The Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board is holding public hearings this week about new documents farmers will be asked to complete to help the state meet pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay.
A law passed by the General Assembly in 2011 established voluntary resource management plans through which farms will describe methods by which they limit the amount of sediment and nutrients that enter into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The plans are one tool being used by Virginia to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pollution diet, known as the total maximum daily load (TMDL). That refers to the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive.
If a farmer completes a plan and it is certified, the farm would be shielded from any potential future requirements related to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL for a period of nine years.
The regulations are designed to take into consideration the economic impact on farmers in the region. To this end, each resource management plan would be based upon an individual farm assessment.
The requirements are designed to limit water pollution by creating separations between water sources and nutrients found in pesticides and fertilizers to reduce runoff and nutrient loss.
They also would require that farmers prevent livestock from entering the water.
Additionally, the regulations would require occasional inspections to ensure that a resource management plan is up to code. Sites with a resource management plan would be inspected at least once every three years to ensure that no deficiencies, such as aspects of the resource management plan that have not been implemented correctly, have occurred.
According to the plan, farm owners would be given 90 days to correct any problems that were identified during the inspection, including amending the resource management plan itself. However, owners who fail to correct the deficiencies would have their Certificate of RMP revoked.
The public hearing closest to Charlottesville will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona.