Newsletter

Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office announced a new batch of flood prevention grants, and this time around Alexandria’s getting more than the pocket change it did the last time around.

Two Alexandria projects were featured in the new round of funding, with one project design, in particular, getting a major boost.

The state is allocating $3.2 million to Waterfront Improvement Project design. The city has been working through various potential designs for flood mitigation along the waterfront, but leadership balked at the cost and sent plans back to the drawing board. Even the least expensive option came in at an estimated $90 million for flood mitigation alone.

The state’s $3 million is allocated toward design, which the Waterfront Commission said will have to incorporate more elements of the waterfront plan beyond just flooding mitigation. Earlier plans for waterfront flood mitigation were also noted as doing little to prevent tidal flooding, such as the one in October that shut down several blocks of Old Town.

The city is also getting some funding for flood mitigation in Arlandria. The state allocated $516,500 for the Edison Street and Dale Street capacity project, which aims to help with flood mitigation near the Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology.

0 Comments
Flooding on lower King Street in Old Town, October 29, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

(Updated 9:10 p.m.) In a fairly sizable newsletter, city staff laid out a sort of “state of flooding” message that lays out the city’s response to recent flooding issues and a longer-term look at infrastructure work in progress and on the horizon.

In a newsletter, staff outlined plans for the grant funding received from the state for flood prevention.

“A study and design for two concept projects exploring green infrastructure received funding from a state grant supporting communities that implement stormwater management practices,” stormwater management staff said in the Wednesday (Dec. 1) newsletter. “The state Department of Conservation and Recreation awarded a Community Flood Preparedness Fund (CFPF) grant worth $115,200 to the City on Oct. 5. Alexandria, one of just 19 communities to receive the grant, plans to use it for a study and design for two green infrastructure concept projects in the Four Mile Run watershed.”

The newsletter noted this was the first round of funding from the fund, which will award projects grants on a quarterly basis. Staff said the city will use the grant to fund a study and recommend two projects to implement green infrastructure — citing permeable pavement and tree box filters as the kinds of green infrastructure projects that can help reduce flooding.

“The green infrastructure projects would complement two large storm sewer projects planned for the Four Mile Run watershed,” the newsletter said. “Although green infrastructure will not eliminate flooding issues in the area, it will provide a complementary option to manage stormwater. It will also help improve water quality by filtering out pollutants.”

The newsletter said the city has already applied for the second round of funding through CFPF, which it hopes to use to fund a stormwater storage and conveyance project in Arlandria.

Meanwhile, the Flood Mitigation Pilot Grant Program was designed to help homeowners take individual action to help floodproof their homes, but staff said the program suffers an extensive backlog.

“City staff is diligently working through a backlog of more than 133 applications for its Flood Mitigation Pilot Grant Program,” the newsletter said. “The program, launched on Aug. 30, provides reimbursement up to $5,000 to homeowners who take measures to mitigate flooding in their homes. The City Council appropriated $750,000 starting in FY 2022 to initiate the program, with funding identified annually in the 10-Year budget.”

Staff said homeowners who experienced damage to their homes then installed flood mitigation measures are prioritized when applying for the program, at least in the current pilot phase.

Qualifying flood mitigation measures include basement window protection, flood gates and drain tiles under basement floors.

Meanwhile, the newsletter said the city is also working on smaller, neighborhood projects that aim to increase the functionality of the storm sewer system, identifying sites of future improvement including:

  • Mount Vernon Avenue Cul-de-Sac and Hume Avenue Bypass
  • Hume Avenue inlets and check valve
  • East Mason Avenue inlets
  • East Mason/East Alexandria flap gates and check vales
  • South Jordan Street.

Lastly, the newsletter highlighted some of the larger capacity projects entering the design phase in Fiscal Year 2022.

“Capacity projects at Commonwealth Avenue and East Glebe Road, Ashby Street and East Glebe Road and Hooff’s Run Culvert/Timber Branch Bypass are part of the City’s Capital Improvement Projects Plan for FY 2022 – FY 2031,” staff said. “The City estimates storm sewer capacity projects to cost about $170 million.”

A full breakdown of the project costs and timeline estimates are below: Read More

3 Comments

After reaching a high water mark around 3:30 p.m. at high tide — with some help from the rainfall — waters are starting to recede for now in Old Town.

Today, a combination of rains and coastal flooding brought the Potomac up to 5.99 feet, making today a “moderate flood” by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) standards. The record high is 8.7 feet from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The National Weather Service warned that more flooding is anticipated at high tide around 4 a.m. tomorrow morning (Saturday), though it’s not forecast to get quite as high as water levels were this afternoon.

Strand Street and parts of Union Street were closed for much of the afternoon as locals gawked at the high water levels or tried to assist business owners in sandbagging the street-facing retail. The coastal flood warning is in effect until 2 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday).

Keith Harmon, a local canoeing through the flood, said this wasn’t the first time he’s been able to paddle his vessel along Alexandria streets.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve taken the canoe out on the road in Old Town,” Harmon said. “This is the second time for me. The last time was about four years ago.”

Plans for flooding prevention in the blocks most heavily affected today were presented earlier this month to the city’s Waterfront Commission Flood Mitigation Committee, but were dismissed as too costly and would likely have done little to stop “overtopping” as was seen today along the Potomac.

https://twitter.com/patpend/status/1454183498114375694

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story

5 Comments

Staff from Alexandria Toyota desperately piled sandbags in front of Chadwicks (203 Strand Street) as floodwaters started to swell and shut down several blocks of Old Town.

The National Weather Service has issued an areal flood warning for Alexandria, in addition to a coastal flood warning in place until Saturday.

Around 2:15 p.m., Strand Street and parts of Union Street were closed due to high floodwaters, with police and city staff warning drivers to turn back. Waters are expected to continue rising until high tide around 3:30 p.m.

Potomac River water levels (photo via NOAA)

Around the waterfront, locals helped pile sandbags in front of businesses and watched as water levels crept higher.

Several businesses and institutions closer to the waterfront, like the Torpedo Factory, were closed.

10 Comments

Morning Notes

The legend of the burning bride — “Autumn is not only the season for brisk weather, mahogany and burnt orange color combinations and pumpkin bread with apple cider – it’s also the time of year when Alexandria’s spookiest ghost tales emerge from the shadows to take center stage.” [Alexandria Times]

Alexandria couple creates new non-alcoholic wine — “Michelle and David Toothman found a way that you can have your wine and drink it too but without the negative side effects.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Prince Street goes all-out for Halloween — “Several homes near the intersection of Lee and Prince Street are completely decked out in spooky decor including dozens of skeletons of all sizes and types, including humans, dogs, horses and at least one cyclopes unicorn of some kind.” [WUSA]

City offers sandbags to combat flooding — “The City will provide free sandbags to residents and businesses… Friday, October 29, from 7 to 9 a.m. at 133 S. Quaker Lane. Sandbags will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, with a limit of five sandbags per address.” [City of Alexandria]

0 Comments

(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) High water levels in Old Town marked the start of what could be several days of tidal flooding around Alexandria.

A Coastal Flood Warning is in effect starting tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. and running until 2 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 30). The National Weather Service warned that high tides could flood parts of the city, particularly along the waterfront.

Several businesses around Old Town were already sandbagged and prepared for potential flooding. The city says it will be handing out sandbags Friday morning in anticipation of what NWS is calling “one of the biggest tidal flood events of the past 10-20 years.”

For those looking to use sandbags to protect their home, the city has a quick guide available:

  • Remove any debris from the area where bags are to be placed.
  • If tied bags are used, flatten them and flare the tied end. If untied bags are used, fold the open end to form a triangle.
  • To form a sandbag wall, place bags tightly against one another to form the first layer of defense.
  • Place succeeding bags on the folded or flared portion of the previous bag and stamp into place to eliminate gaps and to form a tight seal.
  • Stagger the second and subsequent layers of bags, similar to the pattern of bricks on a wall.
  • Never use bags to build a fortress around your property because this approach can trap water between sandbag walls and structures, causing further damage.

James Cullum contributed to this story

0 Comments

The National Weather Service (NWS) is warning that low-lying areas of Alexandria could see as much as two or three feet of tidal flooding for the next few days.

In a coastal flood warning, the NWS said from tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 30), high tides could flood parts of the city — particularly along the waterfront.

“Water is expected to approach buildings near King Street and Union Street,” the warning said. “Shoreline inundation up to one foot above ground is possible elsewhere.”

The warning noted that tides could reach four feet above normal levels at high tide, which in Alexandria is at 2:30 a.m. and p.m.

“Take the necessary actions to protect flood-prone property,” the NWS said. “If travel is required, do not drive around barricades or through water of unknown depth.”

0 Comments

After achieving some funding from earlier grants, the City of Alexandria is going back to that well to try and finance more flood mitigation.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 26, the City Council is scheduled to review a request for a grant of up to $50 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and up to $10 million from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Virginia Resources Authority (VRA).

The FEMA grant aims at helping localities fund hazard mitigation projects that reduce the risks for communities facing disasters and natural hazards, which those impacted by Alexandria’s historic flooding would say the city probably qualifies for. The pre-disaster mitigation grant funds planning, design, and construction of emergency prevention projects.

The state grant, the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund Grant, is specifically aimed at providing support for floodwater mitigation projects.

How much, if any, of this funding Alexandria would receive is unknown. Governor Ralph Northam recently approved $115,200 in grant funding for Alexandria — a relatively small amount of the $7.8 million pot allocated to projects nationwide. The funding would be welcome, as city leaders recently expressed a desire to rethink waterfront flood mitigation plans after they came back with $90 million as the cost-conscious option.

2 Comment

This week saw possibly the most contentious meeting between the City Council and School Board in years for a debate over School Resources Officers that ultimately culminated in the Council voting to temporarily restore the program. The reversal has been advocated by school officials and some parents, but was lamented by advocacy group Tenants and Workers United that saw it as a step-backward for racial justice.

The following day, ACPS was also hit with lockdowns at Alexandria City High School’s King Street and Minnie Howard campuses and Hammond Middle School, though police later said initial calls about a school shooting were unfounded. At the same time, a gas leak near Potomac Yard led to two homes being evacuated and the temporary closure of Richmond Highway.

Here are this week’s most-read stories.

Top Stories

  1. Man injured and juvenile arrested after fight at the McDonald’s in Bradlee Shopping Center
  2. In dramatic reversal, City Council brings back school resource officers to Alexandria City Public Schools
  3. Planned bus rapid transit route from Alexandria to Tysons rolls ahead
  4. Alexandria City High School on lockdown after anonymous threat
  5. Police: Call about shooting at Hammond Middle School unfounded
  6. City rethinks waterfront flood mitigation plans after seeing the price tag
  7. Tenants and Workers United upset by City Council restoration of school resource officer program
  8. City Council to consider swapping parking for ‘parklets’
  9. Man attempts to steal $1,850 in merchandise from Restaurant Depot with discarded receipt
  10. Project crowdsourcing Alexandria history aims to go nationwide next year
0 Comments

The foot of King Street flooded with water is a dramatic visual that comes up nearly every time there’s flooding in Alexandria, but the city is facing some sticker shock for a long-planned fix.

At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission Flood Mitigation Committee this week, city staff presented a variety of plans that could help combat flooding on the waterfront, from a pair of cost-conscious options to options that put focus more on results than staying within budget.

City staff said that the three main sources of flooding on the waterfront are:

  • Stormwater overwhelming the stormwater-sewer system
  • The river backing into the sewer system
  • The river “overtopping” and coming into Old Town streets and parks

Matthew Landes, division chief for project implementation, said the last one — overtopping — happens less frequently than the other two. Landes presented two cost-based options for combatting flooding on the Waterfront within the capital improvement plan’s $100 million allocation for Waterfront improvement, but neither will fully fix overtopping from the river.

Waterfront flood mitigation cost-based option 1 (photo via City of Alexandria)

The first, which covers the Waterfront from Duke Street up to the northern end of Founder’s Park, mitigates rainfall flooding but makes no shoreline or park improvements. A combination of pumping stations, use of underground space at Founder’s Park, and more would help retain and remove floodwaters in the area. The project is estimated to cost $90 million, but staff said that could range from $63-136 million.

“On this project, we are prioritizing rainfall-runoff mitigation,” said project engineer Sara Igielski. “What that means we have to make sacrifices in terms of the other flooding that we have seen but we have identified rainfall-runoff and that backflow as being critical to addressing the funding we see most frequently.”

Landes said the project would meet two of the three objectives for managing water, but would do little to nothing for situations where the river rises and floods Old Town.

Waterfront flood mitigation cost-based option 2 (photo via City of Alexandria)

The other cost-based option presented would be hyper-focused on the area between Duke Street and King Street and would defer improvements north of King Street. The project would add a new bulkhead on the promenade along with a pumping station and underground retention at King Street park, but still would not hit all three of the flooding issues for Old Town and staff expressed concerns that flooding upstream could still lead to flooding in this area.

“This does not meet our flood mitigation goals,” Landes said. “It does not remove all of the floodings as we would want it to when we invest $100 million.”

But while staff also expanded on some more comprehensive and more expensive options with estimated costs of $170 million and $215 million, Committee members balked at proposed budgets.

“Everything you’re doing is more than we can afford,” Committee member Nathan Macek said. “That’s one-and-a-half elementary schools. I can’t imagine spending that kind of money to fix the flooding in this part of the city.”

Macek also noted that the Waterfront Small Area Plan approved in 2012 was intended as a parks and recreation plan, not an infrastructure plan, and the plans put forward by staff would allocate the full budget for the plan into flooding infrastructure. Macek said a more realistic approach might be building-specific enhancements to safeguard against damage from flooding.

“Everything we’re talking about here, to me, as much as I love the Waterfront, I couldn’t fathom the city spending this kind of money on this area,” Macek said. “Look at the flood problems we have here in Rosemont and other parts of the city with [$200-$300 million improvements] that will affect more homes and properties. [The] improvements and alternatives need to be paired back to be as minimal as possible while still providing amenities on the parkland.”

Trae Lamond, Committee member and owner Waterfront restaurant Chadwicks (203 Strand Street), said the first cost-based option was more than ample in its flood protection, but that the city can’t afford to defer the issue much longer.

“I would hate for us not to do anything and then have something terrible happen,” Lamond said.

10 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list