Frog family grows | Heritage plan released | News from DCR Director Maroon | Conservation Partners | Marina building at Claytor Lake | Virginia PDC wins national award | Warren County karst study | Green roof projects | Law enforcement and DCR
Early spring field surveys have shown occurrences of the southern chorus frog (Pseudacris nigrita) in southeastern Virginia; the surveys followed-up this species' discovery last spring in York and Prince George counties. The initial discovery was made during cooperative work between DCR's Natural Heritage Program and researchers from the University of Texas studying various aspects of the life history, distribution and ecology of chorus frogs throughout much of North America.
These new populations extend the known range of the species about 125 miles north of Beaufort County, N.C. "It is likely the species was overlooked in Virginia because of the similarity of its call to the more common and widespread upland chorus frog (Pseudacris ferriarum)," said DCR Natural Area Zoologist Chris Hobson. With this addition, Virginia's frog "family" comprises 26 known species.
DCR now has available Virginia's Precious Heritage: A Report on the Status of Virginia's Natural Communities, Plants and Animals, and a Plan for Preserving Virginia's Natural Heritage Resources.
Also referred to as the Virginia Natural Heritage Plan, this 200-page publication provides a comprehensive description of the state's natural heritage program, the condition of the state's biodiversity, and goals for protecting the Commonwealth's natural communities and rare species.
You can view or download the plan from DCR's website for free. Hard copies are available for $20 or get a CD-ROM (indexed PDF) for $5. Contact the Natural Heritage Program at (804) 786-7951 or via the website here.
News from DCR Director Joseph H. Maroon
The 2004 General Assembly session resulted in some very significant actions relating to DCR. First, the legislature unanimously passed into law substantial changes to the Virginia Stormwater Management Act, streamlining state stormwater programs from three departments into DCR.
This culmination of a recommendation from Gov. Warner's 2003 Natural Resource Summit received wide support from the Home Builders of Virginia, Virginia Association of Counties, Virginia Municipal League, Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, James River Association and Virginia Conservation Network.
DCR should assume responsibility for the streamlined programs January 2005. The new program will include requirements for stormwater management during and after construction, and will delegate to
DCR oversight of municipal stormwater permitting. (DEQ will retain responsibility for industrial stormwater permitting.)
Natural resources funding, agency changes
Despite the efforts of Gov. Warner, Secretary Murphy, and many individuals and supporting organizations, legislation that would have provided dedicated, annual funding for land conservation and water quality improvements was not successful this year. However, the budget bill passed by the special session of the 2004 legislature does provide a significant amount of new money in each of these areas.
DCR will work with local soil and water conservation districts, farmers, landowners and local governments to spend an additional $15 million for nonpoint source water quality improvements (including at least $10 million for agricultural cost-share practices) over the next two fiscal years. The legislature also added $5 million for land conservation, and restored 10 positions and more than $1 million to our state parks budget. Thanks to our many conservation partners who supported these efforts.
As of July 1, 2004, DCR is responsible for implementing the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act as the former Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Department became part of this agency. Implementing the preservation act complements DCR's role as the state's lead nonpoint source pollution prevention agency.
The merger resulted from legislative budget action during the special session that ended in May and was confirmed at the June 16 reconvened session. The newly designated Division of Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance joins the department's other operational program areas: state parks, soil and water conservation, natural heritage, planning and recreational resources, and dam safety and floodplain management.
Although immediate changes are unlikely, I am committed to working over the next several months with staff from both agencies in order to make the consolidation as effective and efficient as possible. Our goal is to see that water quality benefits derived from the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act continue and to strengthen dialogue with the affected localities, building industry and conservation community.
In March about 50 people celebrated 50 years of conservation at Goshen Pass in Rockbridge County. The state bought about 900 acres in 1954 in conjunction with generous financial support from the Perry Foundation of Charlottesville. Two years ago, the pass became a DCR natural area preserve - and has the strongest protection available for keeping land as open, natural space. This year's event mirrored a 1954 plaque unveiling to commemorate Goshen's conservation.
In April the State Scenic River Advisory Board Chair Dick Gibbons and DCR Director Joseph Maroon thanked then-Petersburg Mayor Rosalyn Dance with a certificate. It is in appreciation of the city's actions to recognize the special values of the Appomattox River, a state Scenic River, and of continued efforts through programs and policies to enhance its stewardship.
The Scenic River Advisory Board concluded its meeting with a tour of the Appomattox Canal aboard the batteau Lord Chesterfield, thanks to Captain Will Turnage, co-captain Paul Turnage and crew Beth Baker, Steve Groseclose, Nancy Trout and Bill Trout.
Construction starts this summer on a new marina "support" facility, which should be ready for use in summer 2005, at Claytor Lake State Park. Users can boat or walk to the 4,900-square-foot multi-purpose building.
Aside from a snack bar-restaurant, restrooms and camp store, the building will have a large room that can be divided to accommodate two separate groups at one time. A catering kitchen is an added amenity.
The room will hold 200, allowing various functions. "It can be used recreationally, as well as for local businesses and organizations, to conduct meetings and seminars," said Jody Gibson of architect
J. A. Gibson & Associates. Gibson's firm and Clough Harbour & Associates were hired in August 2003 for this project.
A large foyer can hold displays and exhibits, or a buffet meal while a meeting takes place in the large room. As well, the park can use it to advertise special events.
"One of the nicest parts of the building is the wrap-around deck," said Park Manager Richard Johnson. "Sitting out there you're immersed in the lake atmosphere."
A local "teaching tool"
An interesting aspect of this project is that some of its basic design has ideas incorporated from students at Pulaski County Senior High School. Before the firms were hired, Johnson had been asked to look at a fictional building designed by the school's Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) class. Impressed by a computerized tour of a virtual building created by the class, Johnson asked the students to help with initial designs for the new facility at Claytor Lake State Park.
Several students took on the project, which turned out to be "a really good learning experience for them - and benefited the park, too," said Johnson. The students were involved in design development team meetings and even toured Gibson's firm.
The facility is being paid for with funds from a $119 million bond referendum passed by Virginia voters in November 2002. Johnson anticipates the old marina building will be converted into an environmental education-lake ecology center and says it is possible the park offices could be there, too.
Six new cabins - three 6-bedroom and three 3-bedroom - also will be built at Claytor Lake State Park and should be ready May 2005. The park is a popular meeting spot for extended family groups vacationing together, explains Johnson. "We have had families rent all 12 of our cabins at one time." These new cabins can provide overnight accommodations for businesses having functions at the new marina building.
Nominated by a DCR floodplain staff member, the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (PDC) won the James Lee Witt Local Award for Excellence from the national Association of State Floodplain Managers. Rebecca Joyce and Bonnie Riedesel represented Virginia in accepting the award for the PDC's Project Impact Community Emergency Response Team Program on May 20, 2004, in Biloxi, Miss.
"Through an extensive, diverse and representative committee structure, flood awareness and responsiveness have become a practiced way of life in the Shenandoah Valley," said Deb Mills, former DCR floodplain planner, in her nomination.
The nomination for this award-winning program concludes, "there is no challenge that this group has turned down in an effort to prevent death and property loss to its communities."
Warren County's primary industrial growth area is located on a well-developed karst landscape. For the past four years, the county, DCR's Karst Program and other partners have studied how, among other things, to best address activities in the industrial zone. Of specific concern are potential impacts of a recently discovered population of the state- and federally threatened Madison cave isopod (Antrolana Lira), as well as to groundwater.
The Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District, the Northern Valley Regional Commission and the Front Royal Grotto of the National Speleological Society assisted with the project. It consisted of a detailed field inventory of karst landscape features, dye trace studies to delineate spring basins and an evaluation of the impacts of existing and proposed land use practices on karst groundwater in the area.
In April, DCR Karst Protection Coordinator Wil Orndorff presented the study results to the county board of supervisors. Major recommendations to the county are: 1) to establish a long-term monitoring network of springs and wells connected to the industrial area; 2) to re-evaluate and update the existing stormwater management network, including a county-adopted stormwater management plan; and 3) to develop a county plan to address activities in the industrial zone and their potential impacts to the cave isopod. For specific study details or more information on the Karst Program, call Wil Orndorff at (540) 831-4056. For more information on karst in Virginia, click here.
Over the last two years, DCR has co-sponsored the creation of four green roof projects in the Potomac, James and Rappahannock watersheds. The agency matched $126,000 to project sponsors' $241,000 to complete activities for more than 12,000 square feet of planted building tops.
Naturally, the projects can be elaborate, requiring intensive maintenance such as those that need to withstand public use. Or they can be built strictly for environmental benefits. Either way, they are a mix of three basic layers - waterproofing, soil and plants.
DCR-sponsored projects are featured on a four-story building in Norfolk that houses an architectural firm; the Arlington County Government Center in Courthouse Plaza; a Falls Church condominium called Yorktowne Square and a tool shed for Downtown Greens Community Garden in Fredericksburg. "Tour" them by visiting this page of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers website.
The agency's Chesapeake Bay Watershed Competitive Grants Program funded these and other projects that demonstrate innovation in improving local land-use planning and management for nonpoint source pollution prevention. These efforts, embarked on by local governments, soil and water conservation districts, planning district commissions, and private and non-profit organizations, directly support Virginia's commitments in the Chesapeake 2000 Bay Agreement.
A request for proposals for 2004 grant funds will be issued in July. Call DCR's Sarah King at (804) 225-3785, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
DCR lands - state parks and natural area preserves - are some of the safest in Virginia, in large part because of the emphasis the agency places on law enforcement staff training.
More than 100 DCR employees are sworn police officers; the majority of these work for Virginia State Parks, but two work in the Natural Heritage Program. These employees have full police authority on all DCR property, more than 100,000 acres across Virginia.
Though the department has had sworn staff for more than 40 years, last July the Code of Virginia was changed so that DCR officers derive their authority from the same source as state police, game wardens and local law enforcement officers. In that vein, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) oversees their training and certification.
DCR is a member of the Cardinal Regional Criminal Justice Academy in Salem, Va. Other academy members include 24 police departments, eight sheriff's offices, CSX railroad police and others. All new DCR law enforcement employees participate in an 18-week basic law enforcement academy dealing with everything from constitutional law, to pursuit driving, to officer survival. In addition to receiving training, DCR staff teaches subjects such as firearms, defensive and advanced patrol tactics, DUI enforcement, intermediate weapons, and communications to all of the academy's member agencies.
Every two years, all officers must complete 40 hours of additional DCJS-approved training and qualify with firearms and intermediate weapons. DCR also provides 20 hours of additional in-house law enforcement training annually on topics that interest officers. In March, all officers received training in anti-gang enforcement and other timely topics such as explosives identification and recognizing terrorist threats and materials associated with them.
DCR recently received $100,000 in Homeland Security grant funds through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. The money will be used primarily for protective equipment that would allow staff to extricate themselves from hazardous materials situations.
Three sworn staff members work at DCR in Richmond. Warren Wahl, assistant state parks director, is a member of the Cardinal Academy Governing Council and was recently elected vice-chairman of the academy's executive board. Bryan Anderson is Virginia State Parks' training coordinator and deals with all training certification, including most of the interactions with DCJS. Dave Summers is the most recent addition to the central office staff as law enforcement manager. His duties include new employee background investigations, managing the department's Field Training Officer Program, assisting with field investigations and serving as liaison to the Virginia State Police on the National Incident Based Reporting System. All three are members of DCR's Use of Force Review Committee and maintain the department's law enforcement policies and procedures manual, a document that has been praised by Virginia State Police legal and operational staff.