by David Jonas Bardin
Soapstone Valley’s erosion issues drew a dozen officials and contractors from three District agencies for a two-hour, drizzly, muddy field inspection on Wednesday, March 19th. ANC Commissioner Sally Gresham and I joined them.
Reggie Arno of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) convened the group. He is responsible for stormwater issues, reporting to DDOT’s Chief Engineer. His DDOT team also included trail and road planners. Steve Saari and Matt Robinson came from the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) and Will Elledge from DC Water’s Engineering Department was accompanied by contractor personnel.
On February 18th, ANC Commissioners Gresham and Mary Beth Ray and I had turned to Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh for help with Soapstone Valley erosion issues. We wrote her office “to ask DDOT, DDOE, and DC Water to come up with a coherent analysis and long-term plan to (a) reduce and slow down storm water from a large upstream area (mainly in ANC3F) into Soapstone Valley, (b) stop erosion of the 40-foot bank which threatens the sidewalk above, and (c) mitigate erosion down below which threatens stream quality in one of our City’s most beautiful valleys as well as integrity of exposed sanitary sewers and manholes.” (See our letter below.)
Constituent Services Director Dee Smith contacted the three agencies whose representatives inspected past erosion damage at Albemarle and 32nd Streets NW and walked the Soapstone Valley Trail to see additional challenges. Part of that trail is on DDOT land and part on National Park Service land. Reggie Arno had previously gotten DC Water’s Sewer Services Department to fix a broken pipe which contributed to street flooding there. We discussed stormwater run-off sources up stream and how to address them, as well as importance of engaging the NPS.
We are looking forward to a coordinated effort.
Feb. 18, 2014 letter to Office of CM Mary Cheh:
ANC Commissioners Gresham and Ray have asked me to contact you about need for a multi-agency attack on storm water erosion problems afflicting Soapstone Valley in ANC3F. You and I have discussed one particular manifestation: Periodic flooding at Albemarle Street opposite 32nd Street NW and consequent erosion of the 40-foot bank down to the Valley floor.
We would like CM Cheh to ask DDOT, DDOE, and DC Water to come up with a coherent analysis and long-term plan to (a) reduce and slow down storm water from a large upstream area (mainly in ANC3F) into Soapstone Valley, (b) stop erosion of the 40-foot bank which threatens the sidewalk above, and (c) mitigate erosion down below which threatens stream quality in one of our City’s most beautiful valleys as well as integrity of exposed sanitary sewers and manholes.
We believe coherent analysis must address the following:
> How will DDOT compliance with DDOE’s new storm water regulations (adopted to comply with DC’s MS4 Permit from EPA) actually affect run off from the transportation right of way into Soapstone Valley?
>> When does DDOT plan to rebuild covered streets, alleys, and sidewalks in this watershed, installing storm water control measures “to the maximum extent practicable” as DDOE regulations require?
>> By how much do DDOE and DDOT expect such measures will reduce run off into the Valley, year by year?
> What other actions by DDOE, DDOT, landowners, businesses, and developers upstream from the Valley may actually affect run off into Soapstone Valley?
> What would be a reasonable timetable to present a coherent action plan for this watershed,
>>(a) building on past studies by DDOE of the entire watershed and by Office of Planning with MWCOG of the Van Ness-UDC Corridor and
>>(b) identifying implementation funding sources?
>> Who should lead action plan preparation?
> What additional actions by DDOE, DDOT, and DC Water downstream, inside the Soapstone Valley could mitigate erosion risks and damage there? What would be a reasonable timetable to present a coherent action plan and who should lead that effort?
OVERLOOK INFORMATION KIOSK
> How can DC Government through these agencies inform residents and visitors about Soapstone Valley erosion risks and what actions will mitigate them? Can the agencies install, maintain, and update an information kiosk overlooking the Valley at the south side of Albemarle Street NW near the “T” intersection with 32nd Street, east of Connecticut Avenue, to that end?
We believe that CM Cheh’s approach to the three DC agencies is needed to produce positive results which could offer an important model for other watersheds as well. Please let me know if we can answer any questions.