Draft 1998 Report on Unified Watershed Assessment,
Watershed Prioritization and Plans for Restoration Action Strategies
Produced by
Clean Water Action Plan Technical Workgroup
Under the Guidance of
Maryland Bay Cabinet
Department of Natural Resources
Department of the Environment
Department of Agriculture
Office of Planning
University of Maryland College of Natural Resources and Environment
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Maryland State Conservationist
Representatives of Local Governments and
Maryland's Tributary Teams
1 October 1998; Revised 14 October 1998
Except for this notice and modifications in formatting,
this electronic document is a verbatim copy of revision 1.1 of 14 October 1998 edition of
Maryland Clean Water Action Plan - Executive Summary
Copyright (c) 1998 Maryland Department of Natural Resources


The Clean Water Action Plan proposes an expanded collaborative effort by state, federal, and local governments, the private sector and the public to restore watersheds not meeting clean water and other natural resource goals and to sustain healthy conditions in watersheds currently meeting those goals. Launched by President Clinton in February 1998, the Clean Water Action Plan addresses all aspects of watershed health: water quality (including public health issues), aquatic living resources, physical habitat, and the landscape.

There are three components of the State's response to the Clean Water Action Plan:

This report presents Maryland's Draft Clean Water Action Plan, describing the results of the Unified Watershed Assessment and Watershed Restoration Prioritization process and discussing plans to create Action Strategies. It was prepared by the Maryland Clean Water Action Plan Technical Workgroup, which includes representatives from state agencies, local governments, and stakeholder groups. This report was made available to the public in August 1998 and a series of six regional workshops were held in September 1998 in cooperation with the Tributary Strategy Teams and the Maryland Water Monitoring Council, to describe the plan and collect comments from the public. Following a review period and revisions based on some early comments that were received, a draft Clean Water Action Plan report was published and submitted to the federal agencies by October 1. Additional public comments will be received through October 15, 1998. After a final review, a final Clean Water Action Plan report will be submitted to the federal agencies in November 1998 and will provide the basis for the subsequent development of Watershed Restoration Action Strategies in the State.

Watershed Scale
In order to make the Unified Watershed Assessment as useful as possible in developing restoration strategies, Maryland compiled information at the smallest scale for which statewide information is readily available. There are 138 of these "Maryland 8-digit" watersheds in the State, with an average area of about 75 square miles each (Figure 1). (Where information is available, watershed assessments will contain information for smaller sub-watersheds.)

To ensure a consistent scale for watershed assessment nationwide, the federal agencies involved in the Plan (US Environmental Protection Agency - EPA and US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service - NRCS) have requested assessment information at the hydrologic unit scale established by the U.S. Geological Survey. There are 20 of these 8-digit federal basins in Maryland, with an average area of about 500 square miles each (Figure 2). (The average area of a Maryland county is about 400 square miles.) Maryland reports on the condition of these federal basins by aggregating the assessments of the State's smaller watersheds. In aggregating this information, the larger federal basins are assigned to a selected category when the criteria are met in component smaller watersheds together comprise 15% or more of the total area of the larger watershed within the State.

Watershed Assessment
Two overarching goals were considered in the assessment of Maryland watersheds:

Category 1 - Watershed Needing Restoration
Watersheds placed in Category 1 include: a) Any watershed that appears on the list of impaired waters generated under Section 303(d) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act amendments or b) Any other watershed that fails to meet two or more of the following natural resource goals: Watersheds are considered to fail a natural resource goal if they do not meet an established benchmark level for a particular indicator, or if they fall in the worst 25 percent of watersheds for a relative natural resource indicator.

Category 2 - Watershed Needing Preventive Actions to Sustain Water Quality/Aquatic Resources
Any watershed that is not on the 303(d) List and that fails less than two natural resource goals listed above was placed in Category 2. Relatively few State watersheds are identified as Category 2 watersheds.

Category 3 - Pristine or Sensitive Watershed Needing Extra Protection
The following indicators were used to assign watersheds to Category 3:

Any watershed with two or more of these indicators meeting Category 3 criteria was placed in this category.

Watershed Restoration Priorities
After identifying all watersheds that do not meet clean water or other natural resource goals (Category 1 watersheds), the Clean Water Action Plan calls for the selection of the set of those watersheds that are most in need of restoration during the next two years (Priority Watersheds). Priority watersheds are defined as those that failed at least half of the criteria for which data are available. This method gives the fullest consideration of watersheds statewide (since it does not "penalize" those regions for which fewer statewide data are available).

 The Workgroup recognized that several other factors should be examined to see if they warranted including additional watersheds in the Category 1 Priority list. These include severity of impact (e.g. Pfiesteria outbreaks), coordination with adjacent states on interstate watersheds; and continued evaluation of new information.

On this basis, four additional watersheds were included in the draft Category 1 Priority List:

Watersheds identified as Category 1 Priority are listed in Table 1 and are shown in Figure 3.

Table 1. Priority Category 1 (Restoration) watersheds  (NOTE: segments are ordered by watershed code)
MD 8-digit
Watershed Name
MD 8-digit
Watershed Name
02130102 Assawoman Bay 02130903 Baltimore Harbor
02130103 Isle of Wight Bay 02130904 Jones Falls
02130105 Newport Bay 02130905 Gwynns Falls
02130202 Lower Pocomoke River 02131002 Severn River
02130203 Upper Pocomoke River 02131003 South River
02130208 Manokin River 02131102 Patuxent River middle
02130301 Lower Wicomico River 02131103 Western Branch
02130304 Wicomico River Head 02131104 Patuxent River upper
02130308 Transquaking River 02131105 Little Patuxent River
02130405 Tuckahoe Creek 02140104 Breton Bay
02130503 Wye River 02140111 Mattawoman Creek
02130506 Langford Creek 02140203 Piscataway Creek
02130507 Corsica River 02140204 Oxon Creek
02130509 Middle Chester River 02140205 Anacostia River
02130511 Kent Island Bay 02140206 Rock Creek
02130603 Upper Elk River 02140207 Cabin John Creek
02130604 Back Creek 02140208 Seneca Creek
02130610 Sassafras River 02140302 Lower Monocacy River
02130611 Stillpond-Fairlee 02140303 Upper Monocacy River
02130701 Bush River 02140305 Catoctin Creek
02130704 Bynum Run 02140502 Antietam Creek
02130706 Swan Creek 02140504 Conococheague Creek
02130803 Bird River 02141004 Georges Creek
02130807 Middle River-Browns Ck 02141005 Upper N Br. Potomac R.
02130901 Back River 05020203 Deep Creek Lake
02130902 Bodkin Creek


Many of the other watersheds not included in this list also warrant restoration actions and will be addressed in future years under subsequent revisions to the Clean Water Action Plan that are expected.

Although there is no required prioritization of Category 3 watersheds, those identified with four or more indicators meeting Category goals 3 rating were highlighted as "Selected Category 3 Watersheds". These are listed in Table 2 and are shown in Figure 4.

Table 2. Selected Category 3 (Protection) watersheds.  (NOTE: segments are ordered by watershed code)

MD 8-Digit Code  Watershed Name MD 8-Digit Code  Watershed Name
02120201 Lower Susquehanna River 02140111 Mattawoman Creek
02120202 Deer Creek 02140208 Seneca Creek
02120204 Conowingo Dam Susq Run 02140302 Lower Monocacy River
02130202 Lower Pocomoke River 02140303 Upper Monocacy River
02130305 Nanticoke River 02140502 Antietam Creek
02130503 Wye River 02140507 Tonoloway Creek
02130603 Upper Elk River 02140510 Sideling Hill Creek
02130608 Northeast River 02140511 Fifteen Mile Creek
02130806 Prettyboy Reservoir 02140512 Town Creek
02130905 Gwynns Falls 02141001 Potomac River Lower N Br.
02130907 Liberty Reservoir 02141002 Evitts Creek
02131101 Patuxent River Lower tidal 02141004 Georges Creek
02140102 Potomac River Middle tidal 02141005 Potomac River Upper N Br.
02140103 St. Mary's River 02141006 Savage River
02140107 Gilbert Swamp 05020201 Youghiogheny River
02140109 Port Tobacco River 05020204 Casselman River
02140110 Nanjemoy Creek

Overlap between Categories 1 and 3
A number of watersheds fall into both Categories 1 and 3. These watersheds show signs of stress or degradation but still contain pristine or sensitive natural resources. This is not unexpected, since the land use in a watershed may vary considerably. For example, a watershed may have undisturbed headwaters but be significantly developed at its mouth. The Category 1 Priority Watersheds that also qualify as Selected Category 3 Watersheds are shown in Figure 5. These watersheds may deserve special attention in order to reverse or slow degradation before the pristine resources are lost.

Public Involvement Process
A Steering Committee - made up of representatives from the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Departments of Natural Resources, Environment, and Agriculture, the Office of Planning, river commissions, Tributary Teams and local governments - was formed to guide the Clean Water Action Plan process. In addition, a Technical Workgroup representing a diverse group of interests was formed to review existing information on watershed conditions and draft the Unified Watershed Assessment.

Six regional public meetings, hosted by Maryland's Tributary Teams, were held around the State in September 1998. At these meetings, more than 300 people, including representatives of local governments, soil conservation districts, watershed organizations, educators, and citizens were provided information about the Plan and comments were recorded and reviewed. A draft executive summary of the report was sent out to approximately 500 people and much of the information about the Clean Water Action Plan was made available through the Department of Natural Resources web site:

Many of these comments received will be considered in the development of Action Strategies and implementation. Public comments on this report are being accepted until October 15, 1998, and will be considered in final revisions to this draft.

Watershed Restoration Action Strategies
The State's long term objective is to have Watershed Restoration Action Strategies (WRAS) that are comprehensive, and address all aspects of watershed condition: water quality, including public health; aquatic living resources; physical habitat and the landscape. These Strategies will provide information and guidance that will help the public, watershed organizations, and federal, state and local agencies focus their staff and monies in areas and on issues identified as important to the public, and that will result in measurable environmental improvement. The overall goal is to coordinate and focus ongoing watershed conservation and restoration programs and activities, and potential new federal funds, and make them cost-effective and complementary.

The strategies may be drawn from existing assessment and targeting efforts such as a county's comprehensive plan, stormwater and sewer plans, master plans, capital budgets, greenways and open space plans, watershed stewardship programs, site design standards/BMPs, erosion and sediment control plans, soil conservation district watershed work plans and other efforts. A comprehensive strategy will include:

 WRAS need to be developed for watersheds in need of protection and restoration. The State has a number of "strategies" that can form the foundation for strengthened, more comprehensive strategies that will maximize benefits for water quality and natural resource goals in a holistic, coordinated manner.

Strategy actions will be supported through new funds authorized by the Clean Water Action Plan and channeled through existing programs such as the Clean Water Act §319, as well as through other State and local programs. These strategies will be encouraged to:

Over the longer term, the Steering Committee will address such outstanding issues as the potential for targeting additional funds to the Priority watersheds, future revisions to the Priority listings and the need to further coordinate the State's watershed restoration and protection efforts.

The Lower Eastern Shore has been selected as a pilot area for the development of the State's first Clean Water Action Plan Strategy. The purpose of this strategy is to coordinate and help to focus both ongoing restoration and conservation activities and potential new restoration funding available under the federal program. The Lower Eastern Shore Action Strategy is being coordinated through the Lower Eastern Shore Tributary Team with the assistance of State agencies. Local governments, the Tributary Team, Delaware state agencies, and other interested citizens and organizations will also be involved in strategy development and implementation.

The federal Clean Water Action Plan has stimulated a comprehensive statewide assessment of Maryland's watersheds including a diverse set of factors addressing all aspects of watershed condition. This assessment has involved a broad spectrum of participants from local, state and federal agencies and representatives of many private organizations.

The potential benefits of this approach for Maryland's watersheds are significant. The results of this process will ultimately provide a comprehensive framework which other programs can utilize to conduct coordinated activities on individual watershed issues. These benefits will only increase with the further evolution of the Clean Water Action Plan's Watershed Approach.