After 40 years of degradation and erosion caused by development, many of Reston’s streams and tributaries look more like mini ravines than streambeds.
But that is about to change.
For the next 10 years Reston will be the beneficiary of a $35 million investment for stream restoration — none of which will be billed to residents.
Wetland Studies and Solutions plans to restore 10-miles of three tributaries on Reston Association property as part of a stream bank mitigation project. By investing in Reston’s streams and building a "bank" of stream restoration credits, the Gainesville-based company will then sell those credits to the region’s developers who degrade or disturb stretches of stream elsewhere. The authority to swap money for restoration credits derives from the Clean Air Act, which states that banks “will be used for compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts to jurisdictional waters.”
“THE VALUE TO US — all of the preliminary work, the initial assessment, the [future] construction, permitting and monitoring, all of that — they’ve estimated at somewhere near $35 million,” said Larry Butler, RA’s director of parks and recreation. “Our investment is basically staff time working with the community, the Design Review Board and the county.” Butler added that the restoration will make Reston’s streams a more natural design, which helps improve water quality, prevent erosion and sedimentation and reduce the frequency of lake dredging. “It will also create a really nice wildlife corridor,” said Butler.
Not only will RA receive the restoration work for free, but it will also receive fees based on the linear footage of streams that are restored. The fees will cover RA staff costs associated with project assistance. Some money from the fees will also go to the Friends of Reston to expand its nature education activities.
Nearly four years ago, Michael Rolband, president of Wetland Solutions and Studies, worked out a deal with Reston Association to set up the stream "bank," called the Northern Virginia Stream Restoration Bank.
Chuck Veatch, a Reston resident, business owner and local photographer, helped bring the two parties together. “I thought this could be a win-win situation,” said Veatch, who had long known about erosion problems with Reston’s streams. Veatch added that it’s also an investment that RA and its members may not have been able to afford. “It’s really a great deal for Reston,” he said.
RA was an attractive candidate for the project because it allowed the company to work with one owner and because it had already produced a preliminary assessment of the watershed.
SINCE GETTING the greenlight from RA, Rolband and his company has finished the lengthy approval process with Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers. “It is unbelievable in how complicated it is to get something done with wetlands or streams,” acknowledged Veatch.
The process included the formation of a methodology to determine the stream bank’s currency, said Frank Graziano, senior engineer, Wetland Studies and Solutions. The methodology determines how credits will be measured. “We’ve been working on that for several years.”
In addition, according to Butler, the company has already surveyed the 10-mile stretch of streams, which includes Snakeden Branch, The Glade and Colvin Run. “And everything is digitized,” said Butler.
“We’ve invested a lot — tens of thousands of dollars in anticipation of getting this approved,” said Graziano. The company will begin construction early next year.
According to Graziano, the credits for Reston stream restoration can be sold to developers who are required to mitigate impacts made to streams in most of Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Prince William County.