Reston, VA

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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In mid-August, a major and possibly toxic algae bloom blanketed Lake Thoreau following Reston Association’s treatment of an invasive plant in the lake.

The treatment, which RA said was one of several factors that caused the bloom, was conducted much later into the season, making the bloom worse.

Following this issue and subsequent community meetings about lake management, RA CEO Hank Lynch wants to more than double its lake maintenance treatment budget for 2021 budget, which is currently under development. This year’s lake maintenance budget is $31,745, up from $17,103 in 2020’s. budget.

The proposed budget would include up to five algae treatments of Lake Thoreau, up to five algae treatments at Lake Anne, and $18,920 to treat lake Thoreau with sonar pelters in the spring or early summer.

The association also plans to shift from treating the lake with contact herbicides to systemic herbicides earlier in the season to control the hydrilla plant.

“This solution will control the hydrilla before it gets to grow and become a problem in the lake,” according to meeting materials.

The systemic herbicide treatment is much more costly than previously used treatment but will produce more long-lasting results, Lynch said at a Board of Directors’ meeting last week.

RA also hopes to remove water lillies at Lake Newport every few years. Its consultant, Aquatic Environment Consultants, will “continue to monitor to determine the right timing of this treatment,” according to meeting materials.

The removal of primrose and alligator weed at Lake Thoreau on the shoreline and along the dams has also been identified as a pending project. The issue will be addressed based on growing conditions this summer.

The lake will also be stocked with 130 carp — which consume aquatics plants — to help manage the overgrowth of certain aquatic plants like hydrilla. The lake was last stocked in 2017 with 80 carp.

RA will hold another community engagement meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) at 6:30 p.m. to discuss Lake Thoreau and lake environmental health. The meeting will take place online.

Photo by Jeannine Santoro

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Despite full support for a major replacement of Lake Thoreau Pool, Reston Association’s Board of Directors grappled with how to fund the project, which could cost up to $3.5 million.

At a meeting on Thursday night, board members said it was unclear how RA would fund the project as it develops the budget for the coming fiscal year. RA staff and CEO Hank Lynch suggested splitting the cost of the project between fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

The board’s latest meeting highlighted pressing and longstanding budgetary management concerns as RA determines next steps for moving forward with the project.

RA’s COO Larry Butler stressed the need for more structured longterm planning, including the developing of a five-and ten-year capital project plan for projects that exceed $250,000. Those plans would allow the board and the community to have a “true understanding or real costs,” he said.

“There’s a lot to be done in that realm,” Butler said.

Board Director Ven Iyer said the question of how to fund Lake Thoreau highlights RA’s habits of “fiscal irresponsibility.”

“In spite of bringing in 18 million a year, we are unable to find $3.5 million dollars to fix a pool,” he said.

For the pool, the most favored design includes a zero-depth wading pool in what used to be the facility’s deep end, expand the parking lot and bathhouse to meet Fairfax County and Americans with Disabilities Act code requirements, and incorporate an elevated observation and lounge deck.

Staff recommends splitting project costs between $1.6 million in 2021 and 1.5 million in 2022. Under this scenario, the board could defer upgrades to Lake Anne’s dam and renovations to Glade Tennis Court.

RA is expected to grapple with other major renovation projects, included the full-scale renovation of Shadowood Pool. Despite cosmetic changes in the last few years, parts of the facility are obsolete and ongoing sewage issues continue on the site.

Lynch also stressed that RA needs to allows its recreational facilities and working group to evaluate the association’s recreational needs, missed opportunities for amenities, and a review of the need or lack thereof of current amenities.

RA Board Director John Mooney suggested that the board consider financing certain project instead of pay-as-you-go funding.

“It’s not fair that current rate payers foot the bill for a facility that will serve multiple future generations of rate payers,” he said.

A motion to direct staff to explore an across-the-board seven-percent cut to all operational expenses failed to gain traction. Some board members said they were confident staff had already pared down operational expenses to the extend possible.

Discussions on the budget are expected to continue in coming meetings.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston Association’s Board of Directors is working through various funding options for the planned renovation of Lake Thoreau Pool.

Although most residents appear to agree on a plan presented by design consultant Kimley-Horn, RA must now determine the best way to finance the multi-million project.

At previous community meetings, members have expressed support for a lean design concept that would largely work within the existing footprint of the aging site.  A zero-depth wading pool would be installed on the facility’s deep end, the parking lot would be expanded, and the bathhouse would meet county and federal code requirements for individuals with disabilities. A lounge observation deck is also planned in the new design.

The first concept is expected to cost between $2.9 and $3.5 million while a more extensive rehaul. Would cost between $3.8 million and $4.6 million, according to meeting materials.

RA staff recommends that the board adopt the first concept and split project costs between fiscal years 2021 and 2022. Other major projects above $250,000 would be pushed forward by two years.

At a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8, RA’s board will discuss whether or not the project should be fully funded within the next two fiscal years. Other planned topics. Of discussion include eliminating or repurposing facilities that do not offer value to members and are costly to operate.

The discussion comes as RA tackles current and anticipated projects. In a 2019 reserve study, consultant DMA Reserves identified more than 1,300 capital assets and offered a suggested replacement plan.

Between 2021 and 2031, RA hopes to tackle ten major pool and tennis projects that would cost more than $250,000. Some projects have been deferred.

For example, renovations to the Lake Newport Tennis Court have been deferred until 2022 until a “more intensive renovation” will be conducted, according to meeting materials.

The board will also discuss other issues, including a review of the role of the Recreation Facilities Working Group and an analysis of the 2019 reserve study. The meeting takes place via Zoom.

Photo via handout/RA

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Senior Girl Scout Builds Turtle Platform — Mercer Thomas built a turtle platform on Lake Thoreau as part of her Gold Award to help the turtle population in Reston. Thomas needs the community’s help to track her project. [Reston Association]

Final Construction of STEAM Project Underway — Students from South Lakes High School’s STEAM team is working on the final construction phase of “Part & Parcel,” a temporary sculpture to be installed in the Lake Thoreau spillway in Reston. [Public Art  Reston]

Metro Plans Next Phases of Reconstruction, Capital Projects — “Metro will rebuild deteriorating outdoor platforms at Arlington Cemetery, Addison Road, and four Green Line stations north of Fort Totten next year, continuing its robust capital program to keep the system safe and reliable for the next generation of riders.” [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Reports of Stolen Campaign Signs Increase — “With less than a month until Nov. 3, and 2020’s contentious political climate, local police and sheriff’s departments are fielding reports of stolen, damaged and vandalized campaign signs.” [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston Association will need to get creative in order to fund its planned renovation of the Lake Thoreau Pool.

The majority of residents who spoke at the association’s board of directors meeting on Thursday expressed support for funding the project in 2021 so that it can reopen in 2022 as planned. Members urging board members to consider a variety of funding and design options if necessary to make it more feasible.

Suggestions included opening the pool up to non-RA members, turning the pool into a shallow-end-only facility to make maintenance easier, and opening up the pool deck year-round so that it could be utilized for other activities.

“Now that we are all living through this pandemic, we know the huge importance of outdoor spaces,” Giselle Agosto Hincapie, whose family lives in walking distance of the pool, said. “The idea of completely eliminating the pool or delaying the construction project is truly disheartening. I think a pool can be incorporated with year-round amenities in this space.”

Kimley-Horn, the consultant hired to develop design concepts for the pool project, estimates that its first proposal, a more straightforward renovation that stays within the site’s existing footprint, would cost somewhere between $2.9 million and $3.5 million.

This design would install a zero-depth wading pool in what used to be the facility’s deep end, expand the parking lot and bathhouse to meet Fairfax County and Americans with Disabilities Act code requirements, and incorporate an elevated observation and lounge deck.

A second proposal that would involve a more extensive overhaul of the site would cost between $3.8 million and $4.6 million, though Kimle-Horn landscape architect Ron Kagawa says there has been a “great preference” for the simpler concept.

Kagawa says a significant part of the project’s cost is tied to the need to level out the site so that it is more accessible and to construct an approximately 450-foot-long retaining wall along the lakefront and around the parking lot.

Chris Schumaker, Reston Association’s senior capital projects operations manager, estimates that if RA picks the first project concept, it would need to commit an additional $3.1 million on top of the $350,000 allocated to the Lake Thoreau project in 2020, possibly splitting the $3.45 million total cost between $1.6 million in 2021 and $1.5 million in 2022.

However, Reston Association also has five other pools and three tennis courts that are expected to need renovations between 2022 and 2031.

Adding these other projects on top of the Lake Thoreau pool funding, the association’s repair and replacement reserve fund could drop into a negative balance by 2023 and not recover until 2027, according to Schumaker’s projections.

“A lot of our facilities are nearing that 40, 50-year age mark,” Schumaker said. “We can safely assume there are going to be some major projects coming down the pike that we’re going to need to be aware of and planning for.”

RA’s Board of Directors will discuss options for financing the Lake Thoreau pool renovation in more detail during a special working session on Oct. 8.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The potentially harmful green sludge that suddenly emerged, covering large swaths of a Reston lake is finally subsiding.

Thanks to cooling weather, rain and less sunshine the algae bloom which has covered Lake Thoreau for weeks is now on the decline and the lake is mostly clear, according to Mike Leone, Reston Association’s spokesman.

In mid-August, algae started to cover parts of Lake Thoreau causing the RA to tell nearby residents to avoid contact with the lake as the algae is “potentially harmful.”

RA staff pointed to the hot summer sun as a contributing factor and the RA’s recent attempt to clear the lake of an invasive plant species as potential reasons for the recent algae bloom. Now that the weather has cooled and some recent rainfall has poured freshwater in the lake, the algae bloom is subsiding Leone said.

“Essentially, the situation on Lake Thoreau is not necessarily as bad as it was like three or four weeks ago when we were in the height of the summer,” Leone said.

Management of the algae is something that RA staff is tracking closely with experts frequently examining the lake. Now that the lake is mostly clear, a treatment option to remove the algae may not be necessary anymore, Leone said.

“If the lake is very clear, it is likely that treatment is not necessary,” said William Peterson, the watershed manager for RA in a statement. “However, you also do not want to treat during a large algae bloom because killing the algae could decrease the dissolved oxygen in the lake, potentially leading to a fish kill.”

The direct cause of the bloom has not been determined, but the association’s attempt to clear the lakes of hydrilla, an invasive plant species, could be a factor. Removing hydrilla from the lake left more nutrients available for algae, potentially causing the latest algae bloom.

Before RA tried treating the lake with herbicide to kill the hydrilla, RA stocked the lake with grass carp, a freshwater fish that eats the plant. But the fish were not enough to clear the lake of hydrilla, leading to other treatment options.

Lab results from the lake confirm the algae specie that covered the lake was Dolichospermum planctonicum, also known Anabaena, which could cause  skin irritation or make someone nauseous if exposed to it.

Algae grows when it is exposed to sunlight and nutrients, which often flows into lakes as runoff. While algae is a normal part of the aquatic ecosystem, some types of algae can make people sick if they are exposed to it causing the most recent concern over the algae bloom at Lake Thoreau, which has had previous algae blooms, particularly during summer months.

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Reston Association will consider including more funding in next year’s budget to preserve the environmental health of Lake Thoreau.

At a meeting with members last night (Monday), RA CEO Hank Lynch said the association has a line-item in the fiscal year 2021 budget to better protect the lake’s environmental health.

A major and potentially toxic algae bloom blanketed Lake Thoreau’s surface last month after RA treated the lake with herbicides to manage Hydrilla, an aquatic plant that had taken over parts of the lake. The treatment occurred in late July — late into the season when treatments are typically avoided in order to prevent further blooms and other issues.

Since then, RA has encouraged residents to avoid contact with the water. The dying hydrilla and algae bloom are expected to continue to dissipate in the coming weeks.

Lynch said there is no “simple formula” to solve all of Lake Thoreau’s environmental health challenges. His staff is working with experts — including Aquatic Environment Consultants — to discuss how to manage algae blooms, erosion, stormwater runoff, and other issues in the future.

“We’ve already go ta line item in the budget if we indeed we need to increase funding to make this doesn’t happen next year,” Lynch said.

RA has routinely worked with AEC to protect its lakes. The consultant’s president Bill Kirkpatrick said that RA had hoped introducing grass carp into the lake would fend off the hydrilla.

“The hope was the carp would be able to get a handle on it,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that his company will reevaluate what happened this year, lay out other options, and make a decision for next year.

RA members urged the association to act more swiftly and proactively in the future to prevent further issues at the lake. Others called on RA to improve its communication with residents, particularly those living near and around Lake Thoreau.

“It should be a top priority,” said Lorri Zell, adding that the lake’s health trumps efforts to bring movies on the lake or pontoon boats.

The full meeting is available online. RA plans to step up community engagement efforts to educate members about its lakes and lake management.

Photo by Jeannine Santoro

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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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Friday Morning Notes

Discussion on Lake Thoreau’s Health — Reston Association published a video detailing this year’s algae bloom and the association’s management of the Hydrilla plant. The Reston Today video features CEO Hank Lunch and COO Larry Butler. [Reston Association]

Northern Virginia Leads in Coronavirus Cases — “The Virginia Department of Health reported 863 additional coronavirus cases Thursday. The cumulative total of cases is up to 109,882. There were 17 new deaths reported Thursday, bringing the total in Virginia to 2,427. There have been 8,998 coronavirus hospitalizations to date.” [Reston Patch]

High Ratings for Va. COVID-19 App — “I often use this column to warn about the dangers of apps that track you. This time, I’m going to recommend you actually install one. There’s a new kind of app that uses your smartphone’s Bluetooth wireless signals to figure out when you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus… It’s called Covidwise, and works in the state of Virginia.” [Washington Post]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston Association will host a meeting later this month to discuss the environmental health of Lake Thoreau.

The meeting announcement follows a major algae bloom at the lake, which prompted RA to urge residents to avoid contact with the water.

RA will meet virtually on Aug. 31 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom to discuss the overall health of the lake. RA CEO Hank Lynch and COO Larry Butler will discuss recent test results and the longterm plan for managing the bloom.

RA’s longtime vendor, Aquatic Environment Consultants, will present data on the treatment of the lake and data collection. The association’s Environmental Advisory Committee chair Doug Britt will also discuss issues related to the lake.

RA may also consider exploring how future management practices will impact the 2021 budget and future budgets.

Although lab results do not indicate the algae bloom contains toxic levels of microsystins, the algal species does have the ability to produce toxins if concentrations are high enough.

RA expects the dying Hydrilla plant — which the association treated in late July — will sink to the bottom of the lake as it dies over the next several weeks.

Photo by Jeannine Santoro

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Wednesday Morning Notes

FCPS to Host Town Hall Tonight — Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand will host a town hall at 6:30 p.m. to answer questions about the return to school plan. [FCPS]

Reston Association to Host Meeting on Lake Thoreau Situation — The association will host a virtual meeting on Aug. 31 to discuss issues related to an algae bloom and the treatment of Hydrilla at the lake. The meeting takes place via Zoom at 6:30 p.m. [RA]

Metrobus to Ramp Up Service This Sunday — “Metrobus will ramp up service Sunday, August 23, giving customers more options with more buses, operating on more routes, more frequently and with more hours of service. The changes will restore approximately 75 percent of Metrobus service.” [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Lab results indicate that a major algae bloom at Lake Thoreau is not toxic. But Reston Association is still encouraging residents to still avoid contact with the water, which has been consumed by the bloom and a dying clumps of the Hydrilla plant.

In a statement, RA said the results “do not at this time detect potentially toxic levels of microcystins in the sample provided.” The algal species does have the ability to produce the toxins if concentrations are high enough.  Residents should stay clear of the water until conditions return to normal. Some algae can cause skin rashes and gastrointestinal illnesses.

RA tried to control the growth of the Hydrilla plant through chemical treatment in late July, which may have created conditions for the algae bloom to thrive. The association noted that the treatment, which some criticized was done so too late into the summer season, did not cause the algae bloom. Other contributing factors include rain, runoff, water temperature, and the amount of nitrogen in the lake.

Local residents have launched an online petition calling on RA to clean up the lake and create a long-term plan to support its health. The petition has 86 signatures thus far.

Algae blooms, Hydrilla infestations, and other issues have bogged down the lake for several years. Some members say RA has failed to create a long-term plan to preserve the lake’s health.

The petition urges RA’s Board of Directors to fund the cleanup of the decaying Hydrilla, set up a community meeting to address concerns, establish a working group regarding the lake, and “hold people accountable for the mismanagement of this important community resource.”

RA has no immediate plans to clean up the dying Hydrilla, which it says will sink to the bottom of the lake over the next several weeks. The association also noted that treating the bloom as the Hydrilla plant dies could compromise oxygen levels at the lake and endanger aquatic life at the lake.

Photo by Jeannine Santoro

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Reston Association is encouraging residents to avoid contact with Lake Thoreau after a major algae bloom has taken over parts of the lake.

Lab testing is underway to determine if the algae bloom is harmful. Residents should avoid contact with the water until algae concentrations return to “acceptable levels,” according to a statement released by RA last night (Wednesday).

It’s unclear if the bloom was directly caused by RA’s recent treatment of the lake for Hydrilla, an invasive plant that had taken over roughly 30 percent of the lake. Typically, algae blooms thrive when there are more nutrients available for algae growth.

Some RA members criticized the association for attempting to treat the lake late in the summer season.

I’m at a loss how the RA dumped a bunch of chemicals into a healthy lake without thinking through the consequences of the outcome,” one RA member wrote on Facebook.

Others called the issue a “man-made” problem.

“The algae bloom is due to the irresponsible decision to treat the entire lake at one time for hydrilla growth very late into the season when temperatures were at an all time high! This is not a natural occurrence but a man-made problem,” an RA member wrote.

Jeannine Santoro said she’s at a loss for how “RA dumped a bunch of chemicals into a healthy lake without thinking through the consequences of the outcome.”

Here’s more from RA told Reston Now on whether the Hydrilla treatment caused the bloom:

Algae blooms can be caused as a result of multiple factors. This includes water temperature, air temperature, amount of nitrogen and phosphorous present in the lake, amount of rain, and runoff from the Watershed that can carry fertilizers. The main sources of nutrients are runoff from the watershed and phosphorous released from the anerobic zone of the lake. Anerobic decomposition releases phosphorous. While the hydrilla may be contributing, it is not the causal factor.

RA acknowledged that summer is not the best time period to treat the lake. But the association wanted to see if the grass carp would impact the Hydrilla plant before using herbicide management methods. The dying hydrilla is expected to sink to the bottom of the lake and decay in the next few weeks.

Harmful algae can cause skin rashes and gastrointestinal illnesses. Anyone concerned about the effects of exposure to a bloom should contact the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom hotline at 1-888-238-6154.

In previous years, RA stocked more grass carp — a freshwater fish species — to help control the plant. But after the fish proved ineffective, RA hired a contractor to treat the Hydrilla, which has floated to the surface after the July 29 treatment.

RA believes the blue-green algae bloom happened as Hydrilla plant began to die, creating conditions primed for the bloom to thrive.

“The blue-green algae bloom in Lake Thoreau has the potential, if concentrations are high enough, to provide microsystins, which can be harmful to both humans and pets,” RA wrote in a statement.

The decomposing Hydrilla on the surface of the water will sink to the lake bottom and decay within the next few weeks. For this reason, the association is not removing the decomposing hydrilla.

RA currently has no plans to treat the bloom until more appropriate conditions — cooler air and water temperature — occur. Treating the bloom as the Hyrdilla plant dies could compromise the dissolved oxygen levels at the lake and put aquatic life in danger.

In the future, RA hopes to explore better ways to manage aquatic plants on the lake.

One option includes treating the plants easy in the season when they begin to come up. This would require three low-dosage treatments — a decision that must “must be made way before the plants are a problem,” RA said.

RA did not treat the water earlier this year because the grass carp were stocked in 2018.

Photos courtesy Jeannine Santoro and staff

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Kimley-Horn, a planning and design consultant, has pitched two proposals for Lake Thoreau pool, a Reston Association amenity closed pending major improvements on the aging site.

The pool, which opened in 1981, is deteriorating. Previous structural engineering reports have flagged structural problems with the pool, including a sagging retaining wall and cracks in the pool shell and concrete deck.

Following community engagement sessions, Kimley-Horn pitched two concept plans for the renovation project. The first concept is similar to the current layout and design, but would incorporate features requested by residents at a Feb. 11 community meeting. Those priorities include: a hot tub or spa, lap lanes, zero-depth entry, outward views, shade and tree retention, and lake access.

The second concept plan would involve a complete redesign and creates less shade and tree retention.

Jeffrey Holzer, a landscape architect analyst with Kimley-Horn, said the company was amenable to pursuing a “simple and practical” design. Reston Association released an informational video about the project ahead of a community meeting next month.

The consultant is also exploring artistic opportunities like a pool mural, a pool floor mosaic, sculptural art along the building, deck or wall, or a sculptural water fountain.

Feedback and questions are due by August 7 to [email protected].

A final conceptual design, which would incorporate community feedback, will be created by August 25. Meetings with RA’s Board of Directors and Design Review Board are expected to continue between September and October.

A virtual community meeting is planned for August 25 at 6:30 p.m.

Image via Kimley-Horn

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