Category Archives: Land Use

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

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+.

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/.

Virginia Floodplain Mapping Tool Updated Announced in February 2017

In late February 2017, the Virginia Governor’s Office announced updates to the online Virginia Flood Risk Information System (VFRIS), a mapping tool to help users identify whic properties are located within different zones of flooding probabilities.  For example, the maps indicate lands within the Special Flood Hazard Zone, defined as the area that would be inundated by the flood event calculated to have a one-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year; this zone is also referred to as the “100-year floodplain.”

The revised VFRIS is available online at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/dam-safety-and-floodplains/fpvfris.

VFRIS was developed by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Center for Coastal Resources Management in partnership with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), which is the agency responsible for the Virginia’s floodplain management program.

Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces Updates to Virginia Flood Risk Information System; Free online tool helps Virginians plan for flood-related emergencies and develop resiliency strategies, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 2/28/17.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Nutrient Credits

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 165 water-related bills in the 2017 General Assembly, please visit the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s “Virginia Water Legislation” page, online at http://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/virginia-water-legislation/.  Each post includes a summary of the bill(s), their legislative status (in committee, passed, failed, etc.), and a list of hyperlinked headlines for news media items on the bill(s).  Information on the bill’s provisions and status is taken from the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), online at http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm.  The bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

HB 2311 – Nutrient Offset Fund; additional stipulations for the purchase and sale of credits.  This bill, sponsored by Del. M. Kirkland Cox (R-66th District), of Colonial Heights, passed the House and Senate and was approved by the governor.  The bill does the following, according to the bill’s text:

*Renames nutrient “offsets” as nutrient “credits…that achieve equivalent point or nonpoint source reductions in the same tributary beyond those reductions already required by or funded under federal or state law or the Watershed Implementation Plan prepared for the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load pursuant to § 2.2-218.”

*Continues to allow the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) director to enter into contracts to acquire such credits using the Nutrient Offset Subfund; removes the priority given to nutrient offsets produced from facilities that generate electricity from animal waste; and adds a new requirement that credits in the Nutrient Offset Subfund be listed in a registry maintained by the DEQ.

*Adds a new provision that the DEQ “shall establish a procedure to govern the distribution of moneys from the Subfund that shall include criteria that address (i) the annualized cost per pound of the reduction, (ii) the reliability of the underlying technology or practice, (iii) the relative durability and permanence of the credits generated, and (iv) other such factors that the Department deems appropriate to ensure that the practices will achieve the necessary reduction in nutrients for the term of credit.”

*Continues to require the DEQ director to make nutrient credits available for sale to owners or operators of new or expanded facilities pursuant to § 62.1-44.19:15, and to permitted facilities pursuant to § 62.1-44.19:18.  Adds a requirement that DEQ director “consider recommendations of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade consistent with the requirements of the State Water Control Law (§ 62.1-44.2 et seq.) in the sale of nutrient credits to new or expanding private facilities.”

*In Section E, adds “nonpoint” to the allowable source of nutrient credits: “For the purposes of this section, a ‘nutrient credit’ means a nutrient reduction certified by the Department of Environmental Quality as a load allocation, point or nonpoint source nitrogen credit, or point or nonpoint source phosphorus credit under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Nutrient Credit Exchange Program.”

Related News Media Item
New plant on James River to require 1st pollution trade of its kind in VA, Bay Journal, 1/22/17.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Land Preservation Tax Credit Bills

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 165 water-related bills in the 2017 General Assembly, please visit the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s “Virginia Water Legislation” page, online at http://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/virginia-water-legislation/.  Each post includes a summary of the bill(s), their legislative status (in committee, passed, failed, etc.), and a list of hyperlinked headlines for news media items on the bill(s).  Information on the bills’ provisions and status is taken from the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), online at http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm.  Each bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

SB 963, Land preservation tax credit limitations per taxpayer.  Sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hanger, Jr. (R-24th District), of Mount Solon, passed the Senate and House and was approved by the governor.  The bill extends to taxable year 2017 the $20,000 limit on the amount that a taxpayer may claim per year under the land preservation tax credit, retaining the $50,000 limit for each subsequent taxable year.

HB 1470, Land preservation tax credit limitations.  Sponsored by Del. R. Lee Ware (R-65th District), of Powhatan, this bill failed in the House Finance Committee.  The bill would have imposed a $2 million limit on the amount of credits that may be claimed for each land conveyance; a $20,000 limit on the annual amount of credits that may be claimed by each taxpayer; a $50,000 cap on the annual amount of credits that may be claimed for a fee-simple donation of land to the Commonwealth; and a $50 million cap on the maximum annual amount of credits that may be issued to all taxpayers.

HB 2150, Land preservation tax credit limitations per taxpayer.  Sponsored by Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-63rd District), of Petersburg, this bill failed in the House Finance Committee.  This bill was a companion bill to SB 963 (see above).

SB 1540, Certain tax credits aggregate caps.  Sponsored by Sen. Glen Sturtevant (R-10th District), of Midlothian, this bill failed in the Senate Finance Committee.  The bill would have reduced the total aggregate caps of the historic rehabilitation tax credit, the research and development expenses tax credit, the major research and development expenses tax credit, and the land preservation tax credit over a period of 10 years, so that no credits were available for any of the credits beginning in 2027.

Related News Media Item

Va. Senate panel kills Sen. Glen Sturtevant’s bill to cap and phase out historic rehab tax credits, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/31/17.

Virginia Forest Landowner Update January 2017 Issue Available – Items on Women Landowners, Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Firewise Program, Events, and More

As of February 6, 2017, the latest issue of the Virginia Forest Landowner Update newsletter is available online at http://forestupdate.frec.vt.edu/newsletter/current.html.  Archived editions are also available at that link.

The newsletter is part of the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program, which is coordinated by the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in collaboration with several state and federal partners.  Each newsletter focuses generally on applied forest and wildlife management topics, innovations in wood products, exotic invasive species, useful resources for forest owners, non-timber forest products, and upcoming forestry education events.

The January 2017 issue includes the following items:
Women Landowners Network and Learn About Conservation Stewardship;
You Ain’t From Around Here! Exotic Invasive of the Quarter: Brown Marmorated Stink Bug;
Be Safe; Be Firewise;
Virginia’s Century Forest Program;
Useful Resources;
Events Calendar.

For more information about the newsletter of the program, contact Jennifer Gagnon at (540) 231-6391 or jgagnon@vt.edu.

How’s the Health of Virginia’s Forests? Find Some Answers in the January 2017 Issue of Forest Health Review, from the Virginia Department of Forestry

The January 2017 issue of Forest Health Review, from the Virginia Department of Forestry’s (DOF) Forest Health Program, is available online at http://www.dof.virginia.gov/infopubs/index.htm#ForestHealth.  Previous issues of the newsletter are also accessible at that link.

The January 2017 issue includes updates on the following forest health topics:
Blue Ridge PRISM  (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management);
Pine Bark Beetle Prevention Program;
Laurel Wilt Disease;
Gypsy Moth Impacts in 2016;
Oak Decline;
Tornado of February 24, 2016, in central and southern Virginia (including Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest);
Late Season Native Defoliators (Fall webworm, Variable oakleaf caterpillar; orange-striped oakworm);
Rhododendron dieback along the Blue Ridge Parkway;
Emerald Ash Borer (arriving in 15 more Virginia counties in 2016).

The publication also includes a “Forest Health Calendar” of events in 2017.

For more information about the Va. DOF’s Forest Health Program, contact Program Manager Lori Chamberlin at (434) 220-9026 or lori.chamberlin@dof.virginia.gov.