By KATE MILLER
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — Some local governments want the General Assembly to delay the July 1 deadline for establishing local stormwater runoff programs by a year.
Delegate Brenda Pogge, R-Williamsburg, said she would support the delay because many localities are not prepared to establish stormwater programs by July.
“My heart goes out to the plight of some of these smaller localities because they only have one option,” Pogge said. “And that is to increase taxes on all their population in order to do this (introduce storm-water programs) as quickly as they’re being mandated to.”
In November, members of the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), which represents all 95 counties of Virginia, voted unanimously for the one-year delay.
Department of Environmental Quality, which runs the current stormwater program for the state, determined in August that localities would inherit all existing renewal permits for stormwater runoff, Larry Land, the director of policy development for VACo, stated in an email.
Land stated renewal fees filed between April 2013 and June 2014 would be remitted to DEQ instead of localities.
“DEQ has not established any procedure to send fee revenues to localities,” Land stated.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a conservation group, opposes the delay.
Chuck Epes, assistant director of media relations for the Richmond office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, stated in an email CBF’s top priority is to “hold the bay states accountable for meeting deadlines, goals, etc.”
Epes says the commonwealth has provided $35 million in funding this year to help localities establish the programs.
Stormwater runoff management is a key Chesapeake Bay conservation issue. According to CBF, stormwater becomes polluted as it flows from streets, parking lots and roofs. As the water travels, it becomes contaminated by pollutants and enters waterways that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.
The General Assembly voted for the July 1, 2014 deadline for the new programs in 2012.
Bill Hayden, a spokesman for DEQ, says the state will be responsible for approving the local plans and making sure local governments meet all requirements.
“The reasoning behind it (implementing local programs),” Hayden said, “was to enable the local governments who know their situations best to deal with them on their own with some oversight from the state.”
Delegate Edward Scott, R-Culpeper, the chairman of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, says he is not sure a delay will be possible. He says stormwater-runoff management is a regulatory process that begins at the federal level.
“Inevitably, we’re going to have to address stormwater to satisfy the Environmental Protection Agency,” Scott said.
Scott also says the General Assembly may be able to ease the regulatory burden of the programs by considering which governmental entity should be responsible for program management.
“I think we’re going to see a large number of bills on this topic from a lot of different directions,” he said.
Agricultural runoff is another part of the issue.
“We are cautiously watching all the stormwater legislation and have no position at this time,” Wilmer Stoneman, associate director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, stated in an email. “The legislation will be amended several times; we’ll get involved only as necessary.”
Charles McSwain, director of economic development for Northampton County says his county is on schedule to establish a new stormwater-runoff plan.
“I’m hopeful that we can implement it (the plan) in a way that’s reasonable so that it’s not overbearing on the … economic development,” McSwain said. “I think it’s our job at the local level to put balance between what’s practical and realistic to make good progress and the rules that are in place.”