Virginia Update

Lafayette Oyster Reef - Kenny Fletcher - 1171x593

Kenny Fletcher

From the Desk of Peggy Sanner

Spring 2022

Legislators Pass Key Flood Resiliency and Tree Bills

Virginia is emerging from its 2022 legislative session with the promise of more tree cover and more resiliency to flooding. Legislators protected Virginia's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for now despite some opposition. In part, they recognized that RGGI generates millions of dollars in revenue for the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which is the only source of state funds dedicated to projects that prevent flooding across Virginia.

Legislators also passed a suite of bills to advance Virginia's resilience in the face of increasing sea-level rise and intense storms. In the mix is legislation that creates a Virginia Flood Protection Master Plan, a bill to administer the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan, and one that establishes the Resilient Virginia Revolving Loan Fund—which can help individual homeowners and businesses address flooding.

Healthy tree cover can also reduce both flooding and pollution. Previously, Virginia law limited the geographic areas in which cities and counties could establish local programs to replace trees that would otherwise be lost to development. Key legislation this session expands that authority across Virginia, though some provisions are stayed pending a stakeholder process.

Norfolk Oyster Reefs Thriving

CBF surveys last winter found restoration reefs on Norfolk's Lafayette Rivers well exceed the 50 oysters per square meter target set by the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program.

In 2018, the Lafayette became the first river in Virginia to meet goals for oyster habitat restoration, after years of work by CBF, the Elizabeth River Project, and partners resulted in 32 acres of new restoration reef in the waterway. The three reefs recently surveyed are thriving, with oyster densities ranging from 156 to 365 oysters per square meter.

“When restoration ramped up on the Lafayette River more than a decade ago, some doubted that this polluted urban waterway could really come back. Now it's amazing to see reefs in the middle of Norfolk filled with oysters filtering water and creating habitat for fish, crabs, and shrimp,” said Peyton Mowery, CBF Virginia Oyster Restoration Outreach Coordinator.

Farm Conservation Investment Could Reach Unprecedented Levels

With the 2025 deadline to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration goals looming, Virginia legislators appear on track to provide historic funding levels for some clean-water programs. At press time, legislators had not yet reached a final budget agreement for the coming two years, but the outlook is promising. For the first time ever, budget proposals approved by the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates would fully fund the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share and related programs, which support farmers in implementing conservation practices that reduce pollution. Virginia has never before met state estimates for agricultural cost-share funding needed to meet its clean-water goals.

Budget proposals by both chambers would also invest significantly in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which reduce polluted runoff from cities and suburbs. Additional funding would go to upgrades to reduce pollution from sewage treatment plants and preventing overflows from combined sewer systems in Richmond, Alexandria, and Lynchburg.

—Peggy Sanner
Virginia Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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