- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

INDIAN HEAD, Md. | What national conservation leaders have referred to as one of the most productive, pristine and healthy tributaries in Chesapeake Bay country - Charles County's Mattawoman Creek - now has the dubious distinction of ranking among the 10 most endangered rivers in the United States.

Eighteen national and local groups concerned with clean waters, environmental health and conservation - including the American Rivers organization, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Audubon Naturalist Society - placed Mattawoman Creek on the list.

What has placed one of the best fish- and wildlife-rich feeder creeks to the tidal Potomac River on the list is the Charles County leaders' desire to build an extension to the four-lane Cross County Connector highway that would cut through the heart of the watershed. The commissioners of this southern Maryland county want to build a $70 million connector between Waldorf and the small town of Bryans Road.

The highway could trigger development and new business, but the groups say in the process it would sacrifice a major forested region and a waterway that houses untold numbers of largemouth bass, anadromous species like white and yellow perch and even striped bass. Many different types of waterfowl abound in such numbers that wildlife enthusiasts have turned the Mattawoman into a must-see destination.

The coalition of conservation groups is asking Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley to intervene and preserve the watershed. In addition, the state Department of the Environment has been asked to deny wetland permits for any building project desired by county commissioners. In the case of the proposed highway interfering with the Mattawoman's ecology, a business-as-usual attitude could be a huge mistake, the groups say.

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