From the Desk of Christy Everett Summer 2015

Fighting for the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint  

Virginia has made tremendous progress in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Still, farm runoff remains among the largest sources of Bay pollution. Our review of Virginia's 2014-2015 milestones progress demonstrates the need to accelerate use of farm conservation practices to ensure Virginia remains on track to reach 2017 and 2025 Bay restoration goals.  

Hampton Roads Director Christy Everett.

Hampton Roads Director Christy Everett.

Scientists estimate agriculture contributes roughly half of the excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment fouling Bay waters. That pollution stimulates algal blooms that rob the water of oxygen, stunt underwater grasses, and smother oysters, clams, fish eggs, and other aquatic life. Curbing farm runoff is among the top priorities of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the regional plan to restore the Bay. 

It's also a top priority of ours. That's why CBF is taking action to ensure Virginia employs an effective combination of incentives and requirements to reduce farm runoff.  

For example, CBF has filed a lawsuit challenging the state of Virginia for failing to require the state's largest livestock farms to fence their animals out of streams. Keeping livestock out of streams is critical for clean water. The wading animals erode stream banks and excrete waste in the water, increasing bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution for those downstream. According to the state's own data, some 8,000 miles of Virginia streams are polluted because of bacterial contamination, primarily from farm animals in streams. 

The Richmond Circuit Court took a different approach. Acknowledging that the law is "ambiguous," the court gave more weight to DEQ's legal interpretation than to CBF's and concluded that the 10-year permit does not require large farm operations to fence livestock from streams. CBF is carefully considering its options, including a potential appeal.

CBF also continues to advocate for adequate, reliable cost-share funding to help farmers install conservation practices. Later this summer and fall, we will be asking you to assist us in calling on Governor Terry McAuliffe to ensure sufficient agriculture cost-share funding is included in his state budget proposal for the next two fiscal years.

As chair of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council, Gov. McAuliffe can play a key leadership role by ensuring Virginia accelerates use of farm conservation practices so the state remains on track to meet its clean water goals. He can also help pressure the federal government to provide the resources needed for the entire Bay region.  

Especially important here in Hampton Roads, CBF continues to work to ensure that proposed state permits to manage polluted stormwater runoff in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Newport News, and Hampton are strong and effective. The Virginia DEQ will soon release these proposed permits for public comment, and CBF will be in touch to encourage you to weigh in to help make sure polluted runoff isn’t harming local waterways.

Polluted runoff remains a growing source of nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and bacteria pollution, especially in highly urban and suburban areas like Hampton Roads. Polluted runoff closes local swimming beaches, threatens the safety of local seafood, exacerbates flooding, and washes litter, pet waste, and toxic road chemicals into our waterways. It's critical that all of us in Hampton Roads do all we can to reduce this harmful pollution. Stay tuned for more information when the local runoff permits are made public.

And finally, a big thank you to the 6,000 volunteers who turned out in Hampton Roads and across Virginia for Clean the Bay Day in June. In just three hours that day, volunteers removed some 110,000 pounds of litter and debris along 450 miles of shorelines. Many of the plastic bottles, bags, and cigarette butts picked up that day were swept into waterways by polluted runoff, yet another reason to ensure the soon-to-be-released runoff permits are rigorous.

The good news: The amount of debris picked up during Clean the Bay Day seems to be decreasing in recent years. You are making a difference. Thank you!

—Christy Everett
Hampton Roads Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

URGENT: The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council is meeting July 23 to discuss important Bay restoration issues. Send a message right now to your governor and EPA before they meet urging them to step up and fully commit to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

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