Prior to the adoption of the Stream Assessment /Watershed Management Program, water quality requirements for all development were met by providing on-site best management practices (BMPs). From 1991-2000, approximately 500 on-site BMPs were constructed in the County. Although many larger BMPs were determined to be successful in achieving their pollutant removal goal, many small ineffective BMPs were also constructed. In addition, the County's prior approach provided little if any, improvement to degraded stream systems present in the County because the requirements were based on the needs of the site, not the needs of the watershed. Many of the problem areas are within previously developed areas where new development activity has no significant impacts on the problem area. Like most local ordinance requirements, the application of the County's stormwater management (SWM) requirements is accomplished through the plan of development (POD) and subdivision plan review process. Since only proposed development goes through this review, the previous SWM program offered little opportunity to address stormwater problems in the areas of existing, older development.
Having identified these two program inadequacies, the County pursued a regional/watershed SWM program, but not in the traditional sense.Generally, traditional regional programs have become synonymous with regional basins.The County's approach is much broader, involving channel restoration, channel protection, buffer establishment, urban stormwater retrofits, and regional stormwater controls. Although the County's watershed approach is different than other programs, the County will continue to provide the level of stormwater control intended by the various state and federal programs.
The watershed program still requires effective on-site BMP facilities; however, the program will reduce the number of ineffective BMPs by providing an alternative approach to address SWM on a watershed level, resulting in more effective facilities. The program strikes a balance between the need to protect those resources not yet degraded and the desire to restore those that have been impacted by development. In order to accomplish this balance, the type of development, as well as the condition of the watershed in which the development is located, was considered in developing the program. In some situations, such as where development occurs adjacent to streams that are not yet impacted, onsite BMP facilities for moderate to high intensity development may be the appropriate management choice to protect the stream. However, there will be situations where greater benefit can be derived from a contribution to a watershed effort as opposed to providing on-site treatment. It is important to note that even under the watershed approach, the individual site will meet the intent and goals of the state and federal mandates by contributing to the overall improvement of water quality in the Commonwealth.
The County's watershed program will achieve some of the goals of Virginia's Tributary Strategy for the Middle James River. Some of the suggested strategies to achieve these goals are buffer establishment, stream restoration, and urban stormwater retrofits - all of which are components of the County's program.The County's program will also benefit the Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative.One of the management methods included in the County's program is the establishment of buffer areas along channels and streams where they don't currently exist. An integral part of the County's program is the establishment of forested buffers along the stream network.
The County Watershed program will also aid in addressing one of the most important but overlooked, aspects of SWM - the maintenance of the facilities and management practices. Typically, private entities or individuals do not focus on maintenance of stormwater facilities. The program will encourage, and when necessary, require needed maintenance. The program will also reduce the number of small, privately owned on-site facilities constructed in the future and therefore, the maintenance of all the facilities will become less burdensome.