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Watershed Programs in Virginia

Purpose
Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Programs
Watershed Planning
Flood Recovery Programs
Project Fact Sheets
Virginia Hydrologic Unit Maps
Links to related sites

Watershed Programs in Virginia

The purpose of the various water resource programs in Virginia is to assist local government sponsors, and associated private constituents, to protect, restore and enhance local watersheds. Specifically, we assist our local partners in protecting their natural resources from damage caused by floodwaters, erosion and sediment deposition. We also help them to conserve and develop their land and water resources before and after major storm events occur in order to solve natural resource and related economic problems on a watershed basis. The various watershed programs provide technical and financial assistance to project sponsors and local residents. The programs build partnerships across all relevant federal, state and local agencies, Indian tribes, and private citizens and citizen groups. Our water resource projects serve not only flood protection and recovery needs, but many also provide municipal and industrial water supplies and provide recreation and fish and wildlife benefits. A sub-set of our watershed projects serve to protect our natural resources specifically to assure agricultural production for future generations while also protecting water quality.

Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Programs

PL-534 – “The Potomac River Basin Program”
PL-566 – “The Small Watershed Program”
PL-106-472 – “The Dam Rehabilitation Program”
Flood Recovery Programs
 

PL-534 – “The Potomac River Basin Program”

The Flood Control Act of 1944, Public Law 78-534, also known as PL-534, authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to work with local sponsors to install watershed improvements that provide flood protection within designated river basins. The Potomac River Basin which includes the Shenandoah River drainage area was included in PL-534. Protection under this program has been provided through the construction of dams, dikes and channel work, and to a lesser extent through the relocation, elevation, and flood-proofing of property and vital infrastructure.   

Modifications made to the program in the early 1980s permitted the NRCS to also provide technical and financial assistance to private land users in the installation of conservation practices on their private lands. Thus the original flood prevention focus of the program was broadened to allow for improvements that protect long-term productivity of on-farm resources and at the same time protect water quality. The installation of conservation practices on private lands within sub-watersheds or sub-basins of the Potomac River basin is also referred to as land treatment. 

PL-534 Dams in Virginia
Status of PL-534 Dams in Virginia

PL-566 – “The Small Watershed Program”

The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954, Public Law 83-566, also known simply as the PL-566 Small Watershed Program, authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to assist local units of government to provide protection from flooding during major storm events within sub-basins of identified watersheds within our major river systems. Flood protection under this program has been provided similar to PL-534 through the construction of dams, dikes and channel work, and to a lesser extent through the relocation, elevation, and flood-proofing of property and vital infrastructure.   

More recent changes to this program have allowed for acquisition of conservation easements within floodplains where repetitive damages have occurred, as well as the installation of land treatment measures similar to PL-534 on individual farms and other private land holdings to protect on-site productivity and improve water quality. 

PL-106-472 – “The Dam Rehabilitation Program”

The Small Watershed Rehabilitation Amendments of 2000, also known as the Dam Rehabilitation Program is actually an amendment to PL-566 authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to provide assistance to owners of public dams installed previously under PL-566, PL-534, the RC&D Program and the Pilot Watershed Program. This program was created in view of the more than 11,000 aging dams built across the country since 1948 with a growing number in need of rehabilitation to maintain the multiple benefits they provide. 

Dam Rehabilitation:

In Virginia, 150 dams have become part of the state’s landscape/infrastructure through the PL-566, PL-534, and Pilot Watershed programs. Approximately one-third of these dams need repairs that, if not corrected, could result in significant adverse environmental, economic, and social impacts. The dams were built to protect agricultural lands and small communities from the devastating effects of flooding. In addition, many have also provided local communities with water supply and recreational opportunities. All of these dams have provided fish and wildlife habitat, and they have enhanced our aquatic resources by protecting water quality. However, human health and safety concerns now exist downstream of 17 dams as a result of residential and commercial development that has occurred in the downstream floodplains.

Detailed studies have been conducted on 11 dams in Virginia (Marrowbone Creek in Henry County; Inch Branch, Robinson Hollow, Toms Branch, Mills Creek, Todd Lake, and Hearthstone Lake in Augusta County; and Royal Lake, Lake Barton, Woodglen Lake, and Huntsman Lake in Fairfax County). Since 2005, construction has been completed on nine of those dams (Marrowbone Creek, Inch Branch, Robinson Hollow, Toms Branch, Mills Creek, Royal Lake, Lake Barton, Woodglen Lake, and Huntsman Lake). The construction of Todd Lake will be completed in 2015. The design of Hearthstone Lake will be completed in 2015, and construction will follow soon thereafter in 2016.

Planning is underway for two dams in the Mountain Run Watershed in Culpeper County (Mountain Run Lake and Lake Pelham). These plans will be completed in early 2016 with design commencing in 2016 and 2017, and construction following in 2017 and 2018. Additional planning is underway on two Cherrystone Creek dams in Chatham, VA (Sites 1 and 2A), and on Johns Creek Site 1 in Craig County. Requests for planning assistance have been received on three more sites in the Johns Creek Watershed and on four additional sites in the South River Watershed of Augusta County (Canada Run, Sengers Lake, Lake Wilda and Waynesboro Nursery). Funding for NRCS planning assistance has not yet been approved for these seven dams.

Project Fact Sheets

The following document requires Acrobat Reader. If you encounter any problems with the files provided on this page, please contact Ron Wood at (804) 287-1660.

Buena Vista Watershed Project (pdf, 102kb)
Rehabilitating Dams in the South River Watershed (pdf, 101kb)
North Fork of the Powell River Watershed Assessment Project, Lee County, Virginia (pdf, 231kb)
Dam Rehabilitation Fact Sheet, Hearthstone Lake Dam, Augusta County, Upper North River Watershed (pdf, 1.4MB)
Dam Rehabilitation Fact Sheet Lake Royal Dam, Fairfax County Pohick Creek Watershed (pdf, 2.2MB)
Dam Rehabilitation Fact Sheet Woodglen Lake Dam, Fairfax County Pohick Creek Watershed (pdf, 540KB)
Dam Rehabilitation Fact Sheet Lake Barton Dam, Fairfax County Pohick Creek Watershed (pdf, 620KB)
Dam Rehabilitation Fact Sheet Huntsman Lake Dam, Fairfax County Pohick Creek Watershed (pdf, 1.7MB)
Dam Rehabilitation Fact Sheet Mills Creek Dam, Augusta County (pdf, 1000kb)
Dam Rehabilitation Fact Sheet Todd Lake Dam, Augusta County (pdf, 600kb)

Detailed Dam Rehabilitation Studies

The following document requires Adobe Acrobat

Pohick Creek Dam No. 2 (Lake Barton Final Plan) (pdf, 6651 kb)  (08/2009)
Pohick Creek Dam No. 3 (Woodglen Lake) Plan (pdf, 4.6 mb)
Pohick Creek Site 4 (Royal Lake) Rehabilitation Plan (pdf, 2.9mb)
Pohick Creek Site 8 Final Plan and Environmental Assessment (Huntsman Lake) (pdf, 7mb)
Final Plan & Environmental Assessment: North Fork Powell River Watershed (pdf, 5mb)
Final South River Dam No. 10A (Mills Creek) Plan & Environmental Assessment (pdf, 15 mb)
Final Upper North River No 10 (Todd Lake) Plan and Environmental Assessment (pdf, 6 mb)

Contact: Wade Biddix, PH: (804) 287-1675 or email, 1606 Santa Rosa Road, Richmond VA 23229

Watershed Planning

In order to implement watershed projects in Virginia, our technical assistance professionals must work with our local sponsors to identify and evaluate all relevant issues within the context of federal, state and local legislation and policy that guide the water resource planning process.  The overall process of planning and providing technical and financial assistance is guided by Congressional mandates intended to assure that such assistance is provided only: 

  • Where there is local leadership and decision making, typically led by a local watershed steering committee with local government sponsorship and with full public participation by all affected individuals and parties; and
     
  • Within guidance provided through the National Watershed Manual (NWSM), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and the Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines (P&G).

NEPA requires that environmental considerations be central to any federal investment that alters the landscape and our natural resources.  NHPA requires that historic preservation (cultural and historic resources) be considered, and appropriately dealt with, whenever federal funds result in physical changes on the landscape.  P&G, like NEPA, addresses environmental evaluation procedures and also requires that the economic and social costs and benefits of any federal action be duly identified, accounted for, and used to contribute to the public investment decision making process. 

Therefore, watershed planning, including dam rehabilitation, supported by the NRCS requires all parties involved to conduct planning and evaluation in view of identified social, economic, historic and environmental considerations.  The end objective of this process is to only provide federal funds to projects that are technically and environmentally sound, socially acceptable, economically justified, and supported by grass-roots democratic processes.  Congress deemed these considerations necessary precisely because we know that projects such as dams serve to provide many valued benefits, but they can also have negative effects on the environment.

Watershed Planning Products

The following document requires Acrobat Reader. If you encounter any problems with the files provided on this page, please contact Ron Wood at (804) 287-1660.

Maps in PDF format
        - Floodplain Management Studies Map (pdf, 580kb)
        - River Basin Map (pdf, 1mb)
        - Watershed Project Status Map (pdf, 812kb)
        - Watershed Protection Projects Map (pdf, 478kb)

Contact: Wade Biddix. PH: (804) 287-1675 or email, 1606 Santa Rosa Road, Richmond VA 23229

Flood Recovery Programs:

Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP)
Floodplain Easement Program (FEP)
Emergency Conservation Program (ECP)
Sub-sections of PL-81-516 and PL-95-334 – “EWP”:

Sub-sections of PL-81-516 and PL-95-334 - "EWP"

Section 216, P.L.81-516 (as amended)  notes that "The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to undertake emergency measures, including the purchase of floodplain easements, for runoff retardation and soil erosion prevention, in cooperation with landowners and land users, as the Secretary deems necessary to safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and the products of erosion on any watershed whenever fire, flood, or any other natural occurrence is causing or has caused a sudden impairment of that watershed." 

Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP)

The purpose of the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program is to undertake emergency measures to help local residents and sponsors recover from natural disasters.  It is not necessary for a national emergency to be declared for an area to be eligible for EWP assistance; state-declared emergencies will suffice.  Through EWP, the NRCS assists sponsors and individuals in implementing emergency measures to relieve imminent hazards to life and property created by natural disasters. Activities include providing financial and technical assistance to remove debris from streams in order to re-establish channel capacity, protect destabilized stream-banks and adjacent roads and bridges, establish cover on critically eroding lands, repairing conservation practices, and the purchase of floodplain easements.

Emergency Watershed Program General Information

The following document requires Adobe Acrobat

Emergency Recovery Plan (pdf, 181kb)

Contact: Blaine Delaney, PH: (804) 287-1663 or email, 1606 Santa Rosa Road, Richmond VA 23229

Financial assistance funds total about $2 million for Hurricane Isabel, Hurricane Jeanne, the flood of November 2003 and the flood of January 2005.

Floodplain Easement Program (FEP)

The following document requires Acrobat Reader. If you encounter any problems with the files provided on this page, please contact Ron Wood at (804) 287-1660.

FEP Fact Sheet (pdf, 24kb)
Virginia Application (pdf, 7kb)
Geographic Rate Cap Map (pdf, 185kb)
Landowner Offer Worksheet (pdf, 25kb)
AD-1153 (pdf, 30kb)

Emergency Conservation Program (ECP)

The Emergency Conservation Program is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) and it provides technical and financial assistance to local farmers after a declared emergency from flood, fire or drought has been declared by either the President or the Governor.  The purpose of the program is to assist farmers to recover from the effects of natural disasters on their farms.  Learn more about ECP by contacting your local USDA Farm Service Agency Office.

Virginia Hydrologic Unit Maps

Visit the Department of Conservation & Recreation's website to learn more about hydrologic unit maps.

Links to related sites