Virginia Update


Each recycled oyster shell can become home to more than 10 oysters.

Kenny Fletcher/CBF Staff

From the Desk of Peggy Sanner

Spring 2023

Virginia Legislative Session Marks Wins for the Bay

CBF worked closely with legislators to ensure healthy waterways during Virginia's recent legislative session, resulting in promising wins for the Bay.

Virginia's House and Senate approved budget proposals that would provide unprecedented investment in clean-water programs that reduce pollution from agriculture, wastewater, and stormwater. While at the time of publication legislators had not yet reached a budget agreement, CBF hopes legislators will soon pass a final budget.

CBF also worked with lawmakers on legislation to incentivize oyster shell recycling to increase supplies of this precious resource used to restore oyster reefs. This bill could lead to grants to restaurants, businesses, and individuals who recycle shells and organizations that maintain shell recycling bins.

Menhaden legislation that passed this session requires Virginia to develop a plan for studying the ecology, fishery impacts, and economic importance of menhaden. This study would lead to additional data crucial to managing the fishery and ensuring a healthy menhaden population.

Invasive blue catfish are proliferating in our rivers, and their voracious appetite for native species is causing concern. Supporting Virginia's growing blue catfish fishery is an important step in controlling their population. Legislation establishing a Blue Catfish Industries Development Fund will award grants to establish catfish processing facilities and other infrastructure needed to market catfish.

Lawsuit Settlement Requires Henrico County to Reduce Sewage Pollution

In February, to reduce sewage pollution to the James River, CBF and conservation partners finalized a settlement agreement with Henrico County. Raw sewage released into the James River has long posed a threat to the environment and public health. In 2021, CBF and the James River Association (JRA) filed a lawsuit against the county following decades of sewage-related violations. JRA was represented by the Environmental Integrity Project, and CBF was represented by in-house attorneys.

The settlement requires Henrico County to invest $1 million in an environmental project that will reduce pollution and benefit residents. Numerous other required actions will also address sewage pollution and protect public health. That includes substantially improving notification of sewage overflows near where people live, work, and play.

ODU Takes Action against Sea Level Rise

Marking an important step in efforts to adapt to climate change, CBF and Old Dominion University (ODU) recently launched a partnership to help communities threatened by flooding, train a new workforce, and promote flood-protection projects that lead to a healthier Chesapeake Bay.

"Action on climate change is essential to saving the Bay, and many nature-based practices both combat flooding and lead to cleaner waterways," said CBF Virginia Policy and Grassroots Advisor Jay Ford. "Our new partnership will help connect communities with resources and technical assistance to put resiliency projects on the ground that also support cleaner waterways."

The new Resilient and Adaptable Communities Partnership stems from the 2022 legislative session, when Virginia legislators established a collaboration between ODU and CBF on resiliency issues. The partners launched the program in March following a year-long planning process involving CBF, ODU, state and local governments, and other stakeholders.

—Peggy Sanner
Virginia Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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