Work Begins on Watershed Project

Work Begins on Watershed Project

Developers will pay for almost $7 million worth of stream restoration in Reston over next decade.

An 10-year effort to restore every stream in Reston has started, with officials hoping the project will substantially reduce the amount of pollution flowing into the community's lakes and the Difficult Run Watershed.

The multi-million dollar project is being coordinated by the Reston Association and is overseen by representatives from state and federal environmental regulatory agencies.

"We're just really happy that this project is happening," said Diana Saccone, RA's watershed manager. "We're looking forward to getting all of our streams restored."

Restorations are underway for the Snakeden Branch stream, which feeds into the Difficult Run Watershed and Lake Audubon. Snakeden Branch is considered Reston's most degraded stream, Saccone said.

Development in the area has increased rainwater runoff into the stream over the last several years, significantly increasing the water's flow and enabling trash, silt and chemicals to feed into the lake, Saccone said.

"We try to recreate the geometry of the stream to re-accommodate the water flow," she said.

The Snakeden fix-ups include raising the stream's bottom and grading back the banks, widening the stream so more water can flow into the flood plain, Saccone said.

NORTHERN VIRGINIA Stream Restoration, an environmental consulting entity specializing in wetland restoration and enhancement, is conducting the overall improvements to Reston's waterways.

Also overseeing the process are representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Over the next decade, the project is expected to cost as much as $7 million. If things go as planned, however, RA members will not be tapped to pay for any of the effort.

Using a federal regulation in the Clean Water Act that requires developers to mitigate a stream when they divert or destroy a stream elsewhere, a plan has emerged for developers to restore all of Reston's streams.

"This is an out-of-the-box-thinking partnership that became a win-win for everyone involved," said Chuck Veatch, a longtime Reston resident who helped negotiate the deal with the environmental consulting firm, Wetlands Studies and Solutions, Inc. late last year and in early January.

Because streams are rarely owned by one person or entity, developers have had difficulty finding streams to repair since the law changed six months ago. In Reston, RA owns all of the streams, so developers would only have to deal with one body.

Wetlands Studies and Solutions is mapping and photographing the streams and will knit together a bank of streams ready for mitigation. So, when developers destroy or divert streams elsewhere, they then pay the environmental consultants to fix up one of Reston's streams.

As the Dulles Rail Project moves forward and as other Fairfax County projects get underway, Reston's waterways be the direct beneficiaries, Veatch said.

"This is going to be a huge benefit to Reston," he said.

MIKE ROLBAND, the environmental consultant who worked with Veatch and RA to devise the restoration plan, said he hopes to have everything mapped and up for approval by this winter. Construction, he said, is scheduled to begin sometime next summer.

"We're planning to eventually restore 29 miles of streams in Reston," he said.

Using the Rolband's conglomeration of streams awaiting restoration by developers, RA is saving as much as $150 to $200 per square foot for restoration, Veatch said.

"RA is desperate to get their streams restored," he said. "And this is going to save them millions."

Veatch, one of Reston's original real estate agents, sits on the Friends of Reston Board of Directors, RA's fundraising arm.