Reston, VA

Delayed since mid-December, the Reston Association’s project to inspect and repair Lakes Audubon, Anne, Newport, and Thoreau dams will finally get under way later this month.

In a statement posted to social media, Reston Association will start work on January 25 on the trash racks and riser structure in Lake Audubon. This requires lowering the lake on January 21 and 22, a foot and a half to two feet a day. That work is expected to take a week.

Then, on February 1, the organization will draw down the lake again, this time to a total of eight feet, to allow for a full inspection of the dam infrastructure. It will be drawn down no more than a foot a day, so this work could talk up to one and a half weeks.

Due to this, Lakes Anne, Newport, and Thoreau will also be lowered to prevent spillage.

Later that month, February 15, more dam inspections will be done. This is expected to take until February 24. Once finished, the lake will be allowed to refill naturally which could take up to a few months to happen.

Reston Association asks all residents to provide slack in their moor lines so that boats can lower safely with the water level. The lake bottom will be “deep mud” so do not attempt to walk on it, RA advises.

Every year, the Reston Association performs these inspections and repairs. They are a state requirement, Chris Schumaker, Director of Capital Projects, tells Reston Now via email.

The project was initially pushed due to “delays both in the fabrication and delivery of key materials for the Lake Audubon trash rack and valve replacements,” writes Shumaker.

Photo via Reston Association/Facebook

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The Reston Association’s project to repair and inspect the Lakes Anne, Audubon and Thoreau dams was scheduled for the second week of December has been rescheduled for the second half of January 2021. 

According to a statement from the Reston Association, the start date for the project was pushed due to delays with both the fabrication of new parts and with shipping. However, the statement says that the shift will lessen the impact on holiday plans the community may have. 

Previously, Lake Audubon was supposed to be lowered to conduct repairs on the riser structure, and the Lake Thoreau dam was supposed to be thoroughly inspected. 

According to Chris Schumaker, the Director of Capital Projects, the Lake Audubon Projects as well as the three spillway inspections should take no more than one month to complete. Lake Audubon is the only lake that needs to be lowered to complete the replacement of its spillway trash racks and several gate valves in addition to the inspection of the outfall pipes. 

Lake Thoreau, Lake Anne and Lake Newport do not require lowering more than a foot to conduct inspections and therefore won’t impact its members, according to Schumaker. 

Photo by Matt Paulson

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Next month, Reston Association will be conducting its annual lake inspections on Reston lakes.

The association announced the inspection in a press release Tuesday (Nov. 17). Starting the second week of December, if weather permits, Lakes Anne, Audubon, Newport and Thoreau will all have inspections inside and outside the bodies of water, according to the press release.

“We contract with an engineering firm specialized in this service whose team inspects the inside and outside of the structure and uses divers to look at areas underwater,” the press release said. “To accommodate this inspection, each lake is lowered slightly to prevent water from spilling over the concrete lip that is at the regular lake pool surface level. This lowering typically does not impact activities or boats on the lake.”

Reston Association Watershed Manager William Peterson says these inspections are performed to look for several possible areas of concern.

“Regardless of whether a part of the riser structure is under water or out of the water, we are looking for similar things,” Peterson said. “Essentially, anything that might create a concern. This could include cracks in the concrete, leaks in the control gates, corroded metal for any of the gears, pipes or grates, proper operation of the gates and valves, and more. We want to make sure that our dams are well maintained to ensure the safety of our community and those downstream of each of our lakes.”

Restionians living near any of the four lakes – Anne, Audubon, Newport and Thoreau – should not expect to be affected by the inspections, according to Peterson.

“Typically, the inspections do not affect the residents living near the four lakes,” Peterson said. “Although each riser structure has gates to control the water level, they are always closed except for maintenance purposes. The level of the water for the lakes is typically right at the concrete threshold that allows the lakes to have continuous flow downstream. For the inspections, we lower the levels slightly, typically about a foot, so that water is not flowing inside of the riser structure during the inspection. This helps the inspectors identify possible leaks.”

This year, according to Peterson, Lake Audubon will be lowered a lot more to accommodate the water-overflow.

“Lake Audubon’s water level will be lowered six to eight feet to conduct an inspection on the Thoreau dam outfall, which is on the Lake Audubon side of the dam, Peterson said.” “This is on the opposite side of South Lakes Drive from Thoreau. Although Lake Thoreau will be lowered to prevent water from flowing over the threshold mentioned above, it will not be lowered substantially like Lake Audubon is and should not impact boats on Lake Thoreau.”

For more information about the upcoming lake inspections, visit Reston Association’s website.

Photo via Restion Association/Facebook

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A small algae bloom has taken over some parts of Lake Audubon.

Reston Association is asking members to avoid contact with the water, which could contain algae that is “potentially harmful.” Pet owners should also make sure their pets avoid ingesting or coming into contact with the water.

The association has no immediate plans to treat the algae, which frequently makes appearances at the lake at the end of the summer.

“Forecasted rain and cooler temperatures will improve the conditions of the lake,” according to RA.

Although algae blooms are common, a major algae bloom at Lake Thoreau has raised concerns about overall lake management and environmental health. RA plans to host a special meeting about the bloom at Lake Thoreau later this month.

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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A $1 million project to restore 750 feet of Snakeden Branch at Lake Audubon is nearly complete.

In a recent Reston Association video, staff indicated that construction on the project — which is critical to prevent erosion and effectively channel stormwater — is expected to be completed sometime this week.

The restoration project, which was requested by RA members, will protect the area’s sanitary sewer system, improve water quality, and boost the wildlife habitat, according to Meghan Fellows, a project manager with the county’s stormwater planning division.

Major erosion caused the branch to become “white water rapids” in the event of rain, Fellows said.

The county, which already reforested part of the area in the spring, will provide more plantings in the fall. The restoration area is focused on the area between South Lakes Drive, Wakerbin Lane, Cedar Cove Court and Lake Audubon. Construction began in October 2019.

RA and county staff will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the stream restoration project in the coming months, according to William Peterson, RA’s watershed manager.

Fellows noted that the project is primarily intended to ensure the stream can handle stormwater and provide stability to the surrounding wildlife, given then nearly 48 percent of it is composed of impervious surface.

Prior to the project’s completion, eight sanitary lines were exposed.

Video via RA

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Reston Association is considering opening more pools to the public as four pools begin some operations today (Monday).

If state health orders and funding allow, the association may open at least two more facilities by September.

But pools at Lake Audubon, Shadowood, and Uplands will remain closed this year– in addition to pre-planned closures at Lake Thoreau and North Shore due to ongoing construction projects.

“We will open as many pools as we possibly can, when can we can, based on the rules and resources we have,” said RA CEO Hank Lynch at a meeting late last week.

Lake Audubon and Shadowood will remain closed. Plans to replace the plaster last year were delayed “during budget development with hopes of it lasting until 2021,” according to a staff presentation. Loss of revenue from member fees due to COVID-19 also complicated funding efforts.

Uplands pool will also remain closed due to delayed work on a roof project. Delays with RA’s Design Review Board were also caused by the pandemic.

Members and nonmembers can purchase pass options at half price beginning July. Recreation passes, which include tennis, pickleball and pools, have brought in roughly $117,00 in revenue between this year. Full refunds are also available to those who request them.

At the meeting, Laura Kowalski, RA’s director of recreation and environmental resources, stressed that decisions about pools and other facilities are fluid due to changing recommendations from health officials and the state.

Currently, pools at Glade, Golf Course Island, Lake Newport, and Newbridge are opening for lap swimming and fitness classes only. Other pools may open in the coming weeks. Spas, hot tubs, and water park features are closed due to state orders.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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A 17-year-old from Silver Spring, Md. died from an apparent drowning in Lake Audubon late last night (Thursday).

Several teens were swimming in the water when the teenage boy went underwater and did not resurface. Rescue crews began searching the scene with the assistance of a helicopter shortly before 9 p.m. yesterday. His body was found roughly one hour later.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.  Autopsy results are pending, but detectives do not suspect foul play.

“We dispatched our police chaplains last night to help console this community and we cannot imagine the grief and pain that this family is experiencing. They are certainly in our thoughts,” an FCPD spokesperson told Reston Now.

In recent weeks, county officials have urged residents to avoid swimming in lakes and other areas where swimming is typically prohibited. Some swimmers have been spotted in Reston lakes in recent days.

Lake Audubon is located in South Reston near South Lakes Village Center and Lake Thoreau.

Photo via Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department

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Update: The story was updated to include Reston Association’s comments on the issue.

Local boat owners are protesting Reston Association’s enforcement of boat-related rules after the homeowner’s association sent out a batch of letters threatening legal action earlier this month.

While the letters are intended to enforce RA’s boat rules regarding sizes, some boat owners say they’re being unjustly threatened to comply with rules that RA has not enforced consistently in the past. In some cases, boats are one-quarter of an inch larger than what is allowed.

In response to a request from Reston Now, Reston Association said it is working with boat owners to address concerns on a case by case basis.

“We recognize the recent letter sent to those 50 members may have created some confusion but the association is looking forward to work with each of these members to satisfactorily address their concerns,” the statement said.

Cris Revaz, who owns a boat on Lake Audubon, says he made sure he ordered a boat that was allowed by RA when he moved three years ago.

This year, he received a letter from RA’s General Counsel stating that his boat was oversized and offered to enter into a written settlement as a covenant against his property to continue using the boat.

His boat is half an inch longer than what is allowed, Revaz said.

“This is the kind of mindless bureaucratic interference with people’s lives that gives government a bad name. Is there not something better the Reston Association should be doing with their time than engaging in such frivolous enforcement actions?” he said.

Inder Sud, who has lived in Reston since 1973, said he was shocked to receive the letter from RA concerning the boat he’s had for more than 25 years. Sud said he has paid annual permitting fees for the boat, which is a quarter-of-an-inch larger than the 18′ by 10′ requirement.

“Surely RA staff should be able to exercise some reasonable judgment. Before issuing such notices,” Sud wrote in an email. “Is it really worth RA resources to. Have your staff enforcing such minor variations?”

Others like Jill Norvell said they received a similar letter concerning two boats they’ve had for eight years and 20 years. In the past, they’ve received no enforcement letters and have paid annual permanent mooring fees as required.

Residents say that RA should consider grandfathering all current boats, unless they have major compliance issues and focus on new boats in the area.

Here’s more from RA on the issue:

The Reston Association Board of Directors and staff are required to enforce all Deed requirements approved by the association’s 21,000 members. Included in the Deed are specific boat size requirements for the use of Reston’s lakes. Recently, 50 members received individual letters from RA indicating their boats do not conform to the Deed specifications. RA is in the process of making some adjustments to the measuring process which will remove some of the boats from their current non-conforming status. The association is also working with those affected boat owners that remain outside the approved measurements to memorialize an agreement between the parties that will effectively grandfather the existing non-conforming boats for the current homeowners. Should the property convey at some future time, the current owner would need to bring the boat into compliance with the deed requirements or have the boat removed from the lake.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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A major county effort to restore heavily degraded stream areas at the Snakeden Branch at Lake Audubon is underway and should be completed by October of this year.

The county is working with Reston Association and neighbors to restore 750 linear feet of stream channel. The stream area is so degraded that it exposed sewer pipes between South Lakes Drive, Wakerobin Lane, Cedar Cove Court and Lake Audubon.

“Exposed utilities, including sanitary sewer, are a potential human and environmental health hazard,” according to the county.

Construction began in October last year and is expected to take one year to complete.

The project disturbs a little over half an acre of forested land, requiring the removal of 111 trees. When the project is complete, 326 will be planted, according to data provided by the county. 

Once its complete, the project should improve water quality in the area, protect the local sanitary sewer system, remove invasive vegetation at the site, and reforest the area, resulting in improved wildlife habitat.

Here’s more on the project from RA:

Photos via Fairfax County Government

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The restoration of Snakeden Branch Stream, which flows into Lake Audubon, is underway after crews broke ground on the project in early October.

The project spans 750 feet down the stream and will improve water quality, protect the ecosystem, improve wildlife habitat and remove invasive species around the area, according to the Fairfax County website.

Construction was originally slated to begin this summer but was delayed.

Surveys were done to ensure local endangered bat and foliage populations were not affected by the work.

The project should be completed by October 2020 and will cost around a million dollars, according to Fairfax County, which added the project will be funded by the Stormwater Service District.

Image via Fairfax County

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Registration is now open for kids interested in participating in the CORE Foundation’s second annual Reston Youth Superhero Splash and Dash.

The event, which is set for Sunday, Aug. 18, gives kids a chance to show off their swimming and running skills. Registration is open for children between age 6 and 15.

The pool swim takes place at the Lake Audubon pool and the run course takes place on a nearby section of Reston pathways.

Organizers say the event focuses on “participation rather than competition and making every athlete feel like a superhero.” All participants will receive a medal, goodie bag and other swag. Athletes can also enjoy snow cones and finish line snacks.

Volunteers will be dressed like superheroes. The event is sanctioned by USA Triathlon and made possible through a partnership with the Reston Association.

Registration is $30 and a $10 USAT membership fee. Online registration opened late last week.

Photo via CORE Foundation

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This week on Then and Now, we’re going back to South Lakes to take a look at Lake Audubon.

With help from Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer, which offers aerial views of the county dating back to 1937, Reston Now has put together a look at how the lake has evolved from overhead and under the surface.

Audubon is the largest of Reston’s lakes in both it’s acreage — 43.5 acres — and it’s extensive watershed covering 1,558.5 acres.

While Lake Thoreau holds 26.5 million gallons of water, it’s southern twin holds 133.6 million gallons.

Lake Audubon and Lake Thoreau were conceived to be one lake, then named Lake Elsa. The lake was impounded in 1971 and was named for Reston founder Robert Simon’s mother.

But in 1979 the South Lakes dam bisected the property and split the lake, creating Lake Thoreau in the North and Lake Audubon in the south.

For years, the southern area closed off by the dam, but for years afterwards remained a dry pit. During the 1980s, the lake was filled in with water.

But while the lake shows very little change from above between 1997 and 2017, there were plenty of changes taking place beneath the water’s surface. In those years, several new species of aquatic wildlife was introduced to the lake, including:

  • Redear Sunfish
  • Black Crappie
  • Brown Bullhead
  • American Eel

In more recent years, the levels of contamination in the water continue to be a problem, caused in large part by the lake’s large surface area. According to a 2017 report on Reston’s lakes, Lake Audubon’s has faced increasing amounts of toxic algae that pose an ecological threat to the lake.

Increasing levels of toxic algae culminated with a warning to local residents to avoid contact with the lake, leading to a dredging project earlier this year.

For more Reston Then and Now, check out:

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“Fallen Angels” starts — NextStop Theatre Company’s production of the Noel Coward comedy hits the stage tonight. [NextStop Theatre Company]

Checkmate — McNair Elementary School finished second in the K-5 category of the Virginia Scholastic Chess Championships. The McNair also placed third in the K-8 category. [FCPS]

Lake Audubon dredging update — The dredging project is still on track for completion in April. [Reston Association/YouTube]

Girl Power! Book Club tonight — Middle-grade readers can head to Scrawl Books at 7 p.m. to talk about “Front Desk.” [Scrawl Books]

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Lake Audubon’s dredging project is slated to start as soon as Feb. 1.

The Reston Association announced today (Jan. 18) that it plans to hire Lake Services, Inc. to dredge the accumulated sediment from the lake’s main coves. Dredging could begin as early as Feb. 1 with expected completion by the end of April.

The announcement came five months after residents were warned to avoid the lake after a harmful algae bloom was spotted. The bloom, called Microcystis, can produce toxins that are lethal for livestock, fish and people. Some of the toxins have been linked to liver cancer.

“Routine dredging is part of the association’s lakes maintenance program, which helps to extend the life of the lake,” the press release say. “As lakes age, they eventually fill in through sedimentation.”

Sedimentation occurs when materials such as soil from stream erosion, construction sites, road sand, leaves or other debris accumulate in the lake.

RA anticipates that the dredging will require removing 13,500 cubic yards of material, which will be placed in trucks and hauled to a disposal site in Loudoun County.

While the dredging is underway, locals can expect truck traffic to affect the Lake Audubon Pool’s parking lot, according to the press release.

The dredging operation staging area will be located at the Lake Audubon boat ramp. Dredging will not occur at the shoreline edge or within 5 feet of any dock structure, according to the press release.

Before dredging can begin, RA’s Board of Directors will need to approve the project contract with Lake Services, which is anticipated at the upcoming meeting next Thursday (Jan. 24).

Photo via Reston Association

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This week on Then and Now, we’re going back to our roots as seeing how Reston’s iconic lakes have changed over the years. With help from Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer, which offers aerial views of the county dating back to 1937, Reston Now has put together a review of how the area around Lake Thoreau and Lake Audubon has evolved since the lake’s creation.

Like Lake Anne, there was no “South Lakes” in photography from 1960. Reston as a planned community was founded in 1964. Before that, much of what is the South Lakes were forests with a few cut-through roads. Interestingly, where Lake Audubon would be built later there was a large pond.

Lake Thoreau and Lake Audubon were built as reservoirs collecting the runoff created by the rapid urbanization nearby. Lake Thoreau was built in 1970 and Lake Audubon was built in 1971, though from the aerial photography there wasn’t much of a “lake” about Audubon until the late 1980s.

One of the earliest large scale developments in the area was the South Lakes High School, which opened in 1978 on 600 acres of land with an “open classroom” design.

The school was not broken into individual classrooms, a plan teachers and students discovered early on was ineffective and distracting. They wound up building temporary barriers until more permanent ones built in 2006 killed the open classroom idea for good.

Langston Hughes Middle School was originally an intermediate school for South Lakes High School, but in 1980 it was officially renamed the Langston Hughes Intermediate School, then Langston Hughes Middle School in the early 1990s.

By 1980, new residential developments had sprung up along the northern and southern edges of Lake Thoreau.

In 1984, the South Lakes Shopping Center opened, marking the last major shift in the area, though the design of that area could be undergoing some visible changes.

Between 1990 and 2017, most of the changes to the area involved the filling in of residential developments in the vicinity of the lake. In 2006, South Lakes High School also expanded and the aforementioned open-space classroom model was eliminated.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out our Then and Now coverage of:

If there are any places in Reston you would like to see covered as a Then and Now feature, let us know in the comments.

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