Posted on March 8, 2023
Fairfax County’s beloved Lake Accotink might not be a lake in the future.
According to a report released in February, the initial Lake Accotink dredge cost estimate of $30 million in 2018 ballooned to $95 million in a more recent analysis. And the cost of maintenance dredging for the first 20 years comes to another $300 million.
In addition, Fairfax County officials said the “significant community and environmental impacts” are “far greater than anticipated.”
Bottom line: It simply isn’t feasible to dredge Lake Accotink. The 55-acre lake sits within a 482-acre park in the Springfield area.
Other findings in the analysis from the report:
- 43 percent more sediment than originally estimated will need to be removed in the base dredge.
- The amount of sediment to be processed requires a site with large capacity.
- Only two of the numerous sites evaluated for sediment processing are considered technically feasible:
- Wakefield Park Maintenance Facility: would require clearing 7 acres of forested wetlands and upland forest to process spoils.
- Southern Drive: would require heavy truck access through residential neighborhoods.
- Hauling of the increased sediment amount would require 50,000 truck trips through neighborhood and area roads.
- Free disposal of dredged spoils options are not available today as they were for previous dredge events.
- Costs to complete the dredging work have gone up dramatically since the pandemic began.
- Lake Accotink would need to be dredged again every five years in order to keep up with the sediment accumulation, requiring a year of work and 15,000 truck trips for each recurring dredge.
- A smaller, offline lake could not be constructed using lake sediments, would require large quantities of suitable material to be trucked in through neighborhoods, and, although feasible, poses potentially significant risk for long-term safety and maintenance.
The report puts the blame for worsening lake conditions on development and climate change.
“The condition of Lake Accotink today is largely due to rapid development within the Accotink Creek watershed in the mid-20th century, which resulted in increased stormwater runoff that eroded streams and sent large amounts of sediment into the U.S. Army drinking water reservoir that became Lake Accotink,” the analysis reads.
Instead of dredging, the report said the solution is to let Lake Accotink naturally turn into wetlands.
Over time, according to the analysis, the wetlands that were once Lake Accotink “could be maintained as a wetland and/or floodplain forest complex.”
The benefits of letting the human-made lake become wetlands include carbon becoming trapped in the new ecosystem since forests are “natural carbon sinks.”
Eventually, facilities, such as wetland trails, could be built that would “provide an immersive nature experience, where visitors can walk through the wetland and forested areas observing nature and restoration at work,” the report said.
“An enhanced trail system could be used for recreation activities, study, wildlife observation, photography, historic interpretation, and art.”
The next stage of the process is to kick the master planning process back into gear during the spring and summer. Public engagement and community comment will be emphasized.