Botanical Barges

Photo credit: Lewis Ginter Botanical Park

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has a new idea for saving the bay: Install floating, fertilizer-sipping wetlands in Virginia’s small lakes and storm water ponds.

by James A. Bacon

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is well known in the Richmond region for its Fountain Garden, its Rose Garden, its East Asia Garden and its Wetlands Garden. Its newest addition could well be referred to as its Floating Garden.

Working in conjunction with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CFB) last week, 20 volunteers loaded a large, plastic-mesh raft with perennial plants, lugged it down to Lewis Ginter’s Lake Sydnor, maneuvered it into open water and anchored it into place with cinderblocks.

A small crowd gathered to observe the proceedings. “When we launched the island,” says Ann Jurczyk, outreach and advocacy manager for the CFB, “people standing on the bridges started applauding when they saw it wasn’t going to sink!”

The floating garden, which measures a mere 120-square-feet, may qualify as the smallest attraction in Lewis Ginter’s 50-acre park of exquisitely tended trees, shrubs and flowers. But the plant-laden ark fulfills a critical function: removing fertilizer from the lake.

“The island functions like marsh plants,” explains Grace Chapman, Lewis Ginter’s director of horticulture. Roots grow through the mesh and dangle a foot or so into the water, where they absorb run-off nitrogen and phosphorous that feed the algae blooms and create oxygen dead zones. But treating the scourge of Virginia’s waterways is not the only thing the island does, she says. “It makes a great turtle barge.” At last count, the island had eight turtles.

Lewis Ginter’s floating wetland is one of two launched May 15 as part of a larger initiative to clean up Upham Brook. Restoration of the badly impared urban stream, which feeds into the Chickahominy River, is a top priority for the CFB. The same day saw the launch of a second floating wetland at the nearby Belmont Golf Course. A grant from a statewide restoration fund, financed by the purchase of Chesapeake Bay license plates, paid for the installations.

The idea for floating wetlands originated about a decade ago out West and has drifted east. Floating Island Southeast, based in Chapel Hill, N.C., is the exclusive provider of “BioHaven Islands” in Virginia and the Carolinas. The purchase price runs under $4,000 per island, including plants and shipping, says Jurczyk.

The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet vouched for the efficacy of the floating islands but a number of small-scale studies, including one conducted by Virginia Tech, has shown positive results. Floating Island Southeast claims that one square foot of its buoyant botanicals will suck up 10 grams of nitrate, 15 grams of ammonia and 0.5 grams of phosphate per day.

Lewis Ginter’s floating wetland is doubly important to CFB, says Jurczyk, because many people will see it, learn about it and hopefully grasp the potential to install one in their own neighborhood. Especially well suited for storm water retention ponds, the floating islands are readily installed and easily maintained. “The nitrogen and phosphorous [removed] is pretty remarkable on a cost-per-pound basis,” she says.

The CFB is looking for a home for two more islands, which it is willing to install at no cost. The main commitment it seeks from a partner like a golf course or homeowners association is to pull in the island once a year and weed out invasive species. Says Jurczyk: “This is a pretty good investment to keep pond health where it should be.”

This article was made possible by a Bon Secours of Virginia Health System sponsorship.

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29 responses to “Botanical Barges”

  1. larryg Avatar

    there are wetland plants that also can take up nutrients and I congratulate folks who want do something to help.

    I still think – it needs to be more than “feel good” activity.

    I suspect if measurements were actually taken that Lewis Ginter does not generate much nutrient runoff compared to the acres and acres of suburban lawns and impervious surfaces.

    Leadership on the issue needs to work from fact-based data – to inform people as to the facts and the solutions – and the fact that we cannot fix it all overnight so we have to prioritize and that means focuses on the areas that need it most – first -and to do that – you need comprehensive measurements of streams.

    People who care about the environment – need to be able to tick off the top of their head – the 5 streams that need the most attention.

    we have the “most threatened” rivers from development and the most threatened battlefields but where is the “most threatened” streams from nutrients?

    Then of course, we also need leaders who work to make sure the Accotink Creeks are actually addressed rather than going to court to get them off on technicalities… but I digress.

    but seriously – if you asked – even informed environmental folks in Va to name the top 3 rivers/streams threatened by high levels of nutrients – I bet you’d get mostly blank stares… or they’d say “ALL” streams …

    Does the James River – (for instance) have higher levels of nutrients upstream or downstream of Richmond – and what are those levels compared to other rivers in Va?

    do we know?

  2. The state of ignorance regarding our rivers and streams is appalling. I have been writing about stream restoration on and off for nearly a year now — and I don’t know the answers to those questions.

  3. larryg Avatar

    you won’t know them for the years ahead either until or unless the Chesapeake Bay Folks start viewing those who care about the environment as more than cheerleaders to whatever feel-good messages they put out.

    this is part of the reason the right derides most environmentalist as clueless on the issues and just ideologically aligned…and it begets similar responses on the right.

    but I digress a bit.

    Any of us who do care and do want to address the issues – there’s some of us, perhaps a good number, who want to be effective – who realize that we do have finite resources and the problem is too big to fix just with big gobs of money – that we have to identify and classify the problems according to their significance and then go from there.

    CBF treats it’s supporters and would-be supporters as if they are clueless morons who will dutifully cheerlead when asked – what I classify as ‘feel good”, sound-bite efforts that really are not substantive – not really measurable, not intended to be measurable – just doing something that seems like a good thing to support a “cleaner” environment.

    this is what I always liked about past conservatism. They brought that business approach to the effort. They approached it with the idea that is something was a problem then we needed a real plan to address it – and that plan had to be cost-effective AND it had to be effective. Real benefits were expected to be achieved – that could be seen, measured.

    The current approach treats supporters as mindless followers…. who only need to be told they are doing good things – to satisfy them that they are.

    I want more. I want real approaches that are based on real science that demonstrate effectiveness – cost effectiveness so that if we are engaged in an effort to clean up nutrients – that we can see where the efforts are succeeding – on stream segments, on river segments, on overall numbers for the Bay.

    Right now – I consider the public outreach aspects to be insulting to people who really want to deal with the issues…. and targeted to those who are satisfied with mostly feel-good cheerleading.

    we need to get serious about this. we need to show that we are serious and show that we are serious about fixing the problems by starting off showing the problems with real numbers… showing that undeveloped areas like National Forests have much lower nutrient numbers, that areas with a lot of impervious surfaces and lawns have high numbers – and what things actually do mitigate in scope and scale – and then support those efforts – encourage the elected local and state leaders to actually focus on those strategies – not only funding, but stormwater authorities – that people do understand the connection between fees and results, etc.

    I applaud the efforts at Lewis Ginter but I cringe every time I see something like this because it’s got too much “feel good” and not near enough “this is what need to be doing – and let’s start where the need is greatest”.


  4. Hold on, Larry, I’m supposed to be the conservative curmudgeon, not you!

    I think this project is worthwhile as an experiment. We’re never going to clean the Bay and its tributaries unless we try a lot of new things, test new ideas. The key is to measure the results and understand the Return on Investment for different strategies. Based on the early evidence, these floating wetlands suck up a lot of nitrogen and phosphorous per dollar expended.

    Also remember, floating wetlands are a niche product designed for ponds, small lakes and storm-water impoundments. They’re not a universal solution. But they may work better than any other stratagem for ponds and storm water impoundments, of which there are thousands in Virginia alone.

  5. larryg Avatar

    well I’m _not_ a curmudgeon because I believe we should both protect the environment but do it in a cost-effective way.

    we’ve got scads of experiments. what we lack if serious analyses of what are cost effective approaches to the problem.

    I earlier alluded to the fact that you can plant water-based plants in the bottoms of storm ponds and those plants take up nutrients.

    the “island” look to be not only more expensive but just a little bit too cute for me unless there are data to clearly show they are superior.

    consider the cost per island and multiple it out to the owners of the storm ponds and ask if 1. – they are cheaper than just planting plants and 2. – are the islands better, more effective at reducing nutrients?

    for that matter, ask yourself Jim – have you seen anything about the various ways of mitigating storm water runoff – nutrients?

    I would think – just off the top of my head, for instance, that a storm pond for a WalMart parking lot is going to be way different than one for a residential development – in terms of the nutrients in it.

    Are you going to tell Walmart to start putting these “islands” in their storm ponds? how will you justify it? will you be able to show that the runoff from the storm pond will be cleaner, better, less polluting as a result of the islands?

    these are serious questions about how we will clean up the Bay and as I said before, if you ask 100 folks who are “environmentalists” concerned about this specific issue – what the numbers are for various approaches and what the current status is of the rivers and stream segments – they have no clue.

    why? How can you want to clean up the environment but your sole contribution is to be a cheer-leader for whatever CBF talks about – like “islands”?

    this is why the right thinks in derisive terms of the folks who say they are ‘environmentalists’ and.. they deserve it – because we are willing to spend decades and billions on basically feel-good cheerleading without ever really holding anyone accountable for the performance.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      The difference between Maryland’s efforts to clean up the Bay and Virginia’s efforts is staggering. Maryland is serious and Virginia is a net detriment to a clean Bay.

      Maryland has passed the very controversial “rain tax” whereby all owners of property with impervious surfaces will have to pay an annual tax. The tax is supposed to be put into a lockbox that will only be used to fund stormwater runoff treatment plants.

      Virginia is experimenting with the voluntary use of floating islands.

      Worse yet, the environmental disaster that is the Beltway and one of its symptoms – Accotink Creek – was correctly cited by the EPA as a major source of stormwater borne pollution. Our utterly worthless Attorney General (and prospective governor) refused to demand that Virginia and Fairfax County take ownership for the obvious engineering failure that is the beltway without rainwater catchment plans. Rather than staying true to conservative talk about accountability our AG sued the EPA on a technicality to avoid taking any action on the abortion of common sense that is the Accotink Creek fiasco.

      I will be among those paying the so-called “rain tax” in Maryland. So be it. The problem with stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay watershed is obvious. The fact that impervious surfaces cause much of the extra runoff is also obvious. What would somebody who truly believes in accountability do? They would pay for the problems they are creating. Of course, the dipsticks in the RPV only talk about accountability when it applies to a pregnant sixteen year old girl. When accountability means digging into their own pockets to solve problems that they have created the RPV has no more interest in accountability.

      Virginia needs to get back to its ABCs in 2013: Anybody But Cuccinelli.

      1. Since when is jurisdiction a technicality? The Constitution and federal law limit a agency’s jurisdiction to what Congress gives it to do. Congress know how to give an agency broad or narrow jurisdiction. The EPA does not have congressional permission to regulate as it did.

        I also see a question of whether this is an ex post facto law, also prohibited by the Constitution. If VDOT’s construction of the Beltway met federal environmental standards in effect, how can the EPA or Congress argue that it becomes unlawful when a statute is later passed? The Constitution is a heck of a lot more important than the Bay.

        Moreover, Congress doesn’t give a rat’s $%^ about cleaning up the Bay. it essentially exempted rural uses from the same regulation imposed on urban/suburban areas. About a dozen engineers have told me that. One more example of the federal government making life worse for Americans.

        1. larryg Avatar

          I guess it boils down to whether or not the people who live in that watershed want to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the environment and “saving the bay”.

          you can play all the “constitutional” and “jurisdictional” games you want but at the end of the day- are you really helping to clean up the Bay or just pretending you want to?

          pretty bad when we blame the Federal govt for our own wanton irresponsible behaviors.

          1. Saving the Bay is not high on my list of priorities. I have not been even near the Bay for at least 10 years. Preserving and enhancing the quality of life for Fairfax County residents and seeing economic growth that benefits more people are much more important to me.

          2. larryg Avatar

            re: what’s important to me. That’s a principled position, honest position but an awful one because it basically is the attitude we had back when the Potomac was an open sewer – no one cared what happened downstream as long as whatever came from upstream was fine.

            you ought to rethink your position TMT. If the people who lived west of you on the Potomac had your attitude – the water you get in your faucet may be what they managed to clean up at the intake.

            we all live downstream…

          3. I’m not opposed to doing anything to improve the Bay. Fairfax County residents are already paying an extra two cents on the real estate tax rate for storm water management. That’s not nothing. New construction has additional storm water holding requirements. That is not nothing either.

            There is a proposal being considered by the County to take over management of storm water facilities and bill the costs to taxpayers. A couple of engineers have told me that this cost could require as much as an additional four to five cents on the tax rate. This seems excessive to me, especially when the legislation ignores most of the damage caused in rural areas.

            BTW, average wages and salaries paid in Fairfax County are down 2.5% from 3Q11 to 3Q12. I stick with my priorities.

          4. larryg Avatar

            TMT – why do you think the problem is caused by 5% of the population?

            I believe the storm water from the urbanized areas is far more a bigger percentage of the problem but even if one thinks AG is a big contributor, isn’t what AG produces basically for folks in the urban areas – the population?

            isn’t the power and the food that cities need “externalized” to places outside the city?

          5. Larry, the EPA says 60% of the nitrogen entering the Bay comes from non-point sources, mainly from agriculture.
            I’ve been told by engineers that the “deal” puts more of the responsibility for “fixing” the problem on urban/suburban areas. If this is true (and I don’t have any reason to doubt), we are paying more to fix our “portion” so that rural interests can pay less. And we seem to be ignoring a major cause of nitrogen runoff.

          6. larryg Avatar

            TMT – thanks for the EPA link.

            re: ” Nonpoint sources of nutrients contribute about 60 percent of the nitrogen that reaches the Bay. The largest single source is agricultural runoff. Nitrogen loading results from application of chemical fertilizers, livestock manure, and sewage sludge on fields as well as from animal wastes that run off pastures and feedlots”

            I don’t see numbers. For instance, what are the numbers in the Potomac UPSTREAM from the Md-Dc-Va region and what are they DOWNSTREAM?

            but also pay attention to the AG sources cited by the EPA.

            Do you think the nutrients are coming off of ag land that is not being used – not in production?

            In other words do you think the nutrient problem comes from natural and unused lands?

            when they say…. “… application of chemical fertilizers, livestock manure, and sewage sludge on fields as well as from animal wastes that run off pastures and feedlots” – do you think this is an AG problem or a problem that results from trying to produce food for those who live in urban areas – where the majority of the population lives – and eats food?

            do you think if we tell the AG industry to “clean up” the nutrients, it will affect the price of food ?

            do you care if all Ag has to clean up no matter whether it is polluting or not – and add that cost to the food costs or do you think it should be targeted to the most-polluting types and locations in a more cost-effective manner?

            this is what I have been saying – when you say that the problem is “everywhere” and everyone has to clean-up no matter what – and you expect farmers to eat the costs – is that really reasonable and would you really expect it to go forward without more challenges to the EPA?

            the costs to clean up ag land will be incorporated into the price of the food grown on that Ag land.

            but do you want the guy that grows corn with 100 foot buffers on a 1000 acres along a river to pay the same as the guy that has a half-million chickens – and their poop on a half acre next to the river?

            this is why I think you have to measure the concentration on nutrients in the river – upstream of Washington and downstream of washington – to determine if what the region is doing with both point and non-point source is really working…

            but also for the farmers – so the guy that has 1000 acres of corn gets assigned his fair share – and options to reduce it – like using 200 foot buffers, etc – AND the guy raising a million chickens – what to do with his pile of chicken poop …. etc…

            TMT – if you eat chicken, beef, corn, etc, you and I are the ones who is polluting the ag, guy… right?

            we all live downstream….

  6. larryg Avatar

    ….but unless Mayland actually has a real plan for cost-effective approaches to reducing nutrients … they may well end up spending that rain tax for those islands.

    my complaint is that we don’t really know which rivers (segments) have the most nutrient problems and which ones do not – so we are dictating to both public and private entities what they have to do – for ALL segments no matter what and of course the response is that there is no way to do it all at once, so they choose what to do – almost arbitrarily without regard to what are the most significant areas that ought to end up as prioritized for limited and finite funding.

    we have a shotgun approach because we do not really invest in determining the status of the rivers, segments and streams, creeks, etc.

    If we actually did that – Accokeek would not be an argument – it would stand out clearly – by it’s numbers…. as compared to other streams.

    but Accokeek is not just about nutrients and storm ponds.

    that’s the difference I was talking about for storm ponds – that depend on what kind of land they are draining – and what specific actions you’d take for say – a WalMart Storm Pond verses a 2000 unit townhouse development.

    In the former, you need to be dealing primarily with oil, antifreeze, other chemicals that come from vehicles … etc… In the latter, you’re going to have fertilizer and pet poop….

    telling WalMart they have to do something about nutrients – when it’s not a problem while at the same time not telling them to do anything about chemicals is what happens when you have a shotgun approach.

    And Walmart is going to fight you if you tell them they have to put 10,000 worth of mitigation that is not needed – even as they keep quiet about the chemical issue that was never brought up.

    but what does the CBF do when it engages the public? does it talk about these issues and show the status of streams and rank the ones who have the most severe problems and characterize what they are?

    Nope. They do this rah rah cheerleading act… that treats people as if they are clueless – and not able to truly understand.

    so where does the pressure come from to do something? It does not come from people because people just don’t know the facts to advocate for. The best they’re going to do is urge “clean up” …

    the real fighting goes on between the EPA and the State and localities and guess what happens? It becomes a game of inside baseball.. outside the eyes of the public except when people like Cucinelli use it for political purposes.

    we treat people like they are stupid when it comes to the environment … we fail to empower them with the facts – so they can and will go raise hell with their localities to fix the problems.

    Walmart would fold like a deck of cheap cards if the public got on their case about their lousy storm water management but the public drives to their parking lots – every day – totally oblivious to the storm pond that sits next to it or behind it – and what that pond is doing (or not) to the water quality of the stream it feeds that in turn feeds a river that goes into the bay.

    we cannot clean up the Bay by having the populace cheerlead feel-good activities.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      From the EPA filing on Accotink Creek:

      A sediment rating curve and a load duration curve were created for the Accotink Creek watershed to support the relationship between stormwater flow and sediment. The Accotink Creek sediment rating curve was developed using concurrently collected flow and sediment data at USGS and DEQ water quality monitoring stations. A total of 84 observations of sediment and flow, spanning the period from 1993 to 2007, were used to develop the rating curve. The sediment rating curve has an R2 value of 0.756, indicating a direct relationship between sediment and stream flow. The load duration curve indicates that sediment loads increased significantly in the high-flow zone (i.e., the upper ten percent of all daily average flows). These curves illustrate the significant relationship between stream flow and sediment loads in Accotink Creek, and provide the basis for using flow as a surrogate for sediment in this TMDL. Efforts to reduce stormwater flow will decrease sediment loads, particularly in-stream sediment loads, which in turn will improve habitat conditions for the macroinvertebrate communities within the stream.”.

      The USGS and DEQ maintain endless water quality tracking stations and keep a huge volume of data over many, many years.

      It was this data that was used by the EPA to demand that Virginia and Fairfax County clean up the engineering disasters that lead to excessive into Accotink Creek which, in turn, leads to excessive nutrient pollution into Gunston Cove – a tidal embayment of the Potomac River.

      In typical fashion, Clowninelli never contested the facts. Instead, he successfully argued that the EPA’s quite reasonable use of stormwater runoff as a surrogate for stormwater runoff caused nutrient pollution was not allowable under the Clean Water Act.

      Cuccinelli’s entire adult life has been spent as a professional politician and a paper shuffling lawyer using loopholes for the benefit of his crony capitalist friends.

      It’s as simple as A-B-C: Anybody But Cuccinelli.

  7. larryg Avatar

    The EPA – yes – the info is “available” to those so inclined to go find it but for the average person who is listening to CBF – what?

    sediment loads don’t necessarily mean high nutrient levels.

    again, it does depend on the SOURCES of the runoff – are they impervious surfces, parking lots, etc or are they inadequate storm water runoff measures?

    TMDLs are another area that the average person has no clue about much less what the TMDL is for the creeks, rivers in their region much less how far out of whack their rivers/creeks are with respect to the TMDL standards.

    there are people, many people, who live in the Accotink Creek watershed who consider themselves “green”, environmentally supportive, who do not have a clue about the facts with regard to Accotink Creek much less put pressure on the elected officials do deal with it.

    the same folks probably give money to CBF, recycle plastic and metal, buy “green” products, etc. but there is a huge disconnect between the impacts of the things WHERE THEY LIVE and their support for the environment which in many cases is basically cheerleading “feel good” measures rather than getting down to brass tacks and actually making a difference – in the area where they live.

    we are not going to “save the bay” until people make that connection between where they live and what happens where they live – and the Bay.

    that’s the job of the leaders – like CBF to make that happen and instead we get basically sound-bites.

    it’s like we think people are too stupid to deal with real issues.

  8. I went to a meeting this evening. One of the subjects was storm water management and the ongoing need to bring storm water control facilities into full repair. The cost was estimated at $1 billion for Fairfax County alone. And that probably wouldn’t achieve the results needed under the Chesapeake Bay Act. How many billion more would that require? It’s not going to happen. No one will vote to increase taxes by this amount. It’s time to get real.

  9. larryg Avatar

    TMT – I would agree there is a practical limit. Look up UAA – uaa use attainability analysis which Maryland is using and which basically looks at what are achievable conditions and what are not and in some cases as with Maryland the discovery that the Chesapeake Bay already had some small dead zones prior to development but those zones with small and not permanent only appeared at certain times of the year for short periods.

    UAAs are also part of the TMDL – total daily maximum load – approach where the limits of what can be disposed of without causing damage are determined and limits established.

    but it’s not a billion dollars per year to fix storm water – right? it’s a billion spread out over a number of years.

    and what needs to be done is to PRIORITIZE what gives the most bang for the buck rather than just spending as much money as can be obtained to gradually update on a piecemeal basis.

    they need to target the things that are the biggest problems – at least to identify them and start chewing on the ones that are doing the most damage.

    For instance, a small farm that raises millions of poultry – and removes poop from the buildings – and does what with it?

    we’re having the same problem with human poop by the way. They truck it from wastewater treatment plants, spread it on a field, and the rains wash it right back into the local rivers.

    how much of a problem is the chicken and human poop on fields ?

    we’d know if we actually measured upstream and downstream…

    and if we did that… we may discover that, for instance, certain concentrations on certain kinds of soil, applied in certain ways may actually result is LESS runoff and instead of stopping the practice – altering it to ways that don’t cause runoff pollution near as much.

    but you cannot know any of this if you don’t measure to start with.

    the funny thing is – we DO measure air quality. we measure all over the NoVa area for different kinds of pollutants and particulate matter – and from those comprehensive measurements – we take actions to deal with the biggest problems and it’s been effective.

    but when it comes to water – we don’t measure for the most part and instead we have a one-size fits all approach to fixing problems – which is very expensive and penalizing people whose contributions are minor while treating others whose contributions are major – the very same way.

    Do you think a poultry farmer with a million chickens has a different effect on a river than a guy who owns 1000 acres of pasture with 100 cattle?

    One might have a mile or two of river border and the other several hundred feet.

    you tell them both they have to do “something” and the 1000 acre farm ends up with a humongous bill – for no real benefit much less a cost-effective one and the poultry farm does something for cheap that barely puts a dent in the problem – which you cannot really know unless you are measuring up and down the river – the same way we measure for air quality.

    so when someone says a billion dollars for Fairfax – and nothing else – there is going to be opposition and a lack of support – which is totally understandable because like you – there is no connection between what the problem is – and what the cleanup will accomplish – or not.

    it’s a dumb way to try to engage the public on the issue and it fosters opposition instead of stewardship.

    Cleaning up the Bay REQUIREs that the public understands the scope and scale of the problem – WITH RESPECT TO THEIR OWN locale – NOT on a feel-good “save the bay” basis – BECAUSE when you say a billion dollars at the local level and it’s a scattershot approach with no real metrics – people turn away.

    it’s almost like we have designed an approach that we want to fail. Just give everyone stupid pills and tell them to be happy.

    1. Larry,

      The billion was a proffered total cost to bring existing storm water facilities located in Fairfax County to a properly maintained level. My source is a retired engineer who has been very active in environmental issues for years, especially in the areas of water quality.

      As I understand his remarks, the maintenance would not provide any new protections beyond what such facilities would have achieved when constructed. It’s also my understanding that the law would demand additional protections beyond what would be provided with today’s “network” of facilities.

      I strongly agree with your comments about the need to be more granular. Who is causing what damage? Do the remedies fit the damage? Are we, instead, making those who can do something easily pay a lot more just because we cannot find ways to charge those who are causing the most harm. What is the standard to which we are trying to bring the Bay to?

      Sanitary sewer bills are going up significantly. What is being achieved? Are we just paying for what we flush or are we paying because we are easy targets? I don’t have an inherent trust that the federal and state laws bring me to the former and not the latter.

      As to parking, I think you have email address for me.

      1. larryg Avatar

        there are two parts to storm water:

        1. – the volume of runoff, particular the peak flow after storm events and the damage it causes to stream banks that do not have sufficient time to re-vegetate because of the increased frequency of scouring type runoff.

        2. – water quality – i.e. what’s in the runoff – to this point – it’s not really been addressed.

        so when you hear about a farm with fertilizer think about a 1000 homes on 200 acres and the fertilizers and pesticides that get washed into streams not to mention the pet poop and oil/anti-freeze.

        to this point – water treatment has not been required.

        but to this point – we don’t really measure on a per storm pond or even per creek basis – what is in the runoff, ergo what needs to be addressed.

        In some areas – the runoff may be much more benign than others and not need A-Z remediation. In others, it could be very bad and need a lot – aka Accokeek.

        the reason your water/sewer goes up is because point sources can be cleaned of nutrients – and they do that to compensate for non-point source nutrient runoff.

        I can’t fix your trust problem but if you don’t trust govt then the problem is bigger than runoff.

        1. “the reason your water/sewer goes up is because point sources can be cleaned of nutrients – and they do that to compensate for non-point source nutrient runoff.” Exactly. We have a Protect-the-Bay statute that focuses chiefly on point sources, while largely ignoring the non-point ones. This is a typical Washington, D.C. solution. Screw who you can catch, while ignoring the largest source of nutrients — agriculture. In this instance, I regard the EPA as the bad guys. It’s like being in grade school and hearing the teacher say “I know lots of children were chewing gum during the play, but I only caught you. So you are the only one to be punished.” If the environmentalists were honest, they would push for a storm water solution that made a better fit between the “crime and the punishment.”

          Fairfax County is requiring Tysons landowners redeveloping to hold the first inch of rain. Much of this will be done with large holding towers with a 50-year life. Many will use commercial filters that last 5 years. In the long run, it’s less expensive than digging out the filtrate material. So sayeth the Tysons landowners.

          1. larryg Avatar

            re” exactly

            do you not see how a lack of agreement on non-point comes back to whack point source?

            re: EPA bad guys… I’d only agree with you when you tell me that Va has made good faith efforts to fix the problem and the EPA interfered.

            otherwise you need to admit that Va has basically done squat and in doing so.. demonizes the EPA for actually insisting on something.

            the first inch of rain is a good start but it won’t fix the problem with regard to what is in the runoff itself.

            and it won’t fix the problem relative to what the runoff characteristics are right now verses what they were before development.

            the first inch is not really connected to the real issue.. it’s just an arbitrary number that allows them to size what will be held back without really dealing with what won’t.

            you have to be serious about what you really want to accomplish here – as well as how to do it in a cost-effective way and what they are doing – in the name of hating the EPA – is not good.

          2. Larry, again. I strongly believe there are more important priorities than the Bay. We have a nation where employment has not, and may not, bounce back to where it was before the recession. We have a generation of young people who played by the rules and still cannot find good jobs. We need economic growth a heckuva lot more than spending billions on the Bay. That’s my problem with environmental legislation. It has no cost-benefit analysis. Just keep the dirt-bag bureaucrats at the EPA and some consultants employed. Screw em.

          3. larryg Avatar

            re: priorities

            TMT – when you spend money on stormwater – you do provide jobs. environmental cleanup provides jobs.

            in terms of priorities – if we say that the environment cannot be a priority until we fix the other problems – it will never be.


            this is again why I say we need a much more focused and granular approach because when we thrown around huge numbers – and there are other issues also ongoing – the net effect is to foster a belief that we just cannot afford it and that leads to opposition.

            By NOT measuring river segments and NOT making it more common knowledge to people – we make the issue not only expensive but ephemeral – as in your statement that you don’t visit the bay or use it so it’s not important to you.

            your attitude – of which I totally respect because it is largely a principled position rather than an ideological or political one (mostly) is the fruit IMHO of an advocacy that promotes the idea that it will take billions to clean up the bay – and you need to know nothing else – just cough up the money.

            CBF needs to bring home the data to each location – to convince people like you of the problems – where you live – and which ones are worse than others and what it will take to fix them.

            until this is done – the feel-good cheerleading approach is not going to appeal to folks like you – nor me.

          4. Just gives us the money, it’s for the Bay remind me of “Just give us the money, it’s for the children (education); it’s for security (military spending); it’s for better commutes and economic development (transportation).” We cannot afford to operate in this manner any more. Tell me what is more critical about X and why. Show me that you want to spend $A on project B; why; what B will achieve; what are the alternatives; how do we measure project B. This is the least we should do when we are talking about other people’s money.

          5. larryg Avatar

            re: tell us what you are spending our money on.

            totally agree.

            at the local level – in our taxes, we often get a dollar bill divided up into the categories and then each category can be drilled down on their website.

            but the problem is your priorities are not mine and we can’t both require that only our priorities be funded (or not).

            but I do ask – what is the right about to fund the Bay cleanup and what is the 10, 20, 30 year financial plan – with specifics about where the money will actually be spent and for what.

            you have a billion in Fairfax. what are the specifics it will be spent on geographically and for what kinds of facilities?

  10. larryg Avatar

    TMT – I have another question for you on parking and densification … and will ask in email or a more appropriate thread.

  11. The billion dollar figure for Fairfax was estimated to cover the costs for bringing existing storm water control facilities to their normal operating status. It’s a broad swag, but seemed reasonable to me, given what I know about the speaker. I have no idea what the repaired facilities would achieve. Or what else experts think would need to be done to meet the “requirements” of the law. That bothers me. What about a budget? I fear no budget would be forthcoming for several reasons – no one truly knows what needs to be done to “save” the Bay; it’s fiscally impossible to spend the amount of money needed to “save” the Bay; specifics would kill the emotional appeal of “saving” the Bay; etc. We need more accountability on government spending at all levels and without regard to the politics thereof. Good government should not be a political issue, but, rather, one embraced by Democrats and Republicans; conservatives and liberals; and even the WaPo editorial board (I can dream, can’t I?).

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