When the base of Old Town flooded during Hurricane Isabel in 2003, most Alexandrians didnt realize that the Police and Fire Department were busy rescuing dozens of residents who were trapped in their homes by six feet of fast-rising water two miles to the south.
The Belle View/New Alexandria community, just across the G.W. Parkway from the Belle Haven Marina, has been nicknamed the Brussels of Alexandria by disaster response officials because it lies just 35 inches above sea level.
Isabels 9-foot tidal surge overwhelmed this community of 1940s brick homes and low-rise apartments. It destroyed over 50 homes, severely damaged many more, totaled 200+ cars, displaced hundreds of residents and caused millions of dollars in damage. Only through the heroic efforts of our police officers and fire fighters was no one killed.
Sadly, Isabel was the third hurricane (others in 1933 and 1972) to totally flood this neighborhood of over 2,000 households. And despite four studies, no major flood protection project came close to being built until now. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented a new and comprehensive study at a March 18 public meeting. It said a sloping grassy berm about 40 feet wide and varying from 3-6 feet high along the west side of the Parkway, along with flood gates for the street openings and a pumping station, would prevent another Isabel, at a total cost of $12.7 million.
The citizen associations representing New Alexandria, Belle View Condos, and River Towers Condos have joined with the Belle View Shopping Center merchants to advocate for $800,000 in federal and local funds to conduct a Feasibility Study, which includes an environmental analysis, to determine if this project is fully viable. Congressman Jim Moran, our champion, has been fighting to appropriate the study funds in the House of Representatives.
Citizens who agree that this project justifies further study are encouraged to email Senator Jim Webbs appropriations staff ([email protected]) and his counterpart with Senator John Warner ([email protected] warner.senate.gov) to say you support conducting a Feasibility Study of the Belle View Flood Project.
John Giglio, MA, JD, is president of the Belle View Coalition. He lives in Belle View. For further information, contact the Belle View Area Coalition at [email protected].