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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 Decisions

The 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
The generalized location of CRPAs within the county will be displayed on the county’s interactive Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The limits of the RPA will reflect changes resulting from perennial flow studies completed over the past six years. There are still many streams that have not been evaluated so, therefore, it is recommended that property owners contact the Department of Public Works with questions regarding streams.

Chesapeake Bay Board (CBB)

Certain land uses which are not specifically allowed within Critical Resource Protection Area buffers may require the approval of a Special Exception from the Chesapeake Bay Board (CBB). The CBB is comprised of the 7 members of the Wetlands Board 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. Completed applications must be received by the first of each month to be included in the following month's agenda. 


Implementation & Enforcement

The Environmental Division of the Department of Public Works is responsible for the enforcement of the requirements of the County's Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area (CBPA) Overlay District. The purpose of the CPBA is to protect, preserve, and improve surface water quality. The CBPA is a requirement of the Commonwealth of Virginia and all localities in "Tidewater" Virginia are required to implement local requirements within their Comprehensive Plans and Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances to protect water quality. 

CBPA requirements are listed in Section 27B of the Stafford County Code.

Contact Information

  • Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. 
  • For information on the Chesapeake Bay Act in Stafford County or to report a potential violation of the Bay Act, please contact the Environmental Division at (540) 658-8689.

Chesapeake Bay TMDL Action Plan

In 2010, the EPA established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a comprehensive pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay. The goal of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL is to restore clean water in the Bay, as well as local streams and rivers.
The Chesapeake Bay TMDL requires Stafford County and other regulated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permittees to provide specific pollution reductions, defined in terms of pounds of sediment, phosphorus, and nitrogen through local stormwater management programs.
As established by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Stafford must reduce its share of TMDL pollution by 5% during the current MS4 permit cycle (2013–2018), an additional 35% (40% total) during the second permit cycle (2018–2023), and the final 60% (100% total) during the third permit cycle (2023–2028).
Stafford County’s MS4 permit requires a more detailed plan in order to meet the 5% reduction requirements. The Chesapeake Bay TMDL Action Plan - outlines the specific projects and programs that will be implemented during this permit cycle.

The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load Action Plan (CB TMDL AP) is a requirement of Stafford County’s MS4 permit.  The CB TMDL AP has been developed to recognize the Brook Park Stream Restoration project (BPSRP). The BPSRP has been developed / proposed to aid the county in meeting the Commonwealth-prescribed 40% and 100% pollutant reductions for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediments in the MS4-designated / permitted areas of Stafford County.