Lake Accotink's Sedimental Journey

Lake Accotink's Sedimental Journey

<bt>A question posed by Roy Ray at the Lake Accotink dredging meeting hovered in the backdrop of the whole dredging issue and brought to life the age old question — to be or not to be?

"In order to have this lake, are we going to have this big project every 10 to 12 years?" Ray asked.

For this year at least, the plan will go through. On the surface, it's a choice between trucking the sludge out, which no one seems to support, or piping it out along the Norfolk & Southern railroad tracks to a gravel pit at the Virginia Concrete site along Edsall Road. The lake was drained in 1985 and the sediment dumped in an area on the parkland, near the lake.

John Pitts, Fairfax County project engineer, chaired a meeting on Tuesday, July 1, at Ravensworth Elementary School, attended by Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock), park representative Winnie Shapiro, Michael Aho from Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office, Peter Dahmen from engineering firm HDR, and citizens from the surrounding area.

One option, which Pitts had heard before from a former park engineer, was to leave it and let nature take its course. Accotink would slowly fill up with sediment, become a marsh and eventually a field. No pedal boats, no cardboard boat regatta, no evening nature cruises aboard the lake's pontoon party boat. Pitts made it clear that saving the park was the Park Authority's intention.

"The Park Authority made a significant investment as a park, and we'd like to preserve it as a park," Pitts said. "The 'no action' option, I haven't heard anybody back that."

Some meeting attendees remember the dredging of 1985. One woman remembered it so well, she recalled the plan where one portion of the lake was supposed to move so fast that it would carry the sediment over the dam instead of settling on the bottom.

"Twenty years ago we believed the engineers," she said.

Park manager Tawny Hammond, who was not at the meeting, is aware that the sediment has been an issue at Accotink, since the lake was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1918.

"Sedimentation has been an issue since 1918," she said. "It's not a new problem."

ALTHOUGH the decision to remove the sediment via a hydraulic pipeline or by trucks has not been finalized, the majority of those at the meeting appeared to be leaning toward the pipeline decision.

"We're not going to offer the option of mechanical dredging," Pitts said.

The dredging contract will go up for bid later this summer, another community meeting will review the decision in the fall, and dredging might begin in the winter. No dates are set yet.

It will be a two-phased project. Phase I is the construction of the pipeline, and the second phase will be the actual sediment removal. Park Authority officials hope it will start sometime in early 2004, with completion in 2006. However, other factors such as a wet winter could come into play.

In the 1998 bond, $6.1 million was authorized for this dredging. Norfolk & Southern railway, where the pipeline will run, is being paid $75,000 for its role. The Park authority is looking to a future dredging, sometime around 2015, with the Engineer Proving Grounds (EPG) as one possibility for a sediment dumping ground. This is the same EPG area, which is downstream from Accotink, that baseball enthusiasts are eyeing for a new stadium, and the home of Kauffman's mixed-use plan of parks, residential and commercial.

Future dredgings will need to be on the 2004 bond.

"This was one of our biggest investments park-wise," said Bulova.

Annandale resident Matthew Krumrine walked around the lake, getting into the nature aspect. A feeling of the last environmental outpost swept over him.

"This is all going to be development, and no one will have an area to go to. It's kind of a nice escape," he said.