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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Candidates for environmental board speak at forum

The NVSWCD was a partner on this stream restoration project in Annandale. 
Four people seeking an endorsement from the Fairfax County Democratic Committee to serve as directors of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) presented their views at a forum May 11.

The committee will select three candidates to endorse on May 21.

The NVSWCD provides technical expertise and educates the public on efforts to minimize stream erosion, restore natural resources, and reduce pollution,

These are the candidates seeking the Democratic endorsement:

Chris Koerner is an environmental scientist and professional engineer with extensive experience in battling developers who wanted to build in environmentally sensitive areas.

As chair of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Exception Review Committee, Koerner led the effort to reject a developer’s application to build a house on an area subject to flooding on Woodlark Drive in Annandale in December, even though county staff recommended approving the project.

When the developer appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors, Koerner persuaded the board to deny the application. That decision by the BoS last month will set a precedent for future proposals to Resource Protection Areas.

The NVSWCD district doesn’t have authority over development projects, however. But it does promote innovative projects to protect the environment, encourages homeowners to use rain barrels, rain gardens, and other methods to absorb runoff, and promotes stream restoration projects.

Koerner also pointed to the NVSWCD’s annual sale of native tree and shrub seedlings as a good way to use vegetation to keep sediment out of waterways.

A committed environmentalist, Keorner called climate change “by far the worst thing the human race has to deal with.”

Monica Billger touted her background in public health and community outreach. “I know the impact the environment has on health,” she said, noting how disappointing it is that streams are not clean enough for kids to play in.

Billger said it’s critical to listen to the public and educate children about the need to protect the environment.

It’s especially important to expand the NVSWCD’s outreach to lower-income communities, she said, as those areas are often where development is proposed and where residents are least equipped to fight back.

Gerald Peters, an NVSWCD board member since 2015, told the audience he has been an environmental consultant for 30 years, working on environmental impact statements and cleaning up waste sites.

Peters cited the NVSWCD’s monthly Green Breakfasts as a great way for the public to learn about environmental issues.

He stressed the importance of using vegetation – on public and private properties – to improve drainage and said he expanded the role of the NVSWCD to protect flora and fauna, as well as soil and water.

Natural landscaping should be encouraged, he said, and that means moving away from lawns toward more lush vegetation. People “to let go of their fascination with turf.”

While the NVSWCD doesn’t have a role in development, he said, “as individuals, we provide technical support to decisionmakers.”

Candidate Richard Clayton was unable to attend the forum but was represented by a surrogate, Diane Weeks. She said Clayton chairs Del. Kaye Kory’s environmental task force and is a member of the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, and Zero Carbon Virginia.


  1. The beavers at Mason District Thank All of you guys! Yes, we saw a Beaver at a Mason District pond! Hope to get pics soon!!

  2. There has been a beaver in that pond for years.