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W.Va. woman to protect Chesapeake

February 10, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Looking at a map, it's easy to spot the Chesapeake Bay. It's that massive body of water that nearly splits Maryland in two.

Not so obvious is the fact that what happens in the Tri-State area affects the bay. Local streams that meander through fields, woodlands and back yards and under roads often end at the Potomac. The Potomac, in turn, flows into the bay.

"Anything that goes into the Potomac goes into the bay," said Twila Carr, a Martinsburg woman hired by the state's Department of Environmental Protection to organize and coordinate cleanup efforts of streams and rivers. Her formal title is Potomac Basin coordinator.

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Many watershed and different groups organize cleanups of local waterways. Carr said she is in charge of making sure no duplication exists. She was named to the newly created position in mid-January.

Many of the bay's problems can be traced to excessive nutrients and sedimentation, said Carr, 45.

Too many nutrients in the water can inhibit sunlight and oxygen from reaching the bottom of streams, which kills fish.

Soil erosion has caused streams to become more shallow and wider, leading to more sediment, Carr said.

People can help. Farmers can keep their cattle from entering streams, and grass can be planted in forests near streams to prevent more runoff, she said.

Growth in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia presents another set of challenges. Bulldozers making way for new homes also make it more likely soil will run off into streams. And wastewater is also going into water supplies, Carr said.

Carr, who is in charge of the eight-county Eastern Panhandle region, said she will work from an office in her home.

Before she was named the Potomac Basin coordinator, Carr worked since 1991 at the Berkeley County Health Department as the chief of environmental health. Carr's former position there will now be handled by two employees because of the county's growth. One sanitarian will handle food-related matters, while the other will handle sewage-related issues, said Health Department Administrator Jay Jack.

"It's literally too much of a job for one person to handle effectively," Jack said.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed covers 64,000 square miles, including parts of West Virginia, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. More than 3,500 square miles - about 15 percent of West Virginia - drains into the Bay through the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.

The goal of the Chesapeake Bay Program, formed in 1983, is to combine efforts to restore and protect the watershed, according to a press release from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Anyone interested in cleanup efforts should call Carr at 1-304-267-0173.

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