Pursuant to Section § 62.1-44.15:20-23 of the Code of Virginia and 9 VAC 25-210-116D, the State Water Control Board (the “Board”) is giving notice of its intent to approve a revised Compensation Planning Framework (CPF) for use by the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (VARTF). VARTF is an approved in-lieu fee mitigation program (ILF Program), sponsored and operated by The Nature Conservancy (Sponsor). This public notice is specific to the Sponsor’s request to replace their 2009 CPF with a revised 2021 CPF.
On July 18, 2019, the VARTF 2019 Amended and Restated Program Instrument (Instrument) was finalized. In 2019, the Board, acting through DEQ, also approved the VARTF ILF Program to operate within the Commonwealth of Virginia for a period of ten (10) years, pursuant to state regulations 9 VAC 25-210-116D outlining ILF Program approval. The Instrument, through the Compensation Planning Framework (CPF), identifies where the Sponsor will locate and pursue compensatory mitigation projects. The Sponsor’s first CPF was developed in 2009 and was incorporated into the VARTF ILF Program Instrument. In March 2021, the Sponsor submitted “The Nature Conservancy’s Watershed Approach to Compensation Planning for the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund” (2021 CPF). The 2021 CPF will replace the 2009 CPF. The 2021 CPF incorporates advances in science, new spatial prioritization data, refinements to the Sponsor’s conservation approach, and the operational history of the VARTF ILF Program into its efforts to select and evaluate compensatory mitigation sites.
The Board intends to approve the VARTF 2021 CPF. In addition to the advances discussed above, the 2021 CPF includes a sub-set of site selection criteria that follows the ConserveVirginia: Virginia’s Land Conservation Strategy, Version 2.0, as outlined by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. According to DCR, ConserveVirginia “is a key tool in guiding Virginia’s investments in land and water conservation, providing a map of Virginia’s highest conservation value lands, based on 19 mapped data inputs. The ConserveVirginia map includes more than six million acres of lands representing top priority conservation values” in categories such as natural habitat and habitat diversity, floodplain resilience, cultural and historic preservation, water quality improvement, and scenic preservation (https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/conservevirginia/).
An ILF Program may be one of several practicable options available to applicants to compensate for unavoidable wetland and stream impacts associated with permits issued by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District (USACE) pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) pursuant to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and Title 62.1 of the Code of Virginia. USACE and DEQ provide no guarantee that a specific individual permit or general permit will be granted authorization to use this ILF Program to compensate for unavoidable impacts associated with that specific permit. Authorization by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission may also be required for ILF Program use for specific projects.
Approval of the VARTF 2021 CPF may be made by written notice by the Board, acting through DEQ, after accepting and considering public comments on its approval for at least a 30-day public comment period pursuant to 9VAC25-210-116 D.
A copy of this public notice and the VARTF 2021 CPF will be available on May 24, 2021 on the DEQ website Wetlands and Streams Public Notice page at https://www.deq.virginia.gov/permits-regulations/public-notices/water/wetlands-streams, under the Program and Regulatory section or by calling or emailing David L. Davis, DEQ Office of Wetlands & Stream Protection. The comment period begins on May 24, 2021. Written comments, including those by email, must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. on June 24, 2021 and should be submitted to David L. Davis using the contact information given below. Only those comments received within the comment period will be considered by the Board. Written comments shall include the name, address, and telephone number of the writer, shall reference “VARTF 2021 CPF” in the subject line, and shall contain a complete, concise statement of the factual basis for comments.