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Erosion is not a new issue for farmers and landowners. Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) staff help dozens of landowners/producers with erosion issues every year by providing both cost-share funding and technical assistance. In the past few years, Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) have received historic funding allocations that have allowed us to help combat many of the erosion issues we were previously unable to address. Before now, the WP-1 Erosion and Sediment Control Structures practice was infrequently used by CSWCD, however, these large funding allocations have made it a feasible practice for us and the landowner. 


Last year we completed three erosion control structures through our Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share (VACS) program. This increase in funding has allowed us to actively seek out erosion issues and to address them before they get out of hand. Erosion, like the example shown in the image below, can be caused by a variety of factors including: soil structure, soil texture, vegetation, root systems, and even karst topography in some cases, but the most important factor that contributes to erosion in our area is precipitation. We have observed an increasing number of these sites over the past few years, which can be attributed (at least in part) to irregular rainfall patterns and heavier and more frequent precipitation.


Erosion sites like the one below can be addressed in a variety of ways that follow roughly the same principle: provide a designated channel that allows water to move in a certain flow path that is reinforced to withstand the flow rate. In this specific example, the most reasonable course of action for both the producer and the taxpayer is to grade the soil out to provide a gradual funnel that leads into a channel reinforced by geotextile fabric and stone to move the stormwater further downstream. The funnel will be planted in permanent perennial vegetation, which will provide a year round root system that will help keep the sediment in place. 


erosion in agricultural field

If you are an agricultural producer or an agricultural landowner, please reach out to us if you see examples of erosion happening on your property. We have a dedicated team that will be happy to visit the site and provide you with a list of solutions for how best to address the issue. 


If you or someone you know is an agricultural landowner and is experiencing erosion issues, feel free to call our office at (757) 645-4895.


Read more articles in the Spring 2024 CSWCD Newsletter.

Over the past several years, we have developed three new partnerships with neighboring localities and soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) to expand access to the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP). VCAP provides financial assistance to non-agricultural landowners who install one of a suite of eligible best management practices (BMPs) to correct a stormwater issue on their property. The most commonly installed BMPs in our service area have been rain gardens, permeable pavement, conservation landscaping, and living shorelines. The cost-share rates for these practices vary as shown in the table below. 



It is important to note that each of these practices includes a 10 year lifespan, which means that the applicant must agree to maintain the practice for at least 10 years. Procedures exist to transfer this maintenance responsibility should the original applicant move or sell the property. 


Traditionally, only localities that are included in an SWCD service area have had access to VCAP funding. This left many localities, including several throughout the Hampton Roads region who are not served by an SWCD, without access to funding that could have a significant impact on their residents’ conservation efforts. To begin to address this issue, we worked closely with staff from the City of Hampton to determine how we could utilize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create a partnership to allow us to offer VCAP to Hampton residents. After several years of discussions, which were put on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, we reached an agreement that would allow us to offer VCAP assistance specifically for living shorelines, which were identified as a priority by Hampton staff. Aside from administering the program, we also support outreach and advertising efforts throughout the city to ensure that landowners know that this opportunity is available. 


Virginia Conservation Assistance Program logo

After establishing the Hampton MOU, we began conversations with two other nearby SWCDs who wanted to offer the program but didn’t have the staff capacity to do so. During these conversations, our Conservation Specialist Emma Rich, who was initially hired to work on the agricultural cost-share program, transferred roles to work with the urban programs. This transfer in roles increased our staff capacity to work on VCAP, which made it feasible for us to develop two more MOUs with the Tidewater SWCD and the Three Rivers SWCD to allow Colonial staff to offer VCAP in their service areas. Combined, these new service areas include Gloucester, Mathews, Middlesex, Essex, King William, and King and Queen Counties. The Tidewater MOU, which includes Gloucester, Mathews, and Middlesex Counties, allows us to offer living shoreline assistance only. The MOU with Three Rivers, which includes Essex, King William, and King and Queen Counties, allows us to offer the full suite of BMPs. Both of these MOUs were enacted in the fall of 2023, and we’re grateful to both Tidewater and Three Rivers SWCDs for their partnership and support of the program. 


While there will undoubtedly be learning curves associated with all of these new partnerships, we’re excited by the opportunities they present to help more landowners increase and expand their conservation efforts. If you know of any landowners in these localities who may be interested in learning more about VCAP, they can learn more on our website, www.colonialswcd.org, or they can contact Robyn Woolsey at (757) 778-1216. 








 


As sunny days grow nearer, so do spring’s rainstorms, so it’s a good time to start thinking about how to best manage stormwater on your property. In seasons past, you may have noticed standing water in your yard or erosion caused by heavy flowing water leaving the downspouts. That’s where we come in! Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District is an implementer of the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP), a reimbursement based cost-share program that offers landowners a suite of best management practices to help mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff. Best management practices must address a resource concern such as erosion, poorly vegetated cover, or poor drainage. 


Two landscaping practices that are implemented to help combat excess runoff and minimize the amount of bare soil are rain gardens and conservation landscaping. Rain gardens are shallow, landscaped depressions that allow stormwater to pond and eventually infiltrate into the soil below (Figure below). The infiltration process shouldn’t take more than 48 hours. Rain gardens can be tied into your existing drainage system — keeping roof runoff from other areas of the property. Conservation Landscaping also helps to minimize nutrient and water runoff by decreasing the amount of denuded or eroded soil. Both practices are required to be planted with native plants as specified in the Flora of Virginia Atlas. If you’d like some native plant resources or recommendations, feel free to reach out to district staff! Another infiltration-based practice that isn’t as heavily landscaped, and a little less noticeable, is a dry well. Dry wells are underground structures, an excavated gravel pit or structural chamber, that take in excess water allowing it to dissipate into the local groundwater system over time. An infiltration trench acts similarly but at a slightly larger and longer scale. 


Alternatively, you might be interested in a catchment system that stores runoff for late use like rainwater water harvesting cisterns. Like rain gardens, a rainwater harvesting system can be tied directly into your gutters and houses large amounts of water that can eventually be used to irrigate your garden, water the lawn or even wash your cars. 


These are just a few of the twelve practices offered by VCAP and we would love to tell you about the rest. For more information on a particular practice or on the program as a whole, give us a call at at (757) 645-4895 or visit the office at 205 Bulifants Boulevard, Suite C in Williamsburg. 


Read more articles in the Spring 2024 CSWCD Newsletter.

fertilize grass spring

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