Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Downstream Impact

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Downstream Impact

The owners of eight acres at 8800 Richmond Highway want Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan amended to allow building 43 townhomes. The land is almost entirely in the 100-year floodplain, the Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Area, the Dogue Creek Environmental Quality Corridor and is protected by the County's Comprehensive Plan and several ordinances.

What would be the downstream impacts of this development if it were approved? The developers claim that flood elevations will not be raised; should we be confident in their promise, especially given increased storm intensities due to climate change? Several downstream properties seem vulnerable.

The Keys and Russell subdivision, located on Cedar Road, Cedar Court, and Dogue Drive just 1,000 feet downstream from 8800 Richmond Highway, was built before county floodplain regulations were in effect. Five houses were built on lots partly or entirely in the floodplain, and others are in the Resource Protection Area. Two houses had to be torn down and the properties purchased by the county due to flooding. Houses and yards in this neighborhood have flooded repeatedly over the years, even those outside the floodplain.

Will adding 41,000 cubic yards of fill and losing two acres of the Dogue Creek floodplain just upstream exacerbate flooding in this neighborhood? Will the county be forced to buy out more homeowners (at taxpayer expense)? Would filling and developing townhomes at 8800 Richmond Highway pave the way to filling and developing the undeveloped floodplain lots in the Keys and Russell subdivision?

Fort Belvoir is also downstream of this development, and officials have expressed concerns about potential impacts. In a comment submitted to the Planning Commission on Oct. 2, Daniel O’Brien (Fort Belvoir facilities manager) said, “Fort Belvoir is concerned with the risk of increased sedimentation in the lower Dogue Creek watershed as a result of this development and whether exceptions are approved. We are currently experiencing adverse impacts due to sedimentation in the downstream sections of the Dogue Creek watershed. This development would further increase the risk of additional sedimentation and adverse impacts to Fort Belvoir operations.”

The county and Planning Commission need to recognize cumulative downstream impacts of land use decisions. The time when each parcel could be considered independent of all others has passed. County officials should reject this proposal.

Paul Siegel