MVCCA Board Supports Dyke Marsh Restoration
All of Mount Vernon benefits, says Martin.
The Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Associations’ (MVCCA) Board of Directors on June 14 approved a resolution proposed by the Council’s Environment and Recreation Committee on June 6 supporting the full restoration of Dyke Marsh and retaining the Belle Haven Marina concession and mooring field.
Dyke Marsh is a 485-acre freshwater, tidal, narrow-leaf cattail wetland and national park on the Potomac River in northern Mount Vernon. The wetland is a remnant of the once extensive freshwater marshes along the upper tidal zone of the river. Dyke Marsh is losing 1.5 to 2.0 acres per
year, concluded the U.S. Geological Survey in their study, Analysis of the Deconstruction of Dyke Marsh, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia: Progression, Geologic and Manmade
Causes, and Effective Restoration Scenarios.
Almost half of the 1937 wetland is gone because dredging between 1940 and 1972 removed a promontory that protruded into the river and protected the marsh from storms coming up the Potomac River. The dredging and removal of this “thumb” have destabilized the marsh, converting it into a net erosional state, the USGS study explains.
The resolution also urges the National Park Service to “fully restore the southern promontory that historically protected the marsh from the eroding effects of hurricanes and nor’easters from the south; construct a new tidal gut to discharge in an upstream direction, which would protect the last major tidal creek in the marsh from the effects of tidal surges and storms; place fill in a deep channel caused by dredging, to divert flows back to the Potomac River main channel; construct breaks in the Haul Road, to reestablish hydrologic connections between eastern and western sections of the marsh; and place fill along the main portion of Dyke Marsh out to the historic 1937 boundaries, restoring 180 acres of marsh and constructing tidal guts similar to historical flow paths.” MVCCA notes that the Park Service could have significant cost savings by using donated fill under all three restoration options (B, C and D).
MVCCA Environment and Recreation Committee Chair Betsy Martin said, “All of us in the Mount Vernon area benefit from our proximity to Dyke Marsh. It is a beautiful place full of wildlife and opportunities for recreation, and I hope we can fully support the National Park Service's efforts to preserve the marsh for the next generation. On the MVCCA, we've been working hard to inform ourselves about the options and to balance saving the marsh while preserving the existing marina, which provides access to the marsh and enhances its recreational and educational value. If we stand by and allow the marsh to disappear, we will have lost an irreplaceable natural treasure.”
The MVCCA resolution calls Dyke Marsh “a source of important and irreplaceable ecological, recreational, educational, and scientific benefits,” providing habitat for migrant and resident birds (270 species of birds are documented in Dyke Marsh, including at least 40 breed birds and a state-listed rare species). It notes that Dyke Marsh is “spawning and nursery grounds for fish (38 species are in Dyke Marsh)” and has over 300 species of plants, including three state-listed rare species and animals (6,000 arthropods, 16 reptiles, 14 amphibians).
The resolution describes the environmental services that Dyke Marsh provides: “improving water quality by trapping sediments and nutrients, reducing turbidity, and buffering inland areas from storm and wave energy and flooding; providing recreational opportunities for fishing, boating, nature study in and hunting around the waters of Dyke Marsh and the Potomac River; and providing scientific and educational value.”
The full council will consider the resolution on June 27.
Congress mandated that the Dyke Marsh be restored. The National Park Service on May 3 proposed four restoration options labeled A, B, C and D, with A being “no action.” The MVCCA Board endorses option D, full restoration, along with preserving the marina. NPS held a public meeting on May 8 and accepted public comments until June 20. The four options are described at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/gwmp
NPS officials say that the goals are to protect cultural and natural resources, stop shoreline erosion, improve egraded habitat, expand the extent and quality of a relatively rare wildlife habitat, increase buffering from storms and flooding, and enhance the aesthetic appeal of the wetland.
In terms of the next steps, "The National Park Service will begin analyzing public comments which will help to inform the NPS of what options or alternatives the NPS could pursue," said Jon James, Acting Superintendent, George Washington Memorial Parkway. "The public will be fully involved in the process. Restoration of Dyke Marsh is important to provide critical habitat for a number of different plant and fish species native to this area."
Congress added Dyke Marsh to the National Park Service system in 1959 and directed the Secretary of the Interior to administer the marshlands “...so that fish and wildlife development and their preservation as wetland wildlife habitat shall be paramount.”