Dragon Run Special Area Management Plan

Advisory Group

December 10, 2002




1.      Welcome


2.      Possible Action Plans - focus on local land use policies/regulations; forestry management plans; stream corridor protection


3.      Adjourn – next meeting Jan 14?






Frank Herrin, Robert Gibson (King and Queen); Jack Miller, Davis Wilson (Middlesex); David Birdsall (Resource Management Service, Inc.); Will Smith (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service); Prue Davis (Essex); Anne Ducey-Ortiz (Gloucester); Mike Anderberg, Mary Ann Krenzke (Friends of Dragon Run); Julie Bixby (VA Coastal Program); Pat Tyrrell (Tidewater Resource Conservation and Development); Willy Reay (Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia); David Fuss (MPPDC)




David Fuss welcomed everyone and began introductions.


SAMP Update


David Fuss provided the group with an update on the Special Area Management Plan. Topics included: 1) press release concerning the Memorandum of Agreement in the four local papers; 2) production of a SAMP brochure; 3) presentations at civic group meetings; 4) informational materials mailed to landowners along the Dragon Run in Gloucester, King and Queen, and Middlesex; 5) delay of grant start date for award from Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.


Other Business


Willy Reay explained that the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in VA had acquired 121 acres near Mascot/New Dragon Bridge in King and Queen County. This land will be used mainly for people in the watershed and will focus on research and education. For example, it will be used for school group trips and as a research platform for scientists. Education programs may include canoe trips and technical training, such as wetland identification certification course. Research will focus on wetland science and water quality and weather monitoring stations. Fecal coliform testing may be performed in coordination with the VA Dept. of Environmental Quality.


Mike Anderberg provided an update on beaver dams in the Dragon Run. He noted that this year’s drought had produced more than 100 days with no or barely measureable flow in the non-tidal river. He also observed that after heavy rain this fall, at peak flow, only one beaver dam from Rt. 602 to Rt. 603 was visible above the water level.


Anne Ducey-Ortiz mentioned a rezoning request in Gloucester County that would rezone Rural Countryside as Industrial along Rt. 33 for the C.W. Davis Paving Co. asphalt plant that would allow the company to make improvements to the site.


Possible Action Plans


David noted that there the Advisory Group had made excellent progress towards the development of a management plan for the Dragon Run watershed. Now, it is time for the Group to address the difficult issue of land use.


Local Land Use Policies


David distributed a list of potentially controversial permitted uses within zoning districts in each county within the watershed to stimulate discussion on local land use policies. It was noted that reservoirs were a permitted use in the Conservation District in Gloucester. This sparked a spirited discussion about the possibility of a reservoir in the Dragon Run, given the potential for increasing demand for water in the Middle Peninsula. For instance, the King William reservoir was approved, water withdrawal from the paper mill in West Point forms a cone of depression in the aquifer, and a Dragon Run reservoir was Alternative #4 in Gloucester County’s water supply plan. Possible protection mechanisms against a reservoir in the Dragon Run are: 1) zoning; 2) Virginia Outdoors Foundation easements that carry immunity from the state’s power of eminent domain; and 3) Exceptional Waters designation that bars reservoir development.


A question arose about the reasons for differences between permitted uses in different counties and how they came to be in the zoning ordinance.


There was a brief discussion about adding extra costs and services to the cost of development, rather than on existing taxpayers. For example, counties can include requirements for provision of water and sewer in new development and building streets to VDOT standards. This reduces the demand for developments. In addition, zoning “low” allows for rezoning requests and the possibility of proffers to provide public services for new developments.


Discussion then shifted to the “test of success,” or monitoring the effects of land use policies on water quality. For example, buffers maintain water quality and zoning for agriculture and forestry can be compatible with deeper buffers than the 100-foot Chesapeake Bay Act buffer. Studies are needed to determine the effects of land use and special exceptions on water quality. For example, cattle in a stream can be a source of fecal coliform contamination. Some view cattle in the stream as “natural” and maintain that a bigger problem is the use of chemicals (e.g. fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides). What is needed is a solid water quality baseline. Factors like septic systems and hardening (or increasing impervious surfaces) can lead to degradation of water quality and quantity.


It was noted that one of the reasons that the Dragon Run exists in such a high quality condition is that it has a low level of development and largely intact riparian buffers.


Forest Stewardship Plans


The December 2002 issue of Virginia Wildlife is a joint effort of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Department of Forestry that focuses on the benefits of forest stewardship and forest management planning. It also speaks about Dept. of Forestry certification for Forest Stewards. Mike Anderberg suggested that the SAMP could promote the use of forest management plans with conservation elements.


David Birdsall mentioned that becoming a Tree Farm member offers certain programs, such as certification and a list of inspectors who operate for nominal fees. He also described the Sustainable Forestry Initiative that is geared towards industrial owners, but the ultimate goal is to extend the program to small landowners. The program focuses on forestry practices that sustain the industry over the long-term. Mr. Birdsall noted that the VA Dept. of Forestry is short-staffed for dealing with large increases in demand for stewardship plans and that fees are often charged and are likely to increase in light of state budget cuts. Therefore, it may be necessary to find a funding source for the development of forest stewardship plans. Mr. Birdsall mentioned that this is very similar to The Nature Conservancy’s proposal for the Dragon Run to be chosen under the U.S. EPA Watershed Initiative funding program. The proposal outlined the concept for a Forest Stewardship Program with a Conservation Forester that would aid landowners in developing forest stewardship plans.


Pat Tyrrell announced that the Tidewater Resource Conservation and Development Council is sponsoring a Forestry Short Course on February 8 that is aimed at offering professional guidance to forest landowners in managing their land.


Stream Corridor Protection Strategy for Local Governments


David Fuss showed a copy of a new publication from the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation called A Stream Corridor Protection Strategy for Local Governments. He offered to make copies for anyone who was interested. It is also available online.


Willy Reay mentioned that CBNERR-VA will be offering a Buffer Workshop for working professionals that focuses on water quality and wildlife. It will be no or low cost and will be held by next December.




David noted that the topics addressed tonight will likely be revisited at the next meeting. The next SAMP Advisory Group meeting will be held from 7-9 PM on January 14, 2003 at the MPPDC offices. The meeting was adjourned.