Monday, November 15, 2010

Virginia Water Radio 42: Week of Nov. 15, 2010

From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio (Episode 42), for the week of November 15, 2010.

Audio archived 6-24-13; please contact Virginia Water Radio to request access to the audio file. (10 minutes/11 sec.)


November 8 was the deadline for public comments on the U.S. EPA’s September 24 draft Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, including draft Watershed Implementation Plans from Virginia, the five other Bay states, and the District of Columbia. The next key deadlines are November 29 for states to submit revised Watershed Implementation Plans and December 31 for EPA to publish the final TMDL. This week we devote the news segment to some snapshots of the Bay TMDL process.

  • In an October 28 briefing to the State Water Commission, Assistant Secretary of Natural Resources Anthony Moore stated that state officials plan to strengthen Virginia’s Watershed Implementation Plan for the final version due on November 29. Mr. Moore said that Virginia is working with the EPA to agree upon revisions that would preclude the federal agency from triggering “backstop” consequences if Virginia’s plan is considered inadequate. Mr. Moore’s comments were in response to concerns that disagreement between the Commonwealth and the EPA could lead to the so-called “backstop measures” by EPA, which would be additional requirements on entities for which discharge permits are required: local stormwater systems, wastewater treatment plants, and large confined animal feeding operations. News sources: McDonnell administration vows to beef up Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/29/10; and Bay cleanup plan questioned, Daily Press, 10/28/10.
  • The potential costs of EPA “backstop” actions were the focus of concern in several Virginia localities as the November 8 deadline approached. Various areas received so-called “worst-case scenario” estimates of costs they might face if Virginia and the EPA cannot agree on Virginia’s watershed implementation plan and the federal agency imposes significant backstop consequences. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, for example, released reports projecting increased costs of $693 million for increased nitrogen removal at wastewater-treatment plants in the region and $679 million per year for 15 years to reduce stormwater pollution. News sources: “Bay report causes an uproar in Hampton Roads,” Daily Press, 10/30/10; Report: Sewer users could pay $693 million for bay cleanup, Daily Press, 11/6/10; Localities concerned about cost of implementing Bay plan, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 11/9/10.
  • Many farm groups are concerned about potential impacts on the Bay TMDL. For example, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association made the following assertions in its comments to the EPA on the draft TMDL: 1) that the pollutant allocations in the draft are “based on flawed data”; 2) that the 45-day public comment period did not allow adequate time; 3) that the EPA is exceeding its authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA), because the agency “has not gone through the formal process set forth in the CWA of disapproving a state TMDL”; and 4) that the TMDL would impose upon agricultural producers “additional burdensome and possibly unattainable water quality standards.” Farmers and farm groups have also asserted that the draft TMDL fails to acknowledge the success of conservation practices already implemented by landowners, and some are concerned that the Bay TMDL could be a model for how the federal government might address pollution in other large watersheds in the country. News sources: NCBA Raises Concern With EPA’s Draft TMDL,, 11/9/10; EPA Moves in Chesapeake Bay Questioned, Farm Futures, 11/10/10; Chesapeake Bay cleanup a threat to U.S. farming, Southeast Farm Press, 11/1/10.
  • On the other side of the agricultural question, here are two glimpses of concerns raised about farming in the Bay. First, in an October 19 briefing in Augusta County for farmers, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality staffer Gary Flory said that EPA representatives who visited several Virginia livestock operations in April 2010 identified the following areas of concern: uncovered cattle manure piles; bare soil in cattle loafing lots; cattle in streams; leaching from silage; poultry manure outside of containment buildings; improper handling of dead poultry; and poultry-house exhaust fans blowing particles and feathers onto fields. Second, in October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a draft report titled, “Assessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Region.” Two key findings from the draft report are that, while use of soil erosion-control practices is widespread, about 26 percent of cultivated cropland has “excessive sediment loss” from fields; and that about 81 percent of cultivated cropland acres require “additional nutrient management to reduce the loss of nitrogen or phosphorus from fields.” News sources: Department of Environmental Quality relays EPA concerns, Staunton News Leader, 10/21/10; and Federal report faults farmers' Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, Baltimore Sun, 10/26/10. More information: An online copy of the 161-page draft USDA report is available at
  • The Chesapeake Bay Foundation sought to respond to concerns about the potential costs of practices anticipated in the Bay TMDL by publicizing the following estimates of the economic benefits of the Chesapeake Bay-related industries: 1) a $1-trillion value for the Bay as a whole, based on fishing, tourism, property values and shipping activities; and 2) about $2 billion annually in sales, $1 billion annually in income, and 41,000 jobs from the commercial seafood industry in Virginia and Maryland. The Bay Foundation also published in late October the results of a telephone survey of 500 Virginia voters on their opinions about cleaning up the Bay. According to Foundation’s news release on the survey, 80 percent of those surveyed “believe that Virginia can protect water quality and have a strong economy with good jobs for Virginians.” The poll’s margin of sampling error was +/-4.38 percent. News sources: Blog: Dollars and Sense About the Chesapeake Bay, Bay Daily, 10/28/10; and POLL: Solid Majority of Virginians Want Strong Bay Cleanup Plan, Chesapeake Bay Foundation News Release, 10/28/10. More information: The Bay Foundation’s economic-value estimates came from the following sources: 1) $1 trillion value: 1989 study by Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development and the 2004 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Economic Panel Report, “Saving a National Treasure: Financing the Cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay”; and 2) Seafood industry value: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 2008 report, “Fisheries Economics of the U.S.” The telephone survey of 500 registered voters in Virginia was conducted October 20-21 by the national polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, which was hired by CBF to do the survey.
  • Finally, on November 9, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell’s spokesperson Stacey Johnson issued the following statement regarding public comments on the draft Chesapeake Bay TMDL: “The Commonwealth is working with stakeholders and the EPA to develop a Watershed Implementation Plan that provides effective methods of restoring the Bay without stifling growth and economic development. Many of the comments we received during the public comment period will be addressed in our revised plan. Our goal is to submit a final plan that meets Virginia's goals to improve water quality on the Bay, is acceptable by the EPA, and does not impede job creation in the Commonwealth.” News source: Environmental groups lobby McDonnell on Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Washington Post, 11/9/10.

This week we feature another mystery sound: The American Alligator

The American Alligator is found in all kinds of fresh water habitats in the Atlantic and Gulf coast states from the Carolinas to Texas, as well as in parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma. Occasional sightings or captures occur in Virginia. Some people believe wild alligators may reach Virginia from North Carolina, but most Virginia occurrences are presumed to result from accidental or intentional release of animals kept as pets. Both possession and release of alligators are illegal in Virginia. Information on alligators was taken from the University of Florida Cooperative Extension, “Living with Alligators: A Florida Reality,” at, and the U.S. Geological Survey Web site at For examples of alligator captures in Virginia: “Reston Woman Wrangles an Errant Alligator into Captivity,” Washington Post, 6/29/07; and “Alligator Captured in Virginia Beach Pond,” Virginian-Pilot, 9/10/07.  


First, in Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring between November 18 and 24.
  • On November 18, the Soil and Water Conservation Board meets in Richmond. For more information, phone David Dowling at (804) 786-2291.

  • Also on November 18, the Marine Resources Commission holds an informal townhall-style meeting on Tangier Island. For more information, phone Jane McCroskey at (757) 247-2215.

  • Again on November 18, the State Water Control Board holds a public hearing in Roanoke on a proposed general permit for discharges resulting from the application of pesticides to surface waters. For more information, phone William Norris at (804) 698-4022. The proposed action establishes a general permit for discharges from the following pesticide applications for control of mosquitoes and other flying insect pests, aquatic weeds and algae, aquatic animal pests, and forest canopy pests. The public comment period ends on December 27, 2010. More information and relevant documents are at
  • On November 20, the Cave Board meets in Richmond. For more information, phone David Dowling at (804) 786-2291.
  • On November 23, the Marine Resources Commission holds its regular monthly meeting in Newport News. For more information, phone Jane McCroskey at (757) 247-2215.
Finally, in educational and recreational events:
  • On November 27 at Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Bedford County, the Flotilla for Toys will feature grandly decorated boats on the water, a holiday crafts table on land, and the opportunity to donate toys for local children in need. For more information, phone (540) 297-6066.

    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