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Virginia CZM Program: 2015 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Project Title:

Healthy Waters Program in the Coastal Zone

Project Description:

Funding through this grant will be used to support the implementation of the Virginia Healthy Waters Program (HWP) within the Division of Natural Heritage at the Virgnia Department of Conservation and Recreation (VDCR) as it applies to advancing the identification, interpretation and protection of aquatic communities . This task includes the administration and development of the Program, delivery of tools and products of the VDCR Division of Natural Heritage such as the Virginia Ecological Values Assessment (VEVA), development of Ecological Occurrences (EOs), Stream Conservation Units (SCUs), INSTAR data, Coastal Gems and Watershed Integrity Model, in the Coastal Zone of Virginia. The Program Manager will work with both the VDCR Division of Natural Heritage and the VDEQ to fully implement the Program to achieve lasting benefits for the Commonwealth.

In addition, this grant may provide limited support to the Planning District Commissions (PDCs), on a request basis provided existing workload can support the request, in support of the VCZM Technical Assistance grants, PDC competitive 306 funds and section 309 environmental enhancement strategies. The limited, request-based, assistance will be in the areas of expertise as provided by the VDCR NDH Programs and staff such as, blue/green infrastructure protection and restoration planning, planning for adaptation to changes in climate, coastal and waterfront community development, and natural resource based planning.

An Environmental Scientist/Analyst will be retained through a contractual arrangement with the Center for Environmental Studies (CES), Department of Life Sciences and the Rice Rivers Center located at Virginia Commonwealth University.  The individual will continue to be housed in the DCR Division of Natural Heritage and have access to the facilities and expertise of the VDCR and continue to integrate the skills and abilities of the CES, as well. The position also serves as a liaison between DCR and the CES at VCU to promote joint, applied research and outreach projects. This includes the oversight of programs, projects, grants and grant budgets, providing technical support to VDCR Natural Heritage Division and the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, as it relates to coastal zone ecology, management, and restoration.

This position will also continue to participate in state, local, or federal working groups as needed with regard to water quality protection and restoration issues as the VDCR deems necessary.  In addition, the Program Manager will prepare semiannual and annual reports and other technical documents.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Tom Smith; 804.768.7951;

Project Status:

10/1/15 - 9/30/16; Project Completed

Final Product:

Healthy Waters in the Coastal Zone Final Report (PDF) 

Project Summary:

For the grant reporting period, the Environmental Scientist/Analyst with the Virginia Commonwealth University, Center for Environmental Studies in the Department of Life Sciences continued to serve as the Program Manager of the Virginia Healthy Waters Program at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage.

The Healthy Waters Program is supported through funding from several grant sources including the VA CZM Section 306, US EPA 319 Nonpoint Source Program, and the Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant. These sources fund various aspects of the Program including the administration and oversight, Program growth and expansion, improvement in capacity, acquisition and analysis of new data and data integration. Data gaps and data integration were the two focal areas of the analysis with immediate needs to integrate existing INSTAR data into the NHD data explorer and the creation of new Ecological Occurrences (EOs) and Stream Conservation Units (SCUs). The program directly benefitted by adding field staff to the Program through close coordination with the Assessment Section to participate with the VCU sampling team during the sampling season. The grant supported the development of a proposal to the US Endowment of Forestry and Communities to support the Healthy Waters Program. The proposal sought funding to support the prioritization of ecologically healthy sites in the Commonwealth and to fund a field position that would directly work in support of conservation and protection actions to ensure ecologically healthy aquatic conditions are maintained. This activity, diverges from the typical work of the DNH and bridges the DNH Sections of Healthy Waters, Protection and Stewardship. The Watershed Integrity Model, used and developed by the Natural Heritage Division and VCU, has been updated and streamlined to improve the utility and integrate new data from the latest sampling. The new model is referred to as the ConservationVision Watershed Model. This new tool includes four primary components: Watershed Integrity, Landscape Position, Soil Sensitivity, and Land Cover. The Program Manager met with local NGOs to discuss how the INSTAR data and HWP might inform their protection actions in their respective regions. Currently, some organizations are basing protection recommendations on guidance from the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture that generalizes conclusions about watershed condition and habitat suitability for brook trout. Integration of INSTAR and the HWP should improve their conservation goal setting. Ongoing discussions with the VDEQ about the development of a Biological Condition Gradient (BCG) have continued with the intent of integrating the HWP with those outcomes of a BCG assessment process. The HWP Manager met with the VA Department of Transportation to discuss using the HWP data to identify potential projects that would assist VDOT in meeting their MS4 obligations and nutrient and sediment reductions. The HWP also met with USEPA Region 3 Office to discuss better integrating HWP data into the Watershed Resources Registry.


Also, the VA Oyster Shell Recycling Program at the VCU Rice Rivers Center receives a small amount of support through this grant. That funding supported the development of banners, stickers, purchase of containers and contributed to the bulk movement of shell from local storage sites to the VCU Rice Rivers Center. The Program saw considerable growth through other funding sources during the project period with expansion of operations that included a broadening of the geography of the collection to the preparation of applied restoration. The Program entered into a partnership with several seafood industry partners such as the WE Kellum Oyster to restore a historic oyster rock in Carter’s Creek using recycled shell. The Program partnered with Wanchese Seafood and ATCO Hauling for a donation of 250 bushels of oyster shells from their shucking facility. The Program brokered a new relationship with J&W Seafood of Deltaville to expand into applied restoration through the use of their sister company, Island Seafood of Gwynn’s Island, spat setting tanks.

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

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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