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Total Area: 13,121 acres (20.5 mi2)
Average Imperviousness: 17%
Population: 49,000
Population Density: 2,390/mi2
Wetlands: 370 acres
Forest Cover: 36.4%
Deciduous: 3,106 acres
Coniferous: 360.7 acres
Mixed: 1,329 acres
Shrub/Scrub: 619 acres
Local Watershed Group: The Eyes of Paint Branch

Paint Branch is a free-flowing tributary of the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River; the stream joins the Northeast Branch at the Indian Creek confluence in College Park, Maryland. The subwatershed is generally bound by Spencerville Road (MD Route 198) to the north, U.S. Route 29 and Cherry Hill Road to the east, U.S. Route 1 and College Park Airport to the southeast, and New Hampshire Avenue (MD Route 650) to the west. Approximately 75 percent of the subwatershed lies within Montgomery County; whereas the remaining 25 percent is located in Prince George's County. Major Paint Branch tributaries include: Good Hope tributary, Gum Springs tributary, Left Fork tributary, Right Fork tributary, Fairland Farms tributary, Hollywood Branch tributary, Snowdens Mill tributary, Tanley Road tributary, Stewart April Lane tributary, Westfarm tributary, Hillandale tributary, College Park Woods tributary and Campus Creek.

Dominant Land Uses: Dominant land uses in the Paint Branch subwatershed include residential (42%), forest cover (26%), agricultural (12%), institutional (10%), and parkland (5%).

Physical Characteristics:Based on USGS 7.5 minute digital elevation model (DEM) data, the Paint Branch subwatershed is approximately 13,121 acres (20.5 mi2) in size and approximately 17 percent impervious. Elevations range from 560 feet at the Paint Branch/Patuxent River watershed divide to 35 feet at the confluence with the Northeast Branch. With an average gradient of 0.60 percent over 11.4 miles of the main stem, Paint Branch flows from its headwaters in the Piedmont physiographic province, through the Fall Line, into the Coastal Plain. The Fall Line or Zone represents the transitional area between the Piedmont Plateau and the Coastal Plain. It is characterized by an abrupt change in valley slope, with a corresponding increase in stream gradient, a boulder-strewn appearance, and small to medium-sized cataracts which act as a barrier to the upstream migration of anadromous fish species such as Alewife and Blueback herring. The Paint Branch Fall Line extends from approximately U.S. Route 29 downstream to just below Powder Mill Road (MD Route 212). Average baseflow for the lower Paint Branch main stem is estimated to be approximately 20-21 cubic feet per second.

Biological Characteristics: The Paint Branch subwatershed includes both MDE Use III and Use I stream designated areas. Concurrent with the post-1989 re-establishment of a forested riparian buffer along the stream, both fish and macroinvertebrate populations in the BARC main stem portion of Paint Branch have improved somewhat. Other major efforts in the subwatershed, which have included controlling stormwater quantity and quality, major stream valley park acquisition, restoring both tributary and main stem instream habitat, creating wetlands and riparian reforestation, have resulted in aquatic habitat rankings which are still partially supporting of reference conditions. In general, the aquatic community present in the upper Paint Branch is correspondingly healthier and more diverse than that found in the middle and lower portions of the subwatershed. Main stem macroinvertebrate populations typically remain impacted, scoring no better than 3.3 out of 5.0 points (fair range). Several physical barriers to both resident and anadromous fish movement and migration are present in the middle and lower Paint Branch main stem. These, as well as tributary-associated barriers have been identified and remain as a restoration challenge for this subwatershed.

Condition Summary: Paint Branch is one of the less densely urbanized subwatersheds within the Maryland portion of the Anacostia watershed. As of 2005, approximately 90-95 percent of the total subwatershed area had been developed. In addition, roughly 37 percent of the subwatershed remains forested. The majority of the upper and middle main stem and tributary portions of the stream are bordered by a broad buffer of parkland owned and maintained by the M-NCPPC; whereas, a narrower 35-50 foot buffer is generally present along the lower main stem and lower tributaries (e.g., Campus Creek and Guilford Run). In total, approximately 53 percent of the stream mileage present in the subwatershed has an adequate riparian forest buffer (i.e., 300-foot total width), which is confined almost exclusively to the upper two-thirds of the subwatershed.

Initial indications are that years of comprehensive stormwater management controls, parkland acquisition and main stem stream restoration efforts in the headwaters portion of the subwatershed have been partially successful in maintaining the Paint Branch brown trout fishery. The generally impaired condition of the aquatic biota that remains following these and other efforts in the subwatershed are attributable to the need for far greater stormwater management controls and instream restoration work. Planned future projects include, but are not limited to: stormwater management focusing on the employment of low impact development (LID) and environmentally sensitive design (ESD), wetland creation, aquatic and terrestrial habitat restoration, fish barrier modification/removal, invasive plant management, trash reduction and potentially tributary fish reintroductions.

To get involved in protecting your Anacostia subwatershed contact the Eyes of Paint Branch.