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Review could impact stormwater work

By Alex Bridges

Potential changes to a state building permit may affect local efforts to craft new rules on curbing stormwater runoff from construction projects.

Jurisdictions must pass ordinances that lay out how they would monitor storm runoff from new construction projects. The state requires jurisdictions to put their programs into effect by July 1. Ahead of that date the Department of Environment Quality and the State Water Control Board set deadlines for local governments to submit drafts of their proposed ordinances and programs.

At the same time, the State Water Control Board received hundreds of comments concerning proposed changes to Virginia's permit that requires developers to eliminate pollutant discharge from construction activity. Comments came from environmental groups and homebuilders, DEQ spokesman Bill Hayden said.

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission worked with several area governments on their stormwater programs using a model provided by the DEQ, then tweaked the language to fit the jurisdiction's needs.

Commission Executive Director Martha Shickle pointed out that the State Water Control Board plans to look at the proposed permit changes at its Dec. 17 meeting -- four days after the commission would like to submit draft ordinances for the local jurisdictions. Shickle said she expects any changes to come down from the state related to the permit may require the commission to seek more technical help from the DEQ and the local jurisdictions as her agency works on the ordinances between December and April.

Jurisdictions have until April to approve ordinances, implementation and staffing plans for their stormwater management programs. Some jurisdictions are combining their programs with already established erosion and sediment control ordinances.

Melanie Davenport, director of the DEQ's Water Division, acknowledged this week that the work underway on the state permit has some connection to what local governments are doing on their stormwater ordinances.

The current permit the state issues for construction expires June 30, a day before local governments must take over monitoring of stormwater management on building sites. When the DEQ took over stormwater management regulation from the Department of Conservation and Recreation as of July 1, the environmental agency decided to make some changes to the permit once handled by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Model ordinances provided to local governments for stormwater programs refers to the current, general construction permit, Davenport said.

"I guess we don't know what the impact is going to be," Davenport said. "But if a locality is running into timing problems because of the way they've crafted their ordinance and its references to this general permit they need to let us know and we'll work with them."

Davenport noted that about 150 jurisdictions are working on the required ordinances and programs.

"The bottom line is we'll be reasonable and we'll be happy to work with these localities," she said.

Shenandoah County Planner Patrick Felling advised by email last week that the state's review of the construction permit has affected the local timeline.

"We are really working our schedule," Felling said Friday. "We have flexibility on when we accomplish the implementing ordinance. We were trying to do it on the early side to get a head start but when we learned that the situation was so fluid at the state level and that if in fact we got ahead of the state that we'd end up having to redo it."

The county plans to wait for the state to complete its work on the permit, Felling said. Then the county would clarify that what it proposes complies with the state regulations. The county then would pass the required ordinance, Felling said.

Felling said if the county passes an ordinance in December the revisions to the state permit could render the new ordinance out of compliance less than a month later. Felling said the county now plans to send its final draft ordinance by mid-December. The Board of Supervisors would likely act on the ordinance in late winter or early spring, Felling said.

Warren County Building Official David Beahm said this week he didn't expect the permit under review would change unless the state makes them more stringent than required by the federal government. Beahm said he knows the county must submit required documents to the DEQ by Dec. 13 in a format that the Board of Supervisors can approve in the spring after the state agency reviews the program.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing Nov. 19 on the proposed combined erosion and sediment control and stormwater management ordinance.

The DEQ also has set up a fee schedule by which local governments would charge developers through the program. Felling said the fees are not expected to cover the cost to run the programs.

"These new required regulations will have a major impact on all individuals within Warren County and all of Virginia," Beahm said in an email.

Some estimates put the local impact at more than twice the permit fees set up by the DEQ, though others show a much greater cost, Beahm said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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