In this year's General Assembly session, which began on January 9, Virginia legislators will consider critical investment in programs that reduce polluted runoff and lead to cleaner waterways. Legislators will also vote on many other policy proposals that affect our waters.
CBF's latest State of the Bay Report shows the Bay's recovery is fragile, but restoration efforts are working. That's why this year it's more important than ever that our legislators support the following priorities:
Investing in Clean Water and Oysters
We urge legislators to support the following:
- Investing $90.5 million in Virginia's agricultural cost-share program in fiscal year 2020. Robust and reliable funding helps farmers offset the cost of installing clean water practices, such as fencing livestock out of streams and planting trees along waterways.
- Investing $50 million in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which provides matching grants to localities for projects that reduce polluted runoff, including stream restoration, wetland construction, and rain gardens. In the existing budget, the General Assembly appropriated $20 million for the current year, but nothing for fiscal year 2020.
- Investing $4 million total in oyster replenishment to assist commercial watermen and restoration for sanctuary reefs in fiscal year 2020, an increase compared to the $3 million appropriated in the existing budget.
More Trees, Please
Localities need more flexibility so that they can rely on trees to improve water quality in local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. 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 only require developers to plant and replace a very limited number of trees. HB 2333 would allow cities and counties in Virginia to require more tree cover to achieve clean water goals.
Protecting the Most Important Fish in the Sea
Virginia's menhaden fishery is currently on the path to noncompliance after legislation to make required modest updates to the harvest quota did not pass in the 2018 session. To support wise management of this key forage fish, legislators must support bringing the state's menhaden regulations in line with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Opposing Oil Exploration and Drilling Off Virginia's Coast
Offshore drilling in our region would pose an unacceptable risk to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's coastal waters and threaten our economy. This session CBF will work to support state legislation that limits oil exploration and offshore drilling in our waters.
Supporting Policies that Reduce Polluted Runoff
CBF urges the General Assembly to maintain a strong Virginia stormwater program, which was significantly overhauled in 2014 with improved technical requirements and an effective administrative framework. Weakening this program will hinder Virginia's ability to meet state and federal Chesapeake Bay cleanup commitments to reduce pollution from runoff and would create a bigger, more-costly gap to overcome.
Tackling the Coal Ash Threat
Numerous unlined coal ash ponds across Virginia's Chesapeake Bay watershed threaten to pollute waterways with toxic waste and contaminate groundwater. CBF supports legislation that would end Virginia's moratorium on closing these coal ash ponds and require this hazardous waste to either be recycled or moved to safer lined landfills.
Addressing Recurrent Flooding
A recent constitutional amendment requires legislation to allow localities to provide a tax incentive to property owners suffering from recurrent flooding. This 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 also prevent polluted runoff.