After two long years, HRPDC water resources and planning staff were able to attend the 32nd annual Environment Virginia Symposium, in person! The Symposium is held at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, VA. Hosted by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, other state agencies, and sponsors, the Symposium brings together local planners and stormwater managers, environmental non-governmental organizations, consultants, academics, scientists, and directors and employees of state environmental agencies to discuss relevant environmental topics impacting the Commonwealth. Topics covered include coastal resilience, offshore wind, harmful algae blooms, solar, water quality, Chesapeake Bay restoration, environmental justice, emerging contaminants, bacteria sources, and much more. Key note speakers featured a panel with Rob Farrell, the Director of the Virginia Department of Forestry; Mike Rolband, the new Director of the Department of Environmental Quality; and Matthew Wells, the new Director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Several new initiatives were launched by DEQ to pursue: 1) OneDEQ for equity and inclusion, 2) streamlining the permit process with the Permitting Enhancement and Evaluation Platform (PEEP), 3) developing one stormwater manual for best management practices and erosion and sediment control, and 4) a commodity trading platform for mitigation. To close out the conference, a virtual key note was also given by Brenda Mallory, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, advising the White House on environmental and natural resources policy.
Ben McFarlane, Senior Regional Planner for HRPDC, presented on climate-informed development policies and regulations in Hampton Roads. This was a combined session with Lewie Lawrence, Executive Director of the Middle Peninsula PDC, on their coastal resilience efforts and the Fight the Flood Program. Dr. KC Filippino, Senior Water Resources Planner, also gave a talk on efforts to encourage voluntary implementation of best management practices on industrial properties in Hampton Roads, to reduce nutrients and improve water quality for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL clean-up efforts. This was part of a broader discussion on Chesapeake Bay outreach and education available to local leaders and state funding and assistance opportunities for localities. Dr. Filippino also had the pleasure of giving an invited talk to cadets and faculty at VMI about women in the STEM fields and the career opportunities available to these students. This Symposium offers the staff at HRPDC an excellent opportunity to grow relationships with our state agencies and partners working on crucial environmental issues that impact our localities. Networking and representing the region allows for increased visibility, forward momentum for funding opportunities, and knowledge sharing on emerging issues.
The Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) booth, featuring Peeps to launch their new permit tracking program, Permitting Enhancement and Evaluation Platform (PEEP).