WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, with Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (all D-Md.), applauded the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Friday for reaching an agreement with the State of Maryland and publishing in the Federal Register the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Final Management Plan (FMP) for the designation of Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary. It has been nearly four years since NOAA announced its intent to designate Mallows Bay-Potomac River as a National Marine Sanctuary – the first in the State of Maryland — and 20 years since any new national marine sanctuary has been nominated for designation nationwide.
“We are thankful to NOAA, the Partners for Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and the dedicated volunteers who have been focused on protecting Mallows Bay and expanding public accessibility of a unique national historical landmark. This designation will help protect Mallows Bay for future generations, spur tourism, and support local jobs and the economy. Nearby residents, historic preservationists, conservationists, local business owners and state leaders long have been united in their support for establishing a National Marine Sanctuary in Maryland’s Mallows Bay,” said the lawmakers.
Mallows Bay-Potomac River is a 18-square mile area of the tidal Potomac River, adjacent to Charles County, Md. Nearly 200 vessels spanning from the Revolutionary War through the present are found in the area, including the remains of the largest “Ghost Fleet” of World War I wooden steamships built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mallows Bay is largely undeveloped and has been identified as one of the most ecologically valuable natural areas in Maryland providing important habitat for fish and wildlife, including rare, threatened, and endangered species. Mallows Bay-Potomac River was nominated by former Governor Martin O’Malley in September 2014, and was endorsed by a diverse coalition of local, state, regional and national groups.
According to NOAA, the authority for natural resource management will remain with the State of Maryland and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. Due to the area’s historical significance, NOAA, the State of Maryland, and Charles County would manage the national marine sanctuary jointly.