Category Archives: Land Use

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

Safe Wastewater Use in Agriculture is Focus of 2016 United Nations Publication

Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture: Good Practice Examples was published in 2016 by the United Nations (UN) University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources.  Part of UN efforts begun in 2011 to focus on the use of wastewater in agriculture, the book presents 17 case studies of good practices from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The book is available online http://collections.unu.edu/view/UNU:5764 (direct link to PDF at http://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:5764/SafeUseOfWastewaterInAgriculture.pdf).

Virginia Forest Heath Professionals’ Annual Conference Jan. 29-30, 2018, in Staunton

The Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals will hold its 26th annual conference on January 29-30, 2018, at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center in Staunton.  The meeting is a chance for representatives of state and local government entities and the commercial sector to exchange information, expertise, and ideas about current issues, emerging pests, and other topics related to forest ecology and forest health.  More information is available online at https://www.vafhp.org/; or contact the organization by e-mail to president@vafhp.org, or Postal Service to P.O. Box 295, Oakton, VA 22124-0295.

Economic Impact of Virginia’s Agriculture and Forestry Described in May 2017 Report

In May 2017,  the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia released “The Economic Impact of Virginia’s Agriculture and Forest Industries.”  The 71-page report, written by Terance J. Rephann, is available online (as of July 2017) at the the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Web site, http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/; the Virginia Department of Forestry Web site, http://www.dof.virginia.gov/; or directly (as a PDF) at http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/pdf/weldoncooper2017.pdf.

Following are some main findings, from the Study Highlights (page 1), all as of in 2015. the base year used for the study.
*Total economic impact of agriculture and forestry-related industries in Virginia was over $91 billion ($70 billion in agriculture, $21 billion in forestry).
*Total employment impact was 442,260 employees (8.7 percent of total state employment) (334,000 in agriculture, 107,900 in forestry).
*Total value-added impact was $45.5 billion (9.5 percent of state gross domestic product) ($36.2 billion in agriculture, $9.3 billion in forestry).
*Agricultural economic impacts were “geographically diffuse. The largest clusters of agricultural-related industry employment impact were located in the Shenandoah Valley, Northern Virginia, and Central Virginia. The largest forestry-related economic impacts tended to be somewhat more geographically concentrated in the Southside region and communities with pulp and paper mills such as Alleghany County and Covington City.”
*Total economic impact of agriculture and forestry-related industry exports was approximately 47,000 jobs (one in nine farm jobs), $4.6 billion in value-added, and nearly $9 billion in total output.
*Results from other recent studies indicate that Virginia agricultural tourism and forest recreation account for “millions of visitors and billions of dollars of tourism-related spending and economic impact each year.”
*Agriculture and forestry landscapes provide substantial environmental and other societal benefits.  “Forests improve air and water quality, mitigate flood vulnerability, provide wildlife habitat, and aid biodiversity.  Rural landscapes provide scenic amenities that contribute to the quality of life.  The value of air and water environmental services provided by farmland and forestland likely amounts to at least several billion dollars each year.”

Healthy Watersheds Forest Retention Project Report Released in June 2017

On June 30, 2017, a project team from the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Rappahannock River Basin Commission released “Healthy Watersheds Forest Retention Project Phases 1 and 2 Final Report.”

The report’s title page states that the project is “a Virginia and Pennsylvania partnership focused on expanding the use of forestland to meet Chesapeake Bay Watershed goals from the perspective of the local leaders who are responsible for making it happen.”  The Acknowledgments (page 8) describe the report as an effort “to answer two questions: Can we quantify the contribution of forestland in economic terms toward achieving Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals [under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, published by the U.S. EPA in 2010]; and if the value is significant, what needs to be done to incentivize forestland retention so that contribution is maximized?”  The report (page 10) asserts that it “validated the working hypothesis” that localities can realize “substantial savings” from retaining or increasing forestlands that, in turn, reduce the inputs of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediments to Chesapeake Bay waters.

The report includes sections on tax and fiscal policy tools that state and local governments can use to promote forestland.  A forestland ecosystem services literature review, prepared by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, is included as Appendix B of the report.

The 199-page report is available online at the VDOF main Web page, http://www.dof.virginia.gov/, as of July 2017; or click here for a direct link to a PDF of the report.

Virginia Campground Regulations Undergoing Periodic Review in 2016-17; Public Hearing Held June 20, 2017, in Richmond

In summer 2017, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Board of Health are considering revisions to the Commonwealth’s regulations governing campgrounds, including regulations for water supplies, wastewater facilities, solid-waste disposal, swimming facilities, pest control, and other environmental health aspects.  A public hearing on the proposed regulations was held June 20, 2017, at the Perimeter Center, 9960 Mayland Drive in Richmond; the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice for that meeting is online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewMeeting.cfm?MeetingID=26040.

The proposed regulatory changes are part of a periodic review begun in 2016.  According to the VDH “Action Summary” (online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/viewaction.cfm?actionid=4554&display=stages), “The intent of this regulatory action is to amend the regulations, to address current camping practices, update terminology, and remove or replace outdated requirements.”  The regulations are at Section 12 VAC 5‑450 in the Virginia Administrative Code.  The proposed changes were published in the Virginia Register of Regulations on May 29, 2017.  The public comment period ended July 28, 2017.  More information on this regulatory process is available online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewStage.cfm?stageid=7790.

Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund – Applications for Fiscal Year 2018 Due by July 14, 2017

July 14, 2017, is the deadline to apply to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for financial assistance in Fiscal Year 2018 through the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund (VCWRLF).  The DEQ’s Web site for the FY 2018 program is online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/CleanWaterFinancingAssistance/FY2017AnnualSolicitation.aspx.

Here is an excerpt from that Web site:

“VCWRLF applications are being solicited for projects that involve improvements to publicly-owned wastewater collection and treatment facilities, installation of publicly-owned stormwater best management practices, projects for the remediation of contaminated brownfield properties and land conservation projects.  Eligible Brownfield loan recipients are units of local government, public service authorities, partnerships or corporations, and eligible land conservation recipients are state and local governments, public service authorities, and registered nonprofit organizations.

“Special consideration may be give to projects that meet the Green Project Reserve guidelines (online as a PDF at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Water/ConstructionAssistanceProgram/Green_Project_Reserve_Info.pdf?ver=2014-03-07-182359-110).

“Finally, we are also accepting applications for Living Shoreline projects.  Local governments (which are the only eligible applicants for this program) can either apply for financial assistance in order to directly establish living shorelines themselves or establish a local government funding program for individual citizens to establish living shorelines on their properties to protect or improve water quality.  We anticipate that the [State Water Control Board] should have over $100 million in funds available for distribution during FY 2018.  Should demand for good water quality or public health related projects exceed availability, these funds may be leveraged in the municipal bond market to increase the amount of assistance available.”

The DEQ expects to present a proposed funding list to the Virginia State Water Control Board in September or October 2017.

Application details are available online at the Web site listed above.  For more information, contact Walter Gills, Va. DEQ, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218; phone: (804) 698-4133; e-mail: walter.gills@deq.virginia.gov.

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.