Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s Student Grant and Fellowship Award Winners for 2017-18

Between February and June 2017, the Virginia Water Resources Research Center (which publishes this blog) conducted its two annual competitions for recognizing and supporting students studying water resources at colleges or universities in Virginia.  Here are the recipients for 2017-18.

Competitive Grants

Under the Competitive Grants Program, the Water Center awards grants of up to $5000 to support research by students at Virginia colleges or universities.  This year’s grants, which are for the period June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018, were awarded to following students and projects:

Stephanie Houston, Ph.D. student, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech; project title: “A renewable filtration system for the removal and reuse of pollutants from retention ponds.”

Mary Lofton, Ph.D. student, Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech; project title: “Simulating storms to predict phytoplankton community responses to future climate change: a whole-ecosystem mixing experiment.”

Brendan Player, M.S. student, Department of Environmental Science, Christopher Newport University; project title: “Nutrient uptake in degraded and restored sections of urban streams across project age gradients.”

The application period for competitive grants typically runs from February to March or April.  More information about this grant program is available online at http://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/grant-opportunities/competitive-grants/.

William R. Walker Graduate Research Fellow Award

Established to honor the late William Walker, the founding director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, this award has been given since 1999 to recognize and support graduate students in water resources who are pursuing work in a field different from their undergraduate study, or who have returned to school following a period of professional work.

The Walker Award winner for 2017-18 is Jacob Diamond, Ph.D. student, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech.

The application period for the Walker Award typically runs from March to May.  More information about this program is available online at http://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/walker-award/.

Chesapeake Bay TMDL “Milestones” Progress Report for 2016 Published by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on June 21, 2017

On June 21, 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a report on progress made in 2016 by Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania toward ithe 2016-17 interim, or “milestone,” goals for the Cheseapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution-prevention plan published in 2010.  Following is an excerpt from CBF’s Web site on its milestone-progress tracking, http://www.cbf.org/how-we-save-the-bay/chesapeake-clean-water-blueprint/blueprint-progress-tracking.html, accessed 6/22/17:
“In June 2017, CBF analyzed the most recently available information (for 2016) to evaluate pollution-reduction progress.  This analysis included [the following]: comparing 2016 progress to 2017 interim goals for achieving 60 percent of the total reductions targeted for 2025; [and] evaluating some of the programmatic commitments that Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia made in their two-year milestones.
“…Overall, CBF found [the following]:
Pennsylvania is off track for meeting its 2017 goals for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment;
Maryland is off target for its 2017 nitrogen reduction goals, but on target for reductions in phosphorus and sediment; and
Virginia is on track to meet its 2017 goals for nitrogen and phosphorus, but off track for sediment.”
CBF’s reports for the three states are online (as PDFs) at these links:
Virginia;
Maryland;
Pennsylvania.

For more information, see also CBF Releases Assessment of MD, VA, and PA Milestone Progress, Chesapeake Bay Foundation News Release, 6/21/17.

News media account: Report: Virginia making overall progress in Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Daily Press, 6/21/17.

In June 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided its evaluations of progress by Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions and by federal agencies towards meeting two-year interim goals, or “milestones,” for the 2014-2015 period.  For more on that report, please see this Water Central News Grouper post of June 23, 2016.

Virginia Water-related Government Meetings for June 29-July 12, 2017

For more information, click on underlined meeting dates. Click here for the Commonwealth Calendar listing of all government meetings open to the public, and here for the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall listing of all government meetings of a regulatory nature.

For other, non-governmental, events, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, Quick Guide to Virginia Water-related Events.

REGULAR MEETINGS OF STATEWIDE BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS

6/29/17, 1 p.m.: Land Conservation Foundation Grant Workshop.  At the Virginia Department of Forestry, 900 Natural Resources Drive in Charlottesville.

7/12/17, 9 a.m.: Sewage Handling and Disposal Appeal Review Board.  At the Perimeter Center, Board Room 4, 9960 Mayland Drive in Richmond.

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VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY WATER-RELATED MEETINGS

For meetings of legislative committees and commissions, see http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+oth+MTG.  Links to information about General Assembly commissions, councils, and special interim committees coordinated by the Division of Legislative Services are available online at http://dls.virginia.gov/commissions.html.

None during this period.

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MEETINGS ABOUT TOTAL MAXIMUM DAILY LOADS (or TMDLs) for IMPAIRED WATERS

For more information about TMDLs in Virginia, click here for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality TMDL Web site; click on “Public Notices” in the menu to the left to access upcoming meetings and public-comment periods.  A search tool to find approved TMDL reports is available at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/TMDLDevelopment/ApprovedTMDLReports.aspx.

6/29/17, 2 p.m., on the TMDL modification process for aquatic life (benthic) and bacterial impairments in Blacks Run and Cooks Creek, located in the Shenandoah River/Potomac River wateshed in Rockingham County and the City of Harrisonburg.  At the Department of Environmental Quality Valley Regional Office, 4411 Early Road in Harrisonburg.

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MEETINGS ON OTHER SPECIFIC TOPICS
(topics listed alphabetically)

Air-Water Connections
7/6/17, 10 a.m.: Air Pollution Control Board/Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public hearing on proposed amendments to Title V Emission Fees.  At the DEQ Main Office, 629 East Main Street in Richmond.  Under Title V of the federal Clean Air Act, states charge Title V fees for operating permits required for major sources of air emissions.  A Stakeholder Advisory Group was formed in 2016 to assist the DEQ in developing recommendations for adjusting the Title V program fee structure.  A public comment period on the proposed amendments runs May 29-July 28, 2017.  More information on the proposed amendments is available online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/viewaction.cfm?actionid=4724&display=stages.  More information on Title V permits is available from the U.S. EPA online at https://www.epa.gov/title-v-operating-permits; and from the Va. DEQ online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Air/FeesUndertheVAAirPollutionControlLaw.aspx.

Groundwater
7/7/17, 9:30 a.m.:  Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Advisory Committee.  At The 2015 Virginia General Assembly passed HB 1924 and SB 1341, companion bills that established this Advisory Committee to assist the State Water Commission and the DEQ in developing, revising, and implementing a management strategy for groundwater in the Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Area.  The bills state that the Advisory Committee is to examine the following:
(i) options for developing long-term alternative water sources, including water reclamation and reuse, ground water recharge, desalination, and surface water options, including creation of storage reservoirs;
(ii) the interaction between the Department of Environmental Quality’s ground water management programs and local and regional water supply plans within the Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Area for purposes of determining water demand and possible solutions for meeting that demand;
(iii) potential funding options both for study and for implementation of management options;
(iv) alternative management structures, such as a water resource trading program, formation of a long-term ground water management committee, and formation of a commission;
(v) additional data needed to more fully assess aquifer health and sustainable ground water management strategies;
(vi) potential future ground water permitting criteria; and
(vii) other policies and procedures that the director of the [DEQ] determines may enhance the effectiveness of ground water management in the Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Area.”  The Committee is to provide its report by August 2017.  More information about the Advisory Committee is available online at http://deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterSupplyWaterQuantity/EasternVirginiaGroundwaterManagementAdvisoryCommittee.aspx.  More information about groundwater management in Virginia is available online at http://deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterSupplyWaterQuantity.aspx.

River Basin Advisory Committees and Commissions
6/29/17, 11 a.m.: Virginia Roanoke River Basin Advisory Committee [includes representatives from Virginia only]; 2 p.m. Roanoke River Bi-state Advisory Committee [includes representatives from Virginia and North Carolina].  At Clarksville Distance Learning Center, 1567 Noblin Farm Road in Clarksville (Mecklenburg County).

State Parks
6/29/17, 3 p.m.: Natural Bridge State Park Master Plan Advisory Committee.  At Natural Bridge Hotel, 15 Appledore Lane in Natural Bridge (Rockbridge County).

Stormater
7/11/17, 9 a.m.: House Bill 1774 Stormwater Workgroup.  At the Department of Environmental Quality Piedmont Regional Office, 4949-A Cox Road in Glen Allen (Henrico County).  According to the Virginia Legislative Information System, House Bill 1774 in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly “directs the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency to convene a work group to consider alternative methods of stormwater management in rural Tidewater localities. …The group is to be facilitated by the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at William and Mary Law School and is to include representatives of institutions of higher education, state agencies, local governments, private industry, and other groups.  The…work group is to review and consider the creation of rural development growth areas, the development of a volume credit program, the payment of fees to support regional best management practices, and the allowance of the use of stormwater in highway ditches to generate volume credits.  …The bill also delays from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018, the effective date of new stormwater laws enacted during the 2016 Session of the General Assembly.”  The work group is to report to the governor and the General Assembly by January 1, 2018.

Virginia Precipitation and Stream Flow for the 7-day Period Ending June 26, 2017, Plus an Overview of Flooding Nationwide

Below are several items summarizing recent precipitation and stream flow:

  1. Images showing precipitation in Virginia and other areas of the United States, and stream flow in Virginia, over the seven-day period ending June 26, 2017 (information available as of June 27).
  2. Flooding overview maps for Virginia and nationwide, as of June 27.

The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing precipitation and stream-flow information and images. For the current month’s other weekly reports on stream flow and precipitation, please see the News Grouper posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Virginia+Precipitation.

For monthly reviews of precipitation, stream flow, and drought, please see the posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Monthly+Water+Status.

For more information on current and historical surface-water and groundwater conditions in Virginia, please see the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Virginia Science Center’s Web site, http://va.water.usgs.gov/.

GAGE Potts Creek near Covington on Rt 18 Alleghany County Jun3 2017 June 2017 Gaging Station of the Month:  Potts Creek near Covington in Alleghany County, Va., June 3, 2017.  U.S. Geological Survey information from this gage is online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/uv?site_no=02014000.

Precipitation

The following two color-coded maps show southeastern U.S. precipitation amounts (top map) and the percent of normal precipitation compared to normal for this period of the year (bottom map) over the seven-day period ending June 26, 2017.  The maps were accessed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southeast Regional Climate Center, located at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; online at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps.  As of that date, these data were provisional (needing to be verified for accuracy and subject to possible revision).

Precip Jun26Precip Perc Jun26

Another source of precipitation data is the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, online at http://water.weather.gov/precip/.  The site provides maps showing precipitation nationwide or by state for specific days, months, or years.  The site also has the capability to show county boundaries, and other map layers available include river flood forecasts and current flood/severe weather warnings.  Shown below is the continental U.S. 7-day precipitation map as of 8 a.m. EDT on 6/27/17.  Please note that UTC, the time shown on the maps at the site, is four hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time and five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Precip US Jun27

Stream Flow

Seven-day-average Virginia stream flows at gaging stations as of June 26, 2017 are indicated in the map below, from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) WaterWatch for Virginia, accessed online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=pa07d&r=va&w=map.  The map’s color-coded dots compare the previous week’s average stream flows to the normal flow levels for that week over the historical record for each gaging station.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS are as shown in the chart following the map.  Note: Additional gaging stations (such as for reservoirs or for inactive sites) are shown on maps available at the USGS’ National Water Information System Mapper, online at https://maps.waterdata.usgs.gov/mapper/index.html.

streams Jun26

stream codes

Flooding Overview

As of about 12:30 p.m. EDT on June 27, 2017, one stream-gaging station near Virginia was near flood stage, according to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service’s (AHPS) map of river levels relative to flood stage (color-coded) for Virginia and nearby areas.  The AHPS map for Virginia is shown below, along with the nationwide map as of the same time.  The maps are available online at http://water.weather.gov/ahps/forecasts.php; at that site, one can select Virginia or any other state of interest.

Flooding VA Jun27

Flooding US Jun27

An Introduction to the Marshall Islands’ Sea-level Rise and Freshwater Issues, in 6/25/17 PBS NewsHour Video

The effects of sea-level rise on the Marshall Islands are the focus of “Fighting for Freshwater Amid Climate Change,” broadcast on June 25, 2017, on PBS NewsHour.  The 9 minute/57 second video, available online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/fighting-freshwater-amid-climate-change/, examines how the islands freshwater supplies are being affected by drought and saltwater intrustion from rising sea levels.

The Marshalls are an island nation in the Pacific Ocean; after being under U.S. administration for about 40 years following World War II, the Marshall Islands gained independence in 1986.

Additional source: World Atlas, “Marshall Islands, online at http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/oceania/mh.htm, 6/27/17.

Final Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline Issued by FERC on June 23, 2017

On June 23, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mountain Valley Project.  A summary of that document and access to the full document are available online at https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/06-23-17-FEIS.asp (as of 6/27/17).  An excerpt of the Final EIS summary is given below in this post.

According to that summary, the Final EIS concludes “construction and operation of the projects would result in some adverse environmental impacts.  In the case of the clearing of forest, effects may be long-term and significant.   However, for most other environmental resources, effects should be temporary or short-term, and impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of the applicants’ proposed mitigation measures and the additional measures recommended in the EIS.”

Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC and Equitrans LP have proposed the approximately 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia to a connection at Chatham, in Pittsylvania County, Va., with the existing Transcontinental, or Transco, pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York.

The release of the Final EIS starts a 90-day process for other federal agencies to review the project to determine whether or not certain federal permits should be issued.  FERC commissioners will determine whether or not to issue the project a certificate of public convenience and necessity.  As of June 27, FERC had only two commissioners and lacked a quorum for votes; two commissioners nominated by President Donald Trump were awaiting Senate confirmation.

Additional source:
FERC’s final environmental impact statement for Mountain Valley Pipeline elicits controversy, Roanoke Times, 6/23/17.

For more on this and other natural-gas issues and developments in Virginia, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, Natural Gas Drilling and Transport in Virginia under Close Scrutiny in 2014-16.

Excerpt from the Summary of the Final EIS
(accessed on https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/06-23-17-FEIS.asp, 6/27/17; bolding added)
“The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of the projects would result in some adverse environmental impacts.  In the case of the clearing of forest, effects may be long-term and significant.  However, for most other environmental resources, effects should be temporary or short-term, and impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of the applicants’ proposed mitigation measures and the additional measures recommended in the EIS.  This determination is based on a review of the information provided by Mountain Valley and Equitrans in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests; field investigations; scoping; literature research; alternatives analyses; and consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, and other stakeholders.  Although many factors were considered in this determination, the principal reasons are:
*Mountain Valley would implement the measures outlined in the FERC’s Upland Erosion Control, Revegetation, and Maintenance Plan (Plan), its project-specific Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures (Procedures).

*In addition, Mountain Valley would implement the measures outlined in its various resource-specific mitigation plans filed with its application to the FERC, or included in various supplemental filings, including its Karst Mitigation Plan and Karst-specific Erosion and Sediment Control Plan to reduce impacts when crossing karst terrain; its Landslide Mitigation Plan for reducing impacts when crossing steep topography; its Mining Area Construction Plan to reduce impacts when crossing coal mine areas; its Blasting Plan to reduce impacts when crossing areas of shallow bedrock; its Organic Farm Protection Plan to reduce impacts when crossing organic farms; its Water Resources Identification and Testing Plan, Spill Prevention Controls and Countermeasures Plan (SPCCP), and Unanticipated Discovery of Contamination Plan to reduce impacts on water resources; its Compensatory Wetland Mitigation Plan to mitigate for the conversion of forested wetlands to shrub or herbaceous wetlands; its Migratory Bird Habitat Conservation Plan and Exotic and Invasive Species Control Plan to reduce impacts on birds, other animals, and plants; its Fire Prevention and Suppression Plan to reduce the chance of wildfires; its Traffic and Transportation Management Plan to reduce impacts on local road users; its Fugitive Dust Control Plan to reduce air quality impacts during construction; and its Winter Construction Plan. As indicated in the EIS, we have reviewed these plans and determined that they are acceptable.

*Equitrans would follow its project-specific Plan and Procedures, its Erosion and Sediment Control Plan for the Redhook Compressor Station, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control Program Manual.

*In addition, Equitrans would implement the measures outlined in its various resource-specific mitigation plans filed with its application to the FERC, or included in various supplemental filings, including its Mine Subsidence Plan to protect its pipelines while crossing abandoned coal mine areas; it project-specific SPCCP and Preparedness, Prevention, and Contingency and Emergency Action Plan to reduce potential impacts on water resources; its Horizontal Directional Drill Contingency Plan to handle a failure or frac-out while crossing under the Monongahela River and South Fork Tenmile Creek; its Migratory Bird Conservation Plan to minimize impacts on bird species of concern; and its Traffic and Transportation Management Plan to reduce impacts on other local road users. As indicated in the EIS, we have reviewed these plans and determined that they are acceptable.

*Mountain Valley and Equitrans would use mostly dry open-cut methods to cross sensitive waterbodies and coldwater fisheries during state-mandated construction windows. Mountain Valley and Equitrans would obtain permits from the COE and applicable state resource agencies prior to crossing waterbodies and wetlands.

*For the portion of the MVP within the Jefferson National Forest, Mountain Valley would follow the measures outlined in its FS-approved Plan of Development.

*The FERC staff would complete formal consultations with the FWS under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act prior to allowing any construction to begin that could adversely affect federally listed threatened or endangered species.

*The FERC staff would complete the process of complying with the National Historic Preservation Act prior to allowing any construction to begin that could adversely affect historic properties.

*The FERC staff would provide oversight for an environmental inspection and monitoring program that would ensure compliance with all mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations.

“In addition, the FERC staff and cooperating agencies developed site-specific mitigation measures that Mountain Valley and Equitrans should implement to further reduce the environmental impacts that would otherwise result from construction of their projects. The FERC staff determined that these measures are necessary to reduce the adverse impacts associated with the projects, and in part, are basing conclusions on implementation of these measures. These additional measures [41 areas of actions] are listed as recommendations in section 5.2 of the EIS.”

On Virginia Water Radio for 6-26-17: Exploring the Staunton River

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of June 126, 2017, is “A River Trip from Roanoke to Staunton.”  The 4 min./2 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2017/06/episode-374-6-26-17-river-trip-from.html, focuses southern Virginia’s Staunton River, a section of the Roanoke River.  The episode features an excerpt of “Exploring the Rivers,” by Timothy Seaman on Williamsburg (http://timothyseaman.com/en/).

10 Staunton River at Altavista River Park ONE Jun15 2017

Staunton River at river park in Altavista, Va. (Campbell County), June 15, 2017.

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen or two!