Monday, May 9, 2011

Virginia Water Radio 65: Week of May 9, 2011

The audio for this episode has been removed, as of 12-4-19.  Please contact Virginia Water Radio to request access to the audio file.

From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio (Episode 65), for the week of May 9, 2011.


Our opening item this week is the Monthly Water Status report as of the end of April 2011:
  • First, here are National Weather Service preliminary precipitation totals for April at five Virginia locations: Dulles Airport, 5.2 inches, or 2 inches above normal historically for April; Bristol, 4.6 inches, or 1.3 inches above normal; Richmond, 2.6 inches, or 0.6 inches below normal; Danville, 3.2 inches, also 0.6 inches below normal; and Norfolk, 1.2 inches, or 2.2 inches below normal.
  • Second, in stream flow: According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s WaterWatch, streamflows averaged over April were in the normal range at about 19 percent of 144 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border. The monthly average flows were below normal at about 19 percent of gages as well, and flows were above normal at about 61 percent of gages.
  • And third, our drought watch: The weekly National Drought Monitor on May 3 showed abnormally dry or worse conditions in 38 percent of Virginia, all in south central and southeastern areas and on the Eastern Shore. Seven percent of the state was categorized as being in a moderate drought.

    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.
Now, here’s a rapid report on several other recent stories:
  • Since opening in 2008, the solid-waste composting facility that North Carolina-based McGill Environmental Services operates near Waverly in Sussex County has grown to produce about 175,000 tons per year of compost from wastewater sludge, yard waste, and other materials.
  • As of May 5, the National Weather Service had confirmed that 17 tornadoes touched down in 13 Virginia counties during the April 27-28 tornado outbreak from Arkansas to New York that the Weather Service’s Blacksburg office has said “will go down had denied Virginia’s request for federal disaster assistance for damage in Halifax and Washington counties during the late April tornado outbreak, as well as for damage from two tornadoes on April 8 in Pulaski County.
And in our last news item this week: 
  • On April 27, the U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers announced a proposed guidance for determining what constitutes the “waters of the United States” under the federal Clean Water Act. The 39-page document would guide agency determinations of whether specific water bodies or wetlands fall under the jurisdiction of the federal act. Particularly, the guidance will address how staff of the two agencies are to implement U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 on Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The proposed guidance states (p.3) that the two agencies expect it to expand federal protection to more small streams and wetlands than under current agency guidance, but fewer waters would be covered compared to the rules in place before the two Supreme Court cases. A guidance is not a regulation and doesn’t have the force of law, but the agencies intend to follow up this guidance with a proposed regulation.

    News sources: Clean Water Act Definition of "Waters of the United States", U.S. EPA, 4/27/11; and EPA proposes stricter controls on water pollution, Washington Post, 4/28/11. More information: The Supreme Court cases are the 2001 decision in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or SWANCC); and the 2006 decision in Rapanos v. Unites States. The new guidance would supersede ones issued in 2003 and 2008, in the wake of the SWANCC and Rapanos decisions. A 60-day public comment period will follow publication of the proposed guidance in the Federal Register (it had not yet been published, as of 5/6/11).

This week we feature a traditional fiddle tune whose name would be music to many aquatic insects: “Stoney Creek,” performed by Delaware musician Sonny Miller on the 1964 album, Galax, Va., Old Fiddler’s Convention, from Folkways Records. While the tune’s name apparently doesn’t refer to a specific Virginia stream, it certainly could, because at least 14 streams in Virginia are named Stony Creek or Little Stony Creek. But stones do much more in streams than provide a source for a name! For developing aquatic insects, for example, stones of various sizes—from pebbles to boulders—offer places to attach, hide, find food, and withstand currents. Stream rocks and stones also provide protected spawning sites for many fish species. And the churning of water as it flows down over rocky riffles, ledges, and rapids not only provides paddling challenges; it also increases the water’s level of dissolved oxygen, on which all gill-breathing stream animals depend. The main Web site for Smithsonian Folkways and Folkways Records is Source for origin of tune name: “The Fiddler’s Companion,” by Andrew Kuntz, (5/9/11). Source for Virginia stream names: U.S. Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System. Information on importance of stones in streams taken from A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, by J. Reese Voshell (Blacksburg, Va.: McDonald and Woodward, 2002, p.19); and The Fishes of Missouri, by William J. Pflieger (Missouri Department of Conservation, 1975, p.14).


First, in Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings, occurring between May 12 and 18:
  • On May 17 at 10 a.m., Board of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Finance, Audit, and Compliance Committee meets at 4000 West Broad Street in Richmond.
  • And on May 18, 10 a.m., at the Department of Environmental Quality Piedmont Regional Office in Glen Allen, the DEQ is holding a public meeting to get input on the crushing of fluorescent lights and mercury-containing lamps under the provisions of Virginia’s Hazardous Waste Management Regulations.
Now, here is one meeting about Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, for impaired waters:
Finally, in educational, recreational, and stewardship events:
  • On May 20 and 21, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the Russell County Fairgrounds in Castlewood, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Heart of Appalachia organization are holding the Virginia Coal Festival. The festival includes activities and presentations on the human heritage and natural resources of far southwestern Virginia, along with music, food, kids’ games, and other fun stuff. For more information, contact the Heart of Appalachia in Saint Paul (Wise County) at (276) 762-0011.
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