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Virginia CZM Program: 2013 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo



Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission

Project Title:

Land and Water Quality Protection in Middle Peninsula Phase III

Project Description as Proposed:

Virginia local governments continue to respond to the Commonwealth’s request for TMDL action associated with Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts. To assist with the effort, MPPDC’s Phase 3 proposal will continue to develop rural pilot projects which aim to identify pressing coastal issues of local concern and possible solutions related to Bay clean up.  MPPDC staff will continue developing, assessing, and articulating the development of possible enforceable policy tools to assist localities with TMDL Phase II WIP requirements. Phase 3 will focus on identifying the legal and financial aspects of sustaining permanent funding sources to address septic repairs and rural storm water ditch maintenance. MPPDC will enter into a contractual partnership with the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic, located at the College of William and Mary to address the following:

The MPPDC Onsite Septic Repair Program is an ongoing (15 year) effort to identify, target and repair known failing septic systems impacting the surface and groundwater of the Rappahannock, York and Coastal Watersheds in support of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL WIP. The Program has repaired/replaced over 100 failed septic systems valued at ~$800,000.   Project partners include local health departments and local officials who identify failing septic systems and direct homeowners to MPPDC for financial assistance (loans/grants) for those who cannot afford the repairs. Past experience has shown that the ability to blend loan and grant funding results in a greater percentage of completed septic repairs. The program has relied on Water Quality Improvement Funds through the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to provide grants to homeowners in the past. Currently DCR is providing these funds only for Stormwater Management programs. For the MPPDC or other similar programs to continue, additional sources of funding must be identified.  MPPDC is proposing a study to identify sustainable sources of funding to finance the program.  The study will include a review and assessment of national level examples of septic repair programs (sources of funding, legal issues, programmatic issues, administration, and other lessons learned). Outcomes of this research may result in: Establishment of new public/private partnerships, the establishment of a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation or other organization eligible to receive funding not available to government entities, the establishment of sanitation districts, or other new entities necessary to address water quality impairments. MPPDC staff will work in partnership with the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic as well as the Virginia Resource Authority, Department of Environmental Quality, and Federal Agencies to explore options for sustainably capitalizing a revolving loan/grant program dedicated to septic repairs within the Middle Peninsula and beyond.

A second aspect of this project will explore legal and technical issues effecting water quality and rural ditches. There are many miles of ditches in coastal Virginia that have been neglected and suffer from storm debris, sedimentation, rising water tables and/or impacts of sea level rise. These ditches allow storm surge to enter and prevent stormwater from exiting. Citizens across the Coastal zone are becoming angry and expect the government (state or local) to fix ditch drainage problems. In many cases the solution will fall on the private land owner to take “ownership” of the problem. A white paper will be produced identifying any federal and state programs that exist to assist local governments and citizens with addressing ditching problems to include a list of the different types of assistance available and how to gain access to such assistance.  Also, the legal research will focus on the authority of local government to enter private property to clean ditches in the name of public improvements.  

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Beth Johnson, 804.758.2311; 

Project Status:

10/1/2013 - 9/30/2014; Project Completed 

Final Product Received:

Land and Water Quality Protection in Middle Peninsula Final Report - Phase III (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

As Federal and State water quality regulations tighten, particularly associated with Chesapeake Bay clean-up goals, the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission (MPPDC) continues to identify pressing coastal issues specifically relating to failing septic systems and storm water ditch maintenance.


Under an executed service agreement dated 12/3/2013, the MPPDC contracted with the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic (VCPC) located at the College of William and Mary to help identify legal and financial resources that could sustainably address septic repairs and rural storm water ditch maintenance. The VCPC report provided several case studies of approaches used by other jurisdictions to ensure long-term maintenance of septic systems. MPPDC staff reviewed the list of potential funding sources within the report to ascertain applicability to MPPDC’s current Septic Repair Program. Upon review MPPDC staff met with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Clean Water Financing & Assistance Program staff and representatives from local banks to explore new partnerships to continue financing its septic repair program. As another aspect of the report, VCPC researched the responsibility for the maintenance of ditches and identified federal and state funding programs that could assist local governments and citizens, the different types of assistance available and how to gain access to such assistance, and the authority local government has to enter private property to clean ditches in the name of public improvements and/or how such authority could be enabled. The report also reviewed two funding options for private drainage maintenance. The first option entailed a locality’s use of general tax revenue to support private ditching and roadside ditches. The second option entailed a utility model which could sustain financing for long-term repair and maintenance. These findings will be presented to the Commission in January 2015.

Based on three years of funding through the Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program to focus on land and water quality protection (Grant #NA11NOS4190122 Task 94.02 and #NA12NOS4190168 Task 94.02), MPPDC staff have positioned themselves to receive additional funding to explore the enabling mechanism in which a Drainage and Roadside Ditching Authority may be developed. Combined, these efforts will empower Middle Peninsula local governments and citizens with knowledge, understanding, and hopefully a path for funding that will ultimately improve the functionality of the region’s roadside and outfall ditches. 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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