RPA GUIDE

What is a Resource Protection Area (RPA)?

A Resource Protection Area (RPA) is a tool used to protect the Chesapeake Bay and it's tributaries from non-point source pollution associated with the use and development of land. RPAs are comprised of lands at or near the shoreline that have an intrinsic water quality value or are sensitive to impacts which may degrade the quality of state waters. Examples of RPAs include tidal wetlands, tidal shores, perennial streams, non-tidal wetlands associated with perennial streams and a 100-foot wide buffer adjacent to and landward of these RPA components. For additional information, refer to the County's Chesapeake Bay Preservation ordinance (Chapter 23, Sec. 23-7(c) Buffer area requirements) at www.jccegov.com or download the info from the county website (HERE).

Why are Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) important?

Aquatic corridors, where land and water meet, always deserve special attention when it comes to watershed protection. Simple, undisturbed buffers along natural streams, river or lake shorelines or wetlands help maintain the health of a watershed. Native vegetation like trees, shrubs, grasses, groundcovers and wetland plants in RPAs and the 100-foot RPA buffer remove pollutants, provide for groundwater recharge, provide slope and shoreline erosion protection and provide corridors for wildlife habitat. Shade from trees along shorelines moderates water temperatures while leaf litter and fallen limbs provide shelter and spawning grounds for native fish.

Why is James City County concerned with the Chesapeake Bay?

James City County straddles two major Chesapeake Bay watersheds, the James River watershed and the York River watershed. Because every piece of land in the County drains to one of these two watersheds, any land development activity may impact the health of the James and York Rivers and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, adopted by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1988, recognizes that "healthy state and local economies are integrally related to each to each other and the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay."

Locally, the purpose of the County's Chesapeake Bay Preservation ordinance is to "control and regulate runoff at the source to protect against and minimize pollution and deposition of sediment in wetlands, streams and lakes in James City County which are tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay." According to the ordinance, the regulations are necessary for:

  1. Protection of existing high quality state waters and restoration of all other state waters to a condition or quality that will permit all reasonable public uses and will support the propagation and growth of all aquatic life;
  2. Safeguarding the clean waters of the commonwealth from pollution;
  3. Prevention of any increase in pollution;
  4. Reduction of existing pollution; and
  5. Promotion of water resource conservation in order to provide for the health, safety and welfare of present and future citizens of the commonwealth.

Who do I call for information about Resource Protection Areas (RPAs)?

RPA's are specifically regulated by the County's Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance. For more information on the general location of RPAs in James City County or if you have questions about the provisions of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation ordinance, contact the James City County Environmental Division at (757) 253-6670.