Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Rural Preservation Study – First Results of Public Survey

ruralarea2There were 384 responses to the county’s survey on the Rural Area, and whether current policy to preserve that area for agriculture and low-density development should be altered.

Developers propose every year to bust open the zoning and allow more houses.  The Rural Preservation Study now being conducted by the Planning Department could be just a stalking horse to revise existing zoning.

After all, county staff used to refer to the Rural Area as “unzoned,” assuming future rezoning for sprawl was inevitable.

However, county residents have supported the Rural Area planning that has been in effect for the last 15 years.  The boundary line has been modified only once to permit a major development (Avendale).

Here is a clue about public support for keeping the Rural Area rural: in 2013, only 11 out of the 384 responses suggested the Rural Area should metamorphose into future subdivisions:


PWCA Comments on Virginia’s Phase II Chesapeake Bay Water Improvement Plan

Over the last 300 years, Prince William County has damaged its streams and polluted its waters. We have removed the natural forest cover, used creeks as sewers for sewage wastes, and piped excessive runoff from our roads directly into our waterways.

Not surprisingly, many of our lakes and streams are classified as “impaired” by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The Clean Water Act requires us to restore our natural streams to “fishable and swimmable” status.  If we clean up the local waterways, then Prince William also will do its part to restore the Chesapeake Bay. After all, polluted water from Prince William flows downstream via the Potomac River to the bay. The solution to Save the Bay is for every jurisdiction upstream, even in West Virginia and New York, to clean up their local waterways.

The legal deadline to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay is now the year 2025, so we have about a dozen years to finish the job that we started when Virginia signed the Chesapeake Bay Agreement in 1983. Continue reading

There is no such thing as a dead tree

Guest post by Harry Glasgow

In the forest, in autumn, an acorn drops from an oak.  Soon, a bushy-tailed squirrel finds it and obeys an ageless urge to bury it to be dug up later during the spare oncoming winter. Soon forgotten by the squirrel, it remains buried through the winter, and begins to germinate the following spring.

In several years, the acorn develops into a sapling, and begins the struggle for survival. It must compete with other trees for its share of sunlight, nutrients from the soil, and water. Its leaves are bigger than those of its parents so that it can devote more energy to absorbing the necessary light and carbon dioxide than the adult trees, thus promoting faster growth.

As it grows, more branches sprout with more leaves, and it is steadily gaining in the struggle for space.  Soon, birds begin to explore the sapling for insects, and for nesting sites.  Continue reading

Bluebell Festival a Hit!

This year’s annual Bluebell Festival at Merrimac Farm (and my first) on April 15, turned out to be a great experience even though the famous bluebells were past their peak due to the unseasonably warm weather. As such, there was a greater focus on wildlife and history.

Several hundred participants, including many families with children, arrived in a steady stream throughout the day. Once greeters mentioned that Alvin the albino corn snake was available for petting, the children made a direct beeline for his enclosure.

“I got to hold him. He’s cool!” said 7-year-old Jason. Dad nodded in agreement, but Mom wasn’t so enthusiastic. Continue reading

Stream Stewards – Temporary streams help save the Bay

Jake Hosen, University of Maryland, gave a great talk on streams and what keeps them healthy on Thursday night (4/4), and followed it up Saturday morning with a guided walk through the flood plain of Cedar Run on Merrimac Farm to view the streams there.

Streams that flow year-round are known as perennial streams, while temporary streams have no water flow during some portion of the year.

There are two types of temporary streams. The first are intermittent streams which do not flow year round but are fed by groundwater during some portion of the year. The second type, ephemeral streams, receive water only from rain and never from groundwater so they usually flow less often than intermittent streams.

It turns out that streams are not only lovely to look at, they have many interesting characteristics. Streams are ubiquitous – there are approximately 1.6 million miles of 1st order streams, which are the smallest streams in a river network. Overall, in the continental United States and Hawaii a remarkable 59% of stream length is estimated to be temporary. Continue reading

The One Stream at a Time Tour

by Terry Reardon

Last Sunday (3/25), the Prince William Conservation Alliance’s first session of the Stream Stewards program kicked off with an eye-opening tour of two badly damaged streams, one in Hylbrook Park and the other half a mile away off Route 1 (view photos here). Both streams are high priority restoration candidates that illustrate the opportunities and challenges for Prince William County to protect local water quality and help save the Chesapeake Bay.

After remarks by County Supervisor Mike May about the challenges the county faces in restoring already damaged water resources and working to prevent future damage, County Environmental Engineer Clay Morris began by pointing out the Hylbrook Park stream’s precarious location in a heavily developed section of Woodbridge.

Morris pointed out several factors that would hinder the restoration of the stream that may not be immediately obvious to the lay conservationist. For example, there is only a narrow strip of ground on either side of the stream in which to work, leaving no space for the necessary easements, or an area for staging the restoration work. Most importantly, there is no room for the engineering of the stream bed to allow it to properly channel the large volume of water that rushes between its banks during a storm. Continue reading

Merrimac Farm Spring Work Day

Spring is here a little early and Prince William Conservation Alliance members kicked it off with another fun and productive volunteer work day at the Merrimac Farm landscape conservation project and the Stone House.

Last Saturday (3/10/2012), volunteers tore down the old fascia boards on the front porch of the house and put up new fascia. New rain gutters were also installed.

In the back in the conservation project, trenches were dug for the corrugated flex pipe that was laid to connect the two rain barrels that were set up; there will be a third rain barrel installed in the coming weeks. The water collected in the rain barrels will be used to water the plantings in the landscape project.

The native plants that were planted last October easily survived the mild winter. Serviceberry, coneflower, wild ginger and columbine are already sending out new green shoots. During the course of the work, a bald eagle was spotted conducting a flyover of the farm. Continue reading

Pecha Kucha, Nature and You

Interested in horse racing? You should have heard Shirley Couteau’s talk on the Preakness Race at Pimlico, Maryland.  What about biomimicry – you know, that’s when a bullet train is designed to be as aerodynamic as the beak of a kingfisher, or a 6” drone is modeled on the physiology of bats.

Or what about Amelia May’s look at how man has constructed beautiful buildings from nature’s materials – rocks, mud and twigs – that last hundreds of years.

A crowd of almost 100 people heard those talks and much more at Pecha Kucha Nature Night last night. Rob Hartwell spoke about the success of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River’s shad restoration in the Potomac River; sturgeon restoration is the next project.

Up next was Kate Norris with a presentation about her love of Hawaii, and closer to home Judy Gallagher talked about springtime in Woodbridge. The shared aspect of these disparate presentations, aside from the passion of the speakers, is that they were all six minutes long. Continue reading

Uranium Mining – A risky proposition for Virginia

by Bryanna Altman

The Virginia General Assembly is expected to vote  this  year (2012) on whether to lift a 30-year moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia.  Nuclear power is generated using uranium, a metal mined in various parts of the world. Nuclear power produces huge amounts of energy from small amounts of fuel, without the pollution you’d get from burning fossil fuels.

The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity.  In 2010 the country’s 104 nuclear reactors produced over 20% of total electrical output.  It is expected that 4-6 new nuclear reactors may come on line by 2020.

A company called Virginia Uranium, Inc. wants to mine a deposit known as Coles Hill site in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the only economically viable source identified in Virginia (National Academy of Sciences report). Virginia Uranium says tests indicate there are about 119 million pounds of uranium, worth as much as $10 billion, below the surface.  It is the world’s seventh-largest known deposit, or enough to supply all U.S. nuclear power plants for about two years or Virginia’s demands for 75 years.  

Virginia Uranium, Inc. executives also stated the company is owned by locals who care about their community and would never risk polluting it. But behind Virginia Uranium Inc. are two Canadian corporations, Virginia Energy Resources and Sprott, which hold a 49.8% interest in Virginia Uranium, Inc.   Continue reading

Virginia proposes end to participation with multi-state Commission aimed at protecting Potomac River

The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) is an interstate agency created by the individual statutes of its member jurisdictions – Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Federal Government participation was approved by Congress in 1940.

The ICPRB promotes collaborative watershed-based services aimed at improving and protecting water quality and quantity in the Potomac River basin. The ICPRB provides services that directly benefit Virginia, including technical and managerial support, watershed-based initiatives with an intergovernmental focus and public education.

Virginia’s cost for continued participation with the ICPRB is $151,500. The return on this investment is significant. In 2011, the total cost benefit to Virginia provided by ICPRB services totaled $529,000. (Click here for supporting documents.)

According to Fairfax Water Authority (FWA), “Northern Virginia, an economic engine within the Commonwealth, would be adversely impacted by Virginia’s withdrawal from the ICPRB.” FWA has expressed concern that “withdrawing Virginia’s membership from the ICPRB could have serious consequences for regional cooperative water supply operations and could jeopardize the reliability of the Potomac River as a water supply source during droughts.” Continue reading