© 2010 Jillian Chilson
About CBF's Virginia Office
Since opening the Virginia office in the early 1980s, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been leading the efforts to Save the Bay™ in the Old Dominion through environmental advocacy, education, science, policy, litigation, and restoration. Today, CBF boasts offices in Richmond and Norfolk, field staff in Charlottesville and the Eastern Shore, an oyster restoration center in Gloucester, and six outdoor environmental education programs across the state. Our efforts are focused on ensuring Virginia meets its 2025 Bay cleanup goals to reduce pollution from sewage treatment plants, farms, and urban and suburban stormwater runoff.
Photo by Chuck Epes/CBF Staff
2016 Virginia General Assembly Wrap-Up
Virginia's 2016 General Assembly came through with vital support for programs that help restore the Commonwealth's rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks to the leadership of Virginia's legislators and Governor Terry McAuliffe, the session that ended in mid-March provided extremely strong funding for clean water.
CBF stayed involved throughout this year's General Assembly. Our Virginia lobby team worked closely with legislators and stakeholders. CBF volunteers discussed the issues with their representatives at our annual lobby day in Richmond. And hundreds of our members sent e-mails and letters to Virginia delegates and senators about key funding and policy decisions. All of these efforts helped make a difference during a great General Assembly session. Through the actions outlined below, Virginia is now one step closer to meeting its Clean Water Blueprint goals.
Curbing Urban and Suburban Runoff
Addressing pollution in urban and suburban areas poses a big challenge as rainfall runs off streets, homes, and parking lots, washing contaminants into waterways. This year, legislators provided $20 million for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which gives matching grants to localities for projects that reduce polluted runoff.
Find out more about the importance of curbing urban and suburban runoff.
Farm conservation practices like fencing cattle out of streams and planting riparian buffers are the most cost-efficient actions to restore the Bay and local streams. This year legislators, agreeing with the Governor's proposed budget, provided $61.7 million for agricultural best management practices in fiscal year 2017, the highest funding level for one year ever provided in Virginia for the program.
Find out more about effective farm conservation practices and agriculture's connection to the Bay and local streams.
Sewage Plant Upgrades
Wastewater treatment plant upgrades are a Virginia success story. Advanced nutrient removal technology in many plants is already reducing the flow of pollution to rivers and the Bay, but the modernization process is not yet complete. Virginia's legislators provided $59 million for the next round of plant upgrades, matching Governor McAuliffe's proposed budget.
Oyster Restoration and Replenishment
Oysters continue to make a remarkable comeback in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. This iconic shellfish filters water and provides vital habitat for other Bay species. This year the General Assembly provided $4 million for oyster replenishment, which boosts the oyster harvest for Virginia watermen.
Learn more about the state of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.
Other Clean Water Wins
CBF also applauds Virginia's legislators for several policy actions that are a real win for clean water. That includes streamlining Virginia's stormwater and erosion control rules to better protect streams and other waterways. The General Assembly also expanded nutrient trading opportunities to assist localities, farmers, and others in meeting the goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
Menhaden, often called "the most important fish in the sea" are both filter feeders and a primary food source for striped bass, bluefish, sharks, ospreys, brown pelicans, and dolphin. The menhaden fishery is also very important economically to the Commonwealth, supporting hundreds of jobs.
This legislative session, our lawmakers wisely repealed a sunset provision that would have ended the Chesapeake Bay harvest cap on menhaden, an indispensable step. However, we are disappointed that legislators rejected legislation that would have transferred menhaden fishery management from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the agency that manages all of the other fisheries in the Commonwealth.
Find out more about the importance of menhaden to the life of the Chesapeake.
We thank the General Assembly for its constructive work this legislative session and are hopeful for Governor McAuliffe's quick approval of this legislation. It's clear that Virginia's leaders recognize the value of clean and healthy waterways in our communities.
Fones Cliffs is an idyllic spot on the Rappahannock River. It is also a major habitat for nesting and migrating bald eagles. [inset] Photo by Bill Portlock
Fones Cliffs Development Threatens Rappahannock River and Bald Eagle Habitat
One of the most important bald eagle habitats on the East Coast is in danger of being turned into a luxury residential community and resort, complete with golf course, lodge, and spa. Fones Cliffs is an idyllic and dramatic spot in Richmond County on Virginia's Northern Neck. The extensive forest and high white cliffs rising above the Rappahannock River provide an ideal hunting perch for the hundreds of eagles that migrate through the area, as well as numerous nesting pairs. It's such a key site that the area has been designated an important bird area by the National Audubon Society. The river itself is a major spawning and nursery area for fish, including striped bass, shad, and sturgeon.
However, a colossal development proposed by Diatomite Corporation would cover a nearly 1,000-acre section of Fones Cliffs, threatening this vital habitat. The plan includes 718 homes and townhouses, 18 guest cottages, an 18-hole golf course and driving range, 116-room lodge with spa, 150-seat restaurant, a small commercial center, a skeet and trap range, equestrian center with stables for 90 horses, a 10,000 square foot community barn, and seven piers along the river.
Why Developing Fones Cliffs Is A Bad Idea
Map shows eagle nests along the Rappahannock River in the Fones Cliffs area. Courtesy of The Center for Conservation Biology
This plan would jeopardize the thriving eagle population and doesn't make sense in the light of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, which requires Virginia to sharply reduce pollution entering its waterways. Large swaths of forest would be cut and substantial areas of pavement would be added, reducing the ability of the land to filter the polluted runoff before it reaches the river. Wetlands and streams would be in danger. The waterfront development would increase cliff erosion, and there could be significant damage from the planned septic systems.
In short, this treasure on the Rappahannock could be lost. If this pristine land is developed, it will remain developed and never again be a place of peace and tranquility.
CBF Continues to Oppose This Development
In November 2015, local officials approved Diatomite Corporation's request to rezone its portion of Fones Cliffs to allow for a large commercial-residential development. But this is far from over. CBF will stay engaged during the upcoming application and development process. We will ensure that the project follows important permits and requirements that protect the environment and challenge actions that don't live up to appropriate standards. As has happened with other developments, such challenges could minimize the development's scope or even make it unworkable.
Economists, land use planners and real estate agents have been highly skeptical of the project. Thousands of Virginians have come out against this development. We'll continue to track this proposal to ensure that an unparalleled place will not be destroyed.
Read a summary of CBF's letter opposing Fones Cliffs' Rezoning.
This is a screen capture of the Brock Center's new Living Building Challenge Dashboard.
CBF Starts Clock to Meet Living Building Challenge
The Brock Environmental Center's Living Building Challenge Dashboard is a real-time, online gauge of the building's energy and water use and energy generation. The dashboard will monitor the Center for a full year. The aim is to achieve Living Building Challenge certification, a rare, demanding designation of environmental sustainability achieved by only a handful of buildings around the world. To achieve the rating from the International Living Future Institute, the center must operate a full year using net zero energy and net zero water.
Read the press release | Check out the dashboard
Nutrient Trading 101
Nutrient trading is a way for farmers, foresters, businesses and other facilities to reduce pollution more than is legally required and to sell such additional reductions as credits to other businesses, facilities, and local municipalities so they can meet their reduction requirements.
Trading offers a tool to reduce costs associated with reducing pollution, to expedite water quality improvements, and stimulate innovation. Trading can help localities and businesses to reduce pollution and meet their requirements more cost-effectively and often more quickly.
Why would we want to allow an entity to buy credits rather than take their own action to reduce pollution?
That's a sentiment we sometimes hear in relation to trading programs. Here's a simplified example in which trading makes economic sense and benefits water quality:
Let's say a river basin has two wastewater treatment plants, A and B.
Treatment plant A is upstream from B.
Pollution limits have been set for each plant to ensure the water downstream from both of them meets water quality standards.
The population served by B has doubled since those limits were put in place. That means the plant will have to treat a much larger pollution load, with the result that it will exceed its pollution limits by 1,000 pounds of nitrogen unless it upgrades its facility. Treatment plant B can and will upgrade its facilities, but that will take time and additional financial resources, which it does not yet have.
Meanwhile, A, the plant upstream, has already upgraded its plant so that it is reducing pollution by 1,500 pounds more than is legally required.
Enter nutrient trading
From that additional 1,500-pound reduction, treatment plant A can now sell 1,000 pounds of nitrogen credits to treatment plant B.
Treatment plant B can buy credits (at a lower cost than immediately upgrading its facility) and use those credits to offset the additional 1,000 pounds of nitrogen it is discharging, enabling it to meet its legal requirements.
In this way, trading allows treatment plant B to meet its legal limits—through purchased credits—and lets treatment plant A defray its costs. The result is a reduced amount of pollution entering the river and a healthier river basin overall.
This sort of trading example can also extend to trades between different kinds of entities, such as a wastewater treatment plant and a municipal stormwater system (the pipes, culverts, drainage ditches, etc. that carry rainwater off the land into a body of water) or between point source and nonpoint pollution sources, such as a municipal stormwater system and a farm that has implemented more pollution reduction practices than required.
What's CBF's Take?
CBF supports nutrient trading with certain caveats.
Blueprint First: Trading programs must ensure that the actual nutrient reductions being made exceed the requirements of the Blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay.
Accountability: Trading programs must be stringent enough to ensure that trading sources are properly constructed, operated and maintained. .
Accessibility: Trading programs must ensure that the public is fully informed when credits are created and when a facility is using credits. Those who are potentially affected must have full access to the information.
Verified Technology: Trading programs must ensure that the credit-generation practices have been assigned a science-based "pollution reduction efficiency" approved by the scientists at the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Department of Environmental Quality. (Innovative technology is encouraged, but new practices must be scientifically vetted to earn credits.)
Local Water Quality Protection: Trading programs must prohibit trades that will allow the degradation of local water quality.
Timeliness: Trading programs must ensure that the use of credits makes sense for the time frame it takes to generate them.
Report Identifies Natural Benefits of Restored Bay
A first-ever peer-reviewed analysis released by CBF finds that the economic benefits provided by nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will total $130 billion annually when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the regional plan to restore the Bay, is fully implemented.
Rain gardens like this one will soon be popping up around the Broad Rock neighborhood of Richmond. Photo by Kim Jurczyk/CBF Staff
Broad Rock Creek Community Project
CBF is working with the Broad Rock neighborhood of Richmond, Va. to help implement a holistic watershed implementation project, called Restoring Southside Richmond Watersheds. The project is being funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, REI Outfitters, and The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia.
The Broad Rock neighborhood contains the Broad Rock and Grindall Creek watersheds, as well as a small portion of the Goodes Creek watershed, all of which drain into the James River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. Not only will this project help the local community, it will also assist the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Richmond in meeting their target pollution reduction goals identified in their Phase 1 and Phase 2 Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs).
The Broad Rock neighborhood is older, urban, and under-served, with many aging commercial corridors that were constructed before stormwater management requirements were established. As a result, large expanses of pavement and little to no corrective measures to relieve stormwater pollution have taken their toll on the health of local waterways. Add to that decades of commercial use and a lack of new investment in the local economy and it's no surprise local creeks have little environmental or aesthetic appeal for residents.
The project's proposed efforts will help reduce street and ditch flooding that is currently a neighborhood nuisance and restore local creeks to the welcoming havens they should be. CBF and its partners hope that as residents become more familiar and involved with stormwater management solutions—such as rain barrels, rain gardens, riparian buffers, and permeable paving—the community will continue to pursue more such "green infrastructure" practices.
CBF is working on many activities to enhance the Broad Rock neighborhood and water quality, including:
- Installing 'scoop-the-poop' stations, reducing the amount of bacteria entering local waterways.
- Installing one large-scale stormwater solution. Possible projects include installing bioretention areas, installing retention planters, "disconnecting" downspouts (redirecting downspouts so water can seep into the ground at a safe distance from the building), creating curb "cuts" (ramps from sidewalk to street), and using cisterns to capture rainfall. The location will be selected in accordance with the City of Richmond's Stormwater Master Plan.
- Hosting educational and hands-on activities to engage members of the Broad Rock community. Some examples are:
- neighborhood walks for citizens to get outside and experience their watersheds;
- stream and street cleanups;
- invasive species removal events to prevent debris and invasives from clogging local waterways and stormwater outfalls;
- installation of stormwater medallions to be placed at sewer outlets to remind residents that stormwater and debris go untreated into their sewers, causing clogs, flooding, and poor water quality.
- Inviting local decision-makers aboard one of CBF's educational vessels and on a "stormwater" walk through the local community to learn more about the issues and see how green infrastructure can be implemented cost-effectively.
In 2014, as part of the project, CBF:
- Hosted CBF's Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards (VoiCeS) adult education class. During classes held weekly for eight weeks, participants were provided with a thorough understanding of water quality issues. Our VoiCeS graduates are now completing a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer service on a water quality-related project. VoiCeS graduates become local spokespeople for water quality improvements, habitat restoration efforts, environmental education initiatives, and other community-based projects.
- Assisted five homeowners with installation of rain gardens that will reduce stormwater runoff and, ultimately, their stormwater utility fees. Read about the rain garden installations on our blog.
- Planted a buffer around the stormwater retention pond at Oak Grove Bellemeade Elementary School.
- Hosted a school group aboard one of our educational vessels so students could learn more about what they can do to restore their urban watersheds.
- Offered four scholarships for community members to attend leadership training through Non-Profit Learning Point, where they will learn how to effectively work with local government bodies to address water quality issues. CBF will encourage these leaders to be a part of a Broad Rock neighborhood coalition group tasked with sustaining water quality improvement efforts within the watershed for years to come.
For more information about how you can get involved with any of these activities, contact Blair Blanchette at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-780-1392 x3150.
Blue crabs photo by Kristi Carroll/CBF Staff
Milestone Analysis: Pollution Reduced, Agriculture and Urban Runoff Reductions Falling Short
Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) Milestones, two-year commitments made by the Bay states and District of Columbia to reduce pollution, are a key part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. An analysis of the 2012-2013 Milestones showed that Virginia met its overall pollution reduction goals for 2013, however, efforts need to accelerate in order to meet 2017 goals. Find Out More Read the press release
CBF's Virginia educators, including Ken Slayzk pictured here, were recognized for their commitment to high-quality environmental education. Photo by CBF Staff
CBF Wins Environmental Education Award
Congratulations to CBF's Virginia environmental educators!
Eight members of the Virginia team in CBF's Education Department were recently awarded certificates of recognition by the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, Doug Domenech. The educators were praised for their commitment to providing high-quality environmental education combined with their exemplary professional skills and training.
Each educator documented skills in public speaking and writing, knowledge of pedagogy (i.e. learning styles, target audience assessments, and group processes), knowledge of natural sciences and systems, and an awareness of environmental issues related to place. Accepting the awards on behalf of the Virginia educators were Gwen Pearson, CBF Virginia General Manager for Education, and Bill Portlock, Senior Educator. Most of the team was unable to attend the ceremony because they were in the field, appropriately, working with students while conducting their award–winning field studies on the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, which includes much of Virginia.
The educators recognized were Gwen Pearson, Eric Weigandt, Brooke Newton Cash, Yancy Powell, Jimmy Sollner, Allan Thomson, Ken Slayzk, and Bill Portlock. (Also included was Rob Dorbad, who is no longer with CBF.)
Meet our Virginia educators.
CBF educator Eric Weigandt introduces students to a denizen of the Bay during a field experience. Photo by CBF Staff.
Urbanna Oysters and Education Partnership Thriving
Since the late 1990s, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Virginia education program has been involved with the Urbanna Oyster Festival. A partnership between CBF and the Festival's Marine Science Legacy Program (MSLP) began in Urbanna under a tent during the Festival's Education Day. We had a booth with aquariums and crabs for all the students to see and handle. Thanks to a great partnership and community support, the program has continued to grow.
Since 2007, we have been fortunate to provide environmental educational experiences on Urbanna Creek and the Rappahannock River, most recently aboard our education vessel, Bea Hayman Clark. Through the help of the MSLP we are able to provide field investigations for Middlesex County and Christchurch School students.
Vera England, previous Marine Science Legacy Coordinator, said the program makes students "really excited about learning" and that the hands-on experience makes a big difference in the classroom. "It's not just something in a textbook anymore," she explained, "it is something that they have touched and seen." (From Southside Sentinel Newspaper Website, Urbanna, Va. October 20, 2010)
These field experiences are matched to the Virginia Standards of Learning and meet the criteria for a "meaningful watershed educational experience" (PDF, 0.45 MB, 2pgs) as set by the Chesapeake 2000 agreement and Chesapeake Bay Program. During the field investigations, students learn about the history, culture, and ecology of Urbanna Creek and the Rappahannock River. Students discover their watershed address, how their actions impact water quality and its effect on local watermen communities, and what they can do at home to make a difference. Activities include towing a trawl net, fishing crab pots, and dredging for oysters to learn about ecosystems and biodiversity in the river.
These experiences expose many students to the water for the very first time. The teachers are able to teach about their local river since the experiences are coordinated with their curriculum in the classroom. It is CBF's goal that environmental education will inspire the next generation to "Save the Bay™."