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Friday, August 1, 2014

Environmental group outraged by award honoring beltway construction co.

The beltway project dumped sediment into Accotink Creek. [Photo by Friends of Accotink Creek]
Every year, the Fairfax County Park Foundation bestows Eakin Philanthropy Awards to individuals and organizations that have made a significant contribution to the community.

The announcement that one of the recipients of this year’s awards is Transurban-Fluor has met with disbelief, if not total outrage, by the local environmental community. Transurban-Fluor, the company in charge of the beltway and I-95 express lanes construction, has handed out some grant funds for community projects, but it’s also caused a huge amount of environmental damage to local waterways that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars to clean up.

Friends of Accotink Creek (FACC) has asked the foundation “to take the extraordinary action of withdrawing this award.” A letter from Kris Unger of FAC to the park foundation outlines these reasons:
  • “The donations were given by Transurban-Fluor only to quell complaints from residents impacted by the project and the program in place to fulfill those community donations has now been terminated, though the impact of the express lanes will be with us for decades to come.”
  • “The Wakefield Run restoration project was initiated precisely because of the poor quality of work done by Transurban-Fluor on the outfall work, which, ultimately, needed to be redone by, and at the expense of, the county.”
  • Once construction was complete, Transurban-Fluor washed its hands of responsibility for remedying the remaining erosion and sediment issues that were not fully corrected.”
  • “The sediment that was dumped into Accotink Creek as a result of the express lanes construction has undeniably contributed to the accelerated need to re-dredge Lake Accotink, at an estimated cost of $10 million.”
The FACC letter also notes that Fairfax County citizens and the attorney general of Virginia actually sued Transurban-Fluor for violating the Clean Water Act. Those violations, “only partly and grudgingly addressed,” are continuing to damage Fairfax County parks and streams.

The Fairfax County Parks Authority press release announcing the 2014 Eakin Awards says “Transurban-Fluor has been a tremendous supporter of Park Authority programs and projects since 2009.”

It says the company has contributed a total of $125,000, including support for the Wakefield Run restoration project, summer concerts, bike racks at Dunn Loring Park, adapted aquatics and swim camps at Audrey Moore RECenter, disc golf course improvements at McLean Central Park, and other park and trail projects.

A letter to FACC from Parks Foundation Chair Bruce McLeod says that in selecting award winners, “We count on our partners to be good neighbors and examine their particular giving and the benefits to the community in our award deliberations.”

McLeod told the Annandale Blog, “the foundation considered a host of other candidates,” as well as Transurban-Fluor. “The long history of Transurban-Fluor really stood out above all the others for philanthropy.” He said the problems cited by FACC “were not part of the decision process” and that FAC
raised those issues after the selection was over.”

The Eakin Awards will be presented in November. The Park Foundation will also honor Mike Rolband of Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc. with an Eakin Award for his work with the wetland restoration project at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria. 


  1. Thanks Annandale Blog for giving a voice to our little group - and many others' - beating against a big, insensate machine of a foe. They may not hear us directly, but it used to be that people would just stand back and watch the bulldozers mow down forests and muddy the creeks, and we'd just spend more downstream for drinking water, and be sorry about the dwindling Chesapeake crabs and oysters, the loss of centuries-old lifestyles, the boarded-up economies, and wrecked ecologies, and say, "Well, I guess you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet...", but now we're valuing those eggs differently. Now we're saying "Hey, wait a minute, don't break those...we need them." In a world of drought, fire, oil-driven war, habitat loss-driven disease, and an urban future for 80% of the global population by 2050, we have to really think about all those omelets - and many cities already have - stopped wasting and breaking the eggs of clean water, liveable communities, sustainable transportation, smart growth, and trees. Our grandparents, frugal, conservative, patient said, "I'm sorry to see those trees go." or "When I was young, the fish were thick in the bay." They also said, "Well, I guess that's progress....Anyway, what can I do?" So now we can do something. Thanks, Ellie. Thanks, Friends.

  2. I have to agree. While I tend not to have too many opinions about the environment vs. progress, it seems that clear guidelines were set, and overtly violated. If I were the person handing out the award, I'd be embarrassed to give it to a company that seems to have done more harm than good.

  3. Fairfax County Parks have been injured by Transurban-Fluor's 495 Express Lanes, not benefitted. How many acres of park land were taken for the project, at a level of compensation wholly inadequate to acquire other property? The injury will endure for time untold into the future, while the perpetrator's fig leaf of philanthropy has already dried up.

  4. Transurban-Fluor is a large corporation--pretty much like all corporations interested in maximizing the return on their investment.

    How much did Transuban make in profit on the HOT Lanes?

    How much would it have cost Transurban to follow best practices in preventing the sediment insult to Accotink Creek and it's tributaries?

    It is unfortunate that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Park Service cares so little about the natural resources.

    Giving an award to Transurban sends a signal to other companies that they can do what they want to the natural environment as long as they give the county a few bucks in return.

  5. At this point we're beating a dead horse. The true question should be WHO at VDOT is in charge and what issues are they leaving the I95 corridor. They have gotten away with "murder" here, will it be a serial killing.