ALEXANDRIA, VA – Earlier this month, the Ad Hoc Stormwater Utility and Flood Mitigation Advisory Group presented its annual report (PDF) to Alexandria City Council. The group formed for the purpose of addressing communitywide concerns over frequent flooding in the city.
The report, created with input from residents, provides answers to their most pressing questions:
1) Is the city’s investment in stormwater mitigation directed to the most urgent problems?
2) Are the planned expenditures adequate to address the stormwater flooding problem?
3) Is the city making sufficient progress in addressing the problem?
“The flooding problem in Alexandria is the result of increasingly severe rainstorms colliding with older,
inadequate stormwater infrastructure,” the report reads. “Severe storms that meteorologists predicted should occur only once every ten years — or even less frequently – [n]ow occur almost every year.”
During a four-year period from 2018 to 2021, Alexandria experienced six storms categorized as severe. When categorizing a storm, the amount of rainfall is not the only thing considered, its intensity is also taken into account. By creating the Flood Action Alexandria program, city leaders took an important step to mitigate the issue. It has three parts:
1) Spot projects that repair problems at the source;
2) Large Cpacity-building Projects that require years of planning and design to replace stormwater infrastructure; and
3) On-going Maintenance of exsisting waterways, such as removing blockages and inspecting pipes.
Alexandria’s Capital Improvement Program, for the next decade, has allocated $264 million to address areas that routinely experience catastrophic flooding. The amount is reflective of cost estimates for necessary projects. The report indicates however that “sufficient designs” have yet to be completed.
As a result, the advisory committee has recommended that City Council prepare itself for a future change in cost.
According to the report, in the time frame of a few years, Alexandria “has made more progress than ever before” to combat flooding. For example, six spot projects were done over the last fiscal year on Hooff’s Run and Four Mile Run – areas prone to flooding. In adittion, the city awarded contracts to companies tasked with fixing flooding at the intersections of Commonwealth Ave. and E. Glebe Rd., and Ashby St. and E. Glebe
Rd. at the northern end of Commonwealth Ave. (Contractors will also fix properties in the affected areas as well.) A plan is “underway” to also remedy issues plaguing the combined sewer area of Old Town.
“While the Committee wholeheartedly applauds the progress to date, it recognizes that creating a more flood-resilient Alexandria will require at least a decade of sustained investment and effort,” reads the report. “The true measure of progress will be when the City has proven its ability to build the large infrastructure projects that fundamentally increase Alexandria’s capacity to move stormwater.”
This story has been updated to correct the amount allocated in the Capital Improvement Plan to mitigate flooding. It is $264 million, not billion as stated previously.