The following article was submitted by Joe Coleman, President of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
For over a year now, Loudoun County has been working on an ordinance to protect our streams by preserving vegetated streamside buffers. Vegetated streamside buffers, or riparian buffers as they are also known, are strips of grass, shrubs, and ideally trees and shrubs along the banks of rivers and streams. They serve as a buffer between our uses of the land and the water itself, and are the last line of defense for water quality. To understand how a buffer works imagine drinking a cup of coffee made without a filter or even one with half a filter; think of all the sediment that would end up in your coffee.
Unfortunately, the people opposed to this ordinance are using fear tactics and mistruths in an attempt to derail this effort. They falsely claim that there is no sound science supporting buffers when there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of documents based on extensive scientific research that demonstrate the effectiveness of streamside buffers, and especially forested buffers. By cherry picking some of these reports, they claim they prove their point of view, when the opposite is true.
The opposition claims a streamside buffer ordinance will harm property values and the county’s finances when it has done neither in the 84 Virginia counties that have already adopted the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance. Seven of those 84 counties have Triple-A bond ratings and most of them received that rating after they adopted the Ordinance. Obviously, it did not harm their finances or their ability to balance their budgets.
Although Loudoun County is not required by law to adopt the ordinance, a 2003 report, Implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission of the Virginia General Assembly, states (pages 90 – 91) that “hundreds of studies have been done on the impact of vegetative buffer and forest buffers on water quality” and “the hundred-foot buffer zone that is used in the Bay Act is within the typical range that is described as effective in the scientific literature…” The report goes on to state “the expansion of the program could assist in minimizing nutrient and sediment influxes to waterways …” It is not surprising that one of the country’s fastest growing counties, Loudoun, is the first jurisdiction listed each time expansion of the program to non-Tidewater areas is mentioned.
During the Board of Supervisor’s stakeholders meetings, the opposition found people to represent Homeowners Associations that not only have no lots impacted by the ordinance, but also their “representatives” neither lived there nor had any legal connection with the HOA. Under those circumstances one has to wonder how many valid members of the Homeowners Association were aware this was occurring.
Recently their attacks have become more strident and outrageous. They have personally attacked, named and demanded that county employees who were explaining why the ordinance was valid and important be fired. They are even claiming that these employees will be investigated by the State Attorney General. It is obvious that they are interested in intimidating those same employees into silence and hope the Board of Supervisors will be swayed by their threats.
One can only hope that reasonable people will see the absurdity of this sort of campaign and let their representatives on the Board of Supervisors know how upsetting the outrageous behavior of the opposition is and how important it is that the county adopt the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance now.