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.

Land Loss on Tangier Island and a Local Teen’s Documentation Through Photography are Featured in December 2017 Bay Journal Article

Issues of loss of land on Tangier Island, Va., through current coastal erosion and the threat of rising sea level are the topic of “‘I’ll never leave this place, and I hope this place will never leave me’,” by Rona Kobell in the December 2017 issue of Bay Journal.

The article focuses specifically on Cameron Evans, a 17-year-old (at the time of the article) native of the island who uses photography to document land areas being lost.

The article is available online at https://www.bayjournal.com/article/ill_never_leave_this_place_and_i_hope_this_place_will_never_leave_me, or contact Bay Journal at P.O. Box 222, Jacobus, PA 17407-022; phone (717) 428-2819.

Offshore Oil/Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024 Proposed by Interior Department on January 4, 2018; Public Hearing in Virginia was Feb. 21, 2018, in Virginia

On January 4, 2018, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a Draft Program Proposal for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for 2019-2024.  According to the Interior Department’s news release on the proposal (Secretary Zinke Announces Plan For Unleashing America’s Offshore Oil and Gas Potential, 1/4/18), the draft program would “make over 90 percent of the total OCS acreage and more than 98 percent of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to consider for future exploration and development. By comparison, the current program puts 94 percent of the OCS off limits. In addition, the program proposes the largest number of lease sales in U.S. history.”  The proposed program would allow three lease sales in the Mid-Atlantic Region, which includes waters off the coast of Virginia.

Following is an additional excerpt from the Interior Department news release:

“The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas – 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, 7 in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and 9 in the Atlantic Region. This is the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for the National OCS Program’s 5-year lease schedule.…

“Release of the DPP is an early step in a multi-year process to develop a final National OCS Program for 2019-2024.  Today’s draft proposal was informed by approximately 816,000 comments from a wide variety of stakeholders, including state governments, federal agencies, public interest groups, industry, and the public.  Before the program is finalized, the public will have additional opportunities to provide input. The 2017-2022 Five Year Program will continue to be implemented until the new National OCS Program is approved.…

“Inclusion of an area in the DPP is not a final indication that it will be included in the approved Program or offered in a lease sale, because many decision points still remain….

“The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires the Secretary of the Interior, through BOEM, to prepare and maintain a schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales in federal waters, indicating the size, timing, and location of leasing activity that would best meet national energy needs for the five-year period following Program approval.  In developing the National OCS Program, the Secretary is required to achieve an appropriate balance among the potential for environmental impacts, for discovery of oil and gas, and for adverse effects on the coastal zone.  BOEM currently manages about 2,900 active OCS leases, covering almost 15.3 million acres – the vast majority in the Gulf of Mexico.  In fiscal year 2016, oil and gas leases on the OCS accounted for approximately 18 percent of domestic oil production and 4 percent of domestic natural gas production….

“The DPP proposes 9 lease sales in the Atlantic Region (3 sales each for the Mid- and South Atlantic, 2 for the North Atlantic, and 1 for the Straits of Florida).  There have been no sales in the Atlantic since 1983 and there are no existing leases.

NEXT STEPS: In conjunction with the announcement of the DPP, the Department is also publishing a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.  Public meetings will be held around the country starting on January 16, 2018, to receive comments on the DPP and to inform the Draft Programmatic EIS. Specific dates, times, and venues will be posted on BOEM’s website at https://www.boem.gov/National-Program/.  Using the information received from these public meetings, BOEM will prepare a Proposed Program (PP), which will be published for public comment, to be followed by a Proposed Final Program (PFP). In addition, the Department will prepare a Draft Programmatic EIS to be published concurrently with the PP, and a Final EIS with the PFP.  The DPP and the NOI will be available for public comment for 60 days following the publication of the documents in the Federal Register.”

More information from the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on the 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program, including maps, is available online at https://www.boem.gov/National-Program/.  The schedule of public meetings (Jan. 16-Mar. 8, 2018) on the 2019-2024 proposal is online at https://www.boem.gov/National-Program-Participate/.

Additional source for this post:
Virginia, North Carolina are back in play for offshore oil and gas drilling, Virginian-Pilot, 1/4/18.

Additional News Media Items on the 2019-2024 Proposed Program
Governor Northam Statement on Single Public Meeting in Virginia to Discuss Offshore Drilling Plan, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 2/21/18.

Feds reset 5-year plan, but oil recovery is a “15-year story,” Energywire, 1/5/18 (subscription required for access; trial subscription may be available).

Trump admin intends to roll back ban on offshore drilling
, CNN, 1/4/18.

How Trump could vastly expand offshore drilling
, PBS NewsHour, 1/4/18.

Previous Water Central News Grouper items on offshore oil and gas leasing are available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=offshore+oil+and+gas.

For historical information on the issue of offshore oil and gas in Virginia, going back at least to the 1970s, please see the following two articles in 2006 in the Virginia Water Central Newsletter, from the Virginia Water Resources Research Center:
“Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration Report,” February 2006, pp. 14-17, online at https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/49344 (includes excerpts from Virginia’s 2006 “Study of the Possibility of Exploring for Natural Gas in the Coastal Areas of the Commonwealth”); and
“Eyes and Ayes on Off-shore Energy Exploration,” September 2006, pp. 1-4, online at https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/49346.

Several Virginia Trout Stream Restoration Projects by Trout Unlimited Described in Jan. 2, 2018, Roanoke Times Column

“Trout Unlimited working to provide fishing opportunities in Virginia,” by Bill Cochran, Roanoke Times, 1/2/18, describes several stream-restoration projects being undertaken in Virginia by the conservation organization Trout Unlimited.

The Web site for the Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited is http://virginiatu.org.

Road Salt Management Strategy for Northern Virginia is Focus of Dept. of Environmental Quality Meeting in Arlington Jan. 17, 2018, and Formation of Stakeholder Advisory Group

On January 17, 2018, in Arlington the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Interstate Commission for the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) held a meeting on the development of a Salt Management Strategy (SaMS) for the Northern Virginia region.  Subsequently, the DEQ formed a Stakeholder Advisory Group on this issue; that group met for the first time on February 27, 2018.

Following is background on the issue and the advisory group, according to the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall’s notice for the February 27 meeting (online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewMeeting.cfm?MeetingID=27347):

“This is a notice for the first meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) for development of the Salt Management Strategy (SaMS).  Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for chloride associated with salt application from snow and ice management have been developed for the Accotink Creek watershed, located in Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax.  These TMDLs are currently in the approval process.  The SaMS is intended to assist in the implementation of the Accotink Creek chloride TMDLs.  The SaMS aims to prepare a strategy that is capable of achieving the target chloride (salt) loads identified in the Accotink Creek TMDLs and that proactively addresses salt application in the broader surrounding region.  The project area for the SaMS includes Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Manassas, Manassas Park, Falls Church, and Fairfax.  For more information on the SaMS visit http://www.deq.virginia.gov/SaMS.aspx….  All meeting materials related to this project will be posted on the DEQ website at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/SaMS/MeetingMaterials.aspx.”

 

Fuel from Manure on Rockingham County, Va., Farm is Subject of 12/17/17 Bay Journal Article

VA farmer raising row crops, cattle, turkeys – and fuel, Bay Journal, 12/17/17, describes the manure-to-fuel operations on the Rodes family’s turkey farm near Port Republic, Va., in Rockingham County south of Harrisonburg.  According to the article, the farm uses a manure-heating system to produce methane, which in turn is used to heat the farm’s poultry houses (replacing purchased propane).  The article discusses the technological and financial issues and challenges of converting manure to energy, including the potential impacts on nutrients reaching waterways in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

 

DuPont Waynesboro Settlement Restoration Project Awards Announced in December 2017

On December 8, 2017, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Office announced the first restoration-project awards from the approximately $50-million DuPont Waynesboro Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement (announced in December 2016) of mercury pollution of the South River in the 1930s and 1940s from a chemical factory in Waynesboro.

Following is an excerpt from the Governor’s Office news release on the project awards, Governor McAuliffe Announces Awards from the Landmark DuPont Settlement; Projects will support land protection, water quality improvement, and recreational access that will directly benefit the City of Waynesboro and the Shenandoah Valley, 12/8/17:

“….[T]he approved projects, which will bolster both water quality and recreational opportunity by investing in projects within Waynesboro city limits as well as upstream.  Specifically, funds will support projects at the City’s South River Greenway Natural Area, at the South River Preserve North located in downtown Waynesboro, and at future sites along the City’s Greenway.  …In addition to the City of Waynesboro projects, the settlement will fund nine land conservation projects at a total of more than $13 million that will protect or restore nearly 3,000 acres of land in the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River watersheds.  The settlement will also provide more than $5 million in funding to the Headwaters and Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation Districts to expand their agricultural assistance programs, and three additional projects will address stream degradation and stormwater issues in Augusta County and the Town of Elkton.  One final project will include the development of a pilot incentive program to encourage establishment of riparian buffers in the region.”

The complete list of projects announced in December 2017, as well as more information, is available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Web site at https://www.fws.gov/northeast/virginiafield/environmentalcontaminants/dupont_waynesboro.html.

For a previous News Grouper post on the settlement, please see $50-million Settlement Announced Dec. 15, 2016, for Decades-old Mercury Contamination of South River from DuPont Facility in Waynesboro.

Chesapeake Bay Commission Meeting on January 4-5, 2018, in Annapolis, Md.

The Chesapeake Bay Commission will meet January 4-5, 2018, at Loews Annapolis Hotel, 126 West Street in Annapolis, Md.  The agenda for the meeting is available online (as a PDF) at http://lis.virginia.gov/181/oth/Agenda.CBC.0104-0518.pdf.  The Commission will meet again on 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.