Virginia and Chesapeake Bay Area Water News Headlines Sampler for July 29-August 9, 2013: Dying Dolphins, Chesapeake Waters Access, Lawsuit over Coal Exports, Brunswick Power Plant and James River Transmission Line, Stafford Waste-to-Energy, Snakehead World Record, and More

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of Virginia’s and nearby states’ water-news stories from the period July 29-August 9, 2013.  The headlines are grouped by topics and—within those groups—from newest to oldest.  Explanatory notes have been added in brackets after the publication and date.  Unless otherwise noted, all places mentioned are in Virginia.  As of 8/11/13, all headlines listed below have working hyperlinks to take you to the full article.

Aquatic Life and Habitats
Virus a suspect in dolphin strandings along bay, Virginian-Pilot, 8/2/13; and Dolphin deaths up in Washington region, Washington Post, 8/6/13.  The Virginia Museum and Aquarium’s Stranding Response Team, which operates out of Virginia Beach, has been seeing a significant increase in deaths of dolphins, including 44 found in July alone.  The yearly average is 64, but 87 have been found so far in 2013.  Increased dolphin deaths have also been seen in 2013 in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, although as of early August it was unclear if these occurrences were related.

Boats and Ships
Public to get more access to bay watershed, Daily Press, 8/6/13.  In early August, a new public-access point opened along the Cowpasture River in Clifton Forge, Virginia.  The Cowpasture is a tributary of the James River, one of Virginia’s major Chesapeake Bay tributaries.  In 2013, 18 new public-access facilities have opened on waters in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including six in Virginia.  For more on public-access on Bay waters, please see the April, 3, 2013 Water Central News Grouper post, Public Access to Chesapeake Bay Waters is Focus of January 2013 Report from National Park Service.

US bank sued over pollution from coal exports, Associated Press, as published by yahoo.com, 8/1/13; and Lawsuit seeks to stop federal loan guarantee for coal planned for export from Hampton Roads, Daily Press, 8/1/13.  On July 31, 2013, six environmental groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco alleging that in the U.S. Export-Import Bank should have conducted an environmental-impact analysis—including of the potential health effects of coal dust—before it guaranteed loans in 2012 to help finance overseas exports of coal from Norfolk and Baltimore, Md.  The plaintiffs are the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Center for International Environmental Law, Friends of the Earth, Pacific Environment, the Sierra Club, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Energy
Brunswick power plant wins nod, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/5/13.  On August 2, 2013, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved the application by Dominion Virginia Power to build a $1.27-billion, 1358-megawatt-capacity, natural-gas fired power plant in Brunswick County.  At the same meeting, an SCC hearing examiner recommended that the SCC approved Dominion Virginia’s application for an eight-mile, $155-million, 500-kilovolt transmission line from its power station in Surry County across the James River to a switching station (proposed) in James City County.

State seeks research lease for wind energy test project off Virginia Beach, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/30/13.  On July 29, 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has applied for a research lease to investigate wind energy off the Virginia coast, near Virginia Beach.  [From the Grouper’s July 19, 2013, headlines post: On July 22, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior had announced that about 113,000 acres some 23 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach would be offered on September 4, 2013, in a lease sale for commercial, offshore wind-energy projects.  This will be the nation’s second wind-energy lease sale, following one scheduled for July 31, 2013, for areas off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  Interior Announces Nation’s Second Offshore Wind Energy Lease Sale, U.S. Department of Interior News Release, 7/22/13; 112,800 acres off Virginia coast to be auctioned for wind energy, Daily Press, 7/23/13; Auction set for proposed wind farm off Va. Beach, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/23/13; and Auction date set for right to develop wind energy, Virginian-Pilot, 7/23/13.]

Energy and Waste Management
Plan gets more scrutiny, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/8/13; Waste plan finds few fans, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/5/13; Fredericksburg City Council approves landfill lease, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 7/9/13; and Stafford approves lease, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 6/6/13.  [Here’s a re-cap and update on the issue of a proposed waste-to-energy facility in Stafford County, previously included in headlines posts on 6/7/13 and 7/12/13.]  On July 9, 2013, the Fredericksburg City Council tentatively approved a lease for a $73-million facility to capture and use natural gas from landfill waste at the Rappahannock Regional Landfill.  The Council was scheduled to take a final vote on the lease on August 13.  Meanwhile, on June 4, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors granted the county attorney authority to draw up a lease.  In July 2013, elected officials in the two jurisdictions began receiving comments from citizens opposing the proposed project, and in early August, Fredericksburg’s City Council removed the project from its August 13 meeting agenda (postponing the item until August 27), after learning that Stafford County is reconsidering the project.

Fisheries
Confirmed: monster northern snakehead snagged in Virginia a world record, Associated Press, 8/7/13.  On August 7, 2013, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reported that a 17-pound, 6-ounce Northern Snakehead fish—a non-native species that was found in Maryland in 2002 and has since been found in various Virginia waters—was a world record catch.

Wastewater
Virginia Beach sewage treatment plant to shut down, Virginian-Pilot, 8/2/13.  The Hampton Roads Sanitation District, headquartered in Virginia Beach and serving over 1.6 million customers in the southeastern Virginia, plans to close one of its five wastewater-treatment plants and re-route the wastewater to other plants, in a move intended to save money and limit rate increases.

Wetlands
VDOT, Corps at odds over new road’s toll on wetlands, Virginian-Pilot, 8/9/13.  Virginia is planning a $1.4-billion, 55-mile-long, four-lane, tolled highway roughly paralleling U.S 460 from Petersburg to Suffolk.  The project has been under consideration for years and currently is being designed, with some parts possibly to be under construction by 2014.  But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified certain sections that would have substantial impacts on wetlands and other water resources, and as of July 2013, the federal agency and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) about VDOT’s analysis of alternatives—including expansion of the existing U.S. 460—that would have less wetlands/waters impact.   11/5/13 update: In late October 2013, the Virginian-Pilot reported that a report submitted by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to the Army Corps of Engineers estimated that the project could destroy up to 480 acres of wetlands, compared to an earlier estimate of 129 acres potentially destroyed. Threat to wetlands could be threat to new U.S. 460, Virginian-Pilot, 10/30/13.

Outside of Virginia But in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
17th Century Sunken Ship Discovered in the Chesapeake Bay, Your4State.com, 8/1/13.  In late July 2013, Maryland archeologists confirmed that a sunken vessel discovered earlier in 2013 in the Saint Mary’s River in St. Mary’s County (on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay) is a 17th-Century tobacco-hauling ship, apparently the first ever discovered in Chesapeake Bay waters.

Hundreds of St. Mary’s homes threatened by sea level rise, Southern Maryland Newspapers Online, 7/31/13.  St. Mary’s County, Maryland, located on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay and across the Potomac River from Westmoreland County, Virginia, has several hundred homes that are potentially threatened by a predicted two-foot sea-level rise by 2050.  Such a rise, along with a rise of from two-to-six feet by 2100, is predicted in a report released by the Maryland Commission on Climate Change in late June 2013.  (That report is available (as a PDF) online at http://www.umces.edu/sites/default/files/pdfs/SeaLevelRiseProjections.pdf.)

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