Mark Zetts' Dec. 2003 EQAC Testimony


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    you are here: home > activities > letters > Mark Zetts' Dec. 2003 EQAC Testimony
    EQAC Hearing
    December 2, 2003

    Good evening. My name is Mark Zetts and I live on Kirby Court in Falls Church. I would like to thank the chairman for giving me the opportunity to address the EQAC.

    Burke’s Spring Branch is a tributary of Pimmit Run roughly 4100 feet in length that originates near Haycock Road, the boundary of the 4 Mile Run and Pimmit Run watersheds. This stream and the smaller tributary stream to the east are headwaters of Pimmit Run, fed by several perennial, productive springs. Of the 180 acres drained by Burke’s Spring Branch, approximately 56 acres are heavily wooded and provide excellent filtering of storm runoff.

    In the center of the Burke’s Spring Branch watershed is Haycock-Longfellow Park, acquired by the Fairfax County Park Authority in 1963. It comprises 24 acres of mature woods, a children’s amphitheater and over ½ mile of paved and unpaved hiking trails along its salient contours. Surrounded within easy walking distance by 14 communities consisting of 768 dwelling units, the Park provides both passive and active recreation for nearly 2000 residents in the local community.

    The encroachment of development upon the Burke’s Spring Branch watershed has slowly accumulated over a long period of time. The number of housing units in the vicinity of the stream has grown 40% in the last 17 years. We are now facing three new developments that threaten to destroy an additional 25 acres of wooded buffer. These developments are the Winchester housing tract consisting of 109 dwelling units, the Chesterbrook Assisted Living Facility and the addition of an 81-space parking lot at the Temple Rodef Shalom.

    I believe the additional storm water runoff created by these new development will exceed the carrying capacity of our streams and culverts and will create a very precarious situation that will threaten our downstream neighbors in Brooks Square subdivision and Foxhall to the North.

    The Brooks Square subdivision, in particular, is vulnerable to severe flooding because of its location at the confluence of the Burke’s Spring Branch with the smaller tributary stream to the east. These two streams handle the storm water runoff from approximately 112 acres with a drop of 115 feet. During intense downpours, the storm water rises very rapidly and flash flooding threatens the two rows of townhomes adjacent to the stream. It is for this reason that the Brooks Square HOA vigorously fights any new development upstream.

    We had such a storm in mid-August of 2001 that resulted in severe flooding along Pimmit Run. The flood water in the McLean Little League Complex was over the fences in field 4, there was massive damage to 20 homes and several automobiles were destroyed. Moreover, according to Fairfax County officials, this storm wasn’t even a 2-year storm event in this area of the county. In response to this flooding, in the following month, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors authorized $240,000 for flood control along Pimmit Run. Dranesville Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn opined that several hundred thousand dollars more would be needed in the next budget cycle.

    This flood occurred soon after the Temple Rodef Shalom completed the expansion of its facility, which replaced some 2-acres of woods with impervious surface. With the now increased storm runoff, the downstream homes at the base of Kirby Court are subject to flooding because the Temple relies of overland relief to handle floodwaters. Although the overland relief was an existing condition, the new development has exacerbated the problem. The Temple’s 54’ culvert pipe empties into a 27’ culvert pipe that runs under Kirby Court, a pipe undersized by a factor of 4. Additionally, during the construction of the parking lot, perennial springs were paved over instead of being capped and piped to the existing stream. Because of this, the Temple has chronic problems with the asphalt paving and seeping water in the parking lot. Evidence of these spring waters can now be seen at the Temple’s storm water outfall. The spring water bubbles up from underneath the concrete foundation of the 54’ culvert pipe. In 1997 prior to construction, a neighbor paid a visit to the engineering firm to warn them that there were springs in the area but his warning was ignored. The springs in this area have always been very productive and the stream that originates from the Temple property has been dry only 4 times since 1968.

    The situation is similar on the opposite side of Haycock-Longfellow Park. Springs on the Frase property have been productive for two hundred years however they do not meet the County’s standard of perennially. The destruction of these springs and wooded buffers will result in the perpetual loss of this Pimmit Run tributary. Replacing 25 acres of wood with the equivalent of 260 parking spaces will cause irreparable environmental damage to Burke’s Spring Branch and further degrade the condition of Pimmit Run.

    Mark Zetts
    President, Kirby Court Homeowners Association

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