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Virginia CZM Program Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategies: 2006-2010

Back to Main Virginia Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategy Page

"High Priority" Areas, as ranked by the Coastal Policy Team (CPT) following the 2005 Virginia CZM Program Coastal Needs Assessment:  
  • wetlands
  • public access
  • SAMPs
  • aquaculture
  • coastal hazards
  • cumulative and secondary impacts of growth and development

"Medium priority" areas:

  • marine debris
  • energy facility siting
  • ocean resources

No area was assigned a "low priority" by the CPT, reflecting the increasing pressures from population growth and urbanization on our coastal resources.

Virginia CZM Program Section 309 Coastal Needs Assessments

2006-2010 Coastal Needs Assessment Report Introduction (pdf)  

Summary of Past Section 309 Efforts (2001-2005) (pdf)

2006 Assessment - High Priority Areas:

2006 Assessment - Medium Priority Areas:

Virginia CZM Program Section 309 Coastal Needs Strategies

Coastal Enhancement Area:

Cumulative & Secondary Impacts

Intergovernmental Decision-Making Strategy (PDF)

Coordinated decision-making between state and local officials during land use planning and permitting processes can improve policies aimed at protecting coastal resources.  The most important aspect of this strategy is to secure agreements with federal, state and local agencies/governments to consult Coastal GEMS, a tool-based Web resource, during their land use planning and permitting processes to promote coordinated decision-making.  Additionally, by providing the most up-to-date data to all stakeholders in the coastal zone, all individuals could help identify additional information (i.e. gaps) needed to better manage our coastal resources which could lead to modifications of the current regulatory structure. 

In addition to the enhancements to Coastal GEMS, this strategy includes a pilot project with the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission (MPPDC) for applying GEMS as a tool to manage use conflicts. As the Middle Peninsula continues to evolve from less rural to more suburban, conflicts between landside and waterside uses have increased significantly.  As a component of this strategy, the MPPDC will initiate a pilot public policy project to gain understanding of what the land and water assets are for an identified study reach and seek a mediated policy dialog related to use conflict.  A Waterfront Use Conflict Roundtable will be assembled to gain a better understanding of how nearshore areas are being used now and what constraints exist for existing and new uses, and determine the issues and conflicts that are affecting local governments’ ability to make the most of their waterfront.  This Roundtable, composed of local elected officials, government administrators, local planners, waterfront property owners and commercial fishing interests, will support coordination between jurisdictions, outreach and training, and transferability to additional impacted localities.  The Roundtable will use Coastal GEMS and additional geospatial data as an issue investigation and decision-making tool for local planning and development of policy recommendations concerning waterfront use conflicts. 

Grant projects addressing this strategy:

FY 2006 Projects
93.01 Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission Middle Peninsula Public Policy Project for Waterside-Landside Use Conflicts
93.02 Virginia Institute of Marine Science - Center for Coastal Resource Management Tidal Flushing Characteristics in Virginia's tidal embayments
FY 2007 Projects
93.01 Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission York River Use Conflicts- Issue Framing and Policy Need Identification (Phase 3)
93.02 Virginia Commonwealth University Coastal GEMS Enhancements

Coastal Enhancement Area:

Cumulative & Secondary Impacts

Shoreline Management Strategy (PDF)

Waterfront development is rapidly altering Virginia's shoreline, often in ways that can be detrimental to habitats and water quality.  In particular, many low energy shorelines are being hardened with revetments and bulkheads where less damaging techniques for managing shoreline erosion could be employed.  According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, 229.2 miles of new bulkheads and rock revetments were approved between 1993 and 2004 and shoreline hardening is continuing at a rapid pace.  In many of these cases shoreline erosion could be managed through a "living shoreline" approach that maintains, or even expands, the habitat and water quality protection benefits of natural shorelines.

This strategy will build on progress made during the last 309 Strategy to integrate riparian and near-shore management objectives and improve shoreline management practices.  As a result of this strategy, the various agencies involved in shoreline management will be better able to promote living shoreline techniques and reduce the cumulative and secondary environmental impacts of waterfront development on shorelines.  The strategy will include a number of components: a living shoreline summit, revisions to the current Wetlands Guidelines and Coastal Primary Sand Dunes and Beaches Guidelines, research on living shorelines, a local shoreline planning guidance document, data on shoreline conditions, and outreach and training projects.  Other potential policy changes that will be considered in conjunction with these components include: a fast track or general permit for living shorelines, a strategy for increasing the availability of plants for living shoreline projects, a marketing campaign to promote living shorelines, and a comprehensive, internet based source of information and data on living shorelines.  

Grant projects addressing this strategy:

FY 2006 Projects
94.01 Virginia Institute of Marine Science - Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Support for the Joint VA/MD Living Shoreline Summit
94.02 Virginia Institute of Marine Science - Center for Coastal Resource Management Recommendations for Revisions to the Wetlands Guidelines
94.03 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Management-Support Synopsis of Virginia Dune and Beach Assessments
94.04 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Site Survey and Water Quality Assessment for Better Sill Design
94.05 VA Department of Environmental Quality - Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program Sands of the Chesapeake Update and Dune Monitoring
FY 2007 Projects
94.01 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Shoreline Management: Better Sill Design 2
94.02 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Recommendations for Revision of the Dunes/ Beaches Guidelines
94.03 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Shoreline Situation Reports for Tidewater Localities
FY 2008 Projects
94.01 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Living Shoreline Design and Construction Guidance Manual
94.02 Virginia Institute of Marine Science - Center for Coastal Resources Management Shoreline Inventory Reports for York & Newport News: Phase 2
94.03 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Shore Evolution in Four Virginia Localities
94.04 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Shoreline Management- Draft Management Plan MOA and Guidance Document for Local Governments

Coastal Enhancement Area:

Cumulative & Secondary Impacts

Prioritizing Conservation Corridors Strategy

Population growth and development in many urban and suburban areas of Virginia's coastal zone has resulted in significant habitat fragmentation and the loss of many wetlands and riparian buffers that help protect water quality.  Without proper planning and coordination of management programs, much of the coastal zone's remaining "green infrastructure" will also be lost as rural areas continue to grow and develop.  Traditional infrastructure like roads, water and sewer lines or electric lines need advance planning in order to ensure that corridors are available for their eventual construction.  This same principle must be applied to "conservation corridors" to ensure that important habitats remain connected to each other and that an adequate filtering systems remains to protect our water resources.

A successful model for prioritizing conservation corridors in Virginia's Coastal Zone is already in place.  The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, in partnership with Virginia CZM, has developed a system of interconnected conservation corridors for its localities that prioritizes areas for preservation and restoration based on a number of data layers and local input.  Designating the corridors requires GIS analysis and a consensus building process for achieving multiple environmental benefits.  As part of the process, a memorandum of understanding was signed by all of the localities, agencies and organizations involved in land conservation and wetlands management.  The MOU stated that these entities would consider the identified corridors as priority areas for future preservation and restoration initiatives, including wetlands mitigation.  The corridor system has also been used in comprehensive planning efforts, the creation of a purchase of development rights program, and efforts to obtain conservation easements from private landowners. 

Under this 309 strategy, funding would be provided for PDCs to develop, or enhance, conservation corridors.  The result should be a network of identified and locally accepted conservation corridors for Virginia's entire coastal zone.

Grant projects addressing this strategy:

FY 2007 Projects
97.01 Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission MPPDC Inventory of Non-traditional OSDS and Impacts on Land Use Patterns
97.02 Hampton Roads Planning District Commission Hampton Roads Conservation Corridor Update and Implementation

Coastal Enhancement Area:

Special Area Management Planning

Dragon Run SAMP Implementation Strategy

Initiated in 2001, the SAMP program has played an integral role in the development of policy in the Dragon Run Watershed.  Three of the four counties in the watershed adopted the Dragon Run Watershed Management Plan (WMP) as an addendum to their comprehensive plans.  The plan includes four recommendations on how each county can improve protection of the Dragon Run and preserve the watershed’s cultural, historic, and natural character, while preserving property rights and the watershed’s traditional uses (e.g. forestry, farming, recreation). By pursuing several of the action recommendations contained in the WMP, this strategy focuses on three areas of implementation: new zoning and comprehensive plans, sustainable economic development practices, and public access/conservation lands management.

In order to assist the counties with the implementation of the Dragon Run WMP recommended action items, the first and second tasks of this strategy aim to provide educational and technical assistance opportunities to each county as they move through the process of adopting (Task 1) and implementing (Task 2) developed SAMP-recommended comprehensive plan and zoning amendments.  These amendments, refined to reflect the needs of each county within the Dragon Run Compatible Economic Development and Preservation District, are a product of the 2005 Final Project Report:  Recommendations for a Model Comprehensive Plan District and Zoning Options for the Dragon Run.  A blend of training opportunities will be provided for local planning staff and citizens in an effort to ensure widespread understanding and full implementation of the adopted changes.  

The third and fourth tasks of this strategy will address one of the key WMP action recommendations, which is to further the implementation of sustainable economic development practices through the pursuit of two recommendations within the 2005 Dragon Run economic study by Yellow Wood Associates, Inc. – Opportunities for Sustainable Natural Resource-Based Development in the Dragon Run Watershed.  Under the third task of the SAMP 309 funding, a feasibility study will be conducted in which an active partnership between Essex County, local/watershed soy suppliers and a biodiesel producer will be conducted. As an enforceable outcome of the pilot study, the Dragon Run Steering Committee will pursue a signed resolution from Essex County indicating that it will use biodiesel fuel resulting from this pilot program partnership in municipal school bus fleets.  The fourth task of this strategy is another one that has the potential to provide a sustainable economic supplement to the traditional uses of the watershed through the implementation of an estate planning network.  The network will target landowners in the Dragon Run Watershed, secure the land base for long term natural resource management and use, and direct local wealth to support sustainable local development.  Additionally, the network will provide training and informational opportunities to family attorneys and accountants who may be in a position to advise landowners.  The aim of this task is to implement a formal network that would result in the official formation of a Dragon Run conservation hub.

The fifth and sixth tasks of this strategy will focus on the implementation of public access and conservation lands management recommendations which were identified in the Land Use and Resource Preservation Action Recommendations from the WMP.  Implementation of the recommended guidelines for management of public or non-governmental organization holdings acquired for conservation in the Dragon will occur through the creation of management plans for a variety of agencies in the watershed.  These management plans will incorporate recommendations for land conservation management, such as wildlife and water quality protection and compatible recreational uses.  Access is a continuous issue on the Dragon Run, as most of the land is in private holdings, and there are significant concerns regarding trespass, misuse and pollution among the landowners.  Implementation of the access strategy will provide guidance to facilitate the general public and private land owners understanding of the proper ways to use the waterway and public/private rights, i.e. a code of conduct.  Public access site managers may adopt this code of conduct and encourage the use of it on the sites.  This task will also include the provision information to landowners regarding their private property rights, the approved code of conduct and information on how to deter or encourage public use of their land.  An active role for a NOAA fellow is planned to address the Dragon Run Watershed Management Plan’s public access objective. 

In January 2006 (FY05 Task 91.01), the Department of Environmental Quality (Air and Water Quality Divisions), Virginia Institute of Marine Science, CBNERRs and several NOAA offices pooled resources and expertise to implement a comprehensive mercury monitoring and evaluation program in the Dragon Run watershed and airshed. This major effort includes both air deposition and water monitoring to determine the sources, movement and effects of mercury in the watershed. The continuation of this two-year monitoring effort supports the data gathering and monitoring goals of the Dragon Run SAMP.  The results will hopefully quantify the amount of mercury from air deposition, which can then be compared to the water samples being collected by the DEQ Piedmont Regional Office.  A multiple-year analysis is key in providing data for the development of a TMDL and a plan for the implementation of BMPs.

Grant projects addressing this strategy:

FY 2006 Projects
95 Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission Special Area Management Plan for Dragon Run
95.01 VA Department of Environmental Quality Mercury Monitoring in Dragon Run/Piankatank River Airshed
FY 2007 Projects
95 Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission Dragon Run SAMP
FY 2008 Projects
95 Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission Dragon Run Special Area Management Planning (SAMP)

Coastal Enhancement Area:

Special Area Management Planning

Seaside of Virginia's Eastern Shore SAMP Strategy (PDF)

In 1990 the Virginia CZM Program initiated a Northampton County Special Area Management Plan.  While much was accomplished, zoning to protect sensitive natural areas was never adopted. However the latest version of such an ordinance did meet with public approval as expressed at a public hearing and those Supervisors who voted against the ordinance were subsequently voted out of office.  Meanwhile in 2002 the Virginia CZM Program initiated the Seaside Heritage Program.  The goals of that program are to restore the coastal habitats of the seaside of Virginia’s Eastern Shore and to promote,in a sustainable fashion, economic activities such as ecotourism and aquaculture. The Seaside Heritage Program has been funded through Section 306/306A of the CZMA and is slated to continue through FY 2007.

As we move beyond habitat restoration, ecotourism and aquaculture into a management plan for the seaside, it seems timely to expand the Seaside Heritage Program into traditional SAMP activities; i.e. the development of new enforceable policies that would serve to protect our recent investments on the seaside.

Through the Seaside Heritage Program, we already have the key players “at the table.”  This includes the USF&WS, the Virginia Departments of Conservation & Recreation, Game and Inland Fisheries and Environmental Quality, Accomack and Northampton Counties, Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission, the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, the Eastern Shorekeeper and The Nature Conservancy. However a SAMP effort would require a stronger involvement by the two Counties. 

Work will begin on a management plan using FY 2005 and 2006 Section 306 funds. These funds will be contracted to an academic institution to begin negotiating and drafting an agreement among the state, federal and non-profit entities as to management of the resources which they control. Additional funds through Section 309 would serve to better involve local governments and allow for the development of local land use policies that would protect the resources of the barrier island – lagoon system on the seaside. These funds might also complement efforts in the Aquaculture Strategy to zone areas for shellfish culturing.

Grant projects addressing this strategy:

FY 2007 Projects
96.02 Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission Seaside SAMP: Buildout analysis using Community Viz

Coastal Enhancement Area:


Management Initiatives for Shellfish Aquaculture Strategy (PDF)

This strategy is intended to facilitate the identification and implementation of options to protect water quality for shellfish aquaculture and continue the development of information necessary to manage aquaculture activities in order to avoid conflicts with other reasonable and permissible uses of state waters and State-owned submerged lands and avoid impacts to other aquatic resources through existing regulatory review procedures. Through this effort we hope to identify and evaluate alternative management strategies for adoption and implementation.   This will include the potential for re-enactment of the water column leasing legislation and the assessment of opportunities for the public use of Baylor Grounds for aquaculture activities. This effort will include an evaluation of options for local ordinances designed to manage land use adjacent to areas designated for aquaculture.

Since the draft strategy was originally submitted on March 3, 2006, aquaculture issues have taken on an even higher priority for the Commonwealth.  Therefore, this strategy will receive a higher level of funding than originally proposed.

The issue of water quality, shoreline development and suitable sites for aquaculture was highlighted in June 2006 when a development along Chincoteague Bay in Accomack County submitted an application for a sewage discharge permit from DEQ.  As proposed, the discharge would result in a major shellfish ground closure. Although the permit decision is still pending, the issue caught the attention of Governor Kaine, who requested that the Secretaries of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Health identify the tools and options Virginia has for evaluating and protecting suitable waters for shellfish culture.

Furthermore, although progress was made in developing a water column-leasing program for aquaculture activities under a previous Section 309 strategy, the General Assembly failed to appropriate funds to implement the program and so the legislation must be re-introduced.  A permit for non-commercial oyster gardening was developed, adopted and implemented, as has been a regulation for on-bottom use of existing shellfish leases. This regulation was mainly developed for hard clam aquaculture although some oyster growers have developed procedures that are covered by this regulatory authorization.

As the restoration of wild oysters remains elusive, it becomes even more important to provide adequate opportunity for the production of cultivated shellfish.  A recent discussion among scientists, resource managers and industry professionals agreed that the public use of our 240,000 acres of public Baylor grounds should be re-evaluated and provision should be considered for the public use of Baylor Grounds for aquaculture activities. The terms “aquaculture parks” or “ enterprize zones” have been proposed for such use. Since the Baylor Grounds were surveyed and established in the late 1800’s the management of these areas has historically included harvest restrictions and the transplantation of shell and seed. Recent management efforts have included the establishment of brood stock reefs and designation of adjacent harvest areas.

This strategy would involve identification of suitable areas within the Baylor grounds and other established public grounds, as well as “unassigned” subaqueous bottom, for shellfish growing and the identification or possible leasing or use program(s) to allow cultivation in those areas. Even a very small percentage, e.g. 5%, of the Baylor grounds would provide opportunity for 12,000 acres of shellfish growing area. This effort would initially involve a legal evaluation of authorized uses for Baylor Grounds and the identification of any impediments for the establishment of aquaculture areas within Baylor Grounds with the understanding that any program would need to recognize that these grounds were set aside and protected for public use. The process for final designation of sites for “aquaculture parks” or “enterprize zones” would involve public review.

For this effort adjustments needed to be made to the 2004 “Aquaculture Use Suitability Model” developed under the previous Section 309 strategy by VIMS. Current and future shellfish farming techniques may make different areas more or less suitable than they had been previously. Consideration will also be given to the possibility of moving aquaculture further from land so as to avoid high use conflict areas and take advantage of high algae/high oxygen areas near the surface of the water. However these goals will have to take into account logistical and economic feasibility of working a bit further offshore.

A model local ordinance for designating areas as low density or no additional discharge areas could be developed. Both state and local actions must be coordinated to adequately protect areas for shellfish culture.  Coastal GEMS will be used to help assess land/water interactions.  Additional data such as current local zoning, hydrodynamic situations and bottom types may also be needed.

Shellfish farming, although positive for the economy and for ecological removal of algae from eutrophied systems, can create negative ecological and aesthetic impacts if not conducted properly. Through the VA CZM Program’s Seaside Heritage Program, work began on developing Best Management Practices for clam farming on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. In the absence of an organized shellfish growers’ association, it was difficult to secure industry “buy-in” for these BMPs.  Industry input and acceptance of BMPs is considered to be critical to the success of a BMP program.

This strategy would complete development of a set of Best Management Practices for shellfish farming (including clams, oysters and any other shellfish that are likely to be cultivated in Virginia in the near future) for all of Virginia’s waters. BMPs relevant to a particular permit would then become attached to aquaculture or shellfish growing permits. The strategy would investigate the best mechanisms for this approach by reviewing similar practices in other states such as Florida.

Grant projects addressing this strategy:

FY 2006 Projects
92.01 Virginia Institute of Marine Science - Center for Coastal Resource Management Shellfish Aquaculture Suitability Model [unmapped link]
92.03 Virginia Institute of Marine Science/College of William and Mary Management Initiatives for Shellfish Aquaculture -Development of an Environmental Code of Practice and Best Management Practices for Virginia [unmapped link]
FY 2007 Projects
92.01 Virginia Institute of Marine Science - Center for Coastal Resource Management Assessment of Aquaculture Potential within Baylor
Grounds in the Lower Rappahannock River
92.02 Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University Economic Implications of Promoting the Aquaculture Industry in Virginia: Alternative Management Strategies
92.03 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Development of an Environmental Code of Practice and Best Management Practices for Virginia - Year 2
FY 2008 Projects
92 Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission Aquaculture: Local Policy Development

Coastal Enhancement Area:

Program Implementation

Administrative Actions: Data Collection, Indicator Development, Program Changes and the 2010 Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategy (PDF)

The Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program will address several key administrative actions under this strategy in order to meet NOAA requirements.  To meet current NOAA requirements for semiannual reporting on public access sites for the National Coastal Management Performance Measurement System, an online database will be developed to map, evaluate, and prioritize public access needs by tracking the location, type of access, and current management of public access within Virginia's coastal zone.  In addition, similar online databases will be developed to track spatial and non-spatial data related to coastal water quality and coastal habitat performance measures, significantly improving gaps in coordination between governmental and other entities doing water quality or habitat restoration projects.  Initial reporting on water quality and habitat indicators is scheduled to begin in October, 2007.  Similarly, databases for coastal hazards and community development and coastal dependent uses will be developed to meet the October, 2008 deadline. To adequately document program changes to the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, resources are allocated for contractual services to the Environmental Law Institute.  Priorities for program change submission to NOAA will be identified by January, 2007 through consultation with environmental impact review staff at the Department of Environmental Quality and with the Coastal Policy Team.  In addition, it is anticipated that contractual services will be required to conduct the next Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategy in 2010.  Through this strategy it may also become necessary to fund VA CZM staff working on CSI or other strategies should Section 306 funds remain level or are reduced over the next 5 years.

Grant projects addressing this strategy:

FY 2006 Projects
91.01 VA Department of Environmental Quality - Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program Public Access Data for National Performance Measurement System [unmapped link]
91.02 Environmental Law Institute Program Changes [unmapped link]
FY 2007 Projects
91.01 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Virginia CZM Program Program Implementation: Coordinator Position
91.02 Environmental Law Institute Virginia CZM Program Changes
FY 2008 Projects
91.01 Virginia Institute of Marine Science Virginia CZM Program Program Implementation: Coordinator Position
93.01 Virginia Commonwealth University Virginia Coastal Geospatial and Educational Mapping System (GEMS) Maintenance


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This website is provided by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program through a federal Coastal Zone Management Act grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce.

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

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