News

Stormwater advisory group says Alexandria’s making progress on flooding, but the real test is ahead

Civil engineers work on new stormwater mitigation projects in Parkfairfax (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

A new report filed by the Ad Hoc Stormwater Utility and Flood Mitigation Advisory Group said the city has been making progress on its mitigation, but said large-scale benefits are still years away.

The committee, which has been in operation for two years on an ad hoc basis, filed an 11-page report on the state of the stormwater infrastructure projects — along with a note that the committee should be made permanent.

The city has put a $264 million price tag on its 10-year Capital Improvement Program for stormwater mitigation projects. The committee said that figure accurately reflects that flooding prevention should be a priority for the city, but said there are scant details so far to provide a truly accurate cost estimation.

“None of these projects have completed sufficient design to allow accurate cost estimation,” the report warned. “City Council should be prepared for potential cost changes as the detailed designs of the major stormwater projects are completed over the next few years.”

The report said the city is mostly targeting its stormwater mitigation projects in the right areas but misses the intersection of Braddock Road and West Street, the area immediately adjacent to the Braddock Road Metro station.

The 10-year Capital Improvement Plan for stormwater and the wet weather mitigation projects planned for the combined sewer area of Old Town contain twelve large capacity-building projects and forty-nine smaller spot projects. The current inventory of projects is properly focused on the most urgent areas of stormwater flooding – with one exception. The intersection of Braddock Road and West Street is an area of chronic flooding during severe rain events. None of the currently planned large capacity-building projects appear to address this flooding problem directly.

The city’s approach to reducing stormwater flooding is broken into three parts: quick-turnaround spot projects, ongoing maintenance, and large capacity-building projects. Over the last year, the city completed six spot projects and ten are on deck for the next year. All of these require less than a year from design to construction.

Overall, the report acknowledged that Alexandria has made progress, but the real test will still be the delivery of the larger-scale projects that are still in the early design phases:

Alexandria has made more progress in the fight against stormwater flooding in the past few years than ever before. The rapid completion of spot improvements, the launch of major capacity-building projects and an effective outreach program are examples of this progress. While the Committee wholeheartedly applauds the progress to date, it recognizes that creating a more flood-resilient Alexandria will require at least a decade of sustained investment and effort. The true measure of progress will be when the City has proven its ability to build the large infrastructure projects that fundamentally increase Alexandria’s capacity to move stormwater.