Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Learned Any Lessons?

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Learned Any Lessons?

Developers are proposing to build 43 townhouses, a new street and parking spaces on eight acres that are almost entirely within the 100-year floodplain of Dogue Creek, a high-risk flood hazard area at 8800 Richmond Highway in the Mount Vernon area.

Hurricane Florence‘s recent, devastating flooding in North Carolina and Hurricane Harvey’s 2017 flooding in Houston are discomforting reminders of how massive, unpredictable, disruptive and destructive flooding can be. Mount Vernonites had first-hand experience with flooding during Hurricane Isabel in 2003 when floodwaters saturated the Belle View Shopping Center, some Belleview Condominiums, the Belle Haven Golf Course and New Alexandria.

Climate change experts predict that extreme weather events will be more intense and more frequent as the Earth warms unabated. Ever-expanding impervious surfaces exacerbate flooding because solid surfaces like roofs and pavement block water from naturally infiltrating into the land. Some call this practice of covering the land with hard surfaces, many sanctioned by county building policies, “flooding by design.”

Fairfax County has a longstanding and sound policy to generally avoid building in floodplains because of the risk that floods pose to humans, structures and the natural environment. Floodplains have a purpose — to provide room for creeks and rivers to rise and to absorb floodwaters. Without them, we would have more flooding.

Fairfax County is now building a levee, to the tune of $30 million, to protect the Huntington community in another floodplain where the county allowed building prior to current restrictions. Whatever the history and merits of that project, why should the county again (1) allow developers to build in a floodplain; (2) violate the county’s own rules to avoid building in a floodplains; (3) put future homeowners at risk of flooding; (4) refuse to protect areas of natural flood storage; and (5) create a future, potential need to build expensive, “flood control” projects?

I hope Fairfax County’s Planning Commissioners and members of the Board of Supervisors have learned some lessons from past practices and from recent weather events. I urge them to reject this proposal from the developers.

Edward (Ned) Stone