Letter to the Editor: Citizen group forms again to save PY wetlands

Letter to the Editor: Citizen group forms again to save PY wetlands

To the editor:

Forty years ago, a citizen group named the Daingerfield Island Protective Society stopped an interchange from being built off the George Washington Memorial Parkway into Potomac Yard, near where the City of Alexandria wants to build a new Metro station today. In 2018, it is the Environmental Council of Alexandria, or ECA, that is trying to protect the same remnant marshland.

Once again, wetlands and the historic character of the Parkway are being threatened by a development that requires the approval of the National Park Service. As in 1978, the NPS has approved a project that will harm a fragile natural resource that belongs to every American.

Once again, real estate interests and city officials are trying to build on land that should not be developed because of the site’s significant aquatic biodiversity, scenic value and importance to the health of Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

Once again, the NPS and the city are failing to compensate Alexandrians for the permanent ecological damage that will come with a major construction project. As in 1978, Dyke Marsh was the “go-to marsh” for mitigation, though it now appears that the NPS is angling to restore “something” along the C&O Canal in Maryland.

Once again, Alexandria is in danger of losing these wetlands and the scenic character of the parkway because development is valued more highly than the environment and history.

In 1978, former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall was trying to help the developers. One wonders which politicians have pressured the NPS to approve this project today. Alexandria officials are trying to convince citizens that this project has undergone a thorough and impartial environmental review. The facts indicate the opposite conclusion.

The ECA has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to deny the city’s request for a Clean Water Act permit that would allow them to fill in these wetlands for the purpose of constructing a Metro station. Last week, the DEQ informed us that the City of Alexandria would have to submit a new permit application because of the serious issues we have raised.

The ECA has also asked the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to evaluate impacts to tidal wetlands in the area, which the city’s consultant Kimley-Horn failed to identify in their surveys. A hundred years ago, Daingerfield Island was surrounded by a tidal freshwater marsh. Remnants of that marsh still exist along the GW Parkway. Destroy these wetlands and you harm the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay too.

Alexandria is now trying to use the arrival of Amazon and the Virginia Tech Innovation campus to speed up a flawed site selection process. There is nothing innovative or environmentally sound about bulldozing wetland habitat that has existed since the last Ice Age. The fact is, the Metro station could, and should, be constructed elsewhere in the new National Landing.

We are not opposed to expanding Metro ridership, but we are adamantly against destroying these wetlands to accomplish that goal. ECA intends to do whatever it can to prevent their destruction. We encourage all Alexandrians to join us in this fight.

– Andrew Macdonald, Katy Cannady, Vineeta Ananad, Erin Winograd, ECA Board Members