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Hazel, the tunnel boring machine for AlexRenew’s RiverRenew Tunnel Project, is named after environmental activist Hazel Johnson. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Anyone who goes to City Council meetings knows there’s a long list of proclamations and recognition of various holidays, but there’s a new one on the docket for next week: Hazel the Tunnel Boring Machine Day.

A proclamation scheduled for the meeting on Tuesday, April 2, recognizes April 13 as a local celebration of the machine that did the heavy lifting for RiverRenew project.

RiverRenew, the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history, is a state-mandated project dedicated to reducing the combined sewage outflow into the Potomac River caused by Old Town’s antiquated sewers.

Hazel carved a 12-foot-wide tunnel under Alexandria that will capture sewage mixed with rainwater and transfer it to AlexRenew’s wastewater treatment plant, preventing 130 million gallons of harmful combined sewer pollution from entering the Potomac River and Hunting Creek.

The machine completed the dig on March 21, though work still remains for the project.

AlexRenew is hosting a Mining Completion Open House on Hazel the Tunnel Boring Machine Day (April 13) at 501 N. Union Street.

The proclamation reads as follows: Read More


After 16 months of digging, Hazel the tunnel-boring machine can rest.

Alexandria’s massive RiverRenew Tunnel Program reached a critical milestone on Wednesday with the completion of a 2.2-mile underground tunnel that will divert millions of gallons of raw sewage from flowing into the Potomac River every year.

The $454.4 million program is the largest infrastructure development in Alexandria history and will replace Old Town’s 19th century combined sewer system with a tunnel system, sewer infrastructure and improvements that run their way from Old Town to AlexRenew’s wastewater treatment plant (1500 Eisenhower Avenue).

Mayor Justin Wilson tweeted that it’s a “critical and exciting milestone.”

This doesn’t mean that the project is finished. The deadline was pushed back a year, to 2026, by the Virginia General Assembly due to supply chain issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

AlexRenew now has to build a pumping station with shafts capable of pumping 20 million gallons per day and 180 million gallons per day.

“That’s a lot of electrical components, mechanical components, pumps, valves, that type of equipment,” AlexRenew CEO Justin Carl told ALXnow in a previous interview. “So we want to make sure that we’re accounting for the potential for having delays procuring that equipment as well when we build that pumping station, because we don’t want to have to go back to the GA (General Assembly) a second time to ask for an additional extension.”

Alexandria’s Southerlyn Marino wrote a step-by-step guide for parents with kids in crew-rowing (staff photo by James Cullum)

Cold, wet and exhilarating: Alexandria parent Southerlyn Marino learned so much about her high schooler’s crew-rowing that she wrote a book about it.

Marino’s youngest son Pierce (now 17) started rowing for Gonzaga College High School three years ago, and learning about the sport was a step-by-step, word-of-mouth process for her. Last month, Marino published Crew: A Guide to Rowing for parents who quickly want to get up to speed on the sport and know which side of the boat is starboard.

“I wanted to share what I learned,” Marino said. “It’s early, it’s muddy, it’s cold. You think it’s gonna be this grand sport. It’s not. You’re more like a birder, and you see your child for like six seconds, and you’re not really sure which one’s yours because they all kind of look alike in the river.”

Marino is a public relations consultant and started writing the book last summer.

“There’s a parent culture in every sport, for sure,” she said. “Like football has a super different culture from crew, and I couldn’t find any books about it to understand crew races, the structure, any of that.”

Marino said that the sport is a good outlet for her son.

“It’s a sport that can really transform them, and it can really help them develop and grow.

The book includes:

  • How and where to get started
  • Key features of rowing boats, gear and equipment
  • Crew and seating positions
  • Rowing strategies
  • Training techniques
  • Nutrition
  • Rowing etiquette
  • Competition and racing tips
  • How to support your child’s crew journey
  • Recovery and injury prevention techniques
  • How to balance rowing and academic study
  • The lifelong lessons of crew racing.
Waterskiing Santa is returning to Alexandria on Christmas Eve (via Facebook)

Santa Claus will visit Alexandria for some waterskiing on the Potomac River on Christmas Eve (Sunday, Dec. 24), just hours before taking his round-the-world trip to deliver presents.

You can catch Santa at around 12:45 p.m. traveling up and down the Potomac, and rumor has it that the Grinch will try to steal the show with an appearance.

It’s the 38th year in a row that he’s visited Alexandria for the event. Afterward, Santa, Mrs. Claus and a crew of their helpers will dock at Waterfront Park (1 King Street) to visit with families.

Image via Facebook


Thousands attended Alexandria’s birthday celebration on the waterfront on Saturday.

For a minute it seemed that rain on Saturday would result in a washout, like last year when the event was postponed. But skies cleared and grass dried enough for the event to continue as planned.

The annual event at Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison Street) is always held the first Saturday after July 4, and this year featured performances by Three Man Soul Machine, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a declaration from Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker, a poem from Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam and brief speeches by city leaders.

City leaders also handed out more than 3,000 cupcakes before the grand finale fireworks display with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performing the 1812 Overture accompanied by howitzers from the 3rd US Infantry Regiment.

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The Tall Ship Providence sailed up the Potomac River to its new permanent home at Waterfront Park in Alexandria on Tuesday, and the floating Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center will start offering interactive tours for the public starting this Saturday, June 17.

The effort to build the maritime center goes back to 2018, and construction started last year. In April, the center was floated up from Baltimore and final touches have been added to the two cottages housing an education center where visitors will get an immersive lesson about sailing during the Revolutionary War.

After walking through a security gate and gangway, visitors will get handed small character cards before their dockside tour of the ship.

“The year is 1776, and you will either be a cook, a carpenter, able seaman, a landsman, or a purser,” said Tall Ship Providence Foundation President and CEO Clair Sassin. “They’ll get a bit of history from the Education Center, where they’ll be informed on the ship, their new home for the next few months. And that’s when you leave and you get on Providence to meet Captain John Paul Jones and explore the ship.”

The hour-long tours run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and cost $24 for adults, $20 for military veterans and $17 for children ages 5 to 17. The ship will also continue sailing tours on weekends.

“The whole center can hold up to 120 people, and can also be rented out for events,” Sassin said.

The Providence, built in 1976, is a replica of the first naval warship commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1775. It was captained by famed Captain John Paul Jones, who famously said, “I have not yet begun to fight,” in response to a call to surrender in 1779.

The original Providence was destroyed to keep it from falling into the hands of the British in 1779, but throughout its tenure broke through a British naval blockade at Newport, captured 16 enemy ships and disrupted the fishing industry in Nova Scotia, which was a British food source.

A grand opening for the center with city leaders, donors and other stakeholders will be held on Thursday, June 22, from 4 to 6 p.m.

The grand finale of Alexandria’s birthday celebration over the Potomac River, July 7, 2018 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Get your lawn chairs and picnic blankets ready for fireworks, because Alexandria’s 274th birthday celebration is happening in Old Town on Saturday, July 8.

The event at Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison Street) draws thousands of people every year. It’s always held the first Saturday after July 4, and features performances from the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a declaration from Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker, a poem from Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam and brief speeches by city leaders.

Mayor Justin Wilson, City Council members and other officials will also hand out birthday cupcakes to attendees.

The celebration kicks off at 6 p.m. and ends with a grand finale fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.

Visit Alexandria recommends these vantage points to see the best fireworks:

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Sandbags piled up outside a business in Old Town (staff photo by James Cullum)

The National Weather Service has issued a Coastal Flood Watch for Alexandria, Arlington and D.C.

The Coastal Flood Watch will go into effect from midnight to 7 a.m. on Saturday (April 29).

NWS forecasts a 100% chance of rain Friday night, and says to expect up to one foot of “inundation above ground level” in low-lying areas due to tidal flooding. The weather service predicts a 60% chance of rain after 2 p.m. Saturday, and an 80% chance of rain all day Sunday.

“Water is expected to approach buildings near King Street and Union Street (in Old Town),” NWS said in the advisory. “Tides two-and-a-half feet above normal (are expected).”

Alexandria’s Potomac River waterfront in Old Town is prone to flooding, and high tide is at around 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m.

“If travel is required, allow extra time as some roads may be closed,” NWS advised. “Do not drive around barricades or through water of unknown depth. Take the necessary actions to protect flood-prone property.”


Alexandria Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said the impact of pop star Lorde’s decision to take a plunge into the Potomac River is still rippling out across local environmental agencies.

In August, the New Zealand musician told a stunned D.C. crowd at The Anthem that she’d gone for a swim in the Potomac River. In years past, the river has had a reputation for being notoriously polluted, though the water quality has been gradually improving in recent years.

Jackson, reporting on activity from the Chesapeake Bay Policy and Resources Committee, said Lorde was still the talk of the town at the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conference.

“We had our 11th annual EPA forum,” Jackson said. “We had a wonderful panel come and discuss [pollutants] and a lot of how groundwater [and] stormwater affects our city and our region, and what we can do to keep our water clean. Of course, this coincides with the Clean Water Act, and of course that all started with Lorde coming and swimming in the Potomac.”

Jackson credited Lorde with reigniting the discussion of whether or not it’s okay to swim in the Potomac River. While it’s still illegal to swim in the river in D.C., it’s legal in Maryland

“No one would probably do that a few years ago, and she’s still well,” Jackson said. “We’ve not heard that she’s come down with anything. We don’t say ‘go swim in the Potomac’ but it was definitely a great marketing tool for Lorde to do that for us.”

At a recent concert in Maryland, Lorde said she feels like a “radioactive creature” after swimming in the river.


For the fifth straight year, Alexandria was named in the top five best small cities in the country in the 2022 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.

Alexandria took home the fourth spot this year after placing third the last two years in a row.

  1. Charleston, South Carolina
  2. Aspen, Colorado
  3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  4. Alexandria, Virginia
  5. Savannah, Georgia
  6. Greenville, South Carolina
  7. Key West, Florida
  8. Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
  9. Palm Beach, Florida
  10. Wilmington, North Carolina

According to Condé Nast:

Washingtonians are all in on the secret, but it’s no surprise the rest of the world is catching up: Alexandria, Virginia, the charming, historic city just across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital, draws travelers and would-be residents alike.

Most folks start to imagine moving there immediately after setting foot in Old Town, once they’ve strolled the red-brick sidewalks, clocking street after street of perfectly preserved rowhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries. When you visit, scope out King Street, packed with boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops; then land at the waterfront, where you can watch the boats bobbing on the water before touring the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a collective of galleries and artists’ studios. End the day at Gadsby’s Tavern, where some of our founding fathers used to drink — don’t mind the actors in colonial garb.

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