Public review period opened on proposed statewide water regs
Proposed changes to the state’s regulations regarding stormwater runoff flowing from developed properties are available for public review and comment. Five public hearings will be held statewide to receive comments on these changes, which have been more than three years in the making. Comments will be accepted through Friday, Aug. 21, 2009, by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board.
The proposed changes include provisions for establishing local stormwater programs statewide, a fee structure for the new local programs, and new water quality and quantity standards. Stormwater runoff from developed properties is the fastest growing and only increasing source of water pollution in the state. These stormwater regulation changes are being proposed in accordance with legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2004 and the federal Clean Water Act.
Rooftops, parking lots, sidewalks and streets do not allow rain water to soak into the ground. Stormwater runoff from these impervious surfaces picks up pollutants including nutrients, sediments, heavy metals, grease, oils and other toxics. These surfaces also greatly speed up the flow of stormwater leading to increased erosion with more nutrient and sediment pollution and destroyed aquatic habitats in nearby streams and lead to further degradation to waters downstream. Stormwater also contributes to flooding.
“Enhancing these stormwater regulations is a key part of Virginia’s overall approach to improving water quality statewide and restoring the Chesapeake Bay, which includes pollution reductions from sewage treatment plants and farmland runoff,” said Joseph H. Maroon, DCR director. “Due to their importance we have already engaged in one of the most extensive efforts at having an open and publicly scrutinized process. We intend to carefully analyze all the comments we receive and the agency has a good track record of being responsive. Therefore, we continue to seek constructive input and comment from local governments, the development community and citizens at large.”
Several technical committees made up of representatives from local governments, developers, contractors and environmental groups have helped develop the proposed regulations. DCR conducted more than 50 public meetings. The Center for Watershed Protection and Virginia Tech were among the institutions that provided technical support and economic benefit analysis in developing the proposals.
For the first time, the regulations will result in local stormwater management programs in all localities statewide. Currently, local stormwater programs exist only in localities in eastern Virginia covered by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, localities with populations of more than 100,000 people or a handful of other local governments that opted to have their own stormwater management programs. These regulations propose requirements for qualifying local programs and a fee structure that allows local governments to fund their programs.
They also revise water quantity and quality standards, including a more protective phosphorus standard for developed lands. Phosphorus is seen as a leading indicator of other potential stormwater-carried pollutants. In addition, the regulations increase stream channel and flood protection measures, promote the use of low impact development techniques and provide developers new methodologies, best management practices and off-site reduction options to help reduce costs associated with meeting the new regulations. The draft runoff standards are set at levels needed to help improve state waters and the Chesapeake Bay while still allowing for development to occur. The proposed rate of phosphorus runoff is not as severe as would be necessary to achieve a rate commensurate with a forested area, the land cover that would yield little or no impact.
For more information on stormwater and links for viewing the draft regulations go to www.dcr.virginia.gov and click on “Policy, Regulations and Public Comments.”
Public written comments will be received until 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21. You can forward comments electronically to http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/entercomment.cfm?stageid=5106. Written comments can be forwarded to the Regulatory Coordinator, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 203 Governor Street, Suite 302, Richmond, Virginia, 23219. You can also fax comments to (804) 786-6141.
Five public hearings have been set across the state for DCR to present and receive comments on the regulations. All hearings begin at 7 p.m.:
June 30, Hungry Mother State Park
Hemlock Haven Conference Center
380 Hemlock Haven Lane
Marion, Va. 24354
July 1, Augusta County Government Center
Board of Supervisors Meeting Room
18 Government Center Lane
Verona, Va. 24482
July 7, City of Manassas
City Council Chambers
9027 Center Street
Manassas, Va. 20110
July 9, City of Hampton
City Council Chambers
22 Lincoln Street, 8th Floor
Hampton, Va. 23669
July 14 Virginia General Assembly Building
910 Capitol Street, Senate Room B
Richmond, Va. 23219