Anacostia River Watershed Restoration Project - Montgomery County, Maryland. Continuing Authorities Program Section 206 Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study


Anacostia Watershed Restoration

While virtually everything we do in the Baltimore District affects the Bay, the Corps has specific projects and programs that directly support our commitment to the Chesapeake Bay goals included in Executive Order 13508, Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration. 

The Anacostia River Watershed is one of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s main priorities for restoration in the Bay watershed.  

The entire Anacostia River watershed consists of 14 major subwatersheds and the tidal portion, all located within the Washington metropolitan region. 

The watershed encompasses approximately 176 square miles in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Maryland; and the District of Columbia. 

Historically, the Corps has been very involved in the watershed, through the development of Washington, navigation in the Anacostia River, and construction of flood risk management projects. Since the 1990s, our focus has intently revolved around ecosystem restoration.  

Since 1991, the Corps has been a member of the Anacostia Watershed Management Committee, which oversees the multi-jurisdictional restoration efforts in the watershed. Within this committee, we are responsible for coordinating the federal effort to restore the watershed. 

Since 2006, the Corps has been a member of the Anacostia Watershed Steering Committee and the Executive Committee. 

The Anacostia watershed is one of the most urbanized watersheds within the Chesapeake Bay Basin and has suffered from years of environmental harm. 

The Corps worked with stakeholders to develop a plan to protect, improve and restore the watershed; this led to the development of the Anacostia Restoration Plan (2010), which identified more than 3,000 projects for implementation and has since led to follow-on watershed ecosystem restoration studies in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland. These studies include investigations of stream restoration and fish passage opportunities. 

Prince George's County Restoration

There are several issues in Prince George’s County's 86-square-mile portion of the Anacostia watershed, which accounts for almost half of the watershed. Human development and alteration in the watershed has led to severe stream habitat damage, including excess sediment and erosion, physical blockages for fish movement, poor water quality and loss of wetlands and forests along the Anacostia River. Historically, the watershed had more than 50 fish species. Now, it is limited to just 20 to 30 fish species.

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In December 2018, the Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed the Chief's Report for the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Study in Prince George's County. The recommended plan is to restore three sites in the Northwest Branch and three sites in the Northeast Branch. These combined restoration sites will restore 7 miles of in-stream habitat, opening 4 miles for fish passage and connecting 14 miles of stream to previously restored stream reaches.

Prince George’s County is the non-federal sponsor for this project. The Corps and the county evenly split the $1.8-million study costs. 

The signed Chief’s Report means the study has been approved in order for Congress to authorize and provide funding for the construction of the project. The estimated cost of the project is $34.1 million, to be cost shared between Baltimore District and Prince George’s County Department of the Environment.


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While the goal of the plan is to restore aquatic habitat in previously-degraded streams, fish and other critters will likely benefit. 
About 95 percent of stream miles in the entire Anacostia River watershed are estimated as having indices in the very poor to poor categories relating to fish and the invertebrates living at the bottom of the streams. 
Alewife and blueback herring are affected species of concern. They travel from the sea to the river specifically to spawn; however, they are currently only using 10 to 20 percent of their natural range due to blockages and poor habitat. Their absence in the upstream watershed is affecting fish populations and is removing important nutrients from the stream ecosystem. 
The project would remove fish blockages on Northwest Branch and Sligo Creek, increasing access for alewife and blueback herring to their historical range and spawning areas from approximately 20 percent to more than 80 percent on the Northwest Branch and from 10 percent to 90 percent on the Northeast Branch. The habitat restoration component would also support diversity and abundance of native fish and other resident fish species.
This plan provides substantial environmental improvements for the habitat within the selected sites and contributes to a comprehensive watershed restoration strategy.