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Lake Accotink dredging project not likely to happen, due to increased cost

Lake Accotink will eventually disappear without dredging.

Posted on February 13, 2023

The plan to carry out a major dredging operation to save Lake Accotink is not expected to go forward, Braddock Supervisor James Walkinshaw reports.

New cost estimates make the project untenable. Instead, the county will start over with the development of a new Master Plan for Lake Accotink Park. Without dredging, the lake will eventually disappear and become a wetland.

Two community meetings have been scheduled to discuss the latest analysis of the dredging project:

  • A virtual meeting will be held on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. Access the meeting here.
  • An in-person meeting will take place on Feb. 16, 7 p.m., at Kings Glen Elementary School, 5401 Danbury Forest Drive, Springfield.

Walkinshaw described the events that led to the current situation:

Stronger storms and wetter weather have increased the amount of sediment entering the lake in recent decades. This is due to many factors, including the fact that older neighborhoods were built without modern stormwater controls.

In 2014, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors funded a study to explore options for addressing the increased sedimentation in the lake. There was extensive community outreach, and most residents who participated expressed strong support for preserving the lake with additional dredging.

In 2019, Fairfax County staff developed a dredging plan that was endorsed by the Board of Supervisors.

That plan called for dredging 350,000 cubic yards of sediment, pumping the sediment to the power line easement area in Wakefield Park to be dried, and removing the dried material by truck to a disposal site that was not yet determined. That would cost $30 million. Periodic maintenance dredging also would need to be done to preserve the lake.

Related story: Two sites identified for dredging operation at Lake Accotink

Unfortunately, additional analysis conducted since 2019 has determined that that plan is not feasible and that the costs and impacts of dredging are significantly higher than had been predicted. Subsequent analysis has revealed that:

  • 43 percent more sediment, totaling 500,000 cubic yards, would need to be removed in the initial dredge.
  • The total cost for the initial dredge would be $95 million, with estimated maintenance dredging costs of up to $300 million over the following 20 years.
  • The initial dredge would take three to five years to complete. Subsequent maintenance dredging would take a full year every five years.
  • The Wakefield power line easement area is not a suitable processing site. The other potential processing sites all entail significant community and environmental impacts, such as tree clearing and dozens of truck trips per day through nearby neighborhoods.
  • An alternative plan calling for a smaller lake separated from Accotink Creek would cost nearly $200 million because more sediment would need to be removed and new fill dirt would need to be trucked in to construct a new dam. There is also a significant risk that a new dam would be eroded by the creek channel.

Related story: Evaluations underway on Lake Accotink dredging project options

The annual cost to dredge and maintain Lake Accotink over the next 25 years would be roughly $16 million per year. Walkinshaw says. Also, the initial three to five-year base dredge and subsequent year-long maintenance dredges conducted every five years mean that the park and surrounding community would endure significantly more disruption than originally anticipated.

“I and my colleagues are disappointed in this result as our first choice has always been to restore the lake to as close as possible to its original condition,” Walkinshaw says.

As a result of the new analysis, Department of Public Works and Environmental Services staff are recommending that the lake not be dredged due to excessive costs and significant community and environmental impacts.

Instead, staff recommends restarting the Lake Accotink Park Master Planning process with an emphasis on engaging with the community to develop a sustainable vision for the lake and the park. That could include converting the open water of the lake to a managed wetland environment.

This a staff recommendation, not a final decision, Walkinshaw notes. “While obviously, the prognosis is not good, we would not make this decision without giving the community an opportunity to provide feedback during and after the upcoming meetings.”

“I know that this new recommendation will come as a shock after the years of work and community engagement that has gone into the plan to dredge the lake,” Walkinshaw says. “But my priority is to ensure that we are fully transparent and share with you the unvarnished reality of the situation, disappointing as it may be.”

6 responses to “Lake Accotink dredging project not likely to happen, due to increased cost”

  1. Ignore my previous comment, the county is not responsible for property values around aging man-made lakes built by the Army. It would be a waste of tax dollars to dredge it

  2. If the school system didnt become a bottomless money pit there would some money for other quality of life projects. The park system has become the agency that get whatever pennies are left over after others keep expanding their adminstrations and promoting useless programs. The County likes to give away lots of freebies to residents that have put little or never put anything towards the common good yet ignores those who have for decades payed into the system.

  3. It has been clear for some time that the problem of Lake Accotink has no good solutions. Whatever is done, dredge or no dredge, there will be a price to be paid that will be too high in the opinion of many citizens.

    Dam removal would facilitate aquatic wildlife movement in Accotink Creek, as it has in many other recent dam removals.  However, without the dam the massive amount of sediment moving downstream will at the same time harm other forms of aquatic wildlife – no good solutions.

    Lemonade from lemons – Perhaps if the lake does become a wetland, it could be a new Huntley Meadows, with extensive boardwalks and pavilions along the way.

    The County’s Storymap is a useful interpretation of where we are and how we got here –

    Whatever one’s point of view, we are all disappointed to have come this far only to find ourselves back at the beginning. Let’s channel our energy into finding our way out of this muddle, without accusations or finger pointing.

  4. This terrible news. I know that there are only two natural lakes in Virginia. I grew up around Lake Accotink. Having a lake here does a great deal for the mental health of those who visit it. The benefits are countless. Surely, people who know how funding works and how tax dollars are spent can come up with a solution to save the lake. Put it out as a challenge to a local university students to use as a project topic. I would bet that most taxpayers would be willing to kick in a little extra to pay to keep the lake. What about funding from outdoor organizations or the state park service?


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