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23rd Annual Environment Virginia Symposium Concludes

By: Ann Neil Cosby. This was posted Friday, April 13th, 2012

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Environment Virginia Conference 2012This week, I had the pleasure of attending the 23rd Annual Environment Virginia Symposium, hosted by the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics. As in years past, the symposium was topical, thought-provoking, and included a wealth of information on a variety of environmental topics.

The theme this year was “Collaboration Innovation Results,” and tracks focused on Getting to Zero Waste, the Chesapeake Bay WIP Phase II, Sustainability in Higher Education, Land and Conservation, Air Quality and Water Supply, and Stormwater, Water Quality and Dam Safety.

For those of us who have been following the new, and seemingly ever-changing, stormwater regulations (our posts are here), the day long sessions entitled “Stormwater Toolbox for Municipalities” included presentations from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Stafford County, and the Center for Wetlands Protection, on a variety of stormwater topics. These featured an overview of the new regulations, implementation at the local level, tools to make keeping up with all these new requirements easier (aka “e-permitting”), and an explanation of the runoff reduction methodology that will soon be utilized to measure pollutant reductions in Virginia.

The symposium also included a truly engaging session entitled “Solutions for Top Environmental Challenges,” which was hosted by Virginia’s current Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech, and whose panel included former Secretaries of Natural Resources, L. Preston Bryant., Jr., Beck Norton Dunlop. W. Tayloe Murphy, and John Paul Woodley, Jr. The Secretaries each spoke of the environmental achievements (and their regrets), while their administration was in office, and agreed that ensuring an adequate water supply and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay are among Virginia’s greatest challenges going forward. (Kudos to Tayloe Murphy for calling on legislators to focus less on partisan politics and more on collaborative efforts to solve the problems facing Virginia and the environment, and to the audience for their echoing applause.)

The discussions yesterday on the status and implementation of Virginia’s Watershed Implementation Plan, Phase II (our posts are here) were also informative, and this year included highly focused discussions recognizing the challenges faced by local governments in identifying and financing strategies to reduce pollutants as required by the TMDL.

Of particular note was the announcement by Clyde Cristman, Legislative Fiscal Analyst with the Virginia Senate Finance Committee, that the new state budget will include approximately $87.6 million in cash for the DEQ Water Quality Improvement Fund. Other important information I can pass on included the National Fish and Wildlife’s announcement that it will provide “walk-up” technical assistance to all local governments on an as-needed basis to assist in developing strategies to meet local Chesapeake TMDL.

For me, this year’s symposium emphasized that the effort, in Virginia, to protect the environment and preserve our state’s natural resources has always involved, and continues to involve, so many hard working and dedicated individuals. As a lifelong Virginian, I thank you all.

And thank you, again, VMI for a great conference, to the speakers for a wealth of information, and for the sponsors for their support.

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