Historic State Support for the Bay
Judy Hinch loves watching herons glide by on Deep Creek near her home in the City of Chesapeake, Virginia. A CBF volunteer since the 1990s, Judy's passion for wildlife is one reason why she traveled 100 miles to Richmond last winter to meet with legislators and urge investment in clean water.
The Virginia legislative session that wrapped up in late February scored major wins for clean water. Legislators voted for historic levels of funding for farm conservation practices, oyster restoration and replenishment, and continued investment in reducing polluted runoff.
These wins wouldn’t have been possible without the advocacy of Virginians like Judy. Every Thursday during the session, CBF Clean Water Captains convened at the state capitol. After a legislative briefing with CBF staff, these excellent volunteers were ready to discuss Bay issues with senators, delegates, and their staff.
Meeting legislators is "empowering," Hinch said. "You feel like you are really doing something….There are so many issues for the legislators to worry about. They’ve got to hear your voice."
The final budget passed with strong bipartisan support for Bay restoration programs, thanks to legislators, advocates, and all the partner organizations who joined together for clean water.
Notably, in the new budget Virginia’s agricultural cost-share program will receive an unprecedented level of investment: an additional $89.7 million. This will directly support farmers who are installing conservation practices, the most cost-efficient way to restore local waterways and the Bay.
Though Virginia’s Stormwater Local Assistance Fund had been in danger of receiving no new funding next year, legislators ended up providing $10 million in the 2020 budget. This effective program provides matching grants to cities and counties for projects that reduce polluted runoff from developed areas, one of the most challenging sources of pollution to control.
Oyster restoration and replenishment also got a boost, with the fiscal year 2020 budget totaling $4 million—$1 million more than last year's level. This is the highest amount that Virginia has ever invested in oyster restoration to build sanctuary reefs. It also continues replenishment efforts that bolster harvests by watermen.
Another major win for the environment comes from legislation that requires cleanup of toxic coal ash ponds at four sites along major rivers in Virginia’s Bay watershed—a bipartisan agreement that occurred after years of hard work by CBF partners and legislators.
Other important actions maintained and supported rules that reduce polluted runoff. And, two bills that passed aim to improve relations between the oyster aquaculture industry and waterfront homeowners.
However, several important bills supported by CBF were not successful this session, including a proposal that would give local governments more options to increase and preserve trees after development. While this is a setback, CBF continues to explore ways to promote the use of trees to reduce polluted runoff in Virginia.
Also failing in committee were bills to ban offshore drilling in Virginia waters and proposals to transfer fisheries management for menhaden from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.
Despite these setbacks, the many voices working together helped lead to the historic state support for the Bay this year in Virginia.
Virginia Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation