In 1874, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote: “The military engineers of the Commission have taken upon their shoulders the job of making the Mississippi over again – a job transcended in size by only the original job of creating it.”
The Mississippi River is 2,320 miles long. Maintaining it is a continuous job that has required massive funding – $63 million per year, minimum. Now, consider what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wishes to require of a single local government, Fairfax County, Virginia.
EPA wants to require Fairfax County to change the way the county manages Accotink Creek, a 25 mile long stream. Cost of EPA’s demands? Over $40 million per year, all to reduce the flow in the creek in the hope that it will lessen the amount of sediment falling out on less than 8 miles of the creek.
The bugs living in the bottom of that 8 miles of creek aren’t doing all that well. The bugs living in the other 17 miles of the creek are dandy. But down at the end of the creek where the delta spreads out and the flow slows, the sediments from upstream fall to the bottom. As they say in water engineering classes, silt happens.
OK, Fairfax County is rich. But how rich? Let’s make some comparisons of the cost per stream mile to make EPA happy.
The maintenance costs:
- Mississippi River – $26,724 per mile.
- Accotink Creek – $1,600,000 per sq. mile. Ouch!
- Cost of plating the Accotink Creek in 24 caret gold leaf – $25.3 million.
- Cost of EPA’s Accotink rule – $40 million.