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Dam Breaks, Pond Empties

The concrete dam that created a pond behind Carter Lake Apartment Community washed out and caused the pond to drain.

Matt Kelly of Reston noticed something wrong with a pond behind Carter Lake Apartments last week. It was shrinking, fast, and with it much of the wildlife sustained by the small pond.

A concrete spillway dam built to create the pond in north Reston collapsed due to soil erosion caused by recent rain. Ever since, the pond has been draining slowly. “I’m concerned about the wildlife in the Reston area, concerned for the visual impact that this is going to have on the community,” Kelly said.

HUNDREDS OF peeping frogs in the middle of the mating season and other aquatic life are being pooled together in the dwindling puddle that remains.

“It was tragic,” said Claudia Thompson-Deahl, Reston Association’s environmental resource manager, referring to the pond’s slow disappearance.

Most of the fish and turtles are gone, having died or made their way to the nearby creeks.

The dam that created the pond is not under Reston’s jurisdiction. “Carter Lake is not within the Reston Deed, so it’s not under our covenants,” said Diana Saccone, RA’s watershed manager. “At RA, we inspect our dams quarterly,” said Saccone. “Our dams are high hazard areas, so they’re state regulated and you are required to inspect them once a year, but we inspect them four times a year,” she said.

The pond is on the property of Carter Lake Apartments, which is owned by JMG Realty Inc. The pond’s survival or demise depends on the company’s response. “We received a notice that there was a small breach in February,” said Steve Haskins, JMG’s vice president of construction. “Evidently, someone [of Carter Lake Apartments] saw it.” Fairfax County also notified JMG of the breach in February.

“Since that time, we’ve hired a civil engineer, Tayvan Jaboori, a local engineer, and he’s checking into our options to get it repaired,” Haskins said.

“It doesn’t look like the dam has been maintained over the years,” said Thompson-Deahl. “I certainly hope the dam can get fixed and everything comes back because that’s a great little spot.”

OUT OF THE RA’s jurisdiction, the pond’s survival is also out of the hands of Fairfax County’s Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division. “The pond straddles two privately-owned parcels and it was not installed for stormwater management,” said Chad Crawford, an engineer in the agency.

Crawford said that his agency is unaware of any private maintenance agreement with JMG Realty and therefore the agency cannot take enforcement measures to restore the dam.

However, the dam’s structural vulnerability has been known for months. Crawford said that his agency informed JMG Realty in February that the company may be in violation of erosion and sedimentation regulations and may be liable for any downstream damage done to properties caused by a breach in the dam.

Haskins would not confirm that the company was planning to restore the dam and save the pond. “We’re waiting to hear back from the engineer, who is working with the county, to come up with alternatives,” Haskins said.

Meanwhile, the pond is dying.