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GFCA President testifies at Fairfax County’s
Environmental Quality Advisory Council
Annual Hearing on January 8

Each year Fairfax County’s Environmental Quality Advisory Council (EQAC) holds a public hearing to obtain input on issues of environmental concern.  At these hearings, the public is encouraged to attend and share views on the state of the environment and to identify any environmental issues applicable to Fairfax County.  GFCA President Bill Canis offered testimony at this year’s hearing that underlined our perspective on matters like the need to study the effects on the environment of our area’s population growth, expanded residential and commercial development in the area, and the increasing expansion of transportation and utility infrastructure.  GFCA believes that unmanaged growth will result in ongoing sprawl, which represents a growing threat to Northern Virginia’s natural resources.

GFCA’s testimony focused on three key areas of concern.

Opposing Colvin Run stream relocation The testimony, developed with several GFCA members, emphasized that Great Falls’ numerous streams and watersheds are critically important to the overall health and recovery of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the region’s natural resources, stressing that growth and development is threatening some of the key resources in the Great Falls community.  GFCA cited an example of the significant community opposition to elements of the government-approved expansion of highway construction along the Route 7 corridor near Great Falls that will result in the relocation of more than 1,500 feet of the historic Colvin Run.  This design will involve the loss of a floodplain and accelerated flow to downstream areas with future impact on the Difficult Run Watershed and associated Resource Protection Areas.

Identifying the County’s failure to enforce watershed regulations GFCA also mentioned that agencies have failed to appreciate the sensitivity of these fragile resources and the great likelihood that natural wetlands are being disturbed, with increased sedimentation to flow into our community’s streams. The testimony highlighted GFCA’s concerns that a major project like the Route 7 expansion, that contravenes Fairfax County’s long-standing stream management policies, would be imposed without due regard to local preferences.

Through EQAC’s climate adaptation and resilience plan process, GFCA urged the Council to recommend the development and implementation of stronger guidelines that address stream viability, better management of the protections against pollution caused by storm water runoff, and preservation of open space to lessen the adverse impact on the region’s natural resources and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. 

While significant increases in density in Tysons and elsewhere have been embraced by the County, GFCA reported that other parts of the County should be recognized for their green contributions to the northern Virginia environment, including extensive tree canopies and watershed protection.  GFCA urged EQAC to include this type of evaluation in its resilience plan.

EQAC members were provided insight into a major development in Great Falls and the impact it has had on the environment. GFCA cited the concerns over the past year of a number of Great Falls citizens’ regarding basic watershed protection measures and related proffers made by a developer at the 50-acre former Brooks Farm property that have not been adhered to; or, adequately enforced by the County. GFCA reminded members that Watershed protection regulations are only useful if they are consistently enforced.  Storm water runoff into a lake downstream from this site caused a significant buildup of siltation and disrupted a natural habitat supporting flora and fauna.

Proposing a new Dark-Sky Preserve GFCA also testified in support of EQAC’s initiatives to reduce light pollution in the night sky.  GFCA recently wrote to the Planning Commission about a proposed change to the County lighting ordinance.  While GFCA generally supports the amendment on outdoor lighting, the GFCA does not believe it goes far enough.  GFCA recommended the establishment of a new category known as a Dark-Sky Preserve to be established within the zoning ordinance that acknowledges by its inclusion that there are areas within the County that contain or are near to active astronomical study facilities.  These are areas close and within and near dark-sky preserves or parklands that have identified the preservation of the darkest nighttime environment as a priority.

This suggestion was well-received by EQAC and was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission to be recommended as an addition into the forthcoming 2020 work plan. 

***

The Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Council (EQAC) is an advisory group that has been appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to advise the Board on environmental matters. The Council is comprised of one citizen representative from each Magisterial District, four at-large members, and one student representative. Each member is appointed by the Board of Supervisors to serve a three-year term, except the student member, who serves during his or her junior or senior year of high school.

EQAC provides advice to the Board of Supervisors through its Annual Report on the Environment and through resolutions and positions resulting from discussions at EQAC's monthly meetings. EQAC recommendations typically focus on improvement of the County's efforts in environmental protection and enhancement; they also can address legislative issues as well as state, regional, and federal matters. Environmental issues considered by EQAC include water quality, air quality, noise, hazardous materials, solid waste, stream valley protection, deer management, light pollution, visual pollution, and the use and preservation of ecological resources.

Upcoming events

 Great Falls resident John Sullivan testifying before the Jan. 8 EQAC Hearing on environmental damages to Walker Lake caused by storm water runoff at the Brooks Farm Subdivision. (GFCA Photo)

 Initial site preparation of Brooks Farm/Rivermont (Photo Courtesy of John Sullivan)

 View of Brooks Farm/Rivermont Subdivision depicting failed Silt Fencing (Photo Courtesy of John Sullivan)

 Close-up view of washed out silt fencing installed by developer (Photo Courtesy of John Sullivan)

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