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    Loudoun Water head defends decision to shut down Beaverdam access

    Loudoun Water general manager Fred Jennings recently defended his organization’s decision to halt public access on the Beaverdam Reservoir, which for years has been a recreational gathering place for local teens and families. Photo Courtesy/Stone Bridge Rowing Club
    Loudoun Water's chief has conceded that his organization's handling of the recent Beaverdam Creek Reservoir's closure was a poor practice in public relations, but he maintained shutting down public access to the 600-acre reservoir was the right move.

    Addressing Loudoun's Board of Supervisors June 3, Fred Jennings, the new general manager for Loudoun Water, said his operation couldn't afford the risk associated with managing the newly-acquired reservoir – a reservoir he says was severely neglected by its previous operator, the City of Fairfax.

    "The City of Fairfax over its 40-plus years of ownership did not manage Beaverdam nor Goose Creek Reservoirs as recreational assets. In fact, they didn't manage them really at all,” Jennings said. “They kind of abdicated any responsibility.”

    Beaverdam “has become a venue for underage partying and drinking,” Jennings said. “There is private encroachments, there's garbage dumping, there have been five drownings, there's extensive underage drinking – people refer to it as 'party central' – there's been MS-17 gang activity.”

    Loudoun Water purchased the Beaverdam Creek Reservoir and surrounding land, the Goose Creek Reservoir, Goose Creek Water Treatment Plant and the water transmission pipeline along the W&OD Trail to the Fairfax County line in January as part of a $30 million deal with the City of Fairfax.

    The purchase was made as “a significant capital commitment to upgrade the Beaverdam Creek Reservoir to meet the drinking water supply needs of Loudoun Water customers well into the future,” Jennings said at the time of the transaction.

    According to Loudoun Water, the facilities need significant renovations to meet the Virginia dam safety design and regulatory criteria as well as address safety and land use management issues. The assessment, inspection, planning, design, permitting, construction and acceptance activities associated with the renovation are expected to be completed by late 2018.

    For weeks Loudoun's supervisors have been inundated with complaints about the abrupt nature of the reservoir's closing. Several members of the public spoke to that point June 3.

    “I'm frustrated that Loudoun Water is not even making an effort to accommodate the local residents who use and enjoy the reservoir,” said Tony Nedinsky. “It's clear that there's a compromise that can be made. Loudoun Water needs to do a better job and make an effort to accommodate the public.”

    “There are ways to solve this. It's got to be a can-do attitude,” said Mike Germinario, an Ashburn resident who used Beaverdam and surrounding property with his kids. Germinario suggested launching a public-private partnership to manage the recreational aspect of the dam and reservoir.

    Supervisors have stressed that they have no authority over Loudoun Water, a political subdivision of the state, beyond tapping members for its board.

    For his part, Jennings said he's “not going to argue against the fact [the closure] could've been handled differently.” He appeared open to finding a solution that would allow public access in some fashion.

    Loudoun Rowing, a member-based group that consults local governments and advocates on behalf of rowers, is the only organization that was granted continued recreational access to the reservoir, this because the group had an ongoing agreement with the City of Fairfax to use the property.


    Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    Comments

    I’m surprised that these people on the board are questioning the government.  The government knows what’s best for us.  That’s why we elect Democrats.


    I am one of the irregular visitors. I am saddened to see that such an irresponsible decision is made. Interestingly, it was stated they could have done a better “PR”. I have been to this facility several times, never noticed any of those Jennings mentioned. Did he ever come / came here for recreational purpose.


    Unless Jennings has fished, kayaked, or boated in any way, I recommend he simply toss those old reports into the garbage and grab a paddle. His propaganda campaign has no credibility as he continues to prove Loudoun Water is less than transparent. I have several hundred visits to Beaverdam and rarely is their trash, signs of drinking, or any related gang activity present. Mr. Jennings, I think it’s about time you give us full disclosure and explain why you allow high school youth crew teams on such dangerous property. And C.B., hundreds of drinking water reservoirs allow fishing and not-motor gas boating throughout the U.S. Virginia’s Game and Inland Fishery are highly critical of Loudoun Water’s decision, stating they have never seen a reservoir closed due to dam construction. So go back to you Lazy-Boy and write your comments elsewhere or grab a paddle and get some exercise.


    Our move to maintain access to this reservoir is to better serve the community of those who enjoy nature as it is intended. Even Virginia Game and Inland Fishery is critical of Loudoun Water’s move. Several utility companies provide access to such reservoirs in the U.S. which maintains goodwill with their customers. Their is no goodwill when Loudoun Water cancel a deal with NVRPA, denies fully insured groups like “Loudoun Paddler’s Club” access which has less environmental impact and risk than the rowing club, state they would allow legitimate use when they meant “no use” outside of Loudoun Rowing, and the list goes on. Jennings needs to buy a canoe and paddle before he makes inflated statements about a reservoir he most likely has never experienced. Privileged access makes us all suspect and again question Loudoun Water’s transparency as a public trust (Rasberry Falls).


    I understand that the dam and the facilities need to be updated.  I understand that there is a liability issue.  The big picture is the reservoir consists of over 600 acres and has been a great venue for families to go fishing, kayaking, etc…  If it is safe enough for the rowing club, then it is safe for others to use.  If it is an issue of liability insurance, then I’ll be glad to sign a waiver.  It is humorous that Loudoun Water cites under age drinking and gang activity.  People taking part in illegal activities are rarely concerned about whether or not they are allowed in the area.  The main group that is hurt by the actions of Loudoun Water are the volunteers that help clean up the area, the parents that take there kids fishing, and the boating community.  Please help restore public access to this great venue.


    @Cb, if the property was/is suppose to be Loudoun water only then they need to build a nice tall wall around the entire area. I agree with Chris N, every body of water has potential for death, even swimming pools. If one group is allowed, then others should have the same benefit. Jennings is the wrong person to be GM of Loudoun water. They want to close it entirely because they need to give the appeance of spending lots of money to raise our water rates…I’d wager that at least 1/3 of the time it’s closed, nothing will be worked on(no workers)...We see the same thing happen on roads…


    Jenning’s would serve himself well by highlighting what the community can expect after the long renovation.  Will there be public access points, bike or walking trails, fishing platforms?  Maybe he mentioned this and it wasn’t covered in this article, but it seems to me that would make the effort more acceptable.


    Loudoun Rowing…is the only organization that was granted continued recreational access to the reservoir, this because the group had an ongoing agreement with the City of Fairfax to use the property.

    Baloney! After spending $30 million, Loudoun Water has no obligation to uphold a gentlemen’s agreement that Fairfax had with the rowers. The fact is that the rowing community is well-heeled and very well politically connected. Just one example is Mark Peterson, who serves as executive director of stakeholder relations at Loudoun Water, and both sits on the board of the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association and is their treasurer. This may or may not have influenced the special exemption, but it sure raises some smell-test questions.

    While it may sound like I’m opposed to the rowers using the reservoir, my opinion is to the contrary. I think everybody should have access to the reservoir, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the renovations. I wasn’t able to find out anything about what renovations were planned or what the potential start-dates might be. So why the urgency to have the whole thing closed immediately?

    The arguments about trash, drownings, youths hanging out, and even MS-17 activity are all red-herrings. You could say the same thing about the Potomac River. If anything, based on my casual observation, these activities have decreased over the last several years as both patrols and public use have increased.

    The article alluded that Mr. Jenning might be open to finding a solution that would allow public access in some fashion. I hope that this is the case, as there is no way that the renovations would occupy all 600 acres for all 4+ years.  Reopening the reservoir until the planning is complete and the real work begins would be a great start.

     


    Its the property of what is essentially a utility company. It would almost be like demanding access to all of Dominion Power’s high-wire right-of-ways and substations or Washington Gas pump stations just because you like where their located. Not going to happen, and you shouldn’t be surprised when they say no.

    Its nice that for a time Fairfax allowed their property to turn in to a defacto park, but it was never meant to be that way. And in the process the land has become overrun and facilities fallen in to disrepair. Let Loudoun Water do what they have to do to upgrade the facility.

    If you really want to walk near people’s drinking water (and waste) try the public trails by the Loudoun Water plant off Loudoun County Parkway.

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