In the summer of 2018, there was a big storm and people’s homes got flooded. In July 2019, there was a huge storm and a lot of people’s homes got flooded. Arlington residents got mad and built a coalition seeking the County Board’s action to do something.
At the September 24 Arlington County Board Recessed Meeting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfGvQ8-aWQ0&feature=youtu.be&t=6936, staff laid out several things that the county could do through the frames of cost and the frames of long term impact. Right now we are planning for a 10 year storm and there seems to be a lack of movement on changing policy. A lot of excuses were given as to why nothing can be done immediately in the County’s four watersheds. See the 2 hour mark of the County Manager’s staff talking in circles. The County board won’t be getting any update until the CIP process with the public input being the only components. So the County Board directed the County Staff to give this a priority.
In both frames, plant more trees and optimizing green space was the cheapest, immediate option. Things like real policy changes – the size of developers’ water run off pipes, changing lot coverage ratios and the like — were deemed expensive and long term fixes. The staff outlined what homeowners can do now: 1. Come to public forums, 2. Sign up for Arlington alert, 3. Get flood insurance, 4. And get involved in the budget and CIP process. Seriously, this is the plan, pass it on to Arlington residents?
The staff have doubled down on their storm water management areas and are now looking at the remaining green space as a way to get some easy wins and show that they are taking action. What has this translated to? It has translated to resurrecting “ponds” for run off by chopping down even more trees! See this presentation to the Urban Forestry Commission. In three projects over 600 trees will be decimated.
- Ballston Pond: 11 trees over 24 inches, 92 trees between 12 and 24 inches. 524 below 12 inches
- Sparrow Pond: 11 trees over 24 inches, 26 trees between 12 and 24 inches, 55 below 12 inches
- Donaldson Run: 17 trees over 24 inches (5 may not be removed), 49 between 12 and 24, 43 below 12 inches
So the county knows the easiest and cheapest thing to do is to have trees for absorption, but they are on a mission to cut substantive portions of the tree canopy in addition to the wholesale destruction of trees due to development. While it is nice to have the county staff show some progress on something, cutting down trees to create retention ponds is a horrible solution – both long and short term- for the future of our community.
Planning for the storm water retention is critical. The County Staff is going to have to come up with a better solution that allows us to garner the value of the few trees we have left while also identifying new areas that can be re-greened and help to stem the flow of water through the county.