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Speak Out

Signing documents Sometimes, standing up for the local environment is as simple as writing a letter. Photo | Katy Cain 

Speak Out:
Where we work

What we care about

Action Alerts:
Local | Washington, DC
Local | Montgomery County, MD
State | Maryland

Learn more:
RCC Advocacy One-Pager 
Conservancy E-News Letter 

Where We Work:

Rock Creek Conservancy advocates on public policy issues and projects or activities that support our mission of restoring Rock Creek and its parklands as a natural oasis for all people to appreciate and protect. As our membership represents a broad cross-section of residents across political interests, we are nonpartisan in our activities. We do not endorse any one political party or candidate, but rather work with government officials at the local, state, and federal levels to improve conditions in Rock Creek and Rock Creek Park.

Depending on your location, advocacy opportunities may vary, so we encourage you to join our email list to stay in-the-know!

It's all connected. Rock Creek is part of the much larger Chesapeake Bay watershed. Image from

Washington, D.C. 

The primary agency in the District of Columbia concerning Rock Creek is the District Department of the Environment (DDOE). The National Park Service (NPS) oversees Rock Creek Park, a national park located entirely within the District of Columbia. For more information or to express your concerns about matters related to the park, click here.

You can find your elected representatives in Montgomery County using the map above. Click the box in the upper left corner of the map to toggle different options that allow you to view your state or federal representatives.

Montgomery County, MD

In Montgomery County, Rock Creek flows through parkland land administered by the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission. Furthermore, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has environmental responsibilities in our watershed.


What we care about: 

A win for clean water is a win for Rock Creek! Rock Creek faces many threats that are unique to the urban landscape, but it also faces threats outside of the city. 

What we care about

Rock Creek is primarily surrounded by an urban landscape in Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, MD.

Some Major Threats:
- Urban stormwater
- Impervious surfaces
- Combined sewer overflows
- Bacterial contamination
- Human use and impact

Just outside of the city is a rural landscape that affects the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, both watersheds of which Rock Creek is an important part.

Some Major Threats:
- Fertilizer pollution
- Pesticide pollution
- Streambank erosion

When trees are at risk, so is our water. When trees are removed from the landscape, we lose our most effective water filter and erosion prevention mechanism.

Some Major Threats:
- Land development
- Invasive species
- Streambank erosion




Action Alerts and Hot Issues 

Washington, DC and Rock Creek Park

Check back soon for updates. 

Montgomery County, Maryland

 Septic Surveys: Promoting Sewer Extensions in Low Density & Rural Areas is Not Smart Growth

Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Permitting Services (DPS) are conducting flawed “septic surveys” in a back-door effort to sprawl sewer lines into low density and rural areas.

Sewer sprawl jeopardizes clean water in Montgomery County.


These maps show that our clean streams are at stake in the Council’s vote on the Water and Sewer Plan, set for March 6, 2018.The map on the left is DEP’s Stream Conditions map. The blue and green clean stream areas are in the Agricultural Reserve and its low-density residential buffer. The map on the right is DEP’s Septic System location map. The red areas are the ones served with on-site septic systems. The area colored green is the urban and suburban wedge, served with sewers. Master plans, sound science, smart growth principles, and the public interest demand that we stop sewer sprawl into our clean stream areas. Instead, we must help homeowners to better-maintain existing on-site sanitation systems. 

The issue: Special interest groups are promoting the use of these “septic surveys” to convert lots from septic systems to sewer service.

What's at stake? Once sewer service is made available, water quality and the environment inevitably degrade due to rezoning and higher density development. The resulting increased impervious surfaces promote increased stormwater runoff that degrades streams with sediment and contaminants. WSSC has already proposed an $83M move of the Potomac Water Filtration Plant’s water intake to avoid stormwater-borne contaminants caused by sewer-enabled high-density development. We must, again, tell the County that clean drinking water matters!

  • Neighborhoods on septic systems are in the Agricultural Reserve and its low-density buffer areas such as in Potomac, Boyds, Olney, Cloverly, and Damascus.
  • Our cleanest streams and well-water drinking water supplies are in these same areas that are served with septic systems.
  • Where sewer pipes go, urban development follows.  In contrast, septic systems enable the Ag Reserve and its buffer neighborhoods to remain rural.
  • County Master Plans and clean water commitments require us to maintain the Agriculture Reserve and its buffer areas with infrastructure (roads and sanitation systems) that are appropriate to rural and low-density areas - septic systems and rural roads, not sewer pipes and highways.
  • If we allow sewer and highway project incursions into our low-density areas and the Agriculture Reserve itself, we will "lose the store" - we will wave goodbye to the clean water that these areas supply

Is there a solution that will meet protect our streams and meet low-density area's sanitation needs? Yes. 

  • Well-maintained on-site waste treatment systems including septic systems can function indefinitely with effective inspections and homeowner practices.
  • In contrast, the vast majority of County streams are degraded by sewer-enabled sprawl and polluted by leaking and overflowing sewer pipes.

How can you take action?

Call your representatives TODAY and tell them to support the Elrich Amendment. We particularly need to let district 4 councilwoman, Nancy Navarro, know that her constituents want to stop sewer sprawl. 

Find your representatives  here. 

What does the Elrich Amendment do? 

a) Sets up a County-led septic owner outreach and assistance program. 

b) Restricts the Septic Area Surveys - now used by DEP and DPS to promote sewer sprawl - to only those properties with documented septic failures or imminent failures.

Prepared by Montgomery Coalition to Stop Sewer Sprawl*
(*affiliated with the Montgomery County Stormwater Partners Network)

More Materials:
Action Alert Flyer 
Myths and Facts about Septic Systems 
Elrich Amendment 



Hot Issues in Maryland 

Update and Improve the Forest Conservation Act | SB0610

Marylands forests are at risk due to an ineffective Forest Conservation Act that needs major updating. From 2008 to 2016 developers cut down 14,480 acres of forest in Maryland without replanting them.

In 2017, the Conservancy signed the Chesapeake Bay Foundation testimony in support of strengthening the act to help stop forest losses from development. Unfortunately, this bill stalled in committee but RCC continues to help push for an updated Forest Conservation Act in 2018.

This legislation will plant one acre of forests for each acre that is chopped down, reduce exemptions for energy facilities and utility lines, and provide more flexibility for fee programs for counties and municipalities. Tell your legislators "more trees, please!"


Phase Out Polystyrene Foam Food Packaging Across Maryland | HB 0538 

On January 1, 2016, the Montgomery County styrofoam ban went into effect, but we are still pushing for a Maryland wide Styrofoam Ban which would more thoroughly protect Rock Creek and the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River watersheds.

Did you know styrofoam is one of the most common forms of litter in Maryland? We stand with Trash Free Maryland and support the phase-out of polystyrene foam food packaging across the state. Eliminating foam puts us one step closer to more fishable and swimmable water. Download a fact sheet here so you can contact your legislators and tell them you support this change!


Rock Creek on a Federal Scale: 

Sometimes legislation on a national scale has significant impacts on the issues in Rock Creek. Check back soon for updates.

For more information, download Rock Creek Conservancy's advocacy one-pager.

Advocacy One Pager