Blue Spotlight On: The Muddy Branch Watershed

Blue Spotlight On: The Muddy Branch Watershed
DEP’s Blue Spotlight On series is a new feature for residents to learn about the County’s local watersheds.This is the second blog in the Blue Spotlight On series (check out our spotlight on the Anacostia River).  Today’s highlighted watershed: Muddy Branch!


About Muddy Branch

The Muddy Branch watershed is one of the smaller watersheds in Montgomery County, covering 20 square miles or approximately 4% of the County. It begins its meandering course in Gaithersburg and flows in a southwesterly direction to its confluence with the Potomac River near Pennyfield Lock on the C&O Canal.

Numerous unnamed tributaries extend into areas of the watershed around Quince Orchard, Kentlands, North Potomac and Darnestown, collecting water that either runs off quickly during storms or seeps slowly through soil, eventually flowing into tributaries to maintain baseflow during dry periods.

Muddy Branch Watershed Map

Muddy Branch Watershed Map



Development patterns play an important role in the quality and quantity of water flowing into Muddy Branch, and ultimately the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

In the Muddy Branch Watershed, development is most dense in the Gaithersburg / I-270 area, and it becomes progressively less dense downstream to the Potomac River. Stream condition, as rated by the County’s biological monitoring program, is Fair to Poor in the upper portions of the watershed and Good in the lower portions of the watershed. This means that there is a greater diversity of wildlife downstream, and that the wildlife upstream can tolerate the impaired stream conditions.


Restoration Highlights

To help mitigate the impacts of development, the County is currently constructing 4 restoration projects in the Muddy Branch watershed, including:

Potomac Ridge Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project

Potomac Ridge Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project –  The first flush of stormwater runoff enters this recently completed facility and soaks into two linear stone filled infiltration cells (seen above).  During larger storm events water collects in the detention pond at the end of the infiltration cells.  

Potomac Ridge Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project

Potomac Ridge Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project – Detention pond and new riser structure is seen downstream of the infiltration cells.

Potomac Chase Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project

Potomac Chase Stormwater Pond Retrofit Project – the newly graded pond still needs grass cover planted on the side slopes, wetland plants around the pond edge and a total of 518 trees and shrubs will soon be planted around the pond, created a dense, healthy ecosystem.

Flints Grove Pond

Flints Grove Pond – Currently a dry pond, will become a wet pond with an average water depth of 5 feet when construction is completed in fall of 2019.  Wet ponds are more effective than dry ponds at removing pollution and sediment from stormwater runoff, leading to better water quality.  

Flints Grove Stream Restoration

Flints Grove Stream Restoration – A 1,200 foot long section of the stream immediately upstream of the Flints Grove Pond which is actively eroding, as shown in the photo above, will be stabilized to reduce the amount of sediment entering the pond.  The restoration will greatly reduce erosion and improve the stream health.  

Recreational Opportunities

There are many recreational opportunities in the Muddy Branch Watershed. Much of the Muddy Branch stream in Gaithersburg is in city parks, including Morris Park and Malcolm King Park.

At the point where Muddy Branch flows under Route 28, it leaves the City of Gaithersburg and enters parkland maintained by Montgomery County Parks. The Muddy Branch Greenway Trail, a 9- mile natural surface trail, begins at Route 28 and follows the Muddy Branch to its confluence with the Potomac River.

Muddy Branch Greenway Trail

Muddy Branch Greenway Trail – A 9-mile natural surface trail that traverses up and down the Muddy Branch stream valley walls from Route 28 in North Potomac to Pennyfield Lock on the C&O Canal.

  Other areas to access the Muddy Branch Watershed are Blockhouse Point Conservation Park and Pennyfield Lock Conservation Area.

If you would like to volunteer in the Muddy Branch Watershed, join the Muddy Branch Alliance or become a Montgomery County Stream Steward.

Muddy Branch

Muddy Branch makes its grand exit from Montgomery County through this aqueduct under the C&O Canal just before flowing into the Potomac River. Many canoe and kayak paddlers use the boat ramp at Pennyfield Lock to put-in the Muddy Branch and paddle through the aqueduct to access the Potomac River.

The Muddy Branch Alliance helps keep our waters clean – and wants to get you outside to enjoy them

The Muddy Branch Alliance helps keep our waters clean – and wants to get you outside to enjoy them
Did you know that the Muddy Branch stream runs for more than 12 miles, from Gaithersburg High School all the way to the Potomac – and that almost 11 of those miles have a natural surface trail for walking, hiking, or riding alongside?

The Muddy Branch Alliance, or MBA for short, is a local non-profit that protects and improves the water quality and natural habitat of the Muddy Branch stream for the benefit of the community. To achieve this goal, they bring neighbors and community groups together to maintain and improve the trail, and keep the stream clean. Most weekends you can find MBA members along the trail with local Scout groups, churches and other volunteers removing invasive plants, planting trees, doing trail work, or cleaning up trash.

  Muddy Branch Alliance

  The MBA knows that people care about what they know, and regularly hosts events along the stream and trail.  On October 13th, the MBA will be partnering with local organizations to host a volksmarch on the Muddy Branch Trail.  A volksmarch is an organized hike intended for everyone to enjoy at their own pace while also appreciating the scenic views around them. All are welcome and encouraged to come out and enjoy this family-friendly event.  The event is free and open to all with donations accepted at the start and finish.

Monarch butterflyTo help improve water quality in the stream the MBA recently launched the Lands Green Waters Clean program which helps homeowners reduce runoff from their yards, driveways, and houses. Homeowners can take simple steps reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, and pet waste that enter our waterways. Conservation landscaping removes small areas of turf grass, which does not effectively absorb water during heavy rains, and replaces it with more permeable soil and native plants, shrubs, and trees. This protects water quality, improves habitat for birds and fish, and makes streams safer for families.

These projects make yards and common spaces beautiful, encourage native birds and butterflies, and can qualify homeowners for a rebate on their property taxes.  For homeowners interested in being a part of the initiative, a trained professional is sent to their homes to survey their yards to help design an eco-friendly oasis. The MBA will also help connect the property owner with resources and grants to help cover the costs.

Small actions within the community can have a significant impact on the Muddy Branch Watershed. By making small changes, our community can work together to keep our watershed healthy.

  Muddy Branch Alliance

  For more information on the Muddy Branch Alliance visit their website or visit their Facebook page. Interested in becoming a part of the Lands Green Waters Clean initiative to create your own backyard oasis? Click here for more info. Want to RSVP for the Volksmarch and secure a t-shirt? Click here.

Know Your Blooms: Swamp Milkweed

Know Your Blooms: Swamp Milkweed
Have you noticed the blooms of swamp milkweed? Starting in June, swamp milkweeds flowers start opening in sunny habitats in the County, such as wet meadows and swales. This includes roadside rain gardens and bioswales where the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have planted the species. Swamp milkweed’s flowering hits full force in July, and then peters out in August.  
Dennis Avenue Green Streets bioswale in July

Dennis Avenue Green Streets bioswale in July


About Swamp Milkweed

The pink flowers of Asclepias incarnata are known as an attractant for pollinators. In particular, the plant is a food source for the monarch butterfly, both as a nectar source for the adult butterflies and as forage for the larvae caterpillars. Adult monarchs can obtain nectar from a variety of plant species. However, the larvae are specialists, feeding on only milkweeds, including butterfly weed and common milkweed. Toxins in the milkweeds provide the monarchs with some protection against predators.  
Female monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in a Forest Estates raingarden in July

Female monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in a Forest Estates raingarden in July

  Swamp milkweed grows about 3 feet tall and prefers to grow in full sun and moist soil. It can tolerate some light shade and drought, but of all the milkweed species, it is the least tolerant of drought. Deer don’t seem to bother it much, possibly because of the toxins in its foliage. DEP plants swamp milkweed in rain gardens, other low-impact stormwater management practices, and along pond edges.  It is a preferred plant in stormwater management, because swamp milkweed tolerates more saturated soils, and provides beauty and pollinator habitat in the summer months.  
Swamp milkweed is very attractive to pollinators.

Swamp milkweed is very attractive to pollinators.

Planting Swamp Milkweed

There are some considerations that should be taken into account when using swamp milkweed. The plants tend to be fairly sparse when not in bloom and provide minimal interest or groundcover in the cold months. For this reason, they are best combined with under-plantings, such as golden groundsel (Packera aurea) or sedge species. Also, in many locations the species has not been very long-lived. The best use for the species may be in more naturalized settings where it can self-seed or where other species can spread to take its place as the plants die out.
Bare stemmed swamp milkweed in a Dennis  Avenue Green Streets bioswale in October

Bare stemmed swamp milkweed in a Dennis Avenue Green Streets bioswale in October

Swamp milkweed in June, underplanted with golden groundsel in a Franklin Knolls rain garden

Swamp milkweed in June, underplanted with golden groundsel in a Franklin Knolls rain garden

By Darian Copiz, Watershed Planner Have a question about a plant you found in a rain garden or other stormwater management practice? Email us at

Hollywood Branch: A neighborhood stream restored

Hollywood Branch: A neighborhood stream restored
Located on the east side of Colesville, Hollywood Branch is a tributary in the greater Paint Branch Watershed. From 2008 to 2015, more than 4,400 feet of stream were restored by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The cooperative restoration process included input from landowners, Montgomery County Parks (M-NCPPC), and other stakeholders.


What caused Hollywood Branch’s poor water quality?

Much of the development in the Hollywood Branch watershed occurred before today’s stormwater management regulations were in place. In older neighborhoods, stormwater runs off roofs, driveways, and roads into storm drains and directly into streams, sometimes carrying trash, oils or pollutants. The runoff also moves rapidly over paved surfaces, causing streams to have higher flow during storms.

These high flows can alter the natural stability of the stream, causing erosion and instability, poor water quality, and damage to valuable habitat for fish and other organisms.

Erosion on Hollywood Branch

Erosion Complaint: DEP Watershed Planners are routinely called out on erosion complaints such as this one on Hollywood Branch in 2005. The County considers residents’ concerns during both project selection and design.

  Hollywood Branch Stream Restoration was identified as a priority project in the 2006 Lower Paint Branch Watershed Study. Watershed Planners are assigned to restoration projects like Hollywood Branch to ensure that resident input is incorporated during the design and construction process.

Pre-Restoration photo

Pre-Restoration: Downstream scour, or erosion, on M-NCPPC walking path bridge. Following increased development in the watershed, the opening under the original bridge was no longer large enough to carry stream flow during heavy rain storms. Water would overtop the banks and flow around the bridge, causing erosion and damage to the asphalt pathway and threatening the bridge structure.

Post restoration bridge

Post-Restoration: A new bridge was installed by Montgomery Parks in coordination with the restoration project. The new, longer span allows Hollywood Branch to stay within its banks, even when running high.

Pre-Restoration Stream

Pre-Restoration: Water moves fastest around the outside bend of a meander (at left, above). The faster the water, the more erosion. An unstable stream, like pre-restoration Hollywood Branch, will continue to erode into and under the root zone on the outside bends of meanders, exposing and undermining tree roots and eventually causing otherwise healthy trees to fall into the stream. The erosive condition seen here on the outside of the meander is known as a “cut bank.”

Pre-Restoration of stream

Pre-Restoration: Water moves slowest on the inside bend of a meander, which allows sediment to settle out and change the shape of the stream channel. This can be seen in the sandy area at center, above. The lack of vegetation here indicates that this was a relatively recent change to the stream. This feature is known as a “point bar.” Increases over a short period of time in both point bar deposition and cut bank erosion can indicate an unstable stream.

Pre-Restoration of the Hollywood Branch

Pre-Restoration: The stream undermined the root zone of this tree, causing it to fall into the bed of the stream and damage a homeowner’s existing fence.


Restoration: A Natural Approach

DEP used a natural systems approach to the restoration at Hollywood Branch with the goal of using the stream’s own natural hydrological processes to establish a stable and self-maintaining channel. The project stabilized bank erosion, improved the stream’s ability to access its floodplain during storms, and enhanced habitat for aquatic organisms.

The design emphasized the use of natural materials, including logs, boulders, and live plantings. Hollywood Branch runs through private backyards and Montgomery Parks property. DEP Watershed Planners ensured landowner input was incorporated throughout the design process and easements were obtained for private property prior to construction.

During construction of the stream

During Construction: An in-stream “J-hook” structure. J-hooks provide valuable pool habitat while helping to direct stream flow towards the center of the channel, causing less erosion to stream banks. The hose at the top of the photo carries stream flow around the work area during construction, minimizing the erosion of bare sediment in the work area.

Post-restoration of the Hollywood Branch

Post-Restoration: J-hook in stream structures help create riffle and pool habitats for fish and other creatures. A mixture of flow and depth provide a variety of habitat. Pools provide a calm refuge for fish and mollusks. The rocky bottom of the riffle habitat supports a variety of macroinvertebrates (bugs) that provide food for fish and larger organisms. The agitation of the water over the rocks provides the stream much needed dissolved oxygen to support life.

Post-restoration image of the Hollywood Branch

Post Restoration: Pool habitat with “Rock Toe Protection” at right. Rock toe protection helps protect the streambank from the erosive forces found on the outside bends of meanders.

Map from public meeting

Public Meeting: DEP holds public meetings to present proposed engineering designs to the public for input during various stages in the design process. This poster depicts the Hollywood Branch restoration design near the M-NCPPC walking path bridge crossing. The J-hook structures mentioned above can be seen on the design.

Mid-construction image of the Hollywood Branch

During Construction: Banks are graded to reconnect the stream to its floodplain, helping to dissipate erosive energy and create channel stability. Erosion control matting is installed to cover the bare soil until vegetation can take root. Note the hose running through the center of the stream valley pumping stream flow around the active construction site.

Hollywood Branch community walk

Stream Walk: DEP hosts stream walks to discuss the proposed designs in the field. The walks allow residents to better visualize the design. Stream walks were also held during the construction phase of the Hollywood Branch project.

Tree plantings along Hollywood Branch

Tree plantings: After construction is complete, landscapers plant native trees and shrubs along the stream banks and valley. The deep roots of these native plants help hold together the soil along the stream banks, preventing erosion and sediment transfer downstream.


Hollywood Branch: Before and After Restoration

Pre-restoration – September 2011

Pre-restoration – September 2011

Post-restoration picture in October 2016

Post restoration – October 2016
The stream channel has been widened, boulder habitat installed, and banks graded to allow the stream to access its floodplain.

Pre Restoration – August 2011

Pre Restoration – August 2011

Post restoration – March 2018

Post restoration – March 2018

The curve of the meander here has been made less severe. Banks have been graded to reconnect the stream to its floodplain and establish a “floodplain bench.” The floodplain bench is the lower area between the immediate stream bank and the higher banks on the far sides of the photo above. When the stream overtops its banks during a storm, water spreads out over the floodplain bench, slowing it down and minimizing erosion. The high banks keep high flows from entering yards.
Pre-restoration – August 2011

Pre-restoration – August 2011

Post restoration – December 2014

Post restoration – December 2014
The eroding meander was graded back to allow the stream to access its floodplain. Boulders were added to provide habitat and bank protection. Native plants were added to further stabilize the banks.

Pre-restoration – November 2006

Pre-restoration – November 2006

Post Restoration – December 2014

Post Restoration – December 2014

This side channel to Hollywood Branch was rerouted away from the bridge approach. The bank was graded and vegetation added for stability. The twigs sticking up along the bank are “live stakes.” Planted during the dormant season, these cuttings begin to grow and take root in spring. Black Willow and Silky Dogwood were two species planted at Hollywood Branch.
Pre-restoration – April 2008

Pre-restoration – April 2008

Post Restoration – March 2018

Post Restoration – March 2018
The severe meander here has been lessened at the upstream approach to the walking path bridge. J-hook in stream structures provide stability and habitat

Pre-restoration – April 2008

Pre-restoration – April 2008

Post Restoration – March 2018

Post Restoration – March 2018
Pool habitat looking downstream from the walking path bridge. Boulder protection and native plantings provide stability to the previously eroded outside bend of this meander.

Pre-restoration – April 2008

Pre-restoration – April 2008

Post Restoration – March 2018

Post Restoration – March 2018
The pre-restoration stream rerouted itself around these fallen trees causing bank erosion and instability. The original channel shape was restored. In stream j-hook structures provide channel stability and habitat. Vegetation provided added bank protection.

Restoration Highlight: Valley Park Stormwater Pond. After 32 years, Damascus’s Valley Park Pond receives a face lift!

Restoration Highlight: Valley Park Stormwater Pond.  After 32 years, Damascus’s Valley Park Pond receives a face lift!
The year was 1984, and Damascus, like much of the County was in the midst of a growth spurt. As new residential and commercial buildings in and around the Town Center were being constructed, the County realized that there was a need to control the stormwater runoff and pollution created by all the new development. In response, the Valley Park Pond was built.

The pond is referred to as a regional pond because it manages stormwater runoff from a large area, a total of 227 acres, 74 acres (32%) of which consists of impervious surfaces, such as roads, rooftops and parking lots. The pond sits on Magruder Branch, the northernmost tributary of Great Seneca Creek. It was originally designed to capture the intense, uncontrolled flows coming from Damascus and release them into Magruder Branch at a slower rate. It also had a small, permanent wet pool. However, by today’s standards, the pond was not providing nearly enough water quality treatment or doing enough to protect Magruder Branch from damage caused by the most frequently-occurring storms.

And then 30 years passed.

Over the course of the past three decades, sediment build-up in the pond reduced its water storage capacity and decreased the pond’s ability to protect waterways.  Uncontrolled runoff upstream has led to stream erosion and sediment deposition.  Additionally, the riser structure, which regulates the water level and the rate of water flow from the pond, was outdated and in poor condition.  Even the pond drain valve was completely rusted shut, making it inoperable.


A Needed Upgrade

All the issues with the pond led DEP to make fixing the Valley Park Pond a top priority.  The following photos highlight Improvements that DEP made on the Valley Park Pond, which were completed in June 2017:

Valley Park Pond map

Valley Park Pond Drainage Area: During storms, water from the shaded area flows into Valley Park Pond.

Valley Park Pond - Before Improvements

Valley Park Pond: Before Improvements: Pond area is reduced to approximately 1/3 of its original size due to sediment deposition, which reduced the water storage capacity.

Public Meeting: DEP staff meet with residents to explain the project and address their questions and concerns.

Public Meeting: DEP staff meet with residents to explain the project and address their questions and concerns.

Sediment Removal

Sediment Removal: 3,177 cubic yards of sediment were removed which is equivalent to approximately 265 dump truck loads! The black pipe in the background was used to divert clean stream flow through the work area.

Pond Infrastructure Improvements

Pond Infrastructure Improvements: Concrete pour for new low flow and pond drain headwall

Riser Improvements

Riser Improvements: Workers install rebar and forms for riser expansion. The riser structure was rebuilt so the pond meets all County and State dam safety and performance standards, such as releasing water at a slower rate after storms for added protection against stream channel erosion downstream in Magruder Branch.

New Riser Structure

New Riser Structure: Sod being placed on pond embankment and around the new riser. A clay liner was added to the embankment for added protection against water leaks.

Landscape Planting

Landscape Planting: workers planting wetland perennials, shrubs and trees around the pond. Wetland plants were added around the perimeter of the pond to enhance the ecology in the pond

Newly Completed Pond

Newly Completed Pond: New maintenance access installed, trees, shrubs and wildflower meadow planted and doing well. The wildflower meadow, on the left side of the pond provides habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Newly Completed Pond

Newly Completed Pond: Aquatic fringe plantings were installed and protected with temporary wildlife fencing for first year establishment period. The water release point was changed to the pond bottom to maintain cooler water temperature downstream in Magruder Branch. The new pond design raised the permanent wet pool elevation by six feet and significantly increased the wet pool volume to improve water quality in Magruder Branch.

  Since the pond was completed, residents living nearby have been expressing their appreciation and gratitude for the pond improvements.  One resident stated that the pond is a “thousand times better” than before the improvements and appreciates seeing water and wildlife like great blue herons outside her window, knowing that the pond is making a positive change in the health of Magruder Branch.

To learn more about this project, visit the Valley Park Pond restoration page on the DEP website. To learn more about other projects throughout the County, take a look at the Watershed Restoration Page on DEP’s website, and to learn more about projects you can do on your own property, please visit the RainScapes page.

A window into the restoration of a stream and pond system: the Bedfordshire Project

A window into the restoration of a stream and pond system: the Bedfordshire Project
Did you know that the Department of Environmental Protection restores streams and creeks throughout Montgomery County? The Restoration Team at DEP has been working on a project to restore a stream and retrofit a stormwater pond in the Bedfordshire neighborhood, to help reverse the effects of decades of largely uncontrolled runoff in the Kilgour Branch Stream Valley Park.

Located in Potomac on a tributary to Watts Branch, over 1,000 feet of stream were restored in this project and a stormwater management pond at the end of the stream was completely rebuilt.


The completed project, in February 2018.


Why did we choose Kilgour Branch for this project?

As is the case in many streams in Montgomery County, the Bedfordshire stream was actively eroding prior to this project, leading to three- to four-foot vertical eroded banks, sedimentation, and poor habitat for aquatic life.  The stormwater management pond lacked modern design features for improving water quality, controlling small and large storm flows, and ensuring dam safety.


Pre-restoration, this stream’s banks were eroding rapidly.


The changes we made:

The restored stream now features a series of pools and cobble weirs that carry small flows, while allowing large flows to spread out on the floodplain within the park.  By reconnecting the stream to its floodplain, we are working to protect downstream waters by reducing the energy and velocity of the flow.  More nutrients and sediment are retained in the floodplain, recreating natural processes, instead of sending them downstream.

The eroded channel is now stable, with enhanced habitat for fish and amphibians.  It also improves stream health by replenishing groundwater and increasing “baseflow,” which is the normal stream flow in between storms.  Native trees and other vegetation have been planted to add habitat and ecological diversity.

Newly planted sedges were installed to create an “aquatic fringe,” providing habitat near the upstream end of the pond. The cobble cascade transitioning from the stream is visible at top left.

  The restored stream flows into the stormwater pond, which provides water quality treatment in a newly-created “wet pool.”  The wet pool is a permanent area of ponded water, several feet deep, that retains water in between storms.  The rebuilt pond also has re-graded slopes and a safety bench to increase public safety, a fully rebuilt dam embankment, and a new riser (flow control structure) and outflow pipe.  In addition to removing pollutants from runoff, the pond now controls the outflow rate from small, frequently-occurring storms for the first time, helping to protect Kilgour Branch from further erosion.

Now substantially complete after construction in 2016 and 2017, the stream and pond treat runoff from 265 acres (0.4 square miles).  The drainage area includes neighborhoods south of Glen Road, west of Falls Road, and northwest of the Falls Road Golf Course, and includes 70 acres of impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways, roofs, and parking lots.  By restoring natural functions and improving stormwater management, the Bedfordshire project helps to ensure clean, healthy streams in the local community and downstream to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

Pictured here: DEP’s Watershed Restoration Section at Bedfordshire, February 2018. Our job is to lead the planning and design of restoration projects throughout Montgomery County, resulting in cleaner water and healthier streams.

  To learn more about this restoration project, please visit the Bedfordshire Stormwater Pond and Stream Restoration page on the DEP website. To learn more about other projects throughout the County, take a look at the Watershed Restoration page on DEP’s website, and to learn more about projects you can do on your own property, please visit the RainScapes page.

  We invite you to scroll through the photos below to see more images of the construction process and restoration progress!

The construction crew builds a cobble weir

The construction crew builds a cobble weir. These weirs help to keep the stream stable and carry normal stream flow. They also provide habitat for some of our smallest stream-dwellers, benthic macroinvertebrates.

 Restored stream in first season: Grass is starting to provide permanent stabilization. The restored stream both increases and improves the aquatic habitat in the park.

Restored stream in first season: Grass is starting to provide permanent stabilization. The restored stream both increases and improves the aquatic habitat in the park.


The riser takes shape: workers install the rebar and wooden forms for the new riser structure. The black corrugated pipe shown at top is used to divert flow from the work area.


Finishing the riser: The concrete floor is poured separately. The drain valve (bottom left) allows the pond to be emptied for maintenance. The low flow pipe (top left) conveys the flow from small storms.


Grading the stormwater pond: the riser is partially complete (left). The black diversion pipe conveys all flow from upstream into a temporary opening in the riser, keeping the work area dry.

The view six months later: The pond in February 2018, showing the permanent wet pool and new riser. Temporary fencing around the edge of the pond helps to make the pond less inviting to geese while the newly-planted vegetation is becoming established.

The view six months later: The pond in February 2018, showing the permanent wet pool and new riser. Temporary fencing around the edge of the pond helps to make the pond less inviting to geese while the newly-planted vegetation is becoming established.

Show your creativity! Enter the 2018 Storm Drain Art Contest

Show your creativity!  Enter the 2018 Storm Drain Art Contest
Are you artistic? Do you want to help educate about issues affecting our local streams in Montgomery County? County residents are invited to submit entries into the 2018 Storm Drain Art Contest. The contest seeks to use art to educate the public about the connection between our storm drains, streams and the Bay. The six winners will see their art painted on storm drains in Wheaton in April 2018 in honor of Earth Day!  
Storm Drain Mural

Storm drain art with an environmental message on the front.

About the Contest

The submissions should be colorful, creative, original and easy to reproduce. Each design must include a short tagline or message — in any language — related to the chosen category. The artist can choose their preferred medium, but the final entry should be a .jpg, .png or .pdf of the design and can be as simple as submitting a photograph of the final piece. Each entry must be submitted in one of five categories:
  • Environment and Youth (For ages 16 and under only)
  • Water
  • Fight litter
  • Wheaton Area Specific
  • Celebrate Wheaton’s Cultural Diversity
  Image of turtle storm drain art A change from the first art contest is that there will be two non-environmental categories! Those categories ask that the entries focus on the heritage, culture or diversity of Wheaton.  These new categories are thanks to a collaboration with the Mid-County Regional Service Center and the Wheaton Urban District. The other three categories must have an environmental message. Another first for this contest is that it is open to all ages! For those under 18, the entries must come with a parent or guardian signature. All entries must be received by 4:00pm EST, February 16, 2018.  The winner of each category will be chosen by a panel, with the sixth winner decided by public voting on Facebook.
Two volunteers painting art onto a storm drain

Volunteer painting storm drain art

  Storm drain art, including the winning entries from the first contest, are currently visible at the Aspen Hill, Germantown and Kensington Park Libraries, the White Oak Community Center and other sites.  Those storm drains educate on litter, picking up pet waste and the connection between storm drains and streams.  Some of the messages are in both English and Spanish. For more information on the contest and how to enter, visit The contest is hosted by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, the Mid-County Regional Services Center, and the Wheaton Urban District in collaboration with Department of Transportation, Montgomery Parks, Friends of Sligo Creek, One Montgomery Green and Rock Creek Conservancy.  
Natalya Parris Storm Drain Art Entry

Natalya Parris Storm Drain Art Entry from 2015. It was one of the winners from the first contest.

Investing in our community: A look at the first year of watershed grants

Investing in our community: A look at the first year of watershed grants
In 2016, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Trust, awarded $350,000 in grants to community groups and nonprofit organizations working to improve our local water quality.

The goal of the grants program is promote initiatives and projects that improve water quality in Montgomery County’s local streams and waterways through public engagement, education, and on-the-ground restoration.

Kids School

Glenville kids green club mural and conservation landscape

  During the first grant cycle, 13 projects were funded ranging from $10,000 to $51,000.  The grantees and their partners also contributed $140,000 in matching funds, further expanding the impact of the projects.


Diane Cameron, Audubon National Society, providing a homeowner workshop on stormwater control

The Funded Projects:

  • Montgomery County Watershed Stewards Academy
  • Watershed and Stormwater Management Education Videos
  • Public Outreach and Stewardship and Community-Based Restoration Implementation at Sandy Spring Friends School
  • Trees for Sacred Places Montgomery County

Restoration Project

Earth Steward Volunteers planting a conservation landscape at Pleasant View Historic site along Darnestown Rd

  • Enhancing the Green on Greenery Lane Demonstration Project
  • Public Outreach and Stewardship on Sacred Grounds: Engaging the Faith-Based Community of Montgomery County in Watershed Management
  • Community-Based Restoration Implementation: Churches to increase cistern and rain garden ripples through Montgomery County
  • Public Outreach and Stewardship- Rock Creek Park In Your Backyard
  • Expanding the Water WatchDog Program in the Sligo Creek Watershed

Construction Project

Construction of a rain garden at Silver Spring United Methodist church

  • Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) public outreach, stewardship and community-based restoration
  • Public Outreach and Stewardship Project for the Cabin John Creek Watershed
  • Stakeholder Engagement with Montgomery Housing Partnership
  • Creating a Watershed Restoration Public Demonstration Center at Woodend Nature Sanctuary

Student engagement project

Victor Bennett prepping students from Sandy Springs Friends School before construction of their rain garden

Accomplishments of the Awarded Grants:

  • Volunteer efforts: 16,661 hrs donated from 880 volunteers, equaling $443,849.04 in service hour labor to the community
  • Total treatment of 2.23 acres of impervious surface.
  • 2,243 workshop attendees from the 53 community workshops held
  • 409 Trees planted
  • Installed 8,478 sq. ft of conservation landscaping and 650 sf of rain gardens including 1,660 native plants
  • Removal of 250 sq ft of Impervious surface
  • 15,185 gallons of rain water consistently captured through 13 cisterns and 45 rain barrels installed by grantees and their partners such as the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Grantees were able to work with 26 communities and 78 faith based organizations directly resulting in 21 additional RainScapes applications and more than 100 stormwater site assessments.
  • Production of 3 educational videos on stormwater pollution and increased website and social media traffic to the organizations respective websites.

Volunteer installing down spout on a rain barrel

Member of the Potomac chapter of the Boy Scouts of America working with the Friends of Cabin John watershed group to fit a rain barrel on a home.

MCPS students learn about bioretention gardens

MCPS students learn about bioretention gardens
Doug Marshall, a Watershed Planner with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, recently met with the members of the Green Team Club of Newport Mill Middle School to talk about their local waters and pollution.   


Cynthia Nystrom, a teacher at Newport Mill, reached out to DEP and asked if a staff member could visit with her Green Team club and talk about the new bioretention garden that DEP installed at the school this past summer. A bioretention garden is a functioning landscape that filters stormwater and improves water quality. They are typically planted with native plants and have 3 layers:

  • A mulch layer;
  • A soil, sand and organic material mixture layer; and
  • A stone layer. A perforated pipe within the stone layer collects and directs the filtered rainwater from large storms to the storm drain system within 2 days.

The Green Team club meets after school to discuss environmental issues, they also collect all the recycled materials from the school and dispose it in the recycle dumpster.  They do this so they can monitor the amount of recycled materials the school disposes verses the amount of trash that goes into the regular dumpster.  There are twenty kids in the club and they were really excited about the new bioretention at their school. 

I talked with the students about the watershed their school was in and most did not know they were in the Rock Creek watershed. We also talked about the stream closer to their school, which is Josephs Branch, and about the poor condition of that stream. 


Doug Marshall with the students of Newport Mill Middle School

Doug Marshall with the students of Newport Mill Middle School Green Team at their bioretention garden


Our conversation focused on how impervious surfaces, like roads and buildings, affect the the amount of stormwater runoff that enters streams and the impact on stream channels.   Stormwater management practices, like their new bioretention garden, work to help reduce those impacts.  The students and I also talked about how these kinds of practices can be installed on smaller properties like their own homes. 

After the discussion, we all went outside to see the bioretention.  This was by far the most exciting part for the kids.  They really liked getting their hands dirty and feeling the sandy texture of the bioretention soil, which they now know is important to allow water to soak into and through the soil like a sponge.  They were also excited to learn about the different plants in the bioretention and the role that they each play in creating a healthy ecosystem both in the soil (to foster the growth of micro-organisms) and above the soil (to provide habitat for pollinators).   

I think now that they have a better understanding of the bioretention garden and how it works to improve conditions in our streams, they can be ambassadors for the bioretention to other students and help spread the word about environmental stewardship. My hope is that through hands-on learning and open conversation, they will be inspired to do their part to protect their small piece of the watershed and by extension, Rock Creek, the Potomac River and ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. 

Construction of the bioretention was funded with support from Maryland’s Chesapeake & Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.

Doug Marshall has been with the County for 21 years and has focused his work on stormwater management and stream protection