March 11, 2003
1. Welcome and Refreshments
2. Update on Land Use Policy Audit
3. Developing a Watershed Management Plan – Actions and Ideas
4. How will a draft plan become a final plan?
Ø Next meeting: Tuesday, April 8
David Milby (VA Dept. of Forestry); Robert Gibson, Frank Herrin (King and Queen); William Hester (US Fish and Wildlife Service); Andy Lacatell (The Nature Conservancy); Pat Tyrrell (Tidewater RC&D); Jack Miller (Middlesex); Prue Davis, Dorothy Miller (Essex); Willy Reay (Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve); Anne Ducey-Ortiz (Gloucester); Lorna Anderberg, Mike Anderberg, Mary Ann Krenzke (Friends of Dragon Run); Rebecca Wilson (VA Natural Heritage Program); Hoyt Wheeland (VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation); Kay Bradley (NN-MP Public Education Consortium); David Fuss (MPPDC)
David Fuss welcomed everyone and began introductions. Refreshments were provided by David’s Last Chance.
David updated the group on the status of the RFQ for a land use policy audit of the Dragon Run watershed. The review team, a subcommittee of the Advisory Group, has selected two finalists. After gathering more information about these two finalists, the review team will make a decision soon and the MPPDC will enter into contract negotiations with the top-ranked consultant. David hopes that the project can get underway by the end of March or early April.
David began by reviewing how the plan development process has unfolded. Referring to a handout, he told the Group that a draft watershed management plan should be prepared by the end of March. The draft plan will be modeled on the outline provided by the Virginia Delegation of the Chesapeake 2000 Watershed Commitments Task Force and will include the project’s goals and objectives and the action plans to achieve them. David reviewed this outline.
David then reviewed the recommendations which had already been approved by the Advisory Group. He also reviewed other possible actions and ideas that had been mentioned during previous discussions, but had not been fully addressed by the Group. These lists appear below:
Ø Establish Dragon Run Watershed Overlay District
Ø Establish Public Education Campaign
Ø Develop Awards Program
Ø Erect Watershed Boundary Signs
Ø Promote Use of Forest Stewardship Plans
Ø Promote Use of Farm Programs/Plans (e.g. EQIP, nutrient management)
Other Possible Actions/Ideas
· No wake zones
· Exceptional waters designation
· Natural Area Preserves
· Recreational carrying capacity/access
· Signage notifying boaters of private property rights
· Conservation easements
· Economic/tax forces fragmenting traditional uses
· Cluster/conservation zoning
· Promote the use of land-based access as an alternative to boat-based access
David then noted the handout that summarized state and federal farm and forest programs that were available in the watershed. The Group has recommended the promotion of farm and forest programs and the handout serves as a reference for those programs.
David then started discussion on the other possible actions and ideas. He raised the idea of a no wake zone in the lower Dragon based upon landowner complaints of erosion problems related to boat wakes. Concerns were raised that no wake zones are more trouble than they are worth, particularly with regard to maintenance and enforcement. There was also concern that jet skis, mentioned as a potential problem, cause less wake at high speed than at low speed. It was noted that signs can inform those people who want to do the right thing, because those that don’t won’t heed signs anyway. A question was raised about whether landowners could be using the no wake argument as a ruse to limit waterway use near their property. David suggested that evidence of actual erosion could come from an assessment by DCR’s Shoreline Erosion Advisory Service. Willy Reay indicated that he had recently received a publication with many articles related to jet skis and erosion. As an alternative to promoting the idea of a no wake zone in the watershed management plan, the Group could merely identify the process for designating an area as a no wake zone. This would capitalize on existing programs and processes without creating anything new. Questions were raised about the possible impacts of jet skis, but since this has not been mentioned as a major issue, it was tabled until it is identified as a problem (e.g. water use zoning?). The group decided that the watershed management plan should not mention no wake zones because it could be controversial and it has not been strongly identified as a widespread problem.
The next issue was the idea of designating some or all of the Dragon Run as Exceptional Waters, which is the state equivalent of Tier 3 waters under the federal Clean Water Act. David provided a handout with the VA DEQ’s guidance document for designation of Exceptional Waters. The primary goal of the Exceptional Waters designation is to limit the permitted discharges into the stream. There was concern about what this designation would mean for Rappahannock Community College if it wanted to expand. There are currently three Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits in the watershed, one of which is held by the community college for its wastewater treatment. Further comments included: how to determine the area of designation (i.e. not all the way to US 17 because it is a development corridor); confusion with the Scenic Rivers designation, which was attempted and soundly defeated by citizen opposition two times previously; restrictions of what landowners can do with their land such as logging (do not need permits and are already governed by BMPs); and who would nominate (e.g. Friends of Dragon Run, Dragon Run Steering Committee). Several comments were made urging caution on this subject, including: observing the reaction to the watershed overlay district first before trying for Exceptional Waters designation; try to diminish landowner suspicion by providing information about other streams that receive designation through this newly revived program (2002); and it will be easier to convince citizens of the Dragon Run’s importance once the mussel and fish and natural heritage resources work is completed. In any case, it will be imperative to clearly state how it will affect landowners. The Group decided upon a wait-and-see approach, leaving it as a possibility for the future but choosing not to recommend it in the watershed management plan.
The concept of Natural Area Preserves was discussed. David provided printouts from the Natural Heritage Program’s web site concerning Natural Area dedication and management agreements. With the assistance of Rebecca Wilson, the Group discussed how Natural Areas work. They are primarily intended to provide habitat for natural heritage resources, or rare species and natural communities. An explanation was provided for the difference between conservation easements and Natural Area dedications. Natural Area dedication provides the strongest form of protection available. For instance, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation owns conservation easements, but sometimes chooses to further dedicate an easement as a Natural Area. Questions were raised about management of Natural Areas and resources available to support managing Natural Areas. For most of the possible cases in the Draogn Run, management needs may be very low (e.g. swamp). There were concerns about what restrictions might be placed on landowners. It is important to note that these are voluntary agreements and will not be forced upon a landowner unwillingly. It was also noted that, with only 36 Natural Area Preserves throughout the state, this is unlikely to happen very often, if at all, in the Dragon Run watershed. The group decided that it would best be addressed in the watershed management plan as one of a menu of tools available for preservation of natural resources.
David Milby mentioned that the Dept. of Forestry has a Virtual Forestry Tour on CD-ROM that is full of information related to forestry. The CD allows the user to choose a particular section that is of interest, rather than having to page through all of the information. It has pictures, movies, quotes, etc. He thought that it could be applied to the Dragon Run Watershed Management Plan. It could prove useful to individuals in the community because it would provide examples of how the plan could be implemented. This would help community members understand how the plan elements relate to on-the-ground actions. Kay Bradley suggested that this information could also be translated to an interactive web site.
David Fuss referred briefly to a handout that described the Appalachian Sustainable Development project. This project is established in a rural region in western Virginia and is geared towards sustainable agriculture and forestry. Since sustaining the traditional uses of forestry and farming is a goal of the SAMP, David wanted the group to see how this rural VA project was developing the capacity to add value to their farm and forest products by producing specialty items for niche markets (e.g. custom cabinets, paneling, hardwood flooring, organic vegetables, etc.). David provided the information as reference material for the Group.
Mike Anderberg provided a “motivational” story. He described that the Friends of Dragon Run evaluated the possibility of purchasing a vacant 5-acre lot in the Dragon Run Farms subdivision near Rt. 602 in Middlesex County. The lot was listed at $19,900 and the Friends ultimately decided against submitting an offer. The seller eventually received two full price offers, one offered in cash. This is an example of the development pressure that exists in the Dragon Run.
The meeting closed with David promising the provide a draft watershed management plan to the Group before the April meeting. The Group may discuss the draft plan and other possible actions and ideas that have not fully been addressed.
David explained that the process of developing a watershed management plan offers many opportunities for input, feedback, and discussion. He asked the Advisory Group to think of themselves as a committee that generates the ideas and concepts that go into the plan. David incorporates those ideas into the preparation of the draft plan. After that, it will be presented to the public and the localities for feedback. Many revisions will undoubtedly occur before the Advisory Group and the Steering Committee finalize the watershed management plan. Between draft and final versions, items may be added or deleted based on the discussions among the Group and feedback from the watershed’s communities.
The meeting was adjourned. The next SAMP meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 8.