May 27 Meeting on Marumsco/Farm Creek Watersheds

The Watershed Management Branch (in the Public Works Department) is holding a public meeting on Thursday, May 27th at 7:00pm in the community meeting room of the Chinn Library.  Purpose is to discuss what the county staff call “watershed studies” for the Marumsco/Farm Creek watersheds.

These plans focus on proposals to re-engineer existing stormwater facilities, correcting old engineering problems with new taxpayer dollars.  Little attention is paid to land use practices that repeat the old problems, digging us deeper into the fiscal hole for future fix-it projects.

The Marumsco/Farm Creek Watershed Plan does acknowledge that “large portions of the watershed are developed and directly connected to the streams, yet have no stormwater management practices in place,” so “the County should consider development of low impact development (LID) retrofit projects.”

The report goes on to say “The majority of these types of projects will inherently be located on privately owned lands and will require close coordination between the County, local watershed organizations, and the community.”  However, the study does not “provide specific recommendations for development of a LID retrofit program or outreach program for the community.”

Instead, the report recommends that the county “should consider supplementing the current watershed study which focuses on the stream corridors with an upland study that is focused on the existing development practices and opportunities for environmental stewardship projects.”   Well, part of a watershed plan is better than none – but the staff is clear: these “watershed plans” are incomplete products. 

Funding all the projects proposed in the plans is not the solution to our stormwater problem.  We need to stop creating new stormwater problems, when county officials approve new developments.  Unless we stop stormwater from running down from new developments and polluting our creeks further, there’s no way Prince William can afford to meet the Clean Water Act mandates being imposed by a Federal judge as part of the “Save the Chesapeake Bay” effort.  

The danger in these less-than-comprehensive “watershed plans” is that people might think the engineers can build a simple solution to manage stormwater… so we can continue business as usual, and do nothing different.  

Simplistic engineering solutions are not realistic.  Taxpayers can’t afford to construct stormwater treatment plants, comparable to wastewater treatment plants, at the mouth of Neabsco Creek, Powell’s Creek, etc.

Home Owner Associations (HOA’s) will be essential partners for most retrofits on private land.   Taxpayers can contribute engineering, construction, and maintenance funds for such projects, but only if private landowners choose to cooperate. 

Building partnerships with HOA’s and getting taxpayer support for increasing the Stormwater Utility Fee will require the county to show a credible, long-range plan for managing stormwater – including proposals to minmize runoff from NEW construction.  Maybe taxpayers need to pay for past mistakes… but why should they subsidize continued bad site plan designs by developers?

 

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