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The MPPDC said that same 2002 water supply document included “significantly outdated” material from a 1977 State Water Control Board report, but the statements again appeared in the 2011 regional water supply plan: “Yorktown Aquifer has low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.