Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Conservation and Recreation
Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board
Stormwater Management Regulations AS 9 VAC 25-870 [4 VAC 50 ‑ 60]
Action Amend Parts I, II, and III of the Virginia Stormwater Management Program Permit Regulations to address water quality and quantity and local stormwater management program criteria.
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ended on 8/21/2009
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8/20/09  4:51 pm
Commenter: Valley Conservation Council

All sectors should do their fair share.

Valley Conservation Council

Statement on Proposed Stormwater Regulations

(confirming and clarifying statement read at July 1, 2009, hearing in Verona)


The Valley Conservation Council has the mission of promoting land use that sustains the farms, forest, open space and cultural heritage of the Shenandoah Valley region. We have members throughout the 11-county region stretching from Frederick to Botetourt.


Stormwater management is a complex issue, but a critical one.  We favor passage of the proposed regulations.  We commend the state for an open and diligent process.  We also encourage the state to apply the resources needed to fully develop and implement the supporting components, particularly outreach and education and continued research. 


The Shenandoah Valley region is known for its natural environment and this is what draws not only recreational visitors but also new residents and businesses.  In 2006, the group American Rivers named the Shenandoah River one of the most endangered rivers in the nation.  It cited poorly managed new development as the predominant threat. Our own local waters are at stake, not just the Chesapeake Bay. 


All sectors should do their fair share. New development is the only pollution sector that is worsening so it is even more important to have a different strategy than in the past. 


Farmers and point sources have been doing their part.  The Valley has four of the top five agricultural counties in the state. Pollution is an issue but a great deal of progress has been made.  Farmers have learned how to use best management practices. We look to the development sector to learn new ways of operating as well.


Through our Better Models for Development program, we work with localities and developers to promote development that makes sense environmentally as well as economically. We did the first workshop on low impact development in the Valley in 2006 and followed with a workshop on stormwater in 2007. 


We know stormwater management  is complex and difficult and expensive.  Our feeling is that in the long run the least costly option is the one that will stop creating future impacts. 


We can learn how to develop in a way that has less impact.  It will be a steep learning curve, a shock at first that no one looks forward to, but if it’s the right direction, the sooner we go in it, the better.  We have confidence in the flexibility of the private sector to make that switch and to continue to build, but in a different way.  The point is not development or no development. The point is how we develop.  


The inclusion in this regulatory package of supporting materials, options, and different scales to help guide both government reviewers and site designers is critical.  We expect and hope these will continually be revised and improved over time. In particular, we hope that attention will be paid to developing effective and practical ways to identify and handle karst sites appropriately.


As for the suggestion it would be more cost effective for developers to pay into a fund rather than make site design changes, that is a dead end. It is getting harder and harder to gain more reductions from agriculture. More to the point, if development continues status quo (eating up the landscape), there would be fewer and fewer farmers to get these credits from. 


Finally, we echo the concerns of others: make sure the regulations do not encourage sprawl.  It would be counterproductive if these regulations inadvertently favored large lots over redevelopment and more compact patterns.  The regulations rightly require individual site designs to address water quality.


Equally important is encouraging development patterns that protect watersheds. Undeveloped land provides the best (and least expensive) opportunity to protect water quality. Compact development has a much lower impact, per capita, on water quality than sprawling development. Yet on a site basis, large lots can do low impact development more easily. We hope that within these regulations or in the phase of local program development there can be a bridge to put incentives in the right direction. Perhaps that could be local watershed planning. For example, projects that meet overall goals of watershed protection and other environmental and planning goals could (with an approved watershed plan) be offered flexibility and incentives. Something like this might make compact development within growth areas more attractive and cost effective.


Thank you for your time and consideration.


John Eckman, Executive Director

Valley Conservation Council

CommentID: 9810