The people who live on Wood Wren Court have a lovely, peaceful view of 40-acre Royal in Burke Centre.
But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sees it differently. Under unusually heavy rains, the corps told Fairfax County this week, Lake Royal's emergency spillway could send a life-endangering wall of water rushing toward some of the houses.
In the Corp's worst scenario -- 32 inches of rain in 24 hours -- there would be a deluge of near-Biblical proportions. "I haven't heard of anything that bad except when Noah built his ark," said county public works director Glen G. Ehrich.
The worst recorded rainfall in the Washington area was 7.19 inches on the night of June 21-22, 1972.
Nevertheless, the Corps said corrective action must be taken "to avoid damage to property or possible loss of life."
The county, under pressure of a possible suit by the State Water Control Board, has decided to study what could be done if the Corps' projections are confirmed by further analysis.
"If the water would hit the houses, then we'd try to figure out if we could build a wall to route it elsewhere, reconstruct the spillway or possibly tear some houses down," said William W. Smith, assistant chief in the plan review branch of the county's Department of Environmental Management.
Smith said if the houses on Wood Wren were built today, "they might not be built so close to the emergency spillway. I don't think anybody really understood the implications."
Smith said the county prohibits construction only in areas that would be flooded by a 11-inch rain -- so-called "100-year flood" -- far short of what Army engineers call "maximum probable flooding."
Fairfax Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale), a frequent critic of the Department of Environmental Management for what she says is laxity in enforcement, said: "It's outrageous . . . I don't know how anybody could have approved these plans. How could they do something like this?"
One of the houses directly in the path of the emergency spillway, at 9906 Wood Wren Court, is owned by Eric and Phillis Klein. "I'm upset they (Fairfax County) allowed our house to be built here, with all the rules and regulations they have. It's something you don't think can happen, the flooding described by the Corps, but it can."
Woodleigh H. Volland, president of the Wood Wren 36-house cluster association, said, "I think this comes down to a question of principle. I think they (the houses) in question should not have been put there. It was an inhumane thing to do."
Edward Risse, Burke Centre's chief planner, said, "We designed for what was the maximum probable flood at the time, which was 27 1/2 inches of rain in 24 hours. We followed all regulations. Now they (the Corps) say it's 32 inches."
A 32-inch rain was described by Fairfax officials as a one in a thousand years' possibility. But, as Puller Hughes, an official with the Northern Virginia Soil and Conservation office -- co-sponsor with the county of the Lake Royal flood-control project -- said: "It has happened. It has happened in Virginia."