Our View: About time

Our View: About time
Oct. 29 flooding in Alexandria. (Photo/Olivia Anderson)

Kudos to the city for taking concrete action to mitigate the flash floods that have been plaguing parts of Alexandria, particularly Del Ray, in recent years.

As the officials interviewed in this week’s page one story, “Spots of flood mitigation,” state, increasing the size of curb cuts doesn’t solve the larger need for increased underground pipe capacity in the future. Increasingly frequent climate-fueled tropical rainstorms necessitate a long-term, larger fix. But the current spot projects will certainly help residents in the subsections of the city who have come to view impending rainstorms with great trepidation.

We have complained for several years, as have many residents, that the City of Alexandria wasn’t doing all it could to ease the suffering from “100-year” rain events in the short term.

Token amounts of the COVID-19 federal relief money that flowed into city coffers went to flood mitigation. The new stormwater fee (i.e. a new tax-by-another-name) that was foisted on city residents – and then promptly doubled – was used in part to pay salaries for existing employees from the Department of Transportation & Environmental Services, as well as for new hires.

Meanwhile, we heard from residents in Del Ray and the West End who were literally suffering from mental health crises from the toll of dealing with repeated flooding, which included human feces filling their basements during major rain events. This took place despite city leaders’ claims that Old Town is the only section of Alexandria where wastewater is impacted by rain events.

So, yes, part of our reaction is, “It’s about time.”

Despite our wish that constructive action had been implemented sooner, it is truly good news for all Alexandrians, not just Del Ray residents, that Commonwealth and then Mount Vernon avenues – and presumably surrounding streets – are going to drain better in the very near future.

We would also like to preempt a neighborhood vs. neighborhood response to the location of this work. Del Ray, along with residential areas near Strawberry Run, have been hardest hit by flooding that has gone to a new level in recent years. This is where the first spot repairs should be done.

We believe the twin causes of climate change and overdevelopment – with its attendant loss of wetlands and carbon-absorbing mature trees – have fueled our flooding woes. Given the current global climate and local political trajectories, it’s wise for city leaders to realize that pressures on our infrastructure not only aren’t going to ease – they’re going to get worse.

We noted a link several years ago when a bout of severe flooding in the Parkfairfax area followed closely on the heels of road repaving that left smaller drain openings. The drains, or inlets, after completion of the repaving were clearly inadequate. At the time, we questioned the oversight of the repaving project and wondered why the contractor wasn’t responsible for returning the openings to their original size.

While that’s now water under the bridge, we do hope that a corollary to this inlet-enlargement is a requirement written into all future repaving contracts that drain openings must be returned to their original size before payment is made.

And to those impacted by flooding in Del Ray, we hope this work leaves your basements dry and your minds at ease.