Erosion & Sediment Control

What is Erosion?

Soil erosion is the wearing away of the land surface (including detachment and movement of soil particles) by water, wind, ice, and gravity.  

Erosion occurs naturally in the environment. As noted in the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook (VESCH), this natural (or geologic) erosion has been occurring at a relatively slow rate since the earth was formed. However, the rate can be dramatically accelerated by land disturbing activities caused by man such as surface mining, forestry, agriculture, and construction.  Accelerated erosion is responsible for 70% of all erosion, whereas natural erosion is responsible for the remaining 30%. 

Roanoke County’s Erosion and Sediment Control Program

Roanoke County’s Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) Program primarily focuses on protecting bare soils on land-disturbing projects from the impacts of raindrop erosion and stormwater runoff. Erosion resulting from land-disturbing activities associated with construction activities can be 200 times greater than the amount of erosion generated from grassland and 2,000 times greater than that naturally occurring in woodlands. Because the rate of erosion is so high on construction sites, both erosion controls and sediment controls are employed to minimize erosion and to limit off-site sedimentation.

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The County’s ESC program incorporates the nineteen "minimum standards" from Virginia’s Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations for all regulated land-disturbing activities. (See the Quick Links on this page.) County staff review erosion and sediment control plans to assure that they meet these minimum requirements and incorporate use of the erosion and sediment control standards and specifications in the VESCH. Once the plan is approved, the County’s inspectors conduct routine site inspections on a given frequency throughout construction, either once every two weeks, four weeks, or eight weeks, as determined by the project’s priority (high, medium, low) using the County’s Tabular Rating System. County inspectors mail or email the inspection reports to the responsible party and initiate enforcement action when necessary. Inspections continue for the project’s duration until the associated land-disturbance permit is closed.

Erosion & Sediment Control Documents

What is a Land-disturbing Activity?

In Roanoke County, an approved erosion and sediment control plan is required for any land-disturbing activity that exceeds 2,500 square feet of land disturbance.

Land-disturbing activity means any man-made change to the land surface that may result in soil erosion from water or wind and the movement of sediments into state waters or onto lands in the Commonwealth, including, but not limited to: clearing, grading, excavating, transporting, and filling of land, except that the term shall not include:  

  1.  Minor land-disturbing activities such as home gardens and individual home landscaping, repairs and maintenance work;
  2. Individual service connections;
  3. Installation, maintenance, or repairs of any underground public utility lines when such activity occurs on an existing hard-surfaced road, street or sidewalk provided such land-disturbing activity is confined to the area of the road, street or sidewalk that is hard-surfaced;
  4. Septic tank lines or drainage fields unless included in an overall plan for land-disturbing activity relating to construction of the building to be served by the septic tank system;
  5. Permitted surface or deep mining operations and projects, or oil and gas operations and projects conducted pursuant to Title 45.1 of the Code of Virginia;
  6. Tilling, planting, or harvesting of agricultural, horticultural, or forest crops, or livestock feedlot operations; including engineering operations as follows: construction of terraces, terrace outlets, check dams, desilting basins, dikes, ponds, ditches, strip cropping, lister furrowing, contour cultivating, contour furrowing, land drainage, and land irrigation; however, this exception shall not apply to harvesting of forest crops unless the area on which harvesting occurs is reforested artificially or naturally in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 11 (Sec. 10.1-1100 et seq.) of Title 10.1 of the Code of Virginia or is converted to bona fide agricultural or improved pasture use as described in Subsection B of Sec. 10.1-1163;
  7. Repair or rebuilding of the tracks, rights-of-way, bridges, communication facilities and other related structures and facilities of a railroad company;
  8. Agricultural engineering operations including but not limited to the construction of terraces, terrace outlets, check dams, desilting basins, dikes, ponds not required to comply with the Dam Safety Act (Va. Code § 10.1-604 et seq.)ditches, strip cropping, lister furrowing, contour cultivating, contour furrowing, land drainage, and land irrigation;
  9. Disturbed land areas of less than two thousand five hundred (2,500) square feet in size; except as herein described for residential development in Section 8.1-6(e).
  10. Installation of fence and sign posts or telephone and electric poles and other kinds of posts or poles
  11. Emergency work to protect life, limb or property, and emergency repairs; however, if the land-disturbing activity would have required an approved erosion and sediment control plan, if the activity were not an emergency, then the land area disturbed shall be shaped and stabilized in accordance with the requirements of this Ordinance.

If you are uncertain as to whether or not a specific activity is regulated under Roanoke County’s Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) Program, please contact Cynthia S. Linkenhoker, Stormwater Program Manager, at 540-772-2036.