$20 Million for “Stream Resiliency” Projects In Arlington County FY23-32 CIP

Comments at Arlington County CIP Hearing, June 28, 2022.

The Streams and Water Quality section of the latest 10-year CIP includes three items that likely represent “stream restoration” projects totaling over $20 million in expenditures:

6. Gulf Branch Stream Resiliency

11. Resilient Streams Plan

13. Stream Resiliency Program

It’s no accident that the phrase “stream restoration” has been excised from these project descriptions and replaced with the euphemistic expression “resiliency”. Stream restoration, which sometimes results in the clearcutting of steam-side forested areas to make way for the bulldozing of their streambanks, has been debunked by a lot of scientists.

At a recent Maryland Sierra Club meeting Ken Bawer gave a presentation: “The Greenwashing of Stream Restorations”.

Bawer summarized the reasons he opposes this destructive practice as follows:

  • “Stream restorations” don’t restore streams either physically or biologically. They import foreign material, and destroy riparian ecosystems that can’t be recreated by re-planting trees.
  • “Stream restorations” don’t address the root cause of stream bank erosion namely, fire-hosing stormwater into streams from impervious surfaces such as roofs and roads. There is ample evidence from around the region that these so-called “stream restorations” get destroyed by future storms.
  • The science tells us we should protect our forested areas since they counteract global warming by carbon sequestration, even if they aren’t in pristine condition
  • The way to “fix” streams is to control stormwater by using out-of-stream practices such as raingardens, bioswales, permeable pavement, and tree planting.

As for the notion that stream restoration is needed to comply with federal MS4 permits, Bawer says there are dozens of other ways to meet MS4 permit requirements using non-destructive out-of-stream practices like those described above.

Alexandria is no longer pursuing natural channel design projects for Taylor Run and Strawberry Run. But Arlington County has doubled down on “stream restoration” by clearcutting more than 80 trees from the site of Donaldson Run Tributary B off Military Road in North Arlington.

According to environmental scientist Rod Simmons: “This is a big deal.  It is tantamount to government fiscal mismanagement and ballpark fraudulent actions – especially when the project was vigorously defended by Stormwater Management despite knowing full well that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing stream construction projects throughout the Commonwealth, no longer allows default calculations for phosphorus to be used in pollution reduction crediting since late 2019.” Not only are “stream restorations” a complete waste of taxpayer dollars, they destroy tree canopy and increase runoff. Say no to these projects and urge the Board to redirect the funds allocated for them.