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April 21, 2020

RiverRenew Reaches Major Milestone with Finalization of Key Environmental Process

The National Park Service (NPS) issued the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on April 14, 2020 for the RiverRenew Tunnel System Project (Project), bringing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to a close. Compliance with NEPA is required since portions of the Project are proposed to be constructed on NPS land. Read the official joint Press Release from Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew) and the NPS announcing this major milestone here.

In Fall 2018, AlexRenew held a series of Community Listening Sessions as part of the first phase of the NEPA process known as the Scoping Period. Through a series of informational posters, the public had an opportunity to:

  • Review proposed alternatives for the location of the tunnel and associated facilities
  • Understand potential construction impacts on the environment, cultural resources, and the community
  • Provide feedback on the presented alternatives

Feedback from the community on the presented alternatives was considered as part of the second phase of the NEPA process, which involved the development of an Environmental Assessment.

NPS and AlexRenew released the Project's Environmental Assessment in June 2019 which established a Preferred Alternative for the locations of the tunnel and associated facilities. The Preferred Alternative is presented in Figure 1 and includes:

  • Waterfront Tunnel: Routed along Church Street and under the Potomac River
  • Outfall 001 Diversion Facility: Located on the Robinson Terminal North site
  • Outfall 002 Diversion Facility: Located at the southern extents of South Royal Street within NPS land
  • Hooffs Run Interceptor: Aligned primarily along Hooffs Run and includes the replacement of an existing sewer via open-cut methods

Following the release of the Environmental Assessment, AlexRenew held an additional round of Community Listening Sessions to present the Preferred Alternative and approaches to minimize potential construction impacts. While the second round of Listening Sessions were not required by the NEPA process, AlexRenew wanted to ensure the community was aware of the Preferred Alternative and answer questions. Based on requests from the community, subsequent presentations followed the Listening Sessions to provide additional clarity on the Preferred Alternative.

To finalize the NEPA process, a decision document is required. The decision document either states that more research is required (which leads to an Environmental Impact Statement), or a FONSI is issued. Signed by the NPS Regional Director, the FONSI identifies the Selected Alternative for the Project, the rationale behind the decision, and the mitigation of any potential temporary and long-term impacts. Prior to the issuance of the FONSI, a Programmatic Agreement was executed between AlexRenew, the NPS, City of Alexandria, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to establish guidelines in the event archaeological artifacts are discovered during construction.

This milestone closed the loop on an important public process and could not have been accomplished without the significant input from the Alexandria community and collaboration with Project stakeholders. AlexRenew is thankful to have forged these partnerships and looks forward to continuing on the path for cleaner Alexandria waterways by July 1, 2025.

Figure 1: Preferred tunnel system alignment
Click the image to view a larger version.