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River sediment removal not a priority for City Council
Upstream from the Chatham Bridge, silt is narrowing the Rappahannock River
SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the width of that narrower channel at about 155 to 175 feet. That's significantly narrower than many spots in the river now.
Resource International noted that the draft's conclusions did not take into account a silt-related environmental assessment by the Army Corps of Engineers, and a flood frequency analysis. Those were not received before the completion of the draft report.
Fredericksburg Public Works Director Doug Fawcett says the city is continuing its discussions with Resource International on the silt issue.
The company is developing ideas "about things that could be done, focused more on restoration as opposed to a straight-out dredging project," Fawcett said in a recent interview. He characterized the focus as "working with the river, so to speak."
CAUSE AND EFFECT
Some have blamed the sediment buildup on the Corps of Engineers, which oversaw the Embrey Dam removal. Prior to the dam breach in February 2004, a contractor removed approximately 250,000 cubic yards of sediment from behind the dam, placing it in a storage area behind the former Bragg Hill Apartments. Another 60,000 cubic yards was removed after the breach when silt remaining behind the dam site began washing downstream.
On three occasions before and after the breach--in 2001, 2004 and 2006--the Army surveyed silt movement in areas below the fall line. Based on those surveys, it has maintained that the general silt buildup is due more to seasonal flooding than anything connected with the dam project.
Erosion from farmers' fields, construction sites and riverbanks upstream are major sources of waterborne sediment.
The Resources International report, and one by USGS in May 2011, suggest that the sediment bars below the fall line are part of an ongoing process in which silt carried from upstream is deposited in the wider, slower-moving water over time.
The last time the river was dredged, according to one report, was in the 1950s. Since then, commercial boat traffic to Fredericksburg has all but disappeared.
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The Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg was last dredged in 1950, when barges were still making stops here.
The Army Corps of Engineers has studied the silt buildup on several occasions, in 2001, 2004 and 2006. More recently the corps has had discussions with city officials about addressing the problem.
Earlier this year, plans for another sediment study fell through when city officials couldn't agree in a cost-sharing agreement with the Corps of Engineers.
The Army's latest plan is for a study of ecosystem restoration, flood control and related issues that would include the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg.
Meanwhile, the city is working with a consultant, Resource International Ltd., on riverfront restoration and erosion issues. The company submitted a draft analysis last year.
--Army Corps of Engineers, Fredericksburg Department of Public Works