Summary of Proposed Legislation

Creating the Rivanna River Basin Commission

 

January 7, 2004

 

 

In 1998, the Rivanna River Basin Roundtable issued a State of the Basin Report which originated the concept of a river basin commission for the Rivanna watershed.  The following recommendations, developed by the community, are quoted from the Report:

 

§         Develop a Corridor Plan to guide decision-making related to preservation and use of the Rivanna River.

§         Develop a comprehensive, systematic and coordinated database of all information related to the Rivanna River.

§         Establish a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, interagency data collection and monitoring program, which brings together all interested parties under one umbrella, and names the responsible lead group charged with oversight and stewardship of the Rivanna River and its Basin.

§         Implement design practices that promote, preserve and protect the Rivanna River.

§         Expand stewardship of the Rivanna River.

 

The enabling legislation being proposed by Senator Creigh Deeds is designed to implement those recommendations.  The following are highlights of the proposed legislation:

 

1)      The legislation will enable the creation of the Commission.  The Commission will only come into existence, however, when five of the seven localities within the Rivanna watershed (Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Nelson and Orange counties and the City of Charlottesville) agree to join by passing a resolution to that effect.  Participation in the Commission by the localities is strictly voluntary.

 

2)      The heart of the legislation is §62.1-69.50, establishing the powers and duties of the commission.  The commission’s first duty is to develop a watershed management plan “to maintain flow conditions to protect in-stream beneficial uses and public water supplies for human consumption.”  This language is taken from §62.1-11, setting forth the Commonwealth’s policy regarding its water resources.

 

3)      The Commission will also “undertake studies and prepare, publish and disseminate information.”  Since the commission itself will not have regulatory authority, this duty provides much of its usefulness to the localities within the watershed.  The Commission is to have a professional staff of one to three people.  In addition to helping the localities put together a watershed management plan, the Commission’s staff could issue reports to help guide the localities in addressing the increasingly critical and complicated water-related issues that come before them.

 

4)      In order to issue such reports, baseline data is required.  To aid in the creation of such data, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has already committed $50,000 toward the construction of a computer hydrologic model of the watershed.  Such a model will assist in the understanding of how this aquatic system works.  TNC is willing to commit additional resources for the gathering of remote sensing data to determine the current level of impervious surface in the watershed.  Such data would be turned over to the Commission, with the idea that it is the kind of data the staff will require for the production of relevant reports, and ultimately generate on its own.

 

5)      The legislation allows each locality, and the state, to provide funding.  It is the Nature Conservancy’s expectation, however, that private funds will be required to endow the Commission, allowing it operate without public funds (assuming that if it cost anything, the localities would not be interested in participating).  The Nature Conservancy is committed to trying to fund that endowment prior to returning to the localities to request that they join the Commission.

 

6)      A further benefit of the commission, not expressed in the legislation, may be the Commission’s ability to help the localities comply with regulations that may be issued by the state requiring every locality to have a water supply plan.  It is anticipated the Commission’s staff would be able to draft a plan to satisfy such state requirements, removing that burden from the individual localities.

 

7)      The Commission would be comprised of 21 members:

 

a.       Two members of the governing bodies of each of the four localities with major land area in the Rivanna watershed (the counties of Albemarle, Greene and Fluvanna, and the City of Charlottesville).

b.      One member of the governing bodies of each of the three localities with minimal land area in the Rivanna watershed (Louisa, Nelson and Orange).

c.       One member of each of the Soil & Water Conservation Districts in the Rivanna watershed (Culpeper and Thomas Jefferson SWCD).

d.      One private citizen from each of the four localities with major land area in the Rivanna watershed, chosen by the local governing body from recommendations made by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

e.       One member from the State Senate.

f.        Three members from the House of Delegates.

 

Conclusion:  Having the imprimatur of the state will give a Rivanna River Basin Commission the credibility that so many in the watershed have worked to establish.  The Commission can help the seven local jurisdictions within the watershed coordinate watershed management, provide a permanent home for watershed related data that has been and will be collected, and provide a rallying point for the many groups who are working together within the watershed.

 

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