The Corner Forum
Sunday, Aug. 31, 2003
Issue #45

City Drains "Lake Fort Fisher" and Plans Repairs

By Marc Borbely, 536 13th St. NE

A truck sent by the D.C. Department of Transportation on Friday drained "Lake Fort Fisher," the large pool of water that had been present all summer behind the stores on the 400 block of 13th Street NE.

The city's action came after numerous calls and e-mails by Amy Fisher, 427 13th St. NE, to various city agencies — and after a request that the transportation department's spokesperson provide a response for this story.

Over the past few weeks, Ms. Fisher repeatedly called the mayor's call center and Department of Transportation officials to whom the call center had referred her. Ms. Fisher also spoke this week and last week to the Health Department, which, due to West Nile Virus concerns, had advised residents to eliminate any standing water that could be good breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Tawanna Shuford, director of constituent services for Council member Sharon Ambrose's (Ward 6) office, had also called the mayor's call center to find out when the city would respond to the initial Aug. 5 report to the call center.

Ms. Fisher first published a letter she had sent to Ms. Ambrose about the problem in the June 21 issue of the Corner Forum, in the form of a humorous press release announcing that the site was selected as a finalist for the annual convention of the National Mosquito Growers Association.

"As long as I have lived here (since 1974), our alley (behind the stores) has formed a lake in heavy rains," Ms. Fisher said in the introduction to that article. "I refer to it fondly as Lake Fort Fisher. This year, in the heavy rains we have had, it has not dried up once since April."

Ms. Fisher said she has been told that the Transportation Department will begin examining long-term drainage options for the site.

"We would like to pump the large body of water first and [then] solve the problem permanently," Transportation Department official Said Cherifi said in an e-mail Friday morning.

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Here is Ms. Fisher's most recent letter to DDOT Deputy Director John Deatrick, in which she offers a suggestion for finding an old drainage system that might still be buried below the site...

Thank you for sending in a truck to drain "Lake Fort Fisher," which I understand is the first step in the process of determining the problem.

My neighbor, Mr. Jackson, told us last evening that in the 1950s there was an alley that ran behind what was then the Safeway on D Street. It would have run approximately from what is now the deepest part of "Lake Fort Fisher" eastward across what is now the field to join the north south alley that runs upside the field next to the even-numbered houses in the 1300 block of D Street NE.

Mr. Jackson said at one time there was a drive-over drainage grate at the point where our alley and that alley joined. That alley would have intersected our alley at approximately the location of the deepest point of "Lake Fort Fisher."

If my memory serves me correctly, there is still a similar type grate on far side of the field under the mulberry tree near the school yard retaining wall.

Perhaps the north/south alley that enters from both D and E streets and dead ends at the field from both ends once went through from D Street to E Street and the grate I am describing was in that alley.

I would guess that if an old map of the site could be unearthed the location of the now missing east-west alley might be found and the drainage system might again be located. Thank you for your efforts so far. §