Summary And Conclusions

Water quality and biological resources data clearly illustrate the cause-effect relationship of reductions in wastewater loading of BOD5, nutrients, and suspended solids and improvements in water quality and the ecological resources of the tidal Potomac. As a result of the improvements in water quality and SAV habitat, the Upper Potomac estuary emerged during the 1990s as one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the nation. The thriving fishery resources now support popular recreational fishing activities, including professional fishing guide services and annual Bassmasters fishing tournaments. In answering a question about why people don't consider fishing in the Potomac in the Washington, DC area, Bill Kramer, owner of Potomac Guide Service, explained that "... in the 1950s and 1960s the Potomac was a flowing cesspool... It was a disgrace, it was so polluted. If you fell in the river it was recommended you go to the hospital for examination. Now the river's much better. Pollution controls are higher and the fish population's are mostly solid. But the people still think of it as the old river. So people don't understand how good the fishing is here." (Tidwell, 1998). One of the earliest guides, Ken Penrod of Life Outdoors Unlimited, now has one of the largest freshwater fishing guide services in the nation. Guides like Ken Penrod have reported that since 1982 every year has been better than the previous year in terms of the quantity and quality of fish that have returned to the waters of the tidal Potomac (Soltis, 1992). In 1999, for example, some 500 people took part in the 1999 Bassmasters Fishing Tournament on the Potomac (Shields, 1999). In recognition of the ecological improvements of the river, the Potomac River was selected as an American Heritage River in 1998.

A River Reborn

"Time has been good to the Potomac River— at least the last 25 years have been ... A generation ago (1960s and 1970s), when we had gone to the Potomac for thrills, the river was ugly and almost frightening in its decay. The water was an opaque red-brown sludge, smelly and foaming with unknown chemical pollutants. The shore was littered with the rotting carcasses of carp and with slime-covered tires, cans, glass and other filth. But as we sat talking this time, the water was clear—really clear—as though we were in the countryside far from a big city. We could see right to the sandy bottom. The shoreline was free of debris, and the air smelled fresh.

Best of all were the birds. Mallards swooped overhead, heading toward the water. Despite the season, some songbirds still darted through the trees. And far out in the channel, close to Virginia, a huge flock of birds circled round and round a cluster of rocks. They seemed to be feeding out there (on what type of freshwater creature?), and the sun glistened off their wings Who are the stewards of the Potomac? Who is responsible for the amazing rebirth of a beautiful river? To all, I extend a hearty thanks . . ."

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