Regulated Land-Disturbing Activities

The Erosion and Sediment Control Program regulates only construction activities that constitute' land-disturbing activities.' A land-disturbing activity is any land change on private or public land that may result in soil erosion from water or wind and the movement of sediments into state waters or onto lands in the Commonwealth, including, but not limited to, clearing, grading, excavating, transporting and filling of land. This definition includes land-disturbing activities equal to or exceeding 10,000 square feet; however, the following activities are specifically exempt from the definition:

  • Disturbed land areas of less than 10,000 square feet. A local program may reduce this exception to a smaller area of disturbed land or qualify the conditions under which this exception applies.
  • Minor land-disturbing activities and individual home landscaping, repairs and maintenance work.
  • Individual service connections.
  • Installation, maintenance or repair of underground public utility lines when such activity is confined to an existing hard-surfaced road, street or sidewalk.
  • Septic tank lines or drainage fields unless included in an overall plan for land-disturbing activity relating to construction of the building to be served by the septic tank system.
  • Surface or deep mining.
  • Exploration or drilling for oil and gas including the well site, roads, feeder lines and off-site disposal areas.
  • Tilling, planting or harvesting of agricultural, horticultural or forest crops, or livestock feedlot operations; including a specific list of engineering operations.
  • Repair or rebuilding of the tracks, right-of-way, bridges, communication facilities and other related structures, and facilities of a railroad company.
  • Agricultural engineering operations including but not limited to the construction of terraces, terrace outlets, check dams, desilting basins, dikes, ponds not required to comply with the provisions of the Virginia Dam Safety Act, ditches, strip-cropping, lister furrowing, contour cultivating, contour furrowing, land drainage and land irrigation.
  • Installation of fence, sign, telephone, electric, or other kinds of posts or poles.
  • Shore erosion control projects on tidal waters when the projects are approved by local wetlands boards, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission or the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Emergency work to protect life or property, and emergency repairs.

Minimum Standards

All regulated land-disturbing activities must comply with the minimum standards specified in the ESC regulations that are applicable to the specific project. Erosion and sediment control programs are required to confirm project compliance with minimum standards by reviewing plans and through onsite project inspection. However, a local program may waive or modify any of the minimum standards that are deemed inappropriate or too restrictive for site conditions by granting a written variance.

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


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