Mayor Vincent Gray presided over the official opening of the reconstructed Linnean Stream and the “daylighted” Broad Branch Stream last Saturday, October 18th. Nature also put on a show. The event took place under blue skies and a bright sun that perfectly showed off this spectacular project by DC’s Department of the Environment (DDOE).
The planning for this project started in 2006, and work began in February on designs by Kevin Donnelly of Stantec. Where a jumble of overgrowth had reigned supreme, a new landscape of gradually descending pools has emerged. Some pools are still enough to hold reflections, yet all the while, streams flow underneath.
Close to 100 neighbors came to see city officials and neighborhood leaders mark the official opening of these streams.
At the grand opening, Mayor Gray championed the project as part of his Sustainability Plan and the role of such projects in improving the water quality of the Anacostia River.
Gray also highlighted the collaboration the National Park Service and the Peruvian Embassy. Keith Anderson, the head of DDOE, commended the work of his department, as did Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh and Tara Morrison, the National Park Service superintendent of Rock Creek Park.
When it was my turn to speak, I introduced Steve Saari, the DDOE watershed protection specialist who manages the Linnean and Broad Branch projects, and Keith Underwood, the contractor I often met while out checking the progress of the work. I talked about how Steve had introduced the project to the neighborhood in 2012 with articles explaining the history of the Broad Branch stream and tributaries, the reasons for bringing this piped-in stream back above ground, and how it would be done.
And I could not resist mentioning the duckling family I had seen on my many walks of the project areas, and the videos I shared with everyone on Forest Hills Connection.
Denise Warner, the president of the Forest Hills Citizen Association and ANC Commissioner Mary Beth Ray welcomed the neighbors and those from farther afield, and praised this project as a great neighborhood asset. Mary Beth also plugged the work of the Van Ness Vision Committee and the concept design for a new Van Ness hub that will be unveiled at ANC 3F’s November 18th meeting. And she announced that there would be an opportunity this Saturday to further improve the rehabilitated Broad Branch stream: A tree planting event on October 26th.
Then it was time to tour the projects. One stop was a monitoring station next to the Linnean pools. It was manned by Dominique Skinner of Groundwork Anacostia, a non-profit organization promoting community involvement in improving the local environment. She explained that the DC high school students accompanying her, adorned in waterproof fishing waders, are part of the group’s work on “real” environmental projects, in this case, monitoring the water quality and general health of the streams.
Skinner is planning to recruit Wilson High School students to continue monitoring the Broad Branch and Linnean areas.
Skinner’s group had set up microscopes so we could see the life evolving in the stream, but we did not need them. Just turning over rocks, we could see small worms and other tiny invertebrates that were listed on a chart displayed on the table.
As we walked along the path alongside pools of water, we learned they were “bio-retention pools” built to slow stormwater’s flow and allow biologic processes to break down pollutants.
We also learned that it could take a few months for a constant, visible flow of water to return to both streams.
For that to happen, the water table must rise. When the bio-retention pools slow the water flowing through the stream bed, the water has a chance to seep into the ground, feeding the water table. When that gets high enough, the streams will flow constantly through the area, even during dry periods, as this University of Toledo graphic of Maryland bay waterways shows:
Instruments called pressure transducers are buried into the ground measuring the water table. In the Linnean park area, the water table has already increased by 5 feet since the project began.
Steve Saari says the water level in Linnean Park has come up pretty quickly because there has long been a stream flowing through this area and the water table already had some water flowing towards it. The Broad Branch stream, on the other hand, had been piped underground for 80-plus years.
“In Broad Branch, the water table is lower and right now the stream is going sub-surface,” says Saari. “Our belief is that the water table will come up through this area over time as the stream and the stormwater recharge the land. Once this occurs, which will likely take months, we should have a stream flowing over the surface through the entire project area.”
Forest Hills Connection has received queries about establishing a “Friends of Broad Branch and Linnean Streams.” If you’re interested in joining such a group, please say so in the comment box below. Also, you’re invited to make your own mark on our beautiful new parks by planting trees, shrubs and flowers this Saturday morning from 9 to 12 p.m., at the corner of Broad Branch Road and Linnean Avenue. You’ll find more information here. And you’ll find me running around with a clipboard, signing people up for a “Friends” group!