To the editor:
In a convoluted scenario typically satirized in a Carl Hiaasen novel, Alexandria’s now apparent backroom schemes for building the Potomac Yard Metro station are slated to destroy nearly five acres of wetlands and wildlife, including freshwater tidal wetlands. This was evidenced, in part, from a fairly routine FOIA where at least 704 emails of senior city staff were redacted.
This darling of a plan is known as Alternative B, or the city’s “Preferred Alternative,” as presented in the Environmental Impact Statement. Too bad no one knows about it or what it really entails.
In accordance with the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must issue a permit authorizing the wetland impacts before any construction may begin. The USACE permit is absolutely vital, and if the permit is denied the Metro station will not be constructed.
The city and the public have a lot riding on the permit.
Yet, the general public is unaware of the permit because the city has not properly informed the public and has instead kept the issue buried. Numerous Metro station schedules have been prepared, but the permit has not been included in those schedules.
Moreover, the Metro station website has provided only minimal information about the permit and no notice whatsoever was given when the USACE was soliciting public comment on the permit application.
The city’s lack of disclosure is inscrutable; the city behaves as if it has the permit in hand.
Why issue a Request for Proposals to design and construct an astronomically expensive metro station that may not be constructed? Why issue construction schedules that do not include the necessary permit that could rightfully stop such ill-conceived and destructive plans?
If one were so inclined, they might perhaps get the eerie feeling that somehow the city had secretly rigged the process, such as what must have transpired between some of city council (Vice Mayor Justin Wilson and councilor Paul Smedberg are both prominent in the FOIA), the city manager’s office, Senator Tim Kaine (who persistently bullied National Park Service officials to give up their land for the project) and the National Park Service itself – listed in order of influence, collusion and downright shame.
At the stage of the draft EIS, the NPS park superintendent adamantly opposed Alternative B because of impacts on the George Washington Parkway and wetlands. The superintendent wrote three letters to the city opposing the alternative.
However by the time the final EIS was issued, the city had agreed to provide NPS with $12 million dollars in offsite mitigation and the NPS regional director withdrew all objections.
We all know the “rest of the story,” as the late Paul Harvey used to say. What is yet in the balance is whether the USACE will deny the permit for the city to irresponsibly trash acres of wetlands, parkland and conservation easement for a project that has deviated far from its original scope, design and cost.
Our money’s on the USACE to do the right thing and deny this permit. It’s a no-brainer and the only ethical option.
-Kurt Flynn, Hal Hardaway, Alexandria