Chesapeake Bay Regulations/Resource Protection Areas (RPA's)

Click here to read the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board Resolution
Local Program Compliance Evaluation, Prince William County - Not Fully Compliant

Prince William is a 'Chesapeake Bay county,' along with all other Virginia localities that have tidal wetlands. Virginia's Bay regulations are mandatory in these areas. Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Dept. (CBLAD) oversees Virginia's program and monitors compliance with the regulations. CBLAD has just completed a compliance review for Prince William and will hold a public hearing on Sept. 20 to finalize their findings.

Although the Chesapeake Bay regulations are Prince William's best available tool to protect trees and stream corridors, the county has regularly interpreted the rules in ways that fall short of the intent. One key problem through the years has been the Preservation Area Site Assessment (PASA), a 'ground-truthing' study that has routinely been used to reduce the number of acres protected by the Chesapeake Bay regulations.

Virginia strengthened the Chesapeake Bay regulations two and a half years ago. The new regulations call for changes to Prince William's 'ground-truthing' process and other revisions. CBLAD granted the regulated localities one year to complete implementation of the changes. During this period, which coincided with a drought, some developers completed the 'ground-truthing' study (PASA) - under the old rules - for many parcels and Prince William agreed to 'grandfather' (vest) these studies.

In spring 2004, we filed a formal complaint with CBLAD using the South Market development project to illustrate Prince William's process. On June 2 CBLAD sent Prince William a formal opinion, approved through the Attorney General's office, determining that Prince William's 'grandfathering' of the 'ground-truthing' studies does not comply with Virginia's regulations.

When Prince William achieves full compliance with Virginia's new Chesapeake Bay rules, we will strengthen our local capacity to protect stream corridors. Right now Prince William appears reluctant to make changes. The County has made no visible moves toward complying with Virginia's regulations, despite the ongoing Zoning Ordinance update and other current changes to planning processes. The Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board will review these issues on Sept. 20 as part of their determination of compliance for Prince William.

CBLAD has scheduled a public hearing to finalize Prince William's compliance status on September 20, 2004, 10:00 a.m., at CBLAD headquarters in Richmond. Your comments are important, even if you can't attend in person. We'll be attending the public hearing and will be glad to submit your comments for the public record. For assistance, email us at alliance(at)pwconserve.org or call us at 703.499.4954.

Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Regulations protect a 100-foot wide corridor along both sides of perennial creeks (year round water flow). This preservation area is intended to protect, or buffer, waterways from the impacts caused by human land uses. The pictures above, taken nine months apart at the same site along the Occoquan River, are one example of Prince William's enforcement shortfalls. More than nine months have passed since Prince William identified the violations (clearing of the 100-foot wide protected buffer) but little has changed. The violations continue to impact the Occoquan River and send a message to local communities that Prince William does not enforce the rules fairly and consistently.

More information on the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Department (CBLAD) compliance evaluation of Prince William County's Chesapeake Bay Program: More information on Prince William County's current Chesapeake Bay policies and regulations:
Map of Virginia's Coastal Management Area as defined by the Code of Virginia § 28.2-100 (NOTE: includes Prince William. The only localities required to adopt the Chesapeake Bay regulations are those with tidal wetlands. For example, the City of Manassas and Manassas Park do not have tidal wetlands and are not subject to the Chesapeake Bay regulations.)

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NOTE: The Chesapeake Bay regulations affect a wide range of land use and water quality issues in Prince William, so see the material on these other issues as well: