2021 Virginia Legislative Session

Chuck Epes

We’re entering the final stretch of Virginia’s efforts to reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. Success of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint  depends on all of us – from homeowners to farmers and businesses to local governments. But probably most important, the actions by state legislators during Virginia’s 2021 legislative session convening on Jan. 13 will be paramount. The following legislative priorities will help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and its streams for future generations.

Accelerate Investments to Meet Clean Water Goals

As we approach the 2025 deadline, Virginia legislators need to make additional investments in the following three programs to achieve Bay restoration goals:

  • Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share  (VACS) program
    Approve $100 million. This program offers funding and technical support to help farmers adopt sound, cost-effective conservation practices. These funds will support farmers who fence cattle out of streams, adopt nutrient management plans on cropland, and follow other conservation practices. Increasing funding is leading many more farmers to take part. This video from the Choose Clean Water Coalition explains more about VACS.
  • Stormwater Local Assistance Fund  (SLAF)
    Approve $80 million. SLAF helps cities and counties reduce polluted runoff from urban and suburban lands. The program provides grants to localities for projects such as wetland construction, living shorelines, stream restorations, and rain gardens. For real-life stories about how the fund is helping communities, see our “Slowing the Flow" blog series.

    Legislators should also ensure that localities can  rely on practices that reduce both nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and that fiscally stressed communities have meaningful access to the grant funds.
  • Upgrade Wastewater Treatment Plants
    Approve $55 million. The modernization of many of Virginia’s sewage treatment plants has dramatically reduced the amount of pollution they send into rivers. But plants on some rivers have yet to make sorely needed upgrades. Additional funding will provide grants to facilities that still need to upgrade, protecting ratepayers from covering those high costs.

Prepare the Next Generation for Environmental Stewardship

CBF supports efforts to expand environmental literacy programs, which unlock opportunities for students and bolster test scores through access to outdoor classrooms and experiential learning.

The Power of Trees: Help Local Governments Expand and Preserve Tree Cover

Planting and preserving trees brings a host of benefits to communities, including addressing local flooding, reducing air and water pollution, cooling neighborhoods prone to extreme heat, creating wildlife habitat, and beautifying communities.

Currently, Virginia law limits how localities can maintain and increase tree planting and preservation when sites are being developed. Legislation this session would give cities and counties more flexibility to expand tree cover in specific cases, including addressing recurrent flooding, meeting stormwater (MS4) permit requirements, and remedying the “heat island” legacy of now-outlawed redlining practices. The proposal would allow localities to choose to expand their use of trees as a cost-effective tool to tackle these priorities. 

Study Carbon Sequestration

To mitigate the impacts of climate change, we must consider ways we can store (or sequester) existing carbon dioxide so that it does not reach or remain in our atmosphere. Legislators should create a task force to study carbon sequestration in the Commonwealth so Virginia can identify opportunities to use its natural resources programs to store carbon.

The Bay Needs You

The 2020 State of the Bay Report makes it clear that the Bay needs our support now more than ever. Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

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