Potomac Watershed Roundtable

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District)

Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross (Mason District) succeeded NVSWCD Director Greg Evans as chair of the Potomac Watershed Roundtable in 2003. Evans has assumed the presidency of the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Greg’s vision and commitment got the Roundtable started and guided it on its first steps,” said Gross. “His nurturing of the Roundtable should be appreciated by everyone who lives in the Potomac Watershed.”

During its first year [2000], the Roundtable took its time getting organized and understanding its mission said Gross. “We had to ask ourselves if the Roundtable was really going to make a difference.”

In the second year the Roundtable got down to issues. The highlight for Gross was the erosion and sediment control committee, which she chaired. “We did a good, solid investigation and made recommendations to the Commission on the Future of Virginia’s Environment. I think our testimony validated the Roundtable. The Commission was quite surprised by the depth of our work and recognized that we knew what we were talking about. It was a feather in our cap,” she concluded.

Gross called it unfortunate that the Commission ultimately did not include many environmental protection measures in its recommendations. For the coming years, Gross hopes to build on the momentum the Roundtable had in 2002, where people got really comfortable talking to each other. “Now that we have a real dialogue among stakeholders we need to extend the dialogue to our friends across the river in Maryland and also to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and DC. We need to remember that the Potomac runs through many states. It’s not just us and it’s not just Maryland. Our watershed is huge. All have an equal stake and all demand mutual respect for their issues.”

Gross's plans included moving agricultural issues higher on the Roundtable agenda. She said she was stunned to hear from the rural contingent at October’s 2002 Roundtable meeting that irrigation pumps had to be turned off that summer because of the high salinity of the water. While urban areas fretted about water shortages, the agricultural areas were concerned with water quality. “Urban and rural folks need to recognize each other’s issues,” said Gross.

Evans and Gross agree that one of the disappointments of the Roundtable is the lack of industry participation. They are working to correct that. Gross has said, “It may be easier to secure industry involvement this year [2002] now that the Potomac Watershed Roundtable has found its identity.” For more information about the Roundtable, e-mail the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District or call 703-324-1460, TTY 711.

The Potomac Watershed Roundtable is a regional forum whose members are drawn from elected officials representing area local governments, state officials, the environmental community, and the boating, development, and agriculture industries. The Roundtable makes recommendations on water quality issues that impact the health of the Potomac River watershed to regional and state decision-makers.

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