Protecting a Backyard Pond

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District)

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NVSWCD staff advises couple about pond.Robin Rentch has created her own piece of heaven in her backyard. On a sunny day the pond reflects the native flowers and shrubs that border it. In the pond, a blue gill guards its nest, snakes mate on the outfall pipe, and a bullfrog peers through the leaves at the visitors.

For the last 30 years, Rentch has protected and nurtured her private pond and the environment that surrounds it. Recently, as often happens, a new residential development upstream from her property threatened to impact her land in ways she had never imagined. The builder intended to use her pond as the outfall for the increased runoff that the development would create.

Alerted to the plan by NVSWCD staff, Rentch contacted the developer and refused to let him drain water into her pond. “They might be able to control the velocity [speed] of the runoff,” said Rentch, “but they will not be able to filter the fertilizers and pesticides in the runoff that would kill my healthy populations of frogs, turtles, snakes, and crayfish.”

A perennial stream borders Rentch’s property. In accordance with the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, a Resource Protection Area (RPA) buffers the stream on either side, preventing most construction activities. However, the ordinance allows certain exceptions, including the installation of a stormwater pipe. To avoid using the pond as the outfall, the developer chose to run a pipe through the RPA, taking out mature trees in the process.

Rentch’s decisive action saved her pond, but she still laments the outcome. “My pond may be protected, but the surrounding environment will suffer the negative impact of this development.”

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