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Diddling While Rome Burns and Arlington Floods

In early February 2007, I received an invitation to attend a meeting at Yorktown High School regarding county plans to alleviate flooding along Little Pimmit Run, which runs along part of North George Mason Drive. At the meeting, one resident reported having $100,000 in damage from the June 2006 floods. Another reported $30,000 in damage, including removing "30 truck loads of soggy mess."

At its recessed meeting on April 24, 2007 (agenda item 39.A.), the County Board approved $1.05 million as Phase I of a construction contract to replace the existing culvert beneath Old Dominion Drive and some streetscape improvements there. In Phase II, the culvert beneath Williamsburg Boulevard would be replaced.

At the February meeting, residents (including several from Fairfax County since much of the Pimmit Run watershed is there) were told the problem existed since about 1997. Actually, the problem has been going on even longer. In an April 1999 report to the Board, then County Manager William Donahue told the Board:

“The County has records of drainage complaints from citizens in the area dating from 1985 primarily focusing on flooding at the Williamsburg Boulevard crossing of Little Pimmit Run. In 1985 the County determined that the Williamsburg Boulevard culvert was undersized and that the Little Pimmit Run area upstream may experience widespread flooding during a major storm event.”

As a result, the County Manager wrote to the Board in 1999:

“A flood control project including replacement of the Williamsburg culvert and stream bank stabilization was added to the FY88 CIP for FY91 Bond funding. Subsequently, the project was funded in the FY97 CIP”

David Schultz of the Arlington Connection reported in the May 9-15 weekly edition, “the county government’s plan to solve the water problem has turned (downstream residents against upstream residents) into adversaries” since the new culverts will allow water to flow downstream faster.

What is unclear from the available documentation is why it has taken over 20 years for this project to get this far. At the early February neighborhood meeting when residents thought the problem had been going on for 10 years, an exasperated Fairfax resident asked the Board member who attended, “You’ve been working on this since 1997, and all you’re going to have is two culverts?”

Perhaps the county has too many planners and too few doers? Think an IG with access to all county records could fix accountability for this SNAFU? And the residents of Cherrydale think they've been waiting a long time for a fire station?

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