The Bay is showing signs of recovery. But it is still a system dangerously out of balance. While we are still determining our legislative priorities before the General Assembly reconvenes on January 9, we plan to work on the following issues:
Investing to Reduce Polluted Runoff: To achieve cleaner, healthier waters across the Commonwealth, the General Assembly needs to invest in two critical programs—
At least $100 million to fund agriculture Best Management Practices (BMPs). Robust and reliable funding to help offset the cost of installing BMPs such as fencing livestock out of streams and planting streamside trees helps farmers do their part to improve water quality and preserve the Commonwealth's pastoral vistas.
At least $50 million in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund. To help localities install projects to reduce runoff from roofs, driveways, parking lots, and roads they need state support from the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF). SLAF provides matching grants to localities for projects that reduce polluted runoff, such as stream restoration, wetland construction, rain gardens, and other retrofits.
Regulating to Reduce Polluted Runoff: Polluted runoff is not just an environmental problem—it's also an economic problem. It increases drinking water treatment costs, threatens the safety of well water, worsens local flooding, closes beaches, and contaminates shellfish. CBF urges the General Assembly to maintain a strong stormwater program; a program that was significantly overhauled in 2014 with improved technical requirements and an effective administrative framework. Weakening this program will hinder Virginia's ability to meet its state and federal Chesapeake Bay cleanup commitments to reduce pollution from runoff and would create a bigger, more-costly gap to overcome.
Recurrent Flooding: The constitutional amendment that enables localities to provide a tax incentive to property owners impacted by recurrent flooding represents an opportunity to increase resiliency while improving water quality. We will work to ensure the required enabling legislation doesn't encourage development in flood-prone areas. The legislation should also incentivize natural solutions to flooding such as constructed wetlands and living shorelines, which have the added benefit of preventing polluted runoff.
More Trees, Please: We will work on legislation to help localities increase their tree canopy. Trees absorb polluted runoff and stabilize soils, reduce the cost of drinking water treatment, improve air quality, reduce urban temperatures, absorb greenhouse gases, and increase property values. Under current Virginia law, Chesapeake Bay watershed localities may require developers to plant and replace trees in connection with the land development process, but only up to a very a limited number. CBF urges the General Assembly to exempt localities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed from the tree caps currently in place to help achieve specific water quality goals.
Stay tuned for updates as we prepare to fight for policies friendly to clean water in 2019.