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Can you make a river appear out of nowhere? Well, kind of. And now the D.C.’s Department of the Environment is doing just that for the very first time in the city: Taking a stream that was diverted underground nearly a century ago and restoring it above ground.
The process is known as "daylighting," and the first stream to get this treatment is a tributary of Broad Branch Stream in the Forest Hills neighborhood in Northwest D.C. We spoke to project manager Steve Saari to find out what it takes to resurrect a stream, and what other streams could rise up next.
“In the 1800s and 1900s, this is the way cities developed. We wanted to get stormwater quickly away from houses, we wanted to develop densely, and we ended up piping those streams and building over top of them. Suitland Parkway — if you look at Suitland Parkway it is — basically follows and old stream. Piney Branch Road, Spring Road, Broad Branch Road — all these are examples where there were streams above ground that are now underground.”
“We are going to see species that we haven’t seen here. Because we don’t even have water, we don’t have frogs and amphibians that would normally be here in the spring. I guarantee you this spring there will be frogs and amphibians here that weren’t here previously. Just downstream there are wood ducks that live in the stream. They’re going to start coming up this direction. We’re going to start to see species like that, we’re going to see plants that you wouldn’t find except for in these water-loving environments.”
Music: "I'm Beginning to See the Light" by Coleman Hawkins from The Best of Coleman Hawkins