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Impervious Surfaces and Water Quality
Lake Terrapin - What Happens When Stormwater Systems Fail

$1 Million Stream Restoration - Powell's Creek at Hylbrook Park

Video showing project area and goals.
You will be shocked to see how close
the stream is to the Senior Center.

Prince William County (PWC)Watershed Management is restoring 1,360 feet of the unnamed stream that flows along the border of Hylbrook Park in Woodbridge.

Located between Route 1 and 1-95, this stream is surrounded by residential development on small lots, largely built in the 1960’s when there was considerably more vacant land and stormwater impacts were easy to ignore.

Today, more than 50 years later, stormwater runoff has dramatically eroded the stream bank to the point where it is just feet away from the Prince William Senior Center, adjacent to Hylbrook Park.

This restoration project aims to protect the Senior Center building and downstream properties. The price tag is approximately $1 million, with $360,000 in funding coming from a state grant and $640,000 from PWC taxpayers. This is a cost of approximately $735 per foot.

Prince William Conservation Alliance (PWCA) Stream Stewards visited this stream in March 2012. Click here to read the full tour recap and here for photos. During the tour, PWC Environmental Engineer Clay Morris pointed out challenging conditions that would limit the restoration, notably the lack of land along the stream bank which leaves no space to re-establish an adequate channel.

Morris concluded that riprap (rocks used to armor stream banks) was the only available option to stabilize the banks and prevent further erosion. He pointed out that this would not necessarily improve biological diversity.

As demonstrated at Hylbrook Park, once the damage is done, the cost to even partially restore streams is enormous. On the other hand, investments that prevent damages from stormwater runoff result in significant savings to taxpayers over time and support the County’s goal to create vibrant, healthy communities where people want to live.

Taxpayers fund most restoration projects. Developers play an important role in preventing as well as causing damages. Currently in Prince William County, new development applications include little information about how stormwater will be addressed and generally commit only to meet the minimum standards set by the state. Virginia’s new state stormwater regulations are a step in the right direction, but additional efforts are needed to meet the enforceable federal standards set to save the Chesapeake Bay.

New state law enacted in the 2016 legislative session sets limits to proffered commitments, so the potential to negotiate site-specific deals is largely gone. However, in Virginia, localities are specifically authorized to establish stormwater standards that provide protection beyond the minimum requirements set by the state.

We need a standard, county-wide solution now. Prince William Supervisors interested in keeping taxes low have a great opportunity to raise the bar to better manage stormwater runoff and prevent damages to downstream properties, as demonstrated by the stream at Hylbrook Park.

To start, the county would benefit simply by requiring developers to provide more information on existing stormwater conditions in areas proposed for new development. While county staff cannot do this without direction from the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS), this could be easily accomplished by a BOCS directive to expand the list of environmental features included on Environmental Constraints Analyses as directed by the Comprehensive Plan.

In addition, the BOCS has an opportunity to take better advantage of advances in stormwater management. For example, Environmental Site Design is a comprehensive approach intended to maintain pre-development stormwater conditions and protect natural resources by considering the natural landscape before designing a development site and prioritizing smaller controls to capture and treat stormwater runoff on-site.

Requiring new development projects to meet some or all of Virginia’s water quality requirements through Environmental Site Design would protect natural features, such as wetlands and forested buffers, and help manage stormwater runoff on-site. Stormwater running off new development will alter our local streams.

We can minimize the damage and future costs to taxpayers. If the county upgrades its standards and requires adequate stream protection when projects are planned, we could avoid creating the need in the future for incredibly expensive projects to restore damaged streams. Click here to share your views with the Board of County Supervisors now.