Anthony Wayne Smith is a small, pleasant man who "has reached the point where I do not release my age," as he puts it. He is the president and general counsel of the National Parks and Conservation Association.
Smith is referred to with great respect and awe by area water engineers as "Mad Anthony Wayne Smith." He led the charge that stopped the damming of the Potomac River after the Corps of Engineers proposed 16 such projects in 1962.
"I don't know why they would call me mad," Smith said, "but I do enjoy the platform." He does not deny standing up in a public hearing recently and telling the dam builders, "We have stopped you for 25 years, and we'll stop you for another 25 years." There are witnesses.
"If you get a flood," Smith said, "The Corps of Engineers recommends building a dam. If you have a water shortage, the Corps of Engineers recommends building a dam. Are motorboats more important than fishing a natural stream valley?"
Smith still owns a farm in Franklin County, Pa., in the upper reaches of the Potomac Basin. "There would have been six reservoirs in that area," he said.
He and others organized a coalition as odd as any put together to fight the dams in the early 1960s. It included the Sierra Club and the United Automobile Workers, the C&O Canal Association and the National Grange.
Smith and his group pushed for the use of the Potomac's Tidal Estuary as a natural reservoir for Washington's water supply.
"Public opinion has changed," he said. "There is not much left to the philosophy of dam building on the Potomac."
The Bloomington, Dam, the only one of the orginal 16 under construction, "is a waste" in Smith's view. "The thing to do now is turn that valley into a two-state park. Then use the money we saved to seal up the abandoned mine shafts."
Those shafts, the source of acid mine pollution, have made the upper Potomac a dead river.