The preliminary DRB review for Reach 4 is Tuesday April 21st

The design review board preliminary review of reach 4 will be on Tuesday April 21st at the RA headquarters building in Isaac Newton Square at 7pm. Recently WSSI has changed the plans so that now the first 990′ of Reach 4b will be on the paved path so as to avoid the wetlands area.  I think that this is a great improvement for the wildlife and will reduce the impact to trees but it may be an issue for the homeowners near the pave trail.  I plan to attend and give my support for this plan and suggest that everyone do the same.


The Glade Reach 1 is almost complete

Reach 1 of the Glade is nearly complete and should be finished within a few days.

The best way to get a good look is to park at the Hunters Woods pool and then just walk behind the pool to the stream.

As soon as I walked down to the stream I heard a big plop as a big frog jumped in a pool.  I ended up seeing several frogs in the water in this very short reach.

It is well worth a look.

Spring Monitoring Results

Today we did our Spring monitoring of The Glade at site DR-17 which is around the bridge just upstream of Soapstone Road.

The temperature was great even if the monitoring results were not.  The final number was again a 4 out of 12 but the big difference is that this time we at least got enough organisms.   OK over 800 of those were segmented worms but last time I saw no fish and we had no salamanders.  This time we had a good number of both.  I think that the recent rain helped out a lot.

Here are the numbers:
Worms: 813 (we kinda gave up after we passed 800 so there were more)
Crayfish: 3
Scuds: 4
Stoneflies: 9 (they were really small)
Netspinners: 2
Caddisflies: 1 (but we found 2 empty nests)
Midges: 65
True Flies 10

Rumor Control

Over the last few weeks I’ve heard repeated rumors about “the real reason for the stream restoration”.

The most upsetting and personal for me is that the restoration was initiated by a group of people with a financial interest in the project.  Since I was part of the group who wrote and presented the “Watershed Whitepaper” I take this very personally.

Of the people that were on the Watershed sub-committee none work for any land development companies.  One works for a company that does do watershed work but that company has not been involved in any way with this project.  Two others went back to school, one does other environmental non-profit work and the rest have long since left the area.  As for myself I am a software engineer that works on tools to help parents keep their children safe online.  In the 10 or so years I’ve been involved with this I’ve gotten a few plaques, 3 shirts and one vest.  For more information on the history of this project please click here.

Part of this accusation is that we did this to allow more high density development.  In fact in a public presentation on high density development I told a crowd of about 100 people to please when they look at plans for high density development to ask themselves “where will the water go?”  Later on an ecologist that was also part of the EAC and I made a presentation to the Planning and Zoning committee to not allow any stormwater wavers and to also to take a critical look the the stormwater impact of increased density.

I’ve heard versions of these rumors that RA has sold the land near Reston Animal Hospital on Reston Parkway for a High Rise and that the restoration was made possible by stream credits needed for this high rise.

First off the land has not been sold.  RA has to go to a referendum to allow this to happen and there has been no referendum.  Also a very simple check of the Fairfax County Tax records. Click here.  Shows that the land is still zoned as open space, is not taxed and has not been sold.  The map also shows very clearly that they land is flat.  Lastly it would be a LOT cheaper to just dig a dry pond than it would to modify miles of streams to handle the increased runoff.

Plank Roads and Swamp Mats

At the reach 4 design review and stream walk Mike Rolband of WSSI announced that they plan to use “swamp mats” to protect the soil, tree roots and wetlands in reach 4.  I had heard this before and assumed that these were some type of flexible mats the hold the soil together.  But what Mike describes are much more similar to the plank roads that were common as toll roads in the middle of the 19th century.  It is essentially a series of wood grids made out of 2×8 lumber that distribute the load over a very wide area and prevent abrasion of the soil.  The image that comes to my mind is of giant shipping pallets laid end to end.  In more sensitive areas the plan is to double them up to protect channels that are used by breeding amphibians.  This is a very different approach than has been used elsewhere in Reston.  In parts of Snakeden gravel and woodchips were used to make a road for equipment and then had to be removed to “restore” the land close to its original condition.  In The Glade reach 4 the idea behind the plank road is that the matrices of wood can be removed and the land will be much closer to its original condition than if gravel was put down and removed.

Here is a link to historical information about plank roads

But why not use the paved trails?

Mike Rolband gives two reasons for this.

1. There was a lot of opposition from residents who’s property backs on to the paved trails as well as from residents who walk the trails.

2. On the average the stream is closer to the unpaved sewer easement than the paved trail.

In past conversations that I’ve had with Mike he was hopeful that he would be able to use the paved trails because it is a lot cheaper for him to use them and then just repave them after he is done than to restore a natural surface trail.  With the price of lumber as high as it is I suspect that the plank road will cost even more than restoration.

Reach 4a and 4b Preliminary Plans are available

On Saturday March 7th WSSI and RA presented preliminary rough plans to the public and the led a walk for citizens through the project area to see and discuss the plans.  There were between 60 and 100 people in attendance.

There will be another presentation and tour on Saturday March 28th at 9am.  I plan to attend.

As promised WSSI has published their current plans and reports on the project website.

Reach 4A Rough Plans and Reports

Reach 4B Rough Plans and Reports

The tree summary is as follows:

4-5″ (Sapling) 25 277 302
6-9″ (Pole) 42 517 559
10-17″(Small) 28 603 631
18-29″ (Medium) 19 428 447
30″+ (Large) 1 45 46
TOTAL 115 1870 1985

1 TBR means to be removed.
2 DND means do not disturb.
3 TST means total surveyed trees.


2″ 0 1 1
4-5″ (Sapling) 22 328 350
6-9″ (Pole) 37 552 589
10-17″ (Small) 25 506 531
18-29″ (Medium) 25 393 418
30″+ (Large) 1 94 95
TOTAL 110 1,874 1,984

1. TBR means to be removed.
2. DND means do not disturb.
3. TST means total surveyed trees.

Review Preliminary Plans for Reach 4 on March 7th

On Saturday March 7th, 9AM at the pavilion at the corner of Steeplechase Drive and Triple Crown Road staff from Reston Association and Wetland Studies will be hosting a walk and preliminary plan review for reach 4.  This is a great event to attend if you want information on what is really planed.

Here is the text of the invitation:

We invite you to join us for a review of the Draft Preliminary Plans for Reaches 4A and 4B of The Glade

Location: The Pavilion at the Corner of Steeplechase Drive and Triple Crown Road

Time:  9:00 AM – 2:00 PM (earlier if rain precludes walk)

Date:  Saturday – March 7, 2009

Reach 4A starts at Steeplechase Drive and ends just downstream of the unnamed tributary coming from Saint John Neumann Catholic Church.  Reach 4B starts at the downstream end of 4A and continues downstream to Soapstone Drive.  A map of this area is attached to better illustrate the subject reach.

The purpose of this meeting is to:

1. Show you the Draft Preliminary Plans that reflect existing conditions, the preliminary design, and citizen comments received to date – so we can obtain specific comments and respond to them.

2. Discuss staging and access alternatives.

3. Walk the streams (be prepared for stickers, mud, and walking in water) and access areas to visualize them in conjunction with the Draft Preliminary Plans.

We look forward to seeing you on March 7, 2009.  To make sure we have the appropriate number of staff, snacks, and lunch, please e-mail your name(s) if you plan to attend to, ideally by March 4, 2009.

Map of reach 4

Snakeden Stream Work Complete

It looks like the actual stream work on Snakeden is complete.  Now all the remains is for the planting to be completed and the trails restored.  I took a few pictures to share.

DRB Rejected Appeal on Reaches 1-3

On Tuesday February 17th at a full Design Review Board (DRB) meeting there were two appeals to the approval by the DRB for the restoration of The Glade reaches 1-3.  The appeals were rejected by a unanimous vote.

Apparently there was some confusion about the DRB appeal process.  The DRB will only hear new information that was not available at the time that they made their decision and if the decision was not in line with established guidelines.

They are not interested in violations of the design as this is an enforcement issue and is handled by covenants.

Since there are no established guidelines for stream restoration there was nothing to have been out of line with.

Some of the DRB members stated that when they next work on guidelines (possibly not until next year) they should work on stream restoration guidelines.  Many people in the crown were very disappointed in this time-frame.

As to allegations of violations of the design Mike Rolband defended the work that they are doing stating that they had managed to save an additional dozen trees over the design that was approved.

Since the actual stream work in Snakeden should have completed today I would expect tht ground should be broken in The Glade very soon.

Managing Meanders

One of the questions that has come up is “why take out the meanders?  After all they slow down the water.”

They do indeed slow down the water, but not in a very stable way.  One of the goals of the stream restoration is to allow water to lose elevation in a controlled way.  This is the same goal that a skier or snowboarder has when going down a steep slope.  The skier can slow down by doing a series of “kick stops” by quickly thrusting the skis to the side.  That will stop you but it is also a very unstable way to slow your descent (I broke a leg this way).  Likewise a stream can slow down by making hard turns but at the cost of stability, not to the water but to the stream channel.  The hard turn sends water into the stream bank at a right angle.  Unless the stream bank is sloped outward this will cause the water to erode the stream bank.  This does happen naturally and is the source of many “ox-bow” lakes.  The problem with our streams is that it is happening way to fast.

Meander in Reach 3

Meander in Reach 3

This meander in reach 3 is actually a double meander.  The stream makes a 90 degree turn to the right.  Then 180 degrees back followed by another 180 degree reversal and then a 90 degree turn to flow again in its original direction.  This will indeed slow water down…  That is until the meander is cut through and we are left with a strait channel and an orphaned meander.  In the meantime we have another big problem.  All the soil being eroded from the stream bank has to go somewhere.  The somewhere is of course downstream.  Where it flows quickly it will greatly enhance the erosive effect of the water.  When the stream does slow down again the sediment suspended in the water will drop into the stream bed.  The great thing about the Reston stream restoration is that it is a “top down” restoration that starts at the top of the stream and works its way down.*   This really helps in the erosion versus deposition dilemma because you have the ability to minimize upstream erosion thereby minimizing the risk of downstream deposition.

Another big problem with these meanders is the damage they do to trees.  Once a tree in the crook of a meanders starts to be undercut, it will most likely be lost along with any part of the stream bank that comes up with the root-ball.  On any walk along the stream you can see lots of examples of this.  If you spot a tree starting to lean once it has been undercut it is only a matter of time before it falls.  Often the only thing you can do is to cut the tree to take the weight off of the roots.  There was once a tree in reach 5 that was getting down-cut that slowly started leaning.  Over the course of several years it kept getting closer and closer to a bridge (by an inch or two a week) until it finally started to touch.  At that point the only thing to do was to cut the tree to save the bridge and the ground it rested on.

So meanders get straitened?  No, not exactly.   We trade meanders for sinuosity.  One great place to see an example of this is again on the ski slopes.  When you see the tracks of expert skiers you see well rounded curves that are free of sharp angles.  Look at the restored parts of Snakeden branch and you will see the same thing.  The other feature that you will notice in this “sinuosity” is the widening of the stream in the curve.  This both allows the water to spread out (and thereby slow down) and keep it from cutting into the stream bank.  This makes for a stable way to allow the water to lose elevation.

Undercut tree starting to lean

Undercut tree starting to lean

Another undercut tree starting to lean with an already fallen tree in the background.

Tree starting to lean with an already fallen tree behind.

*Of course the best restoration starts at the homes, roads, and businesses and that is something that we still should address.

More information on natural stream processes.