Rising insurance premiums, damage to parks among resident concerns about stormwater management along Lubber Run

Pedestrian bridge washed away along Lubber Run in 2019 (photo by Ashley Hopko)

Arlington is facing a flood of questions about stormwater management around Lubber Run.

The county postponed a public meeting about potential flood mitigation measures in the watershed, originally scheduled for last Wednesday, “due to staff needing more time to respond to last minute community requests,” Stormwater Outreach Manager Aileen Winquist told ARLnow.

In place of the meeting, the Arlington County Civic Federation hosted its own gathering at which about 50 residents gave voice to problems with flooding and erosion. Concerns included costs associated with flood risks and damage to trees and wildlife.

“There appeared to be consensus among the residents and advocates of the need to work together constructively on cost/benefits and mutual pain/gain,” the federation told ARLnow.

The meeting was not recorded, but Civic Federation Secretary David Smith, who owns a home in the Lubber Run watershed, argued that development in Arlington has caused flood zones to expand. Smith said he and other homeowners now face higher flood insurance premiums and worry about finding future homebuyers.

“We’re all worried that our property value is about to just tank,” he said.

A map of Arlington watersheds and flood calls (via Arlington County)

Since the last Lubber Run flood resilience meeting in September, the county has continued to study adding more storm drains near Woodlawn Park to mitigate flooding, according to Winquist. Smith said many residents are wary of what this will mean for the recreation area.

“[Some residents] don’t want anybody tearing up this beautiful park of ours, you know?” Smith said. “And then we’re going to have to deal with construction, and they just don’t want any part of that.”

Though any solution will likely have some drawbacks, he insisted that the county must do something. The meeting summary notes that erosion now exposes many mature trees’ roots and has even toppled trees in Lubber Run Park.

Torrential flooding in 2019 caused severe damage to the park, destroying two pedestrian bridges for which the county only recently started to build a replacement.

Arlington last month received nearly $300,000 in federal funds to build rain gardens to filter and absorb stormwater runoff in Barcroft. Although USA Today recently named Arlington the second most climate-resilient place in the country, experts still predict more intense flooding in coming decades due to climate change.

The county has not yet released a new date for its meeting on stormwater management in the Lubber Run watershed.