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.

Spills Affecting Water in Virginia – Cumulative List of Incidents Starting February 2014; Latest: November 18, 2017, Coal Spill Following Train Derailment in Wise County

In this post, the Virginia Water Central News Grouper posts brief accounts and links to news articles about spills affecting surface water or groundwater in Virginia.  Items are listed from most recent (at top) to oldest (at bottom).  All hyperlinks to news accounts were functional at the time posted  here, but there is no guarantee that the links still work whenever you’re reading this.

This list of incidents dates back to March 2015.  The number of incidents/situations listed as of November 21, 2017, is 38.

Frequently used abbreviations:
DEQ = Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

November 18, 2017, in Wise County – Spill of an estimated 400 tons of coal into Pigeon Creek (a Powell River/Clinch River/Tennessee River tributary), following a derailment of 38 Norfolk Southern rail cars.  As of 4:15 p.m. on November 20, Norfolk-Southern stated that four cars had been removed from the stream and six cars removed from the stream bank; that the company was working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on the incident; that absorbent booms, silt-fencing, and hay bales had been installed around the spilled coal; and that the company planned to use excavators and vacuum trucks to remove the spilled coal from the stream and streambank.  Sources: 38 Norfolk Southern Railroad cars derailed in Wise County, Bristol Herald Courier, 11/20/17.  Coal train derailment cleanup continues, Coalfield Progress, 11/20/17.  Coal spill cleanup underway, WCYB TV-Bristol, 11/20/17.

October 30, 2017, in Dinwiddie County – Spill of about 4000 gallons of a plasticizer chemical following a tractor-trailer overturning on U.S. Route 460 in Dinwiddie County.  Some of the material spread to drainage ditches lining the highway.  As of October 30, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was investigating the incident.  Source:  Tractor-trailer spill closes 460 West in Dinwiddie, Petersburg Progress-Index, 10/30/17.

October 2017/October 18, 2016, in City of Covington – CSX locomotive derailment resulting in spill of about 1700 gallons of diesel fuel into the Jackson River (about 425 gallons were recovered).  In October 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and CSX reached a proposed consent agreement including a $2125 fine and a requirement of monthly monitoring until no evidence of the fuel remains in the river.  Regulators cite CSX for fuel spill from train derailment in Covington, Roanoke Times, 11/1/17.

September 2017 in City of Alexandria – Spill of over 5000 gallons of gasoline after a pump failure at a Liberty gas station on King Street in Alexandria.  As of mid-October 2017, 400 gallons of the gasoline had been recovered; it was believed that none of the spills gasoline had reached surface waters, and the concern at the time was that the gasoline would contaminate nearby apartment buildings.  Source: Cleanup of Alexandria gasoline spill may take years, WRC TV-Washington, 10/17/17 (2 min./50 sec. video).

September 2017 in Roanoke County – Proposed consent agreement on September 12, 2017, between the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Nichols Transport, Inc., regarding a June 2014 tanker-truck spill of about 4500 gallons formaldehyde (to be used in embalming fluid) on Jae Valley Road near Windy Gap in Roanoke County.  The spill required some home and business evacuations and is identified as having contaminated one residential well, according to the proposed consent order (available online as a PDF at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Enforcement/SignedConsentPN/NicholsTransport2017.pdf?ver=2017-09-15-072239-160).  The proposed order will undergo a public-comment period from 9/18/17 to 10/17/17.  DEQ current consent orders (those undergoing public comment periods) are available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Enforcement/PublicNotices.aspxSource: Trucking company agrees to cleanup plan for formaldehyde spill in Roanoke County, Roanoke Times, 9/19/17.

August 2017 in City of Roanoke – $19,425 fine announced for Conny Oil Inc., part of a July 12, 2017, consent agreement between the company and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), for an underground leak gasoline leak (which reached the storm sewer system and caused home evacuations) discovered on October 8, 2017, at the Grandin Road BP in the City of Roanoke.  Sources:  Fuel company cited for October gas leak in southwest Roanoke, Roanoke Times, 8/7/17; Virginia DEQ, “Public Notices,” online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Enforcement/PublicNotices.aspx.

July 29, 2017, in Botetourt County – Spill of about 165 gallons of Termix 5301—a type of surfactant added to herbicides and other pesticides before application, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)—into a tributary of Tinker Creek, in the Roanoke River watershed, on the Crop Production Services facility at Cloverdale in Botetourt County (just north of the Roanoke County line and the City of Roanoke), affecting approximately 8 miles Tinker Creek and resulting in a fish kill estimated at over 40,000, according to the DEQ.  The DEQ’s July 31 news release asserted the following about long-term impacts: “Where the material was present in the water, the stream exhibited a cloudy appearance and moderate to heavy white foam.  DEQ checked the stream at more than a dozen locations, from near the mouth at the Roanoke River, to above the confluence with the impacted tributary at Route 11 in Cloverdale.  At almost all locations, the appearance of the stream had returned to normal for this time of year.  Once the material is diluted and flushed downstream, no long-term impacts to the stream are anticipated.  It ultimately may take several years to return to normal, but the stream will recover and aquatic life will repopulate the affected areas.”  DEQ spokesperson Bill Hayden was quoted on August 2, 2017, by The Roanoke Times as saying that the fish kill “may be one of the biggest…in Virginia history,” and that recovery of the stream’s bottom dwelling aquatic organisms could take years.  A recreation advisory on Tinker Creek was lifted on August 11.  On October 4, 2017, the DEQ issued a notice of violation to Crop Production Services.  Sources: DEQ issues violation notice to company after Tinker Creek chemical spill, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 10/17/17; State issues violation notice in Tinker Creek chemical spill and fish kill, Roanoke Times, 10/16/17.  DEQ sends notice of violation over Tinker Creek chemical spill, WDBJ TV-Roanoke, 10/10/17.  Chemical spill in Tinker Creek revealed a gap in regulation, Roanoke Times, 8/17/17.  Tinker Creek recreation advisory lifted nearly 2 weeks after chemical spill, Roanoke Times, 8/11/17.  DEQ: Tinker Creek safe to swim in, no herbicide detected in recent tests, WSET Lynchburg, 8/11/17.  Update on status of Tinker Creek, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 8/4/17.  Fish kill extended 8 miles downstream of Cloverdale chemical spill, state says, Roanoke Times, 8/4/17.  Deputies say vandals may have caused Tinker Creek chemical spill, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 8/2/17.  Recovery on Tinker Creek could take years after chemical spill caused massive fish kill, Roanoke Times, 8/2/17.  Tinker Creek fish kill: questions and answers, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, 7/31/17. Chemical spill on Tinker Creek caused by puncture to storage tank, DEQ officials say, Roanoke Times, 7/31/17.  Crews continue assessing damage from chemical spill into Tinker Creek, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 7/31/17.  Officials say police are investigating Tinker Creek chemical spill as a crime, WXFR TV-Roanoke, 7/31/17.  Sudsy water, fish kills in Tinker Creek after confirmed chemical spill, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 7/31/17.  Herbicide spill in Tinker Creek stretches 8 to 10 miles, public still warned to stay out of creek, Roanoke Times, 7/30/17.  Chemical spill impact on well water and enviornment, WDBJ TV-Roanoke, 7/30/17.
Here is the text of an August 4, 2017, news release from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on the Tinker Creek spill:
“RICHMOND, VA. — The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have updated the information available on the status of Tinker Creek in Botetourt County following a fish kill on July 29.
— The agencies are continuing their recommendation that people stay away from Tinker Creek, from just west of Route 11/Lee Highway, across from Southern States Cooperative in Cloverdale, downstream to the mouth of Tinker Creek at the Roanoke River.
— Water test results have been analyzed and show a very low amount of the chemical Termix 5301 in the creek. This amount of the chemical is not considered harmful.
— Additional water samples will be collected Monday, August 7, and results are expected later in the week. A decision will be made then as to whether the advisory on Tinker Creek should remain.
— DEQ has completed its count of fish that died as a result of the spill. The total is 40,198, which includes sunfish, rock bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, darters, multiple species of minnow, margined madtoms, bullhead catfish and suckers. Though there have been a few larger fish kills in Virginia, this is considered a significant incident.
— The company responsible for the spill, Crop Production Services, has continued to cooperate fully with DEQ and has taken numerous actions to address the fish kill.”

June 2017 in Franklin County –  Announcement of a $4550 fine by the Virginia DEQ on Burnt Chimney Dairy LLC for a March 2016 spill of 13,500 gallons of manure onto the ground in Franklin County, some of which reached an unnamed tributary to Gills Creek, which in turn is a Roanoke River tributary.  Source:  Franklin County dairy farm cited for manure spill, Roanoke Times, 6/29/17.

May 10-11, 2017, in Virginia Beach – Spill of 94,000 gallons of jet fuel at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.  For more on this incident, please see this Water Central News Grouper post of May 17, 2017.

May 8, 2017, in Harrisonburg – Derailment of five rail cars carrying corn, some of which reached Blacks Run, in the Shenandoah River watershed.  Source:  Long cleanup ahead after train derails in downtown Harrisonburg, WHSV TV-Harrisonburg, Va., 5/8/17.

Late April 2017 in Weber City (Scott County) – Sewage spill from a pipe damaged by a collapsed crane at a bridge-construction site.  Source: UPDATE: No contact advisory on Holston River lifted following sewage spill, WCYB TV-Bristol, 5/15/17.

April 11, 2017, in Roanoke County – Spill of about 400 gallons of asphalt from a tanker truck on North Barrens Road in Roanoke County.  Source: No environmental damage from asphalt spill in Roanoke County, DEQ says, Roanoke Times, 4/12/17.

March 2017/September 2015 in Franklin County – March 2017 announcement of a consent order and $3250 fine by the Department of Environmental Quality for a September 2015 manure spill into Maggodee Creek (Roanoke River basin) in Franklin County.  Source: Franklin County dairy farm cited for manure spill, Roanoke Times, 3/30/17.

February 20, 2017, in Gloucester County – Diesel fuel spill from a sunken boat into the Perrin River (a Chesapeake Bay tributary in Gloucester County).  Source: About $50,000 spent to clean up Perrin River fuel spill, Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal, 3/15/17.

January 2017 in City of Fredericksburg – January 2017 consent agreement regarding October 2015, December 2015, and February 2016 wastewater spills by City of Fredericksburg.  Source: City to Pay State Fine for Sewage Spills, Fredericksburg Today, 1/25/17.

November 2016 in Washington, D.C., metropolitan area – Appearance of oily sheen on Potomac River in D.C. metropolitan region.  Sources: D.C. area water utilities keep an eye on oily sheen on Potomac River, Washington Post, 11/30/16; EPA says oil plume on Potomac River came from power plant in Maryland, Washington Post, 12/6/16.

October 24, 2016, in Fluvanna County – Discovery by Rivanna Conservation Alliance volunteer monitors of sewage-pipe leak into Lake Monticello in Fluvanna County.  Aqua Virginia, a private company providing water and sewer service to the area, fixed the leak the same day.  Sources: Sewage pipe could have been leaking into Lake Monticello for months, group says, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/27/16.  Questions remain on full impact of Lake Monticello sewage spill, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 10/28/16.  Water officials seek more info on Lake Monticello sewer leak, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 10/31/16.  Lake water ‘safe’ after sewage leak, Fluvanna Review, 10/31/16.

October 3, 2016, in Stafford County – Discovery of a sewage-line break that was causing a spill of wastewater into Claiborne Run, a Rappahannock River tributary near the historic Port of Falmouth Park in Stafford County.  Source: Another sewage spill closes Historic Port of Falmouth in Stafford, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 10/5/16.

August 23, 2016, in City of Richmond – Spill of about 7000 gallons of fuel oil and gasoline from a tanker truck that overturned on I-95 near the James River at Richmond; about 4000 gallons apparently reached the James via stormwater drains.  Sources: Fuel spill affects James River at Richmond Deep Water Terminal, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 8/24/16; DEQ working to clean 4,000 gallons of fuel spilled in James River in truck crash, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/24/16.

July 18-24, 2016, in Russell County
– Two petroleum spills in Russell County during the week of July 18-24, 2016; one of about 50 gallons of diesel fuel; the other of hydraulic oil, greater than 25 gallons but amount not identified in story.  Source: Everyday oil spills dangerous without quick intervention, WCYB-TV Bristol, Va., 7/25/16.

July 6, 2016, in Goochland County – Petroleum-pipeline leak near Tuckahoe Creek.  Sources: Henrico leaders carefully monitoring Goochland petroleum spill, RVANews, 7/8/16.  Petroleum leak reported along Goochland-Henrico line, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/7/16.

June 2016/April 2015 in Alleghany County – Consent agreement regarding an April 2015 sewer overflow of between 46,000 and 93,000 gallons per day over four days at the Alleghany County wastewater treatment plant (which discharges into Potts Creek, a Jackson River tributary).  Source: Alleghany County cited for wastewater overflows into creek, Roanoke Times, 6/2/16.

April 2016 in Fairfax County – Update on work to remediate MTBE from early 2000s leak at a service station in Great Falls (clean-up underway since 2014).  Sources: Great Falls: Eyesore Improves, Bank Coming, Great Falls Connection, 4/18/16; and Groundwater Cleanup Continues, Fairfax Connection, 8/25/15.

April 13, 2016, in Stafford County – Wastewater spill from an overturned tractor-trailer.  Source: Stafford road reopens after tractor-trailer overturned, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 4/13/16.

Jan. 22, 2016, in the City of Chesapeake – Spill of an estimated 75,000 gallons of jet fuel from the Kinder Morgan facility.  Sources: 60 ducks and geese covered in jet fuel from Chesapeake tank spill, Virginian-Pilot, 1/25/16; About 75,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked in Chesapeake tank spill, Virginian-Pilot, 1/26/15.

November 2015 in City of Roanoke – Consent agreement, including a $71,450 fine, for a February 15, 2014, spill by Steel Dynamics of about 10,000 gallons of fuel oil into Peters Creek (in the Roanoke River basin).  Source: Roanoke steel manufacturer agrees to pay fine for fuel oil spill, Roanoke Times, 11/30/15.

October 29, 2015, in Arlington County – Aviation-fuel spill at Reagan National Airport.  Source: Fuel spills into Potomac River at area south of Reagan National Airport, Washington Post, 10/30/15.

October 2015 leak in the City of Harrisonburg – Leak of about 7000 gallons of gasoline (first detected in October 2015) from an underground storage tank at a service station on Port Republic Road near Insterstate 81 in Harrisonburg.  Sources:  Harrisonburg Gas Station Leaks 7,000 Gallons of Fuel Into Ground, WHSV Harrisonburg, 11/13/15; Gas station owner fights accusation gas leak handled negligently, WHSV Harrisonburg, 1/29/16.

Sept. 28, 2015, in Goochland County – Spill of human waste from dump truck onto a road.  Source: Neighbors not happy after human waste spills out of dump truck in Goochland, WVTR TV-Richmond, 9/28/15.

September 21, 2015, in the City of Danville – Spill of motor oil at a car dealership.  Sources:  400 gallons of motor oil spilled; some got into the Dan River, Danville Register & Bee, 9/21/15; Oil spill to have ‘minimal impact’ on the Dan River, Danville Register & Bee, 9/23/15.

August 2015 in Fairfax County – Fine and correction plan for six sewage spills (over 600,000 gallons total) in 2013 and 2014 into Holmes Run, Lake Barcroft, and an unnamed tributary to Hunting Creek (all in the Potomac River basin), near Bailey’s Crossroads.  Source: After Massive Lake Barcroft Sewage Spill, Fairfax County Fails To Warn Residents, WAMU FM-Washington, 9/11/15.

August 2015 in Chesterfield County – Case of cleaning company disposing of cleaning chemicals improperly by pouring them onto the ground near schools.  Source: Potentially harmful chemicals dumped outside dozens of Chesterfield County schools, WRIC TV-Richmond, 9/4/15.

August 21, 2015, in Stafford County – Leak of 24,000 gallons of sewage into Falls Run, a Rappahannock River tributary.  The incident was one of nine between August 2014 and August 2015, resulting in spills of about 1.5 million gallons total in the Rappahannock and Potomac River watersheds from the county’s Aquia and Little Falls Run wastewater treatment plants.  Sources: Rappahannock River deemed safe two days after sewage spills into tributary, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/27/15.  Stafford wastewater system has leaked 1.5 million gallons of sewage in past year, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 9/3/15.

July-August 2015 in Dinwiddie County – Contamination of Stony Creek, in the Nottoway River/Chowan River watershed, by animal waste from a hog farm in Dinwiddie County; at least some of the pollutant was believed to be slurry material from a (now-closed) ethanol plant in the City of Hopewell.  Sources: The State of Stony Creek: Virginia Departments Continue Investigation into Waterway, Dinwiddie Monitor, 9/15/17.  Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors updates Stony Creek contamination, WTVR TV-Richmond, 9/1/15.  Officials find second site in Dinwiddie that is polluting waters, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/7/15.  Stony Creek pollution under investigation, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/31/15.

July 27, 2015, in Rockbridge County – Spill of about 5000 gallons of asphalt from a tanker truck into a tributary of Fords Run, in the Maury River/James River watershed.  Source: Cleanup of Rockbridge County asphalt spill likely to take weeks, Roanoke Times, 7/28/15.

March 2015 in the City of Hopewell – Spill into the Appomattox River (in the James River watershed) of about 600 gallons of diesel fuel by the Virginia American Water Company at its drinking water plant.  In August 2015, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced a draft consent decree that included a fine of about $23,000.  Sources: Company to pay $23,000 after diesel fuel spill in Appomattox River, WTVR Richmond, 9/14/15; Water company fined for oil spill, Hopewell News, 9/18/15.

April 30, 2014, in City of Lynchburg
– CSX oil-transport train derailment along the James River, resulting in three tanker cars falling partially into the river, explosions followed by fire along the tracks and on the river, evacuations of about six blocks of Lynchburg’s downtown that afternoon, and an estimated 30,000 gallons of oil from one breached tanker car reaching the river (some of that oil caught fire).  For more on this incident, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.

February 2, 2014, along the Dan River in North Carolina – Stormwater pipe collapse under a coal-ash storage basin at the Duke Energy’s Dan River Station in Eden, North Carolina, upstream of the Virginia Dan River section.  The Eden station was a coal-fired power plant that operated between 1949 and 2012.  The break spilled an estimated 39,000 tons of coal ash from the ash-storage basin into the Dan River.  For more on this incident, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.

Oyster Information Sources for Virginia Oyster Month in November 2017

On November 6, 2017, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe designated November as Virginia Oyster Month.  The designation is intended to call attention to the role of the oyster industry in the Virginia’s current economy and the long heritage of oyster-based communities and cultural events.

Following is an excerpt from the Governor’s Office’s Nov. 6, 2017, news release, Governor McAuliffe Announces November as Virginia Oyster Month:
“’The Commonwealth boasts eight oyster regions, each producing oysters with unique flavors that are as distinct as the water in which they grow,’ [said Gov. McAuliffe]…[According to] Basil Gooden, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, ‘Last year, Virginia sold more than 40 million oysters, which resulted in an $18.5 million economic impact for the Commonwealth.’  [According to] Todd Haymore, Secretary of Commerce and Trade, ‘Agritourism accounts for $2.2 billion in economic impact in the Commonwealth, and the oyster industry is an important part of that story.  Our watermen and farmers are now offering educational tours and hands-on experiences, affording them an opportunity to tap into this multi-billion industry and expand their businesses.’  [According to] Molly Ward, Secretary of Natural Resources, ‘Oysters are a keystone species in the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay and our coastal waters.  Oysters…filter waters and oyster reefs are a critical habitat for many aquatic species of fish, shellfish and other important organisms that ensure clean, productive and healthy waters.’  …In November 2015, Governor McAuliffe announced the launch of the Virginia Oyster Trail, a major tourism development project connecting travelers to Virginia oyster purveyors, raw bars and restaurants, artisans, and the watermen culture throughout Coastal Virginia, the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and the Eastern Shore.  The Virginia Oyster Trail has been recognized by the U.S. Travel Association, and currently boasts more than 100 sites.  There are also many oyster-related festivals, special events, and attractions….  This year marked the 60th anniversary of the Urbanna Oyster Festival, which has also been recognized as the Official Oyster Festival of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

In recognition of Virginia Oyster Month, following are some information resources on oysters in Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay, and elsewhere.

Artisans Center of Virginia, “Virginia Oyster Trail,” online at http://www.virginiaoystertrail.com/.

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Eastern Oyster,” online at http://www.chesapeakebay.net/fieldguide/critter/eastern_oyster.

Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson, Life in the Chesapeake Bay, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2006.

University of Maryland Extension, “Oyster Aquaculture and Education Program, online at https://extension.umd.edu/aquaculture/oysters.

Maryland Sea Grant, “Oysters,” online at http://www.mdsg.umd.edu/topics/oysters/oysters; and “Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration,” online at http://www.mdsg.umd.edu/topics/oysters/oyster-aquaculture-and-restoration.

Clyde L. McKenzie, Jr., “History of Oystering in the United States and Canada, Featuring the Eight Greatest Oyster Estuaries,” Marine Fisheries Review, Vol. 58, No. 4, 1996, available online at http://spo.nwr.noaa.gov/mfr584/mfr5841.pdf.

Roger I. E. Newell and Roger Mann, “Shellfish Aquaculture: Ecosystem Effects, Benthic-Pelagic Coupling and Potential for Nutrient Trading” (report prepared for the Virginia secretary of natural resources), June 21, 2012, available online from the Chesapeake Bay Program at http://www.chesapeakebay.net/channel_files/18087/attachment_v_-_oyster_aquaculture_report_2.pdf.

Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, “Delaware Bay Oysters,” online at http://delawareestuary.org/oysters.

Patricia Samford, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum/Maryland State Museum of Archeology, “Oyster Wars,” 7/9/13, online at https://jeffersonpatterson.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/oyster-wars/.

Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, “Crassostrea virginica/Eastern Oyster,” online at http://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/Crassostrea_virginica.htm.

Andrew David Thayer, Mud, Shuck, and Spat, by in Hakai Magazine (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 3/15/16.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), “Oysters @ VIMS,” online at http://www.vims.edu/research/topics/oysters/.

Virginia Marine Resources Commission/Conservation and Replenishment Department, online at http://mrc.virginia.gov/replenishment.shtm (offers several oyster-related links).

Virginia Tourism Corporation, “Virginia Oysters,” online at www.virginia.org/oysters.

World Oyster Society, online at http://www.worldoyster.org/index_e.html.

And for two audio takes on oysters, nitrogen, and the Chesapeake Bay, have a listen to Virginia Water Radio Episode 279, 8/24/15 (4 min./23 sec.) and Episode 280, 9/7/15 (4 min./41 sec.).

James River Transmission Line Proposal by Dominion Energy – Latest Update November 6, 2017: Construction to Begin

Information in this post starts in November 2015.  Later updates follow from top to bottom.  The latest update was November 6, 2017.

November 2015: November 13, 2015, was the last day for public comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Dominion Virginia Power’s application to build a $155-million, 17-tower, 500-kilovolt transmission line from its Surry Nuclear Power Station in Surry County across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  Dominion asserts that the transmission line is necessary for electricity reliability on Virginia’s Peninsula (the location of the Hampton Roads area with about 500,000 residents, several military installations, and many other power users).  The project faces opposition from groups and citizens who object to the impact they believe the line would have on views from Jamestown Island and other historic or scenic locations.  The transmission line was approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) in November 2013, but that approval was challenged by James City County, Save the James Alliance Trust, and the James River Association, who asserted that local zoning approval was necessary for the project; and by BASF Corporation, who objected to the line’s crossing an environmental-remediation area on James River property owned by the corporation.  In April 2015, the Virginia Supreme Court said the SCC did not err in approving the transmission line route, but the court also said local government approval is, in fact, necessary for the switching station in James City County.  As of November 11, 2015, Dominion still needed a permit from the Corps of Engineers, and the James City County Board of Supervisors had yet to rule on Dominion’s application for a special use permit to build the Skiffes Creek switching station.  A PDF of the April 2015 Virginia Supreme Court ruling on the transmission line is available online at http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1140462.pdfSources: Power line across the James River: An intrusive eyesore or electrical necessity?Virginian-Pilot, 9/27/15.  Charles City County residents oppose Dominion’s Chickahominy alternative route, Virginia Gazette, 11/4/15.  Near Jamestown, Dominion power line battles history, “Marketplace” (American Public Media), 8/18/15.  Transmission line project over James River voted down [by James City County Planning Commission on 8/5/15], WVEC-TV Norfolk, 8/6/15.  New Battle of Jamestown pits power lines against preservationists, Washington Post, 7/14/15.  Groups fight to save James River views from overhead power lines, Bay Journal, 7/8/15.  Opponents cheer Va. ruling on James River transmission line, Associated Press, as published by WAVY-TV Portsmouth, Va., 4/16/15.  Va. approves controversial Dominion power line over historic James River, Washington Post, 11/27/13.

Update 6/15/16: On June 13, 2016, Dominion Virginia Power released its latest plan—submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—for mitigating environmental impacts of its proposed 500-kilovolt transmission line from its Surry Nuclear Power Station in Surry County across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  The plan released on June 13 provides more details on proposed mitigation activities than had been provided in a December 2015 version; in March 2016, the Corps notified Dominion areas needing more information.  The newly released proposal is Dominion’s response.  As in the previous version, the proposed mitigation activities would cost around $85 million.
Source: Mitigation plan largely unchanged, number remains at $85 million, Virginia Gazette, 6/14/16.

Update 6/14/17
On June 12, 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a provisional proffered permit for Dominion Energy’s (formerly Dominion Resources/Dominion Virignia Power) proposal to build a 500-kilovolt transmission line from across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  The proposed project still requires permits from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and James City County.   Sources: Dominion gets provisional permit for contentious James River transmission line near historic sites, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/13/17; Power line across James River one step closer to approval, Bay Journal, July-August 2017.  For information about the application for the Corps of Engineers permit, see http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/SkiffesCreekPowerLine.aspx.

Update 8/7/17
On August 3, 2017, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Virginia filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., seeking to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to perform an environmental impact statement of Dominion  Energy’s proposed 500-kilovolt power line across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  The National Parks Conservation Association filed a similar lawsuit in July 2017.  Currently the Corps intends to perform an “environmental assessment,” a less comprehensive review.  Both kinds of study fall under the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; for more information on that act, see U.S. EPA, online at https://www.epa.gov/nepa/national-environmental-policy-act-review-process).   Source: Dominion Energy : New lawsuit contests James River power line, 4-Traders.com, 8/4/17.

Update 11/6/17
On November 2, 2017, Dominion announced that it had received received needed approvals to begin construction of the power line.  Dominion announced that it had completed mitigation activities required in an agreement among the company, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and a historic preservation advisory council.  SourceDominion set to begin construction on new transmission line, Associated Press, as published by WAVY TV-Portsmouth, Va., 11/3/17.

Other news articles:
DomPower: Skiffes Creek necessary to avoid rolling blackouts or worse, Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, 1/17/17.
Army Corps to host sit-down between Dominion and opposition groups on Surry-Skiffes Creek project, Virginia Gazette, 1/19/16.
Clash of Competing Values, Bacon’s Rebellion, 1/20/16 [Detailed article on the process of, and concerns about, the routes of Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line and of the company’s proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline.]

skiffes map

Project location map for proposed power-transmission line from Surry Nuclear Power Station in Surry County, Va., to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County, Va., accessed at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Web site, http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/SkiffesCreekPowerLine.aspx, 11/11/5.

Chesapeake Bay Commission Meeting on November 9-10, 2017, in Harrisburg, Penn.

The Chesapeake Bay Commission will meet November 9-10, 2017, in Harrisburg, Penn.  The agenda for the meeting is available online (as a PDF) at http://lis.virginia.gov/171/oth/Agenda.CBC.1109-1017.pdf.  The Commission will meet again on January 4-5, 2018, in Annapolis, Md.; May 3-4, 2018, in Washington, D.C.; September 6-7, 2018, at a location in Virginia to be announced; and November 8-9, 2018, at a location in Maryland to be announced.  Information on Commission meetings (including agendas, presentations, and minutes) is available online at http://www.chesbay.us/meetings.htm.

According to the Commission’s Web site (http://www.chesbay.us/about.htm), the Commission “is a tri-state legislative commission created in 1980 to advise the members of the General Assemblies of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on matters of Bay-wide concern.  The Commission serves as the legislative arm of the multi-jurisdictional Chesapeake Bay Program (http://www.chesapeakebay.net/), and acts in an advisory capacity to [the states’] General Assemblies.”  The Commission has 21 members, including 15 from the legislatures of the three states, the three state natural-resource cabinet secretaries, and three citizen representatives.

Cowbane Prairie Natural Area Preserve in Augusta Co., Va., to be Expanded by 84 Acres with Funds from DuPont South River Mercury Settlement of December 2016

On October 31, 2017, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that the Cowbane Prairie Natural Area Preserve in Augusta County would be expanded by 84 acres, using funds from the December 2016 settlement with DuPont over mercury discharged into the South River (a Shenandoah River/Potomac River tributary) from the company’s Waynesboro, Va., facility during the 1900s.

Following is an excerpt from the Governor’s Office’s news release on the preserve expansion:
“The acquisition, which more than doubles the size of the existing preserve, is the first project supported with funds from last year’s settlement with DuPont over longstanding mercury contamination from its former Waynesboro facility. …

“Located on the western slope of the Blue Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley, Cowbane Prairie Natural Area Preserve protects the last remnants of prairies and calcareous spring marshes, rare natural communities that once blanketed much of the Valley.  These communities have disappeared over the years because of agricultural and industrial development.  Eleven rare plants are found in the preserve, and the portion of the South River within the preserve has two rare freshwater mussel species.  The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program manages the preserve. …

“Through invasive species management and the reintroduction of fire to the ecosystem, the tracts added to the preserve will be restored to their natural state. …

The settlement with DuPont came about to resolve claims stemming from the release of mercury into the South River in the 1930s and 1940s.  This is the largest natural-resource damage settlement in Virginia’s history and the eighth largest in U.S. history.  It provides more than $42 million for natural-resource restoration and improvement.”

For more on the DuPont settlement, please see this Water Central News Grouper post, or this Va. Governor’s Office Dec. 15, 2017, news release.

Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces 84-Acre Expansion to Cowbane Prairie Natural Area Preserve; DuPont settlement will fund preservation of new public land in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 10/31/17.

James River Association Issues 2017 “State of the James” Report in October 2017

On October 26, 2017, the James River Association (JRA) released its latest “State of the James” biennial report on the James River.  The report gave the river a cumulative score of 62 out of 100, rating a “B-.”  The cumulative score includes several factors that receive individual scores; the scores represent the percentage achieved toward numeric goals for each factor.  The 2017 score was an increase of 10 points since the first report in 2007 and of 3 points since the 2015 report.

The reports for 2017 and those for previous years are online at https://jrava.org/about-the-james-river/state-of-the-james/, as of 10/27/17; or contact the JRA at 4833 Old Main Street, 4th Floor, Richmond, VA 23231; (804) 788-8811; info@jamesriverassociation.org.

Below is the list of all the factors rated in 2017, with the 2017 scores and whether the rating indicated improvement or deterioration since 2015.

WILDLIFE
Bald Eagle Breeding Pairs = 100% (no change)
Striped Bass (Rockfish) Spawning Index = 59% (no change)
Oyster Abundance = 47% (no change)
Smallmouth Bass Abundance = 93 (improvement)
American Shad Abundance = 11% (improvement)
Brook Trout Ragne = 74% (improvement)

HABITAT
Underwater Grasses Abundance = 26% (deterioration)
Riverine Forest Cover = 94% (improvement)
Stream Condition Index = 59% (improvement)
Tidal Water Quality (algae, dissolved oxygen, and water clarity) = 62% (improvement)
Vegetated Stream Buffer Restoration = 32% (improvement)

POLLUTION
Agricultural Pollution Controls = 48% (improvement)
Bacteria Reduction = 49% (not in 2015 report)
Sediment Pollution Reduction = 46% (improvement)
Nitrogen Pollution Reduction = 52% (deterioration)
Phosphorus Pollution Reduction = 77% (deterioriation)
Stormwater Pollution Controls = 41% (improvement)
Wastewater Pollution Reduction = 118% (improvement)

LAND CONSERVATION
Land  Protection = 88% (improvement)

Additional Source:
James River Health Improves 10 Points in 10 Years, James River Association News Release, 10/26/17.

News media accounts on the 2017 State of the James report:
James River health improving overall, but more work needed, report says, Daily Press, 10/26/17.
James River health grade improves but more work to do, WVTF FM-Blacksburg, 10/26/17.
From a C to a B-minus in a decade, James River water quality remains a work in progress, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/27/17.

For a previous News Grouper items a State of the James report (2011), please see this link.

James River at Eagle Rock Botetourt County Jul22 2017 looking downstream
James River at Eagle Rock, Va. (Botetourt County), July 22, 2017.

Modeling the Chesapeake Bay is Focus of June 12-14, 2018, Symposium in Annapolis

On June 12-14, 2018, in Annapolis, Md., the Chesapeake Community Modeling Program will hold the Chesapeake Modeling Symposium.  This will be the sixth biennial version of the symposium.

For more information on the 2018 symposium, visit this Facebook page.

More information about the Chesapeake Community Modeling Program is available on their Web site, http://ches.communitymodeling.org/.