There is light at the end of the tunnel for Huntington residents. After years of enduring major floods and numerous scares during storms, construction of the Huntington Levee is in its final stretch.
Fairfax County officials managing the project briefed residents June 6 on the levee’s progress at the Huntington Community Center. The levee is now more than 75 percent done, project manager Michael Dreher and construction manager Chris Smith told residents.
The relocation of utilities, including overhead power lines and sanitary sewers, is now complete, Smith said. The embankment is approximately 80 percent complete, and the pump house’s structure is in its final stages, with utility work inside of it getting underway.
“It’s starting to look like a building,” Smith joked to residents as he showed slides of the pump house’s progress.
The pumps are estimated to be running near the end of the summer, Smith said. Once those are ready, the final stages of closing off the 2,800-foot-long earthen embankment and concrete I-wall embankment can begin.
An overhead view of the location of the currently under-construction Huntington Levee.
Construction on the levee began in February 2017, and is estimated to be finished by February 2019, Dreher said. So far the project has escaped delays, with this spring’s rains and last summer’s storms only having a minimal impact.
“We’ve been very lucky with the weather so far,” Dreher said.
Residents at last week’s meeting mostly asked for clarification about what the final project will look like, and how Cameron Run and the new parkland around the levee will be accessed. They were also briefed by Dreher on the process of updating their flood insurance, which they’ll be able to do once FEMA accredits the completed levee.
Some residents at the meeting, without prompting, commended the county for its communication with residents during construction. A longtime community member said afterward that the smooth process is the result of lots of planning and coordination between the county and residents.
“They really have put a lot of thought into this project,” said Alan Ruof, who has lived in Huntington since 1987. “All of that preparation has paid off.”
Ruof’s home on Fenwick Drive has flooded twice since he’s lived there, once during storms in 2006 and then again in 2011. The home wasn’t in a flood plain when he moved in, and he was shocked in 2006 when his basement completely flooded after it managed to escape the high waters that hit the neighborhood after 2003’s Hurricane Isabel.
Many community members considered moving, and some did, Ruof said, particularly after the 2011 flood left the neighborhood’s future in question — with no solution to problem yet agreed on.
“It was a real blow to a lot of people,” Ruof said.
But the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted in 2012 to put a $30 million bond measure to build a levee on the ballot, and voters overwhelmingly approved it in November of that year.
While the neighborhood has avoided major flooding since 2011, there have been storms that have forced some residents to evacuate as a precaution, and forced other relocate their vehicles to avoid damage. But with the levee’s completion in sight, the anxiety level of residents has been lower than in previous years, Ruof said.
“Having the project get approved [and built] has done wonders for the area,” Ruof said.