Critics of the city’s plans to restore Taylor Run secured a new voice — City Councilwoman Amy Jackson — to their side when the Environmental Policy Commission (EPC) of Alexandria recently announced its opposition to the current project.
The EPC is an independent body established by the city in 1970 and reviews issues like water quality and environmental conservation.
In a letter to the City Council, Kathie Hoekstra, Chair of the EPC, shared some of the group’s doubts and concerns about the project.
“We believe the City needs to step back and address unanswered questions before proceeding with a project that would irreversibly impact Chinquapin Park for several decades at least,” Hoekstra said. “The City should demonstrate a good faith effort to explore all possible alternatives with better long lasting results with the EPC and the community before the City selects a contrator and moves forward with its plan.”
Hoekstra acknowledged it could result in the city foregoing the current grant funding unless that is applied to alternative projects.
The EPC’s letter is part of a coalition of dissent that includes some member of city leadership, like Rod Simmons, the city’s natural resource manager, and City Councilwoman Amy Jackson.
“I shouldn’t say I was dancing in the streets when I saw that,” Jackson said of the letter in a discussion with the West End Business Association earlier today. “There are a few awesome environmental specialists who don’t work for the facility who have done their due diligence in bringing that report up.”
Jackson said she and others are working on bringing the issue back to City Council for discussion. Currently the issue isn’t docketed for City Council review, having been earlier approved as part of a grant application, which has opened up new concerns about transparency for Jackson.
“Grants are on our consent docket [and we] move them right along,” Jackson said. “I want this changed and was communicating with the Mayor about this yesterday: our grants need to be pulled from the consent calendar and we need to be discussing those grants before they come to our docket, because that grant money we’re approving — that project may never come back to us. In the meantime, unbeknownst to me at the time, I’m approving a project that will never come before me again.”
Mayor Justin Wilson noted earlier that the Taylor Run project could come back to the city, but only as part of the current budget discussions.
The city stated that the project will reduce erosion at the site and improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by reducing the level of phosphates.
The city fired back at the ongoing criticisms with a recent letter dismissing the phosphorous tests done by Simmons — though Simmons stands by those tests and say they more accurately reflect the levels of phosphorous than city projections.
Jackson said she has concerns that the project would not substantially benefit the stream, pointing to earlier work at Fort Williams Park where she said the park looks today very close to how it did before the restoration. The EPC is worried the project could actively hinder the health of the stream.
“The proposed restoration method will degrade — not improve — the physical, chemical and biological features of the stream and the adjacent natural resources,” Hoekstra wrote.
Photo via City of Alexandria