Meeting Our Future Water Quality Challenges

The Governor’s recently released his final plan for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP III) designed to reduce pollutants in the Commonwealth’s river basins shows that James City County is going to meet those requirements without much difficulty. However, the Governor is asking the county to do more.

            That’s an important request, but the more substantial aspect in that in doing so, James City can also significantly improve its work on clean water—which is more vital to the better of the county, the James and York river basins and the Chesapeake Bay than simply meeting regulatory numbers.

            Along with the release of the Governor’s plan the county is about to release its second cycle plan outlining how the county will meet the 2020 40 percent required reduction of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. The plan shows that we will have exceeded the 2025 reduction goals for nitrogen phosphorus and sediment by 200%, 700%, and 500% respectively. The many stream restoration projects in this second permit cycle are of particular note in their contribution to the reduction all pollutants in the county’s urbanized watersheds

The Governor’s Plan increased the county’s pollution reduction requirement and also added pollution reductions because of future climate change effects. James City is responsible for only the urbanized land area of the county, which is less than 5 percent and its requirements were unchanged. The other 95 percent of county rural lands picked up the county’s increased pollution reductions and is carried mostly by the Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District.

    What we need to do in the future is to gear our activities first and foremost to providing better and cleaner water. We are experiencing more days where rainfall exceeds one inch per hour. The circumstances of sea-level rise for the county are different from the Lower Peninsula because of the non-tidal nature of our rivers and streams.

      This means flooding in the county will become an increasing problem with more rain and sea-level rise along the county watersheds particularly the urbanized Powhatan Creek watershed. Identifying solutions will reduce pollutant levels from increasing amounts of runoff caused by increasing rainfall.

The county is a partner with the Colonial Soil and Water Conservation Districts with its initiative to establish county equine best management practices. I applaud the Stormwater Division for its outreach and support of this program and others like it.

Hampton Roads Sanitation District’s Sustainable Water Initiative For Tomorrow (SWIFT) project, which will inject treated water into the aquifer is a solution for both restoring the aquifer water levels and pressure but also reduces pollutants into both the James and York River Basins. The county’s support of the SWIFT project will reduce pollutants and potentially allow the county to continue to withdraw its water from the aquifer.

     The stormwater staff has an excellent track record for its excellent planning through its watershed management plans. The recently completed Ware Creek and draft Skimino Creek—York River Watershed Management Plan—will identify future water quality projects. The Diascund Watershed Management Plan still must be developed along with a review of the Powhatan Watershed Management Plan. Both of these projects will provide insights into water quality issues in the upper county and the most urbanized area of the county.  We still have much more to do and the continued resourcing support for stormwater from the Board of Supervisors is still needed to meet our future water quality challenges.

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