VIRGINIA UPDATE

From the Desk of Rebecca LePrell
Fall 2016
 

Legislators Head Out on the Water with CBF  

This September, key Virginia legislators spent time on the water with CBF ahead of the important decisions they'll be making when the General Assembly convenes in January. We were honored to host nearly 30 state senators and delegates from the agriculture and natural resources committees at the Brock Environmental Center during their annual retreat. They gathered to learn about topics that affect the Bay, including polluted runoff and managing fisheries.

Virginia legislators joined us on the water September 2016 to learn about the Bay.

Testing bacteria in Virginia's streams.
Photos (top to bottom):  Virginia legislators joined us on the water in September to learn about the Bay and water quality issues; Volunteers tested Virginia's streams for bacteria in our pilot program this summer. Photos by CBF Staff. 

At the retreat, local officials from Norfolk, Lynchburg, and Ashland talked about the importance of the state funding they've received to install projects that help keep polluted runoff from fouling our waterways. They also urged further funding to help localities meet their Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals. 

After the presentations, CBF took the legislators on a tour of the Brock Center and then boarded two CBF vessels on the Lynnhaven River to learn more about oyster leasing and fisheries. While out on the water, legislators checked crab pots designed to protect turtles, trawled for aquatic life, and discussed issues surrounding Virginia's growing oyster aquaculture industry. CBF is hopeful that the experience will assist legislators as they consider critical funding for programs that help keep Virginia on track under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. 

Meanwhile, in Hopewell, CBF and partners are gearing up for a new holistic restoration project under a recent grant by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to work with the community to keep pollution from entering the James and Appomattox Rivers. Hopewell is a diverse, underserved city of about 23,000 residents, and more than 40 years ago was the home to the infamous kepone disaster. Conservation efforts must continue in this important community. For more information about this project and our future restoration efforts in the area, please contact CBF's Virginia Grassroots Coordinator Blair Blanchette at BBlanchette@cbf.org.

As part of the innovative project, CBF plans to work with the city to install nature-based solutions (rain barrels, rain gardens, pervious pavers, trees) that will allow rainwater to slow down and sink in to the ground. These practices will reduce polluted runoff, help minimize local flooding, boost the local economy, and create additional green space for residents. A large variety of community activities are also planned, including educational boat trips, trash cleanups, and gardening workshops with homeowners and churches.

In Richmond, we recently wrapped up a pilot program over the summer to test bacteria levels at four local waterways after rainfalls. Bacteria levels can increase after rain washes waste into streams from city streets, suburbs, farms, and sewer systems. While other programs monitor water quality in Central Virginia, most do not focus on sampling after storms when bacteria levels tend to be at their highest.

Samples from three sites frequently had E. coli levels well above Virginia's standard for swimming and recreational contact. All four sites are publicly accessible and represent the variety of waterways found in Central Virginia. The project highlighted how polluted runoff from heavy rains can damage our waterways. We're also hoping it will draw people to solutions, like rain gardens, permeable pavers, and Virginia programs that help localities reduce polluted runoff. 

—Rebecca LePrell
Virginia Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
 

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