Governor Warner Appoints Drought Coordinator
— Also announces additional drought-related actions —
RICHMOND — Governor Mark R. Warner today designated Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources David Paylor to serve as Virginia’s drought coordinator to direct the administration’s continuing response to the worsening drought.
In this expanded role, Paylor will work closely with the inter-agency Drought Monitoring Task Force to assess current conditions. Paylor will bring Cabinet-level attention to the crisis. He has been instructed to evaluate proposals for more aggressive conservation of water resources, and recommend other suitable state responses. Paylor has 28 years’ experience in state environmental protection in Virginia. He was the Director of Operations at the Department of Environmental Quality prior to joining the administration.
“We can trace the origins of this current drought to 1999, but conditions have gotten significantly worse in the past month,” Governor Warner said. “Because short- and long-term weather outlooks do not hold the promise of enough rainfall to reverse the dry trend, we must take additional steps to be prepared for worsening conditions,” Governor Warner said.
Virginia is experiencing record low stream flows and ground water levels, resulting in dramatic increases in the number of public water systems and private well users who now face a crisis situation. The drought also has had a significant impact on agriculture, recreation and forestry.
“Though water supplies vary in different regions, I strongly encourage all Virginians to reduce their water consumption, particularly for outdoor use,” said Governor Warner.
Governor Warner has instructed the Virginia Department of Transportation and public safety agencies to conduct an inventory of the state’s water storage and transportation assets. The state also is urging public schools, state-supported colleges and universities and other institutional water consumers to use disposable cups, plates and utensils.
Governor Warner also has instructed his drought coordinator to oversee efforts to improve conservation efforts, coordinate rapid delivery of technical advice for water system operators, and seek ways to expedite state permits to protect or create water sources.
In addition, Governor Warner has instructed Paylor to coordinate a review of state regulations to provide an assessment of the Governor’s executive authority to supersede certain regulations.
For example, the Governor has authorized the Virginia Department of Health to suspend certain sections of the Private Well Regulations to expedite the process of well replacement due to the current drought conditions. Since July 1st, local health departments across Virginia have received more than 2,230 applications for permits to replace private wells for drinking water and irrigation.
“Due to the number of requests for permits, we decided that the public would be better served if the specific requirements of the regulations were suspended until the end of this year or until the drought is over,” Governor Warner said. The suspension of well regulation applies only to emergency well replacement, allowing property owners to replace an existing well without first obtaining a construction permit from the Health Department.
These efforts are the latest in a series of steps Governor Warner has taken to help residents and businesses respond to the drought, including:
On March 13th, Governor Warner instructed state agencies to develop and implement water conservation plans and encouraged Virginians to reduce their use of water for non-critical purposes.
On July 17th, Governor Warner convened a “Drought Summit” to present the latest information to Virginia’s radio and TV meteorologists, and to enlist their assistance in urging water conservation.
On June 26th, Governor Warner signed Executive Order Number 19, extending a statewide emergency declared by the previous administration.
On July 31st, the Governor signed Executive Order Number 31, temporarily waiving weight, height and registration issues for some trucks transporting bales of hay to drought-stricken livestock producers.
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