Forum Tackles Watershed

Forum Tackles Watershed

Issues impacting the Cameron Run Watershed and its contribution to Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay pollution problems were put under the public microscope this past Saturday by citizens assembled at Holmes Middle School, 6525 Montrose St., Alexandria.

As part of Fairfax County's ongoing program to clean up its 30 watersheds, The Cameron Run Watershed Plan was the subject of a community forum to obtain comments from those most affected and to apprise them of the steps needed to advance the clean-up process.

Under the aegis of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Stormwater Planning Division, the first Watershed Forum initiated by the county dealt with Little Hunting Creek. It has served as a model for all the others. The Cameron Run plan is being performed by Versar, Inc., Columbia, Md.

Each forum, which is approximately five hours long, is divided into two segments. The first, known as the "Watershed Academy," deals with existing conditions of the watershed and what can be done about it.

THE SECOND SEGMENT brings attendees directly into the planning process through a series of moderator-led break-out discussion groups. The concluding session focuses on reports from those groups which become part of the overall suggested solution.

Cameron Run Watershed covers 42 square miles in the area south of I-66; west of Falls Church, Arlington and Alexandria to the Capital Beltway; and south to Franconia Road and Kings Highway. It includes the major streams of Tripps Run, Holmes Run, Backlick Run, Indian Run, Turkeycock Run, Pike Branch, and Cameron Run Mainstream. Also encompassed are Barcroft and Fairview lakes.

Draining an area that is 95 percent developed, storm conditions of the watershed range from "poor to very poor," according to the department's literature.

Saturday's meeting was a follow-up to the initial Cameron Run Watershed session held on June 17. Each plan has several public forums to receive and refine public input. The results of the overall watershed studies will be presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors upon completion.

Breakout sessions are usually divided by areas of the watershed so that citizens have an opportunity to deal with situations in the areas where they reside. Saturday's groups were divided by North, Central, and South subwatersheds.

Each group dealt with the following questions:

* What watershed problems do you care about most?

* Where are these problems? Locate them on the large-scale maps of Cameron Run subwatersheds.

* What solutions do you recommend?

* Which areas are good candidates for stormwater controls, stream restoration, and other solutions?

A CAMERON RUN Advisory Committee, composed of citizens who live or work in the watershed area, has identified a preliminary list of watershed issues, according to the consultant. They have, in conjunction with county and consultants, met on a monthly basis to assist in developing the plan.

Identified issues were combined into 10 general topics:

* Impervious surfaces

* Loss of riparian buffer and wetlands

* Bank erosion and sedimentation

* Loss of stream habitat and stream life

* Irregular flows

* Pollution

* Bacteria

* Flooding

* Stream channel alteration

* Trash

In the case of each watershed study a series of "potential solutions" is put forth. For Cameron Run these were:

* Low impact development such as bioretention/rain gardens, porous pavements, grass roofs, and rain barrel or cisterns

* New or retrofit structural stormwater controls as dry extended detention ponds, wet ponds, sand and organic filters and sediment forebays

* Stream/Wetland restoration and reforestation

* Reduce pollution

In addition to identifying specific problem areas and potential solutions or reduction factors, the ultimate aim is, as stated at the June 17 meeting by a Versar ecologist, "to tell us where you get the most bang for the buck."