Clarke County has abundant natural resources: the forested western slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains with 22 miles of the Appalachian Trail, 21.6 miles of the Shenandoah River and, on the western side of the river, the northern portion of the Shenandoah Valley. Underlying the Valley is limestone geology (karst terrain) characterized by sinkholes, springs, and sinking streams. Much of the county’s natural resource efforts are aimed at protecting its water resources as well as its predominately agricultural landscape and economy.
The Natural Resource Planner works with all sources of available assistance to plan for the allocation, management, and protection of Clarke County’s natural resources, sharing information about environmental issues and trends with community members. The Natural Resource Planner manages the Conservation Easement Program.
The Natural Resource Department is in the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center (second floor) located at 101 Chalmers Ct., in Berryville, Va.
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
Natural Resource Planner
(540) 955-5180 (fax)
Comprehensive Plan Sections
- Water Resources Plan 2018 Update
- Mountain Land Plan w/ Color Maps
- Mountain Land Plan w/out Color Maps
- Mountain Land Plan Summary
- Timber Harvest Regulations (Loggers must submit a pre-harvest plan.)
- Vegetative Clearing Limits (Read before cutting or clearing a property.)
- Flood Plain Ordinance
- Spring Conservation (Regulations for Prospect Hill Spring, the public water supply for Boyce, Millwood, Waterloo, and White Post.)
- Stream Protection Overlay District (Limits vegetative clearing along perennial streams.)
What is Karst?
Karst land includes sinkholes, springs, sinking streams, and caves. In karst areas, the fractured limestone rock formations have been dissolved by flowing groundwater to form cavities, pipes, and conduits. Sinkholes, caves, sinking streams, and springs signal the presence of underground drainage systems in karstlands. Unless watersheds are protected, these direct connections between the surface and the subsurface can threaten the quality of our drinking water. The safest watersheds are those in which all residents understand the karst landscape and work together to reduce soil erosion, high-density development, agricultural and urban storm water runoff, overgrazing, improper waste disposal, and pollution.
Karst-Related Ordinances & Code Sections:
- Sinkhole Ordinance
- Karst Plan
- Resistivity Process & Contacts
- Chapter 86 Code of Clarke County Blasting Regulations
There are specific places in Clarke County that play critical roles in recharging its ground water. Water that falls as precipitation (rain, snow) needs to find pathways to the groundwater, and that happens best in the carbonate areas where sinkholes, caves, sinking streams, faults, and fractures provide easy access for water to percolate down to the water table
Even in the carbonates that underlie most of the valley area, some areas are more critical than others for groundwater recharge. On the western side of Clarke County, a limestone ridge runs from Double Tollgate and trends to the NE crossing into West Virginia east of Stones Chapel. This area, identified by the U.S. Geological Survey, is approximately 22,100 acres and contains the drainage divide between the Opequon Creek and the Shenandoah River. It is also a critical area for filling the groundwater that runs below the county because of its unique structure, elevation, and distance from the river, streams, and springs that discharge water from the groundwater.
Why does this matter? What humans do in this critical recharge area to preserve permeable surfaces for groundwater recharge affects water availability and quality for a large portion of the county. To help protect this area, the Easement Authority has asked the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the state agency responsible for conservation easement holdings, to designate this area as a priority project area. This designation focuses resources on placing properties in the recharge area into permanent conservation easement to reduce development potential on this critical resource area.
Clarke County has long been a leader in environmental protection and managed controlled growth. This is evidenced by the extensive long-term planning and visionary thinking by the Board of Supervisors in the 1970s and 1980s, when the county developed the Groundwater Protection Plan. The plan led to the establishment of septic and well ordinances, a sinkhole ordinance, the first United States Geological Survey (USGS) groundwater study, and an overall awareness of the sensitive nature of groundwater resources from a water-quality view. The county also adopted Sliding-Scale Zoning, implemented the Agricultural-Forestal District, use of value taxation, use of the LESA scoring system, and designated growth areas. These tools, in addition to the establishment of the Conservation Easement Authority and adoption of the Mountain Land Plan, have provided a strong framework to allow for growth while protecting agricultural economy and natural and historic resources.
Water Levels: Clarke County
After a prolonged and serious drought, the county in 2002 initiated a six-year groundwater study with the USGS. The primary objective was to enhance the county's understanding of the quantity and sustainability of its ground-water resources. The following link details the results and findings of the six-year study. Monitoring continues as funding is approved by the Board of Supervisors.
Current Water Levels Around the County: Five Real-Time Gages
- Dry Marsh Run Northwestern Clarke (Stream)
- Spout Run Central Clarke (Stream)
- County Park Berryville (Well)
- Blandy Central Clarke (Well)
- Rockwood Ridge Northeastern Clarke on mountain (Well)
6-Year Clarke County Groundwater Study (2002-08)
- The USGS Scientific Investigations Report: "Hydrogeology and Groundwater Availability in Clarke County, Virginia" By: D.L. Nelms and R.M. Moberg Jr.
- Summary of 6 Year USGS Ground Water Study - What Did the County Learn?
Drought Indicator Maps of the Shenandoah Basin from DEQ includes drought status reports and general information about water resource conditions in the Clarke County, the region, and state.
Shenandoah River Flood Information
- Current Flood Stage Information - NWS Watches, Warnings, and Advisories
- Graph Detailing Current Flood Stage - NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service
U.S. 50 bridge looking west, Sept. 1996. Photo by Bonnie Jacobs
In July 1997, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors approved the adoption of a text amendment establishing standards for the application of Biosolids.
Beginning in 1998, two companies (Bio Gro and Recyc Systems) applied biosolids in the county. Currently Synagro (formally Bio-Gro) and Wright Trucking spread biosolids on local farms.
In 2004, Virginia law repealed the ability of counties to regulate biosolid application beyond testing and monitoring. The change permits counties to request reimbursement for expenses relating to monitoring and testing, but it eliminated increased setback standards that Clarke County had adopted to protect ground and surface water resources in sensitive karst areas. Clarke County maintains the ordinance and requests applicators to comply.
All applications have been closely monitored by county and state representatives and have been in compliance with all requirements. In accordance with state regulations, counties may be reimbursed for the testing and monitoring expenses.
As of Jan. 1, 2008, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) assumed regulatory oversight of all land application of treated sewage sludge, commonly referred to as biosolids.
This action, which moves oversight of the Biosolids Use Regulations from the Virginia Department of Health to DEQ, was at the direction of the 2007 General Assembly, which voted to consolidate the regulatory programs so that anyone applying biosolids would be subject to uniform requirements, and to take advantage of the existing compliance and enforcement structure at DEQ. DEQ has established an Office of Land Application Programs within the Water Quality Division to manage the biosolids program, as well as land application of industrial sludges, septage, livestock and poultry waste, and water reclamation and reuse. The Virginia Department of Health will continue to consult with DEQ and advise the public on health issues related to biosolids applications. State Web Site
Current state regulations require:
- Nutrient Management Plan to be submitted with application
- Posting of property 48 hours prior to application
- No spreading on snow
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
Central Office - Richmond
DEQ Permitting Agent for Clarke County - Harrisonburg Office
(formally Milton Wright Trucking, Inc.)
|P.O. Box 38060
Henrico, VA 23231
|Synagro||10647 Tidewater Trail
Champlain, VA, 22438
|Recyc Systems, Inc.||P.O. Box 562
Remington, VA 22734
Natural Resource Planner