On July 19th, 2010 a public hearing was held in Woodbridge, VA to review the National Museum of Americans in Wartime, commonly known as Wartime Museum, request for an exception under the Chesapeake Bay Act to encroach into the RPA by 4.4 acres and enclose a perennial stream in a pipe under tons of fill as it moves from a wetland area that has formed in what was once a storm water management dry pond at an off site location, the uphill K-Mart parking lot. The storm water management pond was originally built in 1979 in the early days of storm water control, when there were no management agreements in place and only volume of water was controlled. The storm water management pond was allowed to deteriorate to the point that the pond is no longer functioning because there was no management plan or oversight agreement in 1979 ponds and the pond sits on private property. A perennial stream now runs from the wetland area that was once a dry pond, through a 200 linear feet of pipe before it becomes an open unnamed stream that runs to Neabsco Creek. It is unclear if this stream was created by or impacted by the creation of the storm water management pond.
The proposal, which was ultimately approved by the Board, was to fully enclose within a pipe the remaining 650 linear feet of stream and fill the 4.4 acres to allow the land to be used for outdoor activities at the Wartime Museum. The Wartime Museum will feature both indoor and outdoor settings such as WWI trenches, a bombed out WWII European Village and vintage tanks for WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan. It is envisioned that the 300,000 anticipated visitors each year will get to view military equipment up-close and in action. The Wartime Museum views the Outdoor Reenactment Area as the centerpiece of the museum and essential to their philosophy and mission. This area will allow the museum to be truly interactive with re-enactments, demonstrations, and visitor participation opportunities. Apparently the site requires that many of these activities take place in the 4.4 acres that house the perennial stream and adjacent Resource Protected Area under the Chesapeake Bay Act.
All requests for exceptions to encroach into the Resource Protected Area under the Chesapeake Bay Act are accompanied by proposed mitigation steps. The idea is if you encroach on or disturb and RPA, the water quality protection improvements must be made in other areas to “pay” for the disturbance of the RPA. For the simplest of cases, the rule of thumb is for every 400 square feet of RPA encroachment (say for a deck or patio) you plant 1 canopy tree, 2 understory trees and 3 small shrubs. As part of their request the Wartime Museum proposed replanting in other parts of the RPA to protect woods and vegetation on the site, some debris removal and the retrofit of the failed storm water management pond for the K-Mart parking lot. I believe that the Wartime Museum’s request was approved because Williamsburg Environmental, their consultants, represented that there would be a significant improvement to water quality of Neabsco Creek by the removal of 10 times as much phosphorus runoff between a functioning 1979 era storm water management pond and the voluntary improvement of the pond to 2010 standards. Little or no analysis was performed to determine potential impact from water velocity and any impacts to the water basin are not considered under the Chesapeake Bay Act. Under the current regulatory scheme in Virginia, the most significant improvement to water quality could be obtained by voluntarily improving and maintaining an off site storm water management basin. It appeared that the majority of the Board felt as if approving the request was the lesser of two evils.