Photo by Chuck Epes/CBF Staff
2016 Virginia General Assembly Wrap-Up
Virginia's 2016 General Assembly came through with vital support for programs that help restore the Commonwealth's rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks to the leadership of Virginia's legislators and Governor Terry McAuliffe, the session that ended in mid-March provided extremely strong funding for clean water.
CBF stayed involved throughout this year's General Assembly. Our Virginia lobby team worked closely with legislators and stakeholders. CBF volunteers discussed the issues with their representatives at our annual lobby day in Richmond. And hundreds of our members sent e-mails and letters to Virginia delegates and senators about key funding and policy decisions. All of these efforts helped make a difference during a great General Assembly session. Through the actions outlined below, Virginia is now one step closer to meeting its Clean Water Blueprint goals.
Curbing Urban and Suburban Runoff
Addressing pollution in urban and suburban areas poses a big challenge as rainfall runs off streets, homes, and parking lots, washing contaminants into waterways. This year, legislators provided $20 million for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which gives matching grants to localities for projects that reduce polluted runoff.
Find out more about the importance of curbing urban and suburban runoff.
Farm conservation practices like fencing cattle out of streams and planting riparian buffers are the most cost-efficient actions to restore the Bay and local streams. This year legislators, agreeing with the Governor's proposed budget, provided $61.7 million for agricultural best management practices in fiscal year 2017, the highest funding level for one year ever provided in Virginia for the program.
Find out more about effective farm conservation practices and agriculture's connection to the Bay and local streams.
Sewage Plant Upgrades
Wastewater treatment plant upgrades are a Virginia success story. Advanced nutrient removal technology in many plants is already reducing the flow of pollution to rivers and the Bay, but the modernization process is not yet complete. Virginia's legislators provided $59 million for the next round of plant upgrades, matching Governor McAuliffe's proposed budget.
Oyster Restoration and Replenishment
Oysters continue to make a remarkable comeback in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. This iconic shellfish filters water and provides vital habitat for other Bay species. This year the General Assembly provided $4 million for oyster replenishment, which boosts the oyster harvest for Virginia watermen.
Learn more about the state of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.
Other Clean Water Wins
CBF also applauds Virginia's legislators for several policy actions that are a real win for clean water. That includes streamlining Virginia's stormwater and erosion control rules to better protect streams and other waterways. The General Assembly also expanded nutrient trading opportunities to assist localities, farmers, and others in meeting the goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
Menhaden, often called "the most important fish in the sea" are both filter feeders and a primary food source for striped bass, bluefish, sharks, ospreys, brown pelicans, and dolphin. The menhaden fishery is also very important economically to the Commonwealth, supporting hundreds of jobs.
This legislative session, our lawmakers wisely repealed a sunset provision that would have ended the Chesapeake Bay harvest cap on menhaden, an indispensable step. However, we are disappointed that legislators rejected legislation that would have transferred menhaden fishery management from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the agency that manages all of the other fisheries in the Commonwealth.
Find out more about the importance of menhaden to the life of the Chesapeake.
We thank the General Assembly for its constructive work this legislative session and are hopeful for Governor McAuliffe's quick approval of this legislation. It's clear that Virginia's leaders recognize the value of clean and healthy waterways in our communities.