Stream remediation project first for Fort Pickett

(U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — After two years of planning, designing and hard work, the Virginia Army National Guard’s Environmental Program has completed a large-scale stream remediation project, the first ever at the installation. 

The project remediated about 2,400 linear feet of stream segment, originating at the Fort Pickett recycling facility, running northeast toward Birchen Creek. According to Scooter Cogar, the environmental compliance manager for the Virginia Department of Military Affairs, the time and work hours put into the project are rewarding. 

“The end result is that it functions as designed, is safer for the troops and looks a lot better, in my opinion,” said Cogar. 

The project began with conception and planning in 2018. With the help of contracted construction teams, work finally began in 2020, leading to a rapid and dramatic transformation of the affected area. Workers removed some of the trees, remediated the stream from a deep channel to a shallower, gradual, curving design, and planted native grasses over the work site. 

“As you see it, this construction happened in about a month and a half, as big and extensive as this is,” said Cogar. “I was kind of blown away – I thought this would have been a three-month project.”

The original stream was formed by stormwater runoff from the recycling center. It had carved a deep channel through the soil, carrying sediment and other materials down stream. While not running through an area used frequently for training, the steep drop-offs still posed a potential safety risk. 

“I’ve got some before pictures where the banks just go straight down for eight feet. It was a mini Grand Canyon down here,” said Cogar. “The benefit is if a Soldier was doing a night operation through here, and if the Soldier is looking at a map or his phone and all of a sudden there’s an eight-foot drop-off, it’s gradual now.”

Workers were able to use some of the native rock discarded during the construction of the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center, which recently opened at Fort Pickett, helping save time and money. 

(Contributed photo)

“A lot of the material and rock that’s out here came from on-site. When they were doing FASTC construction, we were left with a lot of construction debris,” said Cogar. “We were able to utilize a lot of that stuff including native rock from this area in the stream reconstruction, instead of having to truck rock in from a quarry, which would have cost us money for trucking in and purchasing the rock.”

They also used parts of the trees taken down at the work site to help build out the stream banks, and used some of the tree trunks to create steps for the water, further helping slow the flow downstream. 

“The name of the game here is to dissipate the stormwater energy that’s coming out of the recycling center, and to catch any sediment or anything else that’s coming down through the system,” said Cogar, who said 90% of the trees taken down for the project were used to help form the stream bed. 

The project immediately benefits everything downstream from the stream’s origin. The stormwater runoff flows through the project into Birchin Creek, which empties into Birchin Lake. Eventually, that water reaches the Nottoway River, all on Fort Pickett property. However, the end result of the project benefits more than just the stream itself. The work created additional wetlands, and will help support plant and animal life in the area. 

“During the initial assessment of the site, there was about a tenth of an acre of wetlands, of designated wetlands. Post-construction, we now have about three acres of wetlands,” said Cogar. “We opened up a section of forest in here which is allowing a lot of light in, so we’re going to have a lush regrowth. Plus this place is just crawling with bugs and insects now, so this fresh growth is giving Mother Nature some breathing room.”

The results are already showing. 

“It’s got to be pretty clean water for the frogs and tadpoles. We’re not even a month out of construction and we’ve already got a heck of a crop of tadpoles.” 

Cogar said there are more stream remediation projects planned in the near future for Fort Pickett.