Blackwater Resort Communities Development
April 18, 2007: The Maryland Board of Public Works voted on April 18 to purchase approximately 70% of
the land that developer Duane Zentgraf had acquired for his development project called Blackwater Resort Communities.
According to the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources, "Funded by Program Open Space, this transaction will
allow for the preservation and restoration of more than two-thirds of a 1,072-acre parcel slated for
development on Marylandís Eastern Shore...Under an agreement with the State, the sellers, Thomas Land Group, LLC and Egypt Road LLC, will limit
development on the remaining 328 acres to 675 houses -- a 75 percent reduction from the originally
approved 2,700-unit Blackwater Resorts Development -- and use bio-retention and other best management
practices to provide for stormwater control measures able to manage a 10-year storm event...The sellers have also agreed to contribute more than $1.9 million to implement an extensive site restoration
plan devised by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Dorchester County Soil Conservation
District. The restoration will provide for substantial water quality improvements through riparian forest
buffer and wetland establishment, creation of diverse wildlife habitats, and implementation of
state-of-the-art agricultural best management practices." The final contract will be signed on May 25.
Visit the following links for more information:
MD Dept. of Natural Resources press release
Chesapeake Bay Foundation press release
During the summer of 2005, developer Duane Zentgraf received
approval from the Maryland Department of Planning for a request to develop
property near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
At this time
the project includes a residential area of 2,700 single-family and multi-family homes,
100-room hotel/conference center, golf course, and a retail center. Within the project zone are
313 acres of "Critical Area" land, which includes a designated "Resource Conservation Area" and "Habitat
Cambridge Mayor Cleveland Rippons has stated that the Cambridge area is in
need of economic stimulus and the Blackwater housing project is a solution, while local environmental organizations have stated
that this project does not follow the "Smart Growth" approach that Maryland has
traditionally followed, as the Blackwater Resort development is far from the Cambridge town center or
already developed areas.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff at Blackwater Refuge
have not opposed the project but have voiced serious concerns about its impact
on the Little Blackwater River, which forms the northern boundary of the project site. The Little Blackwater River drains into Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, and
the river is designated as a "Wetland of Special State Concern" and "Locally Significant Habitat."
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge itself has been classified as a "Wetlands of International Importance"
by the Ramsar Convention and has also been recognized as an "Internationally Important Birding Area."
The Refuge provides habitat to the largest population of nesting American bald eagles in the
Chesapeake Bay region and also provides habitat for ospreys and other wildlife that rely on clean river habitat.
The potential environmental impacts of the project include: excessive stormwater run-off containing multiple pollutants; impact on large wetland
areas caused by construction runoff; "Critical Area" buffer encroachment; and impacts to endangered species,
which include the Delmarva fox squirrel and the American lotus.
In addition, there is concern that the increase in impervious surfaces resulting
from the project could impact water quality and fish populations, which will directly
affect raptor populations at the Refuge.
Blackwater Refuge Senior Biologist Dixie Birch states, "We have analyzed the changes
to impervious surfaces that the Blackwater Resort Communities development will
have on the Little Blackwater River watershed by working with the Environmental Protection Agency
modeling system called "NEMO". This development project will increase the
impervious surfaces of the Little Blackwater River by 12 to 13%."
"Previous scientific studies by Galli in 1994 and the Center for Watershed
Protection in 2000 have clearly demonstrated that when the impervious surfaces
in a watershed exceed 10%, there is a sharp decline in fish populations and water
The Blackwater Refuge staff have recommended to the Maryland Senate that there should be
a baseline study and inventory of the natural resources and water quality and
quantity conditions of the Little Blackwater River. They urged that the study
cover these topics:
- Water quality
- Water quantity
- Fisheries communities
- Bethic communities
- Plant communities
- Avian communities
- Wildlife communities
If you would like to know more about the concerns of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, please
read the following documents:
- Testimony by Blackwater Manager Glenn Carowan, Jr.
- Testimony by Blackwater Refuge Senior Biologist Dixie Birch
- Letter of concern from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
John Wolflin, Supervisor, Chesapeake Bay Field Office
Steve Minkkien, Project Leader, Maryland Fisheries Resource Office
Glenn Carowan, Project Leader, Chesapeake Marshlands Complex