Photo by Chuck Epes/CBF Staff
CBF's 2014 Virginia Legislative Priorities
Clean Water: An Ecological, Public Health, and Economic Priority
Virginians have long depended upon the state's many streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay for inspiration, recreation, drinking water, seafood, and jobs. However, today more than 13,000 miles of Virginia waterways and most of the Chesapeake Bay are polluted, posing serious threats to public health, the environment, and the state's economy.
Virginia's elected leaders have a heightened responsibility and an extraordinary opportunity to restore clean water to Virginia by implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, a restoration and implementation plan, with benchmarks and consequences, that will help the Bay states reach the finish line when it comes to cleaning up the Bay and local tributaries. Virginia has committed to implementing 60 percent of the Blueprint by 2017. This will require aggressively reducing pollution from all its sources, including runoff from agricultural land as well as from urban and suburban streets, lawns, and buildings. Virginia also must take steps to restore important commercial fisheries, such as oysters and Atlantic menhaden, and ensure that Virginia students, our next generation of leaders, are environmentally literate.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's priorities for the 2014 legislative session are:
Reduce Polluted Runoff through Dedicated State Funding for
Localities and Robust Control Measures
Polluted runoff from streets, parking lots, and rooftops is the only major nutrient and sediment pollution source that is increasing. To reverse this trend, Virginia's Clean Water Blueprint commits to several important control initiatives.
- The General Assembly must resist calls to delay implementation of new stormwater regulations slated to come online in July 2014. Legislation calling for the regulations was passed by the Assembly a decade ago; regulations were developed over a five-year period by a diverse stakeholder body; postponements occurred in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2013; two years ago, localities were assigned management of the program, and each locality was granted a year's extension beyond the initial program deadline. Some are now seeking to postpone full implementation for yet another year or more.
- The General Assembly should refuse to weaken Virginia's comprehensive stormwater management program. Some now seek to remove permit provisions requiring contractors to ensure proper runoff control after project construction. This would result in a less protective permit and reduced effectiveness for the overall program. Contractors must be required to design projects that meet Virginia's stormwater management rules and not simply control polluted runoff just during actual construction.
- The General Assembly should insure that the 2015 budget supplements available funding to provide a total of $50 million for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund for matching grants to assist localities in reducing urban polluted runoff. These grants will enable localities to retrofit stormwater ponds, restore streams, plant buffers, utilize pervious pavement, and implement other low-impact development projects.
Fund for Farm Cost-Share Programs to
Ensure Pollution-Reduction Goals Are Achieved
Agriculture, Virginia's largest land use, remains the largest source of Bay pollution. Farmers have implemented measures to slow erosion and keep manure and fertilizer out of waterways, but Virginia has much work ahead to meet its pollution reduction commitments. Virginia must provide reliable funding for agricultural cost-share programs, which create local jobs, enhance farm productivity, and improve water quality cost-effectively.
Action needed: The General Assembly should support the efforts of the Virginia Farm Bureau working to secure a total of $30 million each year of the biennial budget to fund agricultural best management practices and technical assistance.
Advance Oyster Restoration and Expand Sustainable Oyster Harvests
Oysters cannot restore the Chesapeake Bay, but the Bay will never be restored without a vibrant oyster population. Oysters filter Bay water and oyster reefs provide food and habitat for hundreds of marine creatures. Overharvesting, pollution, and disease decimated oysters, but in recent years, oysters have shown signs of recovery. The oyster industry once supported thousands of jobs and added many millions to the economy. Oysters can do so again—and more—if Virginia builds on efforts to grow the fishery and boost restoration.
Action needed: The General Assembly should maintain the $2 million in funding for oyster replenishment in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 as provided for in Governor McDonnell's proposed budget and supplement that funding with an additional $1 million each year for oyster restoration.
Maintain Science-Based Menhaden Management
During the 2013 session, the General Assembly approved the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) new coastwide management plan that initiated restoration of the Atlantic menhaden population. However, the legislation included a sunset provision that effectively removes Virginia's management plan from state code on January 1, 2015. This threatens to leave the state without a plan to manage Virginia's largest fishery.
Action needed: In order to continue Virginia's stewardship of this important ecological and economic resource, the General Assembly must extend the sunset date to July 1, 2016.
Maintain Funding for Environmental Education
The future protection of Virginia's natural resources depends upon the next generation of Virginians. Environmental education increases student engagement in science and other subjects. It also provides students the knowledge and skills to become informed and responsible stewards and succeed in a 21st century workforce. Virginia must ensure today's students are prepared to address the complex environmental challenges they will face as future citizens, parents, voters, and leaders.
Action needed: The General Assembly should continue the Commonwealth's commitment to environmental education by maintaining $80,000 as proposed in Governor McDonnell's budget for fiscal years 2015 and 2016.