Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 62.1. Waters of the State, Ports and Harbors
Chapter 3.1. State Water Control Law
11/27/2020

Article 2.2. Virginia Water Resources and Wetlands Protection Program.

§ 62.1-44.15:20. Virginia Water Protection Permit.

A. Except in compliance with an individual or general Virginia Water Protection Permit issued in accordance with this article, it shall be unlawful to:

1. Excavate in a wetland;

2. On or after October 1, 2001, conduct the following in a wetland:

a. New activities to cause draining that significantly alters or degrades existing wetland acreage or functions;

b. Filling or dumping;

c. Permanent flooding or impounding; or

d. New activities that cause significant alteration or degradation of existing wetland acreage or functions; or

3. Alter the physical, chemical, or biological properties of state waters and make them detrimental to the public health, animal or aquatic life, or to the uses of such waters for domestic or industrial consumption, or for recreation, or for other uses unless authorized by a certificate issued by the Board.

B. The Board shall, after providing an opportunity for public comment, issue a Virginia Water Protection Permit if it has determined that the proposed activity is consistent with the provisions of the Clean Water Act and the State Water Control Law and will protect instream beneficial uses.

C. Prior to the issuance of a Virginia Water Protection Permit, the Board shall consult with and give full consideration to any relevant information contained in the state water supply plan described in subsection A of § 62.1-44.38:1 as well as to the written recommendations of the following agencies: the Department of Wildlife Resources, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and any other interested and affected agencies. When considering the state water supply plan, nothing shall be construed to limit the operation or expansion of an electric generation facility located on a man-made lake or impoundment built for the purpose of providing cooling water to such facility. Such consultation shall include the need for balancing instream uses with offstream uses. Agencies may submit written comments on proposed permits within 45 days after notification by the Board. If written comments are not submitted by an agency within this time period, the Board shall assume that the agency has no comments on the proposed permit and deem that the agency has waived its right to comment. After the expiration of the 45-day period, any such agency shall have no further opportunity to comment.

D. Issuance of a Virginia Water Protection Permit shall constitute the certification required under § 401 of the Clean Water Act, except for any applicant to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a certificate of public convenience and necessity pursuant to § 7c of the federal Natural Gas Act (15 U.S.C. § 717f(c)) to construct any natural gas transmission pipeline greater than 36 inches inside diameter, in which case issuance of a Virginia Water Protection Permit pursuant to this article and a certification issued pursuant to Article 2.6 (§ 62.1-44.15:80 et seq.) shall together constitute the certification required under § 401 of the federal Clean Water Act.

E. No locality may impose wetlands permit requirements duplicating state or federal wetlands permit requirements. In addition, no locality shall impose or establish by ordinance, policy, plan, or any other means provisions related to the location of wetlands or stream mitigation in satisfaction of aquatic resource impacts regulated under a Virginia Water Protection Permit or under a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pursuant to § 404 of the Clean Water Act. However, a locality's determination of allowed uses within zoning classifications or its approval of the siting or construction of wetlands or stream mitigation banks or other mitigation projects shall not be affected by the provisions of this subsection.

F. The Board shall assess compensation implementation, inventory permitted wetland impacts, and work to prevent unpermitted impacts to wetlands.

2007, c. 659; 2010, c. 233; 2011, cc. 829, 842; 2012, c. 628; 2018, c. 636; 2020, c. 958.

§ 62.1-44.15:21. Impacts to wetlands.

A. Permits shall address avoidance and minimization of wetland impacts to the maximum extent practicable. A permit shall be issued only if the Board finds that the effect of the impact, together with other existing or proposed impacts to wetlands, will not cause or contribute to a significant impairment of state waters or fish and wildlife resources.

B. Permits shall contain requirements for compensating impacts on wetlands. Such compensation requirements shall be sufficient to achieve no net loss of existing wetland acreage and functions and may be met through (i) wetland creation or restoration, (ii) purchase or use of mitigation bank credits pursuant to § 62.1-44.15:23, (iii) contribution to the Wetland and Stream Replacement Fund established pursuant to § 62.1-44.15:23.1 to provide compensation for impacts to wetlands, streams, or other state waters that occur in areas where neither mitigation bank credits nor credits from a Board-approved fund that have met the success criteria are available at the time of permit application, or (iv) contribution to a Board-approved fund dedicated to achieving no net loss of wetland acreage and functions. The Board shall evaluate the appropriate compensatory mitigation option on a case-by-case basis with consideration for which option is practicable and ecologically and environmentally preferable, including, in terms of replacement of acreage and functions, which option offers the greatest likelihood of success and avoidance of temporal loss of acreage and function. This evaluation shall be consistent with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Compensatory Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources (33 C.F.R. Part 332). When utilized in conjunction with creation, restoration, or mitigation bank credits, compensation may incorporate (a) preservation or restoration of upland buffers adjacent to wetlands or other state waters or (b) preservation of wetlands.

C. The Board shall utilize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' "Wetlands Delineation Manual, Technical Report Y-87-1, January 1987, Final Report" as the approved method for delineating wetlands. The Board shall adopt appropriate guidance and regulations to ensure consistency with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' implementation of delineation practices. The Board shall also adopt guidance and regulations for review and approval of the geographic area of a delineated wetland. Any such approval of a delineation shall remain effective for a period of five years; however, if the Board issues a permit pursuant to this article for an activity in the delineated wetland within the five-year period, the approval shall remain effective for the term of the permit. Any delineation accepted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as sufficient for its exercise of jurisdiction pursuant to § 404 of the Clean Water Act shall be determinative of the geographic area of that delineated wetland.

D. The Board shall develop general permits for such activities in wetlands as it deems appropriate. General permits shall include such terms and conditions as the Board deems necessary to protect state waters and fish and wildlife resources from significant impairment. The Board is authorized to waive the requirement for a general permit or deem an activity in compliance with a general permit when it determines that an isolated wetland is of minimal ecological value. The Board shall develop general permits for:

1. Activities causing wetland impacts of less than one-half of an acre;

2. Facilities and activities of utilities and public service companies regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or State Corporation Commission, except for construction of any natural gas transmission pipeline that is greater than 36 inches inside diameter pursuant to a certificate of public convenience and necessity under § 7c of the federal Natural Gas Act (15 U.S.C. § 717f(c)). No Board action on an individual or general permit for such facilities shall alter the siting determination made through Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or State Corporation Commission approval. The Board and the State Corporation Commission shall develop a memorandum of agreement pursuant to §§ 56-46.1, 56-265.2, 56-265.2:1, and 56-580 to ensure that consultation on wetland impacts occurs prior to siting determinations;

3. Coal, natural gas, and coalbed methane gas mining activities authorized by the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, and sand mining;

4. Virginia Department of Transportation or other linear transportation projects; and

5. Activities governed by nationwide or regional permits approved by the Board and issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Conditions contained in the general permits shall include, but not be limited to, filing with the Board any copies of preconstruction notification, postconstruction report, and certificate of compliance required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

E. Within 15 days of receipt of an individual permit application, the Board shall review the application for completeness and either accept the application or request additional specific information from the applicant. Provided the application is not administratively withdrawn, the Board shall, within 120 days of receipt of a complete application, issue the permit, issue the permit with conditions, deny the permit, or decide to conduct a public meeting or hearing. If a public meeting or hearing is held, it shall be held within 60 days of the decision to conduct such a proceeding, and a final decision as to the permit shall be made within 90 days of completion of the public meeting or hearing. A permit application may be administratively withdrawn from processing by the Board if the application is incomplete or for failure by the applicant to provide the required information after 60 days from the date of the latest written information request made by the Board. Such administrative withdrawal shall occur after the Board has provided (i) notice to the applicant and (ii) an opportunity for an informal fact-finding proceeding pursuant to § 2.2-4019. An applicant may request a suspension of application review by the Board. A submission by the applicant making such a request shall not preclude the Board from administratively withdrawing an application. Resubmittal of a permit application for the same or similar project, after such time that the original permit application was administratively withdrawn, shall require submittal of an additional permit application fee and may be subject to additional notice requirements. In addition, for an individual permit application related to an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a certificate of public convenience and necessity pursuant to § 7c of the federal Natural Gas Act (15 U.S.C. § 717f(c)) for construction of any natural gas transmission pipeline greater than 36 inches inside diameter, the Board shall complete its consideration within the one-year period established under 33 U.S.C. § 1341(a).

F. Within 15 days of receipt of a general permit coverage application, the Board shall review the application for completeness and either accept the application or request additional specific information from the applicant. Provided the application is not administratively withdrawn, the Board shall, within 45 days of receipt of a complete application, deny, approve, or approve with conditions any application for coverage under a general permit within 45 days of receipt of a complete preconstruction application. The application shall be deemed approved if the Board fails to act within 45 days. A permit coverage application may be administratively withdrawn from processing by the Board if the application is incomplete or for failure by the applicant to provide the required information after 60 days from the date of the latest written application request made by the Board. Such administrative withdrawal shall occur after the Board has provided (i) notice to the applicant and (ii) an opportunity for an informal fact-finding proceeding pursuant to § 2.2-4019. An applicant may request suspension of an application review by the Board. A submission by the applicant making such a request shall not preclude the Board from administratively withdrawing an application. Resubmittal of a permit coverage application for the same or similar project, after such time that the original permit application was administratively withdrawn, shall require submittal of an additional permit application fee and may be subject to additional notice requirements.

G. No Virginia Water Protection Permit shall be required for impacts to wetlands caused by activities governed under Chapter 13 (§ 28.2-1300 et seq.) of Title 28.2 or normal agricultural activities or normal silvicultural activities. This section shall also not apply to normal residential gardening, lawn and landscape maintenance, or other similar activities that are incidental to an occupant's ongoing residential use of property and of minimal ecological impact. The Board shall develop criteria governing this exemption and shall specifically identify the activities meeting these criteria in its regulations.

H. No Virginia Water Protection Permit shall be required for impacts caused by the construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds, but other permits may be required pursuant to state and federal law. For purposes of this exclusion, farm or stock ponds shall include all ponds and impoundments that do not fall under the authority of the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board pursuant to Article 2 (§ 10.1-604 et seq.) of Chapter 6 pursuant to normal agricultural or silvicultural activities.

I. No Virginia Water Protection Permit shall be required for wetland and open water impacts to a stormwater management facility that was created on dry land for the purpose of conveying, treating, or storing stormwater, but other permits may be required pursuant to local, state, or federal law. The Department shall adopt guidance to ensure that projects claiming this exemption create no more than minimal ecological impact.

J. An individual Virginia Water Protection Permit shall be required for impacts to state waters for the construction of any natural gas transmission pipeline greater than 36 inches inside diameter pursuant to a certificate of public convenience and necessity under § 7c of the federal Natural Gas Act (15 U.S.C. § 717f(c)). For purposes of this subsection:

1. Each wetland and stream crossing shall be considered as a single and complete project; however, only one individual Virginia Water Protection Permit addressing all such crossings shall be required for any such pipeline. Notwithstanding the requirement for only one such individual permit addressing all such crossings, individual review of each proposed water body crossing with an upstream drainage area of five square miles or greater shall be performed.

2. All pipelines shall be constructed in a manner that minimizes temporary and permanent impacts to state waters and protects water quality to the maximum extent practicable, including by the use of applicable best management practices that the Board determines to be necessary to protect water quality.

3. The Department shall assess an administrative charge to any applicant for such project to cover the direct costs of services rendered associated with its responsibilities pursuant to this subsection. This administrative charge shall be in addition to any fee assessed pursuant to § 62.1-44.15:6.

2007, c. 659; 2008, c. 244; 2013, c. 742; 2018, cc. 114, 636; 2019, c. 545; 2020, c. 622.

§ 62.1-44.15:22. Water withdrawals and preservation of instream flow.

A. Conditions contained in a Virginia Water Protection Permit may include but are not limited to the volume of water which may be withdrawn as a part of the permitted activity and conditions necessary to protect beneficial uses. Domestic and other existing beneficial uses shall be considered the highest priority uses.

B. Notwithstanding any other provision, no Virginia Water Protection Permit shall be required for any water withdrawal in existence on July 1, 1989; however, a permit shall be required if a new § 401 certification is required to increase a withdrawal. No Virginia Water Protection Permit shall be required for any water withdrawal not in existence on July 1, 1989, if the person proposing to make the withdrawal received a § 401 certification before January 1, 1989, with respect to installation of any necessary withdrawal structures to make such withdrawal; however, a permit shall be required before any such withdrawal is increased beyond the amount authorized by the certification.

C. The Board may issue an Emergency Virginia Water Protection Permit for a new or increased withdrawal when it finds that because of drought there is an insufficient public drinking water supply that may result in a substantial threat to human health or public safety. Such a permit may be issued to authorize the proposed activity only after conservation measures mandated by local or state authorities have failed to protect public health and safety and notification of the agencies designated in § 62.1-44.15:20 C and only for the amount of water necessary to protect public health and safety. These agencies shall have five days to provide comments or written recommendations on the issuance of the permit. Notwithstanding the provisions of § 62.1-44.15:20 B, no public comment shall be required prior to issuance of the emergency permit. Not later than 14 days after the issuance of the emergency permit, the permit holder shall apply for a Virginia Water Protection Permit authorized under the other provisions of this section. The application for the Virginia Water Protection Permit shall be subject to public comment for a period established by the Board. Any Emergency Virginia Water Protection Permit issued under this section shall be valid until the Board approves or denies the subsequent request for a Virginia Water Protection Permit or for a period of one year, whichever occurs sooner. The fee for the emergency permit shall be 50 percent of the fee charged for a comparable Virginia Water Protection Permit.

2007, c. 659.

§ 62.1-44.15:23. Wetland and stream mitigation banks.

A. When a Virginia Water Protection Permit is conditioned upon compensatory mitigation for adverse impacts to wetlands or streams, the applicant may be permitted to satisfy all or part of such mitigation requirements by the purchase or use of credits from any wetland or stream mitigation bank in the Commonwealth, or in Maryland on property wholly surrounded by and located in the Potomac River if the mitigation banking instrument provides that the Board shall have the right to enter and inspect the property and that the mitigation bank instrument and the contract for the purchase or use of such credits may be enforced in the courts of the Commonwealth, including any banks owned by the permit applicant, that has been approved and is operating in accordance with applicable federal and state guidance, laws, or regulations for the establishment, use, and operation of mitigation banks as long as (i) the bank is in the same fourth order subbasin, as defined by the hydrologic unit boundaries of the National Watershed Boundary Dataset or by the hydrologic unit system or dataset utilized and depicted or described in the bank's approved mitigation banking instrument, as the impacted site, or in an adjacent subbasin within the same river watershed as the impacted site, or it meets all the conditions found in clauses (a) through (d) and either clause (e) or (f) of this subsection; (ii) the bank is ecologically preferable to practicable onsite and offsite individual mitigation options as defined by federal wetland regulations; and (iii) the banking instrument, if approved after July 1, 1996, has been approved by a process that included public review and comment. When the bank is not located in the same subbasin or adjacent subbasin within the same river watershed as the impacted site, the purchase or use of credits shall not be allowed unless the applicant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Department of Environmental Quality that (a) the impacts will occur as a result of a Virginia Department of Transportation linear project or as the result of a locality project for a locality whose jurisdiction encompasses multiple river watersheds; (b) there is no practical same river watershed mitigation alternative; (c) the impacts are less than one acre in a single and complete project within a subbasin; (d) there is no significant harm to water quality or fish and wildlife resources within the river watershed of the impacted site; and either (e) impacts within the Chesapeake Bay watershed are mitigated within the Chesapeake Bay watershed as close as possible to the impacted site or (f) impacts within subbasins 02080108, 02080208, and 03010205, as defined by the National Watershed Boundary Dataset, are mitigated in-kind within those subbasins, as close as possible to the impacted site. For the purposes of this subsection, the hydrologic unit boundaries of the National Watershed Boundary Dataset or other hydrologic unit system may be adjusted by the Department of Environmental Quality to reflect site-specific geographic or hydrologic information provided by the bank sponsor.

For the purposes of this section, "river watershed" means the Potomac River Basin, Shenandoah River Basin, James River Basin, Rappahannock River Basin, Roanoke and Yadkin Rivers Basin, Chowan River Basin (including the Dismal Swamp and Albemarle Sound), Tennessee River Basin/Big Sandy River Basin Complex, Chesapeake Bay and its Small Coastal Basins, Atlantic Ocean, York River Basin, and the New River Basin.

B. The Department of Environmental Quality is authorized to serve as a signatory to agreements governing the operation of mitigation banks. The Commonwealth, its officials, agencies, and employees shall not be liable for any action taken under any agreement developed pursuant to such authority.

C. State agencies and localities are authorized to purchase credits from mitigation banks.

D. A locality may establish, operate and sponsor wetland or stream single-user mitigation banks within the Commonwealth that have been approved and are operated in accordance with the requirements of subsection A, provided that such single-user banks may only be considered for compensatory mitigation for the sponsoring locality's municipal, joint municipal or governmental projects. For the purposes of this subsection, the term "sponsoring locality's municipal, joint municipal or governmental projects" means projects for which the locality is the named permittee, and for which there shall be no third-party leasing, sale, granting, transfer, or use of the projects or credits. Localities may enter into agreements with private third parties to facilitate the creation of privately sponsored wetland and stream mitigation banks having service areas developed through the procedures of subsection A.

2007, c. 659; 2008, c. 173; 2011, c. 253; 2012, c. 631; 2014, c. 332.

§ 62.1-44.15:23.1. Wetland and Stream Replacement Fund established.

There is hereby created in the state treasury a special nonreverting fund to be known as the Wetland and Stream Replacement Fund, hereafter referred to as "the Fund." The Fund shall be established on the books of the Comptroller. All contributions to the Board pursuant to clause (iii) of subsection B of § 62.1-44.15:21 shall be paid into the state treasury and credited to the Fund. Interest earned on moneys in the Fund shall remain in the Fund and be credited to it. Any moneys remaining in the Fund, including interest thereon, at the end of each fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund but shall remain in the Fund. The Fund shall be administered and utilized by the Department of Environmental Quality. The Fund may be used as an additional mechanism for compensatory mitigation for impacts to aquatic resources (i) that result from activities authorized under (a) Section 404 and 401 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq.), (b) the Virginia Water Protection Permit Regulation (9VAC25-210 et seq.), or (c) Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (33 U.S.C. § 403); (ii) that result from unauthorized activities in waters of the United States or state waters; and (iii) in other cases, as the appropriate regulatory agencies deem acceptable. Moneys in the Fund shall be used for the purpose of purchasing mitigation bank credits in compliance with the provisions of subsection A of § 62.1-44.15:23 as soon as practicable if qualifying credits are available. If such credits are not available within three years of the collection of moneys for a specific impact, then funds shall be utilized either (1) to purchase credits from a Board-approved fund that have met the success criteria, if qualifying credits are available, (2) for the planning, construction, monitoring, and preservation of wetland and stream mitigation projects and preservation, enhancement, or restoration of upland buffers adjacent to wetlands or other state waters when used in conjunction with creation or restoration of wetlands and streams, or (3) for other water quality improvement projects as deemed acceptable by the Department of Environmental Quality. Such projects developed under clause (2) shall be developed in accordance with guidelines, responsibilities, and standards established by the Department of Environmental Quality for use, operation, and maintenance consistent with 33 CFR Part 332, governing compensatory mitigation for activities authorized by U.S. Army Corps of Engineer permits. Expenditures and disbursements from the Fund shall be made by the State Treasurer on warrants issued by the Comptroller upon written request signed by the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality. The Department may charge a reasonable fee to administer the Fund.

2013, c. 742.