Nearly a week after Fairfax Water voted to approve the Riverside Manor water line, the Great Falls Citizens Association made it clear that the issue is not yet settled.
“It has been said that we are at a crossroads in the history of Great Falls,” said GFCA president David Olin during a general membership meeting Wednesday night. “I’d like to take it a step farther and say we’re not only at a crossroads, we’re at the intersection of a four-lane highway that’s soon to be a six-lane highway. It’s no longer safe to turn around and run back to shelter, but it’s not always in our best interest to charge ahead either.”
He said he was “incensed” that the residents of Great Falls who spoke before the Fairfax Water board were accused of only trying to “protect our little enclave” and portrayed as not genuinely concerned about the environmental complications that may be caused by the installation of the 12-inch pipeline from Great Falls Elementary School down Walker Road to Arnon Chapel.
“Fairfax Water has resources,” Olin said. “One of the resources they have is the funding for legal council or consultants. We don’t have people who will take the time to do the research we need” in order to continue to fight the pipeline project, he said, but there has been “overwhelming interest in this issue.”
John Hughes-Caley, a resident of Great Falls for more than 25 years, said he moved to the area because he wanted “to live in the woods,” and the watershed area appeared to have concerns about the natural world.
“It seems like this is a political issue, more of who controls the use of the land,” he said. “We need to stop talking about [the waterline] like it’s not a political issue, because it is. If we need to lie down behind a back hoe to keep this from happening, maybe we need to talk in those terms.”
“Well, I’m not sure it’s time to be lying down in front of equipment, but maybe it is time to get legal help,” said member Christine Dzrak.
With preliminary work on the pipeline already underway, Olin said, it’s time to “seek some sort of consultation with people familiar with how county government works, and how state government works.”
“We need to get a lawyer and an injunction, because they’re ready to go,” said Kari Miller, a GFCA member. “We need to stop them from digging up our streets. Once we get something in motion, they’ll have to stop work,” she said, referring to the work Fairfax Water appears ready to get fully underway at any time.
OLIN SAID that at a meeting of the GFCA Executive Committee earlier this month, a resolution was passed that would allow GFCA to allocate funds up to $2,500 right away, with a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution of $5,000, for use in obtaining counsel, either legal or otherwise, to determine the legality of the waterline.
“We are not trying to propose the threat of litigation,” Olin said, adding that a door of communication with Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois has been opened to discuss issues of concern to Great Falls, and he wants that door to remain open.
“One legal issue we need counsel on is what is available from the Board of Supervisors to help us,” he said.
In 1992 there was a memorandum of understanding, GFCA member Cathy Mayes said, that outlined what decisions Fairfax Water can make on their own and which need to be taken to public hearings and before the Board of Supervisors for approval.
“Any waterline l6 inches and smaller does not need a public hearing process, so this pipeline falls in that guideline,” she said.
“We’re in a fluid situation,” said Glen Sjoblom, GFCA member. “I’ve been an advocate for continuing to work with our elected officials, and it’s a tough decision to pull the string and go into the judicial system, but I’ve become disappointed in the last few days,” he said.
The members in attendance debated the topic for about half an hour before voting to approve a resolution that will allow the GFCA to “match, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, all funds raised by the community, up to $5,000, for the purpose of retaining legal counsel to review the legal authority of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Fairfax Water to install a public water line as proposed and to advise GFCA of its legal rights and opportunities to obtain redress in this matter.”
Charlie Kernan, a GFCA member who is also a member of Citizens Against the Pipeline, an organization that has been collecting signatures on a petition to stop the pipeline’s approval, said he had just opened a bank account in CAP’s name for any donations and fundraising efforts to fight the decision.
Donations can be sent to CAP’s post office box in Great Falls, PO Box 767, he said. By the end of the meeting, he had collected $800 in contributions, he said.
ALSO DISCUSSED at the meeting were the county transportation plan meetings held last week, attended by GFCA member and representative to the transportation committee Eleanor Anderson.
She said she came away from the meeting a little “frustrated” by the lack of specific, local information presented.
“I have a proposal for the transportation plan,” she told the more than 25 people in attendance. “If we want a long-range policy statement in our community, how about we say this,” she said. “How about we say any road designated as a historic roadway, or eligible to be nominated as a historic place cannot be widened more than its current width.”
She also suggested a second proposal, that any road that serves as a feeder road to a historic roadway not be widened past its current width either.
“This is important for us because we do not want to see Walker Road, River Bend, Leigh Mill or any other number of roads widened. We want to protect their current state,” Anderson said. “Hunter Mill Road has been designated a historic highway, but on the 2030 plan, Hunter Mill Road is planned as a four-lane road from Baron Cameron all the way to Rt. 50.”