The Potomac River watershed includes Washington, D.C., and counties in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. It drains more than 15,000 square miles, contributes 20% of the freshwater to the Chesapeake Bay, and is the second largest contributor of nutrients from agricultural runoff. Within the Potomac River priority area, there are two areas of concentration: the upper reaches and the lower reaches of the watershed.
The upper reaches are characterized by an agriculture-based landscape with gradient issues that lend themselves to private lands programs, which focus on classic riparian work and wetland restoration where possible. In this part of the watershed, habitat work indirectly affects waterfowl via water quality in the Bay, improving SAV for diving ducks. In the lower reaches, conservation activities directly affect habitat for staging and wintering waterfowl. Several approaches are possible: target restoration of small freshwater wetlands on both public and private lands and develop management regimes on old impoundments designed for fall migrants to meet the needs of spring migrants. Protection of key tracts of land will benefit waterfowl habitat and water quality throughout the watershed. The majority of effort should be focused on the lower reaches.The restoration focus in this watershed is to increase wetland function in the lower portion of the watershed and to maintain current efforts on riparian restoration in the upper reaches.
Restoration of palustrine emergent and forested wetlands will also benefit water quality issues. Restoration in the lower reaches will benefit breeding waterfowl, primarily mallards, as well as enhance wintering and migratory habitat for mallards, American black ducks, canvasbacks, scaup, and other diving ducks. In the upper reaches, American black ducks and mallards will benefit from the increase in palustrine emergent and forested wetlands. Breeding and migrating populations of wood ducks will also utilize restored wetlands and riparian areas.