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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Friends of Accotink Creek seeks new leadership

Sediment from the beltway HOT lanes project
is clogging the Accotink watershed
The Friends of Accotink Creek (FACC) has been keeping watch on Annandales major watershed since 2004, organizing clean-up and monitoring actitivies. The group also educates the public on watershed protection and takes part in environmental advocacy.

But now that the founders of the group, Philip Latasa and Duane Murphy, are moving on, FACC is looking for new leaders, says FACC volunteer Kris Unger, who is also the vice president of another environmental nonprofit called Lands and Waters.

Getting volunteers to help with FACC’s stream monitoring and litter removal activities has not been a problem, says Unger. “But it really comes down to leadership.” FACC needs a team of leaders to step up and organize events and undertake community engagement.

A monitoring project at Lake Accotink
At a meeting on the future of FACC last week, the group agreed to reach out to community associations and neighborhoods near the waterway and encourage people to install environmentally friendly landscaping features like rain gardens and rain barrels.

Accotink Creek and its tributaries basically extend through Fairfax County from the area around Vienna to Ft. Belvoir, encompassing parts of Annandale along Wakefield Park and the Crosscounty Trail.

Stream monitoring is crucial in determining the health of the watershed, says Unger. If the water has lots of insects and other life, that is a good sign. But if there is a lot of sediment, that is not so good.

The main problem with Accotink Creek is storm water runoff caused by development. Water funneled quickly into the stream creates a “bathtub effect,” Unger says. Water rushing into the stream scours the banks, causing the water table to drop, which is harmful to the local ecosystem.

“The ongoing beltway HOT lanes construction was detrimental to the stream,” Unger says. “FACC raised concerns that the erosion controls put in place by the construction contractor Fluor-Lane were inadequate and poorly maintained, causing significant sedimentation. The group continues to monitor that project and appreciates efforts by VDOT, Fluor-Lane, and Transurban to minimize damage and restore native vegetation.”

“The Accotink watershed is an amazing resource,” Unger says. People concerned with protecting the environment have a lot of options for organizations to join, but “why not focus on your own backyard? Getting involved with Accotink Creek is a great way to build community, observe wildlife, engage with children, and see immediate results.”

If you’d like to join FACC, click here.

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