Home and business owners can get practical help with erosion and drainage problems on their properties from a federal grant program that was recently awarded more funding from the commonwealth.
Assistance with landscape design and paying for the work is provided to approved participants through the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program.
“The most common problem we see is with slope-erosion issues,” said Richard Jacobs, the urban program manager for Virginia’s Culpeper Water and Soil Conservation District, which oversees VCAP applications in the Culpeper region. “A lot of problems are due to driveway or downspout runoff.”
Another focus is to improve areas where grass or other plants don’t grow well, he said.
“We help to get vegetation established using conservation landscaping methods, growing native plants which can help filter runoff and hold soil in place,” Jacobs said.
After starting as a pilot project in 2012, VCAP secured a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant in 2016 that expanded the program to all areas in the multistate Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“In July, we will be getting some dedicated state funding for the first time,” Jacobs said, explaining that the Virginia General Assembly allocated $1 million to the 2019 program.
The Culpeper District includes Culpeper, Green, Madison, Rappahannock and Orange counties. In that area, over the last two years, about 20 VCAP projects have been completed, of roughly 200 VCAP projects done across the whole the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Jacob said.
“It’s still a relatively small program in the district,” he said. “So we’re trying to get the word out.”
Kris Eggleston, a Master Gardener who lives in the Boston area west of the town of Culpeper, heard about the program through a gardening class.
“We had a terrible problem with erosion,” Eggleston said. “I met with Richard and he helped me work through the whole process and put in a huge rain garden.”
The rain garden was installed at the end of Eggleston’s driveway, which is now directing runoff to an area with plants that can retain a lot of moisture.
“So the water sits and soaks in and goes back into my water table, rather than just running off the property,” Eggleston said. “Also, it’s gorgeous.”
Eggleston praised Jacobs, saying he provided her with a lot of helpful information about her property, aside from its erosion issues.
“Richard is really good at what he does,” Eggleston said. “We’ve been very happy with the results.”
Eggleston discussed their success with neighbor Adri van Krimpen, who followed up by requesting an assessment on his own property.
“Richard Jacobs was really helpful explaining what could be done with the erosion I had and the funding opportunities available by the county and state,” van Krimpen said in interview.
After talking with Jacobs, van Krimpen said he found a landscaper who could create a rain garden that met his needs and VCAP’s. The garden’s final design was submitted for funding and approved by VCAP, after which the work was completed.
“The total cost was around $1,400, for which VCAP funded around $1,000,” van Krimpen said.
Later, van Krimpen followed a similar process to create a dry swale on his property, with a total cost for that project about $10,000, and of that, around $4,700 paid for by VCAP.
Although van Krimpen said he did have to do some additional work on the rain garden and the swale last year to contain the water and have the garden fully utilize rainwater overflow, he is pleased with the results.
“Two main issues on my property were addressed and erosion was reduced, while I did not have to pay for it all,” he said. “Some of my tax dollars ... [came back to] help fund improvements on my property.”
The homeowner is now considering installing a second rain garden. Also, van Krimpen said, through VCAP he was made aware of other programs of the Culpeper Water and Soil Conservation District, through which he could apply for other financial assistance, such as septic-tank maintenance and the availability of tree seedlings at a very reasonable cost.
“People might be amazed about the support opportunities available through Culpeper County,” he said.
For more information about VCAP, see vaswcd.org/vcap.