Meeting with Fish and Wildlife on May 28, 2011

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Notes of the community meeting with representatives of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, May 28, 2011

Tylan Dean and Mike Drummond of the Fish and Wildlife service were kind enough to meet with the community on May 28 to discuss the construction of breakwaters for preservation of the beach. The following items were discussed:

  • The Fish and Wildlife (F&W) service are interested in our beach because it is a habitat of the endangered northwestern beach tiger beetle (cicindela dorsalis dorsalis). By helping to preserve the beach, they hope to help preserve the beetle.
  • Misters Dean and Drummond are not lawyers. The legal contact for this matter helping Fish and Wildlife is Linda Butler, acting dean of the William and Mary law school and author of Virginia Title and Coastal Law. Ms Butler was unable to be present at the meeting, however.
  • F&W has worked for 1.5 years with the Bavon HOA to come up with a plan to protect the beach. F&W initially opposed the Bavon efforts to build revetments to protect their properties, but subsequently worked with the Bavon homeowners to come up with a plan that will protect the properties, the beach, and the tiger beetle habitat. F&W initiated the contact with the Bavon property owners. They are grateful to the Bavon community for working with them in this matter.
  • There is $220,000 of F&W money available to the county for this project. This is less than the total expected costs of the project. Currently that money is being used to pay for plans being generated by VHB Williamsburg for the breakwaters. There is currently no projected completion date for that plan.
  • Luck Stone is committed to some form of involvement in the project, but details are still undetermined pending the final plans for the breakwaters. This is expected to involve donating the rocks used to construct the breakwaters. In addition, the Luck Foundation has committed to donating $5000, probably as donations to the Nature Conservancy for the project.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers are willing to help by providing dredged sand to be added to the beach. Several possibilities are being considered here, but nothing is finalized yet.
  • The Bavon homeowners and two of the four +4 homes have approved permits to build revetments. They are postponing work on these in hopes that the breakwater project will make construction of the revetments unnecessary.
  • The +4 homes are the four southernmost homes bordering the beach that are part of the Chesapeake Shores community. These are the homes owned by the Brickers, Martins, Millners, Mullhares, They are the Chesapeake Shores houses currently at most risk of loss due to beach erosion.
  • Revetments are walls of rock that are parallel to the shore placed to protect the homes. F&W stated that they believe that revetments tend to increase beach erosion, resulting in loss of the beach between the revetments and the water. This is why F&W opposes them: they believe they will lead to the loss of the tiger beetle habitat.
  • By contrast, since breakwaters are placed in the water, they tend to lead to accumulation of sand between the breakwaters and the shore, thus increasing the size of the beach. F&W likes that approach because it increases the size of the tiger beetle habitat.
  • F&W would like to see a two-phase plan. In phase one, breakwaters will be constructed that protect the Bavon and the +4 property shorelines. Phase two would cover the rest of the beach.
  • F&W and VHB are looking for input from property owners as to the goals of the breakwaters. There are a number of variables that can influence the design.
  • There is a commitment to proceed with phase 1, but there are no finalized plans as yet. F&W is planning on meeting soon with the Bavon community to get their input on the design variables.
  • The plan is to start construction of phase 1 in September of this year.
  • Plans for phase 2 await further input from the Chesapeake Shores property owners. Note that this is input from the property owners - not from the HOA. While the HOA is happy to help facilitate discussions, we do not have and do not intend to have a position on the breakwaters project.
  • There have been a number of similar breakwater projects done around the Bay. They have greatly helped preserve beetle habitats.
  • F&W is also concerned that in the Bay, sandy beaches are the wetland habitats under the biggest threat. They wish to help stem the loss of these beaches.
  • It is uncertain how the Bavon+4 breakwaters would affect the rest of the Chesapeake Shores community beaches.
  • F&W would like there to be an owner of the beachside property in Chesapeake Shores. (This is the common beach land that is between the property lines and the low tide lines.) They would rather deal with a single entity to expedite decision making, but are willing to talk with anyone who is interested in preserving the beach.
  • The permit process for building the breakwaters works like this: a property owner can apply for a permit to build the structures. The county will notify owners of adjacent properties of the permit application. The county will further issue a public notice of the application in the newspaper. Any and all interested parties can express their views at the permit hearings. The county or permitting authority will decide based on all input.
  • In the case of the breakwaters, F&W is looking to the property owners to apply for the permits.
  • If the breakwater permits get denied, the Bavon and +4 houses will proceed with building revetments. They already have the necessary permits for the revetments.
  • The $220,000 grant from F&W comes from money that F&W has received for fines and other fees. This money has to be spent through F&W law enforcement. They gave the grants in this case because of concerns that building the revetments could be in violation of the Endangered Species Act, and that working with the community to build approved structures is the best way to avoid the legal issues. This is NOT money that would otherwise go to law enforcement efforts.