How Is Virginia Doing?
It's the busy vacation season, but I hope you will take the opportunity to review a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Choose Clean Water Coalition. The report examines the progress Virginia and the other Bay states have made—and not made—toward restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its local streams and rivers.
Our latest investigative report shows Virginia is progressing, but still needs to improve in key Bay restoration areas..
Virginia fared well in our report, showing good progress on five of eight important milestone goals the state set for itself to accomplish during 2012-13. But the report also shows the state is lagging behind on three key goals and needs to make changes if it wants to stay on track to meet its Bay clean-up commitments.
Recall that in 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Virginia, and the other Bay jurisdictions established science-based limits, or caps, for the Bay's most serious pollutants–nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. Virginia and the other Bay states then created state-specific plans to reduce their share of the pollution. Together the pollution limits and the state plans are known as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
To ensure the Blueprint is more than a piece of paper, the states committed to setting two-year interim goals called milestones. The milestones are specific, on-the-ground actions that the states pledge to take every two years to keep Bay restoration moving forward. Just as importantly, the milestones require regular, two-year progress reports to inform the public about what has been accomplished—or what has not—to meet the milestone goals. In that way, the milestones provide a crucial checkup by identifying successes and troubleshooting shortfalls.
How is Virginia doing on its milestone goals? The state is right on the mark in fencing livestock out of streams, planting forested buffers along stream banks, restoring urban streams, using retention ponds and other traditional tools to catch and hold stormwater runoff, and upgrading local sewage treatment plants to reduce pollution.
This success is not an accident. The progress on these five milestones demonstrates Virginia's ability to achieve clean water goals when there is state leadership and will to drive implementation.
But the report also reveals the state is lagging behind on three key areas: using newer, low-impact runoff infiltration practices to reduce polluted runoff in cities and towns; planting grass buffers along farm streams; and using farm conservation tillage. In each of these cases, there are opportunities to improve implementation. Virginia must adjust course and take appropriate actions to keep Bay restoration moving forward.
Already this summer we have seen beach closures and swimming bans in Virginia caused by contaminated water. Failure to act on the lessons learned from the milestone report will mean continued pollution, human health hazards, and lost jobs, all at huge cost to society.
I hope our report is helpful, and that you will share it with elected officials, candidates, family, and friends. Click here to share it with your state legislators now and urge them to keep Bay restoration on track.
Clean water must remain among Virginia's top priorities for the sake of the environment, public health, our economy, and our children's future.
Hampton Roads Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation