HJR 118/SJR 117: Commission on the Future of Virginia’s Environment

October 15, 2002

The full commission held its fourth meeting of the year to follow up on items from the previous year. The commission received testimony from the director of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding the 2001 Waste Report, regulated medical waste regulations, barge regulations, landfill closures and wetlands. The director explained that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved Virginia's State Programmatic General Permit (SPGP), thus streamlining the regulatory enforcement of development in wetlands.

A representative from the Office of the Attorney General updated the commission on ongoing wetlands litigation. The issue of the State Water Control Board's authority to regulate state wetlands outside of federal Corps' jurisdiction is presently before two federal courts and numerous state courts.

DEQ presented an update on the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program for impaired Virginia waters. A TMDL is the amount of pollutant a stream segment can assimilate without violating water quality standards. The causes of statewide water impairment include high bacteria levels, poor biological/aquatic life conditions, low dissolved oxygen or pH, fish contamination, and a combination of other factors. TMDLs are established by identifying the sources of pollution, calculating the amount of pollutants entering the stream from each source, and calculating the reductions in pollutants by source needed to attain and maintain water quality standards. TMDL development costs are estimated at $30–$40 million, of which $18.6 million is currently available ($.5 million of this is state funds, the rest is federal). Costs of implementing this federally mandated program are estimated to run as high as $640 million. As of October 2002, Virginia has 48 approved TMDLs, 3 pending approval and 11 delistings from the impaired water list. By May of 2010, the state is required to have implemented 665 TMDLs.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) updated the commission on its Tributary Strategies program. Codified in 1996 with the passage of the Tributary Strategies Act, the program's purpose is to restore and protect aquatic habitat for living resources, reduce nutrient and sediment loads, and identify control actions that are practical, cost-effective and equitable. Much of the appropriations for the program fall under the 1997 Water Quality Improvement Act. For point source pollution (factories, power plants, etc.) $92.3 million have been appropriated to date, and DCR estimates a current shortfall of $97 million. For nonpoint source pollution (agricultural operations) DCR estimates a funding shortfall of $160 million. Current point source agreements will reduce nitrogen levels being introduced into Virginia waterways by 13.7 million pounds per year and phosphorus levels by 243,000 pounds per year. Meanwhile, DCR anticipates that current nonpoint source programs will reduce nitrogen by 6.44 million, phosphorus by 1.69 million, and sediment by 958,000 pounds per year.

Next, the commission heard two presentations on Low Impact Development (LID), an alternative to traditional stormwater management methods. LID was described as "comprehensive source control technology . . . sensitive to addressing local government's unique environmental and regulatory needs in the most economical manner possible by reducing costs associated with stormwater infrastructure design, construction, maintenance and enforcement." LID encourages the multifunctional, cost-effective use of the urban green space, buildings, landscaping, parking lots, roadways, sidewalks and other techniques to detain, filter, treat, and reduce runoff. Roadblocks to implementing the LID site planning approach include the need to educate regulatory agencies, the development community and public on the new technology.

Finally, Chairman Bolling distributed the substitute biosolids bill draft and updated the commission on the work of the Biosolids Subcommittee.


The Hon. William T. Bolling

For information, contact:

Jeffrey S. Gore
Division of Legislative Services


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