VIRGINIA UPDATE

From the Desk of Rebecca LePrell
Winter 2016
 

Keeping Up Positive Momentum  

Virginia is gaining ground in cleaning up our treasured rivers, streams, and Chesapeake Bay waters. Farmers are working to implement best practices that keep pollution from entering our local waters. In cities and suburbs, local governments continue to make plans to upgrade stormwater systems to control the polluted runoff that washes off from streets, parking lots, and sidewalks. These stormwater upgrades reduce the risk of flooding associated with heavy rain events, especially in our urban centers.

Virginia Executive Director Rebecca LePrell.
CBF Virginia Executive Director Rebecca LePrell. 

These efforts are making a difference. Last fall, water in the Chesapeake Bay was perhaps the clearest its been in years. Our historic oyster population is coming back step by step as we continue to plant millions of oysters into Virginia's waters. Underwater grasses are beginning to rebound in places like the middle James and middle Potomac Rivers. 

We need to keep up this positive momentum. Virginia's 2016 General Assembly session kicked off on January 13 and will last for 60 days. This legislative session, CBF is focused on ensuring the Commonwealth gets the funding it needs to meet its Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals. We also support introduced legislation that would improve the management of the menhaden fishery and legislation that would streamline Virginia's laws and regulations related to stormwater management.  

As Virginia's Governor Terry McAuliffe was preparing his biennial budget proposal last fall, we delivered hundreds of letters to the Governor's office from Virginia constituents urging more funding for clean water programs. We are very grateful that the Governor introduced a budget proposal in December that includes vital funding for cost-share programs for farmers, sewage plant upgrades, and oyster replenishment. With the General Assembly in full swing, lawmakers are now deciding the fate of these critical programs. 

Farm conservation practices like fencing cattle out of streams are some of the most cost-efficient steps available to restore the Bay. That's why we are urging legislators to increase funding for farm conservation practices to a total of $82.6 million in the next fiscal year and $86 million the following year. 

Virginia's Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, a matching grant program to reduce runoff from urban areas, helps local governments take their shovel-ready projects to the next level. We’re encouraging legislators to appropriate $50 million to that fund in each of the next two years in order to meet the Blueprint’s goals. 

While wastewater treatment plant upgrades in Virginia have considerably reduced the flow of sewage to our rivers and streams, the modernization process is not yet complete. We're urging Virginia legislators to support the $59 million in plant upgrades that Governor McAuliffe included in his original budget proposal.

To continue efforts that have planted millions of oysters in Virginia waters, we are asking the General Assembly to approve the $4 million included in the Governor's introduced budget for efforts to boost the oyster harvest by Virginia watermen.

Additionally, we're backing legislation that would combine programs related to soil erosion and stormwater management to create a streamlined approach for localities to better manage runoff programs. We're calling on legislators to support this consensus-based legislation. 

With so many important clean water proposals up for consideration this session, we have our work cut out for us. The Virginia office is dedicated to working with elected officials statewide to push for measures that will restore our local waters, and ultimately the Bay. But we'll need your help. Stay tuned!

—Rebecca LePrell
Virginia Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
 

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