In mid-January, DEQ held an informational meeting on the discharge permit for the Luray RV Resort requested by Blue Water, a large-scale real estate development company. At that meeting, among the questions raised were two about the site location for the wastewater treatment plant: the FEMA floodplain; and any changing weather patterns which could impact siting. Below are some insights pertinent to these two factors.
Weather extremes — floods and dry spells — appear to be impacting the river more.
More floods are occurring, and they appear to be trending toward higher crests. Remember the 1996 Hurricane Fran flood when water was lapping at the edges of the 211W bridge at White House. In the 1970-2020 period the river crested twice above 26 ft. (1985 at 26.72 ft., 1996/Hurricane Fran at 26.95 ft.) In that same period the number of floods has doubled from the previous fifty years, 18 floods compared to 8 between 1920-1970.
Rainfall patterns are shifting. Some rainfall patterns are now shifting into “extreme precipitation events,” e.g. a month’s worth of rain in a 24-hour period.” That’s what’s happened recently in two neighboring states. In July 2022, the North Fork of the Kentucky River at Whitesburg topped its 1957 record by over 6 feet. The river rose 18 feet in 10 hours. In nearby Jackson, Kentucky 4.11 inches of rain fell in one day, equivalent to a month’s worth of rain. Some areas received 6 to 9 inches. In middle Tennessee, heavy rainfall on Aug. 21, 2021, resulted in widespread flash flooding. 19 people died.
Much of the area received a quarter of their annual rainfall in that one event—10 to 15 inches of rain. The rain gage at McEwen gage at the Tennessee Valley Authority registered an extreme precipitation
event–17.2 inches in a 24-hour period.
Could these events happen here? Are the trends at our own Luray River Gage telling us something we need to listen to?
The proposed site for the wastewater treatment plant sits on the edge of the line of the FEMA floodplain. Is this an acceptable level of risk? Would moving the plant to higher ground be better for all
of us, including the developer, the Resort operator, and the River?
River health can be impacted by discharges of pollutants in low flow/drought conditions. Since 1930 it appears that the top five lowest flow periods on the South Fork Shenandoah have occurred since 2012. What do we do if we have chronic low flow? It’s not just Luray RV Park discharging into the river. It’s also — Luray, Stanley, Shenandoah. We all contribute to the health, or ill-health of the River.
The Blue Water developers and operators for the Luray RV Resort have stated that they wish to be good neighbors. Clearly installing a wastewater treatment plant instead of drain fields is preferable. Is there more the developer could do that would make their investment in Page County worthwhile, and our investment in having them as neighbors meaningful?
A group of citizens, me included, would like Blue Water to consider some changes to their business and site development plans to improve the safety and health for their guests and help heal our already damaged river. We recognize the changes may increase their development costs. A petition is now circulating which you can find on the website www.Change.org/p/protect-our-river/ under the title “Protect Our River.” Paper copies of the petition are also circulating.
As a Page County citizen, I urge you to consider what is an acceptable level of risk. If you think more
needs to be done than what is currently “on the books,” please sign the petition.
Our landscape is beautiful, and it is fragile. Please help us protect it.
Lucia King ~ Luray, Va.
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Looks more like high-density housing than a “glamping” site. The RV resort is a perfect example of dollar signs clouding the vision of our County Planners and Board of Supervisors. The good news is that the dozens of trailers that they have shipped in are nicely framed by the massive expansion of the dump that you can see from 211. I’m sure those tax dollars will make us feel better about pumping sewage into the river when it rains. While we are at it, bring back the solar farm, might as well get paid as we ruin one of the most scenic parts of the Shenandoah Valley.
I USE TO BE A RESIDENT IN RILEYVILLE FOR 6 YEARS. NEVER ONCE KAYAKED OR FISHED THERE. LIVED ON A STREET 1\4 MILE TO RIVER. IT WAS TOO CROWDED THEN, TOO MANY TOURISTS. I REALIZE THIS IS A MONEY MAKER FOR TOWN AND COUNTY,BUT THE RESIDENTS SUFFER. STORES ARE OVERWHELMED ALREADY AND NOW THEY WANT TO MAKE HUGE RESORT AND THREATEN THE RIVER WITH SEWAGE. THERE HAS TO BE A LIMIT TO THE POPULATION THERE OR IT WON’T BE BEAUTIFUL FOR LONG.
This is a case of a company thinking of itself first and not us.
We don’t owe anybody anything except what’s agreed to in a contract.
Recommend making the RV park smaller, and using a hybrid sewage disposal plan. Use drain fields primarily even if they take away parking space, and then discharge into the river secondarily what the fields can’t handle.
If the developer doesn’t like and won’t agree to drain fields being at their optimum location, it a sign they’re thinking of themselves and not us.
Great insights. It is so important to stop these projects before they are approved. The county does not have a business development plan nor a framework in which such projects can be considered, other than the general zoning requirements. We also need to look at the antiquated water and sewer connections and discharge in downtown Luray. No one seems to know where some of it goes m