Proposed Reedy Creek Stream Project in Richmond Offers a 2016-17 Snapshot of Challenging Chesapeake Bay Pollutant-reduction Decisions

Originally posted 5-3-16; updated 6-13-16, 9-20-16, 2/14/17

A proposed stream-restoration project on Reedy Creek and Crooked Branch (in the James River watershed) in Richmond’s Crooked Branch Ravine Park offers a snapshot of various issues that can be at play in efforts to reduce pollutants reaching the Chesapeake Bay.

The $1.27-million proposal by the City of Richmond—still needing final permits, as of early June 2016—would change the channel in a 1,940-foot section of Reedy Creek and a 775-foot section of Crooked Branch to increase the amount of flowing water that can reach the streams’ floodplains.  The water movement over the floodplains is intended to facilitate removal of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment—the three main pollutants that the U.S. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL (published in 2010) aims to reduce.  This project is one of several stream-restoration projects planned in Richmond.

The Reedy Creek project, however, has encountered local opposition to the proposed removal of existing trees (to be replaced by new plantings), concerns over the potential for invasive plants to become established in the cleared areas, the potential for flow through a concrete drainage channel upstream of the project area to reduce the project’s effectiveness, and, more generally, the use of stream-restoration projects as compared to efforts to reduce upstream stormwater runoff.

Update 2/14/17: On September 19, 2016, the Richmond City Planning Commission voted 4-4 on whether to recommend approval or rejection of the project, meaning it moved forward with no recommendation to the City Council.  On September 26, Council delayed action until November 2016.  In November, Council voted not to accept state funding that would have covered part of the cost of the project, but the city’s staff planned to continue to seek a federal permit.  As of February 2017, at least one City Administration official was asserting that, despite the pursuit of a federal permit, the project would not go forward.

Sources:  Richmond administrators defend decision to continue pursuing permit for Reedy Creek stream project, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/6/17.
Richmond council rejects state funding for contested stream restoration, Bay Journal, 12/11/16.
Richmond City Council delays action on controversial Reedy Creek project, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/26/16.
Concerns grow over Richmond’s Reedy Creek Stream Restoration project, WTVR TV-Richmond, 9/22/16.
Planning Commission deadlocked over Reedy Creek project, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/19/16.

For more details on the Reedy Creek project and the accompanying issues, please see the following:
Finding the best restoration project can be upstream battle, Bay Journal, 6/10/16;
Disputed Reedy Creek restoration project set to begin this summer, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/17/16;
City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities, “Stream Restoration,” online at;
Reedy Creek Coalition Web site,


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