Bay Milestone Assessment Finds Virginia Falling Short on Key Practices

(RICHMOND, VA)—Virginia's overall progress in reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in local waterways to restore the Chesapeake Bay is generally on track to achieve 2017 goals. An assessment of certain key practices, however, found the state is lagging in three out of four. The assessment was conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Choose Clean Water Coalition (CCWC).

As part of Virginia's Clean Water Blueprint, the Commonwealth developed a plan to implement practices needed to achieve 60 percent of the needed Bay pollution reductions by 2017, and to complete the job by 2025. In addition, it developed two-year milestones that specify the practices the state intends to implement every two years, progressing toward those long-term goals. The data used for the assessment is from the halfway point for the 2014-2015 milestone period.

"To date, Virginia has made commendable progress in reducing Chesapeake Bay pollution from many sources, especially waste water discharges and agriculture," said CBF Virginia Senior Scientist Chris Moore. "However, our analysis of four key practices suggests that the Commonwealth must aggressively accelerate implementation of those practices if it is to fully achieve its Bay restoration goals. Failure to do so not only would threaten to undo past progress but also would jeopardize anticipated ecological and economic benefits promised by clean water and a healthy Chesapeake Bay." 

CBF and CCWC looked at the progress Virginia is making on four key milestone practices—urban infiltration practices, streamside buffers, animal waste management systems, and fencing cattle out of streams.

Infiltration practices in urban and suburban areas capture and store rainfall and runoff, which reduces pollution from entering local waterways, increases groundwater recharge, and reduces the volume of runoff that damages local streams. Virginia is expected to achieve its 2015 milestone goal, but progress is woefully short of reaching its 2017 goal for this key practice.

Streamside buffers stabilize stream banks and prevent pollution from entering local waterways. Virginia is currently not on track and must accelerate its efforts in order to reach its 2015 and 2017 milestone goals for streamside buffers.

There are more than one million livestock in Virginia's portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Animal waste management systems provide for proper storage and handling of manure. To date, Virginia has only reached 14 percent of its 2015 milestone target for this key practice, and is significantly off track for its 2017 goal.

Stream fencing protects stream banks and keeps manure and sediment out of streams. While the numbers show that Virginia has already exceeded its 2017 goal, the number of streams needing fencing has been significantly underestimated. Due to the continued need for this practice, Virginia currently has a backlog of farmers interested in cost-share funding to install fencing.

"While Virginia is making progress towards its pollution reduction goals through its stream fencing program, some practices remain vastly underutilized in both the urban and agricultural sectors," said Jacob Powell, Executive Director of the Virginia Conservation Network. "When Governor McAuliffe develops his budget in 2016, he has an opportunity to meet these challenges head-on by allocating much-needed funding to Virginia's agriculture cost-share and Stormwater Local Assistance Fund programs."

Virginia has made sound investments in its pollution-reduction activities, by investing hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade sewage treatment plants to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus discharges and creating the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund to help localities better manage polluted runoff. The review conducted by CBF and CCWC, however, shows that Virginia has opportunities to increase the pace of implementation to ensure that the Commonwealth remains on track for 2025.

"With continued growth in both agriculture and the urban landscape, every opportunity for implementation must be identified and seized, or the solid foundation that Virginia worked so hard to achieve will begin to erode," Moore said.

The Other Jurisdictions:
Pennsylvania's assessment found the Commonwealth to be off track for forest buffers, nutrient management, and urban infiltration, and slightly off track for conservation tillage.

Delaware's assessment found the state to be off track for erosion and sediment control, grass buffers, and animal waste management systems, and on track for tree planting.

Maryland's assessment found the state to be off track in poultry phytase and animal waste management systems, and on track for wastewater treatment plants and cover crops.

The District of Columbia assessment found the District was off track for impervious surface reduction, slightly off track for urban tree planting, and on track for urban stream restoration and stormwater infiltration practices.

West Virginia's assessment found the state off track for nutrient management, slightly off track for forest buffers and poultry phytase, and on track for animal waste management systems.

All assessments were conducted by CBF and CCWC state partners. New York was not assessed because CCWC has no affiliated advocacy groups in New York.

More detailed analyses are available at

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