Save the Bay
The Old Courthouse Spring Branch Stream Valley is particularly important because the stream leads to the Chesapeake Bay. Accordingly, it is protected under state law as a Resource Protection Area (RPA) and under Fairfax County law as an Environmental Quality Corridor (EQC).
The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act – Resource Protection Areas
In 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Agreement was originally signed by Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It established a partnership to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem. To implement the Agreement in Virginia, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (Bay Act) in 1988. The Bay Act is a critical element of Virginia’s multifaceted response to protecting the Bay.
Fairfax County adopted its version of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance to protect our local streams and one of the world’s most productive estuaries, the Chesapeake Bay, from pollution due to land use and development. All of Fairfax County drains into the Potomac River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. In an effort to protect and improve the quality of these waterways, and in alignment with state law, sensitive areas along streams throughout Fairfax County have been designated as Resource Protection Areas.
According to Chapter 118 of the County’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, a Resource Protection Area (RPA) is defined as that component of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area comprised of lands adjacent to water bodies with perennial flow that have an intrinsic water quality value due to the ecological and biological processes they perform or are sensitive to impacts that may result in significant degradation of the quality of state waters. In their natural condition, these lands provide for the removal, reduction, or assimilation of sediments, nutrients, and potentially harmful or toxic substances from runoff entering the Bay and its tributaries, and minimize the adverse effects of human activities on state waters and aquatic resources.
Virginia state regulations require that RPAs be designated around all water bodies with perennial flow. The Virginia Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) conducted field studies to identify all perennial streams throughout the county and used this information to prepare a set of maps showing the location of RPAs as defined under the revised Ordinance. The maps were adopted by the Board on November 17, 2003.
The Old Courthouse Spring Branch is one of these RPAs and is depicted in the Chesapeake Bay Map, 29-3. The original RPA was revised in 2003 to include the portion between Gosnell Rd. and the area approximately behind Best Buy store. Most of the added land to the south of Old Courthouse Spring Branch belongs to TCA and Tysons Towers. This would mean that the portion of the Old Court House Spring Branch and its culvert area that lie within TCA property and Tysons Towers property should be protected too.
Environmental Quality Corridor
Old Courthouse Spring Branch Stream Valley is also categorized and protected as an Environmental Quality Corridor (EQC). An “Environmental Quality Corridor” includes lands that are designated under the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, 2003 Edition Policy Plan, Environment, Amended through 8-5-2002, Pages 12 and 13. Lands may be included within the EQC system if the land has a desirable or scarce habitat type, or one could be readily restored, or lie land hosts a species of special interest; the segment of open space could become part of a corridor to facilitate the movement of wildlife; the land could become part of a green belt separating land uses, providing passive recreational opportunities to people; or preservation of this land would result in significant reductions to nonpoint source water pollution, and/or micro climate control, and/or reductions in noise.
For the long history of EQC protection by Fairfax County, see the 2008 Park Authority EQC Presentation and Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan: Frequently Asked Questions. Any questions about how EQCs are identified or protected in Fairfax County, contact the Environmental Quality Advisory Council (EQAC).