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Work began yesterday (Wednesday) on the long-delayed Ballston Beaver Pond remediation project — but no busy beavers will be involved.

The $4.2 million, 18-month project approved by the County Board this summer will retrofit the pond, originally built in 1980 to collect stormwater runoff from I-66. Today, sediment in the pond prevents detention, and it instead has become home to abundant wildlife, including beavers, according to a county report.

The project, expected to wrap up in July 2023, aims to improve stormwater retention and the wildlife habitat by restoring native plant species and adding habitat features. There will be a new observation platform with educational signage, seating and a reconstructed trail with bike racks.

Arlington County says the new two-acre wetland area will provide stormwater treatment to 460 acres of land in the Lubber Run watershed, and “is among the County’s most effective opportunities to achieve its water quality objectives and meet its regulatory requirements.”

This month, the construction contractor will be setting up the site, county project manager Aileen Winquist tells ARLnow. Excavation will begin next year.

“From now until the end of the year, neighbors will see the contractor bringing in equipment and setting up the boundaries of the construction area,” she said. “In the new year, neighbors will begin to see dump trucks full of sediment removed from the pond leaving the site.”

Public access will be limited as well. The grass area within the park will be off-limits, as it will be used for construction. A bike and pedestrian detour will reroute trail users from Washington Blvd to the Custis Trail and along the south side of the pond.

The detour will be in place for the entirety of construction, Winquist says.

A bicycle detour around the Ballston Beaver Pond construction project (via Arlington County)

The project is divided into a few phases, as work can only occur on one half of the pond at a time, Winquist said.

First, workers will remove sediment from and re-grade a half of the pond while removing invasive plants.

After the second half of the pond receives the same treatment, construction will begin on a new observation platform, trail upgrades, native species planting and new habitat features, including basking stations for turtles, she said.

The project is a long time in coming.

After community engagement in 2011-12, the project was paused in 2013 until the necessary easements were obtained from property owners. A redesigned project with new permits went to the public in January 2019, but “COVID-19 and related budget concerns” again delayed the project, the report says.

Still, those nearby welcome the pond redo, according to the report.

“The community continues to be very supportive of the project and it is highly anticipated by Ballston area residents and businesses,” it said.

But once beaver baffles are installed to discourage these critters from returning — and damming the pond again, which could compromise water quality — the wetland area will need a new name.

“This beautiful natural area needs a name that fits its unique space,” says Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Martha Holland.

Next year, the county plans to ask the community for name ideas and provide an opportunity to comment on a list of potential names.

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Jamestown Elementary School (file photo)

(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) Jamestown Elementary School is having an early dismissal today due to a “significant water leak.”

The announcement was made in an email to families.

“There is a significant water leak at Jamestown Elementary which requires us to close school early,” the school’s principal wrote. “Students will have early release at 1:00 PM so that the county can shut down the water. Lunch will be served to all students before they leave.”

“There will be NO Extended Day,” the email continued. “I apologize for the inconvenience and will keep you updated on repairs and plans for tomorrow.”

Jamestown, the northernmost public school in Arlington, was built in 1953.

Following the school’s announcement, a social media post from Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services said there is a water main break at or near the school and that some homes in the area may also be affected.

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Morning Notes

Structure Fire Near Ballston — “Units located a detached structure on fire behind a house with minor extension to the house. The fire was quickly extinguished with no reports of injuries to firefighters or civilians. The fire remains under investigation by the Fire Marshal’s Office.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Plane Runs Off DCA Runway — “A Frontier Airlines plane slid off the end of the runway at Reagan National Airport Friday night. Flight 538 from Denver was arriving at the airport at about 10:30 p.m. when the incident happened, Micah Lillard of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said.” [WTOP]

Apparent Drowning in Potomac — “Several agencies said they called off a search for a swimmer in the Potomac River near Fletcher’s Boathouse Sunday. D.C. Fire and EMS called the situation an apparent drowning… Shortly after 3 p.m., a witness reported seeing a person try to swim the river from the Virginia side and not resurface, the fire department said. D.C. Police fire boats and units from the Harbor station, Arlington Fire Department boats and a Maryland State Police helicopter were assisting in the search.” [NBC 4, Twitter]

Arlington Ridge Water Work — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services: “Monday night – Tuesday morning: Water main maintenance work near S Arlington Ridge Road/Long Branch Creek could cause temporary low water pressure or service outages for nearby customers, 8pm to 8am.” [Twitter]

Sheriff Supports New Police Chief — From Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur: “Today, more than ever, police chiefs must commit to the principles of trust, accountability and transparency. I believe Andy [Penn] has demonstrated leadership in each of these areas and I look forward serving the Arlington community alongside him in his new role.” [Arlington County]

Mixed-Use Tower in Ballston for Sale — “The owners of Ballston’s tallest building are exploring its sale. Brandywine Realty Trust (NYSE: BDN) and the Shooshan Co., the developers behind 4040 Wilson Blvd., the final phase of the larger Liberty Center project, have put the $217 million tower on the market. The 23-story, 250-foot-tall building, completed last year, includes 225,000 square feet of office on the lower 10 floors topped by 250 apartments.” [Washington Business Journal]

Beyer Supports Fusion Power Research — “”If we do not pursue fusion energy, others will, and U.S. economic interests and influence will diminish as a result,” writes @RepDonBeyer in @sciam, arguing this energy tech can help the climate emergency and create #trillions of $$$ in economic growth.” [Twitter, Scientific American]

Newspaper Editor Attacked by Cicadas — From Sun Gazette Editor Scott McCaffrey’s blog: “The cicadas largely have left me alone, although two did get on my pants over the weekend and surreptitiously made it into Casa de Scotty… I gently removed those buggies and deposited them back outside so they could continue their search for love in what little time they have left on this earth. But yesterday, taking a midday walk around Falls Church, a more aggressive cicada flew right into the back of my shirt and started wriggling his (or her) way deeper in.” [Sun Gazette]

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Arlington County is planning to buy a vacant home in East Falls Church that was damaged in the July 2019 flash flooding.

The county intends to demolish the home at 6415 24th Street N. and use the property to make improvements “that would help alleviate or reduce the severity of localized flooding,” Stormwater Communications Manager Aileen Winquist tells ARLnow.

The county acknowledged it doesn’t have to buy the property to make the upgrades, but these kinds of purchases could give it flexibility with solutions.

After the July deluge, county staff evaluated flood-prone areas to find properties that the county could buy and use for stormwater infrastructure improvements, according to a staff report. This property, valued at $683,800, is one of the four high-priority locations that the county identified.

“The agreement is the first negotiated acquisition to be considered by the County Board as part of this program,” the report said.

The County Board is slated to approve the purchase from the home’s owners during its meeting this Saturday.

Winquist said the locations of the three other properties, whose owners were currently not interested in selling, are available via a public records request.

The Department of Environmental Services has not yet settled on the mitigation approach it will take on the 24th Street N. property, which has not been repaired since the flooding, Winquist said.

“The County is still analyzing projects to reduce flood risk in this watershed, which may include upgrading that section of pipe or storm drain,” she said. “The County is exploring the use of this property for infrastructure, detention, or overland relief as part of a larger-scale solution.”

During the 2019 storm, some nearby homes in the neighborhood experienced flooding, “but not to the extent of this property,” Winquist said.

The county will demolish the structure starting at least six months after the sale, expecting to spend some $200,000 to $250,000 to do so. The sellers plan to allow the nonprofit Second Chance to salvage materials from the home ahead of demolition.

Property owners can contact the county to have their property considered for the program, but the county will have to consider such acquisitions carefully given the complexity of the flood mitigation solutions, Winquist said.

Although voters approved a $50.8 million bond in November for various stormwater projects, the county said the money for the property purchase wouldn’t come from that.

Photo (3) via Google Maps

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Responding to increasing storms, flooding and ongoing development, Arlington County will be changing its stormwater management regulations for single-family home construction projects.

The new requirements — and how they came about — have developers worried.

Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will require developers to use tools such as water storage tanks to ensure new homes can retain at least 3 inches of rain, which will affect applications submitted after Sept. 13, 2021.

Currently, developers are only on the hook to improve the quality of water runoff, using rain gardens, planters, permeable driveways and tree cover.

DES staff tell ARLnow the new system will manage more water, protect downhill properties, reduce plan approval times, and give homeowners stormwater facilities that are feasible to maintain.

In a statement, staff said the change “reflects future-focused and balanced responsiveness to a diverse customer base that includes downhill neighbors, property owners, and builders.”

But some developers who work in Arlington County says the changes blindsided them and they want more input. They predict significant potential cost increases to homeowners and argue that this shifts the burden onto individuals, rather than placing responsibility with neighborhoods or the county itself.

“There is broad concern with the roll-out of this,” said Yuri Sagatov of Sagatov Homes. “There are just a lot of questions and there aren’t a lot of answers. We’re all waiting to get more information from the county to see how the changes might impact properties.”

Staff said these changes were precipitated by the increase in heavy rainfall, the growing intensity of storms, and a sense among residents that the county is not doing enough to protect properties — particularly those that are downhill from development, from the runoff caused by new homes.

A county study last summer found that the soil under new homes is 10 times less permeable than the soil under existing homes, staff said.

With the tanks, which appear to be above ground in photos, the goal is to retain rainwater during flash flooding events like that of July 8, 2019.

“Gravity detention tanks… promote a ‘slow it down and soak it in’ strategy to capture and release runoff slowly as a more robust and reliable way to handle intense rainfall,” says a DES memo.

It seems like a feasible alternative to more expensive underground systems, but the challenge will be blending them in aesthetically.

“They are talking about massive above ground cisterns,” the owner of one remodeling firm told ARLnow. “I would think neighbors would hate this. They’re going to be hideous.”

As for engaging developers during the process, county staff said enhancements to an existing program only require the county to consult with stakeholders. The county surveyed neighbors, home builders and engineers in 2019 and met with engineers early this year.

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It’s almost that time of year again: the time when your tap water starts to smell a bit like a swimming pool.

A week from today — on Monday, April 5 — the disinfectant used in Arlington County’s drinking water will be temporarily switched from chloramine to chlorine. The annual spring cleaning will run through May 17, with the goal of improving the condition of the pipes in the county’s water distribution system.

Arlington gets its water from the Washington Aqueduct in D.C., which also serves the District and a portion of Fairfax County.

More from a county press release:

The District of Columbia, Arlington County and the northeastern Fairfax County will clean out their tap water network starting Monday — a safe, annual process. Water service continues uninterrupted during the process, which runs from April 5 through May 17. During that time, drinking water may smell or taste slightly different.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Washington Aqueduct, water supplier to these regions, performs the temporary disinfectant switch from chloramine to chlorine to allow local water authorities to clean the pipes and maintain water flow. Washington Aqueduct continues to add a corrosion inhibitor during the process to reduce the potential for release of lead in system pipes.

Local water authorities will continually monitor the drinking water for safe chlorine levels as well as conduct system-wide flushing to enhance water quality. At the same time, water utilities will systematically flush fire hydrants by opening them up to release stagnant water and allowing fresh water to flow through the system. Crews operating hydrants in this manner are a normal part of this routine. This process is repeated nearly every spring, in this region and across the nation.

This temporary cleaning often adds a new smell or taste to tap water. If customers opt, they can run the cold water tap for about two minutes, then use a water filter or allow water to sit in a container in the refrigerator to remove chlorine taste and odor.

Customers who take special precautions to remove chloramine from tap water should continue such methods during the temporary switch to chlorine. As always, those with special concerns should consult their health care provider.

Washington Aqueduct is the wholesale water supplier for the District of Columbia, Arlington and northeastern Fairfax County.

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An “emergency utility repair” at Arlington’s sewage treatment plant led to a sewage release into Four Mile Run.

The sewage release happened this morning at the plant on S. Glebe Road. County officials are warning people to avoid the stream between S. Arlington Ridge Road and the Potomac.

“The public is advised to stay away from the affected water and to keep pets away until further notice,” Arlington County said in a press release. “Stream water can contain microorganisms that can make people sick, whether the stream is located in an urban area or in the middle of a forest. Even after the discharge is naturally flushed from the streams, the County’s normal precautions for safe use of streams apply.”

Crews are working to repair the unspecified issue at the plant. As a result of the work, a portion of S. Glebe Road is closed at S. Eads Street.

“An estimated completion time for the repair is unknown at this time,” the county said.

Separately, just before 9:15 a.m., a crash also blocked a lane of S. Glebe Road near S. Arlington Ridge Road, after an SUV reportedly careened into a utility pole.

Update at 1:30 p.m. — All lanes of S. Glebe Road have reopened, the county says.

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(Updated at 9:25 p.m.) Arlington, Virginia is hoping to avoid the infrastructure pitfalls in Arlington, Texas — and other parts of the Lone Star State.

At Saturday’s County Board meeting, the Board approved a 24 inch water main project stretching from Lorcom Lane to 25th Street N. in the Donaldson Run neighborhood. The Board authorized $3.1 million for the project, with $2.6 million as the project cost and just over a half-million dollars in contingency funding.

According to the project summary:

This contract is for the construction of 24-inch water transmission main in the right-of-way of North Taylor Street, Vacation Lane, North Vermont and North Vernon streets between Lorcom Lane and 25th Street North. This contract also includes installation of a new 8- inch water main to replace existing 6-inch water main along North Vernon Street between 25th Street North and North Vermont Street. The proposed water main will increase required system redundancy and transmission capacity.

The water main replacement is called Gravity One Phase II, a follow up on a water infrastructure project started in 2017. The new water main will serve as a backup to the existing 30-inch main from 1957 that feeds into nearby storage tanks and a pump station, allowing the county to move forward with a full assessment of the state of that pipe and perform maintenance.

“The project is expected to begin in April 2021,” the project website says. “The anticipated completion time is spring 2023.

“The contractor will limit noise-generating work to the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” the website adds. “No weekend work is anticipated. Other tasks may be addressed during the hours immediately before and after that window. There may be water impacts to some customers throughout the project. Advance notice will be given to residents prior to any planned water shut offs.”

County Board chair Matt de Ferranti said the new pipe will hopefully help prevent future water main breaks and provide better water reliability.

“We hear from so many in the community that we must take care of infrastructure,” said de Ferranti. “There was a water main break at Chain Bridge. This was a continued priority before that and we are investing again in a contract of a little over $3 million for a water line transition main that will be a backup to help protect reliability, which we’ve seen just this week is an unthought of but critical item as we look at those in Texas without water.”

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A 94-year-old water main that runs under the residential area north of Clarendon to Courthouse is finally set to be replaced.

On Saturday, the County Board approved a contract for the construction of a new water main along Key Blvd, running from N. Jackson Street to N. Danville Street in Lyon Village. It passed as a consent item, meaning it was deemed non-controversial and was acted upon by a single vote.

The new water main will replace the existing one, which was built in 1927. The new main will improve fire flow capacity and meet neighborhood demand, county staff wrote.

The staff report notes that the aging water main has “had an excessive number of breaks in the past few years.” This includes most recently in July, Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services (DES) confirms.

This project is one of a number of recent efforts to replace old, unlined cast iron pipes, which can more easily break and become corroded.

The contract for the Key Blvd water main was awarded to the lowest bidder, Crown Construction Services, which provided an estimate under the county engineer’s estimated cost. As approved, the authorized contract total is $1.4 million, including contract contingencies.

The county has previously worked with Crown Construction on the Glencarlyn Park renovations.

Construction is expected to start this spring, a DES spokesperson tells ARLnow, with completion set for fall 2022. Water disruption notices will be sent to all affected residents.

Planned water service disruptions will “typically less than a day,” according to the county staff report, and will be limited to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Map via Arlington County

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(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) A project that could help the Westover area with its flooding problem is on the Arlington County Board agenda this weekend.

The Board on Saturday is slated to consider an agreement with Arlington Public Schools to build a stormwater detention vault under the athletic fields of the Reed Elementary School site in Westover.

The project is part of the county’s Flood Resilient Arlington stormwater strategy, which was created in response to significant floods that affected the Westover neighborhood in July 2019. The project is not expected to impact the planned opening of the new school, at 1644 N. McKinley Road, in August 2021.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that the project maximizes public land for the benefit of the community.

“The Westover Commercial District is a vital component of the economic, cultural and social core of the neighborhood, and it has suffered repeated flooding losses from increasingly volatile storms,” Garvey said in a statement. “This type of investment is part of a larger effort to achieve a Flood Resilient Arlington in a time of climate change.  It will help prevent further devastation and enhance public safety when major rain events occur.”

The school is located in the Torreyson Run watershed, which is one of five Arlington watersheds singled out for improvements.

The project includes designing and building a large underground vault that will “form a cornerstone to a watershed-scale solution in the Torreyson Run watershed,” according to Arlington County.

The work will be broken up into two phases.

Phase 1 of the project consists of new underground pipe and junction fixtures and is funded by the County and will cost $1.54M,” the county said in a press release. “Phase 2 includes the stormwater detention structure itself and is still under design. Both phase 1 and phase 2 are specifically being designed and scheduled to not impact school opening or operations.”

The preliminary cost estimate for both phases is between $14.1M – $16.0M for design and construction,” the press release adds. “The length of construction will be determined during the design process.”

Arlington voters approved a $50.4 million stormwater bond last month, which will be used to pay for the second phase.

APS Superintendent Francisco Durán told Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz in a letter that time is of the essence in approving the agreement to reimburse APS for the project upon completion.

“In order for the work of Phase 1 to be completed in time for the school to open as scheduled, this funding agreement is required promptly,” Durán wrote. “Our APS team, APS consultants and County staff have been working diligently to find the best way to achieve the County’s stormwater storage goals and open the new school on schedule.”

The County is working with APS on a Memorandum of Agreement for the school system’s construction contractor, and plans a public engagement effort with impacted communities about the design of the vault early next year.

Image via APS

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Parking Lot Staying Put — “Crystal City has been a scalding hot market for new development ever since Amazon.com Inc. moved in — but one well-positioned lot will continue to sit empty for the foreseeable future. Gould Property Co., which owns a small parking lot at 2661 S. Clark St., filed a request with Arlington County last month asking for permission to maintain the property as surface parking through early 2026.” [Washington Business Journal]

Westover Apartment Building Named — “Kathleen Sibert, who led the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) from 2008 until earlier this year, will remain a permanent part of the organization through a facility named in her honor… Located in Westover, Sibert House is designed to provide permanent-supportive housing and a foundation to help individuals achieve better health, overcome substance abuse and mental illness, obtain job security, and attain their goals.” [InsideNova]

Schools Also Facing Budget Gap — “Superintendent Durán said that APS is facing an estimated budget gap at this time of between $24 million and $31 million. The APS budget gap continues to fluctuate and is based on continued unknowns including more possible revenue loss, more possible savings and more costs as APS works to return students to in-person learning while continuing to provide distance learning. The school district is examining its current practices and reviewing the budget.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Arlington Water Facts — “In a year, Arlington residents use some 8 billion gallons of water. That’s about a trillion 8-ounce glasses of the stuff. Clean, safe and always at the ready.” [Twitter]

Real Estate Costs on the Rise — “Not only are home prices on the rise across the Washington area; the average cost on a per-square-foot basis continues to grow, too… In Virginia, Arlington led the pack, with its average per-square-foot cost of $455 up 4.4 percent from $436.” [InsideNova]

Real Estate Firm Opening Second Office — “McEnearney Associates is excited to announce a new office location in the heart of Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia located at 3033 Wilson Boulevard… This will be McEnearney Associate’s second office location in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Airport Concession Sales Way Down — “Roughly 33 concessionaires were open at Reagan and 44 at Dulles, or just over 40% of all shops in the two airports… the shops that are open are still struggling with very low foot traffic and a customer base that is spending less than normal. Sales per passenger were down 20% at Reagan National and 22% at Dulles in August compared to the same month of 2019.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Early Voting on Irish TV — “Irish TV RTÉ was in Courthouse filming the early voting for the election.” [@Irelands4Courts/Twitter]

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