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Federal Protection for MD’s Savage River

leah kirk

Second-home development is pushing east from Maryland’s Deep Creek Lake resort area, and rigs drilling for natural gas may be allowed before long in this corner of Western Maryland. Concerned preservationist are pushing to strengthen the protection of the Savage River, which offers some of Maryland’s best trout fishing and is a significant source of drinking water for Washington, DC, metropolitan area as it flows into the North Branch of the Potomac River.

The Upper Potomac Riverkeepers are seeking the federal designation of the Savage as a “wild and scenic” river. According to the (NPS), wild and scenic designation does not prevent development or impinge on private property rights, but it would prohibit projects requiring federal approval from being constructed on the river, such as a dam and quite possibly an interstate gas or oil pipeline.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and organizations like American Rivers are working to remove many non-functioning dams to help fish run; there is still a long way to go. More than 75,000 large dams have modified more than 600,000 miles, or about 17 percent of U.S. rivers. Wild and Scenic designation protects 12,709 miles of 208 rivers in 40 states, more than one-quarter of one percent of the nation’s rivers. There are none in Maryland or Virginia.