Expand Wetlands Board’s authority

Published 9:38 pm Saturday, June 28, 2014

To the editor:

In a survey in 2013, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science found 27,000 acres of wetlands in the city of Suffolk.

The Nansemond River Preservation Alliance’s goal is to educate and encourage all citizens to be environmental stewards of Suffolk’s wetlands and waterways. We welcome the support of the Suffolk News-Herald in its editorial of June 27, “Overdue for an overhaul” in conveying this important message.

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The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act was enacted by the state legislature after reviewing research on the impact of the 100-foot buffer in filtering sediments and nutrients that are harmful when they run into the wetlands and waterways.

NRPA’s position is the proper enforcement of the CBPA, not additional regulations. We continue to ask why the city’s Department of Planning and its Planning Commission are choosing not to enforce the CBPA 100-foot buffer requirement.

During the past two years, the Planning Commission, upon recommendation of the city Planning Department, granted 24 exceptions out of 24 requests to encroach into the buffer. One was in downtown Suffolk, to build a paved driveway through the buffer for a pharmacy.

NRPA has recommended to the city that jurisdiction of Wetlands Board members, whose primary focus is to protect the wetlands at the foot of the buffer, be extended to cover the entire 100-foot buffer area.

James City County’s landscape is similar to Suffolk’s. That county has implemented this expanded-jurisdiction model, which has been effective. This solution is practical and allows the Planning Commission to focus its energy on other issues.

John Newhard

Chair, Shoreline Committee

Elizabeth Taraski

Executive Director