Watts Branch Urban Stream Restoration

The Anacostia Watershed lies within the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin, and is one of the most urban watersheds within the basin. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the watershed spans over 175 square miles between Maryland and the District of Columbia and is considered by many to be one of the most degraded waterways in the United States. Watts Branch is a tributary stream of the Anacostia River, and flows into the Potomac River which eventually empties into the Chesapeake Bay. In 2010, several partnerships were formed to restore a section of the Watts Branch stream and riparian area. The restoration efforts were focused on a highly polluted 1.8 mile stretch of the stream, running from the border of Prince George’s County ... Show More

The Anacostia Watershed lies within the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin, and is one of the most urban watersheds within the basin. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the watershed spans over 175 square miles between Maryland and the District of Columbia and is considered by many to be one of the most degraded waterways in the United States. Watts Branch is a tributary stream of the Anacostia River, and flows into the Potomac River which eventually empties into the Chesapeake Bay. 

In 2010, several partnerships were formed to restore a section of the Watts Branch stream and riparian area. The restoration efforts were focused on a highly polluted 1.8 mile stretch of the stream, running from the border of Prince George’s County southwest towards the Anacostia River. The project was a collaborative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the District Department of the Environment (the District), the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (DCWSA), and several other locally based organizations. 

The main focus of the Watts Branch Restoration was to restore the eroded stream channel, which was responsible for depositing nearly 1,500 tons of sediment into the Anacostia Watershed each year. Using natural stream channel design, the stream was reconnected to the flood plain to prevent bank erosion as well as alleviate damage caused by seasonal flooding. Habitat was improved both within the stream channel as well as along the banks of the channel. In-stream structures were installed to improve riffle-pool habitat, and the riparian area, from the channel to the flats, was heavily planted with native grasses, shrubs, and trees to establish a forested area on both sides of the channel. Sanitary conditions were also improved along the stream. Due to seepage of gray water into the stream, as well as infiltration of the stream into sewage lines, over 40 sewer line crossings were replaced, moved, or lined to avoid stream contamination. 

The restoration resulted in several significant environmental impacts, including reducing erosion and sedimentation of the stream, and increasing floodplain storage. The restoration activities have provided necessary in-stream habitat improvements to support populations of American eel, alewife, and American shad. The restoration of the riparian area has provided improved habitat for several Federal Trust Species, including American flycatcher, willow flycatcher, prothonotary warbler, cooper’s hawk, barred owl, and great blue heron, to name just a few. 

Economic Impacts of Restoration.  Restoration of the Watts Branch stream began in December 2010 and was completed one year later. Through funding provided by the EPA, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the District, and DCWSA, restoring Watts Branch had a substantial impact on the local economy. Total restoration project costs were over $3 million (2011$). The majority of expenditures occurred in the mining and quarrying as well as the commercial and industrial machinery and equipment sectors, with nearly $450 thousand spent on rocks such as rip-rap and $425 thousand spent on equipment rental and leasing. The project also purchased nearly $150 thousand worth of nursery and landscape products from local producers.  

The local economy surrounding the project location includes 20 counties in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland within commuting distance of the D. C. metropolitan area. Due to the urban nature of this project and the wide local availability of materials, much of the money spent stayed within the local economy. The Watts Branch Restoration directly accounted for 26 jobs in the local communities surrounding the area and directly provided over $1.5 million in local labor income (salaries, wages, and benefits) and $1.5 million in local value added (the contribution of expenditures to Gross Domestic Product) to the local economy.  In addition to these direct impacts, the Watts Branch restoration indirectly supported an additional 19 jobs which provided an additional $1.1 million in labor income and $1.9 million in value added. In total, restoring Watts Branch supported 45 jobs, $2.6 million in labor income, and $3.4 million in valued added.   
  
Neighborhood Revitalization. Beyond the economic impacts of the restoration project, the community has benefitted from the restoration of the stream. The Watts Branch Restoration turned a degraded stream into an urban sanctuary within an underserved neighborhood of Washington, D.C., where green space and park space is limited.  In conjunction with the restoration of the stream, local communities have begun to see several other positive changes including the redevelopment of neighborhoods, utility upgrades, and recently completed street upgrades. Additionally, Washington Parks and People, also known as D.C. Green Corps, has begun using Watts Branch as an outdoor classroom to prepare an emerging green workforce for jobs in urban and community forestry and forest-based ecosystem and watershed restoration. Show Less

Contact(s): Catherine M Cullinane Thomas, Christopher C Huber.

Overview

Project Period: 2010-2011

Location: Washington, D.C.

Restoration Type: In-stream restoration,Riparian restoration

Lead Agency: Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

Economic Impacts
National Economic Impacts (2014 dollars):

Total Project Expenditures: $3,224,000


Job-Years: Not Available

Labor Income: Not Available

Value Added: Not Available

Economic Output: Not Available

Local Economic Impacts (2014 dollars):

Local Project Expenditures: $3,157,000

Percent of Project Expenditures Spent Locally: 98%

Local Job-Years: 44.5

Local Labor Income: $2,733,000

Local Value Added: $3,581,000

Local Economic Output: $6,355,000

Map
Images
Watts Branch urban restoration.jpg
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