MALLOWS BAYLa Plata, MD – The proposal by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create a national marine sanctuary at Mallows Bay on the western shore of Charles County is strictly in the hands of the federal government, citizens were told at the commissioners’ town hall meeting Tuesday, June 20.

Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson [D-District 1] told the assemblage that NOAA is considering one of four options for the proposed river sanctuary, where almost 200 ships from the World War I era were placed following that conflict.

Option C, which would place 54 square miles of the Potomac River in sanctuary status, appears to be the primary choice of the federal agency and the commissioners as well.

Robinson said the feds are reviewing every comment made at the March 7 public hearing held in La Plata, “pro, con and in-between.

“The governor can weigh in as well,” Robinson noted. “Ultimately, NOAA has the final say.

“They’re going through every single comment made by every person who weighed in,” he added.

Despite assurances from NOAA facilitator Sammy Orlando that recreational and commercial fishermen would be unaffected by the proposal, commercial watermen turned out in droves at the March 7 hearing, some driving an hour-and-a-half from Virginia, to hammer away in opposition to the proposal.

Orlando explained that the agency is in the middle of the process of making the resting place of some 118 vessels, most of which date to World War I, the 14th such sanctuary in the country. The process still has a long way to go, he admitted. Citizens spoke for and against the proposal.

“We are at least a year away after all of these public comments are over,” he said March 7. “Overwhelmingly, people were in favor of a national marine sanctuary. There were some concerns and those things came out loud and clear. We heard loudly and clearly, do not mess with recreational and commercial fishermen. Also, don’t mess around with local land use planning. Don’t mess with recreational fossil hunting. In fact, we are not messing with recreational fossil hunting.”

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com