Excerpts and Errors from the Middle Peninsula All Hazards Mitigation Plan — Another Installment of Accuracy Not Guaranteed

                                                                  By Carol J. Bova

There are so many major and minor mistakes about Mathews County in the regional All Hazards Mitigation Plan, there’s no easy way to address them at one time. Maybe it’s time to start an ongoing catalog of them to get a head start on the 2021 Mitigation Plan. We learned with previous reports like the Regional Water Supply Plan that there’s a very slim window for public input, and once a report is written, MPPDC has no interest in changing it. Even when citizens presented information at a meeting of the MPPDC about the Roadside and Outfall Ditch Report and asked that the report not be accepted until corrected, they acknowledged the errors and accepted it anyway, saying they’d correct it afterwards. The result: MPPDC staff decided there were no errors, and the mistakes in it continue to be recycled in newer reports, like the recent Virginia Coastal Policy Center’s Ditch Maintenance Study. That one involved a $40,000 grant, examined one ditch, and came up with the wrong answers, largely due to the influence of the earlier MPPDC reports. (More on that in a future post.)

With that background in mind, let’s look at the Hazards Mitigation Plan. The Plan is 556 pages, divided into 5 parts. They are available at mppdc.org.

Mathews County is located at the eastern tip of the Middle Peninsula. The County is bordered mostly by water, with the Chesapeake Bay to the east, the Mobjack Bay to the south, the North River to the west, and the Piankatank River to the north. Except for approximately five miles that border Gloucester County, the County’s perimeter is formed by its 217 mile shoreline. (Part1, pg. 16.)

The name and location are correct, and a peninsula is largely bordered by water. A few minor details are off, like the Chesapeake Bay is to the east and south of Mathews, and the western border is the North River and Mobjack Bay. The miles of shoreline number is off by 130 miles. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science reported 347.42 miles of shoreline on page 20 of the 2008 Mathews County Shoreline Inventory. Eight years should have been long enough for the MPPDC to become aware of the fact.

Image Courtesy of FEMA Region III (red notes added)

Image Courtesy of FEMA Region III (red notes showing Mathews’ area added)

The plan’s presentation of the county’s population over the years is at odds with reality.

Mathews County’s population changed little between 1840 and 1900. The population peaked in 1910 with 8,922 residents, but gradually declined over the next five decades to a low point of 7,121 in 1960. This was in keeping with a national trend of population shifts from rural to urban areas because of the increased job opportunities in the cities. The population began to grow in the 1970’s and it took until the mid 1990’s before the population reached the peak reported in 1910.

An actual graph paints a different story. After every decline in population, there’s been an upward trend. Mathews will never be an urban area, nor would most of its residents want it to be. What’s MPPDC’s purpose in distorting the description of the population pattern?

Mathews Population from U.S. Censusu 1800-2010

MPPDC’s lapses in accuracy continue on page 75 of the All Hazards Plan under Ditch Flooding Vulnerability.

Throughout the Middle Peninsula of Virginia, the network of aging roadside ditches and outfalls, serving 670 miles of roads, creates the region’s primary stormwater conveyance system.

Arithmetic is a weak point for the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission. According to VDOT statistics, the six counties involved in this regional plan have 279 miles of primary roads and 1,358 miles of secondary roads between them. Even if I didn’t have an educated pencil, my computer says that’s 1637 miles. My Echo Alexa agrees.

Currently each locality in the region experiences inadequate drainage and as a result, roads and private properties are frequently flooded after a storm event. The lowest lying localities (ie. Mathews and Gloucester County) are more vulnerable to ditch flooding as most of their land is either at or slightly above sea level.

Mathews is part of two watersheds and seven subwatersheds all existing so rainfall not absorbed by the land can reach the rivers and Chesapeake Bay. An extensive complex of streams follows the topography which consists of gentle contours from about 3 feet in the southern salt marshes to 35 feet in the northwestern region.

“At or slightly above sea level”? No wonder MPPDC thinks a foot and a half of sea level rise will wipe out a third of Mathews.

 

Watch for the next installment of Accuracy Not Guaranteed when the error catalog of the Middle Peninsula All Hazards Mitigation Plan continues.

 

Data or Scenario?

100_1347

By Carol J.  Bova

Data is factual information, as in measurements and statistics.
A scenario is a description of what could possibly happen.

When it comes to local sea level rise, I’ll go with data over scenarios.

These are the NOAA stations for Virginia and the 2015 numbers for all but Portsmouth which ends in 1987 and Gloucester Point which ends in 2003. (Click on the link to go to the NOAA site.)
https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_states.htm?gid=1249

Virginia Stations

Location        Local sea level rise per year and per century
8631044 Wachapreague, Virginia
The mean sea level trend is 5.37 mm/year from 1978 to 2015 which is equivalent to a change of 1.76 feet in 100 years.

8632200 Kiptopeke, Virginia
The mean sea level trend is 3.58 mm/year from 1951 to 2015 which is equivalent to a change of 1.17 feet in 100 years.

8635150 Colonial Beach, Virginia
The mean sea level trend is 4.89 mm/year from 1972 to 2010 which is equivalent to a change of 1.60 feet in 100 years.

8635750 Lewisetta, Virginia
The mean sea level trend is 5.42 mm/year from 1974 to 2015 which is equivalent to a change of 1.78 feet in 100 years.

8637624 Gloucester Point, Virginia
The mean sea level trend is 3.81 mm/year from 1950 to 2003 which is equivalent to a change of 1.25 feet in 100 years.

8638610 Sewells Point, Virginia
The mean sea level trend is 4.59 mm/year from 1927 to 2015 which is equivalent to a change of 1.51 feet in 100 years.

8638660 Portsmouth, Virginia
The mean sea level trend is 3.76 mm/year from 1935 to 1987 which is equivalent to a change of 1.23 feet in 100 years.

8638863 Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Virginia
The mean sea level trend is 5.93 mm/year from 1975 to 2015 which is equivalent to a change of 1.94 feet in 100 years.

Consider the Source: University of Virginia Institute for Environmental Negotiation Strategy List

The Mathews County Planning Commission is considering a list of “tools” MPPDC provided as ideas for a county whose goal is “living with the water.” The  MPPDC (Middle Peninsula Planning District) suggestions for Mathews County’s comprehensive plan revision focus more on how not to develop the county’s land resources than any future use planning. There is a heavy emphasis on urban stormwater management which doesn’t fit our rural and relatively undeveloped county.

Our rural stormwater needs are centered on getting the Virginia Department of Transportation to fix its failing state road drainage systems that are flooding private property and woodlands. To their credit,  VDOT seems to be hearing that message and is reaching out to partner with the county in working on the long-neglected problem. But there isn’t one word about VDOT’s drainage issues or the state’s responsibility in the “toolbox.”

The MPPDC tools do include the possibility of creating special hazard districts and Imposing new taxes and stormwater fees, and of course, the pet project of Executive Director Lewie Lawrence, the creation of a Ditching Authority. This would be a regional authority that would decide how much to tax landowners for the maintenance and repair of roadside and outfall ditches that cross their land across the Middle Peninsula. This Authority would act without the counties’ involvement or control if enabling legislation is created to permit its formation.

The basic idea ignores the fact that most of the roadside ditches are within the VDOT right-of-way, and where they’re not, there are easements for them, even though some of these were covered by consent of landowners, some dating back to the late 1800s. Others are included in right-of-way deeds as granting any land necessary “to construct, improve and maintain any drain ditches or other drainage facilities that may be needed for the proper and adequate drainage of said Route.” Also ignored is the fact is the number of outfalls that are natural streams that VDOT excavated. They are still considered streams by the Commonwealth, and landowners are not responsibile for their maintenance.

The MPPDC tools offer at least 11 ways to trade away Mathews land for cash payments or tax credits now that will prevent development here in Mathews forever. Some will allow urban developers to ignore an urban area’s zoning or environmental regulations and mitigate their violations by trading their building or ongoing pollution for unspoiled Mathews land. Transfer of development rights allows the urban over-development and eliminates ours. Polluters can keep polluting and substitute credits for locking in our land from development and paying us for the privilege. This doesn’t do anything to help the Bay. We’re already doing our part to help it recover, but the urban developers can continue to impair and damage it.

Conservation easements can be a good thing, but how do they fit into the County’s future? No one is looking at the long term effects of the MPPDC efforts to gather up these easements, which it can then transfer to other nonprofits. Are they going to become income sources for allowing pollution and overdevelopment elsewhere? That’s not explained in the toolbox list. So where did some of these ideas originate? Following is the 7-page strategy list included in a 2013 report to the legislature. Some of the strategies are sound, but others are being used now as part of the MPPDC toolbox against the best interests of Mathews for the long run.

Carol J. Bova

================================================================

RECURRENT FLOODING STUDY  FOR TIDEWATER  VIRGINIA
This report identifies recurrent flooding issues throughout Tidewater
Virginia, examines predictions for future flooding issues and evaluates a
global set of adaptation strategies for reducing the impact of flood events.

Report submitted to the Virginia General Assembly
January 2013

credit for recurrent flooding

Pages 128-134.  Full document at:

http://ccrm.vims.edu/recurrent_flooding/Recurrent_Flooding_Study_web.pdf

 

Section 4.6 IEN strategy list

The following lists are presented courtesy of the University of Virginia Institute for Environmental Negotiation.

 

Local Government Tools for Addressing Sea Level Rise in Virginia

DRAFT

Planning Tools To Be Considered for Discussion at Focus Groups

Compiled by the University of Virginia Institute for Environmental Negotiation

Sources cited below

January 2012

LAND USE: Examples of tools relating to land use concerns

  1. Update the local Comprehensive Plan to:
    1. Establish the rate of estimated sea level rise and time period over which it may occur.
    2. Designate areas vulnerable to sea level rise.
    3. Site future public infrastructure and capital improvements out of harm’s way.
    4. Provide the scientific basis to justify changes in land use decision-making, including an analysis of likely sea level rise hazards (inundation, flooding, erosion), and vulnerabilities (to specific areas, populations, structures and infrastructure).
    5. Plan responses to sea level rise.1
  1. Using data gathered on potential sea level rise and predicted flooding, update existing or designate new inundation zones or flood plain areas.2
  1. Integrate vulnerability assessments and sea level rise considerations into the locality’s existing Wetlands Ordinance.3
  1. Revise local zoning and permitting ordinances to require that projected sea level rise impacts be addressed to minimize threats to life, property, and public infrastructure and ensure consistency with state and local climate change adaptation plans.4
  1. Use overlay zoning to protect shorelines and other vulnerable areas. Overlay districts could prohibit shoreline protection structures, implement shoreline setbacks, restrict 1 future development, lower non-conforming use thresholds, or raise “free board” building code requirements. Shoreline overlay districts could take the form of either:
    1. A fixed-distance zone along the shoreline that would extend across all existing shoreline zoning districts; or
    2. A variable, resource-based zone, based on a scientific inventory of existing shoreline resources. The zone would vary in distance from the water line according to the identified resources.5
  1. Designate specific thresholds of land disturbance in square footage or acres that trigger a Water Quality Inventory Assessment.6
  1. Under section 15.2-2286 of the Virginia Code, offer tax credits to landowners who agree to voluntarily “downzone” their property.7
  1. Offer Use Value Assessments for owners who preserve shoreline property as open space or Wetlands Tax Exemptions to owners who agree to preserve wetlands and riparian buffers. These strategies are authorized under Virginia Code sections 58.1-3230 and 58.1-3666, respectively.8
  1. Enter into voluntary agreements with landowners to establish “rolling easements” with boundaries that shift as the mean low sea level rises. These would allow landowners to continue with their current land uses until sea level rise actually occurs. At this time, the concept of “rolling easements” is still relatively new.9
  1. Extend Resource Protection Area and Resource Management Areas under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA) ordinance. These areas can be extended if specific performance criteria that contribute to the stated goals of the CBPA (pollution reduction, erosion and sediment control, stormwater management) are established.10

NATURAL RESOURCES: Examples of tools relating to concerns

1.Prevent the erosion of storm water canals and shoreline by regularly removing trash, vegetation, sands, and other debris.11

  1. Restore prior-converted wetlands to provide storage and filtration and mitigate storm flows and nutrient loading.12
  1. Require new landscaping to incorporate flood and salt-water tolerant species and focus on creating buffers and living shorelines to reduce erosion.13
  1. Continue implementing beach replenishment and nourishment efforts.14
  1. Where possible, adopt shoreline protection policies that encourage the use of living shorelines rather than shoreline hardening.15 Where this is not feasible, protect land and buildings from erosion and flood damage using dikes, seawalls, bulkheads, and other hard structures.16
  1. Encourage shoreline property owners to implement shoreline management practices, including managing marshland and constructing stone sills, breakwater systems, revetments, and spurs.17
  1. Expand the adoption of accepted soil-conservation agricultural management practices to reduce erosion and polluted runoff.18
  1. Institute engineering strategies to mitigate saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers, including the construction of subsurface barriers, tide control gates, and artificially recharging aquifers.19
  1. Establish and maintain corridors of contiguous habitat along natural environmental corridors to provide for the migration and local adaptation of species to new environmental conditions.20
  1. Develop a price-based accounting system for ecosystem services.21
  1. Provide local businesses with information on the importance of maintaining the health of shorelines.22 (good voluntary approach if the case can be made “why do this”
  1. Remain aware of the effects that flood mitigation strategies, such as beach replenishment, have on wildlife.23

SAFETY AND WELFARE: Examples of tools relating to safety and welfare concerns

  1. Develop sea level rise action plans for critical local infrastructure. If existing transportation infrastructure is at risk, “develop plans to minimize risks, move infrastructure from vulnerable areas when necessary and feasible, or otherwise reduce vulnerabilities.”24
  1. Implement an early warning system for flooding that would monitor rainfall and water Levels and notify relevant government agencies and the general public in the event of an emergency.25
  1. Improve the ability of local infrastructure to efficiently handle drainage in the event of increased flooding. This could involve minimizing the construction of new impervious surfaces in flood-prone areas.26
  1. Amend existing zoning ordinances to require increased building elevations and setbacks, flood-proofing, and reduced density for new construction within flood zones.27
  1. Improve and enhance traffic rerouting and emergency evacuation protocols related to flooding events.28 (First responders love this stuff)
  1. Ensure that hospitals, evacuation refuge sites, fire and emergency rescue facilities, and key transportation routes are outside of inundation zones or are secured against projected flooding.29
  1. Redirect new infrastructure development away from low-lying neighborhoods and other at-risk areas, and elevate and armor existing critical infrastructure.30
  1. Require private sector owners of infrastructure to conduct sea level rise vulnerability assessments and develop their own sea level rise adaptation plans as a condition for permit approval.31
  1. Encourage the graduated repurposing of structures that are rendered unsuitable for their current use by sea level rise.32,33
  1. Gradually withdraw public services in flooded areas.34, 35

QUALITY OF LIFE: Examples of tools to address quality of life concerns

  1. Involve businesses in the planning process to prevent the loss of shoreline business and to mitigate the impacts of increased flooding and sea level rise.36 (could be a good voluntary strategy for public awareness.)24
  1. Establish a Transfer of Development Rights program to allow the owners of at-risk shoreline properties to sell development rights to upland landowners.37
  1. Permit the use of Onsite Density Transfers, which allow developers to subdivide lots into smaller and denser parcels if they preserve a portion of the lot as open space and cluster the subdivided parcels.38
  1. Purchase flooded property from landowners.39
  1. Organize coastal businesses and homeowners to appeal to insurance companies for affordable rates and deductibles.40
  1. Organize coastal businesses and homeowners to petition local, state, and federal politicians to address sea level rise.41
  1. Require realtors to disclose the threat of sea level rise and the responsibilities of shoreline owners to potential purchasers of shoreline properties.42
  1. Implement special taxing districts that cover the real, life-cycle costs of providing government services in high-risk flood zones, resulting in higher taxes for property-owners in those zones.43
  2. Use a financial regulatory program to discourage increasingly risky investments along the shoreline. Examples of existing programs with similar aims include:
    1. The state regulation of the property loss insurance sector to reflect higher risk from sea level rise, and
    2. Placing conditions on economic development to require the completion of a long-range vision and plan that addresses sea level rise and flood risk.44
  3. Hold a series of meetings with stakeholder groups to discuss and gauge potential sea level rise impacts to the region or locality.45
  1. Educate local elected officials on sea level rise, and the predicted impacts to the region or locality.46
  1. Present data in easily-understood terms, such as X acres will be flooded, X homes lost, and X impacts to wildlife.
  1. Extend media coverage to issues related to sea level rise to increase public awareness and to help citizens prepare for emergencies. This can include the use of social media, such as Facebook, as well as traditional media, including radio, television, and newspapers.48
  1. Increase public outreach, including press conferences, information sessions, community events, public meetings, and exhibits on sea level rise at libraries, aquariums, and museums.49
  2. Using modern technologies such as GIS mapping software, develop education programs for residents as well as students in local and regional schools.50
  1. Educate residents about the role that fertilizing, vegetation removal, and litter play in increasing flooding, erosion, and property damage.51
  1. Provide landowners with accurate data on the current and future vulnerability of their property to sea level rise as well as best managing practices for mitigating the effects of increased flooding.52
  1. Raise public awareness of areas prone to flooding through increased signage.53

OTHER TOOLS to consider

  1. Craft a “Community Resilience” policy statement emphasizing the need for science-based vulnerability assessments, adaptation planning, education and public engagement, and the development of flexible regulatory and non-regulatory strategies for addressing sea level rise.54
  2. Compile a sea level rise impact assessment. This is often a long-term, multi-phase effort. Steps can include:
    1.  Assembling an advisory workgroup.55
    2. Identifying flood zones and at-risk populations.
    3. Mapping regional and county sea level rise predictions to show impacts to existing development and natural areas; and
    4. Assessing and prioritizing economic and ecological vulnerabilities to sea level rise.

===================================

1 Georgetown Climate Center, Stemming the Tide: How Local Governments Can Manage Rising Flood Risks –
Review Draft 3 11 (May 2010), on file with author.
2 See id. at 9-10.
3 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (“Virginia Tech”), Building Resilience to Change: Developing
Climate Adaptation Strategies for Virginia’s Middle Peninsula – DRAFT 16 (October 2011), on file with author.
4 L. Preston Bryant, Jr., Governor’s Commission on Climate Change, Final Report: A Climate Change Action Plan 35
(Dec. 15, 2008), on file with author.

5 Virginia Tech, supra note 2 at 13, 32, 43.
6 Id. at 16.
7 Georgetown Climate Center, supra note 1 at 18.
8 Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 43.
9 Id. at 36, 43; see also Georgetown Climate Center, supra note 1 at 19-23.
10 Virginia Tech, supra note 1 at 43.
11 Institute for Environmental Negotiation (“IEN”), Sea Level Rise in Hampton Roads: Findings from the Virginia
Beach Listening Sessions, March 30-31, 2011, Final Report 61, available at
http://www.virginia.edu/ien/docs/Sea_Level_Rise%20final%20report%207-19.pdf.
12 Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 27.

13 IEN, supra note 11 at 57.
14 Id. at 59, 65.
15 See Bryant, supra note 4 at 36.
16 Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 35.
17 Id. at 42.
18 Id. at 28.
19 Id. at 13.
20 IEN, supra note 11 at 64.
21 Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 21.
22 IEN, supra note 11 at 61.
23 Id. at 64.

24 Bryant, supra note 4 at 35; see also IEN, supra note 2 at 64-65.
25 See Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 22.
26 IEN, supra note 11 at 57, 61.
27 Id. at 43; Georgetown Climate Center, supra note 1 at 11.
28 William A. Stiles, “A ‘Toolkit’ for Sea Level Rise Adaptation in Virginia” 4.1.3, on file with author.
29 Id.
30 Id. at 3.1.
31 Bryant, supra note 4 at 35.
32 IEN, supra note 11 at 60.
33 Bryant, supra note 4 at 35.
34 Id. at 81.
35 Bryant, supra note 4 at 35.

36 Id. at 27.
37 Georgetown Climate Center, supra note 1 at 17.
38 Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 40.
39 IEN, supra note 11 at 81.
40 Id. at 58-59.
41 Id. at 60.
42 Id. at 63.
43 Stiles, supra note 24 at 4.1.2.
44 Id. at 4.1.4.
45 Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 7-8.
46 Id. at 9. For specific training and funding opportunities, see id. at 44-45; see also IEN, supra note 11 at 67.
47 IEN, supra note 11 at 64.

48 Id. at 66, 68.
49 See id. at 62-63, 66-67.
50 See Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 45.
51 IEN, supra note 11 at 63.
52 Id. at 59; Bryant, supra note 4 at 37.
53 IEN, supra note 11 at 57.
54 Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 34.
55 IEN, supra note 11 at 57.

56 Stiles, supra note 24 at 3.1.; Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 8.
57 See generally Stiles, supra note 24; Virginia Tech, supra note 3 at 2.
58 IEN, supra note 11 at 57.
59 See Stiles, supra note 24 at 4.1.1.
60 Id. at 3.2.

Another VDOT Drainage Project Engineered to Fail

By G. C. Morrow

After reviewing VDOT’s current Mathews Courthouse drainage project (VDOT #87865), I decided to look at previous projects to see if I could find a pattern in their failures. It is extremely hard to conceive that these projects with their half million plus engineering budgets fail so miserably at their purpose. At first glance, it appears that the engineers are attempting to move their drainage conveyances to more accessible locations, but even the greenest of engineers should know better than to try to drain water uphill.

Case in point is the Wards Corner Project at Routes 14 and 198 (VDOT# 56940). VDOT has two outfalls just north of Wards Corner on Rt. 198 that are so neglected they can only be found by locating the endwalls and large pipes. South of Wards Corner, there are 3 outfalls much lower in elevation than the one at Wards Corner, and they are necessary to handle several hundred acres of stream flow, as well as roadside drainage. All roadside ditches in this vicinity are so poorly maintained that the flow lines are almost completely lost, and many large pipes are obscured in the right-of-way.

Wards Corner, July 21, 2012 Photo: C. J. Bova

Wards Corner, July 21, 2012 Photo: C. J. Bova

The Mathews High School football field and the Mathews County Park on 198 have been flooded several times since the Wards Corner Project completion. On one occasion, I photographed a 200′ wide river on our football field and park. At the same time, the pipes at Wards Corner were less than half full because water still goes downhill, and the high school is downhill from Wards Corner.

High school football field Aprl 15, 2014 Photo: GC Morrow

High school football field Aprl 15, 2014                                                               Photo: GC Morrow

This $1.618 million project was a gross waste of resources and will cause perpetual flooding of downstream locations and personal property from roads that still need proper and adequate conveyance of storm water and stream flow. VDOT could have invested a much smaller amount to restore the outfall to Stutts Creek behind the high school, and clear or even replace the pipes in the VDOT easement along the football field, and convey the water from Route 198 and not let it flood the school and park properties. (See State Highway Plat Book 3, pg. 211, 0014 057 305.)

An earlier project on East River Road, Route 660 (VDOT #61013) $1.334 million, did not address Route 14 drainage between Route 660 at Foster and Route 617 at North. The roadside ditches less than .25 mile west of Foster are flooded most of the time. The 1965 USGS topographic map shows that three uphill streams that should cross Route 14 are channelized to roadside ditches in the VDOT right-of-way. The adjacent properties are now flooded along the roadside ditch. No matter how well a project is engineered and designed, if necessary adjacent conveyances are not maintained, any project can negatively impact the already neglected system.

The Mathews Courthouse Route 14 Drainage Improvement Project (#87865) is another case of a poorly engineered and designed package. The engineers relied on computer-generated maps without ground verification to identify the drainage areas. The 2011 USGS topo included historical drainage ditches which no longer function, and in some cases, no longer exist. That 2011 map also labeled a ditch north of the Hyco Subdivision as Put In Creek. First, it’s barely identifiable today, and second, it’s a created drainage ditch, not Put In Creek, and third, it is downhill from the planned location of the four new pipes crossing 198 to Put In Creek.

VDOT Route 14 Drainage Improvement Plan Map pg. 10

VDOT Route 14 Drainage Improvement Plan Map pg. 10

Most of the drainage areas in the plan are overstated because the natural drainage pattern for them would be to the Morris Creek watershed, not to the Put In Creek/East River watershed. The boundary between the Morris Creek and Put In Creek watersheds is incorrect on both national and state maps. The 198 connection to the Put In Creek ditch could be adequate to carry water from the road, but not any of the Morris Creek watershed.

If the original ditches were functioning properly, the water from the Hyco Subdivision and adjacent land would go to Morris Creek by two routes.

Ditch 1. runs parallel to Route 198 north to Critter Lane where it can enter Morris Creek, but the ditch is constrained by a collapsed 15″ pipe.

Ditch 2 is to the east of Hyco Subdivision where VDOT has an 800’ outfall. (198-4957-02, sheet 5) The deeded 800’ outfall follows the proper contour northward to Morris Creek. This conveyance has a dimension of approximately 12′ wide and 7′ deep at the tree line, then it tapers down to 2′ wide 2′ deep approximately 300′ from the roadside. The landowners adjacent to this failed ditch have documented many complaints about standing water on their property to VDOT without response.

The plan also shows water being directed to Put In Creek from the Liberty Square Courthouse to Church Street through a ditch system which failed a long time ago. The plan does not address restoring it.

More than 100 acres of water from part of Glebe Road, the rest of the Liberty Square Courthouse, the Cricket Hill Apartments, and Bank of America crosses under Route 198 to the east to an outfall at 10601 Buckley Hall Road. This is part of the same Ditch 1 listed under Hyco Subdivision which goes to Critter Lane and Morris Creek.

Both Ditch 1 and Ditch 2 have partly failed and have created several acres of flooded upland, now being called nontidal wetlands.

Like the situation with Hyco Subdivision, the water from the land behind Food Lion should drain to Morris Creek, not Put In Creek. Because the original ditches that conveyed the water to Morris Creek no longer function, water leaves the Food Lion parking lot via a 48” pipe near the Chinese restaurant then funnels east into the woods behind the Food Lion. When rain exceeds 1″ an hour for 3 or 4 hours, the woods store water until the ground is saturated. The water then converts to a 70-acre sheet flow, where every drop falling on this land has to go uphill to Food Lion, and then to Faulkner and Son. This conveys torrents of water to Main Street and continues to run for days.

When I approached the lead engineer at the public design hearing, he was rather arrogant and abrasive, and stressed his job was to drain the 70 acres. The map he provided showing the lands to be drained showed no houses, no businesses, no roads, and that the drainage area was definitely downhill from Food Lion.

The median storm water level already overtops the Put In Creek ditch and adjacent property located behind Faulkner and Son. I could say much more, and I have spoken to Jim Brent, P.E., Sean Trapani, former Saluda R.A., Delegate Keith Hodges, Planning and Zoning Director John Shaw, and several engineers at the public design hearing. But there has been no change in the project except to increase the cost.

The unanswered questions are:

  1. Why hasn’t VDOT explored the possibility that the two existing pipes across Buckley Hall Road, including the one destroyed by utility pole placement years ago, might be adequate in conjunction with system maintenance and restoration?
  1. The new Westville Community project shows water discharge at 7.75 ft. elevation into the VDOT pipe system which shows a 5.42 ft. elevation at its discharge point (per VDOT plans). Will this 13 acres of additional storm water flow uphill to Hyco Corner? Or will it further damage the properties downhill to the east of the Westville Community project?
  1. Why hasn’t VDOT realized any additional water collected at Buckley Hall Road will exceed the capacity of the feeble ditch between Hyco Corner and Church Street (Route 611) at the Firehouse?
  1. Two 4’ x 7’ box culverts are 2.91 times larger than the two 42” pipes now at Church Street. They are intended to let more water out, but will definitely let more water in as well.

    Put In Creek at Church Street 42" pipe two hours before predicted low tide of .28 ft       Photo: CJ Bova

    Put In Creek at Church Street 42″ pipe two hours before predicted low tide of .28 ft      

  1. Did anyone with tidal engineering or analysis experience review the plans that use a high tide water surface elevation of 0.31 feet when high tides range from 1.8 to over 3 feet?

    Put In Creek after 2.9 ft high tide Photo: CJ Bova

    Put In Creek after 2.9 ft high tide Photo: CJ Bova

I hope that someone at VDOT will ground verify and redesign this poorly conceived project that will definitely increase the probability and severity of flooding–both tidal and non-tidal.

Notice how the original outfalls traveled great distances to avoid any close tidal contact. This is another no-brainer that can’t be taught. We expect more from over $945,000 than bad, poorly directed engineering.

 

G.C. Morrow’s family‘s roots in Mathews go back to 1725. He’s worked in, traveled through, or explored most all of the county. He is co-founder of the Ditches of Mathews County Project which has worked to raise awareness of the problems and offer solutions to VDOT’s drainage issues that are affecting Mathews County.

He’s worked and fought with many state and federal agencies for the environmental well-being of Mathews and was one of the citizens on the county’s Ditch Enhancement project Committee who tried to provide local knowledge to the engineers. As Business Group Chair on the Piankatank TMDL Steering Committee to improve water quality, he fought for truth in reports and provided more accurate information than the state’s computer-generated numbers for wildlife, livestock and pet populations. In January 2016, G.C. began his first term on the Mathews County Board of Supervisors. This open letter is a personal statement of his views based on his experience and knowledge of Mathews County.

 

Comments and Concerns Sent to US Army Corps of Engineers

Date:  December 22, 2015

To:      Keith R. Goodwin, keith.r.goodwin@usace.army.mil
CC:      Joe Schumacher, Congressman Wittman’s office
Mathews County Supervisors
RE:      NAO-201501451 Chesapeake Bay Wetland Mitigation Bank

The prospectus for the referenced mitigation bank fails to adequately address issues of public health and safety, potential East River water quality impacts, and conflicts with the Mathews County Comprehensive Plan. A number of responses to the Virginia Off-Site Mitigation Location Guidelines Checklist are factually inaccurate. Contrary to the responses, the riparian areas of the East River are on adjacent properties except for a small fringe of the RMA in the southeastern corner of the site, and a residence is currently under construction on a parcel adjacent to the site. While the risk of lead contamination of the groundwater which connects to the Yorktown-Eastover aquifer, the primary and generally only source of drinking water for Mathews County, is of the utmost concern, consideration of the impacts of reduced water flow to the East River is important to the health of the river and the Chesapeake Bay. The other issues raised here need to be considered as well.
Thank you,
Carol J. Bova

Concern about Lead Contamination of Groundwater and Aquifer

The initial lead remediation plan for the proposed mitigation site on Route 14 will stop unless a subsequent random soil test is higher than 400 ppm, which is equal to 400,000 ppb. The EPA action level for lead in drinking water is 0.15 mg/liter, which equates to 15 parts per billion, yet the remediation plan does not address the possibility of lead leaching into groundwater during the five years of shooting range activity which uses approximately 2,188 pounds of lead shot annually. No water testing is included in the prospectus or lead remediation plan even though the Yorktown-Eastover, the primary aquifer for domestic wells, is 7 feet below the surface of the ground as recorded in the USGS borehole about 1.5 miles southwesterly on Route 14 from the site, and the aquifer is in contact with groundwater in many places.

“The Yorktown-Eastover aquifer and the eastern part of the surficial aquifer are closely associated…and jointly compose a shallow, generally semiconfined groundwater system that is hydraulically separated from the deeper system.” (USGS Professional Paper 1713, Abstract. http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/2006/1731/pp1731_download.htm)

The National Wetlands Inventory shows 6.28 acres of land designated as temporarily flooded overlaying part of the shooting range fallout zone. This is not shown on the prospectus site map. Even if that area is no longer flooded, the remediation plan does not follow the Technical/Regulatory Guidelines of the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council regarding runoff. (See page 6–NWI map detail with 5 areas marked where precipitation runoff crossed Honey Pod Lane to the East River in December 2015.)

“Nearby surface waters or wetlands that could be receiving runoff from the areas of the ranges where shot or bullets are deposited should also be noted, and the sampling and analytical plan should investigate this possibility.”                               (http://www.itrcweb.org/GuidanceDocuments/SMART-1.pdf)

Annual rainfall for this area is about 45 inches. The U.S. Army’s report, “Prevention of Lead Migration and Erosion from Small Arms Ranges” discusses effects of saturated soil on corrosion and lead migration with shallow depth to groundwater not addressed in the prospectus.

“Rainfall also influences the solubility of lead. The more rainfall, the greater the likelihood the soil will become saturated, increasing the time the round stays in contact with the rainwater. The longer the round stays in contact with moisture, the faster it will corrode. Acid rain accelerates the corrosion process.

“The risk of lead migration to groundwater becomes greater when the corrosion rate is high and depth to groundwater is shallow (less than 10 feet). Basically, the closer the groundwater is to the surface, the greater the chances of contamination.”  (http://www.aec.army.mil/Portals/3/range/leadmigration.pdf)

According to EPA’s Best Management Practices for shooting range operation, sandy soils, high annual rainfall, and a water body downslope of the range increase the risk of lead migration and contamination. (http://www3.epa.gov/region02/waste/leadshot/epa_bmp.pdf)

Runoff from the proposed site was observed in five locations crossing Honey Pod Lane from west of the site in December 2015 after a moderate amount of rainfall. (See page 6.)

The remediation plan for lead in the soil will not start until 2018 while lead could be leaching into the groundwater or be in runoff to the East River in the five years before then.

Negative Impact of Berms and Blocking Drainage on East River Water Quality

Although the environmental specialist for the sponsor told the Mathews Board of Supervisors on December 15 there would be the same three discharge sites, he also said there will actually be less water coming off the site because of planting trees. “We’re decreasing the flow off the site.” The prospectus describes the plan to raise the site’s groundwater level by blocking the existing drainage channels on the property and building berms which would seem to indicate less water will reach the river from those changes as well.

The East River has two Category 5 impairments on the state’s 2014 303D(1) report which can be worsened by reduced water flow: pH exceedance in 8 of 12 months and low dissolved oxygen. The East River TMDL review is not scheduled until 2024, so any worsening of impairments will impact the Chesapeake Bay water quality at least until that time.

Inaccurate Statement about Fallsington Soil

The prospectus states, “…most of the surrounding property has Fallsington Soils, which are not suitable for drainfields.” This is not an accurate statement because suitability is site-dependent. Fallsington soil is present in much of the County and can be suitable for septic systems. The “User Notes for National Wetlands Inventory Maps of Eastern Virginia” lists the Fallsington Soil Series with an asterisk: “Requires site evaluation to determine whether soil is wetland.” The presence of five homes adjacent to the proposed site and one under construction would also confirm this fact.

A follow up review for the Piankatank/Gwynn’s Island/Milford Haven TMDL IP was made in August 2015 for septic system deficiencies, repairs and replacements in Mathews County, including the East River watershed (Shellfish Growing Area 41), surveyed by the Virginia Health Department, Division of Shellfish Sanitation. Growing Area 41 has 983 homes, and there were 14 septic system repairs over a three-year period (2013-2015), a rate of 1.42 percent and 6 replacements, a rate of 0.61 percent, well below the failure rate used in the Piankatank TMDL Water Quality Improvement Plan.

Although the environmental specialist said at the December 15 meeting there would be no impact on adjacent homeowners from surface flow, neither he nor the prospectus discussed the sub-surface effect on downslope drainfields of raising the water table on the mitigation site which is at a higher elevation. No statements were made as to current depth of groundwater on the mitigation site or adjacent properties.

Comments on Sponsor’s Answers to Off-Site Mitigation Guidelines Checklist

B1. Wetland Restoration: Yes
B2. Stream Restoration: No.

It is questionable whether this is a wetland restoration.

  • “Most of the marshes along the North and East Rivers are fringing marshes along the adjacent uplands…” (Mathews County Shoreline Management Plan, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Shoreline Studies Program, March 2010.)

There are no marshes on the site which would indicate the site was historically uplands.

Mathews County is a watershed discharge zone for the Chesapeake Bay through its streams, creeks and rivers. Ephemeral streams flow only after rains fall and are rarely indicated on maps. Mining of sand on the site in the 1930’s and farming prior to and after that time would have disrupted the natural ephemeral streams that would have conducted water to the East River, leading to the establishment of drainage ditches on the site.

  • Spot elevations from the National Map show most of the property is about 12 feet in elevation, with one measurement of 14 ft midway down the eastern boundary ditch which runs from state Route 14 to the East River. The site is higher than 2/3s of West Mathews according to the Comprehensive Plan, and it is in Zone X outside the 500-year floodplain. See page 7 for FEMA Flood Hazard Map.

B3. Sponsor states the site is contiguous or connected to other aquatic areas.

  • There is no description of this connection in the prospectus beyond the image of the drainage ditch on the east property line. There is no acknowledgement of the existence of the historically present intermittent stream. See pages 8-9 for adjacent properties between the site and East River.

B4. Sponsor states no existing or proposed development upslope/adjacent to the project.

  • A residence is currently under construction immediately to the west of the project at 166 Honey Pod Lane.

B4. Sponsor also states no areas are identified for future development in the Comprehensive Plan upslope and adjacent to the proposed mitigation site.

  • The Comprehensive Plan designates the upslope northern property border as part of a 300-foot wide Corridor Overlay District along Route 14 and for Waterfront Residential along the west and south borders. See page 10.

B5. Sponsor claims riparian buffer protection greater than state and local requirements.

  • The only riparian buffer may be in a small area within the RMA on the southeastern edge of the property. Any other buffers would be on adjacent properties. See page 11, Comprehensive Plan Chesapeake Bay Protection Areas map. If tree seedlings are able to take hold when planted, it would be a number of years before they can take up any significant amount of water.

B7. Sponsor claims the site is consistent with local planning requirements.

  • In fact, there are no zoning ordinance statements that apply except Section 15.8 which prohibits land use that creates “…noxious, or otherwise objectionable conditions which could adversely affect the surrounding areas or adjoining premises.” Freshwater wetlands without environmental conditions that allow wet/dry cycles to keep soil oxygenated produce methane and can produce hydrogen sulfide. The environmental specialist James Hudson told the Board of Supervisors on December 15 there would be standing water above the surface in the winter wet season.
  • The following excerpt from class notes from the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences describes wetlands methane production.

Nutrient cycling in wetlands:

“The diffusion of oxygen in saturated soils is 10,000 times slower than in unsaturated soils. A saturated soil will become anaerobic in a matter of hours (matter of days at most) depending on 1) temperate; 2) the amount of organic matter; 3) the initial microbial community and 4) the amount of reducing compounds present (example: ferrous iron)….Methanogenic [methane-producing] organisms work in the anaerobic zone to convert dissolved organic carbon into methane…..The production of methane is much more common in freshwater systems.”                                                     (http://cals.arizona.edu/azaqua/aquaplants/classnotes/NutrientCycling.pdf)

B8. Sponsor states order of stream on site is not applicable.

  • An intermittent first-order stream is clearly shown running to the south through the shooting range fallout zone on USGS 1948, 1965, and 2013 topographic maps, the National Map, and Mathews County Tax Map 20. It may have been damaged or disrupted by the previous clear-cut logging and the establishment of the shooting range. The temporarily flooded area shown on the National Wetlands Inventory may be evidence of this intermittent stream. (See National Wetlands INventory detail, Mathews County Tax map composite, and National Map Hydro-Imagery detail.)

C1. Sponsor states the site creates/contributes to a corridor linking large aquatic systems.

  • The property is separated from the East River by 93 acres in 12 adjacent parcels of land. See List of Properties and Tax Map Composite.

C5. Sponsor states the site will contribute to improved water quality for identified/ designated impaired waters described as “shellfish/not supporting.”

  • In spite of previous improper farming practices referred to in the prospectus as contributing sediment and nutrients to the East River, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality reports no East River nutrient or sediment impairments.
  • The shellfish impairment is for E. coli. Reducing flow of precipitation runoff to the East River will not reduce E. coli levels in the river.

C8. Sponsor states the proposed site is “at the top of the watershed.”

  • The site is at least 1 mile south of the ridge separating the East River Watershed HUC12-020801020405 from the Lower Piankatank River Watershed HUC12-020801020403. Virginia Department of Transportation project plans for Route 14, 14-667C, sheet 7, show two notations of 600 and 675 acres of drainage being carried across the road from the northwest to the East River just west of the proposed mitigation site. See National Map watershed boundary detail below.

    Watershed Boundaries in purple from National Map. (Color enhanced for better visibility.)

    Watershed Boundaries in purple from National Map. (Color enhanced for better visibility.)

Yellow arrows placed on National Wetlands Inventory map show runoff channels  crossing Honey Pod Lane from proposed site.

Yellow arrows placed on National Wetlands Inventory map show runoff channels crossing Honey Pod Lane from proposed site.

FEMA Flood Hazard Map Layer showing proposed site is in Zone X.

FEMA Flood Hazard Map Layer showing proposed site is in Zone X.

Properties Between Proposed Site (tax map 20-A-1) and East River (see Tax Map below list)

Adjacent waterfront properties with residences:
19-A-98   29.40 acres   166 Honey Pod Lane (Norton) (Under construction.)
19-A-99A   5.06 acres   366 Honey Pod Lane   (Hurst)
19-A-99   27.37 acres   524 Honey Pod Lane   (Walsh)
20-A-1A     6.93 acres   620 Honey Pod Lane   (Hudgins)
20-A-1B     5.35 acres   652 Honey Pod Lane   (Hurst)

Adjacent non-waterfront with residence:
20-A-5 1.24 acres   755 Honey Pod Lane (Jenkins)

Adjacent non-waterfront properties with no residences:
20-A-1D 0.07 acres (Walsh)
20-A-3     2.03 acres (Ingram, C.)
20-A-4     0.71 acres (Jenkins)

Parcels between adjacent properties and East River
20-A-1C (Waterfront with residence) 4.00 acres 674 Honey Pod Lane (Owens)
20-A-6 (Non-waterfront, no residence) 1.01 acre (Ingram, C.)
20-A-7 (Waterfront, no residence) 10.06 acres (Ingram, A.)

Total 93.23 acres between site and river.

Adjacent to eastern property border
20-A-2   54.30 acres (Gayle) Along eastern ditch.

Composite of Mathews County tax maps 15, 19 and 20 to show proposed site and adjacent properties.

Composite of Mathews County tax maps 15, 19 and 20 to show proposed site and adjacent properties. Intermittent stream is solid light line between Honey Pod Lane and double-circle A.

Comprehensive Plan map showing West Mathews Future Land Use.

Comprehensive Plan map showing West Mathews Future Land Use.

Mathews County Comprehensive Plan showing West Mathews Chesapeake Bay Protection Areas. RMA on proposed site circled in red.

Mathews County Comprehensive Plan showing West Mathews Chesapeake Bay Protection Areas. RMA on proposed site circled in red.

National Map Hydrography view showing intermittent stream on proposed site and East River.

National Map Hydrography view showing intermittent stream on proposed site and East River.

Conrad Hall’s Deed of Gift for Mathews Heritage Park

Discussions about establishing Mathews Heritage Park started back in 2010. Along the way, a lot of the declarations and restrictions in the deed of gift from Conrad Mercer Hall got overlooked in the proposed public access plan. The deed calls for the site to only be a nature park and waterfront center for education about the history and ecology of Mathews County. The plan uses one-half of a page to gloss over those points, adds organized camping to the list, and dedicates 17 pages to recreational opportunities and water access.

For anyone interested in the details, a copy of the deed, which is a public record at the Mathews County Courthouse, is attached below.

Hall Deed

Download the PDF file Hall Deed.

VDOT: Get the Water Moving for the Oysters

If the Virginia Department of Transportation won’t maintain adequate drainage from state highway roadside ditches to avoid flooding of private property and timber, maybe they’ll do it to provide adequate oxygen in Chesapeake Bay area waters for the oysters. Following up on yesterday’s post, this one provides information about a Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) study and where to find it online.

A Smithsonian Institution press release in February 2015 announced publication of an article, Landscape-Level Variation in Disease Susceptibility Related to Shallow-Water Hypoxia. The details may be more than the casual reader wants to absorb, but the bottom line is the SERC study describes how oysters in Chesapeake Bay area waters are more susceptible to disease when they are exposed to episodes of low dissolved oxygen at night. The locations studied had a depth of less than 6.5 feet and salinity levels typical of many of the shellfish waters around Mathews County.

“We usually think of shallow-water habitats as highly productive refuges from deep-water dead zones,” says Denise Breitburg, marine ecologist at SERC and lead author of the study. “But if low oxygen makes even these shallow waters inhospitable for fish and shellfish, the whole system may suffer.”

 So VDOT, if you don’t care about the impact on people, get the water moving so our oysters can remain healthy and help clean up the mess your negligence created.

 

Article Source:Landscape-Level Variation in Disease Susceptibility Related to Shallow-Water Hypoxia

Breitburg DL, Hondorp D, Audemard C, Carnegie RB, Burrell RB, et al. (2015) Landscape-Level Variation in Disease Susceptibility Related to Shallow-Water Hypoxia. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0116223. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116223

Time to Pay Attention to Oxygen for the Bay

Blocked VDOT roadside ditch flooding adjacent land.

Blocked VDOT roadside ditch flooding adjacent land.

I wrote a report in 2012. If anyone in authority had paid attention then, we’d be seeing results now, instead of looking at more flooded ditches and damaged roads. Expect our TMDL numbers (total maximum daily load) for E. coli levels to stay the same, because the problem is not primarily land-based. It’s VDOT ditch based.

Although nothing about dissolved oxygen levels made it into the final EPA-accepted Water Quality Improvement Plan, there was a recommendation for a Ditch Task Force involving the Virginia Department of Transportation. The intent was to discuss and plan ways to improve the drainage for our state roads. Instead, we have the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission advocating the creation of a Ditching Authority to charge landowners and counties for VDOT’s failures.

MPPDC is basing its Ditching Authority concept on states and countries which drained wetlands for agricultural purposes–and must continue to drain them to continue farming. Ohio, for example, drained 7.4 million acres of wetlands, and today, 2/3s of their cropland and 500,000 homes depend on that land staying drained. They have a Ditching Authority.

Our drainage problem is rainfall from state roads cannot reach receiving bodies of water because of failed and neglected VDOT maintenance. The cause is not wetland drainage, not agricultural land drainage, not private property drainage, not sea level rise, not land elevation or land subsidence.

Read the report and see for yourself if it makes sense.

Report for Working Groups for the Shellfish TMDL Implementation Plan for the Piankatank River, Gwynns Island and Milford Haven Watersheds, August 27, 2012

submitted by Carol J. Bova

A review of the original Shellfish Sanitation Surveys and outstanding violations for the Piankatank River, Gwynns Island and Milford Haven Watersheds doesn’t document enough ongoing septic system violations to account for the continuing high levels of bacteria in the TMDL waters. From the June 30th report, only Healy Creek had one prior uncorrected septic issue. There were two kitchen deficiencies: one at Healy Creek and one at Edwards Creek.

There are no large agricultural operations, fewer farms than decades ago when the waters were not impaired, and not enough hobby livestock to account for current bacterial impairments. It’s equally unlikely that pets are the main factor, and while wildlife contributes a significant amount, it is not the sole source.

Based on scientific findings over the last six years across the United States, in Canada and in Europe, naturalized E. coli is the most likely major source of the ongoing high bacterial readings.

These studies show E. coli does not require a human or animal host to survive for extended periods in soil, sand, sediments and water. Wind and storms stir up sand and sediment and release bacteria back into the water column. Bottom feeding fish like spot and croaker can take in E. coli while feeding and become carriers. Studies in Michigan show E. coli can survive 5 months in water as long as the temperature is above 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Average water temperatures for the TMDL areas only go below that in January and February and may not go that low in some years. E. coli doesn’t only survive on its own–it can reproduce if it has adequate carbon based nutrients. The presence of muck, which is partially decomposed vegetation, provides that nutrition and shelters E. coli, because no sunlight can get through it. It takes four days of sunlight to kill E. coli.

Part of the key to eliminating E. coli in the TMDL waters is to get the water clear enough to allow sunlight to penetrate. The plan to restore oysters is intended to do that, as well as filter the water, but oysters can’t live in the muck and must be suspended above it. The headwaters and some of the small inlets of the creeks are among the worst areas, with heavy muck, little circulation and probably low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water which must be addressed before oyster placement. Submerged aqueous vegetation will also benefit from more sunlight.

The long-term goal of restoring oysters is solid, but needs to be backed up with a multi-layered approach to cleaning up the waters, with a plan tailored to the characteristics of each TMDL segment. In Queens Creek, for example, at least 3-4 feet of muck exists on the sides of the channel, possibly more in the center. If the channel could be dredged to remove most of that muck, the creek could then be treated with probiotic decomposer bacteria to help break down what remains. This would create a more favorable environment for oysters and other water animals and allow sunlight to reach deeper into the water, killing even more E. coli.

Using small aeration units attached to private docks to provide additional oxygenation has been tried in Maryland. William Wolinski of Talbot County Maryland Dept. of Public Works stated the aeration used there from May through October created ‘oxygen sanctuaries’ for fish and other creatures and allowed positive bacterial action to break down sludgy sediment. A simple unit costs about $500-$600 and covers 1/4 acre placed at a 4′ depth according to one manufacturer. Any aeration provided will improve the action of probiotic bacteria in decomposing muck sediments.

Before any direct action is taken in TMDL creek headwaters and inlets, the Virginia Department of Transportation roadside ditches and related outfall ditches leading to those waters must be cleaned, pipe blockages cleared and overgrown vegetation removed to allow clean rainwater to reach the waterways. Currently, the water in outfall ditches is deoxygenated by decaying plant matter and has little to no flow except during storm events. Major storms flush the stagnant water into areas leading to the headwaters, and the load of rotting vegetation and silt with it adds to the mucky sediment already present.

The Virginia Department of Transportation should be named a stakeholder in the TMDL Implementation Plan for low dissolved oxygen levels in water in ditches which connect to TMDL waters. Credit trading should not be an option because the actions required to improve oxygenation fall within normal roadside maintenance and budget. DCR and DEQ staff can support citizen requests for a VDOT 5-year plan for roadside and outfall ditch maintenance to provide an outlet to an adequate receiving channel and body of water as required by VDOT Drainage Manual policies. This will allow clean, oxygenated rainwater to reach TMDL waters, giving other measures a better chance of success.

MPPDC Part 1– Accuracy Not Guaranteed

Planning District Commissions are supposed “to conduct studies on issues and problems of regional significance” according to the Code of Virginia. The Code fails to mention, though, those studies should contain accurate information.

Perhaps that’s too much to expect, especially when the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission posts a disclaimer on the copyright page of the 2002 report, Water Supply Management on the Middle Peninsula that says,  “No warranty, expressed of implied, is made by the MPPDC as to the accuracy of this report or related materials. Publication and distribution of the material contained in this report does not constitute any such warranty, and the MPPDC assumes no responsibility in connection therewith.” Since this report was an “information review,” MPPDC apparently didn’t want to check the accuracy of the information, but MPPDC expects its member counties’ representatives to take care of those details on its own grant-funded reports.

The MPPDC said that same 2002 water supply document included “significantly outdated” material from a 1977 State Water Control Board report, but the statements again appeared in the 2011 regional water supply plan: “Yorktown Aquifer has low yield potential. Principal and upper artesian aquifers not suitable for potable use (high chlorides).” This was the belief prior to the 1983 discovery of the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater, and studies since then have shown that “wedges” of ancient sea water were trapped by the impact debris as it fell back to earth and could contaminate some wells today.

The MPPDC Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy in 2013, again picked up the same 1977 information as an inset in  Figure 10, “Ground Water Zones in the Middle Peninsula,” and doesn’t list the Yorktown/Eastover Aquifer, the only major water source used in Mathews County.

Lewis Lawrence, Executive Director of the MPPDC,  replied to a request for a correction of the aquifer descriptions saying, “I encourage you to review why comprehensive economic development strategy exists and what the Economic Development Administration requires.  A comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) is designed to bring together the public and private sectors in the creation of an economic roadmap to diversify and strengthen regional economies….” He went on to say that it was up to the localities “to appoint representatives to make sure local and regional issues are addressed and that the quality and accuracy of the work meets expectations against the requirement of the funder.”

So if a county’s representatives don’t have or don’t communicate specific knowledge about the county’s water source, and MPPDC recycles 1977 information it described as “significantly outdated” in 2002, it absolves MPPDC from responsibility, even if the use of that information in 2013 is detrimental to the local economy by discouraging businesses who might otherwise consider locating in the county.

While the PDCs are funded in part by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and in part by the localities, and obtain grants to conduct studies and issue reports, do the counties know it’s up to their county representatives to fact check the PDC report for accuracy and to see if their reports meet the expectations of the funding agency?

Watch for an upcoming post on what happens when citizens do offer comments and corrections to MPPDC flawed reports.

Sharing What We Learned About VDOT Myths and Mathews Drainage

Since the fall of 2011, I’ve been digging into the reasons for flooded land and ditches in Mathews. G.C. Morrow taught me the basics of ditches and we formed The Ditches of Mathews County project in early 2012.  We thought identifying the causes of drainage issues and working out solutions would help VDOT. When VDOT said they needed temporary easements to address outfall maintenance, we tracked owners through tax records and internet resources. G.C. visited local folks and called some who lived in other states. All were glad to help. But apparently, VDOT had other ideas.

Two small outfalls were cleaned on 609, and the water drained a considerable area that had been flooding from road drainage for years. The third project opened the outfall between Canoe Yard Trail and 609, but in the process, the VDOT contractor blocked the outlet to a second outfall. Months passed, and after the District Administrator Quintin Elliott and Resident Engineer Sean Trapani accompanied us on a tour of problem spots, VDOT finally addressed a dead tree preventing the roadside ditch on Canoe Yard Trail from draining to the outfall. But the cleaning of 609 pipes needed to drain the roadside ditches near the tidal marshes didn’t happen. The one time we know the pipe truck arrived–it came at high tide. And never came back to do the job.

We kept working on gathering information, and the story that emerged was not a pretty one. Going through the Board of Supervisors’ meetings, month after month for thirty-odd years was a test of endurance. Transcribing key sections and sorting by topic and choosing which statements would illustrate the ongoing saga felt like an impossible task for a time. Eventually, though, the outline emerged showing how three years of VDOT/County revenue sharing projects ran on into the sixteenth year, and how those involved seemed to forget the original reason for the projects.

It’s all laid out now in Drowning a County, and everyone reading it will see what happened and when, and more importantly, what didn’t happen that should have. The pattern of County Supervisors and Administrators forgetting or overlooking details of agreements with VDOT and accepting incorrect statements without challenge cannot be allowed to repeat itself now and in future years. Drowning a County can provide the facts and the history to help our leaders and our citizens avoid being misled even once more by VDOT mythology.