SJR 373

Commission on the Future of Virginia's Environment

August 27, 2001, Richmond

The Commission on the Future of Virginia's Environment met for the fourth time to discuss the cost of environmental protection in Virginia and the implementation of statewide erosion and sediment control and stormwater management programs (SJR 438).

Costs of Environmental Protection

The Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources presented a status report on the costs associated with the implementation of Virginia's mandatory environmental program expenditures for fiscal years 2001 and 2002. The update included the cost estimates for all of the federal and state mandated environmental programs in Virginia, totaling $46,492,347 in general funds for FY 2001, and $46,409,222 for FY 2002.

The expenditures of Virginia's environmental agencies for the Chesapeake Bay 2000 Agreement (C2K) commitments for fiscal years 2001 and 2002 were discussed. The Deputy Secretary explained that the total state general fund expenditures for the twenty-two C2K commitments for FY 2001 was $44,674,838. In FY 2002 the total expenditures decreased to $23,434,175. The large decline in funding was due to budget constraints, the lack of Water Quality Improvement Funds, and the removal of $6.2 million previously budgeted for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.

Finally, the costs involved with the five major areas of concern within the C2K commitments (living resources, vital habitat, water quality, sound land use, and stewardship and community engagement) were presented. The total expenditure of general funds for these five major areas was $97,307,939 in FY 2001, and $80,600,526 in FY 2002. These figures are significantly inflated because they contain the Department of Transportation's expenditures for environmental compliance, which totaled $51,809,918 in FY 2001, and $56,225,056 in FY 2002. In addition, discretionary expenditures such as the Virginia Outdoors Foundation are included in this data.

The commission identified the following items for further review:

  • The costs of mandated and discretionary environmental expenditures in Virginia; specifically, how much money Virginia is spending on environmental programs, and of that amount, how much is spent on mandatory programs, and how much is spent on discretionary programs.
  • The goals Virginia has committed to reaching in current environmental programs (such as TMDLs, tributary strategies, and the C2K commitments), including a list of the current programs and commitments and the amount of funding necessary for Virginia to achieve the environmental goals set out in the current programs.

Local Programs

Because there is currently insufficient information as to the effectiveness and consistency of local programs in controlling erosion and sediment and managing stormwater, and in light of the C2K commitments, SJR 438 directs the commission to study the implementation of the erosion and sediment control and stormwater management programs. The commission is to examine: (i) the consistency of local erosion and sediment control ordinances with the Erosion and Sediment Control Law; (ii) the adequacy of local stormwater management programs and the consistency of such programs with the Stormwater Management Act; and (iii) the implementation of erosion and sediment control programs and stormwater management programs by local governments, including a review of local program administration, plan review, inspection and enforcement. The commission is to make recommendations to ensure that local erosion and sediment control programs and local stormwater management programs are consistent across jurisdictional lines, and to improve existing erosion and sediment control programs and stormwater management programs.

The Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Erosion and Sediment Control/Stormwater Management Taskforce (VASWCD) and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) presented background information on the erosion and sediment control and stormwater management programs in Virginia. Soil and water conservation districts adopt and administer erosion and sediment control plans in areas without an approved local program, or they may assist localities in plan implementation. HRPDC represents the localities of the Hampton Roads Region, who are all participating in a cooperative regional stormwater management program.

Both organizations have participated in previous studies involving erosion and sediment control and stormwater management programs. Past studies have demonstrated that these programs are key elements in Virginia's reducing sediment levels in state waters and for achieving compliance levels of federal agreements. However, the voluntary nature of the Stormwater Management Act, lack of funding for implementation and enforcement of Virginia's programs, and lack of adequate state review and oversight of local programs remain primary concerns. Additional concerns involve the financial impact on local governments and the overlap of time-consuming tasks required by the multiple state programs. VASWCD and HRPDC have requested the commission evaluate these issues, have provided recommendations, and have offered their support to assist the commission in refining the current programs.

State Agencies

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Department (CBLAD), and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) each presented background information regarding their respective roles and responsibilities in administering the erosion and sediment control and stormwater management programs. DCR implements the provisions of the Erosion and Sediment Control Law and the Stormwater Management Act, two non-point source pollution programs. The Erosion and Sediment Control Law was enacted in 1973 to control erosion and deposits of sediment and improve water quality by establishing statewide mandatory requirements for land disturbing activities. The Stormwater Management Act was enacted in 1989 to manage stormwater runoff caused by development of land that contributes to water pollution, erosion, and localized flooding. The act enables local governments to voluntarily establish management plans and adopt ordinances that require control and treatment of stormwater runoff.

CBLAD oversees the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act by local governments. The act establishes requirements for stormwater management and other land use requirements within the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas in all Tidewater localities. Under this legislation, each local government enforces its own program, patterned after a model developed by the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board and Department.

DEQ has been delegated the authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act to issue Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permits to limit point source pollutant discharges into streams, rivers and bays. VPDES permits are required for discharges to surface waters (including stormwater outfalls), industrial activities, construction sites, and municipal separate storm sewer systems.

These multiple programs have all been developed from separate state and federal laws passed to address erosion and surface water contamination from land use activities. In an effort to address the overlapping requirements of the multiple programs, DCR, CBLAD, and DEQ are collectively working to improve the consistency of all of the erosion and sediment control and stormwater management requirements, to consolidate the duplicative reporting requirements, and to develop a manual containing all of the agencies' requirements. Other program issues identified by DEQ include the potential for a conflict among the different state and federal program requirements and the need for enhanced statewide compliance efforts. At the conclusion of these presentations, the chairman established a subcommittee to further consider the issues and proposals presented. After meeting in October, the subcommittee will present its recommendations to the full commission.

The Honorable William T. Bolling, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Suzan Bulbulkaya


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