Virginia Update

Winter 2019

A Wetlands Transformation in Waynesboro

There’s still work to do. Not all wastewater treatment plants have been brought up to today’s standards.

A corner of Waynesboro has undergone an amazing transformation in recent years. What once was a grassy field is now a 10-acre manmade wetland that’s a haven for both wildlife and the community. Better yet, this project also prevents polluted runoff from reaching the nearby South River and, eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.

Now entering its fourth year, the Mulberry Run Wetlands effort directs runoff from nearby streets through a series of pools planted with grasses, shrubs, and native trees. This filters and absorbs pollution, addresses flooding, and provides wildlife habitat.

“Mulberry Run Wetlands has become a valued and well-used resource for local residents seeking a quiet place for a walk, as well as nature lovers looking for the variety of insects, birds, and plants that a restored ecosystem offers,” said Trafford McRae, the Stormwater Program Manager for Waynesboro Public Works. “It really is a great example of how a community space can be created while also meeting the goals of reducing water pollution and improving habitat.”

Addressing pollution from stormwater is a major challenge Virginia faces in its Bay clean-up plan. Mulberry Run is one of dozens of projects across Virginia that both reduce polluted runoff and benefit communities through support from the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF).

Now is a pivotal time for SLAF, which provides matching grants to local governments for effective stormwater projects. Legislators will determine future support during Virginia’s General Assembly session, which begins January 9. CBF urges legislators to invest $80 million in SLAF annually to ensure Virginia meets its clean-water commitments—a necessary increase from the $10 million appropriated last session.

While SLAF support is key, work in other areas must also dramatically accelerate. To reduce pollution from farmland, Virginia’s longstanding Agricultural Cost-Share Program supports Virginia farmers in a wide range of conservation practices, from fencing livestock out of streams to planting cover crops.

Every time there’s more funding available, more farmers sign up to install these practices. To ensure support for all of Virginia’s farmers who want to install conservation practices, CBF encourages legislators to invest $100 million annually in the cost-share program and related technical assistance.

Much of the progress so far in Virginia has come through upgrades to wastewater treatment plants that significantly reduce the amount of pollution discharged into rivers. Thanks to reliable investments by the General Assembly, many of Virginia’s wastewater plants have been modernized.

But there’s still work to do. Not all plants have been brought up to today’s standards. That’s why CBF is asking legislators to invest $55 million in annual wastewater treatment plant upgrades in the upcoming legislative session.

Waynesboro’s wetlands are just one of many amazing clean-water projects supported by state programs. With the Clean Water Blueprint, Virginia has a detailed roadmap that shows the path to meeting 2025 pollution-reduction commitments. But hard work still lies ahead. Success will depend on strong support from Virginia’s legislators and Governor Northam.

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Founded in 1967, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to saving the Bay.

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