Huntington Flood Study Blames Sediment Buildup

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 12, 2007

Decades of storm runoff from construction sites in Fairfax County, which produced sediment that narrowed Cameron Run, was the primary cause of the June 2006 flood that overwhelmed the Huntington neighborhood near Alexandria, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has found.

The federal agency, which studied the flood at the county's request, said in a report made public last night that possible measures to protect the community include a flood wall, a levee, dredging, or having the government buy out homeowners and help them relocate.

The flooding June 25 and June 26 seriously damaged more than half of the neighborhood's 311 homes and caused an estimated $10 million in losses, making it one of the hardest-hit areas. Sewage-laden water rose to almost 14 feet in some locations, the county said.

The Corps said further study is needed before it could endorse any of the alternatives. Under virtually any scenario, the solution will be expensive and time-consuming. A flood wall could cost $35 million and take five to seven years to build. Dredging would initially cost $17 million to $18 million and have to be repeated periodically.

But the Corps report made it clear that some protection is needed. It said that the June rains, which totaled 10 inches in some areas, were not as heavy as future storms are likely to be.

For months, Huntington residents have been pressing county officials to devise a shorter-term flood-control program for the neighborhood that includes reinforcement of shoreline and flood-proofing for vulnerable homes.

But Fairfax County Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) and Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said at a community meeting at Walt Whitman Middle School last night that there are no easy fixes. "If I'm sitting where you are and I am a property owner in Huntington . . . I'd probably be pretty angry," Hyland said. "I'd probably be inclined to want to blame someone for what has happened."

Connolly did offer some encouraging news: Fairfax is preparing to set up a grant program to help residents pay for flood insurance.

The Corps said that between 1965 and 1999, five to six feet of sediment accumulated in Cameron Run, a tributary that drains a heavily developed 31 1/2 -square-mile portion of Fairfax -- including Tysons Corner -- into the Potomac River.

The report cited two other demonstrable but less-significant factors contributing to the flood: disruption to the channel caused by the construction of the U.S. 1 interchange portion of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project and development within the floodplain, principally at Jones Point and the Huntington Metro station.

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