Western Loudouners Learn About New Watershed Management Plan

In one year’s time, western Loudoun will have a long-term plan aimed at better protecting its water.

About 20 western Loudoun residents gathered at Purcellville’s Carver Center on Wednesday night to learn about the Western Hills Watershed Management Plan, which the county’s Department of Building and Development’s Natural Resources Division is developing along with a consultant team from Tetra Tech, Inc. The goal is to protect the 70-square-mile Western Hills Watershed that includes the towns of Hamilton, Purcellville and Round Hill. Scheduled to launch this fall, it will be the county’s second watershed management plan and will cost it $185,000 for the outside help.

The plan will be similar to the Upper Broad Run Watershed Management Plan, which the county and Versar, Inc. completed in 2014 and found that the 26-square-mile watershed area contained a nitrogen load of nearly 216,000 pounds per year and a phosphorus load of about 14,000 pounds per year.

Like that plan, the Western Hills plan will incorporate goals to improve local watershed and stream conditions, prevent further degradation of water quality and educate businesses and residents about watershed stewardship.

Nancy Roth, the project manager for Tetra Tech, presented residents with four steps in the work plan—engaging the community, developing an understanding of the watershed by analyzing existing and new data, estimating pollutant amounts and proposing strategies for improvements.

Roth said that these strategies could include planting trees, properly disposing of pet waste, using fertilizer without phosphorus and creating community trash pickup campaigns. She also suggested that identifying and addressing pollution sources would be key, such as French fry grease that gets washed into storm drains.

In addition to suggesting locations for study areas and pinpointing major concerns they want the county to look into, residents also had the chance to discuss their visions for a healthy watershed.

One resident suggested that the school system could create educational opportunities, like environmental clubs, for students to learn about the Western Hills Watershed, which is comprised of the South Fork Catoctin Creek and the North Fork Goose Creek watersheds and features an area that’s 32 percent forested and 6 percent paved surfaces and roofs.

“I would think a lot of parents would get involved if [their kids were passionate about the topic],” she said. “I think more and more kids are interested in the environment and what’s happening to it.”

Another resident mentioned that the Town of Round Hill intends to partner with local environmental stewardship organizations to create an outdoor classroomat Sleeter Lake Park and that the watershed plan could work into that somehow.

Adrianna Berk, an environmental scientist with Tetra Tech, said that a program like that would be similar to Prince William County Public Schools’ Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences program, which requires students to engage in experimental projects within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

“You’re building long-term stewards of the environment,” she said.

The Western Hills Upper Broad Run Watershed Management Plans are part of a systematic approach outlined in the county’s Strategic Watershed Management Solutions project—a 2006 report that envisioned a countywide plan for water resource management.

Both plans will be used to provide the Board of Supervisors with a perspective of the county’s federal, state and local obligations for water resource management and to find alternative solutions for watershed management.

Roth said that Tetra Tech and the county would begin field investigations in the next few weeks and have them wrapped up by January. She said the plan could be completed as early as next June.

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Representatives from Loudoun County and Tetra Tech discussed the Western Hills Watershed Management Plan with residents at a public meeting Wednesday night in Purcellville.
[Patrick Szabo/Loudoun Now]

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