Virginia's 2020 Special Session


Chuck Epes

Virginia legislators largely preserve clean water investments in 2020 special session.

In the fall of 2020 Virginia legislators completed their work in a special session to reconsider the Commonwealth’s budget following the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19, as well as to address the pandemic and social justice issues.

Facing challenging times, legislators continued to demonstrate their support for clean water as essential to our health, economy, and way of life. Elected leaders largely preserved historic investments in clean water programs approved earlier this year for upgrading wastewater treatment plants, the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, Virginia’s Agricultural Cost-Share program, and restoring oyster reefs. CBF will continue to work with Virginia legislators in the legislative session that begins in January to ensure continued support for the Bay and its rivers and streams.

Please join us in thanking your legislators for listening to the voice of their constituents and send them an email today.

The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates voted on separate budget bills that propose the following levels of investment for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 in programs that benefit Virginia’s rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. No new budget will take effect until the chambers reconcile the differences between the two bills and Gov. Ralph Northam signs the resulting legislation. Highlights of the legislation include:

  • Investments to continue upgrading sewage treatment plants—an as-yet unfinished story in Virginia—total $50 million in both the House and Senate budgets. This proposal does not change the appropriations made earlier this year.
  • An investment of $50 million in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which helps localities reduce polluted runoff to waterways, in both the House and Senate budgets. This proposal also does not change the appropriated earlier this year.
  • An investment of $18 million in oyster reef restoration and replenishment programs for watermen is continued in both the House and Senate budgets, unchanged from the level appropriated earlier this year.
  • Virginia’s Agricultural Cost-Share and related programs, including technical assistance, support farmers in adopting conservation practices like stream fencing and nutrient management plans. Under the proposals of both chambers, these programs would receive at least $93 million over the biennium. The level appropriated earlier this year totaled approximately $95 million over the two-year period.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner issued this statement.

“Facing challenging times, legislators recognized that clean water is essential to our health, economy, and way of life in Virginia. From seafood to tourism to outdoor recreation, thousands of jobs across the Commonwealth depend on thriving waterways. Protecting the environment is important for all Virginians, including the many vulnerable communities that for too long have experienced health problems at higher rates because of disproportionate exposure to pollution.
“We are deeply grateful to our legislators and Governor Northam for their continued support for restoring our waterways. Their ongoing commitment is crucial for Virginia achieve to its Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals by the 2025 deadline.”

Thousands of jobs throughout the Commonwealth depend on waterways. Many people rely on fish they catch to feed their families. While we all need clean water to drink, wash our hands, and recreate, these needs are especially great among the vulnerable communities that have been disproportionately exposed to polluted environments and experience health problems at higher rates.

Now is the time to continue investing in restoring the Bay and its waterways, leading to more jobs and a healthier environment while also addressing climate change.

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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Do you enjoy working with others to help clean the Chesapeake Bay? Do you have a few hours to spare? Whether growing oysters, planting trees, or helping in our offices, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.

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