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County torn over whether to dredge or not to dredge Lake Accotink

Lake Accotink Park paddle boats (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The price tag affixed to dredging Lake Accotink has led some on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to say it might be time to pull the plug on restoration plans.

The Fairfax County park is popular, with over 250,000 visitors each year, but in a presentation to the board’s environmental committee yesterday (Tuesday), staff said the cost of the much-needed dredging project would be astronomical.

The basic cost of dredging alone is estimated at around $95.3 million, with additional dredging events for maintenance costing up to $300 million total by the 20-year mark.

Suggesting that the lake could be turned into a wetland, the staff report said that 43% of the sediment in the park would need to be removed, and costs of removing and disposing of the sediment are higher than originally estimated.

Alternative options, like damming the lake to create an “offline lake” separate from Accotink Creek, still came in as too expensive to be recommended.

A survey conducted after the staff report came out in February found respondents split over whether the lake should still be dredged, though “no” votes eeked out a 1% lead. Some commenters questioned the cost estimates and the county’s management of the park.

“It brings me no joy to come here with a recommendation to not proceed with dredging,” said Christopher Herrington, director of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. “I have an appreciation of the deep connection some residents have with the lake, so it brings me no joy to disappoint them.”

Herrington said the additional costs of continued maintenance dredging is really the nail in the coffin for the Lake Accotink dredging evaluation.

Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay expressed personal disappointment with the results of the staff report.

“As someone who has used this park since I was a child, it brings me no joy to hear that,” McKay said. “There’s profound disappointment in the decision staff has made here. Not because there wasn’t a thorough investigation…I have a hard time stomaching the recommendations.”

While many on the board balked at the cost of dredging, Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said more answers are needed before a final decision can be made.

“A lot of folks are angry and hurt that we’re talking about not keeping that commitment,” Walkinshaw said. “This lake has hundreds, thousands, of very strong impassioned supporters. The new cost estimates are eye popping, but I’m not ready to give up. If board not willing to commit resources to fully dredge, we owe people a lot more answers.”

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