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- In January, the U.S. EPA announced that in winter 2011 it will conduct a second round of inspections of water-pollution-prevention practices on Shenandoah Valley farms. The agency inspected seven farms in 2010 as part of its focus on agricultural operations in the Valley, Delmarva Peninsula, and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The 2010 inspections focused on large confined-animal operations permitted under the Virginia Pollution Abatement program; the 2011 inspections are expected to focus more on smaller, unpermitted operations, according to Gary Flory of the Valley Regional Office of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ. As in 2010, DEQ staff will accompany EPA inspectors as observers to understand better the specific issues and practices on which the EPA is focused. News source: EPA to inspect more farms in Valley, Lancaster Farming, 1/22/11.
- Next, we return to the long-running story of efforts by Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville to agree on a long-term water-supply plan. In 2006, the county and city agreed upon a plan for the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to build a new 42-foot dam on the Ragged Mountain Reservoir and build a pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to Ragged Mountain. But the Charlottesville City Council decided to re-consider other options as a result of increased cost estimates, new projections showing somewhat less future demand, and continuing calls by some residents for dredging the South Fork reservoir. In September 2010, the City Council voted to approve a plan to raise the height of one of the two existing Ragged Mountain dams in phases. Since that decision, the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors, which still supports the 2006 plan, have been arguing and trying to find common ground. As part of this effort, the two boards held a joint meeting on January 18. During that meeting, the Rivanna Authority announced a lower estimate of the cost to construct a new dam. The new estimate of $25 to $29 million is close to the estimated cost of raising the existing dam to its final height under the City’s plan. After the joint meeting, the City Council voted to amend the plan they approved in September, changing the initial height increase from 13 to 30 feet. Meanwhile, as part of a six-month permit extension, the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board has given the Rivanna Authority until April 30 to submit a final design to replace or repair the existing Ragged Mountain dams, which need improvements for safety reasons. News sources: Charlottesville City Council unanimously approves a new water plan proposal, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 9/21/10; Debate continues on costs and approach for long term water supply plan, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 10/24/10; State gives deadline for plans to replace Ragged Mountain dams, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 11/19/10; Albemarle rejects meeting with DEQ and says it won’t compromise on water plan, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 12/9/10; Groups unite to reaffirm support of water plan, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 12/16/10; Engineering firm provides city 1st cost estimates for a phased concrete dam, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 1/4/11; Cost estimate for earthen dam drops significantly; officials take no action at joint meeting, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 1/18/11; City Council votes to increase size of dam in modified water plan, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 1/19/11; Water authority gives direction on final design of new Ragged Mountain Dam, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 1/25/11.
- First, in precipitation. Here are National Weather Service preliminary rainfall totals for January 2010 at six Virginia locations: Norfolk, 3.6 inches, or 0.3 inches below normal; Richmond, 2.5 inches, or 1.1 below normal; Dulles Airport, 1.9 inches, or 1.2 below normal; Bristol, 1.9 inches, or 1.6 below normal; Roanoke, 0.8 inches, or 2.4 below normal; and Danville, 1.2 inches, or 2.8 below normal.
- Second, in stream flow: According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s WaterWatch, streamflows averaged over the month of January were below normal or much below normal at about 91 percent of gages in Virginia or just beyond the state border. Flows were in the normal range at about 9 percent of stream gages, mostly in far southwestern Virginia.
- And third, our drought watch: The weekly National Drought Monitor on February 1 showed abnormally dry or worse conditions in about 82 percent of Virginia, and moderate drought in about 55 percent of the state, a significant deterioration since December.
News sources: Precipitation: Climate pages of the following National Weather Service offices: Blacksburg; Morristown, Tenn. (covers the Tri-Cities area near Bristol, Va.-Tenn.); Washington-Dulles; and Wakefield. Streamflow: U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia. Drought: The National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
WATER SOUNDS AND MUSIC
This week we feature another mystery sound: The Highlander Polar Plunge
Why did about 225 people gather on January 29 to jump into the 34-degree New River? They were all participants in the Highlander Polar Plunge, held in Radford to raise money for Special Olympics of the New River Valley. The charity received approximately $17,000 from the entry fee and from donations raised by the many plunging participants. Other plunges for Special Olympics are taking place in February throughout the country, including at several Virginia locations. For more information on the 2011 Highlander Polar Plunger, see this Radford University news release or this Roanoke Times article. The Web site for Special Olympics is http://www.specialolympics.org/, and the Web site for Special Olympics Polar Plunges in Virginia is http://www.firstgiving.com/polarplungeva.
UPCOMING MEETINGS AND EVENTS
First, in Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings, occurring between February 10 and February 16.
- On February 11, the Shenandoah Valley Poultry Litter-to-Energy Watershed and Air Advisory Group meets in Charlottesville. The Shenandoah Valley Poultry Litter-to-Energy Watershed and Air Advisory Group advisory group has been established by the Virginia Departments of Environmental Quality and of Conservation and Recreation to assist in developing a scope of study to evaluate a large-scale poultry litter-to-energy project, which could help Virginia meet the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load/Watershed Implementation Plan requirements and the Commonwealth’s renewable energy goals. For more information: Rick Weeks, firstname.lastname@example.org or (804) 698-4020.
- On February 15, the Virginia Gas and Oil Board meets in Lebanon. For more information: David Asbury, email@example.com or (276)415-9700.
Finally, in educational and recreational events:
- On February 19, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia Cooperative Extension is holding the 8th Annual Landowners' Woods and Wildlife Conference. The conference will help owners of large or small woodland tracts learn about their natural resources and potential management tools. For more information, Adam Downing at (540) 948-6881.
- On February 23 at 7 p.m., the National Environmental Educator Foundation is holding an online seminar called Teaching about the Gulf Oil Spill. Participation in the seminar requires registration for National Environmental Education Week, which this year runs April 10 to 16. For more information, (202) 261-6484 or visit eeweek.org.
- And on February 25, at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia Clean Cities is holding a Hydrogen Seminar for Virginia Decision Makers. Participants will discuss the status of, and outlook for, hydrogen-fuels research, use, and policy. For more information: (540) 568-8896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about government policy and regulatory meetings, click here for the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall. Click here for Virginia General Assembly legislative committee and commission meetings. 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.
Show notes and production assistance were provided by Patrick Fay. Emily Whitesell helped write this week’s show. 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 www.virginiawaterradio.org.