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RA Gains Full Funding of Watershed Plan

Last week was a watershed moment for the Reston Association (RA), literally. Thanks to a multi-million dollar donation by the Wetland Studies and Solutions, a stream restoration group, Reston’s $3.1 million watershed management plan will be funded at no cost to the association or its members, RA announced on Tuesday, Jan. 20. The donation could amount to as much as $7 million over 10 years and will reportedly include the restoration of all of Reston’s stream beds, not just those listed in the 2002 watershed action plan.

Charles Veatch, a board member of the Friends of Reston for Community Projects, the fundraising arm of RA, was instrumental in securing the grant, said Karen Monaghan, the RA communications director. A longtime Restonian, Veatch was one of the members of the original sales team for Reston in the early 1960s. “Each of the Friends of Reston board members have deep ties to the community and are dedicated to continuing Reston’s leadership among our nation’s planned communities,” said Joe Ritchey, the Friend board president, in a release announcing the deal. “Foremost among our board members, Chuck Veatch, took the lead in making this wonderful plan happen and he certainly worked very hard at it. [Veatch’s] love of Reston’s natural environment and his strong business sense provided the perfect mix for this stream restoration work to come to fruition for Reston.”

Veatch, the author of “The Nature of Reston,” credited his background in local real estate with helping to secure the deal, and given the tight economic climate facing RA and its members, Veatch said he knew how critical outside funding would be to follow through on the commitment to save and restore the community’s watershed. “I knew that Reston’s watershed management plan was in need of some serious financial resources to assist in repairing and preserving the watersheds,” Veatch said. “This project will take the financial burden off RA members entirely and could quite possibly result in the complete financing of all of the restorative work that is desperately needed in Reston.”

According to RA officials, it was during a meeting in 2003 between Veatch and Mike Rolband, president of Wetland Studies and Solutions, that talk of the deal first materialized. Rolband and Veatch, who have known each other for 15 years, came to Jerry Volloy, the RA executive vice president, with the idea of making Reston the beneficiary of some restorative work that needed to be completed by a developer for mitigation credits. “They came to me with an offer that I couldn’t refuse,” Volloy said. “And certainly it is that.

“This Reston project presents some professional challenges, mainly because of its size and scope. A typical stream restoration project is small, as they more commonly involve solving specific problem areas or mitigation for a specific project impact, with limited size due to the limits of the project funding and mitigation needs,” Rolband said. “This is an exciting opportunity to be able to address the needs of an entire watershed in one coordinated effort.”

Susan Jones, RA president, praised the agreement, calling it a landmark step in the preservation and restoration of Reston’s watershed. “The restoration work that will be done in Reston on the watersheds will serve as a model for Fairfax County, which is embarking on a similar effort, as well as for other communities throughout the county,” Jones said. “Reston is once again at the forefront, taking a leadership role on this very important issue.”

Reston’s representative on the Board of Supervisors, Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) agreed that the deal was important in securing Reston’s environmental future and she welcomed the “creative” funding partnership between NVSR and RA. “This is a remarkable funding opportunity for the important work that is needed in Reston’s watershed. Given the enormity of the project and the associated costs, there has been legitimate concern about how we would be able to complete the work that is needed,” Hudgins said. “This new partnership with NVSR ensures that most, if not all of the work, will eventually get done. I couldn’t be happier about the news.”

Ken Andrews, chair of RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee, also hailed the news. “I had always hoped that we would be able to get this outside funding but at the same time I also believe that until we have that funding that RA should plan on paying their own way for our watershed,” Andrews said. “As an RA member and dues payer, I am thrilled about this announcement.”

THE NORTHERN VIRGINIA Stream Restoration (NVSR), will manage the project while RA staff will coordinate the project under the guidance of officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality, RA officials said.

The agreement with NVSR is part of a larger wetland and stream mitigation process established when the EPA issued the Federal Mitigation Banking Guidance in 1995. The purpose of the process is to require developers to mitigate detrimental, but authorized, impacts to wetlands or streams. The stream mitigation bank program allows private organizations to restore degraded streams to more natural condition in return for the right to sell “mitigations credits” to developers who, in order to complete certain aspects of their projects, are required to mitigate those impacts made to wetlands.

An expensive endeavor, the Army Corps of Engineers recently estimated that construction costs for stream mitigation range from$125 to $200 per foot, not including design costs.

RA officials said that all work will be done free of charge and NVSR will end up paying about $225,000 over the course of the 10-year project to cover staffing costs. The fees will be placed in the general fund, said Larry Butler, the RA parks and recreation director.

RA does not know if other watershed restoration work that is needed will be included in the project. The creation of bio-retention areas, rain gardens and flood plain diverters may be added to the project, Butler added. The first phase of work will begin with restoration of more than 2,000 linear feet of the Snakeden Branch stream sometime in late 2004 or early 2005, RA announced.

“This opportunity stems from the decision to move forward with development of our watershed management plan,” said Volloy. “The plan outlined the problems in our watershed, mapped our streams, defined what needed to be done to resolve those problems and stipulated the priorities that should be established.”

Because past RA boards had put money into the plan, Volloy said that RA was in a better position to take advantage of grants such as the one announced last week. “The Watershed Management Plan has already provided close to $100,000 for RA, and this stream restoration agreement with NVSR could very well result in over $7 million worth of future work to repair our streams and watersheds with Reston at no cost to RA,” Volloy said. “This agreement also allows us to focus budget dollars to other high priority areas. It is truly a momentous opportunity for Reston.”

Andrews agreed. “When we started on the original white paper that led to the watershed master plan, we believed that if we had a good plan in hand, that we could leverage that into funding grants that would help with getting the work done in the ground,” explained the chair of RA’s environmental committee.