Saving the environment, one creek at a time

Imagine you’re a water microbe, living a fine life in a little stream at the side of the road. The water is great, but unfortunately the stream you live in lacks vegetation at its edge and has no trees to shade it.

It rains.

The rain water gains velocity and picks up heat and pollutants as it runs across the road and flows toward your creek.

Then BAM!

The speeding run-off slams into your creek, heats the water to temperatures above your survival threshold and washes you downstream before you have the chance to perform your microbial life’s work, which is to suck impurities out of the water and be food for larger life forms.

The Prince William Conservation Alliance’s goal is to protect these microbes and consequently clean up streams, watersheds, the Potomac River and finally the Chesapeake Bay.

That’s why the Alliance tries to reforest every little stream it can get its hands on.

One of their success stories is the Little Creek Riparian Restoration Project on Fuller Heights Road in Triangle.

Three years ago the stream banks were a stone-lined ditch.

Today, mauve asters, climbing hemp weed, rushes and yellow flowering jewel weeds grow at its banks.

The alliance’s next project is a tree planting along Broad Run at [email protected] William business park, on Va. 28 west of Manassas between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19, said Kim Hosen, the alliance’s executive director.

Flanagan suggests that people wear work clothes and bring their own shovel. The organization will provide lunch.

Hosen asked that people contact Patti Dietz, Prince William Public Works Department, at (703) 792-7070 or [email protected] to volunteer to help.

The alliance needs a head count to make sure it gets plenty of lunches, Hosen said.

In a 2000 report to the General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality stated that 600 bodies of water in Virginia are impaired.

Forty-four percent of Prince William County’s streams and creeks are impaired, the report said.

The environmental quality department estimated that it would cost half a billion dollars over 15 years to repair the state’s waterways, the report said.

The whole of Prince William County is a watershed, Flanagan said.

“We have 1,000 miles of creeks which go into the Potomac River and then of course into the Chesapeake Bay,” Flanagan said, “There’s a lot of talk about cleaning up the bay and that’s going to happen one little creek at a time.”

Flanagan said area volunteers planted all of the trees and native vegetation that now support Little Creek.

The trees provide shade, which keeps the water cool. Cool water has more oxygen and provides better wild life habitat.

Tree roots absorb pollutants and the tree stores them where they can do little harm.

Sometimes, Flanagan said, the trees and other vegetation actually alter the chemical make-up of certain pollutants and render them harmless.

Vegetation serves as a buffer to slow water flow and protect against soil erosion and fallen tree leaves filter the water before it soaks into the ground, Flanagan said.

Flanagan said watching creeks repair themselves as things grow is its own reward.

“To me the thrill is to see something you put in this high,” she said as she held her hand, palm downward, at knee level, “and eventually see a it canopy over.”

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