Residents in the Cardinal Glen subdivision want something other than riprap.
The Cardinal Glen Homeowner's Association, Inc. (1 & 2) uses boulder-sized stones to slow the Cardinal Glen Stream traveling through the Sterling neighborhood, developed in the mid-1980s. The stream, which has experienced flooding and erosion in the past two decades, drains into Sugarland Run and eventually the Potomac River.
"Riprap is an inexpensive, wrong solution," said Eric Jeglum, a homeowner living in the Cardinal Glen neighborhood. "It's not the right way to do it, but it's a cheap solution. We've been doing it for years."
Riprap replaces the normal river bottom with large stones positioned to slow water flow and stabilize the river banks, preventing their erosion. Some of the neighbors have lost inches and feet of ground from the property fronting the banks.
"That solution is not as natural. It doesn't do a good job of preserving the ecology of the stream," said Matt Beres, managing director of community action for the Potomac Conservancy in Arlington.
The homeowners association (HOA) aims for a different solution with the Cardinal Glen Stream Stabilization Project (CGSSP), a pilot watershed management plan. The project involves evaluating the stream's existing conditions and identifying bank erosion, storm water runoff and flow velocities. The information will be used to establish a management plan to rehabilitate the stream by stabilizing the waterbed and banks and restoring vegetation.
"All these small little streams flow into the Potomac River eventually," Beres said. "If you do things to protect and improve the natural qualities of the streams, you're ultimately protecting the water quality of the Potomac River."
THE WORK of the CGSSP project will be conducted by the Cardinal Glen Stream Stabilization Project Advisory Board, which includes county representatives, non-profit groups and agencies that donated to the project, and stream water management experts.
About 20 Cardinal Glen residents turned out Saturday to kick off the stream stabilization project. Beres took the residents on a stream walk, pointing out the natural qualities, aquatic life and threats to the stream. "I was pointing out some simple things the neighbors could do to improve their stream and take ownership of it," he said. "The hope is a 'Friends of' would develop to take care of the stream."
"This is the big learning experience connecting homeowners together to learn how to care for the streams," said Catherine Lynner, Cardinal Glen HOA vice-president. "How do we fit all these HOAs together so we have one plan, one system?"
Several HOAs formed the Alliance of the Sugarland Run District HOAs to help develop and communicate solutions to water management problems. The pilot project may be used as a model for the rest of the Sugarland Run District and extended throughout eastern Loudoun, according to the proposal the CGSSP presented to the Finance and Government Services Committee in March.
"This could be applied to other beds of water," said Randy Sutliff, Leesburg attorney representing the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, which provided funding for the project. "This kind of retrofit is going to be needed elsewhere."
Supervisor Bill Bogard (R-Sugarland Run) agreed. "This is the first time we're trying to do a retrofit with the new comprehensive plan in the way we deal with storm water management," he said. "Here's an HOA trying to do the right thing. ... It's exceeded their abilities financially and technically, so the county needs to step up."
THE CARDINAL GLEN stream flows through what was a wooded area 25 years ago when rainwater could filter into the ground at a slower rate. Development added impervious surfaces, including paved roads and rooftops, that cannot absorb the water.
"As we change the basic environment, the water runs faster," Sutliff said. The natural stream is not designed to handle heavy surges of water flow in a short period of time, so silt ends up running downstream causing erosion. "The idea is to slow the surges down," he said.
The CGSSP may use softer bioengineering solutions to slow the water flow, relying on materials such as natural fibers, root wads or native plants and building rock walls to deflect water from eroded banks and reduce the impact from water flow, Beres said.
"You can do it cheap, or you can do it right," Jeglum said. "The HOA could only do so much, and it was never a solution."
The project will be funded through county funds and other contributions and carried out in part through volunteer labor. The Cardinal Glen HOA, Park View High School students and Boy Scouts of America Troop 970 will provide about 400 service hours.
The first phase of the stream restoration project is estimated at $68,000 with the design process costing $21,800 and construction $43,200 for a total of $65,000. CGSSP contracted Richmond company Environmental Quality Resources to design the project.
The majority of the dues members pay is used for stream improvements but is not enough to fund the entire project. The HOA's 119 members pay $80 a year for an annual income of $9,400. Annual expenses are $7,000, leaving about $14,000 in current capital.
The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation donated $25,000 to the Friends of Sugarland Fund for the project, matching the HOA's $25,000 contribution that includes grant funds. The Board of Supervisors will consider providing another $25,000 to match the foundation's donation.
Other funds may be raised when the Cardinal Glen HOA (1 & 2) merges with the Cardinal Glen HOA (3 & 4), a move expected next year. The merger will add another 66 homes.