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.

Montgomery County stormwater summit for homeowners

Montgomery County stormwater summit for homeowners
On June 6 the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of Maryland (UMD) hosted a Montgomery County Stormwater Summit for Homeowners at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. This event, part of larger project funded by a Chesapeake Bay Trust grant and the Montgomery County Water Quality Charge, was attended by more than 70 folks from all across the County.

Staff from the EFC’s Sustainable Maryland program presented information about a variety of rebate and incentive programs offered by Montgomery County. A particular focus was on the RainScapes program, which offers rebates on best management practices such as rain gardens, rain barrels and cisterns, pervious pavers, and conservation landscaping.

  Brandy Espinola EFC Speaking

  Additional information was presented about the Tree Montgomery program (free trees), pet waste management, litter control programs, and organic lawn care.

Local government agencies and regional watershed associations that staffed exhibit tables at this event included the County Department of Environmental Protection, Rock Creek Conservancy, Little Falls Watershed Alliance, and the Muddy Branch Alliance, each of which explained the unique support and technical services that they provide to towns and neighborhoods in the County.

  DEP Literature Table

  Next steps in this project will include EFC staff working specifically with the Wheaton Hills Civic Association, Glenmont Forest Neighbors Civic Association, and McKenney Hills-Carroll Knolls Civic Association to provide residents with information about the County’s stormwater-related programs, as well as providing these communities with basic watershed assessments that will identify and prioritize issues and potential future projects.

For more information, please contact Mike Hunninghake, Program Manager, Environmental Finance Center-UMD, at mikeh75@umd.edu or 301-405-7956.

Sarah Morse Little Falls Watershed Speaking

Sarah Morse Little Falls Watershed Speaking

Blue Spotlight On: The Anacostia Watershed

Blue Spotlight On: The Anacostia Watershed
This is the first in an upcoming series where we put the “Blue Spotlight” on a local watershed. You’ll get a quick look at this watershed and some of the challenges and opportunities to keep it healthy.

About the Anacostia Watershed

The 176 square mile Anacostia watershed spans Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties and the District of Columbia. Montgomery County is home to four tributaries that flow into the Anacostia River:
  • Sligo Creek
  • Northwest Branch
  • Paint Branch
  • Little Paint Branch.
Rainwater that falls within this watershed finds its way downhill into these streams, which flow into the mainstem of the Anacostia River and ultimately the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.



The Anacostia is one of Montgomery County’s most heavily developed watersheds and much of this development took place prior to stormwater management regulations. DEP and other organizations have gone back into these neighborhoods in recent years to install stormwater management practices in neighborhoods throughout the watershed and have restored many impacted streams.

The State of Maryland lists the Anacostia River Watershed as impaired, with damage caused by excessive nutrients, sediment, trash, bacteria, and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB’s.

DEP is required to clean up the County’s portion of the watershed and lower the amounts of these pollutants entering our waterways. Restoration projects, RainScapes practices, street sweeping, and tree planting all help DEP reach these goals.

Cleanup in the Anacostia River

Volunteer picks up trash during a stream cleanup along Bucknell Drive.


Restoration Highlights

Montgomery County DEP has completed over 70 watershed restoration projects in the Anacostia watershed, including:
  • 5 new stormwater management ponds
  • 16 stormwater management pond retrofits
  • 8 Green Streets neighborhoods
  • 347 individual rain gardens, bioretentions, and tree boxes
  • 28 stream restoration projects for a total of 16 miles of restored Anacostia tributaries
  • 425 Rainscapes rebates issued for residential stormwater practices
  • 5 acres of new forest planted
Hollywood Branch Stream Restoration

Hollywood Branch Stream Restoration – 4,470 feet of stream restoration north of Cannon Road Elementary School in Colesville


Year of the Anacostia

2018 has been designated the Year of the Anacostia. Agencies and watershed partners have planned a series of volunteer events, river cleanups, and educational opportunities throughout the year in celebration of restoration and historic milestones in the Anacostia.

  Did you know? The Anacostia River was designated by the State of Maryland as a “Scenic and Wild River” in 1984.

Breewood Tributary

Breewood, a restored tributary of Sligo Creek and the Anacostia River


Recreational Opportunities

Montgomery County offers many recreational opportunities in the headwaters of the Anacostia River. The streamside and floodplain habitat on Sligo Creek, Northwest Branch, and Paint Branch are protected by M-NCPCC parkland where citizens can hike, bike, and enjoy these headwater streams. A few highlights include:  
Northwest Gorge – Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park at Burnt Mills

Northwest Gorge – Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park at Burnt Mills


Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer with DEP Join a Watershed Group:   Five volunteers standing next to all the trash they picked up from a stormwater facility.  

More Photos of the Anacostia Watershed

Brown Trout

Paint Branch, a tributary of the Anacostia River, supports a naturally reproducing Brown Trout fishery. Brown Trout highly sensitive to water quality and temperature and only live in the most pristine, coolest stream habitat in the County.

Dennis Avenue Green Streets

Students from DEP’s 2017 National Green Infrastructure Certification Program explore a bioswale off Lanark Way at the Dennis Avenue Green Streets project.

NIH Stormwater Management Pond in Bethesda.

NIH Stormwater Management Pond in Bethesda.


A RainScapes rain garden installed in the Anacostia watershed. DEP’s RainScapes program offers technical and financial assistance to encourage property owners to implement stormwater projects on their properties. Projects include rain gardens, conservation landscapes, rain barrels, green roofs, and permeable pavers. Find out more here.


Celebration Amidst the Rain: Little Falls Community rallies around a new Bioretention

Celebration Amidst the Rain: Little Falls Community rallies around a new Bioretention
It was a dark and stormy night…

Well, you know how the story goes. And recently, it seems we’ve had many stormy days and nights in Montgomery County!

According to the Washington Post, in the last 26 days, our area has received more than 10.4 inches of rain. This ranks second most on record for this time of year. We have also seen five separate storms unload at least an inch of rain.

On May 19th, we definitely felt some of that rain at the Little Falls Library but to many of us, it was a good thing – it was our chance to see a brand new bioretention in action, doing what it was made to do.

Bioretention Drainage

The completed bioretention treats 0.77 acres of impervious surfaces such as the library’s roof and parking lot. Nearly 700 plants were installed just days prior to the event.

  DEP, the Little Falls Library, Little Falls Watershed Alliance (LFWA) and the Friends of the Little Falls Library all worked together to host the Little Falls Watershed Celebration. While it was rough setting up for the event as the rain poured down on us, it ended up being a great time for both the planners and the community.

Mikel Moore, LFWA, led the effort and brought the groups together to host the event. Residents had the chance to learn about stormwater, the Little Falls watershed, native plants, soil, macroinvertebrate (stream bugs) and more. There were even kids crafts and a blue grass band to set the mood.


A long time in the making

After initial analysis, the bioretention project began in 2012 by requesting bids from engineering firms. Once one was awarded, the process of permitting, cost estimates, designs, and public meetings began. After 5 years in development, construction commenced in 2017 coinciding with the refresh of the library. The celebration event culminated the many years of planning and even featured a planting of 700 plants days before.

It was great to see so many residents come out in the rain to celebrate this wonderful community amenity and support the health of their local watershed.

For more information about the project, visit our website.

Residents learning how stormwater happens during the festival

Residents learning how stormwater happens during the festival

Frank Dawson, Watershed Restoration Division Chief, planting the final aster with an area resident.

Frank Dawson, Watershed Restoration Division Chief, planting the final aster with an area resident.

Everyone celebrating the "official" opening of the bioretention

Everyone celebrating the “official” opening of the bioretention

Sarah Morse, Little Falls Watershed Alliance Executive Director, checking out the new Bioretention sign

Sarah Morse, Little Falls Watershed Alliance Executive Director, checking out the new Bioretention sign

The ribbon cutting

The ribbon cutting

The Little Falls bioretention celebration

The Little Falls bioretention celebration


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.

Local nonprofit organizations receive close to $300,000 in grants for environmental projects

Local nonprofit organizations receive close to $300,000 in grants for environmental projects
The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and the Chesapeake Bay Trust announced that $291,000 in grant funding has been awarded to seven organizations to improve water quality and help manage stormwater runoff in Montgomery County. Neighborhood groups, faith-based organizations, and nonprofit organizations received support ranging from $6,000 to $77,000.

“The Department of Environmental Protection is committed to improving the water quality of our local streams while contributing to the health and sustainability of our communities,” said Patty Bubar, acting Director of the Department of Environmental Protection. “This grant program fills an important niche towards meeting our mission and we’re thrilled to be able to support and engage these hard-working local groups who share this mission.”

Established in 2014, the initiative supports projects and programs that improve communities and water quality in Montgomery County through public engagement, education, and on-the-ground restoration projects.

Project types include public outreach and stewardship projects, such as volunteer-led stream cleanups, stormwater education workshops, environmental education projects and community-based restoration projects, such as rain gardens, rain barrels, tree planting, impervious pavement removal, conservation landscaping, and green roofs.

Funding for these projects is made possible through the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge.  The Chesapeake Bay Trust, a regional grant-maker specializing in engagement of not-for-profit entities in restoration and outreach work, administers the grants for Montgomery County, similar to programs it manages for seven other jurisdictions.

These programs are so important to provide residents and nonprofit groups the tools, resources, and power to be part of the solution and feel like they are improving their communities,” said Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust.  “Completing one’s first project as a nonprofit creates the capacity to do so much more and we’re proud of how many of these groups have grown and become strong grantees in other programs.”

The 2018 Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant Program awardees include:

Anacostia Riverkeeper, $14,644: To engage Montgomery County Spanish-speaking populations in programs to improve water quality.

Anacostia Riverkeeper, $58,350: For rain gardens and conservation landscape plantings at the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting House.

Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States, Inc., $53,417: For a rain garden at Woodend Nature Sanctuary in Chevy Chase.

Butler Montessori, $58,275: To remove 3,000 square feet of impervious surface and install permeable pavers at Butler Montessori School in Darnestown.

Friends of Sligo Creek, $22,650: For an engineering study, conservation landscaping, dry wells, and engagement of volunteers in the Three Oaks community in Silver Spring.

University of Maryland, Environmental Finance Center, $77,096: To engage county Civic Associations in watershed restoration activities and to hold a stormwater summit in Montgomery County.

Wildlife Habitat Council, $6,568: To engage corporations in the implementation of stormwater and habitat best management practices such as rain gardens, bioretention cells, conservation landscaping, water recapture, and other practices on corporation-owned land.


About the Chesapeake Bay Trust

The Chesapeake Bay Trust (www.cbtrust.org) is a nonprofit grant-making organization established by the Maryland General Assembly dedicated to improving the natural resources of Maryland and the Chesapeake region through environmental education, community engagement, and local watershed restoration. The Trust’s grantees engage hundreds of thousands of individuals annually in projects that have a measurable impact on the waterways and other natural resources of the region. The Trust is supported by the sale of the Treasure the Chesapeake license plate, donations to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund on the Maryland State income tax form, donations from individuals and corporations, and partnerships with private foundations and federal, state, and local governments such as Montgomery County. The Trust has received the highest rating from Charity Navigator for fourteen years: 92 percent of the Trust’s expenditures are directed to its restoration and education programs.


About Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection

The mission of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection is to enhance the quality of life in our community by protecting and improving Montgomery County’s air, water, and land in a sustainable way while fostering smart growth, a thriving economy, and healthy communities.

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.

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 mygreenmontgomery.org/art. 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.