the Potomac River, visitor’s center, picnic shelters with barbecues, fishing spots, a playground, and more.

(c) Flickr, Mrs.Gemstone, “Leesylvania State Park – PotomacBeach”

A Living Shoreline project is currently in progress at the park to prevent erosion and create a habitat for aquatic plants and animals. This type of restoration project builds up the shoreline using natural materials to create a wetland environment that protects the shore from erosion and provides valuable habitat. There is an informational walk open to the public on September 10 to learn more about the project and the ecological principles behind it.

Having only been open since 1992, the park itself is relatively young. However, the area is full of history, with some spots within the park listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The land was once owned by some of the more famous residents of northern Virginia, the Lee and Fairfax families. Chimneys are all that remain of these notable residences though. A few members are buried in a cemetery within the park. These historic sites are accessible by trail. Learn more about the wartime history of the area on the Potomac River Blockade Boat Tours in September and October.

In addition to the events above, the staff at Leesylvania State Park provide weekly events for people of all ages. Walks, talks, and other adventures explore the wildlife of the area, from the bottom of the ponds to the sky above. If you can’t make it to a scheduled event, park staff are usually on hand to discuss wildlife, fishing spots, or history of the park.

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ICPRB Business Meeting Announcement

The 4th Quarter ICPRB Business Meeting will be held August 29th, 2017 at the ICPRB office in Rockville, Md. The public is invited to attend, but please RSVP as space is limited. The ICPRB Commissioners will be updated on the ongoing Basin-Wide Comprehensive Water Resources Plan. Commissioners also will be briefed on ICPRB efforts to create new water quality assessment tools and the MWCOG Water Supply Resiliency Study.

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Greenbrier State Park

About the Basin, August 4, 2017

Photo Credit: Flickr, dpbirds, “Sunset, lake and hills !!”

Celebrating its 50th year, Greenbrier State Park has not changed much since the doors opened in 1967. Barring the additional bathroom or two, the long, sandy beach and 42-acre man-made lake ringed by beautiful forest looks much the same as it did back when it’s visitors wore bell-bottoms. The area still provides fun and adventure for both local and traveling families.

Along with Gathland, Washington Monument, and South Mountain, Greenbrier is one of four connected state parks known as the South Mountain Recreation Area, located between Frederick and Hagerstown in western Maryland. There is something for everyone in this neck of the woods, fishing, wildlife, swimming, boating, camping, picnicking, hunting, and even a visitor’s center to tell you all about it. If that’s not enough, the Appalachian Trail runs through the park as well.

You can rent a boat to spend an afternoon on the lake fishing for trout, largemouth bass or bluegill, rent a gazebo with friends for a casual, lakeside get together, or just park your chair in the sand to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature while enjoying the cool feel of water on your toes.

The park was as popular back in 1967 as it is now (the budget had to be doubled shortly after opening to accommodate for the underestimated number of visitors).

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McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area is at Full Bloom

Family taking photos among a field of sunflowers.

You might think field upon field of bright yellow sunflowers are found only in provincial Italy or France, places known for romance and beauty. But there are 2,000 acres right in our backyard that will make you feel transported to a more romantic time and place. Known as the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area (WMA), staff at this park plant acres of sunflowers to attract and feed pollinators and birds. For a couple weeks each year (around the end of July) the WMA is alight with seemingly endless summery flowers.

Just like birds, people flock to the area for family photos, nature photography, and to enjoy the sites. Catch the flowers at full bloom this year for the two weeks following July 24. Meandering trails throughout the fields let you explore without damaging the flowers. However, look but don’t pick; plucking one of these beauties is prohibited at the WMA.

Flowers at McKee-Bashers Wildlife Management AreaWhen sunflowers aren’t the main attraction, there are plenty of trails to hike or bike in the area. Since they are connected to the C&O Canal trail system, the WMA trails makes for a nice side trip or starting point on the Canal. Hunting  waterfowl, deer, wild turkey and other animals is allowed (within the usual hunting regulations). There is even a specially managed dove field open to the public for hunting. Birding and wildlife photography are popular activities at the WMA due to the abundance of wildlife, including 200 species of songbirds found in the area. The more adventurous can take a boat across the Potomac to reach Maddux Island, which is part of the WMA.

A beautiful trail follows some of the perennial marshy flatlands where waterlilies and other aquatic plants abound. Parts of the WMA are managed as a greentree reservoir, a term used for bottomland hardwood forest that is flooded in the fall and winter. This attracts colorful migrating waterfowl, such as wood ducks.

The park, in western Montgomery County, Maryland, is conveniently located right off River Road. It is not difficult to find, just plug “McKee Banshee Management Area” into your GPS and look for the parking lots full of cars and people in incongruously fancy dress for a hike. After all, this is a popular place to take family photos. This map shows parking areas and the location of sunflower fields. There are several ways to access the fields, but most involve a short walk through the woods that is often muddy, so make sure to wear appropriate footwear.

Photo Credit: Hunter Herrman

 

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Seneca Creek State Park

About the Basin, July 21

The Seneca Creek State Park runs the length of Seneca Creek from Route 355 until it empties into the Potomac River. It is unique gem in Montgomery County, Maryland. At 6,300-acres, the park covers a lot of ground, allowing for a wide variety of recreational opportunities.

A boathouse on a lake

Credit: Flickr, Mr.TinDC, Clopper Lake Boat Center

Many of the park activities are centered around a 90-acre body of water called Clopper Lake. Boat rentals, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, and trails surround the lake. Hiking, biking, kayaking, boating (electric motors only), fishing, and hunting are popular activities. A 32-acre Disc Golf course at the park has 36 holes and positive reviews online.

For those brave enough, the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail runs 16.5-miles from the northeastern edge of the park to the southwestern edge, where Seneca Creek meets the Potomac River. There are plenty of other trails for the less intrepid, including the 3.4-mile Lake Shore Trail that takes you around the lake. Schaeffer Farm Area is especially popular with mountain bikers. An online trail map provides trail options and parking lot locations.

Historical features of the park include the Seneca Schoolhouse, a one-room historic schoolhouse built in 1865 of red Seneca Sandstone. The Black Rock Mill, an old mill, has some mill equipment on display.

The park has a popular winter lights display that opens Thanksgiving weekend where you can take your family on a slow 3.5-mile drive through 350 holiday light displays.

Park staff has a packed calendar of fun activities this summer, including pontoon boat rides, fishing lessons, nature walks, and a kid’s program called “Nature Shack”. Kayaks and canoes are available for rent ($28-40/4 hours) from the boat center. You can also join the outdoor store, REI, on July 29, 2017 for their Learn to Kayak Class ($70) for a perfect excuse to spend some time on the water and learn a new skill.

A boathouse on a lake

Credit: Flickr, Mr.TinDC, Clopper Lake Panorama