The role of the eight coastal planning district and regional commissions (PDCs/RCs) in regional environmental services has been growing with increased support from federal programs to provide technical assistance to member localities. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, administering federal funds for coastal zone management and water quality improvement programs, asks PDCs to prepare scopes of work for annual funding. If a PDC/RC can conceptualize and implement technical assistance projects serving member localities and generate the required cash or in-kind match, it can bring federal funds to the region in a relatively simple process for non-competitive grants.
In 2020, the George Washington Regional Commission (GWRC) worked with stakeholders to develop a multi-year strategic plan for environmental management that responds to the needs of the local jurisdictions by aligning the goals of the Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Improvement Program, local water quality studies and Implementation Plans, and local floodplain management programs.
The purpose of the strategic plan is to identify the regional environmental management needs, coordinate the requirements of related programs, create a list of strategies, and develop an implementation plan. The result is a recommendation for program scopes of work for each of the next ten years. It provides recommended initiatives that build upon each other over time to maximize impact and return on investment. It also gives a wish list of unfunded projects, a desire to acquire cash for matching federal grants instead of in-kind services, and a list of partners and potential funding sources for achieving the strategies. Plan development, recommendations, and implementation over the first six months will be presented.
The items in this plan transcend GWRC’s environmental services department to interact with economic development, human services, and transportation programs. For example, the plan includes ecotourism, improving air quality, and creating trail networks for non-motorized mobility. The strategies in the Environmental Services Strategic Plan contribute to improved environmental quality and quality of life.