Tree Clearing Along Butler Pond Planned to Comply with State Dam Safety Code

Reston Association will remove dozens of trees near Butler Pond after learning the trees that line the pond are in violation of a state requirement for dam safety. The problem was flagged last year.

RA staff’s said crews expected to begin the work in the beginning of September last year, but RA later realized the area where clearing was slated was larger than 2,500 square feet — kicking in a county requirement for an engineered plan and permits from Fairfax County, Nicki Bellezza, RA’s watershed manager, told Reston Now.

RA received permits last August and finalized a contractor after putting the project out to bid, she said. Roughly 126 trees larger than four inches in diameter will be removed by the end of the year, along with hundreds of other smaller trees.

Clearing the trees is necessary to ensure protection from floods and preserve the dam’s safety. The violation of the state requirement was found during a routine inspection of the pond, Bellezza said.

“Trees on the dam may look good but can lead to surface problems,” she said. The uprooting of trees can cause major voids in the embankment to surface and decaying roots can create cause the back side of the dam to slide. Also, in some cases, channels necessary for water to pipe through can become exposed, resulting in leakage and dam breaching, which can cause flooding of downstream homes.

Reston Association expects the work to be completed by the end of the year.

According to Virginia code:

Dam owners shall not permit the growth of trees and other woody vegetation and shall remove any such vegetation from the slopes and crest of embankments and the emergency spillway area, and within a distance of 25 feet from the toe of the embankment and abutments of the dam.

Butler Pond is located on the west side of Reston Parkway near the intersection with Route 7. It was created in 1989 and has a surface area of about three acres.

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