A deteriorating, 110-year-old sewer system runs through the Soapstone Valley. The National Park Service and DC Water have released the environmental assessment of DC Water’s preferred plan to rehabilitate the system. The federal and city agency will hold a public meeting on this subject June 26th at the Forest Hills of DC Assembly Hall (4901 Connecticut Avenue).
In the meantime, a group of community members are studying the Soapstone Valley sewer EA closely. The document was the primary focus of the ANC 3F Parks & Trails Committee June 10th meeting.
DC Water’s preferred plan of attack involves cleaning, lining and repairing 6,200 linear feet of sanitary sewer pipe – the type that carries human waste from homes and businesses. The work would eliminate as many exposed pipes and manholes as possible. And some stormwater outfalls would be repaired.Members of the Parks & Trails Committee, including ANC 3F chair David Dickinson, ANC 3F03 commissioner Naomi Rutenberg, and committee chair Alex Sanders, generally agreed that this is a necessary project. Fellow member Marjorie Share also agreed with the need for the rehabilitation but not necessarily with the process outlined in the assessment.
The committee’s questions and concerns focused on four key areas of the project:
- Tree removal, primarily around four access points where heavy vehicles will be brought into the park on newly-constructed paths.
- Closure of the trails for up to two years during the construction phase, and parts of the park for up to four years.
- Rehabilitation of the park with particular concern about tree replanting.
- Rehabilitation of the Albemarle storm sewer.
Sanders reiterated more than once that given the construction or widening of trails to up to 20 feet in width, the regrading at Albemarle Street, the removal of 371 trees, and the work in the stream to protect the sewer line, the park would look very different.
Rutenberg raised the length of the project as a concern for those who depend on Soapstone for access to Rock Creek Park trails.
Committee members were also concerned about what the assessment doesn’t include. For example, the plans for stormwater management and erosion mitigation alongside Albemarle Street fall under DC Water’s, not the Park Service’s, purview. There was hope that DC Water could come to an ANC meeting to provide further details.
The staging of this project is also not discussed in the assessment. Sally Gresham brought up the issue of residents along Audubon Terrace having access to their homes. Sanders mentioned his concern about the construction spreading invasive plants. He plans to have a conversation with DC Water about its plans to prevent this from happening.
Sanders emphasized repeatedly that details such as these would not be in such a general document as the environmental assessment. Even so, such questions raised in the June 26th public meeting would be important in guiding DC Water in its design phase.
Everyone at the Parks & Trails meeting was given the assignment of preparing questions for the public meeting. Sanders, who deals with many community groups facing similar projects, said they were way ahead of most groups in their understanding of this project.
The community is invited to attend the next ANC 3F Parks & Trails Committee meeting Monday, July 8th at 7 p.m. They meet at Forest Hills of DC (4901 Connecticut Avenue). Sanders expects the committee will spend most, if not all, of the meeting on the Soapstone environmental assessment.
And again, don’t forget about the community meeting hosted by the National Park Service and DC Water on June 26th, 6 to 8 p.m., at the same location. Register your comments there, submit them online or send by mail by August 2nd.