Joan Comanor, Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District
August 13, 2009
To: Regulatory Coordinator
From: Joan Comanor, Chairwoman, Lord Fairfax SWCD
Subject: Storm-water Management Regulations
The following are comments from the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District on the proposed amendments to the permit regulations of the Virginia Storm-water Management Program.
“The conservation of natural resources and their proper use constitutes the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of the national life…”
This quotation opens the Director’s Handbook of the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Districts and reflects the unanimous pre-disposition of the Lord Fairfax Board of Directors to favor collective effort that:
·confronts the deterioration of our water resources,
·engages in management of storm-water quantity and, consequently, helps to control erosion, sediment transport, and deposition, and
·promotes the stewardship of watershed processes that yield a high quality water resource.
We are, therefore, unanimous in our support of the spirit and intent of these amendments.
We offer the following brief remarks to underline particularly positive elements or to identify issues where the proposed regulations need improvement.
We support the provision that storm-water management program shall be applied statewide. This acknowledges important hydrologic and geomorphic linkages across Virginia, including the Chesapeake Bay. We believe that a successful, cost effective, storm-water management program will benefit the Bay AND all of Virginia.
We especially appreciated recognition in the amendments that development in karst regions is not routine or well understood; thus development design should be preceded by geological surveys. Additional information on the management of storm-water in karst areas should be a high priority.
The provision that local communities might establish and control their own storm-water management programs is enlightened. It acknowledges that different areas have unique problems that may require innovative solutions. It follows that novel solutions (new BMPs) could be applied to problems in other local programs so we encourage the “clearinghouse” mechanism. We recommend frequent review of regulations that would foster the convergence of new ideas that lead to coherent and consistent management actions. A “down-side” to a local control provision, is the claim that the planning period of local programs (from the time that the regulations are put in place until the program is approved) may impose a costly burden. We recommend that the state provide a source of “start-up” funds for local programs.
The amended regulations are focused on new development in undeveloped sub-urban or rural areas. This may divert re-development to urban sites. It is not clear that this was intended or that it would happen. We are aware also that some stakeholders feel that the new-development focus of the regulations will encourage the opposite response, i.e. “urban sprawl”. We suggest that this issue should be examined, clarified, and written to encourage urban redevelopment and “smart” growth.
The use of phosphorus as an indicator nutrient/pollutant is a useful idea but the amendment language comes across as invoking the use of a surrogate indicator that is more hopeful than an accurate or certain predictor of, say, nitrogen export. The conceptual or statistical model that links phosphorus to other nutrients or contaminants is not clear. This shortfall gives credibility to the claims of opponents that the requirement is not backed by scientific understanding. Additionally, the increased restriction of phosphorus from 0.45 lbs/ac/yr to 0.28 lbs/ac/yr for development at undeveloped sites is required as a design criterion; there is no provision for post-implementation or “performance” monitoring to determine if the management actions (BMPs) achieve that design goal. This makes enforcement of corrective actions more troublesome, if not impossible. We recommend performance monitoring of storm-water management actions.
The concept of “nutrient trading” as a method for decreasing nutrient loads from watersheds was mentioned, but little detail was provided despite recent activity by the Virginia General Assembly and the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board.
This comment went through several drafts by the members of the erosion and sediment control committee and was adopted by the Lord Fairfax SWCD Board at its August meeting last week (Aug. 13, 2009).