Category Archives: Water Quality and Habitat in Virginia’s Southern Rivers

Items related to aquatic life and conditions in Virginia’s “southern rivers”: Big Sandy, Chowan, Clinch/Holston/Powell, New, and Roanoke.

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  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  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.

Pigg River Dam Removal in Rocky Mount, Va., in Fall 2016

An unused power dam over 100 years old on the Pigg River in Rocky Mount, Va., was one of 72 outdated dams removed in the United States in 2016, according to the non-profit group American Rivers.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pigg River dam was built in 1915 for the Light and Power Company of Rocky Mount and later American Electric Power, and it has been inoperable since the late 1950s.

The dam’s demolition in fall 2016 opens up fish access to 72 miles of the Roanoke River tributary from its headwaters in Franklin County to the Leesville Lake on the Franklin/Bedford/Campbell county border.  The removal also will provide 2.2 miles of habitat for the Roanoke Logperch, which is on the federal Endangered Species List.

Partners in the removal of the Pigg River dam included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the Rivers of Virginia (the dam’s owners), Franklin County, the Town of Rocky Mount, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and American Electric Power.  Duke Energy provided $1 million for Pigg River dam removal as part of the company’s response to the February 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River (also a Roanoke River tributary) from a Duke facility near Eden, North Carolina.

Pigg River dam removal project part of national trend, Roanoke Times, 2/16/17.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, online at

A map of dams removed in the United States since 1916 is available from American Rivers, online at

More background on U.S. dams and the removal of outdated ones is available in “The Undamming of America,” by Anna Lieb for the Public Broadcasting System’s “NOVA Next,” 8/12/15, online at

Stream Protection Rule Regarding Coal Mining Impacts on Waterways Rescinded in February 2017 After Finalization in December 2016

In early February 2017, Congress used the Congressional Review Act to rescind the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (OSMRE) “Stream Protection Rule,” on impacts of coal mining on waterways.  The rule had been finalized with Federal Register publication on December 20, 2016.  OSMRE’s Web site on the proposed rule is at; a link to the text of the proposed rule is available there.  OSMRE first proposed the rule on July 16, 2015 (the draft rule was published in the Federal Register on July 27, 2015).

According to the OSMRE Web site on 2/14/17, the rule was intended to have done the following:

“…[Define] ‘material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area’ for the first time…clarifying that the statutory prohibition on the approval of proposed operations that would result in material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area applies to both surface and underground mining operations.  Under SMCRA [the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, passed in 1977], the regulatory authority may not approve a permit application unless the application demonstrates, and the regulatory authority finds, that the proposed operation would not result in material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area.

“…[Require] that the regulatory authority specify the point at which adverse mining-related impacts on groundwater and surface water would constitute material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area reach that level of damage.  It further provides that the regulatory authority must specify threshold values for surface water and groundwater parameters that will trigger an evaluation of whether the permit must be revised to prevent the occurrence of material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area.

“…[Expand] the baseline data requirements for permit applications for proposed coal mining operations to ensure that the permittee and the regulatory authority have a complete picture of pre-mining conditions to which the impacts of mining can be compared.  Monitoring during mining and reclamation will include a comprehensive suite of parameters for both surface water and groundwater to ensure that the impacts of mining are identified in a manner that will enable timely initiation of corrective measures.

“…[Require] the restoration of the physical form, hydrologic function, and ecological function of the segment of a perennial or intermittent stream that a permittee mines through.  Additionally, it requires that the post-mining surface configuration of the reclaimed mine site include a drainage pattern, including ephemeral streams, similar to the pre-mining drainage pattern, with exceptions for stability, topographical changes, fish and wildlife habitat, etc.

“…[Require] the establishment of a 100-foot-wide streamside vegetative corridor of native species (including riparian species, when appropriate) along each bank of any restored or permanently-diverted perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral stream.”

The proposed rule’s announcement in July 2015 raised immediate objections from the National Mining Association, some elected officials from mining states like West Virginia, and others about its potential economic impacts.  On the other hand, some environmental organizations criticized the proposal for allowing some variance, under certain conditions, from the 100-foot buffer requirement established in 1983; those conditions are described in the proposed rule on p.364 (part of the section entitled, “What additional requirements apply to proposed activities in, through, or adjacent to streams?”).

The Stream Protection Rule was the latest in a series of regulatory and litigation developments since the 1977 passage of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.  Some of those developments that led to the Stream Protection Rule were the following:
*1983 OSMRE rule requiring a 100-foot buffer zone along streams;
*2008 OSMRE Stream Buffer Zone Rule allowing deposition of mining materials within the 100-foot zone, with certain requirements for reducing impacts;
*2009 Memorandum of Understanding among the Interior Department, U.S. EPA, and Army Corps of Engineers on reducing stream impacts of coal mining, simultaneously starting OSMRE’s process to develop the current proposed regulation; and
*February 2014 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacating OSMRE’s 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule and reinstating the 1983 buffer zone.


House Republicans Vote to End Rule Stopping Coal Mining Debris From Being Dumped in Streams, Associated Press, as published by Time, 2/1/17.

Republicans Move to Block Rule on Coal Mining Near Streams, New York Times, 2/2/17.

Congress passes first rollback of Obama environmental rule, USA Today, 2/2/17.

Federal Register, “Stream Protection Rule,” 81 FR 93066, 12/20/16, online at

Interior Department Finalizes Stream Protection Rule to Safeguard Communities from Coal Mining Impacts, U.S. Department of the Interior News Release, 12/19/16.

Interior Department Unveils Proposed Stream Protection Rule to Safeguard Communities from Coal Mining Operations, U.S. Department of Interior News Release, 7/16/15.

National Mining Association Calls on Congress to Block OSM’s Costly, Unnecessary Stream Rule
, National Mining Association News Release, 7/16/15.

Interior unveils rule aimed at protecting streams from mining
, and Industry vows to fight ‘needless and conflicting’ stream rule, both from Greenwire, E&E Publishing, 7/16/15 (subscription required for access).

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 (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

Meanwhile, the DEQ’s report summarizing the contributions of monitoring organizations for 2016 is available online at the DEQ’s “Citizen Monitoring” Web site, (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; or contact Jane Walker at the 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  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, or  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,  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,  Localities covered: Fairfax City, Fairfax County.

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

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

Metro Richmond STEM Fair, Richmond, 3/10/2017-3/11/2017.  Contact: Vonita Giddings,  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,  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,  Localities covered: Manassas City, Prince William County.

Shenandoah Valley Regional Science Fair, Harrisonburg, 3/7/2017.  Contact: Thomas DeVore, 540-433-6672;  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,  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,  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,  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.

Mid-Atlantic Stream Restoration Conference to be Held Sep. 20-22, 2017, in Baltimore

The 2017 version of the Mid-Atlantic Stream Restoration Conference will be held September 20-22, 2017, in Baltimore, Md.  The conference is being organized by the Resource Institute, Inc. (of Winston-Salem, N.C.; online at and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  This year’s theme is “Building a Better Bridge between Science and Practice.”

January 31 is the deadline to submit an abstract for proposed presentations at the conference.

For more information, visit; or contact Paula Worden, (304) 703-4879,  e-mail:

Request for Wetland Mitigation Proposals in Roanoke River Basin in Virginia – Deadline to Submit Proposals is March 10, 2017

Through March 10, 2017, The Nature Conservancy is soliciting proposals for wetlands mitigation in the Roanoke River basin in Virginia.  Information about the solicitation is available online at

According to the announcement at that site, “The purpose of the project is to provide wetland mitigation to offset unavoidable impacts for which the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund was utilized as the compensatory mitigation.  The Conservancy is seeking projects that will deliver 10 or more non-tidal wetland credits and can service multiple HUCs [hydrologic units] in the Roanoke River basin.  The primary objectives are to restore, enhance, and/or preserve wetland systems to address the credit needs in the Roanoke River Basin.  In general, wetland mitigation [comprises] activities that create, restore, enhance, or preserve wetland resources.  Such activities improve wetland functions and may result in gain of wetland acreage in the case of creation and restoration.”

More information about the Virginia Aquatic Trust Fund is available from The Nature Conservancy online at

More information about mitigation generally in Virginia is available from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality online at