Road Might Be Relocated Into Preserve

By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 23, 2008

The 700-acre Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, home to beavers, otters, deer and more than 250 species of birds, is near a Loudoun County landfill that is running out of capacity.

Last week, Loudoun supervisors grappled with the issue of how to accommodate the landfill's growth while protecting the wildlife habitat. In a move that alarmed some conservationists, the board voted to fund the paving and realignment of a section of the Woods Road south of Leesburg, which runs between the park and the landfill. The road probably will cut through part of the preserve.

County officials said the road must be moved to create a mandated buffer zone when the landfill expands. The county needs about 100 acres of the preserve to complete the project but does not intend to dump waste in that section, according to officials with the county Office of Solid Waste Management.

But environmentalists are worried that the roadwork will disrupt wildlife activity and that runoff from the road could pollute a swamp designated by the state as a "rare and threatened habitat."

"Our fear is that once you start disturbing the land . . . [it's going to harm] this endangered swamp area," said Bruce McGranahan, treasurer of the Friends of Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve.

The Board of Supervisors voted 6 to 3 Tuesday to include the project in a six-year, $38 million secondary road plan funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation. The plan allocates $4.3 million for paving and realignment of a 1.4-mile section of the Woods Road, though the exact location is not specified and the listed road projects might change depending on state funding.

Before the vote, several supervisors expressed concern about the relocation of the road, noting the environmental issues involved. Supervisor Susan Klimek Buckley (D-Sugarland Run) made a motion to defer the project for a year so the issues could be studied further.

"I think by funding the project at this time, it takes citizens out of the driver's seat," Buckley said, noting that there had not been enough time for all the affected parties to discuss their concerns.

But others, including board Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large), said leaving the road alone is not an option.

"The fact of the matter is, we're not building a road for the sake of building a road," York said. "We're building this because the landfill has to be expanded and we have to move the road for that to occur. I wish we didn't have to."

Jane Tatum, assistant director of the waste management office, said the landfill will need more capacity "in about the middle of 2011, and we always try to build a year or two in advance."

Those voting to move the road also said that putting it in the six-year plan was simply a way to begin hashing out the details of the project and getting input from all sides.

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