By Annalee Grant, Belvoir EagleJuly 11, 2014
Fort Belvoir, Va. (July 10, 2014) - The Route 1 widening project has meant the removal of trees to make way for the six-lane highway, but officials with Fort Belvoir say the removed foliage will be replaced elsewhere on post thanks to upcoming mitigation projects.
While the exact details have yet to be hammered out, Chris Landgraf, Directorate of Public Works, master planner, confirmed that the trees will be replaced elsewhere on post on a 2:1 ratio under Fort Belvoir's Tree Policy, which states that all trees removed on post greater than four inches in diameter must be replaced.
"Yes, the Route 1 project will replace the trees per the tree replacement policy," Landgraf said. "Federal Highways is our construction agent on this project and they are helping us oversee that the replacement meets our requirements."
Before cutting down a single branch, crews did a tree count to determine how many would need to be replaced. Landgraf said because of the scale of the Route 1 widening project, most of the trees will need to be relocated elsewhere. This type of mitigation is evidenced by large-scale projects such as the Exchange and Belvoir Hospital construction, said Brice Bartley, Fort Belvoir DPW Environmental Natural Resource Division, natural resource specialist.
"Belvoir Hospital is a good example of a project where there was sufficient space for the mitigation plantings on site; since the site was formerly a golf course, there was plenty of room," Bartley explained. "An example of a project where off-site mitigation in the form of tree planting was required would be the Exchange project; thousands of trees had to be planted both on site and at dozens of sites elsewhere on the installation in order to meet those mitigation requirements."
Because of the policy, many new trees have been planted on post, leaving officials with the opportunity to get a little creative when working on mitigation projects.
"Now that many of the good planting opportunities have been used, current and future projects often will require out-of-kind, compensatory mitigation," Bartley said. "This is the case with the current INSCOM SCIF (Intelligence and Security Command sensitive compartmented intelligence facility) project, which will be planting trees on site for some mitigation but also has removed pavement from a nearby parking lot, which was no longer in use, and planted there in order to help fulfill that mitigation requirement."
Landgraf said out-of-kind replacement options will be looked at for the Route 1 widening project, because the bulk of the trees cannot be returned to the sight once the highway is open.
"Given the number of trees that need to be replaced we will be looking at alternative sites like we did for the Exchange. We will also be looking for out-of-kind replacement in the form of stream restoration or some other habitat mitigation that is allowed by the Fort Belvoir Policy," Landgraf said.
The widening project's construction contractor, Corman-Wagman Joint Venture, is creating drawings that will reveal how many trees can stay within the original property that Fort Belvoir has ceded to the Virginia Department of Transportation under a long-term easement.
"Now we are just waiting for final construction drawings with landscape details to start calculating how many trees will be replaced within the project right-of-way and how many will have to be replaced outside the right-of-way or using the out-of-kind mitigation," Landgraf said.
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir Commander, Col. Michelle Mitchell, as part of her incoming duties as the new commander, will reaffirm the garrison's support for the tree policy this month when she signs the policy document previously signed by former garrison commanders.
The policy notes the importance of trees to the post and its community, and provides the framework to protect trees removed due to construction or renovation. The removal of any trees on post must be approved by DPW.