Arlington, VA

Following weeks of fallout from the July 8 storm, Arlington officials are discussing a new program for tackling future floods.

During Tuesday’s County Board meeting, County Manager Mark Schwartz introduced “Flood Resilient Arlington,” to be considered during the spring budget planning.

Demetra McBride, who heads the Department of Environmental Services (DES) Sustainability and Environmental Management bureau, said Flood Resilient Arlington will include educational forums, site visits, and a potential flood-resilience incentive program to help the county prepare for increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change.

The program “builds upon” the 2014 Stormwater Master Plan, which outlined improvements to Arlington’s stormwater management systems, streams, and watersheds over the next 20 years, according to DES Chief Operating Officer Mike Moon.

“We hear about climate change, and it always seems to be somewhere else,” said Vice Board Chair Libby Garvey. “People tend to think and accuse the government of not doing something right, they don’t buy the climate change reason, so we have a level of education we [owe].”

Funding for Flood Resilient Arlington will not be established for “eight to nine months,” said Moon.

The next steps include approximately 80 visits from Board members beginning this month to sites deemed a “high risk” for flooding, or homes that received more than four feet of water during the July 8 storm. During the Tuesday presentation, McBride listed several neighborhoods — such as Waverley Hills, Westover, and Rock Spring — as high risk for future flooding based on past data. She highlighted steps homeowners can take to stay dry.

“I realize this is emotional for people, your home is a big investment,” McBride said. “They have families and children and they’re concerned for their safety.”

Two public forums to discuss the program are planned: one on Thursday, October 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street), and another on Saturday, October 26 from 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive.)

During the meetings, the public can expect to:

  • Hear from experts on flood-proof design
  • Learn about flood insurance options and coverage
  • Learn about how to flood-proof your house

McBride stressed homeowners need to educate themselves on flood insurance policies, also noting the county needs to step in with educational resources.

Several residents told ARLnow in the flood’s aftermath they had received conflicting information about their eligibility for flood insurance and were left fearing they would have to bear tens of thousands of dollars in repair costs.

During the disaster, dozens of residents fled their homes, a few beloved Arlington businesses closed for repairs, six pedestrian bridges were washed away, and thousands of dollars were raised on platforms such as GoFundMe. The county stated days later it would not cover any sewage overflow damage caused by the flood, telling ARLnow it would violate state law.

Since then, residents have applied for over $2.1 million in U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans, Schwartz shared, and Arlington businesses have applied for more than $100,000 in loans. Applicants can still file for a loan by Monday, October 7.

“During a majority of the 1,100 damage reports [this summer], people had insurance and thought they were protected, and then they realized there were exemptions and exclusions,” said McBride. “That’s a gap we would help to close.”

In addition to damage to private property, Arlington County reported $5.8 million in damage to county property and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall reported damage to 26 buildings.

McBride said Arlington will have to slowly overhaul its public infrastructure through several long-term projects — like upgrading the stormwater pipes, developing large tanks for water storage, and property acquisition — to help address the flood risk.

“These [will require] long-term disruption of neighborhoods,” she said. “I wish we could avoid that, but we’re simply not going to be able to and that’s going to be a partnership we need to have with the public.”

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Morning Notes

Climate Change Protests in D.C.Updated at 8:45 a.m. — As expected, demonstrator are blocking a number of key intersections in D.C. this morning to protest against government inaction in tackling climate change. The roadblocks have caused major backups on northbound I-395. [WTOP, Twitter]

APS Implements New Verification System — “Arlington school officials say a new, higher-tech effort to gather requisite start-of-school information from parents is moving forward as expected. The new online-verification process has been completed by 54 percent of families as of Sept. 19, Superintendent Cintia Johnson told School Board members.” [InsideNova]

County Board Approves Pike Redevelopment — “A new six-story apartment building and ground floor retail will replace an aging shopping center and surface parking lot at the northeast corner of South Glebe Road and Columbia Pike, under a plan approved today by the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]

Worker Hurt Friday in Madison Manor — “Scanner: ACFD on scene of a worker who fell out of a tree on the 900 block of N. Potomac Street in Madison Manor. Being transported by ambulance to a local trauma center with potentially serious but non-life threatening injuries.” [Twitter]

Post Praises Swell Sausages at Ballston’s Bronson — “The five kinds of housemade sausages emerged from the kitchen tinkerings of Barley Mac chef Chris Harman and co-owner Mike Cordero, Koh says. Both the bratwurst and the wiener, reminiscent of a hot dog that spent a semester abroad, have a pleasantly snappy casing and a peppery pungency. The Bronson is rightly proud of its sausages, which are available to-go from a case at the front.” [Washington Post]

Ballston Harris Teeter Design Event — “Come share your thoughts on the consolidated design for the public space at Harris Teeter on N. Glebe Rd at an open house Mon., Sept. 23 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. in the Arlington Room at the Medstar Capitals Iceplex (accessible from the 8th floor). This design is based on prior community feedback. Don’t forget your sweater! The Arlington Room is next to the rink and you might get a little chilly.” [Arlington County]

APS Trying to Fix Bus Issues — “Arlington school officials continue to work out start-of-school transportation kinks, with a goal of having everything running as expected by the end of the month… ‘We have heard from families who are still experiencing challenges,’ Superintendent Cintia Johnson told School Board members on Sept. 19. ‘We’re working to resolve all the concerns.'” [InsideNova]

New LEED Certification in Ballston — “4201 Wilson Boulevard, a 595,000-square-foot office building at Ballston Exchange in Arlington, VA, has earned LEED Silver certification, making it the first office building in the state of Virginia to certify using the LEED v4 Building Design + Construction green building rating system from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The building constitutes one half of the 776,000-square-foot Ballston Exchange development.” [Press Release]

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

Climate change is serious. Businesses, residents and governments must act.

Today, the Arlington County Board has adopted sweeping updates to the Community Energy Plan setting ambitious targets for transforming the County’s energy sector.

Some highlights of Arlington’s Community Energy Plan include:

  • Sets goal of a carbon neutral Arlington by 2050
  • Government operations to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2025
  • Community to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035
  • Considering energy equity during implementation

“This plan is bold, because nothing less than a bold response from every community across this nation and across the globe is essential to address the dire threat to our planet posed by climate change,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said.

“Arlington’s updated Community Energy Plan is based on the latest climate science and views energy decisions through the lenses of energy security, economic competitiveness, environmental commitment and equity. It will maintain Arlington County’s position as a leader in America on climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

The plan incorporates goals for buildings; resilience; renewable energy; transportation, County government actions, and education and human behavior. It envisions an Arlington that by 2050 will be more resilient, where all electricity will come from renewable sources, where more residents will drive electric vehicles and more will use transit, and where homes and buildings will be more energy-efficient.

Just this week similar announcements were made by Governor Northam to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 for all of Virginia as well as an announcement by Amazon to fight climate change by achieving carbon neutrality by 2040.

We are proud of the work we’ve done to date to save money and energy. We are equally energized about the work ahead to reach carbon neutrality in Arlington by 2050.

Some simple actions you can take today to act and stay connected:

Please join us as we move forward. Every action makes a difference.

Together we can create a carbon-neutral Arlington by 2050.

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A group of local students is organizing a demonstration in Arlington tomorrow (Friday) as part of a nationwide climate change strike ahead of the UN Climate Change panel.

Teenage organizers of the Northern Virginia effort say they’re organizing a teach-in about environmentalism from 8-11 a.m. at American University, followed by a rally beginning at 11:45 a.m. outside Arlington County government headquarters (2100 Clarendon Blvd) in Courthouse, to help the planet they’re about to inherit.

“The most important thing is to educate,” said organizer and Yorktown High School student Hannah Knittig. “That goes for government officials and also to the public.”

The students organizers are working with the Northern Virginia chapter of the Youth Climate Strike organization, and is hoping to attract attendees and passersby to the Courthouse rally with speeches, a voter registration table, and posters the local effects of climate change.

“I hope they can see that they can get involved from home where they live,” said another organizer, Cecelia O’Sullivan, 15, at the Potomac School in McLean. “They can see that this is really an accessible moment happening all over the country.”

The teen organizers who spoke to ARLnow cited concerns about global warming raising flood threats and spawning more extreme storms, also noting how activities like fracking pollute the environment and contribute to the problem.

“Our water supply and our excessive need of products in Arlington impacts people who live in Blacksburg and all over Virginia,” said Knitting. “I definitely know that my lifestyle, and my family’s lifestyle, does impact other people.”

“Seeing all these very small occurrences, which at first they don’t link immediately link to climate change. But once you dig deeper, you just see it’s all part of that larger effect of climate change,” said Saahithi Achanta, 17, who is also helping organize the event from Chantilly High School.

Knittig, 16, said that around eighty students from across the Northern Virginia area have signed up to join the Arlington strike, and another 80 students have pledged to attend the same-day sister strike in Richmond.

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This week’s devastating flash floods may be evidence of a bigger weather pattern shift, some experts say.

The storm that pummeled the Arlington dumped 3.3 inches of rain in one hour Monday morning, breaking the regional record. Some experts say this is part of a larger pattern of wetter weather — and possibly climate change.

The so-called supercell developed in Frederick County, Virginia, where NWS Meteorologist Jason Elliott says cool, dry winds from the north met with warm, wet winds from the south. From there the storm — which was about the side of Montgomery County, Md. — travelled about 20 miles per hour towards southern Maryland.

Unfortunately for Arlington, the heaviest part of the storm travelled down the Potomac River — straight through Fairfax County, Arlington County, Alexandria and D.C. — overwhelming stormwater management systems and filling streets, homes, and businesses with water.

When a rainstorm hits, the runoff water not absorbed into the ground travels into the county’s stormwater pipes. However, too much water can fill the pipes, and flow out of manholes and storm drains.

“Water will then flow underneath of a road or a bridge and a stream will fill up and flow on top of a road or culvert,” said Aileen Winquist, Arlington’s Stormwater Management Program Manager. “That’s where damage can occur.”

Monday’s storm not only turned streams and streets into raging rapids, but also caused sewage backups in homes. Winquist said this is usually caused by water flooding sewer pipes and coming up through the floor drains in basements. It’s a problem residents in Westover and elsewhere face as they continue to recover from the flooding.

The county’s storm and sewer systems are overall in “good condition”, Winquist said, and crews continuing to repair corroded storm pipes and re-line old sewer pipes as needed.

“Typically the storm sewer system is designed for what’s known as a 10 year storm,” she added, referring the federal classification of a storm that has a 10% chance of occurring once every 10 years.

“It was easily raining 5 inches in an an hour, for half an hour,” said Elliot. “And nothing can handle something that heavy in that short a period of time.”

The county keeps a detailed map of every location in Arlington damaged in a flood and uses it prepare for future emergencies and prioritize routine repairs. Winquist declined to share a copy of the map, citing privacy concerns, but noted that Westover was not among the neighborhoods filled with water during Arlington’s last major flood back in 2006.

New flood plains can be caused by a variety of factors, such as problems with the storm water pipes or nearby development projects. But there’s also the issue of storms getting stronger and wetter.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

We need your input to help refine the draft Community Energy Plan.

Ask questions, get answers and make your voice heard. If you care about climate action and Arlington’s sustainability journey, this event is for you! Snacks will be provided.

Please join use at Central Library this Tuesday!

Community Energy Plan Open House:

Date: June 4
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Location: Central Library Auditorium

Our lives are increasingly reliant on ever more energy. Air conditioning and heating, lighting, electric cars, tablets and smart phones, TVs and game consoles, and so much more. Energy is a key enabler of humanity’s progress.

It is also linked to global greenhouse gas increases and associated impacts that were recently detailed in the latest UN Climate Report.

The Rethink Energy program is Arlington’s climate action program and is moving the needle on energy efficiency, solar power, green building and more.

Why do we need a Community Energy Plan?

Arlington’s Community Energy Plan was first adopted in 2013. In the same way that Arlington’s smart growth journey was built upon land-use planning and transit, energy planning is the critical next layer to support Arlington’s evolution as a sustainable community.

Arlington County is updating the Community’s Energy Plan. This Plan is ambitious in its scope, but practical in its aims. Residents and businesses can expect a variety of benefits as we work to finalize this long-term plan:

  • Reducing energy costs that will save residents and businesses money
  • Generating energy locally with the use of renewables and other technologies
  • Reaching our carbon reduction goals by 2050

Please join us on June 4 at the Community Energy Plan Open House!

The draft Community Energy Plan update can be found here. An executive summary of the proposed changes can be found here.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

This week we are highlighting an upcoming event sponsored by EcoAction Arlington, Coalition for Smarter Growth and Encore Learning.

On April 9 from 7-9:00 p.m., former Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette will present Al Gore’s compelling slide deck on the climate crisis. Mr. Fisette will then facilitate a panel featuring:

  • Demetra McBride, Bureau Chief, Arlington County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management
  • Timothy DelSole, George Mason University Professor and co-Chief Editor of the Journal of Climate
  • Paul Bledsoe, Progressive Policy Institute and national media contributor on climate policy and politics
  • Scott Sklar, President of the Stella Group and an expert on clean energy technologies.

The panel will cover the challenges we face, progress made and the path forward. What is Arlington doing to respond to climate change? What is the Green New Deal? And what is the status of batteries and EVs?

This event is free and open to all, but space is limited. Register here.

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Earlier this week the Arlington County Board approved a resolution expressing the county’s commitment to fighting climate change and upholding the Paris Climate Agreement.

One could argue that fighting climate change starts with local action and that, at the very least, there is positive symbolic value in the county’s resolution.

One could also argue that despite passage of its Community Energy Plan in 2013, there’s little Arlington County can legally do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, beyond providing incentives for greater energy efficiency in buildings.

What do you think? Should the County Board be taking the time to address the issue of climate change?

Photo by Tyler Zarfoss

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Morning Notes

Advertising for Capital Bikeshare? — The Arlington County Board has approved a policy that would allow an advertising sponsorship for Capital Bikeshare. A corporate sponsorship of the regionwide system could generate $750,000 over five years for Arlington County, which would be used to support, expand and promote the system in Arlington. [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]

Board Approves Climate Resolution — The County Board last night approved a resolution expressing the county’s commitment to fighting climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency. The resolution also states “that Arlington County supports the principles of the Paris Agreement and will continue to… advance action in accordance with the goals outlined in [it].” [Arlington County]

Arlington Taking Action to Attract Pollinators — Workers planted flowering plants in Arlington yesterday as part of a joint effort to attract more pollinators — insects like bees and butterflies. The environmentally-friendly effort was sponsored by the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, NOVA Parks and Dominion. [WJLA]

Arlington to Update Resource Protection Map — Arlington County will hold public hearings on updating its Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map. “The more accurate map will help Arlington protect environmentally sensitive lands near streams and ensure that the County can comply with local and State regulations,” said a press release. “It will allow the County to review development projects fairly and provide accurate information to residents and other stakeholders.” [Arlington County]

Photos from Crystal City Car Show — The annual Crystal City Fathers Day Auto Festival was held this past weekend and featured more than 100 cars. This year the show was organized in part by Carsfera.com. [Facebook]

Williamsburg Neighborhood Plan Updated — The County Board has approved an update to the Neighborhood Conservation Plan for Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Per a press release: “Residents made recommendations for improving traffic and pedestrian safety, maintaining the neighborhood’s character, protecting the tree canopy and improving neighborhood parks.” [Arlington County]

First Day of Summer — Today is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. [Capital Weather Gang, Vox]

Photo courtesy Valerie O’Such

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(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington County just announced that it has joined other counties, cities, businesses and colleges in signing an open letter pledging to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

President Trump announced last week he will withdraw the United States from the pact to help preserve American jobs and avoid placing heavy burdens on the country’s taxpayers. The decision brought swift condemnation from local elected officials.

County leaders joined on Monday (June 5) an open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement entitled, “We Are Still In.” The letter promises that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will continue, regardless of federal policy.

“Arlington stands with communities across our nation and around the globe who recognize that climate change is real and that we must, both on the local and on the global level, meet its adverse effects with strong, effective action,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette in a statement. “Just as we joined the Compact of Mayors in 2015 and agreed to set goals for reductions in greenhouse gases, so do we join the effort today of local communities that are pledging to uphold the Paris Agreement, even if the federal government does not.”

The District of Columbia has also signed on to the pact and Virginia joined a similar state effort this week.

In light of President Trump’s decision, the County Board will consider a resolution at its June 17 meeting reaffirming Arlington’s commitment to combating climate change.

In a press release, the county touted its efforts already in the fight against climate change:

Arlington County adopted a forward-thinking Community Energy Plan (CEP) in June 2013, as an element of our Comprehensive Plan. The award-winning plan is a long-term vision for transforming how Arlington generates, uses and distributes energy. Its goal-setting and methods of achievement are consistent with the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda and the Paris Accord. Arlington’s CEP aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050, and greenhouse gas emissions already have fallen 18 percent in Arlington between 2007 and 2015.

In 2015, Arlington signed the Global Covenant of Mayors for Energy and Climate, sponsored by the Compact of Mayors – open to any city or town in the world willing to meet a series of requirements culminating in the creation of a full climate action and adaptation plan.

In 2012, Arlington exceeded our goal of reducing government-wide energy usage by 10 percent, using the year 2000 as a baseline. Currently, we’re competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge to reduce municipal building energy usage by 20 percent by 2020.

Our Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) helps our community make smart decisions about energy and supports individual actions that improve and sustain Arlington’s quality of life. County government buys more than 30 percent of its electricity as certified green power and buys carbon offsets against 100 percent of its natural gas use. Arlington is home to Discovery Elementary, the largest “net zero energy” elementary school east of the Mississippi River.

At its meeting in June, the County Board will consider a resolution reaffirming Arlington’s commitment to combating climate change and to the goals of our Community Energy Plan.

Arlington will continue to work to make our County more prosperous, healthful, safe and secure through its efforts to rethink energy and protect the environment.

For more information about Arlington’s environmental initiatives and efforts to reduce energy usage and energy costs, visit the County website.

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Minutes after President Trump announced his decision to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement, Virginia elected officials began to share their disapproval.

Trump said his decision to withdraw from the pact, signed by 195 nations, would help preserve American jobs and avoid placing heavy burdens on the country’s taxpayers.

Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, highlighted how Trump’s decision to withdraw will negatively impact the United States’ foreign relationships.

“Trump’s decision will be a self-inflicted wound on our allies’ trust in American leadership,” Beyer wrote in a statement alongside fellow members of the House Safe Climate Caucus. “The Paris Agreement was a vision reflecting decisive action, hope, ingenuity, and the ideals with which we would define our country’s place in the world. Withdrawal from that agreement represents a triumph of ignorance, nativism and political pandering, and the message it sends to other countries will be disastrous for the relationships which have built and sustained our prosperity.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) released a statement condemning the president’s decision. He wrote that despite the withdrawal, Virginia will continue to do its part to fight climate change.

“The President’s dangerous action today will have a devastating impact on our environment, our economy, and our health,” McAuliffe said. “The United States economy is dependent on leadership in the world, yet the President seems inclined to sit back and let other nations pass us by. Climate change is a threat to our way of life. If President Trump refuses to lead the response, Virginia will.”

McAuliffe also detailed how his own actions have differed from Trump’s. He wrote how in early May, he signed an order to reduce carbon emissions in the Commonwealth.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the president’s choice goes against the country’s history of scientific innovation.

“The President seems to think that the U.S. commitment to cut about [one quarter] of our carbon pollution by 2025 is beyond the grasp of the country that won World War II and put men on the moon,” Kaine said in a statement.

Kaine added that he wants to be able to tell his future grandchildren that the US met the environmental challenge “head-on and triumphed over it, not shrank and cowered from it.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called the president’s announcement a “rejection of settled science.” He also highlighted how this historical decision will impact Virginians in the future.

“It poses a direct threat to Virginia’s environment, economy and way of life,” Warner wrote in a statement.

But Kaine managed a few optimistic words amid the swirl of pessimism and condemnation.

“I am confident that our nation’s optimistic, can-do spirit will eventually prevail over this short-sighted dereliction of America’s leadership role,” he said.

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