News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Treepocalypse Now: The word 'makeover' makes it sound cute!

So the Washington Post finally figured out that people in Reston, the "city of trees," don't cotton to folks cutting them down. By way of proof that the ongoing stream restoration project is a Troubling Thing, they ran the picture above under a headline about a "makeover," which made us think we were reading the Style section. We're really not sure what the big deal is. Forests spontaneously thin themselves out to create giant dead zones all the time! Biologists call them "nature's parking lots." That orangish thing near the back of the shot that looks to untrained eyes like a piece of heavy construction equipment is actually a well-camouflaged rhododendron bush.

So, really, what are folks upset about?

Work began last year on the long-planned project to reverse years of damage and pollution caused by development. But residents said they were stunned in the fall when Wetland Studies and Solutions, the Gainesville company in charge, began using heavy construction equipment to reshape sections of stream and take down some of the community's signature mature hardwoods.

The project has been approved by the county, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, the Fairfax Board of Supervisors and two state lawmakers asked this month for another review from county and state environmental experts in response to the residents' concerns.

Chris Koerner, an environmental consultant who lives in Reston but not near the restoration site, said the Reston Association could achieve better results with a lighter touch, removing trees selectively and using smaller, more precise equipment. The heavy equipment compresses the soil, he said, making it difficult for young trees to take root and grow.

The result of the work is more reminiscent of a manicured park than a natural stream, Koerner said.

"You sort of think you're on a golf course," Koerner said.
And what exactly is wrong with golf courses? Last time we checked, Reston had a few of those, and you don't see anyone up in arms about them.


  1. But residents said they were stunned in the fall when Wetland Studies and Solutions, the Gainesville company in charge, began using heavy construction equipment to reshape sections of stream....

    I get the feeling that many of these residents expected the use of magic beans instead of all that nasty construction equipment.

  2. There are actually stream restoration projects in and around Reston that were done without heavy construction equipment, lost fewer trees and have proven to be very effective.

  3. This is absurd. The folks over at WSSI are truly experts in stream morphology and restoration. They have used the lightest possible methods allowable based on the level of deterioration and restoration required for each particular stream section. Not all of the sections of restoration use the heavy equipment pictured. Looking at the prior conditions of the streams, they had some extreme incision with required much more dirt-moving in order to adjust the stream banks and provide for appropriate placement of pools/riffles/rip-rap, etc. Are we also forgetting that it is all the run-off from the Reston development that degraded the streams to the level that they require restoration in the first place? Not to mention that WSSI is absorbing the cost of the project, not Reston Association, and that this has been in public planning for years. The folks that are complaining about this are ill-informed.

  4. You're the one who's misinformed. WSSI is making tons of money selling the wetlands mitigation credits to developers across NoVa.

    Rolband is an engineer not a biologist. He regularly acknowledges he's a businessman not an environmentalist.

    Undercutting of streambanks is a natural process. There is no functional reason to backcut stream bank undercuts that are hundreds of feet away from any structures.

    A very small percentage of the Snake Den watershed has development in the last 20 years. Most of the watershed has been stable since the mid-80s.

    Hundreds, if not a thousand, trees were unnecessarily lost in this misconceived boondoggle. The logging trucks were taking trees away all summer and fall. How much did Rolband get for that lumber?

    The loss of the closed canopy will raise the water temperature in the stream and prevent the return of the fauna previously found in the stream.

    No substantial reforesting has occurred in the 2 60' wide clear cuts. We found 3 saplings planted in Snake Den along with some shrubs. Even if Rolband is ultimately shamed into reforesting the clear cuts, the canopy will take decades to recover.

    There was no advertising of this project to the clusters associations or the homeowners who live around Snake Den.

    How much is Rolband paying you to post this crap?

  5. Give me a break.

    The work is in an RPA - all impacts require notification of Adjacent and Riparian Property owners. COE/DEQ notification is sent, via REGISTERED MAIL. And all of the engineering plans are available to the public.

    While undercutting is natural, the natural recovery via bank overflow, floodplain modification, is not possible due to the surrounding development. Do you really think RA would ask for this if it wasn't needed?

    As stated openly by WSSI, the value of the lumber was approximately $7,500. I'd be willing to guess that it cost more to remove it.

    Take a long time to ponder this: We know that run off rates (curve numbers) from forested areas are far far lower than from impermeable (asphalt, housing) and low-value vegetative (lawns, golf courses) areas. Now think about the percentage of true forested area within the watershed verses the impermeable and low-value vegetative area. Most of that runoff enters the streams via methods of inadequate outfall. Just because there has been little NEW development in the watershed in the last 20 years doesn't mean the impact is decreased. The impact on the streams is compounded over time.

    The required stream assessments (performed by biologists) clearly show that the fauna and microbiology of the streams are highly degraded.

    To expect reforestation in such a short amount of time is crazy. Remember, this project will be monitored and corrected for the next 10 years.

    Oh, and WSSI is also footing the bill to replace all of the stream crossings that connect the recreational trails in the restoration project, to the tune of $3million. Way to say "thanks".

    Rolband has his faults, but this restoration project is not one of them. You make it sound as if Rolband is the one driving the machinery. Aren't you forgetting RA, DEQ, COE, FrFx Co., and Va DNR?

    If you believe Sun Tzu ("know thy enemy"), then I'm sure you've already read everything at, which has nearly everything that I've stated, in plain english, for everyone to read. Clearly you have an internet connection.

    C'mon, would you rather end up with concrete streams, like much of Arlington?

  6. No cluster association or individual homeowner received notice. COE notice is published not mailed.

    There was more than adequate room in the Snake Den valley for natural meander to recover the undercuts.

    Larry Butler was more than happy not to have to pay for bridge replacement out of RA assessments. He was also hoping this work would reduce the need to dredge out the lakes. Clearly, RA did not value closed canopy forest very highly which suggests who ever was responsible for this at RA cannot be trusted to protect Reston's ecology.

    This project eliminated several square miles of closed canopy woodland and replaced it with "low value" vegetation in 2 corridors 60' wide. This will only make run off worse.

    No one believes $7,500. How much did Rolband make selling the mitigation credits?

    It is reasonable to expect Rolband to plant more than 3 saplings to begin reforestation. Sadly that's all that was planted. Rolband will be no where to be found when the reforestation doesn't proceed as hope or needed. He will have taken his money and run leaving RA to pay for the tree plantings.

    The open canopy will prevent the return of even the degraded fauna that was there before because the water temperature will be too high.

    The Disneyfied pools and revetments Rolband has installed are little better than the concrete channels of which you disapprove.

    The third way would have used low impact techniques that preserved the tree canopy allowed the natural meander process to continue instead of prevent it with revetment after revetment.

    This was a profit making exercise from the beginning with a net detriment to the environment as a whole.

    Shilling for Rolband really is a waste of your time.

    When do the ATV races along the two 60'wide clear cuts start?

  7. If you took a long hard look at WSSI's record you'd realize that they have never cut and run on any restoration/mitigation project.

    I suppose some people just can't be reasoned with.

    Good luck tilting at windmills.

  8. Hey I run the booming mulch business on Reston Avenue near Southington Lane. Business is super what with all the tree trunks, shrubs, branches, and leaf debris from the gas pipeline maintenance and the tree, shrub, and leaf debris associated with the stream cleanup on the south side of Reston. The mulch is put back into the garden plots off Baron Cameron, Reston Parkway, and the North Shore area. A win - win situation...especially on pay day for me and the crew. Thanks - Dave

  9. Sunrise Valley Nature Park/Preserve was built by WSSI. Mobil Land Corp. had them build it to make up for some of the environmental damage they did to Reston when the land was originally developed because Mobil was involved in an Atlanta lawsuit involving millions and didn't want the same thing to happen in Reston. It seems like it was a pretty successful project.

  10. Hysteria will not prevail here. Not all Restonians are up in arms about this project. As a matter of fact, they support it. Get your facts straight, man-up, and realize that a "makeover" is long overdue on these streams.

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