January 13, 2003
2. Developing a Watershed Management Plan - action plans
3. Adjourn – next meeting Feb 11?
Robert Gibson, Frank Herrin (King and Queen); Prue Davis, Dorothy Miller (Essex); Mary Ann Krenzke, Davis Rhodes (Friends of Dragon Run); Robert Hudgins (Gloucester); Anne Ducey-Ortiz (Gloucester County); Carissa Lee (Middlesex County); Julie Bixby (VA Coastal Program); David Birdsall (Resource Management Service, Inc.); Andy Lacatell (The Nature Conservancy); David Milby (VA Dept. of Forestry); Hoyt Wheeland, Rebecca Wilson (VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation); Kay Bradley (NN-MP Public Education Consortium); David Fuss (MPPDC)
David Fuss welcomed everyone and began introductions. He congratulated the group for their progressive efforts in long-range planning. He also related a story of a similar effort underway on Maryland’s Eastern Shore as a reminder that the Dragon Run SAMP is not an entirely unique effort in the Chesapeake Bay region.
Developing a Watershed Management Plan
Building a Plan
David Fuss reminded the group that the Dragon Run Steering Committee developed a watershed management plan in 1996, but that this plan was never adopted by the counties. The 1996 plan is a good starting point to develop a more comprehensive watershed management plan – one that will be presented to the counties.
The Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) project is currently undertaking several primary activities. First, an effort to make the community aware of the project and to develop support for the project is underway. This effort consists of presentations and handouts to civic and community group, planning commissions, and Boards of Supervisors. Once the Advisory Group has developed a draft watershed management plan, public meetings will be held in the four counties to share the concepts with community members and to solicit feedback.
Another primary activity is information gathering. Grant funding from the VA Coastal Program and from the VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation is supporting an aquatic inventory of the Dragon Run, a natural heritage survey of headwaters in the Dragon Run, and a land use policy audit of the four counties in the watershed. Additionally, Willy Reay at the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia will host a 1-day symposium to share research of natural resources in the Dragon Run and Piankatank River.
The final primary activity is to develop action plans to achieve the goals and objectives of the SAMP. A review of previously discussed ideas focused on the concept of a Dragon Run Overlay District. Mr. Fuss asked the group to consider the idea of amending existing districts by thinking about a parallel example. The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act requires localities to designate Resource Protection Areas, in which development activities are highly restricted, and Resource Management Areas, in which development activities receive more scrutiny than that in ordinary zoning districts. The overlay district for the Dragon Run could function similarly to the Resource Management Area.
Possible Action Plans
Mr. Fuss then asked the group to consider permitted uses within existing zoning districts in the four counties, including those that might be allowed under rezoning requests. The group talked briefly about mining as a permitted use – Gloucester and King and Queen both recently had applications withdrawn due to citizen concern.
After some discussion, the group deemed it too difficult to talk about individual permitted uses, but settled upon the idea of providing general guidelines for an overlay district. These might include concerns about surface and groundwater, threatened and endangered species, soils, impermeability, and quantity of permitted discharge.
David Birdsall suggested that this process was similar to the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process of developing limits on discharges to a stream. He wanted the group to consider what additional review could be useful that would be provided by the Dragon Run Steering Committee in an overlay district.The group thought that Steering Committee review of rezoning requests, conditional use permits, and special exceptions would offer a more holistic view of the watershed and could consider other resources, other county comprehensive plans (e.g. downstream), and the interests of landowners that are not immediately adjacent (those who are currently notified) but who may be affected by the proposed development.
Mr. Fuss reminded the group that the watershed management plan could specifically refer to what they would like to preserve in the watershed. These should follow along with the goals of the project that are geared toward farming, forestry, hunting, etc.
The concept of tax incentives to locate businesses in areas that are deemed appropriate was suggested.
Mr. Fuss indicated that he would research the idea of an overlay district and provide a rough draft of what it would look like by the next meeting in February.
The discussion then shifted to forest stewardship plans. The development of these plans has clear benefits to landowners, the community, and the environment. David Milby indicated that there was some misinformation at the last SAMP meeting concerning the VA Dept. of Forestry’s (DOF) role in developing forest stewardship plans and offered to clarify.
Mr. Milby explained that DOF originally developed forest stewardship plans free of charge. At some point, the private forestry consultants complained that DOF was undercutting their business by providing these services for free. DOF instituted a fee structure for the development of forest stewardship plans. Shortly after instituting this fee structure, the demand for plans dropped to zero. Requests for other services from DOF also stopped. Without forest stewardship plans and other services, landowners may not be gaining the best benefits. In December 2002, DOF began offering the free service of developing forest stewardship plans for up to 200 acres. Above 200 acres, a charge of $5/acre will apply. Landowners may provide a voluntary donation of $25 for materials.
Mr. Milby then described the process of developing a forest stewardship plan. First, the landowner completes a questionnaire in which he/she identifies goals for the land by ranking. This helps DOF determine what resources are needed to complete the plan. Resource experts in the areas identified as goals will then visit the property to develop recommendations. Collection of environmental and forestry data will also be performed. The DOF forester then compiles all of the information into a management plan. An appendix includes considerable information for the landowner, including forestery methods, best management practices, and natural heritage species. There is no obligation to the landowner. The plan is normally updated every 5 years.
Once the plan is developed, DOF can also provide other services. DOF does not provide timber pricing or timber appraisal, but can steer the landowner toward reliable businesses that do provide those services. Landowners may also pursue certification as a Forest Steward. One benefit of utilizing DOF to develop a plan is access to resource professionals outside of forestry (e.g. wildife specialists).
The question of compliance with the plans was asked. Mr. Milby indicated that, since this is a voluntary program, most landowners are motivated to comply with the plan because it is designed around their own goals. Furthermore, DOF is engaged with the landowners and can help them comply with their own plans by providing other services.
Mr. Fuss noted that the Dragon Run Steering Committee’s 1996 Watershed Management Plan recommended the idea of a PreHarvest Plan that notified the local government and DOF. Mr. Milby indicated that DOF would not inspect plans that were required by local governments outside of state requirements. He did note that the Prior Notification Law, enacted in July 2002, allows DOF to inspect a harvest operation within 10 days of its start. For large operations, DOF will inspect several to many times during the operation. Most operators in the Middle Peninsula notify DOF prior to cutting to consider special situations that they may encounter.
DOF works with operators to help them implement the Forestry Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual, of which the 4th Edition was recently released. In the Middle Peninsula, the effort to comply with the BMP Manual is very high, although on-the-ground compliance is not 100%. Even with training, some BMPs are implemented incorrectly. The SHARP Logger Certification Program is designed to train loggers to implement BMPs properly. DOF keeps a list of SHARP Certified Loggers.
Finally, the concept of farm plans was touched upon. It was noted that the VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) provides assistance in developing nutrient management plans for farms, but that state budget cuts may hamper DCR’s ability to provide these services. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, via its Natural Resources Conservation Service, has a number of programs that provide incentives to farmers for employing BMPs (e.g. no till farming) or for taking marginal land out of production (e.g. Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program).
The next meeting was set for Tuesday, February 11, 2003 from 7-9 PM at MPPDC. The meeting was adjourned.