- Chesapeake Bay Preservation
- Floodplain Management
- Stormwater Management
- Erosion and Sediment Control
- Tidal Wetlands
- Other Environmental Agencies
Landscape & Habitat Features
Stafford County is rich in natural resources, characterized by a rolling landscape cut by winding streams and creeks. Bordered to the east by the Potomac River and to the south by the Rappahannock River, surface water is a significant natural feature in the county. In addition, the county’s forestlands, including the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve, provide habitat for many different wildlife species. This natural environment provides a desirable place to live, for wildlife and residents.
How the Planning & Zoning Department Manages Natural Resources
The Planning and Zoning Department ensures that development is appropriately sited and designed to minimize impacts to natural resources. This is accomplished by ensuring: Uses are sited to preserve stream corridors for the benefit of Chesapeake Bay Preservation; Uses are sited to preserve floodplain areas; Runoff from impervious surfaces is appropriately treated and controlled through various stormwater management methods; Appropriate erosion and sediment control measures are in place during and after development, and: Shoreline protection measures are appropriately sited and designed to minimize impacts to tidal wetlands.
History The Virginia General Assembly enacted the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (Bay Act) in 1988. The Bay Act is a critical element of Virginia's multifaceted response to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. The Bay Act established a cooperative relationship between the Commonwealth and local governments aimed at reducing and preventing nonpoint source pollution. The Bay Act, like many other environmental protection programs, is an extension of the public trust doctrine. The beds of Virginia's streams, rivers, and estuaries and the waters above them are held and managed by the Commonwealth for the benefit of all Virginians.
The program is designed to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by requiring the use of effective conservation planning and pollution prevention practices when using and developing environmentally sensitive lands. At the heart of the act is the concept that land can be used and developed in ways that minimize negative impacts on water quality. The first sentence of the Bay Act serves as a theme for the entire statute: "Healthy state and local economies and a healthy Chesapeake Bay are integrally related; balanced economic development and water quality protection are not mutually exclusive."
Local Government DecisionsThe Virginia General Assembly designed the Bay Act to enhance water quality and still allow reasonable development to continue. The Bay Act balances state and local economic interests and water quality improvement, and created a unique partnership between the state and local governments in Tidewater Virginia. The Bay Act recognizes that local governments have the primary responsibility for land use decisions. The Bay Act expands local government authority to manage water quality and establishes a more specific relationship between water quality protection and local land use decision-making.
Stafford County adopted the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act into county code in 1989.
Critical Resource Protection Areas
The Critical Resource Protection Areas (CRPA) is comprised of lands adjacent to water bodies with perennial flow that have an intrinsic water quality value due to the ecological and biological processes they perform or are sensitive to impacts, which may result in significant degradation to the quality of state waters. The CRPA includes:
- A one hundred-foot vegetated buffer area located adjacent to and landward of these resources, and along both sides of any water bodies with perennial flow
- Non-tidal wetlands connected by surface flow and contiguous to tidal wetlands or water bodies with perennial flow
- Tidal shores
- Tidal wetlands
Chesapeake Bay Board (CBB)Certain land uses which are not specifically allowed within Critical Resource Protection Area buffers may require the approval of a from the Chesapeake Bay Board (CBB). The CBB is comprised of the 5 members of the who are appointed by the BOS to serve four-year terms. The Board is responsible for ensuring that the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas are developed in a manner that protects the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by minimizing non-point source pollution into County wetlands, streams, and lakes from uses of land in the County.
Meetings are held on the third Monday of each month, as necessary. Complete applications must be received by the last Friday of the month preceding the meeting.
Stormwater is rainwater that washes through our property and streets, taking with it any debris that may be in its path. This mixture of rain, debris, oil, and waste is known as runoff.
Stormwater management is a mechanism for controlling stormwater runoff. These practices are incorporated into the design of a development to mitigate any impacts the development may have on the aquatic environment. Stormwater management practices address two major issues, the quantity or volume of stormwater and the quality of the stormwater.
Pervious (or vegetated) surfaces, such as fields, meadows, and woodlands absorb and infiltrate rainfall and generate little runoff. As land develops, these areas are typically covered with impervious surfaces, such as pavement and rooftops. These impervious surfaces generate more runoff every time it rains. The quantity of runoff from these areas can overwhelm natural channels and streams. Stormwater management practices are designed to offset these increases in runoff. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has more information on managing runoff.
The pervious and impervious surfaces in the urbanized landscape collect pollutants, such as automobile oil, grease, brake pad dust, sediment from construction sites, bacteria from animal waste, excess lawn care fertilizers and pesticides, as well as atmospheric deposition of phosphorus, nitrogen, and other airborne pollutants. Rainfall washes these surfaces so that the initial flush of runoff can carry high concentrations of these pollutants to nearby drinking water supplies, waterways, beaches, and properties. Pollution washed from the land surface by rainfall is called nonpoint source pollution.
Stormwater management practices also provide water quality treatment to help prevent additional pollution from entering streams and rivers. Stafford County is located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, where protecting water quality is very important.
Stormwater Management Regulations
The stormwater management regulations of the Stafford County Code were adopted to establish requirements for the management and control of stormwater runoff from developed properties in the County during and after construction. The County Board of Supervisors has approved a Stormwater Management Design Manual to provide guidance for designers to assist in meeting those requirements. The manual serves as a supplement to State and Federal design manuals that govern stormwater management design.
Stafford County requires the use of low-impact development (LID) techniques to the maximum extent practicable. Low-impact development stormwater management design approaches are fundamentally different from conventional design approaches and challenge traditional thinking regarding development standards, watershed protection, and public participation. LID combines fundamental hydrologic concepts with many of today’s common stormwater strategies, practices and techniques to reshape development patterns in a way that maintains natural watershed hydrologic functions.
Effective May 1, 2011, Stafford County has entered the Community Rating System (CRS) with a Class 8 rating, a rating achieved by only 14 other communities within the Commonwealth. This qualifies each eligible National Flood Insurance Policy (NFIP)policyholder for a 10% savings in their flood insurance premium. Overall, the County’s CRS accomplishment has resulted in a total annual savings of $15,000.
All stormwater management facilities in Stafford County need to be secured with a maintenance agreement prior to the plan being approved. Some important links:
- E & S Unit Prices (Erosion & Sediment)
- Storm Drainage & Stormwater Management Unit Prices
- Stormwater Management Maintenance Agreements
- House Lot Grading Plan Review Checklist
- Stormwater Management Maintenance Agreement:
- Stormwater Management Design Manual
Major CauseConstruction activity is one of the major causes of sediment entering the waterways. The major reasons why construction activities hasten erosion are exposure of bare soil areas to storm runoff, increased volume of runoff, and changes in surface water patterns adversely affecting the drainage system, slope stability, and effects on existing vegetation.
Proper management of construction activities, as required by local, state, and federal regulations, can minimize soil erosion and control sediment transport. An erosion control provision in a construction site acts as a first line of defense. If the soil is not allowed to erode, there will not be sediment to control. Despite all attempts to minimize, a construction project will most likely leave bare soil exposed to the environment. To prevent soil from leaving the site, measures such as diversion dikes, silt fences, and sediment basins are provided.
Stormwater Management & Erosion / Sediment Control Plan Review Process
|The following plan applications require stormwater management review:
||The following plan applications require an erosion and sediment control plan:
- Key Stafford County contacts for Erosion and Sediment Control program
- Stafford County Erosion and Sediment Control Program
- Stormwater Management and Erosion / Sediment Control Plan Flow Chart
- Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook, Third Edition, 1992
- Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Responsible Land Disturber (RLD) Program
- Virginia Stormwater Management Permit for Stormwater Discharge from Construction Activity
Tidal Wetlands There are approximately 1,337 acres of tidal wetlands in Stafford County. The tidal wetlands serve as spawning and nursery grounds for a variety of fish and crabs. Thirty percent of rare and endangered species at some point in their life cycle depend on tidal wetlands. Tidal wetlands also remove sediments and impurities from the water, diminish flood waters, and protect the shoreline from erosion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides additional information on the value of wetlands.
Wetlands Board The Wetlands Board currently consists of five members who are appointed by the Board of Supervisors. A wetlands permit must be acquired from the Wetlands Board in order to use or develop tidal wetlands or beaches. Typical examples of activities and projects requiring a permit include the repair or installation of bulkheads, riprap revetments, and community or commercial piers. Noncommercial piers and boathouses may require a permit from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, a building permit from the Department of Public Works is required for bulkheads, piers, and boathouses.
The first step in obtaining a wetlands permit is to submit a Joint Permit Application (JPA) to the VMRC. VMRC acts as a clearinghouse and sends the permit application to other interested jurisdictions, including the Wetlands Board. Environmental planners within the Department of Planning and Zoning serve as staff to the Wetlands Board. Once the application is considered complete by staff, the project will be scheduled for a hearing before the Wetlands Board.
The fee for scheduling a hearing is $675. In addition, to assist in the goal of no net loss of tidal wetlands in Virginia, an in-lieu fee is assessed per square foot of wetlands impact. To promote the use of shoreline protection methods considered less disruptive to the environment, the fee is currently set at $8.75 for riprap revetments and $17.50 for bulkheads.
ProjectsFor the majority of activities within the tidal wetlands of Stafford County, the Tidewater JPA can be utilized. The Tidewater JPA can be used for the following actives:
Dredging and excavation projects in tidal waterways / wetlands must use the full-length JPA.