Category Archives: Land Use

Items related to agriculture, preservation, development, forestry, and other land-based activities that affect water resources.

Water and Land Use in Virginia State Government News Releases for November 15–21, 2014: Hops Processing Operation in Loudoun County; and Online Training for Required Shellfish Dealer Permits

Following are titles and short excerpts from water-related or land-use-related Virginia state government news releases for November 15—21, 2014 (as of 4 p.m. on Nov. 21).  To access the full text of any release, click on the release title; or, if that link doesn’t work, click on the Web address beside each agency name to go to that agency’s archive of releases.

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE – https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/news-releases/

First Mid-Atlantic Commercial Hops Processing Operation/Loudoun County’s Black Hops Farm To Become Largest Hopsyard and Processing Facility in Commonwealth, 11/21/14. Excerpt: “Black Hops Farm, LLC will initially convert 15 acres of former pasture land into a hopsyard and build a new processing facility, thus becoming the largest hopsyard in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic’s first commercial-scale hops production and processing facility.  … The company, providing important hops processing services for the entire region, will invest about $1 million, create 11 new jobs in Loudoun County, and source more than 60 percent of their hops from Virginia over the next three years.  The Commonwealth of Virginia is partnering with Loudoun County and Black Hops Farm on this project through the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID).”

DEPT. OF CONSERVATION AND RECREATION – http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/pr_relz.shtml#prarch
None during this period.

DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY – http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/NewsReleases.aspx
None during this period.

DEPT. OF FORESTRY – http://www.dof.virginia.gov/news/releases/index.htm
None during this period.

DEPT. OF GAME AND INLAND FISHERIES – http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/news/
None during this period.

DEPT. OF HEALTHhttp://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/PressReleases/2014/index.htm
None during this period, but see Health Department-related news item under Marine Resources Commission, directly below.

MARINE RESOURCES COMMISSION – http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/whatsnew.shtm
“VDH announces online training for shellfish dealers,” 11/19/14 [link to Training Announcement PDF]. Excerpt: “The training is mandatory for dealers to obtain 2015 VDH [Virginia Department of Health] shellfish permits.”

DEPT. OF MINES, MINERALS AND ENERGY – http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMME/Newsroom.shtml
None during this period.

Groundwater Use and Depletion in Major Food-Producing Areas are Focus of “60 Minutes” Story in November 2014

On November 16, 2014, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” program aired “Depleting the Water,” a 13 min./55 sec. segment on groundwater use and depletion in major agricultural areas around the world, including California.  The segment highlights the use of an experimental NASA program called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), which uses two satellites to detect changes in gravitational pull on the satellites resulting from groundwater-level changes on earth.  The segment’s video, transcript, and additional information are available online at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/depleting-the-water/.

George Washington National Forest Strategic Plan Relased Nov. 18, 2014; Decision on Hydraulic Fracturing for Gas/Oil is a Closely Followed Aspect

On November 18, 2014, the U.S. Forest Service released its new strategic plan for the George Washington National Forest (GWNF), which covers about 1.1 million acres in western Virginia and West Virginia.  The new management plan, replacing a previous version in effect since 1993, is available online at http://www.fs.fed.us/gwjeff/index.php.

A closely followed and widely reported part of the new plan is its treatment of oil and gas drilling, particularly the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to recover gas or oil.  The new plan does not prohibit any particular oil/gas technology, including hydraulic fracturing, but the area where gas and oil drilling is allowed is being reduced from the current approximately 995,000 acres to about 177,000 acres.

While the new strategic plan attracted widespread attention for its natural gas drilling component (see the sample of Virginia and national news-media accounts below ), it covers many other land use and management issues besides natural gas and other energy-related activities, in accordance with the Forest Service’s mandate to manage national forests for multiple uses.  According to the Forest Service’s Nov. 18 news release on the plan (available online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3823051.pdf), the main goals of the plan are the following:
*Assure water quality with increased streamside protections;
*Improve wildlife habitat, healthy forests, and local economic opportunities with prescribed fire and timber harvest;
*Enhance and protect recreation opportunities, including recommending for congressional designation a 90,000 acre National Scenic Area on Shenandoah Mountain located in Rockingham, Augusta, and Highland counties and 27,000 additional acres to the Wilderness Preservation System; [and]
*Provide a comprehensive, balanced strategy for energy development consistent with other resource values, including for wind and oil and gas.

News media accounts on the Forest Service’s decision on natural gas in the GWNF:
Limited fracking in national forest seemingly won’t affect Lynchburg’s reservoir, Lynchburg News & Advance, 11/19/14.

Conservation groups, political leaders support National Forest plan, Waynesboro News-Virginian, 11/19/14.

Fracking compromise in George Washington National Forest receives mostly positive reaction, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/18/14.

U.S. OKs fracking in GW National Forest, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/18/14.

[U.S. Senators] Kaine, Warner praise George Washington forest fracking decision, Waynesboro News-Virginian, as published by Roanoke Times, 11/18/14.

Oil and gas decision in GW National Forest: Fracking, yes. Drilling, some; Christian Science Monitor, 11/18/14.

In Compromise Plan, Limited Fracking Is Approved for National Forest in Virginia, New York Times, 11/18/14.

Fracking gets green light in largest national forest on East Coast, CBS News, 11/18/14.

 

For more on natural gas drilling and transport issues in Virginia, please see the  Water Central News Grouper post, Potential Natural Gas Drilling and Transport in Virginia under Close Scrutiny in 2014.

 

U.S. 460 Project Alternatives in Southeastern Virginia Involve Wetlands, Ports, Traffic, Hurricane Evacuation Routes, and Local Economies; Update as of 11/18/14

November 17, 2014, was the final day of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) 90-day public comment period on the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for alternative routes for the 460 Corridor Project from Suffolk to Petersburg. Issued on September 22, 2014, the draft SEIS was the most recent major development in Virginia’s proposed project for that corridor. Between at least 2000 and 2014, Virginia pursued a plan to build a new high-speed toll expressway paralleling U.S. 460, spanning from Suffolk to Petersburg. This plan was put on hold in March 2014 after analysis by VDOT indicated that the proposed high-speed toll expressway would cause significantly more wetlands damage than previously estimated.

The September 2014 SEIS presented for public comment six alternatives; these alternative routes are mapped and can be seen here on the VDOT Route 460 Project Web Site: http://www.route460project.org/current_work.asp. According to that Web site, the alternatives currently under consideration are the following:
* 4-lane toll road with nine interchanges south of the existing highway (the previous proposal that was put on hold in March 2014);

* 4-lane divided road that runs along the existing U.S. Route 460, with six bypasses (which could be tolled or not tolled) around the existing towns;

* 4-lane divided road that runs north of the existing U.S. Route 460 and could be tolled;

* 4-lane road along the existing U.S. Route 460 with improvements to meet standards for medians, shoulders, and intersections;

* 8-lane road along the existing corridor with an expressway in the center (could be tolled or not tolled), bypasses at the towns, and local-access roadway to the outside;

* No-build option.

According to VDOT’s online form for public comments on the draft SEIS, available online at http://www.virginiadot.org/newsroom/hampton_roads/2014/vdot_fhwa_%26_u.s.76169.asp, the issues under consideration include the following (in the order presented in the form) : roadway deficiencies, safety, capacity for freight shipments, travel delays, emergency evacuation capacity, strategic military connectivity, local economic development plans, environmental impacts, and cost.

Another issue that’s been in the news is how the project would be financed, including the impact on already-sold bonds and potential funding from the Virginia Port Authority.  Those issues are discussed in the following Richmond Times-Dispatch articles: New report undercuts US 460 proposal, focuses on improving existing road, 9/22/14; and State suspends $1.4 billion US 460 project, 3/14/14, updated 9/22/14.

Below is a timeline of events since 2000 that have led up to the current situation, taken from the VDOT document, “U.S. Route 460 Corridor Improvements Project Presentation-April 2014,” available (as PDF) online at http://www.route460project.org/documents/U.S._Route_460_Corridor_Improvements_Project_Presentation_Handout.pdf:

2000: Virginia Transportation Act of 2000 designated Route 460 as a “High Priority Corridor” and allocated $25 million for improvements;

2003: Environmental impact statement (EIS, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA) started by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) chief of policy;

June 2008: VDOT chief of policy released Final EIS;

September 2008: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued record of decision on EIS; estimate of amount of wetlands impacted was 130 acres;

October 2009: VDOT chief engineer put Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA) solicitation on hold due to notification that the project was not financeable without a significant public subsidy.

May 2010: VDOT commissioner terminated the PPTA solicitation.

December 2012: FHWA approved project finance plan and the project management plan, and released federal funds for construction.

December 2012: VDOT and the design-builder estimated the wetlands impact to be around 213 acres.

April 2013: VDOT issued a notice to proceed with activities, subject to further environmental investigation.

September 2013: VDOT released an estimated wetlands impact of about 486 acres.

Feb/March 2014: Results of engineering/field work, including minimization efforts, showed estimated wetlands impact to be about 450 acres.

March 14, 2014: State transportation officials shut down contract and permit work on the U.S. 460 expansion project.

September 22, 2014: VDOT, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the FHWA, released a draft supplemental environmental impact (SEIS) estimating that the original proposal would cost more than $1.8 billion and would impact more than 600 acres of wetlands; the draft SEIS presented four other build alternatives, plus a no-build alternative, for public comment.

November 17, 2014: Public comments on the 9/22/14 draft SEIS were due.

For more information, please see VDOT’s Project 460 Web site, http://www.route460project.org.

Water in Virginia State Government News Releases for November 8–November 14, 2014: Va. Comments on EPA Clean Power Plan (carbon emissions regulation for existing power plants); Amtrak to Roanoke; Breaks Interstate Park Master Plan; and Virginia Wildlife eStore Grants

Following are titles and short excerpts from water-related or land-use-related Virginia state government news releases between November 8 and November 14, 2014 (as of 4 p.m. on Nov. 14).  To access the full text of any release, click on the release title or (if that link doesn’t work) click on the Web address beside each agency name to go to that agency’s archive of releases.

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE – https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/news-releases/

Virginia Submits Comments on EPA’s Clean Power Plan, 11/14/14. Full news release: “Governor Terry McAuliffe released the following statement today following the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s submission of comments in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan: ‘I agree with the Clean Power Plan’s goal of reducing carbon emissions in order to combat the threat of global warming, and I intend to continue Virginia’s position as a leader on this important issue. There is no question that our Commonwealth can play a leading role in energy conservation and efficiency and expand renewable generation so that we can cut carbon and create jobs along the way. As with any regulatory process of this scope and complexity, Virginia has submitted comments to the EPA with the intent of improving the Clean Power Plan by making it more equitable and better recognizing the progress that states like ours have already made in reducing carbon.  I look forward to working with Virginia’s business community, our environmental partners and the EPA to reduce carbon emissions, fight global warming and open a new chapter of economic growth for our Commonwealth.’” The Commonwealth’s comments on the Clean Power Plan are available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Air/Planning/vacommentstoepa.pdf (dated 11/14/14; 16 pages).

Construction Begins for Amtrak Service to Roanoke; Northeast Regional service expanding in Virginia, 11/12/14.  Excerpt: “…Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and the City of Roanoke are beginning the first phase of construction for the platform that will serve intercity passenger rail service to the Star City. Amtrak service to the city will be an extension of the successful Northeast Regional train from Lynchburg and is anticipated to start in 2017.  The service will provide a same-seat trip from Roanoke to Lynchburg, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and cities as far north as Boston. … It has been 34 years since intercity passenger rail service has served Roanoke.”

DEPT. OF CONSERVATION AND RECREATION – http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/pr_relz.shtml#prarch

Breaks Interstate Park master plan to be discussed Dec. 8, 11/13/14.  Excerpt: “A public meeting to discuss the long-range plan for Breaks Interstate Park along the Virginia-Kentucky border will be Dec. 8, 2014, at 6 p.m., in the Breaks Conference Center, 627 Commission Circle, Breaks, Virginia.  Staff with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will provide an overview of proposed updates to the park’s master plan. … The 4,800-acre park is off State Route 80 on the Virginia-Kentucky line.  The park is jointly supported by Virginia’s DCR and the Kentucky Tourism, Parks and Heritage Cabinet. … For more information about master plans, visit http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/recreational_planning/masterplans.shtml.

DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY – http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/NewsReleases.aspx
None during this period.

DEPT. OF FORESTRY – http://www.dof.virginia.gov/news/releases/index.htm
None during this period.

DEPT. OF GAME AND INLAND FISHERIES – http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/news/

Virginia Wildlife eStore Grants Awarded, 11/13/14. Excerpt: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia (WFV) have announced awards in the Virginia Wildlife eStore Grant Program. The grants will directly fund youth outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, and educational events designed to promote recruitment and retention of youth hunters, anglers, and to foster wildlife and outdoor-related activities. … Grants ranging from $500 to $3,400 have been awarded to a dozen entities, ranging from schools to community organizations. The total funding for all the grants combined is $20,000. The funding will provide everything from life jackets and fishing rods, to hunting, shooting, and other outdoor educational opportunities.”

DEPT. OF HEALTHhttp://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/PressReleases/2014/index.htm
None during this period.

MARINE RESOURCES COMMISSION – http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/whatsnew.shtm
None during this period.

DEPT. OF MINES, MINERALS AND ENERGY – http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMME/Newsroom.shtml
None during this period.

Water in Virginia State Government News Releases for November 5–November 7, 2014: Battlefield Preservation, Air-emissions Control Manufacturer in Appommattox Co., Veterans Day at State Parks, and New Book on Native Shrubs and Vines

Following are titles and short excerpts from water-related or land-use-related Virginia state government news releases between November 5 and November 7, 2014 (as of 4 p.m. on the Nov. 7).  To access the full text of any release, click on the release title or (if that link doesn’t work) click on the Web address beside each agency name to go to that agency’s archive of releases.

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE – https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/news-releases/
Governor McAuliffe Announces Civil War Battlefield Preservation Grants; State Grants Will Help Protect Nearly 277 Acres on 10 Battlefields, 11/7/14. Excerpt: “The grants originate from the Civil War Sites Preservation Fund, established by the General Assembly as a permanent fund in 2010. Funds for this year’s grants, totaling $1,173,225 will be awarded by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which determines the awards based on a rigorous evaluation process. This year’s awards will assist in protecting more than 277 total acres associated with battles at Brandy Station, Glendale, North Anna, Rappahannock Station (I and II), Ream’s Station, Second Manassas, Second and Third Winchester, The Breakthrough, Trevilian Station, and White Oak Road.”

Governor McAuliffe Announces 349 New Jobs in Appomattox County, 11/5/14. Excerpt: “…Lindenburg Industry, LLC, a subsidiary of a Chinese-owned corporation, will invest $113 million to establish an industrial honeycomb manufacturing operation in the Town of Appomattox in Appomattox County. …Lindenburg will be manufacturing industrial environmental control components used in clean air emissions.”

DEPT. OF CONSERVATION AND RECREATION – http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/pr_relz.shtml#prarch
Free entry and special programs for Veterans Day at Virginia State Parks, 11/5/14.  Excerpt: For a complete list of programs and to check details, times and locations, visit http://1.usa.gov/1x93QWD.

DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY – http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/NewsReleases.aspx
None during this period.


DEPT. OF FORESTRY –
http://www.dof.virginia.gov/news/releases/index.htm
New Shrub and Vine ID Book Hits the Market, 11/7/14.  Excerpt: “The Virginia Department of Forestry…has published a new identification guide called ‘Common Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of Virginia.’  The 116-page book is available for purchase through the Agency’s website [http://www.dof.virginia.gov/shop/index.htm] for $3 per copy plus shipping.”

DEPT. OF GAME AND INLAND FISHERIES - http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/news/
None related to water during this period.

DEPT. OF HEALTHhttp://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/PressReleases/2014/index.htm
None related to water during this period.

MARINE RESOURCES COMMISSION – http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/whatsnew.shtm
None during this period.

DEPT. OF MINES, MINERALS AND ENERGY – http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMME/Newsroom.shtml
None during this period.

Water in Virginia State Government News Releases for October 23-November 4, 2014: Oysters, Civil War Battlefield Preservation, Biodiesel Plant, Wallops Island Crash, Natural Tunnel, Savage Neck Dunes, Mount Joy Pond, Saltwater License Fees

Following are titles and short excerpts from water-related or land-use-related Virginia state government news releases between October 23 and November 4, 2014 (as of 3 p.m. on Nov. 4).  To access the full text of any release, click on the release title or (if that link doesn’t work) click on the Web address beside each agency name to go to that agency’s archive of releases.

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE – https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/news-releases/

Governor McAuliffe Announces November as Virginia Oyster Month; Virginia is the Leading East Coast Seafood Producer, Third Largest in the Nation, 11/3/14.  Excerpt: “Visitors and Virginians alike are encouraged to experience the fresh wild-caught and farm-raised oysters from Virginia’s seven different oyster regions throughout the month of November, as well as participate in the numerous oyster festivals and events around the Commonwealth. …Virginia’s oyster harvest increased by 25% from 2012 to 2013, with more than 500,000 bushels—the most in nearly a generation.  Over the past 12 years, the oyster harvest in Virginia has increased from approximately 23,000 bushels in 2001 to last year’s level of just over 500,000—the highest level since 1987.  The dockside value…of the oyster harvest is 2013 was more than $22 million, up from approximately $16 million in 2012.”

Governor McAuliffe Accepts 127 Acres of Hallowed Ground from Civil War Trust; Successful partnership between Virginia and Civil War Trust increases amount of protected land at Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historic and High Bridge Trail State Parks, 10/31/14.  Excerpt: “The Commonwealth of Virginia and the Civil War Trust have been working together to protect hallowed ground at Sailor’s Creek Battlefield since 1996.  Due to this collaborative effort, 885 acres at Sailor’s Creek Historic Battlefield and 175 acres at High Bridge Trail have been protected.”

Governor McAuliffe Announces 40 New Jobs in Russell County; Appalachian Biofuels LLC to invest $3.5 million in headquarters and new biodiesel production facility, 10/29/14.  Excerpt: “…Appalachian Biofuels LLC will invest $3.5 million to establish its headquarters and enzymatic biodiesel production facility in Russell County. …Appalachian Biofuels is a new company that will process multiple waste feedstock material and refine it using an enzyme, developed and manufactured in Haifa, Israel, to produce biodiesel.”

State and Local Responders Assist Following Wallops Island Rocket Launch Failure, 10/28/14.  Excerpt: “State and local emergency responders on site during tonight’s attempted launch of Orbital Sciences Corp’s Anteres rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft at Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility quickly jumped into action to contain the fire and secure the scene following the accident. No injuries have been reported and all personnel from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility have been accounted for.”

DEPT. OF CONSERVATION AND RECREATION – http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/pr_relz.shtml#prarch

Natural Tunnel State Park master plan to be discussed Nov. 13, 10/31/14.  Excerpt: “A public meeting to discuss long-range planning for Natural Tunnel State Park in Scott County will be Nov. 13, at 7 p.m., in the park’s Cove Ridge Center, 1420 Natural Tunnel Parkway [in] Duffield. …Each state park has a master plan that guides development. Plans are updated every five years….”

Savage Neck Dunes preserve to close weekdays Nov. 3-Dec. 19, 10/29/14.  Excerpt: “Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve on Virginia’s Eastern Shore will be closed to visitors most weekdays from Nov. 3 through Dec. 19 for managed deer hunts.”

Volunteers needed for cleanup in Augusta County, 10/28/14.  Excerpt: Volunteers are needed Nov. 15 to clean up trash at one of the most significant natural areas in Augusta County.  …Mount Joy Pond Natural Area Preserve [is a] 274-acre preserve in southern Augusta County [and] is home to globally rare plants and a maturing pine and hardwood forest.  The centerpiece of the preserve is a large sinkhole pond, a feature that occurs in only a few places in Virginia.”

DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY – http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/NewsReleases.aspx
None related to water during this period.

DEPT. OF FORESTRY –
http://www.dof.virginia.gov/news/releases/index.htm
None related to water during this period.

DEPT. OF GAME AND INLAND FISHERIES –
http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/news/
None related to water during this period.

DEPT. OF HEALTHhttp://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/PressReleases/2014/index.htm
None related to water during this period.

MARINE RESOURCES COMMISSION – http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/whatsnew.shtm
10/28/14 meeting summary: “In the face of continuing budget shortfalls, the Commission unanimously voted to raise the saltwater recreational license fees for just the third time since 1993, to allow for the continuation of core recreational programs including recreational law enforcement, the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, the Game Fish Tagging Program, and the Artificial Reef Program.”

DEPT. OF MINES, MINERALS AND ENERGY – http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMME/Newsroom.shtml
None related to water during this period.