Sunday, November 29, 2020

Climate Goals for Prince William County

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted last Tuesday night to adopt the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ (COG) Region Forward Vision includes a sustainability goal that calls for a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions of 50 % below 2005 levels by 2030.

But, the Prince Board of County Supervisors went further in their resolution and directed staff to incorporate into the Comprehensive Plan goals of 100% of Prince William County’s electricity to be from renewable sources by 2035, for Prince William County Government operations to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030, and for Prince William County Government to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050.

The Board of Supervisors also directed staff to begin to work on recommendations for the creation of a public advisory body charged with advising on potential enhancements to the Community Energy Master Plan (CEMP) to achieve the goals of the Comprehensive Plan changes.

Okay, let’s look at these goals:

  • 100% of PW County’s electricity to be from renewable sources by 2035
  • 100% PW County Government operations to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030
  • and for the PW County government operations to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050

First of all, not all renewable sources of electricity are carbon neutral and carbon neutral is not necessarily renewable. In July Governor Ralph Northam officially launched Clean Energy Virginia,  to direct investment to renewable energy and energy efficiency and help meet the Commonwealth’s goals under the Virginia Clean Economy Act for clean energy production, which include powering "100 % of Virginia’s electricity from carbon-free sources" by 2045.

According to U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) Natural gas fueled more than half of Virginia's electricity net generation in 2018. The state's two nuclear power plants supplied about 30% of Virginia's generation. Coal provided most of the rest, but biomass, hydropower, petroleum, solar photovoltaic (PV), and other energy sources also generate some electricity.

As the Washington Post pointed out the Virginia Clean Economy Act defines “ total electric energy to mean the electric energy sold by Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power in the previous calendar year, excluding nuclear power generated by plants in service in 2020, and excluding carbon-free (but not renewable) electrical power sources established after July 1, 2030.” This definition allows Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power the flexibility to ensure that they can provide reliable power 24/7 to a future that includes the needs of data centers, and envisioned to have increased demand from the electrification of cars and other portions of the transportation sector as well as electrification of space heating. The nuclear power that provides over 30% of Virginia’s needs will stay in the mix and provide the base power.  

It is unclear what definitions the County is using since this was adopted as a resolution without definitions. Howeve[EW1] r, it is clear, this creates a conundrum for Prince William County. They cannot rely on the grid to ever supply the 100% of PW County’s electricity to be from renewable sources by 2035 or in the future. Nuclear is not renewable, but will remain a significant portion of the electrical supply under the Virginia Clean Economy Act 

Furthermore there are problems with the other portions of the resolutions goals:  Prince William County Government operations to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and for the County government operations to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050. Prince William County has a source of renewable energy that is not carbon free:

In the late 1990’s NEO Prince William (Fortistar) installed a landfill gas collection system and a 1.9 Mega Watt generator tied into the electrical grid. This system became operational in November 1998. The landfill electrical generation plant was expanded in November 2013. The facility, still operated by Fortistar, now generates a total of 6.7 MW of electricity. This is enough power for approximately 5,000 homes. NOVEC buys the renewable (but not carbon free) energy produced at the landfill and resells it to their customers.

In addition, the county built a pipeline from the landfill to the county animal shelter on Bristow Road with connections to several buildings along the way to provide landfill gas to heat the Fleet Maintenance Building and provide fuel to the Animal Shelter incinerator. A connection to the School bus garage was added in 2014. This allows the County Public Works Department to replace the propane formerly used with landfill gas which is a “Renewable Fuel Resource,” and reducing the energy footprint of our county. While this is all renewable and captures and uses the landfill gas with is a very powerful greenhouse gas, it is not carbon neutral.

NOVEC which supplies electricity to a significant portion of Prince William County has only limited generation, it is predominantly a distributor of electricity purchased from other sources including the landfill and a small solar farm in Fauquier. What limited generation they own is renewable, but not carbon free. NOVEC’s   first-ever power plant is the Halifax County Biomass Plant. The plant has the capacity to generate nearly 50 megawatts , but biomass is not carbon free.

So, staff and the future Prince William County public advisory board have work to do to sort out what needs to be done to meet these goals in the Community Energy Master Plan (CEMP). It looks as if there will be significant need and opportunity for a renewable, carbon free credit market for the county to meet these goals. This could benefit residents in the county interested in building solar arrays on their roofs or property. This could make the difference in the return on investment in a solar project and make it worthwhile to deal with the constant stream of repairs to keep a distributed solar system operational or other costs associated with solar power generation.

Other thoughts, for years there has been conversation to use the landfill for a wind power generation. That is a possibility. Also, Lake Jackson Dam once generated electricity maybe it could again or the expanding water storage in Northern Virginia could be used as part of a water storage/power generation management scheme. This no doubt will all be explored as the County moves forward.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

EPA Grants Virginia $1.7 million for Stream Restoration

On Tuesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $1,693,000 grant to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to improve water quality of water bodies throughout the commonwealth.

The grant is part of EPA’s Nonpoint Source Implementation Grant Program, as outlined in Section 319 of the Clean Water Act to control water pollution. The 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act (CWA) established the Section 319 program to addresses nonpoint source pollution efforts. Under Section 319, states, territories and tribes receive grant money that supports a wide variety of activities including technical assistance, financial assistance, education, training, technology transfer, demonstration projects and monitoring to assess the success of implemented projects.

“This grant supports preserving and protecting Virginia’s water resources and ensuring communities have clean water,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio. “By working in partnership with Virginia, we can help implement necessary best management practices to reduce nonpoint source pollution in communities throughout the commonwealth.”

Nonpoint source pollution is caused when water from rain or snowmelt moves over the ground picking up both natural and human-made pollutants, and carrying them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and groundwater. Controlling nonpoint source pollution is especially important since one in three Americans get their drinking water from public systems that rely on seasonal and rain-dependent streams.

Virginia will use the funding to implement watershed improvement plans that reduce nutrients, bacteria, sediment, and other pollutants from direct sources and runoff. This funding will also support restoration of waterbodies, and improvement plans to support the delisting of stream segments that are currently designated as impaired.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Oysters Get $10 Million

Governor Ralph Northam visited the Elizabeth River Project’s Learning Barge last week to celebrate the restoration of the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River and announced $10 million in new funding to support future oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. This is first time that capital funds from the Commonwealth have been explicitly used to restore Virginia’s natural resources. This is a big step towards restoring the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Today, watermen harvest both hard clams and oysters from the Commonwealth’s waters, though volumes of clams and oyster are diminished from historic levels. In 2017 the total number of shellfish from Virginia was 53.4 million: 37.5 million Hard Clams and 15.9 million Oysters. In the 1850s, more than 150 million oysters were harvested from the Bay each year; three decades later, this number jumped to 2,000 million. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Bay’s oyster fishery was one of the most important in the United States.

However, over-harvesting, disease and habitat loss have led to a severe drop in oyster populations. Scientists are working to manage harvests, establish sanctuaries, overcome the effects of disease and restore reefs with hatchery-raised seed in an effort to bring back the oyster.

“Virginia has made tremendous progress in improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, reviving oyster habitats, and building a legacy of environmental stewardship,” said Governor Northam. “This investment is a recognition that our natural assets are just as important as roads and buildings. The new funding stream that I proposed and the General Assembly adopted in our state budget will ensure that we can meet our restoration goals and achieve a clean and healthy Bay for the benefit of our communities, our economy, and our ecosystems.”

Oysters are the Chesapeake Bay's best natural filters. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Oysters also provide essential habitat for fish and other Bay creatures. The eastern oyster is one of the most iconic species in the Chesapeake Bay. For more than a century, oysters  made up one of the region’s most valuable commercial fisheries, and the oysters which are filter-feeders continues to clean our waters and offer food and habitat to other animals.

In 2010, Maryland and Virginia embarked on a tributary-based restoration strategy that will build, seed and monitor reefs in several Maryland and Virginia waterways. This commitment was incorporated into the Chesapeake Bay restoration blueprint. The effort to restore native oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest and most aggressive in the world, Virginia and its partners committed to restoring native oyster populations in 10 tributaries by 2025. Since then, Virginia has restored 240.5 acres of native oyster habitat building on earlier restoration of 473 acres. This restoration work has vastly improved water quality and generated billions of baby oysters in the Bay.

 Over the summer, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission deployed 10,500 tons of rock and 100,000 bushels of shell to restore 21 acres of oyster habitat in the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River. This oyster restoration work is the result of a partnership between the Elizabeth River Project and Virginia Marine Resource Commission, with funding from a Superfund settlement from Atlantic Wood Industries.

 The completion of this project marks the second of six tributaries that have been restored as part of Virginia’s commitments to improve the health of the Bay. The restoration of the Lafayette River was completed in 2019 and work in the Lynnhaven River is ongoing. This $10 million investment will support efforts to create and restore oyster habitat in the Piankatank, Great Wicomico, and York Rivers.

Over the past century, the Chesapeake Bay watershed has changed as urban, suburban and agricultural areas have replaced forested lands and then urban and suburban replaced agriculture. This has increased the amount of nutrients and sediment entering our rivers and streams and contributed to the poor water quality that affects the oysters and all aquatic life. Excess nutrients of nitrogen and phosphorus fuel the growth of algae blooms that create low-oxygen “dead zones” that hinder the development of oyster larvae; sediment that washes off of roads and fields can suffocate oysters and other shellfish. Stress related to poor water quality can make oysters more susceptible to disease, and yet oysters filter water and contribute to the health of the Bay. To restore the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia needs to restore the oysters.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Cleaning Up the Oceans

The world depends on healthy oceans. However, the oceans and marine environment are being threatened by ever increasing amounts of trash flowing into the ocean, particularly from China and a few other Asian countries.

Image from NOAA

Roughly 80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources: littering, dumping, storm waste discharges and extreme natural events. Five countries in Asia—China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam—account for over half of the plastic waste placed into the ocean. A recent study estimates up to 95% of plastic waste transported by major rivers starts from just 10 rivers—eight of them located in Asia, with the top polluting rivers being in China. It is to be recalled; however, that until 2017 China was the largest market that accepted recycled products from the United States so our waste has to some extent contributed to their problems.

Scientists estimate that more than 9,000 million metric tons of virgin plastics have been produced since the dawn of the age of plastics and found that around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. The amount of plastic waste keeps growing and proper management of that waste has not kept up. The United States is better than many at managing waste, today; but we need to improve our recycling our plastic and reduce our use of plastics. The United States still generate too much litter and storm carried trash. Year after year volunteers clean our roadways, streams, rivers, and streambeds of trash that started as litter and are carried along by stormwater and wind into our waterways.

To truly solve this problem on an international level, we must prevent trash from entering the earth’s waterways in the first place. All treaties among nations must include environmental clauses beyond carbon reduction. Earlier this month the U.S. EPA unveiled the U.S. Strategy for Addressing the Global Issue of Marine Litter, which provides a strategic model to prevent and reduce waste from entering our oceans. The U.S. EPA has developed a set of waste management recommendations that address the global marine litter problem, with a focus on four pillars:

  1. Building capacity for better waste and litter management systems, through improving infrastructure, government coordination, and public education and engagement.
  2.  Incentivizing the global recycling market in partnership with the private sector.
  3. Promoting research and development for innovative solutions and technology.
  4. Promoting marine litter removal, including litter capture systems in seas, rivers and inland waterways.

EPA modeled their international outreach on the Trash Free Waters  program  designed to address the marine litter problems by using these pillars to create a framework that specifically addresses national and local needs while working to protect the planet as a whole. Trash Free Waters International brings together national and local governments, communities, NGOs, and the private sector to identify marine litter problems and prioritize interventions that are cost-effective, practical and impactful.

Although the Trash Free Waters program began here in the United States, marine litter exists everywhere, and economically developing countries especially need experienced assistance that the United States can provide. As a result, Trash Free Waters has expanded its mission to other nations in the Western Hemisphere. Projects in Jamaica, Panama and Peru are providing national governments with practical steps to understand and address the marine litter issue holistically, including how waste is managed, identifying gaps within their waste management systems, and prioritizing project implementation.

These countries are leveraging the help EPA has offered to develop and improve local trash collection and recycling systems, raise community awareness, and implement educational programs in schools. All approaches that have worked in the United States. The goal is to move from pilot international programs to implementation worldwide.   The Trash Free Waters stakeholder-based process helps attract larger investments critical to establishing an economically sustainable and environmentally sound waste management system.

Solving the marine litter problem requires a global and comprehensive approach that includes the public sector, the private sector, NGOs, and society at-large. EPA has been working with other federal agencies to engage countries through a number of international settings like the G7 and G20 Environmental Ministers’ meetings, the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation, the Cartagena Convention’s Land Based Sources Protocol and the United Nations Environment Assembly. Expanding these partnerships and sharing ideas to find better ways to prevent and reduce marine waste to protect human health and our shared oceans.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Occoquan Dam Siren Test 2020

This Wednesday, November 18,2020 at 10 am Fairfax Water will test the Occoquan Dam siren system. The sirens are installed along the banks of the Occoquan River between the Town of Occoquan and Belmont Bay. People living and commuting in the area will hear a loud siren at 10 am on Wednesday November 18th. The test has taken place annually since 2012, but to many this may be the first time they are hearing it. Don't panic, it's just a test. 

The Occoquan Dam, also known as “the High Dam” was built in the 1950s to create the Occoquan Reservoir that now holds approximately 8 billion gallons of water. The dam is an essential element of our 24/7 water supply. The dam is owned and maintained by Fairfax Water who performs regular maintenance inspects the dam regularly. Fairfax Water states that “Rigorous maintenance and improvements to the dam have made it even stronger today than when it was constructed. It is extremely unlikely that the dam would become structurally compromised but we still want everyone to be prepared and safe.”

In 2012 Fairfax Water, Town of Occoquan, Fairfax County, and Prince William County installed the siren warning system as a precaution in the unlikely event of a structural failure. The siren is to alert folks downstream of the dam of the failure so they can evacuated to higher ground. The sirens are used because the Town of Occoquan felt that a siren system would be the most effective way to alert people in the unlikely event of a dam failure. You can also sign up to receive news and updates from either Fairfax and or Prince William Counties on your devices. You may choose to receive notifications via phone calls, text messaging, e-mail and more.

To sign up for Fairfax Alerts, visit:

To sign up for Prince William County Alerts, visit:

In the unlikely event of a structural failure at the dam, the loud siren will sound, and residents and visitors in the impact zone indicated in red should immediately evacuated to higher elevations to avoid the torrent of 8 billion gallons of water. Those on the water should get to land.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Governor Tightens Statewide Covid-19 Restrictions in Virginia

On Friday. November 13th 2020 Governor Ralph Northam stepped back the Covid-19  restriction in Virginia and declared that the following measures will take effect at midnight on Sunday, November 16:

  • Reduction in public and private gatherings: All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings.
  • Expansion of mask mandate: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces.  
  • Strengthened enforcement within essential retail businesses: All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and enhanced cleaning. Violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor.   
  • On-site alcohol curfew: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is prohibited after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must close by midnight. The current restriction that alcohol when allowed must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart.  
The Governor went on to issue a major clarification:  COVID-19 new restrictions DO NOT apply to schools or churches, or limit, in any way, capacity at private offices, gyms, businesses, restaurants, etc. The gathering change (250 to 25) is to prevent groups from forming over the holidays.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Covid-19 made Hunger in Virginia worse

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we need to talk about those with less. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, nearly 10% Virginians were considered food insecure. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap report, the best available approximation of food insecurity prevalence, 842,870 Virginians experienced food insecurity in 2018, including 233,530 children. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem, by the loss of jobs in the service sector.  Feeding America estimates that an additional 447,000 Virginians will experience food insecurity in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the Commonwealth’s food insecurity rate from 9.9% to 15.1% on an annual basis. It is believed that a larger share of Prince William County is food insecure.

We need to make sure that adequate food reaches the most vulnerable people in our community who were often the most impacted by Covid-19 pandemic. In April, the Prince William County formed the Community Feeding Taskforce. Since that time the taskforce has provided over six million pounds of food (the equivalent of five million meals), made over 1,100 emergency food deliveries to families and made over 800 no-contact food deliveries to shut-in senior citizens.  Each week, the taskforce receives at least nine tractor trailer loads of USDA Farmers to Families food boxes, 1,500 non-perishable food boxes from the Capital Area Food Bank and donations from 145 food donor partners, which it uses to support 72 food distribution sites.

Nonetheless, we must continue our efforts to make sure all our citizens have adequate food. Prince William County has an online map that provides information about free food distribution sites. The Food Helpline is available for those in need Please note that effective Nov. 2, there are two changes to the Prince William County Food Helpline.

The new helpline days and times are Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The helpline is no longer open on Fridays. The phone number remains the same—703.794.4668. Bilingual volunteers staff the phones.

The helpline will make home food deliveries within 48 hours of receiving a call. The helpline will refer immediate requests for food delivery to the Salvation Army, Hope House or the Prince William County Community Foundation. 

There are lots of ways you can help stop hunger here in our own community. The Community Feeding Taskforce will prepare 10,000 Thanksgiving boxes for families in the area from Nov. 9-24. Volunteer groups interested in making boxes can sign up for three-hour time slots as part of the "Build-a-Box Contest."

On Nov. 18, the taskforce will support the Prince William Chamber of Commerce's toy drive event. Twenty taskforce "special rescue heroes" will transport toys collected at the Uptown Alley and Appliance Connection donation drop-off sites and deliver them to two local non-profits, SERVE and ACTS.

You can also donate to or volunteer with  Salvation Army, Hope House or the Prince William County Community Foundation or other food pantry. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Brown Water after Shocking the Well

 Brownish or dirty looking water can be caused by many things. Practically always after you shock-chlorinate your well the water turns brown. The chlorine used to shock the well reacts with iron, manganese and reducing bacteria in the well and it is pulled into the water chlorine solution. That is the brown you see. Flushing the well by running the hoses for at least 12 hours or upto several day will clear up the problem. Don't panic, it is completely normal. Though the other major causes of brownish or dirty water are:

  1. Surface infiltration or other contamination 
  2. Well collapsing or water level dropping 
  3. Iron (and/or manganese) in the water
  4. Iron Bacteria
  5. Earthquakes
  6. Rust or breakdown of the metals in in the well or house 

What you are seeing is the gunk that had accumulated in your well. During well disinfection, free chlorine is introduced into the well water; there is no one standard for how much chlorine and methods to accomplish this disinfection so what your experience is will vary, but adequate amounts of chlorine will flush the mineral build up, iron in solution in the water and reducing bacteria out of the well.  Based on a survey of emergency disinfection protocols performed by Dr. Kelsey J. Pieper et. al and published earlier this year “Improving state-level emergency well disinfection strategies in the United States”,the scientists found that there were many differences in the protocols for  chlorine disinfection. 

Most protocols recommended that high chlorine doses be introduced into the well, circulated throughout the system, and stagnated for several hours up to 24 hours. The scientists point out that it is important that residual chlorine be measured because if too much of the chlorine solution reacts with iron or organic substances present in the well the effectiveness for disinfection is reduced. This is key because when iron or iron bacteria or other reducing bacteria react with chlorine (are oxidized) and are flushed out of the well into the water. If there is enough chlorine, the well will shed brown water, and be disinfected. 

Chlorination properly done can not only disinfect, but also rehabilitate the well. As a water well ages, the rate at which water can be pumped (commonly referred to as the well yield) tends to fall. This can be caused by:

  • Incrustation from mineral deposits (including iron and manganese) or 
  • Bio-fouling by iron bacteria 

The most common methods to rehabilitate a private water well are: acids or chlorine to dissolve the encrusting materials and bacterial slime from the well. This produces the brown water observed in a newly chorine shocked well. The chlorination  dissolves the encrustations and slime build up. These days regularly treating a well with chlorine is the recommended strategy to extend the life of a well and equipment and can improve the taste of the water. See well maintenance tips from Penn State University Extension or Alberta Provencal Government.

When I recently replaced my pump and pressure tank, I used a heck of a lot of chlorine in the powder form (a couple of cups or more of high-test calcium hypochlorite) to sanitize the well. Unfortunately, I was not able to mix the chlorine adequately. Mixing the chlorine  is accomplished by recirculating the water for a couple of hours. The result was that after running the hoses for about 12 hours the water appeared clear, but still had a measurable but low levels of chlorine. So, I need to keep diluting the chlorine solution by pumping the well to rid my well of it. Pockets of discolored water kept appearing for several days. Though I cannot run my well dry-it recharges faster than I can pump, I only ran the hoses only about 6-12 hours a day whenever a pop of rust colored water appeared.  It would still be almost 5 days before all trace of the chlorine was flushed from the system, and the water remained consistently clear,  but we were good with filtered water for coffee until then.

This was the longest it has ever taken to flush all the gunk out of the well which I attribute to not mixing the chlorine adequately. My husband, was briefly worried that I had somehow ruined the well or water supply because it seemed to go on and on. No worries, by the next week the water was clear and tasty. It takes patience to clear a well. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Leesylvania State Park Living Shorelines Restoration Update

 Leesylvania State Park Living Shorelines Project was a collaborative regional effort.  The Prince William County Public Works Department's Environmental Services worked with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Northern Virginia Regional Commission, Virginia Institute of Marine Science (who designed the project) and the Virginia Association of Parks on the $300,000 project to construct the living shoreline. The project was funded with grants from Dominion Energy and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The design by VIMS was completed and permitted in 2013and the construction was completed in the Summer of 2016.

In June 2016 on behalf of the project NVRC accepted an award from then Governor Terry McAulie designating the project as a Virginia Treasure. The project incorporated “Living Shoreline” practices: sills, marsh restoration, and beach enhancement to balance habitat restoration with shoreline protection and recreational access to the Potomac River. Living shorelines provide an effective and natural looking alternative for protecting shorelines in low wave energy areas, such as the Potomac River and its tidal tributaries.

VIMS is one of the leaders in designing and implementing living shorelines on public and private lands throughout the region. Living Shorelines area more natural approach to shore stabilization that uses marshes, beaches, and dunes to protect the shoreline along Virginia's creeks, rivers, and bays. This approach to shoreline management creats critical habitat for marine plants and animals, improvs water quality, and reduces sedimentation. After four years in place, the project has proved successful at mending  and protecting 800 feet of eroded shoreline in Leesylvania  State Park the Prince William County Press Release reports: 

"Adding sand to renourish the shoreline and planting high marsh switchgrass and the low marsh river bulrush in the sandy beach to create a tidal wetland, as well as installing rock barriers, called sills (that deflect and break up the wave energy of the river), off the shoreline have kept erosion at bay," said Prince William County Department of Public Works Environmental Services Environmental Engineer Tom Dombrowski. "The protected shore is no longer eroding. The beach is actually growing, and the wetlands are healthy."

Additionally, Mr. Dombrowski said, "A living shoreline provides habitat, breeding and spawning areas for aquatic and terrestrial species." The image below is from Google Earth with comments from VMIS in their review of the project. 

from VMIS

Before and after pictures of the restoration from Northern Virginia Regional Commission's report. 

Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District and Prince William County can provide information and assistance if you want to implement Living Shoreline Practices on your property. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

2020 Dead Zone Update

Overall, the total volume of the 2020 Dead Zone in the Chesapeake Bay was the second lowest since 1985 and was estimated to be considerably lower than in the Last several years. The “Dead Zone” of the Chesapeake Bay refers to a volume of hypoxic water that is characterized by dissolved oxygen concentrations less than 2 mg/L, which is too low for aquatic organisms such as fish and blue crabs to thrive.

If your will recall, in mid-June, the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, United States Geological Survey, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and University of Michigan scientists released their prediction for slightly smaller than average 2020 Dead Zone. This prediction was based on slightly less than average water and nitrogen flows into the bay from January – May 2020. The actual Dead Zone was smaller than they predicted.

At various times each summer the Maryland Department of Natural Resources measures the dissolved oxygen in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay main stem and the size of the Dead Zone. While the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), Anchor QEA and collaborators at UMCES, operate a real-time three-dimensional hypoxia forecast model using input of that predicts daily dissolved oxygen concentrations throughout the Bay ( using the National Weather Service wind monitoring data.

"The average hypoxic volume of the eight 2020 summer cruiseswas 0.63 cubic miles, compared to a historical summer average from 1985-2019 of0.84 cubic miles. During 2020, every cruise except the one in late July hadbetter than average oxygen conditions for its time period. The most recentmonitoring cruise conducted in September found no hypoxic waters in theMaryland mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay. "The September cruise normally occurs mid-month but was delayed a week due to several days of high winds which, along with cool September temperatures, contributed to the increase in oxygen in the deeper bay waters. Similarly, no hypoxia was observed in Virginia Chesapeake Bay mainstem waters in September. 

Crabs, fish, oysters, and other creatures in the Chesapeake Bay require oxygen to survive. Scientists and natural resource managers study the volume and duration of bay hypoxia to determine possible impacts to bay life. Each year from May to September, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources computes these volumes from data collected by Maryland and Virginia monitoring teams during twice-monthly monitoring cruises. Data collection is funded by these states and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program. Bay hypoxia monitoring continues throughout the year.

From the VMIS 2020 Bay Report Card:

“Springtime nitrogen inflows in 2020 were 17% below the long-term average, resulting in the prediction that the amount of hypoxia would similarly be slightly less than average... cool windy weather helped mix and aerate Bay water in the spring, resulting in hypoxia beginning later than in previous years. As summer arrived, weak winds and very high temperatures allowed hypoxia to increase considerably, resulting in a very large dead zone in late July... In 2020, hypoxia decreased quickly in early August in response to Hurricane Isaias; however, hypoxia returned in early September until stronger winds and cooler temperatures prevailed, ending hypoxia in the mainstem of the Bay earlier than in previous years. Overall, the total amount of hypoxia in 2020 was estimated to be considerably lower than in the recent past, with hypoxia both starting later and ending earlier, as was also seen in periodic ship based observations of dissolved oxygen.”

Despite the fact that the rain fall was above average in the region, and an extended heat wave struck the area in July the hypoxia was below average. This could be an indication that the Chesapeake Bay pollution diet is working, or an indication that the large number of storm that passed through the region bringing strong winds and cooler temperature were the controlling factor.