TO:                  Mark B. Graham, PE, Director of Engineering


FROM:                        Stephen Bowler and David Hirschman, Water Resources Staff


DATE:                        22 December 2003


SUBJECT:     Request for letter indicating that Albemarle does not oppose the introduction of state legislation enabling the possible future creation of a Rivanna River Basin Commission



The Water Resources Staff supports efforts for the General Assembly to enable a Rivanna River Basin Commission. Should the legislation pass, staff will carry out further research to help the Board decide whether, or under what terms, to join such a Commission when it is invited to do so.


Area water experts recognize the need for regional cooperation and better data for water resource planning. As the first principle in the Water Resources section of Chapter 2 (Natural Resource and Cultural Assets) states, “ Water resources do not follow jurisdictional boundaries. Albemarle County is connected hydrologically (through surface water and groundwater) to the City of Charlottesville, Greene County, Fluvanna County, Louisa County, Orange County, and the rest of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.” Most directly, Albemarle and Charlottesville rely on water flowing from Greene County and Fluvanna County depends on water from the upstream municipalities. Currently we have few tools for understanding cross-jurisdictional effects or cumulative impacts. A model for addressing this need lies just next door in the form of the Rappahannock River Basin Commission, a non-regulatory, state-enabled, watershed scale body for coordination and study of a shared water resource. The Rappahannock Commission has carried out a handful of important studies largely using external grant funding or state funds.


Supporting, or at least stating a lack of opposition to, the legislation seems in accord with the County’s interest and policy. Objective 2.2.1 of the County’s Strategic Plan involves an “integrated water resources plan.”  A Commission would help with integrating both topically (e.g. groundwater and surface water or water quality and quantity) and geographically (across jurisdictions of the Rivanna watershed). Chapter Two of the Comprehensive Plan commits the County to “Continue to support Chesapeake Bay protection initiatives.” Watershed planning by “…local governments, community groups, and watershed organizations…” is a major strategy of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement signed by the governors of Virginia and other Bay states. A Commission would be an appropriate follow-up to the Rivanna Basin Roundtable, which the County actively participated in through the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. A Commission could serve the Roundtable’s stated goals of river corridor planning, developing a comprehensive Rivanna River database, coordinating data collection and monitoring under one umbrella, promoting design practice to protect the River, and expanding River stewardship. Allowing the discussion of a Rivanna River Basin Commission to proceed appears to be in accord with the County’s Strategic Initiative, Comprehensive Plan, and prior water resource efforts.


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