Federal officials have asked a U.S. District Court judge to order the City of Alexandria to stop filling in the city's contested waterfront unless it gets specific permission from the U.S. Interior Department.
The request for a temporary restraining order was filed by federal officials after learning that the city had filled in a large portion of Oronoco Bay near Pendleton Street, along the water's edge. Attorneys will argue the case tomorrow in federal district court in Washington.
The filling operations, on Oct. 29, angered top negotiators for the Interior Department, who have been working with the city to resolve a 1973 federal claim to ownership of the historic waterfront. One federal official said he felt deceived by the city and would look skeptically at any city proposals to resolve the suit, which has stalled improvements along the waterfront for more than seven years.
"We will oppose the motion for a temporary restraining order," city attorney Cyril D. Calley said this week. "We will concede that the filling went slightly beyond the limits of our permit, but we were acting out of health concerns, because of arsenic in the soil there. For years we have been trying to get federal permission to fill this area, and have never gotten a direct response."
The current controversy stems from action taken two weeks ago by city work crews, who filled in sections of the semicircular bay with about six inches of topsoil. Work crews also shored up the far end of Pendleton Street, which city personnel claimed had been undermined by the Potomac River.
City officials said at the time they were acting under a 1976 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. Federal officials acknowledged that a permit existed, but claimed the city had exceeded the permit's limit by more than 200 feet. Calley said this week that the city had gone beyond the bounds of the permit by no more than 20 feet.