Katie K. Frazier, Virginia Agribusiness Council
Va. Agribusiness Council comments regarding proposed Stormwater Management Regulations
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
203 Governor Street, Suite 302
Richmond, VA 23219
Re: Proposed Revisions to Virginia Stormwater Management Program Permit Regulations (4VAC50-60)
Dear Regulatory Coordinator:
On behalf of the members of the Virginia Agribusiness Council, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed revisions to the Virginia Stormwater Management Program Permit Regulations. The Virginia Agribusiness Council represents farmers, foresters, processors, manufacturers, and suppliers of agricultural and forestal products, as well as approximately 40 commodity associations. Our members in the green industry, particularly golf courses, managed turf, and landscaping sectors, are particularly interested in the proposed regulations. Speaking on behalf of this segment of our membership, we are concerned about the potential impacts to these industries, and urge DCR to continue the current dialogue with the green industry and decision making processes to address these concerns.
The Council’s membership supports science-based decision making processes for laws, regulations, and permitting programs. Research in the turfgrass industry demonstrates the economic and environmental benefits of properly maintained turfgrass. We urge DCR to work through research institutions with particular knowledge of turfgrass, such as Virginia Tech, in making science-based decisions on this proposed regulation and permitting decisions in the future.
In regards to the proposed regulation, we offer the following concerns and recommendations for your consideration. Again, we strongly encourage DCR to continue their current dialogue with members of the green industry to address these concerns.
Of utmost concern is the potential for the proposed regulations to significantly increase the cost of constructing, reconfiguring, or renovating highly managed turfgrass areas, such as golf courses, athletic fields, public parks, etc. While the cost to implement management practices may vary from project to project, our members in this industry are concerned that there will likely be additional practices or design requirements which will potentially increase the costs of construction for a facility.
Additionally, our members are concerned that the proposed regulations may require additional time to construct a new facility, through more consulting, engineering, architectural designs, and permitting processes. Each of these processes can add to the cost of constructing facilities. With the public desire for access to outdoor activities increasing annually, we strongly urge you to work with the green industry to identify measures that will avoid making facilities excessively difficult and costly to design and construct.
In order to address some specific concerns raised by these industries, we request DCR include the following recommendations in the final regulation and processes in the future:
We strongly recommend that DCR include representation from the turfgrass industry on the Virginia Stormwater Management BMP Clearinghouse Committee.
We recommend that DCR develop a supplement to the stormwater management handbook that specifically addresses the management of runoff on sites with turf-intensive uses (golf courses, athletic field complexes, public parks, etc.). Many of the practices and design approaches currently included in the handbook could be adapted to better suit these land use settings in a more cost-effective and efficient manner.
We recommend that DCR develop an alternate list of management practices for turf-intensive uses, including providing credit for ongoing BMPs, nutrient management planning and implementation, integrated pest management planning, water efficient golf course development and other similar practices which could have a much more beneficial effect on water quality for these land use settings.
We recommend that DCR develop guidance to reduce permit overlap and clarify roles and responsibilities in instances where other permits for facilities have been issued. For instance, clarification is needed in situations when a VPA or VPDES discharge permit or other similar permit affecting golf course water and nutrient management have been developed and integrated into a golf course management plan. At present, there is the possibility for conflicts between these competing permits and the proposed Stormwater Construction General Permit unless some clear guidance is provided.
We recommend that DCR issue further guidance or refinement of the existing guidance on the application of open space versus turf crediting for turf-intensive uses such as golf courses. In the instance of a golf course, the many different cover and grass types (irrigated turf, roughs (first/second cuts), managed forest cover, and non-managed forest cover) may cause some regulatory confusion without further specific guidance.
We recommend that DCR consider how runoff reuse practices (commonly employed on a large scale at golf courses) could be adapted to provide the appropriate crediting for facilities, such as golf courses. In many instances, portions of courses receive intensive water harvesting through irrigation storage reservoirs and reuse for irrigation which results in significant decreases in total runoff volume and annual pollutant loads, consistent with the principles and practices embodied in the runoff reduction method. Golf courses, athletic fields, or other facilities with large scale runoff harvesting efforts should be appropriately credited in a similar fashion to small scale runoff harvesting (cisterns, rain barrels, etc).
We recommend that DCR provide written clarification that stripping and replacing sod and other golf course maintenance and upkeep practices which do not result in changes to the footprint of those land surfaces is considered maintenance (operation and maintenance of an existing facility) and are therefore exempt from the requirements of the Construction General Permit. In a recent meeting with DCR there was considerable discussion of this matter, and the specific instances that would mandate permit coverage if normal operation and maintenance practices were exceeded. A guidance document is needed for the regulated entities to reduce confusion for those in the green industry who will ultimately implement this permit program.
Finally, we appreciate DCR’s recent action to implement the Turf and Landscape Nutrient Management Certification program after many years of support from the green industry. This program promises to be a tremendous benefit both to the environment and to the industry. We urge DCR to consider the application of nutrient reduction offsets to existing turf-intensive uses that are provided through nutrient management plan implementation. This is consistent with the agricultural offset guidance already in place at DEQ and would provide an easier quantification method for urban programs that desire to implement more comprehensive approaches to overall nutrient reduction.
Thank you again for this opportunity to provide comments on the proposed regulations on behalf of our impacted green industry members. We look forward to continuing to work with the agency to identify mechanisms to address the concerns and recommendations outlined in our comments.