To the editor:
For the moment, Alexandria has dropped its plans to reconstruct two local waterways – Taylor Run along King Street and Strawberry Run along Fort Williams Parkway – as part of its strategy to meet its Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction goals and has found other ways to reach these goals. This is good news, both for the Chesapeake Bay and for Alexandria’s natural environment.
It’s good news for the bay because soil samples from the banks of Taylor Run and Strawberry Run show far lower levels of pollutants – phosphorus and nitrogen – than the city had estimated when it proposed the projects, and thus there are better ways to reduce pollution flows into the bay. It’s good news for the city’s natural environment because now hundreds of trees will not be cut down and a unique and rich wetland next to Taylor Run will not be endangered.
Kudos are in order for Mayor Justin Wilson and City Council for keeping an open mind and accepting input from concerned and informed citizens. Last April, at the urging of the Environmental Policy Commission and members of the community, council directed city staff to test the phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the stream banks and look for alternatives to stream reconstruction. The city took the soil samples, realized the banks had low pollutant levels and found other and better ways to meet its Chesapeake Bay goals.
The city’s decision not to include the Taylor Run and Strawberry Run reconstruction projects in its current pollution reduction credit plans is fact-based and the right one. It’s also unique in the Washington metropolitan area, where other jurisdictions have not been nearly as good at seriously considering comments from the public questioning some of the assumptions that underlie stream reconstruction projects.
There may still need to be work done at Taylor Run and Strawberry Run to address some infrastructure needs. How that will occur will be subject to a mediation process established by the city to consider views of city staff, the EPC and community representatives. But wholesale reconstruction of those two streams appears to be off the table for now and should stay off the table. The city is still proposing to reconstruct Lucky Run, and we expect that proposal to be subject to the mediation process as well.
The resolution of this hotly-contested issue shows that city engagement with the community and advisory bodies such as the EPC, ably led by Chair Kathie Hoekstra, can produce positive outcomes even on complex and controversial matters.
-Russ Bailey, Bill Gillespie, Jeremy Flachs, Carter Flemming, Rawles Jones, Alexandria