Chief of Planning
Department of Community Development
10 Hotel Street
Warrenton, Virginia 20186
May 16, 2017
Dear Ms. Meade:
The Goose Creek Association is concerned with the size and scope of the special exception applications filed by the Easton Porter Group (EPG) for development of the Blackthorne Inn property in Upperville, Virginia. This 57acre property lies within the Goose Creek watershed, an integral source of groundwater for residents of Fauquier and Loudoun counties, as well as part of the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay watersheds. The property also lies within the Unison Battlefield Historic District.
GCA endorses the Planning Commission’s review comments on the proposed development and appreciates the professional review you, your staff and other agencies have provided. We strongly believe that the EPG should address all the issues and questions raised in your report, before any special exception permit is issued. In particular, the extensive use of water and alternative septic systems (ASS) should be scrutinized and tested before any development for their impact on the ground water.
We cannot simply accept EPG’s assertions that there will be no impact on the watershed, as we have heard this before. Marshall is facing a groundwater crisis that is being addressed with over a million dollars of taxpayers’ money, despite frequent assertions that there is plenty of water in Marshall. Fauquier and the US Army Corps of Engineers are in the midst of a multi-year study of Fauquier’s aquifers. Without the results of this study and a site-specific drawdown study on the property, we simply cannot accept the developer’s assertions that there will be no impact on the surrounding wells and watershed.
Further, the use of ASS raise issues of maintenance and the toxicity of dispersed outflow. These systems incur more frequent mechanical break-downs than regular septic systems, especially when used intermittently due to seasonal fluctuations of use, and do not resolve all toxic outflow when operating as intended, as nitrates and other non-biologicals can infiltrate and pollute the groundwater.
Finally, granting these special exception requests, as proposed, will create a precedent for all properties zoned as Rural Agricultural in Fauquier. Such zoning does not require or compel commercial development on the scale proposed, even for so-called agri-tourism. Granting this application could lead to similar development requests throughout the county with consequences that are not amicable to the peace and quietude of our countryside.
The size and location of the events center and other potential outdoor events are of particular concern given that they are likely to impose excessive noise, light and traffic burdens on the otherwise rural and residential community. Last November Mr. Dean Andrews asserted that the resort would work within the parameters of the 2014 special exception “license” approval. However, EPG’s current application far exceeds the parameters of that approval. See Fauquier Times, “Blackthorne’s new owners vow to ‘minimize impact’ on neighbors,” November 17, 2016. The proposed size and frequency of events belie EPG’s assertion. In the article, Mr. Andrews also suggests that the overnight guest accommodations would be capped at 120, not the EPG proposal’s 78. EPG’s subsequent assertion that the number of overnight residents will be fixed as proposed at 78 rather than lead to more lodging development in the future must be scrutinized. Whatever the amount of accommodations and events that are permitted, perhaps the EPG could put the property under an easement that sets the development at that level to ensure no further development by EPG or another owner occurs in the future.
The nearby Salamander Resort began as a proposed @ 70 room inn and morphed, for commercial reasons, into the size and scale it is today (168 rooms). EPG’s proposed events center size and the frequency of events requested are similar to those of the Salamander Resort and more than the Airlie Resort, both of which are located on hundreds of acres, not 57, with specially built water reserve facilities. In addition, other nearby resorts and event centers are being planned on a massive scale that will only bring more competition for accommodations and events. See Banbury Cross Reserve on Rt.50 east of Middleburg in Loudoun County.
If Fauquier County’s Comprehensive Plan for Rural Agricultural zoning is to have any meaning, our Planning Commissioners and Supervisors must address whether and where developments of this size are appropriate and credible. Promises of over one hundred full-time jobs in a seasonal business and bounteous tax revenues must be weighed against declining adjacent property values and reality.
EPG’s proposal seems to be preliminary, and they have not yet responded to staff comments, so GCA will continue to monitor EPG’s application for responses to the concerns raised here, by neighbors and by the Department of Community Development. EPG is a high quality developer and professes to be a good steward of the environment that has produced beautiful properties elsewhere. Therefore, we hope that EPG will amend its proposal to address these concerns and produce a more appropriate plan for our watershed and community.
Lori Keenan McGuinness
Chair, Fauquier County, on behalf of the
Goose Creek Association
Interested in the environment and want to learn more about monitoring the health of our local streams in Fauquier and Loudoun? Come out for our Stream Monitor Training Session on April 8, 2017. Contact Jeff Millington for more detailed information at:
LAND TRUST OF VIRGINIA AND GOOSE CREEK ASSOCIATION PRESENT: SAVING GRACE, SAVING PLACE AT THE HILL SCHOOL JANUARY 27, 2017
Contact: Kerry Roszel 540-687-8441
Event: The Land Trust of Virginia, in conjunction with the Goose Creek Association and Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, will host a free screening of Saving Grace, Saving Place, a documentary chronicling the story of a Trappist monastery’s struggle for reformation of their home by embracing an intense sustainability initiative. Witness the monks’ land stewardship, prayer, and work ethic as the core of the community at Holy Cross Abbey. It’s a race against time to retain their rural home along the iconic Shenandoah River in the shadow of The Blue Ridge Mountains.
Ecology meets theology. Saving Place, Saving Grace portrays an extraordinary place and grace in the spirit of contemplative prayer and lifestyle that is the soul of Cool Spring. And—without the active engagement of the internal and external communities—this 1,200-acre property and community could disappear.
When: Friday, January 27, 2017
Time: 6:00pm Animal Ambassadors from Blue Ridge Wildlife will be on hand for a meet and greet before the film begins.
6:30pm – 7:30pm movie followed by Q&A.
Where: The Hill School Performing Arts Center, 130 South Madison Street, Middleburg, VA
Cost: Free. Preregistration is encouraged. Contact Kerry Roszel: kerry@landtrustvaorg or (540) 687-8441 or www.landtrustva.org.
The Land Trust of Virginia partners with private landowners who wish to voluntarily protect and preserve their working farmland or natural lands with significant scenic, historic, and ecological value for the benefit of our community using conservation easements.
The Goose Creek Association protects and preserves the natural resources, open space, historic heritage, and rural quality of life within the Goose Creek watershed.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center works to ensure the future of native wildlife through rescue and rehabilitation, research, and education.
It is important that we come together as a community to oppose changes in the Zoning Ordinance that threaten established patterns of agricultural and traditional land uses in our rural residential area and, when allowed to multiply over the landscape, will diminish the cherished agricultural and conservation values we all hold dear. Please read here about ways to help, and stay tuned for updates as this particular request for a zoning change attempts to move through the process. A Public Hearing before the Loudoun Board of Supervisors will be held on Wednesday, September 14 in the evening—please mark your calendars and plan to attend and/or speak. We will send reminders and exact times for the hearing in a few weeks. Thank you and please feel free to contact me at the email address above if you have questions. In the meantime, please: Send online comments or a written letter as shown here, below:
Submit comments online to Loudoun opposing the application for a Commercial Banquet/Events Facility at Catesby Farm: Minor Special Exception, SPMI—2015-0018
Catesby Farm has applied for permanent permission to hold up to 24 events a year (almost weekly if occurring in warmer weather) with up to 200 attendees each event. Staff and departments at the County have raised a number of concerns to which the applicant insufficiently responds. The County’s project planner has noted that there has been no opposing comment posted on the website since March! We MUST change that. Please submit comments in the manner described here below. Please, try to do this in the next one to two weeks so that the County Staff can have time to include comments in their recommendation. If you have already sent online comments, please excuse the redundancy. Here is a link to the County’s Land Use website (LOLA) where you can find the Catesby Application:
Open the site: enter the Min-year “2015”, enter the Application Type “SPMI”, Click “Update MAP.” Click on the light blue balloon on the map just above and to the right of Upperville to open the Catesby proposal. IMPORTANT: You may have to click the “update map” a few times to get SPMI-2015-0018 for comments, since the Applicant has actually two special exception requests now, one for the event/banquet facility, and, one to exempt the internal Catesby roads from the zoning width requirements, SPMI-2016-0007, which will show no documents or comments. Once SPMI-2015-0018 is opened, click on “More information,” scroll down to “Click here to leave a comment.”
If you can’t get through on the site, please send your written comments to:
Steve Barney, Planning Department
County of Loudoun
PO Box 7000
Leesburg, VA 20117
Suggest you choose one or two issues important to you, and use your own wording to personalize the message.
The major issues are below, ones that support concerns raised by County Staff and Landowners:
1 Historic Welbourne Road is a narrow unpaved road with ditches, steep banks and stone fences. At places, vehicles cannot pass without pulling off-road. Twenty-four annual events with the ensuing traffic (estimated110 vehicles in and 110 out often after dark, plus event trucks, service vehicles, and buses) present a serious level of safety hazard and nuisance for travelers, adjacent property owners, residences, and traditional farm, equine, and pedestrian users. Large, slow-moving farm vehicles, horseback riders, and pedestrians, particularly in the village of Willisville, are frequently seen.
2 The proposed use is not compatible with the scale, use, and intensity within the dominant rural agricultural use pattern. Conditions of approval mentioned by Zoning Department and Health Department are are unlikely to acceptably mitigate environmental, noise and light nuisance impacts (impact on wildlife of nighttime operations; dust and safety concerns from traffic; surface, well water supplies; and sewage disposal).
3 3 The Loudoun County Equine Study 2016, shows a $180M total annual economic impact from the County’s horse industry, and, accorning to the County’s own study, the equine industry accounts for some 2,700 jobs in the County with a $90M labor income impact. The traditional equine industry in western Loudoun is a thriving and successful rural economic sector and should be encouraged by the County as a traditional rural economic use appropriate to the Welbourne Road area. The County’s Zoning Ordinance cites a purpose and intent of the AR-2 District as, “1.(A) Support the use of land for rural economy uses consistent with the pattern of rural and agricultural land uses in the district”.
This document presents individual factual “points” for use on the Catesby proposal:
General Description and Nusiance Issues:
Catesby Farm owners propose a new commercial use in historic rural Loudoun, an “Events/Banquet Facility,” with twenty-four events and up to 200 guests (plus service personnel and vehicles). The use requires two “Minor Special Exceptions” to the Zoning Ordinance, it is not a “By Right” use.
As described in the Applicant’s Statement of Justification 05-26-16, events “will be outdoors” and, “where outdoor tent facilities can be made available for the events for any type of weather.” Presumably, most events will occur on weekends during the warm weather months when residents in the community will also be using outdoor spaces on their properties.
These recurrent events will more than double the daily traffic load 24 times a year, introduce outdoor amplified music during the 12:00 Noon to 12:00 Midnight hours of operation, operate existing outdoor lighting and vehicle lights until or beyond Midnight. The Applicant states that noise, lights, and odors will meet County standard and “not traverse property lines.” It is not clear how this will be accomplished. During a recent “private” wedding on Catesby, loud music was easily heard on adjacent properties at 12:30 AM.
Recent independent professional noise measurements in rural southwestern Loudoun County, described during the July 13 BOS public hearing on the Zoning Noise Ordinance, show ambient noise levels at between 25—33dba in rural areas. The noise level of one vehicle on a gravel road is 75dba.
The area of Catesby is within the Middleburg Ag District and AR-2 Rural Zone of Loudoun. It is a rural, residential, agricultural neighborhood. People live there as permanent residents of Loudoun County, including immediately adjacent to Catesby.
The owner/Applicant of Catesby does not live in Virginia and is not a legal resident of the Commonwealth or the County.
County Health Department has recommended denied of approval due to inadequate studies of water supply and waste water disposal systems for the proposed new use. HealthRef3, 06-10-16.
Road and Traffic:
Welbourne Road is a narrow, unpaved rural road with steep banks and deep ditches. In response to the Application, County Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure (DTCI) states, “due to continued concerns about the substandard condition of Welbourne Road, DTCI cannot support approval of these applications.” DTCI Ref3-06-10-16.
DTCI, “continued concerns” include: “safety, width, deep gullies, severely uneven character of the roadway, use in darkness and during weather events” (“by unfamiliar users”). DTCI Ref-3-06-10-16.
The entirely residential hamlet of Willisville is adjacent and to the west with most homes closely fronting Welbourne Road. The Applicant states traffic will be directed to Willisville Road, ¾ mile to the west, through Willisville. This will place much of the increase in traffic on a narrow, dust producing, unpaved road literally at the front door of Willisville Residents.
Rural Economy and Economic Impact:
The area around Catesby has a vibrant rural agricultural economy. As an Ag District and R-2 zoned rural area in Loudoun, the community in the Catesby vicinity has 7 horse and 2 cattle operations, a sheep/wool business, 1 large grain farm, 3 hay farms, a tree nursery, a vineyard. Also, 2 National Register & Virginia Landmarks properties, 3 historic districts: Unison and Upperville Battlefields, and Beaver Dam Creek Historic Roadways District, which foster and generate heritage tourism activities.
The Loudoun County Equine Study 2016, shows a $180M total annual economic impact from the County’s horse industry, and, the equine industry accounts for some 2,700 jobs in the County with a $90M labor income impact.* The traditional equine industry in western Loudoun is a thriving and successful rural economic sector and should be encouraged by the County as a traditional rural economic use appropriate to the Welbourne Road area. The County’s Zoning Ordinance cites a purpose and intent of the AR-2 District as, “1.(A) Support the use of land for rural economy uses consistent with the pattern of rural and agricultural land uses in the district, including sustaining and nurturing the economically significant equine industry. “
*Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Loudoun Co Equine Study,2016, UVA.
Catesby’s owners say they want to increase income production on the farm to defray expenses of maintenance. The community has prevailed on the owners to seek more uses compatible with traditional uses and ones less disturbing to the pastoral nature of the area.
Catesby Farm has a 30-stall horse barn and paddocks, and was a racehorse training facility at one time. Neighbors have offered to assist the owner in finding possible equine operators.
There are also 5 residential units on Catesby Farm that could be used for rental income.
Loudoun County contributes significantly to Virginia’s #1 industry: Agriculture.
Equine industry – 15,500 horses at a value of $208 million
Land in farms – 142, 452 acres
Market value of production – $33,807,000
Number of farms – 1,427 The intent of the County’s rural economic development plan is to decrease the tax burden on County citizens. Recent real estate appraisal data, prepared to support an objection to a proposed craft brewery in the rural zone, hosting regular outdoor events with accompanying exterior lights and music similar to an events/banquet facility such as proposed for Catesby, shows a decrease in property values for landowners in the immediate vicinity of, conservatively, 30%. Such decrease in property values hurts the landowners and ultimately reduces the real estate property tax base, a vital source for schools, which, for the rural zone, is a cash positive gain to the County. As currently developed, the rural zone uses significantly fewer County services therefore demanding less of the County’s cash resources. Increased commercial developments such as Catesby and of the type similar to commercial events/banquets facilities will necessarily increase the demand for additional services from fire, police, rescue, road maintenance, and public utilities.The saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Clearly, the established agricultural rural economic enterprises throughout western Loudoun are economically viable uses. Landowners have a host of proven opportunities to enhance the income production of their properties without resorting to seeking “exceptions” to the County’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.Incompatibility with the Comprehensive Plan: Catesby Farm is protected by a Conservation Easement held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF). The easement specifies a number of allowed uses including agriculture, viticulture, horticulture, aquaculture, silviculture, equine, and canine activities. While the VOF finds the proposed use allowable, we question whether the spirit of the easement and the conservation values identified in the easement are compromised. The majority of properties adjacent to and in the vicinity of Catesby are under conservation easement; the impact of the proposed commercial use on those properties is not described.
The Catesby Special Exception proposal for a commercial events/banquets venue is inconsistent with and hostile to established traditional agricultural uses. The proposed rural economy use is not compatible with existing permitted residential uses. The proposed use is not compatible with the scale, use, and intensity with the dominant rural agricultural use pattern. Conditions of approval mentioned by Zoning Department and Health Department are not described and are unlikely to acceptably mitigate environmental, noise and light nuisance impacts. (impact on wildlife of nighttime operations; dust and safety concerns from traffic; surface, well water supplies; and sewage disposal).
The Community supports the vision for western Loudoun as described in the Comprehensive Plan: “The preservation of the Rural Policy Area’s unique Green Infrastructure includes the preservation of the physical environment of public open space and trails, stream valleys, floodplains, wetlands, and mountainsides as well as the scenic byways and vistas, historic and archaeological sites. The rural economy directly benefits from the protection and enhancement of the Green Infrastructure and it contributes to the quality of life of all of Loudoun’s citizens.” The community contends that Event/Banquet Facilities of the scope allowed in the Catesby proposal are incompatible with our County’s own Plan.
To the Community’s knowledge, the Department of Economic Development in Loudoun County has no published economic impact information for rural Events/Banquet Facilities or other “event entities.“ The Applicant states in the SOJ 05-26-16, that the events/banquet facility “will greatly further the Loudoun County’s desire to support the rural economy.” How is this purported benefit to the County quantified? The economic impact of the new use is undemonstrated.
A Proposed Truck Rest Area in Markham is a potential risk to the Goose Creek Watershed.
The Goose Creek Association recently sent comments to VDOT and other officials.
“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot ….” — Joni Mitchell
Comments on the Proposed Markham Truck Rest Area
VDOT’s Truck Parking Study recommends expansion of existing facilities vs. construction of new facilities. VDOT Study at 6.
Fauquier Transportation Board Resolution supporting Markham truck rest area was issued 2.5 years before VDOT study published in July 2015, so it lacked information on overall needs, capacity and recommendations.
2003 National Study found: “ a shortage in the number of available public truck parking spaces in Virginia and a surplus in private truck parking spaces; however a sufficient number of parking spaces were available during peak demands on the overall system.” VDOT Study at 11
Real-time parking information system for notifying truckers where spaces are available needs immediate development and is “most practical and cost–effective strategy. “ VDOT Study at 15
Illegal truck parking and I-66 corridor safety issues require current info on all (private and public) parking space availability nearby in Opal/Warrenton, Manassas/Centerville, Linden/Front Royal, specific safety statistics in the Manassas to Front Royal portion of I-66, as well as strict parking enforcement.
Markham truck rest area at taxpayer expense may be unnecessary, resulting in permanent loss for Markham and the Goose Creek with long term pollution, view degradation, property depreciation and other issues.
What’s the overall VDOT plan to meet demand? 20-30 spaces won’t begin to meet demand (-542) on I-66 that VDOT Study foresees
Creation of a new facility with >$500K requires federal/state environmental and historic resource review.
VDOT Study describes Markham Rest Area as a “New Facility,” page 18 and estimated costs are >$500,000.
Proposed Markham Rest Area purchased by eminent domain in the 70ies; closed for over 40 years and never operated for good reason: land doesn’t perk and lies within Goose Creek floodplain with standing water.
Other VDOT properties and private truck stops available and more appropriate.
Markham Truck Rest Area lies within historic districts
Markham is an historic, bucolic, agricultural area without commercial or industrial development.
Markham hosts two historic districts (Markham and John Marshall’s Leeds Manor Historic Districts) and many properties in conservation easement.
Truck rest area in Markham is wrong for Markham and Fauquier.
Fauquier County needs to complete aquifer study plus study of aquifer replenishment areas before committing to VDOT facility near vital sources of water.
Build it first, then study is backwards for Fauquier given its history of thoughtful development with conservation and historic preservation foremost.
Fauquier will lose its character if it loses its view sheds, historic resources and pristine waters.
Goose Creek Association is a public nonprofit with hundreds of members dedicated to protecting and preserving the natural resources, open spaces, historic heritage and rural quality of life within the Goose Creek watershed, part of the Potomac and Chesapeake watersheds. See www.goosecreek.org.
LETTER TO VDOT – August 1, 2016
Charles A. Kilpatrick, PE
1401 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
VDOT Administrator, Warrenton Office
457 E. Shirley Ave.
Warrenton, VA 20186
August 1, 2016
RE: Goose Creek Association Comments on the Proposed Truck Rest Area in Markham
Dear Mr. Kilpatrick and Mr. Nesbit:
The Goose Creek Association (GCA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the above project proposal. Our organization is charged with monitoring stream water quality, proposed developments, legislation, zoning changes, and other actions that have potential impact on the environment and quality of life in the Goose Creek watershed in Fauquier and Loudoun Counties, VA. We are a nonprofit 501C3 organization with hundreds of members who share a determination to protect and preserve the natural resources, historic heritage and rural quality of life found in this beautiful part of Virginia.
GCA is concerned about the proposed VDOT rest area for trucks off Interstate 66 near Exit 18 and Mile Markers 16-17 in Markham. Please include GCA as an interested party in any future communications about this important issue. GCA also requests that any public meetings be held in the fall, not during summer vacations in August, to ensure full and fair discussion of the issues.
People come to and through Fauquier County as residents and tourists to leave the stress and urbanization of the DC metro area behind. Fauquier County is the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains with a pristine view-shed that must be preserved. Driving west along I-66 there is a palpable “ahhh,” moment when Prince William County gives way to Fauquier County. The scenery of plains and foothills to the Blue Ridge Mountains is magnificent, unimpeded by commercial development or detritus. This view is essential to the rural, agricultural character of our county. While trucks may be a necessary element of our nation’s commerce, a truck rest area in Markham, or elsewhere along this corridor in Fauquier, would be totally inappropriate and out of character with our history, culture and rural quality of life.
There are existing truck stops in Manassas and Front Royal that could be expanded to accommodate truckers, with nearby motels, restaurants, and facilities attuned to their needs. As noted in VDOTS’ own report, page 8: VDOT should prioritize expansion of facilities versus construction of new ones.[i]It would also be more economically efficient for VDOT to maintain expanded truck stops than to build a new rest area in the middle of an otherwise bucolic area whose peace and quietude would be destroyed.
Markham is a rural area known for its history as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall’s boyhood home, as well as the present day home of fruit orchards, Christmas tree farms, wineries and other rural, agricultural and residential endeavors. Currently, there is no industrial and limited commercial development potential in Markham or its surrounding area. Notably, Markham is also near the headwaters of the Goose Creek, a State Scenic River, two historic districts (John Marshall’s Leeds Manor Rural Historic District and Markham Historic District) listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, and many properties under conservation easement. These property owners did not put their land in easement foreseeing a truck rest area nearby that would impact negatively the view-shed and property values due to the inevitable pollution and crime issues.
Given that the proposed site is also in the floodplain of the Goose Creek, on land that may not perk, a truck rest area would endanger an essential source of drinking water, not only for Fauquier residents, but also those downstream in the Goose Creek, Potomac and Chesapeake watersheds. A truck rest area in remote Markham would create pollution from noise, lights, litter, exhaust, oil, other fluids, and smells from idling engines, drainage, and run-off. This would contribute to the further degradation of our drinking water necessary for humans and livestock at a time when the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has announced an endeavor to bring the Goose Creek’s TMDLs (total maximum daily loads) of pollution back to a standard acceptable for recreational activities. A rest area in Markham would be a step backwards, not towards this goal.
GCA believes that environmental impact review is necessary to assess the impact of any truck rest area near the Goose Creek or its tributaries and floodplains. Lacking a comprehensive understanding of our aquifers and their replenishment areas, Fauquier County and VDOT must not proceed with this ill-advised truck rest area in the floodplain of the Goose Creek in historic Markham.
Cows get water from a trough in a pasture at Kinloch Farm in The Plains. Kinloch has fenced off waterways, dug wells and placed troughs in pastures in an effort to keep cattle from spoiling water quality in streams. Photo courtesy of Kinloch Farm
The water quality of the areas waterways is getting more attention as runoff from the waste of farm animals, failing septic systems, and other sources have driven up levels of E. coli, the bacteria that poses a health risk.
There’s been some progress in the form of farmers digging wells to provide water rather than let cattle linger in streams. Public sewer service has replaced failing septic systems in some areas. But those involved with protecting our water say more can be done.
The problem and the next steps to address it was the focus of a community meeting June 21 at Wakefield School in The Plains. Among attendees were representatives of Fauquier County Community Development, the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, Virginia Cooperative Extension.
The session focused on a total maximum daily load (TDML) plan for Goose Creek, as well as Cromwells Run and Little River in Fauquier and Loudoun counties. Excessive E. coli bacteria for the safety of recreational users was identified in Gap Run, Bolling Branch and Crooked Run in a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality report.. They’ve been placed on a list of impaired waters.
TDML is the total maximum daily load, a measure setting an upper safety limit for pollutants.
The DEQ set bacteria TMDL limits for the Goose Creek Watershed in 2003. Population growth since then (the number of households increased 9.5 percent).
That factor will be part of the action plan as will the number of current septic systems and failure rate, numbers of livestock, wildlife estimates, and household pets. All play a role in the E. coli levels found in waterways.
“That whole process – the number loading for each impaired stream we’re using to set goals for the implementation plan. Now, when we’re done with that we’ll apply for grant funds through the EPA,” said May Louise McD Sligh, a water quality specialist with the DEQ.
A second public meeting planned for September will precede the release of a draft implementation plan in December. A complete plan and a technical report should be ready to submit to the EPA in January, Sligh said.
“This is definitely not just a farm problem. We’re looking at septic system failures as well,” Sligh said. Runoff from pet waste left in yards is another source of residential pollution.
It’s an area where government tries to work with land owners cooperatively rather than heavy-handedly.
“We work with the health district to get proposals implemented. We’re getting the word out about residential cost sharing programs,” Sligh said.
Local health departments are charged with enforcement if a problem poses a public health risk.
Organizations such as the Goose Creek Association and the Piedmont Environmental Council promote good stewardship of the land.
Also, the John Marshall Soil and Water District provides technical assistance and education to land owners to protect their natural resources. It’s the first point of contact for farmers seeking cost sharing or tax credit assistance in making environmental friendly improvements to their land.
“The [John Marshall Soil and Water] District is already doing a great job. We’re glad to see the Virginia DEQ starting to do something,” said Lori Keenan McGuinness, co-chair of the Goose Creek Association.
Kinloch Farm in The Plains is among the farms that have fenced off cattle from streams.
“We have a cattle operation. Land is under conservation easement. We’ve fenced out ponds and streams. There used to be cattle running across the stream,” said Kevin Jennings, Kinloch manager.
“The first phase started over 10 years ago. We started fencing the cattle out of sensitive areas. Broad Run comes through the property and crosses under I-66,” Jennings said.
While the farm has tried to do its part, he wonders how much being under the interstate affects water quality.
“I’ve been underneath that bridge. I’ve seen bottles, cans, and plastic. There’s oil and chemicals from the road – I don’t know how much runs off into streams,” Jennings said.
“Cattle, farming, and residents do have an impact to the extent that they’re even studying the impact of pets,” noted Jennings. Wildlife also do their share of spoiling streams, but “we can’t control the wildlife as much.”
Kinloch used cost-sharing programs to dig wells, install a cistern and extend lines to bring water closer to grazing areas so that cattle didn’t get their fill of water, then linger in the streams as they defecated. Jennings and his crew have also set up watering troughs in pastures, built hardened crossings at streams, and reforested areas.
Efforts to improve water quality make sense to the Kinloch Farm manager.
“If we can stop pollutants from going into water sources we don’t have to pay so much to treat it,” Jennings said.
Government assistance programs make it “a win-win” for everyone, he said.
“The environment is winning by getting cattle out of the water source and the taxpayers are winning by getting cleaner water,” he said. “And the farmer gets a lot of infrastructure. I don’t see how a farmer could afford not to do it. I think it’s a great program. We’re actually utilizing the program to everyone’s advantage.
“People can be shy about having government comes to your place, but the local people are on your side. They want you to be successful and to protect natural resources and water is a natural resource worth protecting,” Jennings said.
“Not every farmer is doing it but I think we should be,” he said.
Hollin Farms in Delaplane is another farming operation that’s been doing its part.
Hollins a three-generation farm that invites the public to pick their own fruit and vegetables, raises grass-fed natural beef, and produces hay for horses.
Tom Davenport said they’ve done a lot of fencing off of streams in areas of high runoff where erosion can be a problem..
“We’ve been doing it on and off for 20 years,” he said.
Davenport’s son is an engineer who’s “put up fencing in an efficient and good way.”
The family has three farms totaling about 1,000 acres.
“We’re on a rocky area. We had to make do. We followed the lead of the Green family and Stribling” when it comes to growing and selling produce. “But you can’t raise strawberries and peaches here without pesticides and fungicides.” Stinkbugs also damage the fruit if not stopped.
The farm is at the headwaters of Crooked Run, which flows to Goose Creek and Delaplane.
Davenport, 77, said he’s seen more forests in areas that formerly were farmed.
“Some people have abandoned agriculture. New owners of land don’t know much about it,” he said. “The land has gone natural and owners have let everything grow,” said Davenport. The downside of that is that some invasive species, such as Russian ivy – a vine — have moved in.”
Re: Comments Regarding Loudoun Water and the Running Dry of Goose Creek
Date: June 13, 2016
Loudoun Water halted the flow of water from Beaverdam Reservoir during the summer of 2015 thereby causing Goose Creek to run dry.
Letting the stream run dry by artificial means has an unnecessary and likely detrimental impact on the natural, aquatic life of the stream with other negative impacts as well (such as sediment disturbance). The dams were to control the flow of the Goose Creek and ensure sufficient drinking water to the community. The dams were not intended to stop the entire flow of water absent a drought for reasons unrelated to the provision of drinking water during a drought.
The Board of Directors of the Goose Creek Association recommends to the Loudoun Board of Supervisors that this matter and the actions taken or not taken by Loudoun Water which allowed the lower Goose Creek to run dry during the summer of 2015 should be taken under consideration to determine the impacts on the Creek and related wildlife and aquatic life. The Public should be made aware of all findings. Thank you.
Bonnie Mattingly, Co-Chair
The Goose Creek Association is a registered, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with six hundreds of members from Loudoun and Fauquier counties who share a determination to protect and preserve the natural resources, historic heritage and rural quality of life found in this beautiful part of Virginia.
Founded in 1970 to fight the discharge of sewage effluent into Goose Creek, today the GCA is involved in a number of critical issues on both local and state levels to maintain and improve the quality of the Goose Creek watershed, which feeds into the Potomac and Chesapeake watersheds.
GCA works through an active board charged with monitoring stream water quality, proposed developments, legislation, zoning changes and other actions that have potential impact on the environment and quality of life in this region; and, taking appropriate steps to forestall or encourage these changes.
We actively support the work of other like-minded regional groups, both in spirit and with tangible support. We work to unite with the many conservation and preservation efforts to provide a unified voice for conservation/preservation–minded citizens in the area.