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November 25, 2010

Charlottesville planners briefed on $23.4 million capital budget

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, November 24, 2010

A new city fire station and a long-awaited upgrade of Old Lynchburg Road will proceed next year if a proposed $23.4 million capital improvement program is adopted by Charlottesville’s City Council in the spring.

The money will come from a variety of sources, including a $4.8 million transfer from the general fund, as well as a proposed bond sale of $15.9 million. The University of Virginia is contributing $750,000 toward the fire station, which will be built on Fontaine Avenue. That project’s total cost is $8.75 million.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101123-CPC-CIP

Download Download draft CIP for FY2012-2016

Another source of funding for next year’s CIP is the transfer of an expected $2 million fund balance from this year’s budget, which will allow the Old Lynchburg Road project to move forward. The project had been pushed back to 2014 after the Biscuit Run development became a state park, costing the city $1.5 million in proffers from the developers of the Albemarle County project.

 

Council has directed that that get funded all at one time,” said city budget director Leslie Beauregard.
Sidewalks and bike lanes will be added to Old Lynchburg Road to satisfy the Fry’s Spring neighborhood’s concerns that high traffic volumes are a threat to its residents.

“The sidewalks have become a huge need with the increased volume of traffic, which puts our increased numbers of pedestrians only inches away from being hit on a daily basis,” said resident Jeanne Chase in an e-mail.

The proposed CIP budget contains $300,000 for new sidewalks, $500,000 for a new bathhouse at Washington Park pool and $50,000 for new bicycle infrastructure. Another $1 million contribution will go to the Charlottesville housing fund, which is awarded to nonprofits working to increase the city’s stock of affordable housing.

Another $775,000 will go toward stormwater initiatives, a figure that staff said might not be sufficient.

“This assumes that there will be no [stormwater utility] fee in place for 2012,” Beauregard said.
In previous years, the commission has recommended implementing a fee that would charge property owners for impervious surfaces. However, the council has not yet chosen to do so.

Jim Tolbert, director of neighborhood development services, said the city will likely have to significantly invest in the stormwater system to comply with the Chesapeake Bay cleanup requirements, known as the Total Maximum Daily Load, if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires localities to upgrade their stormwater systems.

“We’re looking at between $3 million and $15 million a year based on what iteration of the TMDL is adopted,” Tolbert said.

The CIP for fiscal year 2012 will not contain a $625,000 allocation for the Piedmont Family YMCA.

“That was moved to [2013] because their construction schedule is being pushed out as they’re trying to get their fund-raising done,” Beauregard said. “It doesn’t hurt them at all, but it helps us balance the budget.”

The CIP also does not include any funding for improvements to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure. That money comes instead from utility rates.

The CIP budget for FY 2012 is 31 percent lower than the $33.85 million budget adopted in the current fiscal year. This is the year in which federal and state funds to pay for the Meadow Creek Parkway interchange have been disbursed to city coffers.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the budget at its meeting on Dec. 14. Councilors will be presented with the budget in March and will adopt the budget in April.
 

November 17, 2010

Bay cleanup costs further detailed for Charlottesville

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Charlottesville officials are preparing for extensive stormwater improvements that could be mandated if Virginia does not submit a Chesapeake Bay clean-up plan that meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s expectations.

“This will have a major impact on our budget,” said acting city manager Maurice Jones during a City Council briefing Monday night.

“We are trying to do everything we can to make sure that folks who represent Charlottesville on the state and federal level have an understanding of the impact this is going to have on localities,” Jones said.

Download Download staff report, including presentation from Timmons Group

In September, Virginia submitted its draft clean-up plan, but the EPA determined it had “serious deficiencies” in its ability to reduce the total maximum daily load, or TMDL, of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment that will be permitted to enter the bay’s watershed.

If Virginia does not alter its plan to meet federal expectations, the EPA has the power to require localities to invest in stormwater treatment systems to accomplish some of the goal. The city’s existing permit to operate its municipal storm system expires in 2013, at which time the EPA might insist upon tougher controls.

Under one of these “backstop” measures, the EPA could require 50 percent of urban land to meet “aggressive performance standards.” For Charlottesville, that translates to 690 acres of land upon which stormwater would need to be treated or impounded.

Currently only 20 acres of city land are treated according to the best management practices called for in the TMDL.

Jim Tolbert, director of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services, said the Timmons Group has estimated it could cost as much as $50,000 an acre to retrofit or redevelop land to reduce pollution, with an ultimate cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

Councilor David Brown suggested that council rethink its support for a stormwater utility fee to help cover the costs of treating impervious surfaces. Council was presented with the idea in November 2008, but declined to pursue that option at the time.

“What we talked about a few years ago … was creating a situation that would give people specific incentives to have green roofs or creative paving in their homes and businesses,” Brown said.
In the city’s official public comment on Virginia’s draft plan, Tolbert pointed out that the impact on the bay from the James River is substantially less than that in other areas of the six-state region that comprises the bay’s watershed.

“Requiring the City of Charlottesville to implement aggressive and costly urban stormwater retrofits when the result will have little impact on the bay is unnecessary and unfair,” reads the letter written by Tolbert.

The issue faces other localities across the state as well. The Virginia Municipal Stormwater Association has said it will cost each household in the state between $700 to $1,800 per household per year on stormwater and other infrastructure upgrades.

November 08, 2010

Localities concerned about cost of implementing Bay plan

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
 
Charlottesville and Albemarle could be mandated to spend as much as $25 million a year on enhanced stormwater facilities to further reduce pollution if Virginia does not submit a Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan that meets the expectations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials in Virginia’s urban areas think the clean-up requirements should be shared more with rural localities.

“This will be costly and difficult no matter what, but if the Virginia plan is adequately written, then the burden will be shared by everybody,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services. “As it is written now, the burden will be [bourne] by local government and it will be very costly.”

Both the City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors were briefed last week on the progress of the EPA’s requirement to sharply reduce the total maximum daily load of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment that enters the Chesapeake Bay.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101109-TMDL

Earlier this year, Virginia submitted a watershed implementation plan that the EPA said would not be sufficient to meet its pollution reduction goals. The EPA has the authority to implement tougher guidelines, called backstops, if the states do not adequately describe what steps they will take to meet the goals of the TMDL by 2025.

Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA is authorized to regulate “point-source” pollution that directly enters the watershed.

TMDL-chart1
Each watershed is divided into segments of river, each of which will be given an allocation of how much nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment can be discharged

“[These] are things like our wastewater treatment plants, urban stormwater systems, small industrial plants,” said Leslie Middleton, executive director of the Rivanna River Basin Commission. She added that would create little incentive for non-point source polluters such as farmers and construction sites to change their practices.

“The key concern here is that the backstop allocations will fall exclusively on permit holders because those are the only sources that EPA directly regulates,” said Stephen Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

If that happens, cities with regulated stormwater systems such as Charlottesville would need to meet more aggressive standards. Localities would also be required to develop and monitor nutrient management plans for publicly owned lands such as schools and golf courses, as well as public roads.

A study by the Timmons Group claims that the city’s cost to retrofit its stormwater system could be between $7 million and $15 million a year.

Mark Graham, Albemarle’s director of community development, estimated it could cost the county between $5 million and $10 million, most of which would be spent on efforts to slow and capture stormwater.

“There are a lot of estimates out there on urban retrofit costs in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 [per acre],” Graham said.

Additional costs could be borne by the water and sewer ratepayers.

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority is currently upgrading the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment plant to increase its ability to strip nitrogen and phosphorous released into the Rivanna River.

“The plant was not designed to meet the criteria that EPA has said they might put in as a backstop,” Graham said. “There’s a lot of fear it’s not going to be adequate and that the RWSA is going to be asked to do more in the 2015 to 2020 timeframe, but we don’t know that for sure.”

RWSA Executive Director Thomas L. Frederick Jr. said in an e-mail that the plant can meet the goals for phosphorous under the backstop, but would not meet the target for nitrogen.

“We are still addressing with our engineering consultant and have not yet determined a price for further reduction of nitrogen from 5 milligrams per liter to 4 milligrams per liter,” Frederick said.

“The most important story, in my view, about the backstops is that it would punish urban citizens with higher costs because federal and state governments are not willing to make the political decisions to equitably reduce non-point sources of pollution, much of which comes from more rural areas,” Frederick added. 

Graham said there were other questions waiting to be answered.

“For Albemarle County, the largest source of impervious cover in the county is state right of way,” Graham said. “Who is going to be responsible for providing stormwater management for all of [those roads]? No one can answer that question today.”

Supervisor Duane Snow said he did not think the community would be able to afford complying with the TMDL, especially given Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“There’s not any money out there coming to any locality from any direction,” Snow said.

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said the community should keep in mind that any improvements, even if mandated by the federal government, would restore oxygen to area streams and would restore wildlife habitat.

“If we try to train ourselves to look at what we’re doing to benefit our locality and our local residents, then it’s a little easier to swallow,” Mallek said.

Virginia will submit a final watershed plan later this month. The City Council sent a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell last week urging him to direct the state Department of Environmental Quality to submit a more detailed plan.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:45 - Leslie Middleton begins her briefing to City Council
  • 13:30 - Steve Williams of the TJPDC begins his briefing to City Council
  • 18:30 - Jim Tolbert begins his presentation to City Council
  • 21:10 - Council discussion period
  • 27:30 - County Board of Supervisor's briefing begins with Mark Graham
  • 29:15 - Sally Thomas offers her perspective
  • 33:15 - Leslie Middleton briefs the Board of Supervisors
  • 49:33 - Stephen Williams briefs the Board
  • 51:00 - Duane Snow asks if Moores Creek WWTP upgrades will be sufficient
  • 56:45 - Boyd questions the value of a nutrient exchange market
  • 1:06:30 - Boyd asks what county will have to do to comply with aggressive stormwater standards
  • 1:28:30  Sally Thomas addresses the fairness issue

 

November 01, 2010

City’s environmental administrator gives briefing on water resources protection

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, November 1, 2010

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has received a briefing from city environmental staff on the multitude of efforts planned to protect the city’s water resources.

“Within our own Charlottesville watersheds [we] have a lot of challenges and opportunities that are driven by local water quality goals, and development and redevelopment challenges,” said Kristel Riddervold, the city’s environmental administrator.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101026-CPC-Water-Briefing

 

Greenleaf-before
This section of Greenleaf Park originally looked like what you see above...

Greenleaf-after
...but was converted into a rain garden to help reduce the velocity of stormwater

“We have impaired streams and our short term goal really should be to prevent further deterioration of those streams,” Riddervold said. “And then the longer term goal should be towards the improvement of the water quality and trying to see what places we can actually enhance and protect those resources.”

 

One of the new tools at staff’s disposal is a new layer in the city’s geographical information database that maps the location of all streams that pass through Charlottesville. This gives developers additional information about the location of streams that is not available by solely using data from the U.S. Geologic Survey. 

One of the challenges faced by municipalities is handling stormwater runoff. The city owns and operates over 50 miles of pipes that convey rainwater within the district. About 25% of that amount needs to be replaced.

“As a result of that you start seeing sink holes and collapses in roadways,” said Dan Frisbee, the city’s stormwater coordinator. 

In November 2008, city council opted not to institute a stormwater fee to help pay for a $2.5 million a year program to replace and maintain the pipes. For now, that money comes out of the city’s capital improvement program. Riddervold said that could change as the city takes steps to implement the Chesapeake Bay cleanup mandates.

“If and when we to back and revisit the comprehensive stormwater program and the fee, the new environment of 2011 is going to inform that discussion because there will be significant requirements that have increased,” Riddervold said. 

New construction projects undertaken by the city have given the opportunity to impound stormwater for other uses.

“We’ve got a 40,000 gallon tank at the high school,’ Riddervold said. “We’ve put in a 50,000 gallon system out at the transit maintenance complex. That water is being used to wash buses, because why would you use drinking water? It’s a way to manage and use on an ongoing basis the rainwater and keep it on site.”


Debate continues on city slopes ordinance revision

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, November 1, 2010

The chair of Charlottesville’s planning commission wants to leave it up to City Council to determine the extent of a revision of the city’s critical slopes ordinance.

“My experience of why this is taking so long is that on a periodic basis, there’s an effort to come up with the right language to forward to council, and when we try to do that, we get a hung jury,” said commission chair Jason Pearson at a work session last week.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101026-CPC-Critical-Slopes


Currently any development project that disturbs slopes that exceed a 25% grade must receive a waiver before it can proceed. The planning commission can approve a waiver for a variety of reasons, but many have argued that the criteria are too vague.

"I think that the criteria are very subjective,” said former planning commissioner Cheri Lewis. Lewis called for a revision of the ordinance to specify why slopes should be protected. The review has now been underway for a year.  

On the other hand, environmental groups such as the Southern Environmental Law Center have  pushed for an ordinance that protects more slopes.

 “The ordinance was passed in a way that seemed to indicate that people wanted to stop development on slopes of 25% or greater,” said city planner Brian Haluska. “In practice, the ordinance was not doing that. In practice, the ordinance was [just] providing an additional layer of review for [those] developments.”

Download Download Brian Haluska's October 24, 2010 memo and draft ordinance

Pearson said he wants city council to make the decision on whether the revision will be broad or narrow because the commission has not reached a consensus.

 

20100615-Steep-Slopes_0639
A critical slopes waiver was granted for the Brookwood subdivision, which was built on a hillside.

“The commission was experiencing intense frustration at being presented with critical slope waiver applications in which the language and the code that we would use for the criteria for a waiver was so ambiguous that each discussion focused more on what does the code mean, and not on ‘should we grant the waiver?’” Pearson said.

The commission has instructed staff to provide options that will give Council choices on how to proceed.

“We’re split, and it may not be something that we as appointed officials should decide,” Pearson said.
One commissioner wants the debate to be informed by real-life examples.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” said Commissioner Dan Rosensweig. “It will be really nice for us, whatever we come up with provisionally, to run it through the filter of a few actual applications and see what would we be denying, what would we be approving.” 

The discussion will resume at the commission’s meeting on November 9. If they manage to reach consensus on a revised ordinance to send to council, a public hearing will be held in December.

Elected officials to be briefed on TMDL progress

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, November 1, 2010

Charlottesville and Albemarle elected officials will be briefed this week on specific policies they may be required to enact as part of a federal mandate to reduce pollution that enters the Chesapeake Bay.

“Where the rubber hits the road is going to be with the local governments,” said Leslie Middleton, executive director of the Rivanna River Basin Commission, at a meeting last week. Her organization is one of many that will advise elected officials on how to achieve a pollution diet being imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the total maximum daily load (TMDL).

20101101-charts  
Charts from a draft USDA report showing where pollution that enters the Chesapeake Bay comes from. Click to enlarge.

“This TMDL is a document that has been issued in draft form by the EPA that describes how the Chesapeake Bay will get cleaned up by 2025,” Middleton said. “It is very specific about the pollutants of concern — nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment — per tributary, per jurisdiction.”

Localities across Virginia will have a menu of options available to help reduce pollution. Charlottesville currently has many projects under way to clean up impaired streams, including a $3.9 million project to restore 9,000 linear feet of Meadow Creek’s stream bank. That will reduce the amount of sediment that enters the watershed.

“[The TMDL] may shift some of those actions from voluntary to mandatory,” said Kristel Riddervold, the city’s environmental administrator, during a briefing for city planning commissioners. “I think that there are a lot of ways in which [the TMDL] can and should incorporate a number of the strategies that we’re recognizing as appropriate.”

If states don’t meet their targets, the EPA has already specified what steps will need to be taken to do so. One of these “backstop” measures could involve requiring Charlottesville and other localities to institute fees to pay to improve storm water infrastructure. The fee would be based on the amount of impervious surfaces on a property, and landowners would get credit for attempts to mitigate them. However, the City Council voted against instituting a fee in the fall of 2008.

“Frankly, the discussions we’ve had about the impact that our storm water utility fee was going to have on property owners pales in comparison to the cost estimates that have been put out there to deal with urban retrofits,” Riddervold said. “Somewhere we’re going to have to come up with a strategy to achieve these goals.”

Another backstop will be expensive upgrades of wastewater treatment plants to increase the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous removed from effluent.

“For city people, if they go after our treatment plant, then that means dollar costs for households,” said Rich Collins, an elected member of the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District. “What they have said is that if we don’t work something out to their satisfaction, they’re going to come after point sources, and the point sources are those people that can be permitted by them.”

Another sector that will be affected by the TMDL is the agricultural community. The Virginia Farm Bureau is opposed to mandatory rules being imposed by the federal government.

20101025-rrbc
Members of the Rivanna River Basin Commission received a briefing last week on the TMDL

“There’s long been a feeling in the rural community, at least in the one that I represent, that ‘they’re’ always telling us what to do,” said Carl Schmitt, a member of the Greene County Board of Supervisors who sits on the Rivanna River Basin Commission. “I think we have to walk carefully here.”

A draft report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests farmers may not be doing their job.

“About 81 percent of the cultivated cropland acres require additional nutrient management to reduce the loss of nitrogen or phosphorus from fields,” reads the report.

Download Download draft of USDA report on "Assessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Region"

One of the avenues by which local policy will be shaped is the Rivanna River Basin Commission. Last week, the group discussed how aggressive it should be in making recommendations to local governments.

“We have a specific mandate to look at policies that affect the health of the rivers and the river basin and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay,” said City Councilor David Brown, who is chairman of the Rivanna River Basin Commission. “But secondly, we are composed of elected officials from both rural and urban communities … It’s powerful if we have a consensus.”

“Because a TMDL of this scope has never been developed in this kind of a timeline with real teeth in it, I think the professionals at every level of government are struggling with trying to make this happen in an efficient fashion,” Middleton said.

The City Council will be briefed tonight by city staff, and the Board of Supervisors will hold a work session on Wednesday.

October 08, 2010

Chesapeake Bay clean-up expected to impact local budgets and planning

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October  8, 2010

NOTE: An in-depth story on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL appeared on Charlottesville Tomorrow’s website on October 6, 2010 [full story].  Subsequently, a briefing on this topic was provided to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors which is described below.  The combined story appears in the print edition of today’s Daily Progress.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101006-BOS-Middleton


 

  20101006-Middleton
Leslie Middleton

The executive director of the Rivanna River Basin Commission has briefed the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on the details of a plan to limit pollution that enters the Chesapeake Bay. While localized plans to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s targets are not due until next November, Leslie Middleton said her agency is already working on them. 

“Our task is to try to make sense of how [the Chesapeake Bay TMDL] will play out at the local level,” Middleton told the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday. “We have used [a pilot project] as a way to get early information to our local governments so we’re ahead of the curve.”

Supervisors offered little comments during Wednesday’s presentation, but Dennis Rooker said he was skeptical that the 2025 targets could be met.

 “I question whether the standards that will be imposed ultimately are capable of being achieved,” Rooker said. He urged Middleton and others to clearly explain to the public why the clean-up is necessary.

Middleton said she would make that case further when supervisors hold a work session on the TMDL on November 3, 2010.

October 06, 2010

Chesapeake Bay clean-up expected to impact local budgets and planning

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October  6, 2010

Chesapeake_Bay_Watershed
All states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including the District of Columbia, have been directed to submit plans demonstrating how they will meet EPA guidelines

On Wednesday, the executive director of the Rivanna River Basin Commission will brief the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on local efforts to comply with a federal mandate to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Leslie Middleton’s appearance comes at a time when federal and state officials are arguing over a plan to gradually reduce the amount of pollution allowed in the bay’s watershed.

“The time to seriously address these issues at the local level is now,” said Middleton in an interview.

The RRBC is a quasi-governmental organization created to enhance water quality in the Rivanna Riverwatershed, which is itself part of the 64,000 square mile watershed for the Chesapeake Bay.

The EPA has asked all Bay states and the District of Columbia to develop a plan to determine how they will attain the “total maximum daily load” (TMDL) of pollution allowed by agricultural, development and wastewater industries.  The main mechanism to clean up the Bay is the creation and implementation of a “pollution diet” that restricts the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment that enters the watershed.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality submitted a draft implementation plan in early September  that warned the state may have a hard time meeting the the EPA’s goal of attaining 100% of the TMDL by 2025.

Download Download Virginia's draft watershed implementation plan

“Full implementation of this plan over the next 15 years will likely cost billions of dollars,” wrote Doug Domenech , Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources. “In these austere times, we cannot guarantee additional funding will be provided by our General Assembly.”

For instance, Domenech estimated it would cost Virginia farmers up to $800 million to meet the plan’s goals for reducing agricultural waste from the state’s farms.

In its response , EPA officials said the Virginia draft plan had “serious deficiencies” and suggested the state may need to require wastewater treatment plants to further invest in equipment to reduce the amount of nutrients released into rivers and streams.

Download Download EPA's response to Virginia draft watershed implementation plan

That concerns Tom Frederick, the executive director of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.

 “The EPA is making a statement that because Virginia is not doing enough to require farmers to meet nutrient targets that wastewater facilities should be penalized by lower allocations,” Frederick said at an RWSA Board meeting in September. “If EPA’s way of doing this holds true, we will have to do back and design more wastewater facilities even though the ones we are constructed now meet Virginia’s requirements.”

Middleton said the plan submitted by Virginia did not meet her expectations.

“This draft [plan] did not clearly identify how the plan goals would be achieved, nor did it identify the necessary resources in dollars, resources and legislation action that would be required to achieve the stated goals,” Middleton said.

EPA-Action-Plan-Federal-Funding-Table  
This chart outlines how the money in the action plan is to be spent. This depends on Congressional action on President Barack Obama's budget

However, Middleton praised an announcement in late September  that a coalition of federal agencies will spend as much as $490 million on various programs to reduce pollution. Included in that amount is $72 million to help farmers implement voluntary practices in high-priority watersheds. However, the money won’t be disbursed until Congress approves the budget.

 

 

Download Download text of EPA's action plan to fund clean-up efforts

Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum said the EPA’s directive may mean well, but fails to recognize the full impact the clean-up will have on local communities.

“While I understand the need to work toward Bay restoration, I remain concerned the impact of these regulations may put many farms out of business and will likely reduce the amount of developable land in many “development” areas in the Chesapeake Bay footprint,” Williamson said in an e-mail.

Middleton said people should keep in mind that attaining the goals set in the TMDL is about building a healthy ecosystem.

“It is not just about removing nutrients and sediment from our waterways, but also about true ecosystem health achieved through sustainable populations of wildlife and acres of marshes and wetlands,” Middleton said.

Lonnie Murray is chair of Albemarle County’s Natural Heritage Committee, a group appointed by the Board of Supervisors to catalog the county’s natural resources with an eye towards recommending protective measures.  He suggests a creative approach that gives reasons for farmers to adopt new practices and developers to embrace new runoff regulations.

 “With better policies we can improve stream quality and direct growth away from sensitive areas while rewarding developers that “do the right thing,” Murray said.

Virginia’s final plan is due to the EPA by November  29. More detailed plans that specify what actions localities will take are not due until November 2011. Middleton said the RRBC is working with other governmental bodies to develop a pilot project for how more localized plans might look.

“Our goal has been to identify practical ways that local governments and stakeholders might take advantage of the new regulatory climate to achieve results that will be good for the community,” Middleton said.  Locally, healthy streams that are good for people, tourism, and the economy.”




August 10, 2010

Regional effort under way for Chesapeake Bay cleanup

DailyProgressBy Bridgett Lynn
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A federal pollution crackdown meant to protect the Chesapeake Bay likely will spell major changes for local governments and area growth, officials said Monday.

“We’re concerned … local governments are going to be required to increase [their] attention to existing regulatory efforts, that there will also be increased regulatory requirements, [and] … that the new pollutant loadings resulting from growth will need to be offset,” said Steve Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

20100809-RRBC
The Environmental Protection Agency is announcing, for all levels of government, mandates to limit the Total Maximum Daily Load, which refers to the total amount of pollutants and sediment allowed to enter into a body of water before water quality becomes impaired.

The forthcoming changes were discussed at Monday’s meeting of the Rivanna River Basin Commission. Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek, a commission member, said that the new pollutant loadings have important implications for local growth patterns.

“For the last 20 years, any of the gains that we’ve made procedurally [in watershed protection] … have been demolished by the growth,” Mallek said.

20100415-Slide2

(Source:Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation)

“If [the mandate] doesn’t end up being enforced by EPA, the state, or the local governments, [then] it’s going to end up being enforced by the courts,” Williams said. “There will be some sort of lawsuits brought that will ultimately force this down our throats in one way or another.”

The basin commission recommends programs to enhance the water and natural resources in the Rivanna River watershed, a tributary of the James River, which forms Albemarle County’s southern border. The James River watershed accounts for one-fourth of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay drainage area.

“The major reason that communities should consider being prepared is that, regardless of this federal and state mandate, we have water quality issues in our watershed as well throughout the entire planning district commission,” said Leslie Middleton, the commission’s executive director. “It’s not just in the Rivanna.”

In September, the commission and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will begin facilitating focus group meetings with pairs of elected officials from each of the six member governments. Meetings for other stakeholder groups will be held during next three months.

Additional information can be found on the commission’s Web site at www.rivannariverbasin.org.

June 15, 2010

Federal legislation mandating Chesapeake Bay clean-up still under development

By Bridgett Lynn
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center has briefed the Rivanna River Basin Commission on the status of new federal legislation that would provide nearly $1.5 billion for programs to help reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100614-RRBC

Rick Parrish discussed the details of Senator Benjamin Cardin’s (D-MD) proposed Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration of 2009.

If passed by Congress, the Cardin bill would increase funding for monitoring grants and implementation grants for Chesapeake Bay states and localities. The goal is to help all levels of government attain the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

20100614-Parrish
Rick Parrish of the Southern Environmental Law Center

“The good news for local governments working to restore local waters that contribute to the Bay’s problems is that the Cardin bill would authorize $1.5 billion to be spent over the next five years to help local governments deal with stormwater problems, develop stormwater regulatory programs, provide technical assistance to those in need, and there may even be a little bit left over for financial assistance,” said Parrish.

The Cardin bill would require states to develop Watershed Implementation Plans as soon as May 12, 2011 and provide progress reports every two years beginning May 12, 2014. These plans must describe in detail how nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment will be reduced or removed from agricultural runoff, stormwater, and sewage treatment facilities. Parrish said the task is not without challenges, especially as deadline to develop Bay-wide plans to meet pollution loads by December 31, 2010.

“[The] EPA has set out criteria for development of the Bay TMDLs that are really impressive, really aggressive, and are going to be burdensome. There’s no question about it. This is going to be a challenge,” said Parrish.

The national economic crisis, however, has created other priorities that have delayed this bill.

“There’s support, but there’s a lot of concern about the money, there’s also concern among the agricultural community and the developers that this is the first step toward a national regulatory program that reins in their activities, so it’s a pretty contentious issue,” said Parrish.

The draft TMDL plan for the entire Chesapeake Bay will be completed by August 1, 2010, after which the public review process will begin. The EPA is expected to release its final Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan in December 2010.

Parrish concluded, “At this point, the environmental community intends to support [the] EPA and what they’re producing.”

The next meeting for the Rivanna River Basin Commission is scheduled for August 9 at the Albemarle County Office Building.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 00:55 – Rick Parrish talks about the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act
  • 02:37 – Parrish talks about a new version of the Cardin Chesapeake Clean Water bill
  • 04:15 – Parrish talks about a new coalition of environmental groups called Choose Clean Water
  • 07:18 – Leslie Middleton asks if stormwater programs are explicitly separate from non-point sources from agricultural sources
  • 10:11 – Parrish talked about components of the Cardin bill such as the Bay Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL)
  • 13:05 – Supervisor Ann Mallek questions if funding for the bill will be small
  • 15:00 – Robbi Savage asks what kind of support is seen for getting the bill passed
  • 20:28 – Middleton talks about watershed plans being approved by EPA in lieu of implementation plans
  • 25:32 – Andy Wilson asks if the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) is locally in the position to sell credits
  • 27:47 – Conclusion