Monday, September 20, 2010

Virginia Water Radio 34: Week of Sept. 20, 2010

From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio (Episode 34), for the week of September 20, 2010.

Sound file (7 min./50 sec.) archived 7-25-14; please contact Virginia Water Radio to request access to the file.


  • Efforts to reduce nutrients and sediments reaching the tidal Potomac River led to significant water quality improvements in the river between 1990 and 2007, according to a study published by researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (or USGS) and England’s National Oceanography Centre. The September 7 USGS news release on the study states tha t “[s]ince 1990, the area covered by [submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV] in the lower Potomac has doubled [to 8441 acres], the area covered by native SAV has increased ten-fold [to 3081 acres], the diversity of plant species has increased, and the proportion of exotic species [especially Hydrilla] to native species has declined as nutrients have declined.” The study covered a 50-mile stretch of the tidal Potomac below Washington, D.C. News source: Potomac River: Ten-fold Increase in Native Submerged Vegetation Reflects Improved Water Quality, U.S. Geological Survey News Release, 9/7/10. More information: The report, “Long-term reductions in anthropogenic nutrients link to improvements in Chesapeake Bay habitat,” was published in the September 7 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is available online at
  • On September 8, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, or ODEC, announced that it is postponing for 18-24 months any action toward acquiring air permits for its proposed coal-fired power plant in Surry County. In a news release, ODEC attributed the postponement to a decrease in demand for electricity as a result of the recent economic recession. Prior to the postponement, ODEC was in the process of seeking several dozen state and federal permits needed for the Surry site. The cooperative also has the option of using a site in Sussex County. ODEC has already received local land-use permits, although some local residents have filed a lawsuit challenging those permits. ODEC’s news release said that the cooperative will continue to work with local property owners to secure the rights-of-way for a water pipeline from the James River to serve the proposed plant. The $4-6 billion plant would have a capacity of 1500 megawatts, making it Virginia’s largest coal-fired power plant. News sources: Planned Surry Co. coal plant put on ice, Virginian-Pilot, 9/9/10; and ODEC Announces Plans to Extend Timeline for Cypress Creek Power Station Project, ODEC News Release, 9/8/10; ODEC hits a snag on Surry plant, Daily Press, 9/29/10; and The pros and cons: Surry County coal plant,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/17/09.
  • And our last news item this week focuses on Virginia’s lingering drought. As of the September 14 National Drought Monitor, more than two-thirds of Virginia was “abnormally dry,” while most of the eastern third of the state was in “severe drought” and parts of Frederick and Shenandoah counties were in “extreme drought.” At least 65 percent of Virginia has been abnormally dry since late June, and the severe drought area has persisted since early August. Low stream flows are one result: As of September 16, seven-day average stream flows were below normal at 66 percent of U.S. Geological Survey gaging stations in Virginia. The low rainfall and low-water conditions are causing agricultural impacts and water-use restrictions. The September 17 Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that 46 localities have requested agricultural disaster assistance, while nine localities have imposed mandatory water-use restrictions and 17 localities have implemented voluntary restrictions. Unfortunately, things may get worse: As of September 16, the seasonal drought outlook from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center forecast that drought conditions would persist or intensify in most of eastern Virginia through December, with slight improvement forecast for some areas. News sources: State's drought could quickly become much worse, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/17/10; U.S. Geological Survey’s WaterWatch Web site, 9/17/10; National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, Seasonal Drought Outlook for September 16, 2010. More information: The National Drought Monitor’s weekly assessment has five categories of increasingly worse drought: D0 = abnormally dry; D1 = moderate drought; D2 = severe drought; D3 = extreme drought; and D4 = exceptional drought.


This week we feature a mystery sound: The Belted Kingfisher
[7-25-14 note: Please see Episode 224, week of 7-28-14, for an episode on the Belted Kingfisher.]

Besides being found in the Virginia Water Radio logo, Belted Kingfishers are found commonly throughout North America around streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and estuaries. This bird is known for its habit of hovering above water and then diving to capture fish. Kingfishers burrow into banks beside a water body to make their nest, and their rattling call is used to defend their territory. This week's recording recording was provided by Lang Elliott of NatureSound Studio. Information on Belted Kingfishers was taken from A Guide to Field Identification of Birds of North America, by Chandler S. Robbins et al., St. Martin’s Press, 2001 edition; and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Guide Web page at


First, in government policy and regulatory meetings occurring between September 22-September 29:
  • On September 27 and, if necessary, 28, the State Water Control Board meets in Richmond. For more information, phone Cindy Berndt at (804) 698-4378.

  • On September 28, the Marine Resources Commission meets in Newport News. For more information, phone Jane McCroskey at (757) 247-2215. 
Next, here is one upcoming meeting about Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, for impaired waters:
  • September 28, in Christiansburg, on the TMDL study for Little River and several of its tributaries in Floyd and Montgomery counties. For more information, phone Mary Dail at (540) 562-6715.
Finally, in educational and recreational events:
  • On September 29, at the James Madison University Festival Conference and Student Center Grand Ballroom in Harrisonburg, Virginia Clean Cities is holding the Virginia Biodiesel Conference. For more information, phone Ryan Cornett at (540) 568-5586.

  • From October 7 to 10, Cape Charles and Onancock are the central locations for the 18th annual Eastern Shore of Virginia Birding and Wildlife Festival. For more information, phone Beth Davis at (757) 581-1081.

  • And from October 14 to 16 at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, and Blue Ridge Parkway 75 Inc., are holding Imagining the Blue Ridge Parkway for the 21st Century: Sustaining Communities, Environments, and Economies, a symposium in connection with year-long observances of the Parkway's 75th anniversary. For more information, phone Bob Smith at (540) 231-7679.

    For more information about government policy and regulatory meetings, click here for the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall, where these meetings are listed by date. E-mail addresses for contact people are available there. For TMDL meetings, click here for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality TMDL Web site. Please note that TMDL meetings are also listed at the Town Hall site, but are included among all other meetings. Organizations, events, or both are hyperlinked whenever possible. Click on those links for more information.
Virginia Water Radio is a product of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, which is solely responsible for the show’s content. Hosting and bandwidth for this podcast are also provided by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center. We invite you to visit the center online at

Show notes and production assistance were provided by Patrick Fay. Recording assistance was provided by the Office of University Relations at Virginia Tech.

Opinions expressed on this show are not necessarily those of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Tech, or our broadcasting stations.

If you need more information about anything mentioned this week, call us at (540) 231-5463, or visit our web site at