In the mid 2000's the Georgia Conservation Commission (GCC) applied for and received a grant for a phase 1 geomorphic assessment of the town's streams and rivers. The intent with this work was to establish stream buffers based on actual "on the ground" information that would determine the correct buffer width for a particular stream. This study recommended 3 buffer widths; 25', 50' and 100' and a map was made delineating these buffers on the different reaches of the streams. There were several problems with this approach, the map was complex, showing many more streams and rivers than were shown on our current zoning map. (see project pictures) This confused the planners and they thought they could not manage projects with all these variables. The GCC drafted buffer language that was rejected by the planning commission. The geomorphic assessment was a $10,500 study that was headed nowhere.
As the next grant cycle came about the GCC commissioned a phase 2 geomorphic assessment of the towns rivers and streams, this phase would actually get technicians in the streams for "on the ground" evaluations. The geomorphic information for many towns in the state is available on ANR's website, https://anrweb.vt.gov/DEC/SGA/Default.aspx. This study identified many streams in town that needed work such as; no buffer at all, mass failures on banks and inadequate culverts or bridges. Several of these projects were selected and the work has been completed.
In mid 2012 the GCC compiled another draft of simplified buffer language to be ioncluded in zoning we dropped back to 2 buffer widths and only streams shown on the zoning map, but included, buffer measuring standards, CL II wetland associations, activities permitted in the buffer and conditional uses.
In October of 2013 a revised zoning code was issued and included a 3 page section on Riparian Buffer Zones.( www.townofgeorgia.com pages 87-89.
This project took almost 10 years, a long road, but we hope comprehensive buffer regulation will improve stream health.