Citing “serious and irreparable damage to the environment,” Severn River Association and Chesapeake Conservancy opposed to Navy’s golf course expansion

The Severn River Association and Chesapeake Conservancy are opposed to a golf course expansion at Greenbury Point, according to a petition posted online Friday.

Both organizations are environmentally-focused and Greenbury Point is at the confluence of the Severn River, Whitehall Bay and Chesapeake Bay.

According to the petition, “Greenbury Point Conservation Area, one of the last remaining natural areas at the mouth of the Severn River on the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis and a popular public destination for nature lovers, runners, anglers and dog walkers, faces immediate risk for development into an exclusive golf course. Such a development would cause serious and irreparable damage to the environment.”

On May 4, the Navy indicated they received a proposal from the Naval Academy Golf Association (NAGA) to lease land with the “intent of expanding the U.S. Naval Academy Golf Course on federal land onboard Naval Support Activity (NSA) Annapolis.”

This statement came after the public had started to express concerns on social media about the possibility of a new golf course at Greenbury Point.

To date, no plans for the golf course expansion have been shared with the public.

In response to an inquiry about membership, NAGA indicated there are capacity issues with their existing 18 hole golf course and they’re not accepting new members, though they are accepting applications for the waitlist.

Though it’s not uncommon for golf courses to have capacity issues, not all are on federally protected and taxpayer-funded property.

According to the petition, “While many details remain unclear, the process by which the Naval Academy Golf Association submitted the golf course proposal to the Navy for consideration and approval has not clarified the issues for the public. Despite several contacts with Navy personnel by the Severn River Association and others, no specifics on the project have been offered to the public. The one meeting previously scheduled for community input was abruptly canceled after concerns about the proposal were raised in the press and on social media (Facebook Save Greenbury Point).”

The property is protected by the Sikes Act, which makes clears a lease or a sale would have to be compatible with the Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP) for the Naval Support Activity (NSA) Annapolis.

As previously reported and adding to the transparency issues, the INRMP for NSA Annapolis wasn’t posted publicly, as required by the Department of Defense (DoD).

This was rectified Thursday, after this reporter made the spokesperson at Naval District Washington aware of the DoD regulation that requires INRMPs to be posted publicly.

The Sikes Act is just one of the federal laws providing protection to Greenbury Point and the Chesapeake Bay – another, as previously reported, is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which would require an environmental assessment, like the one below, for proposed changes on the property.


The DoD must adhere to federal laws/regulations, as well as be consistent with some state and local laws when federal laws mandate it – such federal laws include the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) and the Clean Water Act.

According to the INRMP for NSA Annapolis, “Although federal lands and actions are exempt from state law jurisdiction, the CZMA requires activities on federal lands that are reasonably likely to affect use of lands or waters, or natural resources of the coastal zone beyond the boundaries of the federal property, to be consistent to the maximum extent practicable with consistency applies to any activity that is in, or affects land use, water use or any natural resource in the coastal zone, if the activity is conducted by or on behalf of a federal government agency, requires a federal license or permit, receives federal funding, or is a plan for exploration, development or production from any area leased under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (MDE 2004). The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Act, an enforceable policy of the Maryland CZMP, is a joint effort by state and local governments to address the impacts of land development on habitat and aquatic resources in the bay. In Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area designation extends 1,000 feet inland from the mean high water mark or from the edge of tidal wetlands and is intended to significantly limit development on properties along significant tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay (MDE 2007).”

The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) has communicated with NSA Annapolis about previous work at Greenbury Point including this statement – ” Failure to comply with these conditions shall constitute reason for suspension or revocation of the Water
Quality Certification, and legal proceedings may be instituted against the Certification Holder in accordance with the Annotated Code of Maryland. In granting this certification, the Department reserves the right to inspect the operations and records regarding this project at anytime.”


It’s not unheard of for a state to sue the federal government when federal agencies aren’t adhering to federal regulations – Maryland has done it before, including in recent history.

Also according to the NSA Annapolis INRMP, “In land use planning, environmentally sensitive designs and low-impact development (LID) are the first steps in watershed protection and in 2007, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Environment), signed a memorandum requiring the Navy to incorporate LID
into all major renovation and construction projects on installations. The Maryland Stormwater Management Guidelines for State and Federal Projects (MDE 2001) provides LID design standards and guidelines to reduce runoff and pollution from development projects. Recommended practices such as infilling and redevelopment within developed areas, minimizing impervious surfaces, preserving trees and green space, and use of native species in landscape design are presented.”

Building a new golf course might appear to some as contradictory to the NSA Annapolis INRMP, rather than compatible as is mandated.

“The maintenance needs of a golf course in terms of their fertilizer and pesticides is very intensive land use that could have significant detrimental impacts on the [Severn] river,”  stated Jesse Iliff, executive director of the Severn River Association.

“Developing Greenbury Point Conservation Area into a golf course is a bad deal for the Chesapeake Bay,” states the petition. ” Such a development would necessitate cutting a number of trees at a time when Maryland is trying to plant more trees both to reduce erosion and nutrient runoff to the Bay and combat climate change. Along with tree removal and habitat destruction, development would increase runoff of contaminated soils into the Bay’s waters, further challenging efforts to clean up and restore the health of the Bay.”

While the DoD has had less than an a stellar environmental history, it’s worth noting the agency has also played a role in helping natural resources thrive, including along the Chesapeake Bay.

At Greenbury Point, the communication towers, specifically the lead paint used on them, did create an environmental issue and cleanup work was done.

According to MDE, “Excavation of contaminated soil to meet removal action goals was completed in the 1st quarter of 2003. The site has been restored and reseeded with grasses recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”


The three remaining towers at Greenbury Point.

The petition states, “With a long history as a critical partner in myriad important conservation initiatives in and around Annapolis, this proposal risks jeopardizing the Navy’s important legacy if it moves forward as described.”

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Donna L. Cole is an award-winning multimedia and investigative reporter. She’s also a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

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