5-7 Years For Plan To Curb Flooding
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told Fairfax County it will take five to seven years to complete a flood control project for the Huntington neighborhood devastated by rising waters from Cameron Run during heavy rains in June.
That timetable, conveyed to county officials by the Corps in late July but not acknowledged publicly, is significantly longer than residents said they had been led to believe by local leaders.
The county has asked the Corps to investigate the cause of the June 25 flooding that left Huntington one of the communities hardest hit by fierce rainstorms that swept through the Washington area. The foul, contaminated water from the Potomac River tributary, which rose to 14 feet in some areas, seriously damaged more than half of the southern Fairfax neighborhood's 311 homes and caused an estimated $10 million in losses.
The inquiry is expected to be completed in December. The Board of Supervisors has also set aside $1 million for the Corps to design whatever flood control project it deems appropriate once the cause of the high water is determined.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) and Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) have called for quick action to prevent a recurrence of the flooding.
But in a July 24 e-mail to Donald R. Demetrius, chief of watershed projects evaluation for the county Public Works Department, the Corps said determining the appropriate remedy -- possibly a flood wall or levee system -- and then designing it, securing federal funds and completing construction will take years.
The e-mail was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Washington Post.
"Bottom line, the total duration from start to completion will likely take 5-7 years," Stacey M. Underwood, an engineer in the planning division of the Corps' Baltimore District, said in an e-mail.
Huntington residents interviewed yesterday said it was the first they had heard of the Corps timetable. They said they had been led to believe that there would be, at a minimum, a temporary fix -- dredging to widen Cameron Run, for example -- while a permanent solution was developed.
One community leader said the county had not been forthcoming with the neighborhood about the lengthy process.
"The county should have told us that," said Mack B. Rhoades, president of the Huntington Community Association. "We expected something to be done by next year."
He added that Fairfax officials had been "very tight-lipped about their dealings with the Corps."