© 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
2017 Virginia Legislative Session Wrap Up
As we head to the halfway mark of our Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint restoration efforts we are beginning to see our rivers, streams and the Bay start to heal. During Virginia's 2017 General Assembly Session, CBF supported policies and funding for key programs to maintain this progress.
Farm Conservation Practices
Farm conservation practices (also referred to as best management practices) like fencing cattle out of streams and planting trees alongside waterways are the most cost-efficient steps Virginia can take to restore the Bay and local rivers and streams. Virginia's agricultural cost-share program provides financial and technical assistance for farmers willing to do their part to reduce runoff.
This year, Virginia's legislators approved a budget that includes an investment of about $17 million in Virginia's agricultural cost-share program for fiscal year 2018, a decrease compared to the fiscal year 2017 level of $61.7 million.
Sustained, consistent investment in farm conservation practices is necessary to keep Virginia on track to restore its waterways. Like other businessmen, farmers need to plan for capital investments. Additionally, the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, which help implement the practices, need a stable budget to reduce staffing turnover and training costs.
Fortunately, the budget established a stakeholder group to recommend methods to stabilize investment in farm conservation practices. A separate group will look into what is needed for continued progress with Resource Management Plans, which help farmers best take advantage of practices that improve both farming operations and water quality. CBF is very pleased to be named part of both groups.
Reducing Polluted Runoff
In Virginia's cities and suburbs, rains wash pollution from roofs, sidewalks, and roadways and into our waterways, creating polluted runoff. Matching grants from Virginia's Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) have helped local governments construct wetlands, restore streams, and install rain gardens to reduce runoff into their streams and meet Clean Water Blueprint goals.
We're disappointed that the state did not invest in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund for fiscal year 2018. CBF will continue to work with local and state elected officials to ensure support for this vital program in next year's General Assembly session.
Keeping the Bay Act Intact
The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (Bay Act) has protected tidal waters in Virginia since 1988. But proposed legislation this year threatened to weaken the Bay Act. CBF strongly opposed this legislation, and the bill was, fortunately, withdrawn. Weakening Bay Act requirements could derail the progress Virginia has made towards clean, healthy waterways.
Other polluted runoff bills that were initially troubling were amended so that CBF could support them. CBF will sit on a stakeholder group to study how small rural localities can more easily manage their responsibilities to reduce polluted runoff.
Reducing Sewer Overflows
This legislative session CBF supported efforts to reduce the 12 million gallons of sewage overflows that enters the Potomac River annually. Alexandria is one of three cities in Virginia that still uses a combined sewer system, which sends untreated sewage directly into the river during rainfall. This leads to excess nutrients and other pollutants, and poses serious health risks to recreational users of the river.
CBF worked in support of legislation that will bring a sewage outfall in Alexandria into compliance with the Clean Water Act no later than 2025.
Protecting and Restoring the Commonwealth's Fisheries
CBF opposed several bills that would have loosened up penalties and safeguards against poaching of oysters and other fisheries. These proposals ultimately did not prevail. Additionally, CBF supported a menhaden study bill, which would have determined the best way to manage this important forage fish. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass.
Keep Virginia on Track to Meet Clean Water Goals
Virginia is largely on track to meet its clean water goals for 2017 thanks in large measure to the many programs and safeguards established during prior general assemblies. The Commonwealth is making steady progress, but we can't fall behind, not now when a fully restored Bay is within reach. That's why continued investment in programs that restore local waterways is so vital.
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.
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™."