Category Archives: Water Quality and Habitat in Chesapeake Bay Tributaries and Coastal Waters

Items related to aquatic life and conditions in the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia’s coastal waters, Virginia’s Chesapeake tributaries (James, Potomac, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, and York), and Chesapeake Bay waters in other states.

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 2311Nutrient 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 on January 23 and as of February 16 had been reported from the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (ACNR) Committee.  As passed by the House, the bill does the following (quotations are from the House-passed 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.

Bay Barometer for 2015-2016 Released by Chesapeake Bay Program on Feb. 1, 2017

This post was written by Eryn Turney, the spring 2017 intern at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.

On February 1, 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its latest “Bay Barometer,” covering data in 2015-2016.  The report is available online at http://www.chesapeakebay.net/documents/2015-2016_Bay_Barometer.pdf.

The Bay Barometer is an annual assessment of progress toward restoration goals set forth in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement (the 2014 agreement is available line at http://www.chesapeakebay.net/document/ChesapeakeBayWatershedAgreemenetFINAL.pdf).  The report groups measurements into 5 categories: Vital Habitats, Fish and Shellfish, Conserved Lands, Clean Water, and Engaged Communities.

In a forward to the Bay Barometer, the Bay Program’s director, Nick DiPasquale, said “improving” would be the best description of the state of the watershed.  According to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s blog (http://www.chesapeakebay.net/blog), more than half a dozen of the commitments built into the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement have reached the halfway mark to success.   For more information on progress towards meeting the Watershed Agreement’s requirements, please visit http://www.chesapeakeprogress.com/.

Following are the highlights of this year’s Bay Barometer, as discussed in the document.

Vital Habitats:

* Underwater grass communities have grown to 92315 acres, passing the 2017 target two years ahead of schedule. The overall goal by 2025 is 185000 acres.

* The Black Duck population increased to 51,332 individuals by 2015. The overall goal by 2025 is to restore, enhance, and preserve enough habitat to support a population of 100,000.

* Wetland habitats have been created/reestablished. 7,623 acres have been established since 2010, providing less than 9% of what’s needed to meet the 83,000-acre goal set for 2025.

* Riparian buffers have been created/reestablished.  64 miles have been established since 2010, providing 7% of what’s needed to meet the goal of 900 miles each year.

Fish and Shellfish:

* The blue crab population in the Bay increased to 194 million between 2015 and 2016, meeting 90% of the 2025 target levels of 215 million.

* Oyster habitat restoration is moving forward, with varied acreage completed, in six tributaries. The overall goal by 2025 is restore habitat to 10 tributaries. These reefs will be monitored on 3 and 6 year intervals to determine if they meet success metrics as compared to the other Barometer parameters which already have established numeric goals.

* 817 miles of stream were opened for fish migration between 2012 and 2015. This marks an achievement of 82% of the overall goal of opening 1000 additional miles (3510 total) to stream migration by 2025.

Conserved Land:

* Approximately 1,004,577 acres of land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have been permanently protected from development between 2010 and 2015. This marks an achievement of 50 percent of the 2025 land conservation goal (an additional 2 million acres to the existing 7.8 million acres), and brings the total amount of protected land in the watershed to 8.8 million acres.

Clean Water:

* Nitrogen loads decreased 8% between 2009 and 2015, from 257,587,000 pounds/year to 241,498,999 pounds/year. Nitrogen still has (as of 2017) a concentration above the 2017 interim target of 219,537,470 pounds per year. The overall goal is to reach have pollution reducing practices in place to achieve the Bay’s Total Maximum Daily Load standards (TMDLs), which are the maximum amount of pollutants a water body can contain to meet water quality standards. TMDLs were published by the US EPA in 2010. With this, by 2025 the goal is for nitrogen to be reduced to 192,395,790 pounds/year.

* Phosphorus loads decreased 20% between 2009 and 2015, from 19,231,070 pounds/year to 15,357,050 pounds/year. As of 2015, phosphorus concentrations have met the 2017 interim target of 86,306,100 pound/year. The overall goal is to reach 14,456,580 pounds/year by 2025, also in alignment with the Bay’s TMDL standards

* Sediment loads decreased 7% between 2009 and 2015, from 8,675,354,000 pounds/year to 8,035,492,000 pounds/year. Sediment loads as of 2015 were not going to meet the 2017 target of 7,874,417,000 pounds/year, but as of 2017 levels were at 7,50,353,000 pounds/year, which achieves the target. The overall goal is to reach 7,340,531,000 pounds/year by 2025, also in alignment with the Bay’s TMDL standards.

* Between 2013 and 2015, 37% of the Bay and its tributaries met water quality standards following the Bay’s TMDL recommendations, which marks a 10% improvement from the previous assessment. The goal here is to have 100% of Bay waters meet water quality standards.

Engaged Communities:

* 108 public access sites were opened to public from 2010-2015. This marks a 36% achievement of the overall goal of 300 new access sites by 2025.

Data collected and featured in the Bay Barometer reflects the work of many individuals and organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science (UMCES).  Both of these organizations also issue periodic Bay-restoration progress reports.  CBF publishes a biennial State of the Bay report, while UMCES provides the Bay an annual “grade” in its Chesapeake Bay Report Card.  For more information about these assessment systems, please visit the CBF and USCES’s respective websites:
Chesapeake Bay Foundation http://www.cbf.org/;
University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science http://www.umces.edu/.

Other Sources about the 2015-2016 Bay Barometer

Bay grass restoration threatened by warming, scientists say, Bay Journal, 2/14/17.

Bay cleanup efforts already feeling the heat from climate changeBay Journal, 2/8/17.

“Bay Barometer” shows Virginia on track to meet 2017 bay cleanup goals, but more work ahead, [Newport News, Va.] Daily Press, 2/2/17.

Bay “Barometer” shows restoration progress, but forest buffers, wetlands lagBay Journal, 2/1/17.

Bay Barometer Notes Measured Progress in Health of Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Program News Release, 2/1/17.

For a Water Central News Grouper item on the Bay Barometer for 2013-14, please see this link.

For an audio take on the Bay Barometer, have a listen to Virginia Water Radio Episode 305 (2-29-16).

Va. DEQ Outreach Meetings Feb. 16 and Feb. 21, 2017, on Chesapeake Bay TMDL Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan

In January and February 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) scheduled public outreach meetings on Phase III of the Commonwealth’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution-prevention plan, which was published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 2010.  According to the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall, the meetings provide information on the status of on-going efforts to clean up the Bay, improvements in Bay water quality, expectations and roles for the Phase III WIP, and timelines.

January meetings were the following (dates are linked to Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notices):

1/30/17, 10 a.m., at the DEQ Northern Regional Office, 13901 Crown Court in Woodbridge, specifically for localities that administer municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s).

1/30/17, 1 p.m., 10 a.m., at the DEQ Northern Regional Office, 13901 Crown Court in Woodbridge, specifically for localities that do not administer MS4s.

February meetings are the following:

2/16/17, 10 a.m., at the DEQ Valley Regional Office, 4411 Early Road in Harrisonburg, specifically for staff of local governments and of soil and water conservation districts.

2/21/17, 1 p.m., at the DEQ Northern Regional Office, 13901 Crown Court in Woodbridge, specifically for elected officials.

More information from the DEQ on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/ChesapeakeBay/ChesapeakeBayTMDL.aspx.

More information from the EPA on the Bay TMDL is available online at https://www.epa.gov/chesapeake-bay-tmdl.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Combined Sewer Overflow Bills in Potomac River Watershed and Alexandria

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.

Several bills concerned the problem of combined sewer overflows from the City of Alexandria into the Potomac River watershed.

HB 1423Potomac River watershed combined sewer overflow outfalls: DEQ to identify owner, etc.  This bill, sponsored by Del. David Albo (R-42nd District), of Springfield, failed in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources (ACNR) Committee.  The bill would have directed the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to identify the owner of any combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfall that discharges into the Potomac River Watershed and to determine by July 2018 what actions by the owner are necessary to bring the outfall into compliance by with Virginia law, the federal Clean Water Act, and the Presumption Approach described in the CSO [Combined Sewer Overflow] Control Policy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The CSO owner would have had until July 2027 to bring the CSO outfall into compliance.

HB 2383Chesapeake Bay watershed combined sewer overflow outfalls: DEQ to identify owner, etc.  This bill, sponsored by Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31st District) of Woodbridge, passed the House and as of February 14 was in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources (ACNR) Committee.  Like HB 1423 above, this bill would also direct the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to identify the owner of any combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfall that discharges into the Potomac River Watershed and to determine by July 2018 what actions by the owner are necessary to bring the outfall into compliance with Virginia law, the federal Clean Water Act, and the Presumption Approach described in the CSO Control Policy of the U.S. EPA.  But as amended by the House, the CSO outfall owner would have until July 2024 to initiate construction activities to bring the outfall into compliance, and this bill would only apply to any CSO outfall owner or operator not under a state order or decree related to the CSO as of January 1, 2017.

SB 818Potomac River watershed combined sewer overflow outfalls: DEQ to identify owner, etc.  This bill, sponsored by Del. Scott Surovell (D-36th District), of Mount Vernon, was incorporated into SB 898 (see below).

SB 819City of Alexandria Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system permit: requirement to assess overflows by 2029.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District), of Alexandria, failed in the Senate ACNR Committee.  The bill would have directed the State Water Control Board to include in the next renewal of the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the CSO system of the City of Alexandria requirement that the City complete by January 1, 2029, an assessment of the discharges from CSO Number 001 into the Potomac River, including identifying any improvements meant to address discharges from any part of the City’s CSO system and determining what control technologies would be required to meet applicable regulations.

SB 898Potomac River watershed combined sewer overflow outfalls: DEQ to identify owner, etc.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Stuart (R-28th District), of Montross, passed the Senate and as of February 14 was in the House ACNR Committee.  The bill would also direct the DEQ to identify the owner of any CSO outfall that discharges into the Potomac River watershed and to determine what actions by the owner are necessary to bring the outfall into compliance with the Presumption Approach described in the CSO Control Policy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).   As introduced, the bill would have required the CSO outfall owner to bring the outfall into compliance by July 2020.  As amended and passed by the Senate, the bill would require such compliance by July 2025.

Related News Media Items on This Legislation
Senate Proposes Alexandria Sewer Overflow Deadline, Comment by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District), as published by Alexandria Connection, 2/1/17.
Senators to Alexandria: Clean Up Your Act by 2020 or Lose State Funding, Alexandria Connection, 1/20/17.
Alexandria mayor balks at state Senate deadline for stopping sewage overflows, Washington Post, 1/19/17.
Alexandria speeds up plans to address sewage overflow into the Potomac, Washington Post, 11/10/16.

Two Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Announcements from Virginia DEQ in February 2017: DEQ Seeking Water-quality Data from Citizen/Non-Agency Monitoring Groups for 2018 305(b)/303(d) Report; 2016 Citizen/Non-Agency Monitoring Activity Report Available

As of early February 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is seeking water quality data to help assess Virginia waterways for the next biennial, statewide water-quality report (the 2018 report), known as the 305(b)/303(d) Integrated Report (referring to relevant section numbers of the federal Clean Water Act).  Information about the biennial report is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityAssessments.aspx (see also this News Grouper link on the 2016 report).

Please note that groups which are part of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Friends of Shenandoah River, or Virginia Save Our Streams, or who routinely upload data to the DEQ Citizen/Non-Agency Database, do not need to resubmit their results.

For more information on submitting data, contact the DEQ’s James Beckley at james.beckley@deq.virginia.gov.

Meanwhile, the DEQ’s report summarizing the contributions of monitoring organizations for 2016 is available online at the DEQ’s “Citizen Monitoring” Web site, http://deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityMonitoring/CitizenMonitoring.aspx (click on “Follow-Up Monitoring”).

Information for this post was provided by the Virginia Water Monitoring Council (VWMC).  More information about the VWMC is available online at http://www.vwmc.vwrrc.vt.edu/; or contact Jane Walker at the janewalk@vt.edu or (540) 231-4159.  Please feel free to forward this information; when forwarding, please acknowledge the VWMC.

Virginia Lakes and Watersheds Association’s Regional Science Fairs in March 2017; Middle and High School Students Invited to Participate; Volunteer Judges Needed

Following is an announcement from the Virginia Lakes and Watersheds Association about the organization’s annual regional science fairs for middle and high school students.

The Virginia Lakes and Watersheds Association (VLWA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to conducting scientific and educational efforts to protect the quality and uses of Virginia’s Lakes and Watersheds.   In order to promote education awareness at the middle and high school grade levels, the VLWA offers special awards at the regional science fairs located throughout the Commonwealth.   Awards will be offered to those science fair projects that provide sound scientific research associated with stormwater studies, water-quality improvements, and watershed investigations as they relate to our local waters.  Judges will select a winner at the high school and the middle school levels based on relevance to VLWA’s mission in addition to project appearance, clarity, and sound scientific method.

The Regional Science Fair competitions are held during March.  The high school winner at each fair will receive a $100 gift card from the VLWA and the middle school winner will receive a $50 gift card.  Many fairs are open only to public school children, while some also allow home school and private school participation.  Please encourage the students of family, friends, and colleagues to participate in these events and support the sciences in our schools!

Interested adults can also participate in these events by serving as judges in the various categories or by judging only for the VLWA award.  Listed below are the fairs, dates, locations, contacts, and localities covered by each fair.  To participate or volunteer, please contact the fair directly.   If you would like additional information, please contact Rebecca Francese at (757) 636-0082 or e-mail her at beccaf@waterway.net.  Volunteering at the Regional Science Fairs is an easy and relevant way to support STEM education in our school system.  Please consider investing a day in the future scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

Blue Ridge Highlands Regional Science Fair, Radford, 3/3/2017-3/4/2017.  Contacts: Christine Hermann and Dr. Kimberly Lane, 540-831-5413, chermann@radford.edu or sciencefair@radford.edu.  Localities covered: Bland County, Galax City, Bristol City, Dickenson County, Giles County, Grayson County, Lee County, Buchanan County, Scott County, Russell County, Carroll County, Wythe County, Smyth County, Pulaski County, Wise County, Tazewell County, Washington County, Montgomery County, Big Stone Gap City.

Central Virginia Regional Science Fair, Lynchburg, 3/3/2017-3/4/2017.  Contact: Cheryl Lindeman, clindeman@cvgs.k12.va.us.  Localities covered: Bedford City, Appomattox County, Amherst County, Campbell County, Bedford County, Lynchburg City.

Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair, Fairfax, 3/17/2017-3/19/2017.  Contact: Jenay Leach, 571-423-4785, Jenay.leach@fcps.edu.  Localities covered: Fairfax City, Fairfax County.

Fauquier County Regional Science and Engineering Fair, Warrenton, 3/11/2017.  Contact: Chandra Wilkemeyer, ScienceFair@fcps1.org.  Locality covered: Fauquier County.

Loudoun County Science and Engineering Fair, Ashburn, 3/23/2017.  Contact: Jennifer Chang, (571) 252-1360, jennifer.chang@lcps.org.  Locality covered: Loudoun County.

Metro Richmond STEM Fair, Richmond, 3/10/2017-3/11/2017.  Contact: Vonita Giddings, vgidding@rvaschools.net.  Localities covered: King William County, Colonial Heights City, Petersburg City, Powhatan County, Hanover County, Richmond City, Henrico County, Chesterfield County.

Northern Virginia Science and Engineering Fair, Arlington, 3/4/2017-3/5/2017.  Contact: Christine Reid, 703.228.6166, chris.reid@apsva.us.  Localities covered: Falls Church City, Alexandria City, Arlington County.

Prince William-Manassas Regional Science Fair, Manassas, 3/11/2017.  Contact: Darla Edwards, (703) 791-7240, edwarddj@pwcs.edu.  Localities covered: Manassas City, Prince William County.

Shenandoah Valley Regional Science Fair, Harrisonburg, 3/7/2017.  Contact: Thomas DeVore, 540-433-6672; devoretc@jmu.edu.  Localities covered: Highland County, Bath County, Rockbridge County, Staunton City, Winchester City, Page County, Harrisonburg City, Warren County, Shenandoah County, Augusta County, Rockingham County, Frederick County.

Tidewater Science and Engineering Fair, Norfolk, 3/11/2017.  Contacts: Lisa Field/Abbie Martin/Jana Eggleston, president@tidewatersciencecongress.org.  Localities covered: Williamsburg City, Franklin City, Northampton County, Southampton County, Accomack County, Isle Of Wight County, Gloucester County, James City County, York County, Suffolk City, Hampton City, Newport News City, Norfolk City, Chesapeake City, Virginia Beach City.

Virginia Piedmont Regional Science Fair, Charlottesville, 3/9/2017.  Contact: Adrian Felts, 434-227-9066, director@vprsf.org.  Localities covered: Rappahannock County, Nelson County, Greene County, Madison County, King George County, Louisa County, Fluvanna County, Culpeper County, Albemarle County, Spotsylvania County, Stafford County.

Western Virginia Regional Science Fair, Roanoke, 3/4/2017.  Contact: Mark Levy, (540) 853-2116, mlevy@rvgs.k12.va.us.  Localities covered: Craig County, Covington City, Radford City, Floyd County, Patrick County, Alleghany County, Salem City, Botetourt County, Franklin County, Henry County, Roanoke City, Roanoke County.

Stoneflies, Craneflies, Hellgrammites, and Many More Stream Creatures Get Post Time at the Aquatic Insects in Central Virginia Blog

Aquatic Insects of Central Virginia is a blog site produced since November 2010 by Bob Henricks, a fly fisher and volunteer stream monitor in the Charlottesville, Va., area.  Mr. Henricks provides photos, observations, and detailed information on the benthic macroinvertebrates (that is, the stream-bottom-dwelling insects and other creatures) he finds.  The blog site is https://aquaticinsectsofcentralvirginia.blogspot.com/.

Information for this post was provided by the Virginia Water Monitoring Council (VWMC).  More information about the VWMC is available online at http://www.vwmc.vwrrc.vt.edu/; or contact Jane Walker at the janewalk@vt.edu or (540) 231-4159.  Please feel free to forward this information; when forwarding, please acknowledge the VWMC.