Category Archives: Land Use

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

Water Quality and Agriculture in Shenandoah River Watershed in Virginia are Focus of Report Released in April 2017 by Environmental Integrity Project

On April 26, 2017, the non-profit organization Environmental Integrity Project (headquartered in Washington, D.C., and Austin, Tex.; online at https://www.environmentalintegrity.org/) released a report documenting water quality problems from bacteria and phosphorus in the Shenandoah River watershed in Virginia (counties of Augusta, Page, Rockingham, and Shenandoah); documenting the amount of waste generated in the region by cattle and poultry operations; asserting that waste from agricultural operations in the watershed are largely responsible for the pollution; and asserting the Commonwealth should do more to reduce water-quality impacts from agricultural operations.

The report is available online at https://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news/livestock-pollution-on-shenandoah/.

According to the report’s Executive Summary, the report was based on analysis of pollution management plans for 675 farms, inspection reports in 2014-2016 from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In May 2017, news media reported that some farmers and state regulators were asserting that the report failed to account adequately for efforts being made to reduce impacts on water quality from agricultural operations in the Shenandoah Valley.

Some news media articles about the report and related issues are the following (listed from oldest to newest):
Virginia faulted for handling of cattle pollution in Shenandoah, Bay Journal, 4/26/17.
A billion gallons of liquid cow manure is generated yearly in the Shenandoah Valley, fouling waterways, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/26/17.
Nearly 200 million chickens, turkeys and cows are making a mess of the Shenandoah River, Washington Post, 4/26/17.
Progress is being made on non-point source pollutants, Northern Virginia Daily, 5/11/17.  [Comment by staff person at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District on implementation of stream fencing, nutrient management plans, education, and other activities to reduce the kinds of polluted runoff cited in the report.]
Local farmers, regulators critical of environmental group’s report, Waynesboro News Virginian, 5/14/17.

Lower Chickahominy River Watershed is Subject of Va. Coastal Zone Management Program Request for Proposals Due August 1, 2017

The Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program is seeking proposals from Virginia’s public academic institutions to conduct an analysis of costs and benefits of land conservation and natural resource protection in the lower Chickahominy River watershed.

For a detailed request for proposals document, contact Beth Polak, Coastal Planner, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, phone (804) 698-4260, e-mail: Beth.Polak@deq.virginia.gov.

Proposals are due by August 1, 2017.

Funding for the requested proposals is through Section 309 of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.  Background on the Federal Section 309 Program is available online (as a PDF) at https://coast.noaa.gov/czm/enhancement/media/Sect-309_Guidance_June2014.pdf.

Virginia Resource Management Planning is Focus of Stakeholder Advisory Group Convening May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017, is the date of the first meeting of the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board’s Resource Management Plan Implementation Stakeholder Advisory Group.  The meeting will start at 1:30 p.m., at the State Capitol, Senate Room 3, 1000 Bank Street in Richmond.

The Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice for this meeting is online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewMeeting.cfm?MeetingID=25976.  According to that notice, “Item 364 Q of the [Virginia General Assembly’s] 2017 Appropriations Act requires the Department of Conservation and Recreation [DCR] to establish a stakeholder group to examine the funding, training, and resource needs, as well as explore new incentives, for additional implementation of Resource Management Plans.”

DCR information on resource management planning is available online at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/soil-and-water/rmp.

For more information about the advisory group, contact Christine Watlington, DCR Senior Policy and Planning Analyst, 600 East Main Street, 24th Floor, Richmond, 23219; phone (804)786-3319; e-mail: christine.watlington@dcr.virginia.gov.

Teaching Trees Workshop, July 19-20, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va.

Teaching Trees, a teacher-training workshop on forest ecology, management, and utilization, will be held July 19 and 20, 2017, in Charlottesville.  The workshop is organized by the Skyline Chapter of Society of American Foresters, Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and other partners.  For more information, visit http://register.ext.vt.edu/search/publicCourseSearchDetails.do?method=load&courseId=31615&selectedProgramAreaId=25575&selectedProgramStreamId; or contact Ellen Powell, phone (434) 220-9083, e-mail: ellen.powell@dof.virginia.gov.

Reforestation for History, Habitat, and Water Quality at Prince William County, Va., Civil War Battlefield

In Spring 2017, volunteers and the Prince William County, Va., Department of Public Works planted over 160 native tree seedlings in Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park in an effort to help restore the appearance of the area as it was during the Civil War.  The reforestation effort also aims to improve wildlife habitat and water quality in and around a park stream that flows into Broad Run (a Potomac River tributary), which is on Virginia’s impaired-waters list.  A description of the project is available in Seeing the Forest Through the Trees at Bristoe Station Battlefield, Prince William Living, 4/24/17.

Virginia’s and the Nation’s Infrastructure Gets Graded by the American Society of Civil Engineers – 2017 Edition

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes a “report card” on the state of engineered infrastructure in the United States.  The report covers infrastructure in aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, school facilities, solid waste, transit, and wastewater.  The latest national report (as of March 13, 2017) gave a grade of D+, the same as the grade in 2013.  The report estimated the cost of making necessary infrastructure improvements at $4.59 trillion, compared to the 2013 estimate of $3.6 trillion.  The full national report for 2017 is available online at http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/.  A chart of results from previous reports–back to 1998–is available online at http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/making-the-grade/report-card-history/.

According to the “What Makes a Grade” section  of the Report Card Web site, grades were assigned based on capacity to meet current and future demand, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.  The grades are described as follows: A = exceptional; B = good; C = mediocre; D = poor; F = failing.

The 2017 national report also includes reports for each state.  As of 3/13/17, the Virginia assessment was a 2015 report compiled by the Virginia Section of the ASCE (ASCE-Va.).  The Virginia report is available at http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/state-item/virginia/.  The Virginia report give the Commonwealth an overall grade of C- (compared to a D+ in 2009), and the following grades in each category: aviation = no grade; bridges = C; dams = C; drinking water = C; energy = no grade; parks = C+; rail and transit = C-; roads = D; school facilities = C-; solid waste = B-; stormwater = C-; and wastewater = D+.
News item related to Virginia report in 2015: Virginia infrastructure earns grade of C-, Capital News Service, 1/21/15.

Infrastructure cartoon

Cartoon that accompanied a February 2010 Virginia Water Central newsletter article on the 2009 infrastructure report by the American Society of Civil Engineers-Virginia Section.  Illustration by George Wills, Blacksburg, Va. (http://www.etsy.com/people/BlacksburgArt).

Virginia’s First Commercial-scale Wind-energy Project–in Botetourt County–Receives DEQ Permit in March 2017, Clearing Way for Construction to Begin

On March 2, 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a permit for the proposed Rocky Forge wind project, a commercial-scale, 25-turbine, 80-megawatt-capacity wind-energy facility in Botetourt County.   The project is to be built by Apex Wind Energy (headquartered in Charlottesville, Va.; Web site: http://www.apexcleanenergy.com/).  The DEQ permit is the last regulatory step Apex must clear prior to beginning construction.  The project, which APEX expects to have ready for operation in 2018, would be the first commercial-scale wind-energy project in Virginia.  (The proposed Highland New Wind Development project in Highland County, Va., received local permits, survived a legal challenge, and received a State Corporation Commission Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience in 2007, but as of 2015 no construction had started.)

The DEQ permit included certain restrictions on the operating times allowed for the 550-foot-high turbines in order to reduce their impacts on bats

Apex first filed application with Botetourt County for the permit in October 2015.  In January 2016, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors approved a special exception permit to allow construction of the project; the special permit included 17 items on a conditions list that APEX must address, including the following, according to the Roanoke Times on 1/28/16: noise, dust, flicker shadow, lighting, hours of construction, emergency response, decommission, remedies, compliance, traffic, and other issues.

Botetourt County passed a zoning ordinance in June 2015 to regulate wind turbine size, location, noise generation, and other impacts; the ordinance set the maximum-allowable turbine height at 550 feet.  In late July 2015, several county residents filed a lawsuit in Botetourt County Circuit Court, alleging that the ordinance would inadequately protect against noise, visual impacts, and wildlife impacts.  At a hearing on that lawsuit on December 16, 2015, Judge Paul Sheridan dismissed the citizens’ lawsuit, ruling that the case was premature because the county had yet to decide on the company’s request for a special exception permit, which the local ordinance requires.

Apex filed an application in October 2015 with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a determination from that agency as to whether the proposed project—with turbines at 549 feet high—would interfere with aviation.  In January 2016, a FAA preliminary report asserted that the proposed project would in fact pose a hazard.  In October 2016, the FAA made a final determination that the project would not endanger aircraft.

APEX’s application to the DEQ involved two public-comment periods.  The first ran May 5-June 6, 2016.  In July 2016, APEX announced a second public-comment period, Aug. 4-Sep. 6, 2016, resulting from a request by the consultant that conducted a report on potential impacts on birds to make a correction to that report.

In October 2016, APEX stated that it had moved back to 2018 the anticipated start of producing electricity.

The Web site for Apex Clean Energy, headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., is http://www.apexcleanenergy.com/.

Sources for This Post, Plus Additional Related News Media Items

At Last, a Wind Farm Virginia Can Call Its Own, Bacon’s Rebellion, 3/3/17.

Apex’s Rocky Forge Wind Moves Ahead In Virginia, North American Windpower, 3/3/17.

Plans OK’d for Botetourt’s North Mountain as site of Virginia’s first commercial wind farm, Roanoke Times, 3/2/17.

Neighbor says he’s happy about the Botetourt Co. wind farm, WSET TV-Lynchburg, 3/3/17.

Wind farms coming to Botetourt County, WDBJ TV-Roanoke, 3/3/17.

Rocky Forge Wind Turbines Not a Threat to Aviation, Bacon’s Rebellion, 11/1/16.

FAA gives clearance for wind farm atop Botetourt County mountain, Roanoke Times, 10/31/16.

Botetourt wind farm project completion pushed back one year, Roanoke Times, as published by Charlottesville Daily Progress, 10/25/16.

Botetourt wind farm developer reopens public comment period, Roanoke Times, 7/19/16

Botetourt wind farm developer files plan, seeks to avoid bat deaths, Roanoke Times, 5/8/16.

FAA approves test towers for Pulaski County wind farm, Roanoke Times, 5/20/16.

Wind farm proposal in Botetourt County begins state approval process, Roanoke Times, 4/20/16.

Botetourt County approves wind farm permit unanimously, Roanoke Times, 1/26/16.

Botetourt wind farm would be a hazard to aviation, FAA says in preliminary report, Roanoke Times, 1/19/16.

Judge dismisses lawsuit filed by wind farm opponents in Botetourt, Roanoke Times, 12/16/15.

APEX files for SEP permit for Botetourt wind farm, Roanoke Times, 11/5/15.

Company seeks permit for a wind farm in Botetourt County, Roanoke Times, 10/31/15.

Company seeks FAA approval for wind farm in Botetourt County, Roanoke Times, 10/13/15.

Wind turbine company seeks Botetourt County’s approval for test towers, Roanoke Times, 7/29/15.

Wind turbine foes sue Botetourt County, Roanoke Times, 7/28/15.

Rockbridge County goes on record against Botetourt’s wind farm, Roanoke Times, 6/5/16; and Citizens Voice Their Concerns About Rocky Forge, Lexington News-Gazette (approximately 6/15/16; date not indicated in article).

Energy company hears from those for and against wind power project, Roanoke Times, 5/25/16.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe links Botetourt wind farm proposal to economic development, Roanoke Times, 4/6/16.

Rockbridge County asks Botetourt to delay wind farm action; Rockbridge’s board of supervisors said they first received formal notice of the project on Jan. 4, Roanoke Times, 1/25/16.

Wind farm could be an economic windfall for Botetourt County, Roanoke Times, 12/9/15.

Website offers preview of Botetourt wind farm, Roanoke Times, 11/22/15.

Other Sources of Information on Wind Energy in Virginia

James Madison University’s Center for Wind Energy, online at http://wind.jmu.edu/projectdev/utilitywind.html).

U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, “Virginia Activities,” online at http://www.boem.gov/State-Activities-Virginia/.

Virginia Energy Plan 2014—Updated 2016, online at http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DE/2014_VirginiaEnergyPlan2.shtml.

Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, online at http://wind.jmu.edu/offshore/vowda/.