Tidewater Current | Fall 2011

Transmitting enlightening news & information about sustainable endeavors in Coastal Virginia and beyond. Updated weekly.



Winning Wetland Protection | Catch of the Day? | Team Tidewater's Solar Home

The Future of Ft Monroe -Preservation Expected in Presidential Proclomation FINALLLY ANNOUNCED- 11/1/11 - THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary - For Immediate Release November 1, 2011 - ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FORT MONROE NATIONAL MONUMENT ------- BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION

The strategic and historically significant Army fort sited at Hampton Roads near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay formally closed in Mid September.  With the closure, management of the complex returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia:  The disposition of which has been the topic of discussion since the Army announced the base closure in 2005.  

In addition to some sort of development, it’s expected that part of the over 500 acre site will be protected by inclusion in the National Park system.  There’s been a great deal of support for preservation.  As noted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, “We have heard loud and clear from the local community, Commonwealth and federal officials, and stakeholders everywhere that Fort Monroe is a place of unique historical and cultural significance that merits protection – and we agree….  Fort Monroe helps tell the compelling story of our nation’s arc from the Civil War to Civil Rights. With such a rich history, it’s no wonder that so many feel passionately about ensuring the site is preserved for future generations. We look forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand with the Commonwealth and local partners as we review the site and its future potential.” 

Later in remarks to the Associated Press on September 21st, the Interior Secretary said that he is taking the discussion to the White House.  Under the authority of the Antiquities Act, President Obama has the power to preserve the site as a “national monument.”   If he chooses to act on this authority, he will be in good company as this has been a successful preservation tactic employed by the likes of Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt to protect places like the Devil’s Tower, the Grand Canyon, and Grand Tetons National Parks.

This post will be updated periodically.  For current news links, check the Conservation page.  Also visit the Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park website and the Fort Monroe Authority.  CBrighton 9/11

Hampton Roads Solar & More Tour - Saturday & Sunday October 1 & 2


In conjunction with the American Solar Energy Society's National Home Tour, folks across the country including Tidewater will have the opportunity to view and investigate local green building technologies incorporated into homes and businesses the first weekend of October. This free local tour organized by the Hampton Roads Solar Group of the Hampton Roads Green Building Council is scheduled for two days - Saturday October 1 for sites on the Peninsula and Sunday October 2 for sites on the Southside. Approximately 20 locations are featured on the tour. In addition to passive solar design, pv and solar thermal sytems, attractions include a wind turbine, green (living) roofs, water catchment systems, ICF construction, spray foam insulation, and infloor radiant heating. Bus tours are an option on both sides of the water or you can simply print out a tour map and visit the sites that interest you. For more information and to register for the tour, go to HRSolarTour.com. CBrighton 9/11

Winning Wetland Protection in Virginia Beach:  A Developing Story (or not)

longcreekpicPleasure House Point Purchase Planned while residents rally to stop city plan and preserve Long Creek Wetland (pictured at left).

Public interest in and support to restore the Lynnhaven River has culminated in a plan by the City to protect the last large tract of undeveloped land bordering it.  Some 100 acres off of Shore Dr. known as Pleasure House Point was originally slated for development.  But, due to long term citizen protest and the collapse of the real estate market, development plans have dissolved as the property was foreclosed upon.  Encouraged by relentless citizen outcry and nonprofit support, the City is now looking to finance a deal to purchase the property.  It’s not yet a done deal, but a bright light is shining at the end of a long long road.

At the same time the City is working to restore the Lynnhaven and protect Pleasure House Point, it is putting another Lynnhaven wetland at risk.  Just a few miles away, along Long Creek, a few acres of vital wetland sandwiched between a marina and residential neighborhoods stands to be harmed by a city plan.  In exchange for a site to operate an industrial dredge spoils transfer station (next to the Long Creek wetland), the City intends to support a marina expansion in the waterway directly in front of the entire expanse of the wetland.  To accommodate 45 or so 50 foot watercraft, dredging and maintenance dredging in front of the wetland and in the main channel will be required.  All of this activity threatens the health and vitality of this wetland.

If anything can be taken away from the Pleasure House Point saga, it’s that perseverance pays.  After years of fighting development plans (once supported by the City), the parcel appears to be safe.  And those that oppose the Long Creek plan, appear to be on the right track.  Recently, Long Creek locals gathered at a private home to raise awareness, garner support and strategize on how to protect the wetland.  Cox High School students participated by manning computers to help participants sign a petition, write letters and entertain.

To learn more about the importance of wetlands, the city’s plans, and the impacts of dredging, view the Long Creek Page.  There you will also find links to local press coverage and pictures of the Long Creek Wetland.  A petition against the project (with over 1000 participants) can be found at www.LongCreekWetlands.com.

If you are a member of Lynnhaven River Now or the Chesapeake Bay Foundation,  contact them and ask where they stand and how they can help.  And of course, contact your local representatives.  Contact info is available on the LongCreekWetlands site. Check the Long Creek Page for updates as this story develops. To learn more more about Pleasure House Point and other local preservation endeavors go to the Conservation page (older info can be found in the Archive). By Carol Brighton 5/2011


Catch of the Day: Wind Power?

It’s not on any restaurant menu, but harvesting offshore wind energy has created quite a buzz in the region. Given the concerns associated with traditional power production, it’s a welcome sign to see that the government and private sector are gearing up to tap the vast and benign energy in offshore wind.   Numerous consortiums, committees, etc.  have been formed to explore and navigate the uncharted  US waters associated with wind farm development on the outer continental shelf. 

Leaseable areas 20 miles off the east coast have been identified and  the federal government is working to streamline the permit process.   The Atlantic Wind Connection(AWC) which includes Google as one of it’s main backers, has committed $5 billion to constructing an offshore transmission system extending from Virginia to New Jersey to distribute energy generated offshore.  It would seem that the existence of such an infrastructure would stimulate farm development.  But there is potentially some controversy.  NJ regulators are concerned that the fees associated with using AWC’s transmission line will prove to be more costly to consumers than if each farm ties into the grid via their own network.  Numerous lines extending across the seafloor do not make sense either, so this is just one of many issues to be resolved by all  involved .

Despite the uncertainty and the challenges that lay ahead for this emerging  industry, momentum is moving forward at a fast pace.  A host of companies participate in the Virginia Offshore Wind (VOW) Coalition and are working to support and /or develop wind farms.  And, jobs are being created.   Recently, Northrop Grumman and Gamesa, Spain’s largest turbine manufacturer, teamed up to design and build an offshore turbine.  Their offshore wind research  facility opened  in Chesapeake last fall.  Meanwhile, blade manufacturer AC Wind announced plans to set up shop on the Eastern Shore.  Click here for current wind news. The Archive now also contains a lot of recent news.
By Carol Brighton 3/2011. Image: GE - Arklow, Ireland.

Tidewater Team to Take on the World in Solar Decathlonsolarhousepic

This fall as select universities compete in Washington at the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon (an international solar home design contest), a Tidewater Team will be among the group.   Team Tidewater, students and faculty from Hampton University and Old Dominion University, won a bid to compete with their design submission of “Unit 6 Unplugged.”   Unit 6, the top floor prototype unit for a 6-unit apartment building will be on display alongside structures hailing from as far away as New Zealand and China.

Planning for the project began over 2 years ago.  Entries were due to DoE in the summer of 2009. Later that summer the winning submissions were announced. Since then, the 20 teams selected to participate have been working furiously on their designs.   First and foremost, the home must produce all the energy needed via solar power.  So, they must also be very energy efficient. In addition to photovoltaic electric and thermal hot waters systems, the design and feel of the house is meant to reflect the team’s geographic region and include locally produced products.   In 2009, Cornell University’s entry was constructed of old grain silos commonly seen in upstate New York.  Many units also incorporate rain and grey water catchment/storage systems for irrigation.   And native Plants are often employed to provide shade and insulation in roofing and along walls and to treat and reduce runoff.

With only 1000 square feet as an allowable limit for living space, one of the biggest challenges teams face is coming up with an aesthetically pleasing layout.  Because the size limitations and the need to deconstruct, transport and reassemble the units, many past designs have been remotely reminiscent of a shipping container.  Team Tidewater met the layout challenge creatively by designing their home in modules instead of as one long narrow unit.  Another unique feature is a three season porch.  With operable windows the porch is transformed into a sunspace that will capture, store and transmit heat in the winter.

Unit 6 Unplugged is currently being constructed on ODU’s campus.  It is expected to be ready and open to tour in July (see below for more info).  Later this summer the team will face the task of moving the unit to DC.   Once on display, it will be scrutinized by the curious public and judges alike.  Points are awarded in 10 categories including architecture, market appeal, engineering, affordability, appliances, hot water, home entertainment, energy balance, communication and comfort zone.  In the past, Virginia teams have fared well.  In the inaugural event of 2002, UVA won second place and last summer at Europe’s first Solar Decathlon, which is modeled after DoE’s event, Virginia Tech won first place.

In addition to overall and individual category awards, there is a Peoples’ Choice Award.  Originally set to take place from September 23 through October 2 on the National Mall, where the last 3 events were held, it will be moved to another location this year: West Potomac Park – along the tidal basin across from the Jefferson Memorial. 

Can’t make the trip to DC?  Unit 6 can be viewed at the Team Tidewater Site and all the homes in the Solar Decathlon can be viewed at the Solar Decathlon website. In addition,  HRGBC is hosting a Tour of Team Tidewater's Solar Decathlon House (at ODU) Tuesday, July 26, 12-2 p.m .- 48th and Powhattan Rd, Norfolk. RSVP/info at admin@hrgbc.org.   A local tour of solar homes is also scheduled for the first weekend in October.  The tour is coordinated by the Hampton Roads Solar Group and the Hampton Roads Green Building Council in connection with the American Solar Energy Society ‘s National tour.  For more information visit www.hrgbc.org or www.hrsolartour.com. By Carol Brighton 3/2011(updated 6/11)/Image:  Team Tidewater

Fresh from the Farm – CSA Memberships Growing in Popularity

producepicTo keep organic farms running and fresh products on our table, a concept known as Community Supported Agriculture has been gaining support.   By buying a share in a farm for a season, members offset the enormous upfront costs farmers have to cover and in exchange, receive product throughout the season. The practice is spurring the growth of small sustainable farms and is keeping fresh, vitamin rich and chemical free food available.  Many farms participate in farmers’ markets and distribute product shares (usually a basket or bag) there.  Delivery to host sites for consumers who don’t live conveniently near a farmer’s market is a growing trend.  Depending on where you live, there is probably a farmer’s market or CSA delivery site close by. Check out the extensive (but not necessarily thorough) listing of organic producers.

The cost of joining a CSA varies and each farm includes their unique products.  For a May – October seasonal membership and weekly product supply, expect to spend in the neighborhood of $400.   Not only will you enjoy a superior product fresh from the field, but you support your local economy.  Mattawoman Creek Farms CSA membership is full for this season, but others farms still appear to have openings.
Carol Brighton 3/2011



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